1946 Hobbs of Barbican Superbe

I’ve made considerable progress with the 1946 Hobbs of Barbican Superbe model that I’ve been working on this winter. As I’ve previously noted, I will not be repainting the frame. To do so would, I think, dishonor the history of those scratches. Although not as clearly evident as was once the case, the box lining is still very much a part of the bike’s surface; their faded glory is at one with the patina of years and wear.

I did recreate the Hobbs “crest” in water slide media to cover the stupidly hand-painted job someone had done with model paint at some point in time, and I feel no guilt for having done so.

The headset required cobbling together various parts, but in true MacGyver fashion I’ve managed to put together a working combination. I confess that it really does bother me ever time I see that modern Cinelli stem on this bike and will be actively searching for a “proper” replacement. Funny thing though: the modern handlebar doesn’t upset me nearly as much, and I like the way they fit. Still, I’d really like to come into a period correct set of bars and stem.

You’ll notice this fixed gear bike is fitted with brakes. I’m no hipster. And I have no interest whatsoever in the “fixie craze.” I want the bike to stop and not have to fumble around trying to figure out how to get it to do that. Path racers of the era would also have been fitted with brakes, and this one is drilled to accept them – so there you have it: my bike has brakes.

I’m happy to have gotten the toe-in on the brakes nailed on the very first try. The front center pull grabs very nicely, yet when I back off on the pressure of the levers I am left with a very comfortable  degree of modulation. It’s one of the things I enjoy most about center pulls, quite frankly.

When I unboxed the crankset, I was a little on the fence about it. Was it too modern looking? Was the drillium too garish? Too over the top for a vintage British path racer? Regardless, once I installed it, I found I liked it. Perhaps when that Chater Lea crankset finally falls in my lap I’ll reconsider, but for now there’s no rush to replace it.

I am having to get used to switching between the freewheels on my other bikes and then the fixed gear of this one. Muscle memory is a funny thing and my body still expects to be able to coast when I come to a stop or make a very tight turn at the end of a road. I’m taking the old girl out for a decent shakedown ride later this morning, so perhaps I can use that ride time to get used to the constant cycling of the pedals.

I have had this ancient Brooks B-17 Narrow on various bikes over the years. None of them seemed to feel right to me: The saddle always looked a bit out of place for some reason, and I never managed to get the fit dialed in. So how ironic that the Brooks seems to be right at home on this bike! And wonder of wonders – purely by happenstance, the saddle angle and height has needed almost no tweaking to feel like it’s hitting my sit bones where it should. It makes me wonder if this has something to do with the slack angles of the frame.

I’m heading to the co-op this afternoon to see if I can dredge up a set of fender stays. Barring that, I’ll simply order a set of SKS stays to fit this NOS pair of Bluemels Popular mudguards. I think they’ve found the right home on this bike.

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12 thoughts on “1946 Hobbs of Barbican Superbe

  1. Looking good however I think I would part with that gold plated chain as it is short by a few decades if memory serves. And a Magistroni steel crank would be an affordable and easy to find option to mortgaging the house on a Chater Lea crank depending on how ‘period correct’ you are taking this project. Keep it coming!

    • That gold chain was the only correctly sized chain available locally at the time, but it too shall pass! I took the old girl out for a shakedown ride this afternoon, pedaling in 6km circles around the downtown airport, threading in and out of the carbon fiber crowd. I was approached by an admiring young man who assured me that the bike would “look totally sweet with a white chain.” You and I both have permission to shudder uncontrollably at the thought!

      I hadn’t considered a Magistroni crank – that’s a good thought. Chater Lea, Williams, BSA … those have all been on my radar, so far to no avail. It’s in ridable condition at the moment and I’ll replace things as they come my way.

  2. Thanks for update on this wonderful project. Even though I don’t have your skills, I’m beginning to get an appetite for similar project. Is whatever illness you have contagious?

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