Review of Ordinary in ‘Velo-Vision’ – by Richard Peploe

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‘ORDINARY’ by name, but not by nature

I thought long and hard about how best to show that, despite the title, this is no ordinary book and the best I could come up with was to say that it’s ordinary by name, but not by nature. However, knowing the other books that John Bradshaw has written, that should not be a surprise.

The book’s summary does its job well: “An account of the Rediscovery, Restoration, Research and Riding of an Ordinary Bicycle from 1988 through to 1991, with Subsequent Thoughts”. Despite the niche topic, the story will strike a chord with anyone who has undertaken any form of restoration Whilst it can often be hard to find out exactly what it is you are trying to restore, in this case John did not find out that he had a Cogent No. 5 until after the restoration was complete, when he saw an almost identical machine during a chance visit to a local museum.

Not surprisingly, work on the front wheel dominates the project, as it does the machine itself. I sympathised with a problem that many restorers will have encountered during disassembly, which is a seized thread: “The first 69 spokes came out quite easily … however the last one really didn’t want to come out, eventually snapping off flush with the bronze edge”. The solution was ingenious: “A 2BA nut was placed concentrically over the spoke stub and then MIG welded – quickly. The thermal shock shifted it and the newly attached nut enabled it to be easily screwed out”.

Those ‘subsequent thoughts’ mentioned in the summary take up over half of the book, but are of interest beyond the restoration project, such as: Why do Ordinaries have the nick-name ‘Penny-Farthing’? and: Why do we use a system of indicating gear size in inches?

I found the book to be very readable, and there is a good selection of illustrations to support the narrative.

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