After the untimely demise of the much loved Claudette, I set about the unenviable task of trying to find a worthy replacement. My issue here was that I didn’t actually want a different bike. The Reynolds 531 frame provided such a robust and reliable structure, and carried the weight and strain of touring with little effort, and a wonderful sense of balance. Just the right amount of flex when you really put the power down, but never gives even the slightest hint that anything was going to give. Claud Butler took this frame and made it into a comfortable, ergonomic, and characterful bicycle, and gave it charisma that many modern bikes lack with their lines of tapered aluminium and sharp carbon forks.
So that was it, another Claud Butler 531 it would have to be. Many weeks and months of eBay stalking ensued, and eventually a replacement was found. A frame size bigger than Claudette, which had always been a size to small, in fantastic condition, and a quite dashing mint colour. Too good to be true. Claud was my mainstay of bicycle travel in London for the next few years, asked for little, and gave lots.
Unfortunately, in the summer of 2015 a ride around Richmond Park proved too much for the Claud’s original mech, and halfway up ‘that big hill’, the rear derailleur sheared off, bending the steel tab upon which it attached.
My trusty Leatherman and tool bag came out, and soon (well, quite some time) after, Claud had been converted into a single speed with a chain cut to fit.
This remained the case for a while, until a pending Lands End to John O’Groats trip really catalysed me to sort it out and make gears a reality again. Trying to find someone to work on an old steel frame is not as easy as you might expect, with many of the mainstream shops saying they’d “give it a go”. Unfortunately in my world, unless it’s relating to cooking, “give it a go” doesn’t really cut it. I was lucky enough to be recommended a establishment based in Holborn called Bikefix.
They specialise in steel frame repairs, and instilled confidence in me that Claud was in good hands. A few days later and I had a freshly straightened derailleur hub, brand new SRAM mech, with a groupset tailored to longer touring again, and a fully rebuilt rear wheel to accommodate this with additional spokes for the load of panniers. Their advice and workmanship was invaluable, and I was truly delighted with the new and improved bike, with none of the classic credentials compromised.
Since then Claud has never missed a beat (other than the usual touring breakages), and is looking forward to a long and happy future touring..