The Claud Butler

Guest Article: The Butler

Guest Article: The Butler

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For many Americans, their first ten speed bike was a Schwinn. It was heavy. Everything about it was heavy. It was the bike that was going to survive outside the bomb shelter. No one put a better crankset on a Schwinn. When we moved on that old bike languished in the garage and it was not coming back out. Not so for @Teocalli, for starters he didn’t start off with a Schwinn.  

Yours in Cycling, Gianni

As the younger brother many of my early possessions were hand-me-downs. The first bike I recollect was red with stabilisers. I was a lazy starter and would just ride on the stabilisers till they bent. Eventually my Dad simply removed them out of frustration. The next was a trike, green with a boot (trunk) between the rear wheels and rod brakes. Quite how we ended up with a trike I can’t remember – but I do remember it was lethal and turning the thing over quite a few times. Then there was the blue sit up and beg, again with rod brakes. I had a major crash on that one chasing my brother down a hill on his first racing bike. Much Red Sauce involved and I still have the scar on my head.

Finally came the day, the first major item that was to be all mine from new, my first Racing Bike. I still remember coming home from school in the summer of 1967 “There’s something for you in your bedroom”. Rushing upstairs there it was, a gleaming Moss Green, 5 Gear, Claud Butler. From that day bicycles had a name, identity and purpose – to look great and to go fast.

After the obligatory period sitting on my bed staring at it, I simply had to take it out for a ride. It was mine so I couldn’t ask for help and that was nearly my (first) undoing. I was struggling halfway down the stairs and on the verge of loosing it and falling in a tumbling mess, which would have had pretty disastrous results for the bike, the staircase, the door at the bottom and me (in that order in my thoughts), when my Dad appeared through the door in the nick of time and saved the day, just as Dads are meant to do.

I’m not exactly tall now and I was even smaller for my age in those days, so the setup must have been “dual slammed”, both stem and seat post slammed. Looking at the bike now I’m surprised I could reach the pedals and/or the bars at that age. I must have had a horizontal back just to reach the hoods. It was definitely a bike to grow into.

My next recollection regarding the bike was over the subject of mudguards. It came with full mudguards and according to Dad all bikes must have mudguards, “but Dad, Racing Bikes don’t have mudguards, I’ll be laughed at”. Compromises have to be made and that is why the bike still has the stubbies that were agreed upon. Do not quote any Rules at me over those mudguards, they stay in memory of my Dad and that compromise.

Anyway, from that point I was independent and I could get out and see my friends without needing a lift – and I could also get into trouble in a whole new way by being late home for meals. It’s only years later that you realise those silent glares and the blunt “Where do you think you have you been?” are a mix of anger and relief when “I’m just going out for a ride” leads to you being gone all day with no food till you come home late for dinner with blissful lack of comprehension as to how worried your parents have been.

The first rite of passage for a cyclist is starting to clean and service your own machine. I remember one day not long after getting the bike and not really knowing what I was doing, using my dog bone spanner I had taken apart all the bits that were easy to remove and clean, including removing the brake blocks and sliding the brake blocks out of the carriers to clean them. On the following ride I applied the brakes, something hit me on the calf and suddenly – no brakes. I’d put the blocks back the wrong way round and they all came out. Forty odd years later I can still picture in fine detail the back end of the low loader (flatbed) lorry I narrowly missed at the road junction.

At school we had a small cycling club and became proficient in servicing our bikes and every second weekend or so we’d strip them down completely. Dismantle the hubs etc, clean all the bearings and get them “just so” so that the weight of the valve would turn the wheel to settle at the bottom of it’s own accord.

After leaving school the bike sat in the garage for some years while I went through the rites of riding motorbikes and my first old banger car and the home servicing that came with motorbikes and old cars in those days. Cycling was then chiefly for maintaining summer fitness for playing Rugby in the winter  – a game incidentally that also involved the study of copious quantities and types of Fine Malted Recovery Beverage.  The Claud Bulter received an upgrade to 10 Gears with a Huret front mech and Suntour Crankset and rear mech in place of the Campag Gran Sport 5 Gear mech that it came with. After the early 80s the bike was essentially unused. There are many times I could so easily have got rid of it but somehow I never did. It became one of those Old Friends that, while you don’t use them, neither can you part with them.

My return to cycling in the early 90s was via Mountain Biking with a string of bikes from Big S, complemented by a couple of Bianchi Alu Road Bikes (the first was totalled by a car). I was mainly a mountain biker wandering in the undergrowth of darkness until I upgraded the Bianchi for a Pinarello last spring, came out of the darkness of the undergrowth and saw the light and the path (well the road actually) and discovered the Velominati.

Throughout all this time the Claud Butler was stuffed in a corner of our garage – or more latterly in my brother’s garden shed when he had an unfulfilled intention to take some exercise and get fit.

