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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

OPB Tuesday: A vintage Phillips three-speed modernized

Welcome back to Portlandland's favorite game show: "Other People's Bikes". And I'm your host, Guy Smiley.

Today's specimen was spotted on Sunday December 18 in the on-street bike corral on SE Taylor St at Water Ave, in the heart of the SE Industrial District. The bike: a Phillips three-speed. Unknown model, unknown age (but we can assume sometime between 1950 and 1975.) Now spotting a nice old British three-speed is nice enough. And so I stopped to take a closer look. And with the closer look I noticed there's a lot more going on here.

First off, the wheels. Besides the rather fun "bullet" valve cap, the big deal with the wheel is that it's an alloy rim. British three-speeds normally had 26" x 1 3/8" (or 650A, or ISO 590mm) steel rims. Alloy rims meant someone took the time to build new wheels. This means the person uses the bike as a daily rider in often-damp Portland and cared enough to spend time and/or money on building new wheels. I don't know what brand the rim is, but the tires look to be some nice Continentals.

Next up, the brakes. While I think vintage British three-speeds are 90% perfect as daily riders in their pure state, the weak spot besides steel rims are the brakes. In order to have better stopping power, one needs to either put on better brakes or build a wheel with drum brakes. This person chose the former.

And finally (and this is what puts this bike in over-the-top category): the crankset. British three speeds used cottered cranks. This Phillips has cotterless cranks. In order to do this, since most British three speeds used non-standard (26 tpi) threading, in order to convert to cotterless one either needs to rethread the bottom bracket or get one of those fancy Phil Wood threadless bottom brackets as talked about by Saint Sheldon. We are talking about a serious investment of time and/or money, friends!

It's all topped off with a lovely Carradice saddlebag (a Nelson, I believe) attached to a Brooks B66 saddle. 

I really like this. Just like me, this person truly likes their three-speed and has put a lot of thought into the modernization of it. Most of the changes mentioned above make the bike much more functional for riding all year, while retaining the aesthetic of the era the bike was built in. 

Except for the grips. Come on, OURY grips? And PINK ones at that. This ain't no fixie! I hate getting all Joan Rivers and shit, but this one thing prevents this bike from being a "10". It's only a 9 until those grips go. And that's not just me. Mr. Raving Bike Fiend backs me up on this one. (Maybe if this bike is here again, I'll put some cork grips on?)

Anyways, it's still a nice bike. And to wash away the image of the pink OURY grips, I leave you with these parting images.
Weathered logo on seat tube.

Sturmey-Archer hub. Assume it's an AW but can't tell.

And on the chain guard!



  1. Cool bike. While I am partial to Oury grips myself (more for their old school MTB connection than the fixie craze) I do agree, pink was an odd choice. But then again my bikes end up with whatever-grips-I-have-around all the time.

  2. BTW, I did eventually call BikeBike in Calgary and they do stock built 650A/590mm wheels with alloy/aluminum rims (which I will be purchasing for my five speed and my wife's 3 speed). They do not stock steel 650A wheels, aluminum is the only option (with steel spokes and hub).

    I greatly enjoy the 'Bicycle Voyeur' series by the way.


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