It was on a ride one beautiful evening last summer on the Pinarello that I was doing a typical Rule V evening ride and I was thinking that it would be nice sometime to take it easy and cruise the lanes in a different style. Somehow a Carbon Pinarello demands to be gunned at warp speed at all times. Around that time I was rooting around my office looking for something when I came across the original sales brochure for 1967 Claud Butler, I didn’t even know I had it. At that point the plan to renovate it was born. Thinking back to the school-day cycling club and all those magazine ads we used to browse and plan for upgrades we could not possibly afford, I decided to go for a period Gruppo upgrade that would have been the stuff of dreams for me as a schoolboy.

Recovering the bike from my brother some of it was in a bit of a sorry state but it was basically solid and, most surprisingly, the wheels would still turn of their own accord to settle the valve at the bottom.

After many hours mainly searching and biding on eBay and also via a couple of specialist period bicycle outfits, finding a few bargains and probably paying way too much for other items, I collected a box of Nuovo Record and other period components and the frame went off to Mercian cycles for re-spray and re-decal as near per original as possible. It has been something quite special to have had the bike for so long and to be able to put it back to what would have been the bike of my dreams way back as a schoolboy in that cycling club in the early 70s. I hope you like the result. I’m very much looking forward to riding in some vintage events next summer. It can’t be often one gets a chance to put a boyhood dream into reality in this manner. It has been a special experience for me.

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// Guest Article // The Bikes

  1. @ErikdR Claud Butler cycles were known for features such as bronze-weld construction and decorative lugs (techniques pioneered by continental frame builders). He sponsored international racers such as Reg HarrisEileen SheridanPeter Underwood and Dennis Sutton Horn. His bikes were ridden at the 1931 world championship in Copenhagen and then in Italy (1932), France (1933) and Germany (1934). Claud Butler bikes also competed at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1932

  2. Beautiful. Even the mudguards,

  3. Found a picture of the trike, it was just like this but dark green!

  4. @snoov

    Fantastic job Teocalli! My Raleigh Imp had a front rod brake too that pushed a rubber pad onto the solid rubber tyre. Twice as a 4 year old I removed the skin from the inside of my bottom lip at the foot of a nearby hill. Fixed wheel so I’d guess my feet were off the pedals.

    Great restoration too!

    Holy Merckx! I thought I was old, but the rubber pad on a solid tire? Man . . . that’s old . . . I’m assuming it was a seriously handed-down bike?

  5. Teocalli, Fantasic story and great restoration.  Clearly the gravitational pull of the Velominati are tremendous.  There are so many parallels to my own experience with hand-me-downs and and my first “real” road bike, I’m still smiling.  Well done.

  6. @Teocalli

    Great – thanks for the info/history. Wow; 1932. And here I was, thinking I was old… Once again, hat.

  7. Great story.  Brings back fond memories of overhauling bits of my old bikes, loose ball bearings and all.

  8. Shiny metal bits, pristine white bar tape, and fuckton of history. Excellent.

  9. Bravo! Great stories like these make me wish I was a few decades older. Alas, I am but young, eager and lacking common sense. Still, this makes the legs itch to whip out the first proper bike I still have. The bike looks amazing, thank you!

  10. Brilliant, that’s a lovely bike and great story.

    You’ll feel great riding that along some nice lanes – love that colour and the details like the top-tube mounted pump.

    A Brooks saddle ? And what did you do for bar tape ?

    Although, cough… bidon.

  11. Great read, excelent resto and a keeper !    Straight to the pool room!    Im alos on the hunt for a resto job,   needle in a haystack type stuff though im afraid,  Carroll cycles out of Adelaide circa 1936 was what my grandpa raced on.

    Your father would be proud. Congrats

  12. Beautiful looking restoration.

    BTW, we forget how little seatpost people used to show, ala Pantani

  13. Awesome, fucking Awesome!

  14. @wiscot 1975, I don’t think it was a hand me down just cheap with old technology.

  15. As others have said, nicely done.

    Couldn’t help but think how different things are today.  My kids have bikes that fit them, and wear helmets studiously.  How different it was when I (we?) were young…….

  16. Great article @Teocalli!  I will be riding this in June this year…combining a retro ride with some Vin Loire seems eminently pleasurable.

    http://www.anjou-velo-vintage.com/en/

  17. @Deakus

    Great article @Teocalli! I will be riding this in June this year…combining a retro ride with some Vin Loire seems eminently pleasurable.

    http://www.anjou-velo-vintage.com/en/

    Yes I fancy that or the Tuscany L’Eroica next year.  Doing the L’Eroica Britannia for starters this year.

  18. @ChrisO

    Brilliant, that’s a lovely bike and great story.

    You’ll feel great riding that along some nice lanes – love that colour and the details like the top-tube mounted pump.

    A Brooks saddle ? And what did you do for bar tape ?

    Although, cough… bidon.

    Yup Brooks saddle, bar tape will be Brooks Leather soon, current is a bit of a cheat as I had a pack of white Lizard Skin in the drawer so put that on initially.  Searching for a more appropriate bidon (without paying a silly price) and also need to get the bar cage re-chromed before fitting.

  19. @The Grande Fondue Some of us just have short legs!

  20. @The Grande Fondue

    Beautiful looking restoration.

    BTW, we forget how little seatpost people used to show, ala Pantani

    True that.  The compact frame has necessitated lengthy posts.  Note also Pantani’s non-slammed stem.  Still within spec – looks like 10mm to me, but unslammed.

  21. Beauty of a bike and story. Having restored my first race bike, I can tell you they only get faster.

    Whether or not we do is a separate issue.

  22. BTW Teocalli, that restoration does my heart good.  I bow in respect for this bit of awesome.

  23. It’s interesting how we go back to the things that as kids we coveted. For me, and for many others, it was about cars that we dreamed about as kids. Hence the rise in value – crazy values sometimes, of muscle cars in the early part of this century.

    In the case of vintage cars, original paint is highly sought after. Did you consider leaving the original paint?

    Very nice story, lovely bike and tribute to your Dad as well.

  24. @Bespoke I did consider leaving it original but it was somewhat rusty in parts and so I decided to make it “as new”.

  25. Chapeau! Very well done and quite inspiring.

    I recently discovered that my father-in-law was a cyclist in his younger days. His beloved vintage Mercier Poulidor edition is hanging in his garage. We were talking about it one day, and later Mrs. KW says, “I think he’d really like you to have it and fix it up.”  I haven’t asked him about it since I haven’t really had the time or budget to consider it right now.

    Fingers crossed that the job interview I had yesterday pans out. Involves a significant bump in pay that just might facilitate the restoration!

  26. @KW I’ll raise a beer to that.  Best of Luck.

  27. Well done. No matter your age, or the period in which you got it, the first real race bike is always the best. Chapeau Teocalli!

  28. “dual slammed” that’s good. Back then everyone seemed to have larger frames and shorter saddle heights. That’s just the way it was.

    That green repaint and head badge look fantastic. Great work and a great story.

  29. @Teocalli – Well done!

  30. Nicely done.  Cycling was not anywhere in my heritage, so I don’t have the same sorry of nostalgia, but old (and new) steel frames call me in such a sweeter song than any fat carbon frame.

  31. Claud Butler.. You know how girls ride.. That’s you that is that’s how you ride..? Regards. Bob Jackson.

  32. @Ian Shipley Eh?

  33. @Ian Shipley

    Claud Butler.. You know how girls ride.. That’s you that is that’s how you ride..? Regards. Bob Jackson.

    @Teocalli

    @Ian Shipley Eh?

    I think Ian is referring to Bob Jackson bikes. I’m not sure of his intent, but he’s coming off like a douche.

  34. @scaler911 They look nice frames if it’s the same Bob Jackson.  Anyway I wouldn’t mind riding like a couple of girls in our club anyway.  They tan my arse with ease and most of the rest of the blokes too.

  35. Got caught out in a spring hail stone shower this morning.  Nothing too unusual for spring other than the darned things were pretty big and hurt but the surprising part was that for 5 mins or so they came down so hard that they completely covered the road surface.  A bit scary wondering how much grip there was, pity I didn’t have a camera with me as the road was totally white.  Crap timing as either side of that the rest of the day was sunny.

  36. @antihero

    @The Grande Fondue

    Beautiful looking restoration.

    BTW, we forget how little seatpost people used to show, ala Pantani

    True that. The compact frame has necessitated lengthy posts. Note also Pantani’s non-slammed stem. Still within spec – looks like 10mm to me, but unslammed.

    His old Wilier was not slammed but it was very close.

    But his Bianchi which supposedly was his design was compact and slammed. This photo was taken during one of the post-Tour criteriums in the Netherlands.

    In the early season of ’99, he had the alu levers swapped out for carbon ones – which explains the photos of his supposed ’98 frame at a museum with carbon not alu levers. A shame, that, because it looks perfect with alu. This frame went into retirement when his XLEV2 was made for him later that season.

  37. Nice story, and whilst I have an old friend hanging around (acutally commute the whole 3km to work on) it’s story isn’t as great as yours. The rest is the same though. The bike is nothing special, a Repco Superlite and common as here in Aus. There are far better frames out there but this one is mine, and has always been, since the late 80’s. It was also my first real bike.

    I never had any intention to restore it simply because the frame is not worth it, but somehow in the last 12 months I have managed to buy a set of NOS Wilber Profil 19 rim (tubbies) and a 2009 Force group. I wanted to put a modern group on it so being period correct isn’t a priority but probably was when I bought the rims. Now looking to get it painted but having spent $300 on it so far and yet to get some hubs/spokes and build the wheels, a $450 paint job seems hidously expensive. I wonder how plausible it is to clean/polish the existing hubs and build them into the rims?

  38. @Puffy I had an old Ricardo sand blasted and powder coated at a local paint shop for about $100 – huge selection of colours and took 3 days – it’s my commuter bike.  Looks awesome (well I think so) now

  39. Great job on the restoration, it looks gorgeous. And great story! My own childhood bikes were nothing so special, and they’re long gone, but I still wish I had my dad’s old Raleigh Sprite.

  40. @Teocalli Nice job! I have a Colnago from circa ’84 and some Shimano 600 components from it. I’ve been back and forth on doing anything with, but your story has me thinking do it! Sure was purty back in the day, red with chrome fork and chainstay, and got many compliments on its looks.

  41. @Puffy

    Nice story, and whilst I have an old friend hanging around (acutally commute the whole 3km to work on) it’s story isn’t as great as yours. The rest is the same though. The bike is nothing special, a Repco Superlite and common as here in Aus. There are far better frames out there but this one is mine, and has always been, since the late 80″²s. It was also my first real bike.

    I never had any intention to restore it simply because the frame is not worth it, but somehow in the last 12 months I have managed to buy a set of NOS Wilber Profil 19 rim (tubbies) and a 2009 Force group. I wanted to put a modern group on it so being period correct isn’t a priority but probably was when I bought the rims. Now looking to get it painted but having spent $300 on it so far and yet to get some hubs/spokes and build the wheels, a $450 paint job seems hidously expensive. I wonder how plausible it is to clean/polish the existing hubs and build them into the rims?

    If the hubs are Alu then it’s just a matter of elbow grease and some rubbing paste.  I used Simichrome Polish and things came up great.  You will see some stuff on the internet that talks of rubbing with 400 grade (or finer) sandpaper but in my experience there is no need as with the Simichrome you just need to rub hard enough for long enough.  The thought of using sandpaper is a bit worrying as that would take off any anodising for sure and would probably net take more polishing to then get rid of the sandpaper marks.

  42. @Puffy by example heres some before and after from just using the paste.  The hub and lower rim started like the rim at the top.

  43. All – many thanks for all the comments.  As an anecdote the bike is actually a really good ride.  Heavy, but fun to ride nonetheless, makes for a good training ride.  I’d forgotten how compliant steel can be.  On the downside I’d also forgotten how good modern brakes are!  Stopping is a different matter, though in part that is down to the Fiamme tub racing rims which have sod all braking surface probably also combined with NOS brake blocks which must be 30 years old.

  44. My Claud Butler is a 1954 ‘All Rounder’ model that left Claud’s workshop with just 3 gears!  As a teenager I spent every penny I had upgrading the original equipment when I could afford it.  By the mid- 1960s it was fitted with the best that was then available and it remained my velo of choice for the next 30+ years.  I renovated it in 2oo5 – re-enamelling, re-chroming, replacement transfers, etc.  but still with many 1960s parts – Campag Gran Sport front & rear; Mafac Racer brakes; Fiamme sprint rims; Cinelli bars; Brooks B17 saddle; Lyotard pedals; etc.  I completed a couple of L’Etape du Tours on it in 2006/7.

  45. @Sowtondevil Sweet.  Pictures needed here?

  46. That is, in every way a beautiful bicycle, and wonderful writing.  It’s amazing how much geometries have changed.

  47. @Teocalli As requested, photo shot of my lovingly renovated and upgraded Claud Butler;  frame no. 4399 built in June 1954 from semi-lugged / semi brazed Reynolds 531 tubing.  All parts circa 1966 except the Campag Record chainset which was a later addition, and the modern day tubs, of course!

  48. @Sowtondevil

    @Teocalli As requested, photo shot of my lovingly renovated and upgraded Claud Butler; frame no. 4399 built in June 1954 from semi-lugged / semi brazed Reynolds 531 tubing. All parts circa 1966 except the Campag Record chainset which was a later addition, and the modern day tubs, of course!

    Stunning.  Perchance are you doing L’eroica Britannia?

  49. @Sowtondevil Fantastic! I love the chrome plated stays and fork ends on old bikes. More class than we’ll ever see on a modern C bike. Just the right touch. Not too much bling, just perfect. Every year I go back and forth on starting a project with my good ol’ good ol’ and ultimately I take it on a ride and leave it just as is. Down-tube friction shifters are fun to have fun with. I have a buddy that rides old Italian steel framed bikes and he has the combo one handed front/rear down/up shifting thing down. I guess something that came in handy (pun?) when racing way back when. Two super bikes on this thread! Thanks and Cheers, RC

  50. nice story and nice bicycle.  It is possible to love a mechanical object, and bicycles are the best examples.

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