“Forrest” is a 1973 Phillip’s Twenty that I picked up 5 years ago for $30.00 along with his mate “Grace” after they had been long retired by Shell Oil as facility bicycles… not everyone is aware that for many decades Shell has maintained a fleet of bicycles for transportation within their plants and back in the early seventies a bunch of Phillip’s Twenty bicycles worked here.
The Phillip’s Twenty is a close cousin to the Raleigh version and only differs slightly in that it came with a different fork and had a generic chain wheel in a 3/32 pitch instead of the lovely Raleigh heron chain wheel.
The Phillip’s models also came in a different range of colours to set them apart from their Raleigh brethren.
I was inspired to get a Raleigh 20 by the late Sheldon Brown who was a huge fan of these bicycles and did some amazing custom work on his own 20′s and brought new interest and a cult following to a bicycle that many wrote off as being old and impractical.
Forrest got his name because there was a dynotype label on his frame that read “Forrest” while his mate had a tag that said “Grace” and I discovered that instead of numbers, the folks at Shell gave their bikes names.
I decided that I would leave Grace in her original condition and set out to customize Forrest and turn him into a drop bar road bicycle so proceeded to replace the flat bars with drop bars, changed out the stock cottered crank for a modern alloy one, and thought, why not build a fixed gear ?
This is one of the first versions of Forrest after he got fixed…
Liking the fixed gear folder but being a utilitarian guy I decided to restore the stock fenders and made changes to the handlebars, brakes, and crank.
In 2008 I suffered a debilitating back injury and for a time thought that I would never be able to swing a leg over a bicycle, let alone be able to pedal one as I lost a great deal of function in my left leg. This continues to affect me to this day but after many months of struggling to walk I thought I might be able to get a leg over my little folder and upon doing that managed to ride around the block and discovered I could do this with less pain.
Forrest became the one bike I could ride comfortably and while my other bicycles collected dust Forrest and I proceeded to ride mile by mile. The fixed drive helped me maintain a steady spin and cadence and I had no issues getting on and off although I still struggle with standing and walking for any periods.
Forrest in 2009, out front of my physiotherapist’s office:
Stronglight crank and fixed drive train:
Modifying the crank on the Phillip’s required me to re tap the bottom bracket to a 24tpi standard from the proprietary 26tpi Raleigh threading, the Phillip’s bottom bracket shell is 73mm so I used a 73mm cartridge bottom bracket. This upgrade has stood up to thousands and thousands of kilometers.
In the spring of 2010 I had recovered enough to ride my regular bicycles more and more but Forrest was still my go to bicycle. I was having more difficulty riding any fixed gear if the conditions were less than ideal, so I set out to upgrade the drive train on Forrest to include some more gears.
I started with a 5 speed… for this I needed to build a new wheel around a Sansin cartridge bearing hub and will point out that the 20 was never meant to run a 120mm hub with gears so I had to re space the frame and hub to make things fit.
Used a Suntour Vx… one of the best derailleurs ever.
With only 5 speeds I went on a ride to see my mom who lives 85 km away, this was on Canada day of 2010.
After riding 200 kilometers over the course of 3 days with only 5 speeds I realized that if I was going to ride anything more challenging that Forrest was going to need more gearing and this was managed with the addition of a new crank and a different block.
15 speeds… I had to build up an old style triple with extra long chain ring bolts and spacers on a Deore crank to give me a 40/48/53. The 40 tooth ring is a granny gear on a bike with 20 inch wheels and the 48/53 gives a nice half step gearing.
18 speeds… just had to swap the 5 speed block for a 6 speed and you can see where I might have needed some extra gears and if you look closely, I also got new brakes.
During 2010 I also started working with Arvon Stacey of Arvon Cycles as an apprentice frame builder and one of the first things I did during my apprenticeship was to add canti bosses to Forrest to improve the braking.
The frame shop is a 50km ride from my home and I had been doing this ride daily and would sometimes sleep over and ride back the next day, started riding the round trip on a near daily basis, and then thought I was up to trying to ride a full century.
Many would think that riding 100 miles on a folder is impossible but I once thought that riding a bike might be impossible and I trusted Forrest to get me where I needed to go.
Here I was at 70 km where I had to stop and fix a flat…
Me… happier than my look would suggest.
Marking things at 162.6 km with 7 hours and 4 minutes on the clock… not bad for a gimp on a folding bike…
This was a big year for Forrest and myself as I continued to work with Arvon and learn everything he could teach me, when I was able, and Forrest became the test platform for a lot of work.
The modifications I had done to Forrest to this point were already fairly extensive and I kicked off the year by taking Forrest on some longer rides and continued to make modifications on a near daily basis when I was at the frame shop.
I was on a mission to build a separable touring bicycle from what started life as an upright 3 speed and think that for a time Arvon really questioned why I would want to tour on a folder.
I built new wheels with Sun Rhynolites on Sansin hubs and added bottle cages to the frame…
Changed my rear derailleur to a SRAM X5 to handle a wider range of gearing than the Vx could… and visited my mom (this is her back yard).
Up to this point I was really pleased with everything about Forrest save for the lack of proper dropouts in the rear which made fitting the rear wheel more work than it should have been.
I came across a wrecked Nishiki International that had an intact rear triangle and a sound fork so decided that I would replace Forrest’s entire rear triangle and build a new fork with the salvaged one.
There is not much you cannot do when you have a frame shop and one fine morning I proceeded to put Forrest in the stand and cut out the rear triangle and then rebuild the rear with the salvaged parts.
I then cut down the Nishiki fork to build a replacement to the stock fork which I had respaced to fit a 100mm hub, with this I got a stronger fork with a little less trail, rack mounts, and nicer dropouts.
I added cable guides to the frame for the rear brake as well and decided to change the brakes to V brakes so also changed my levers to Tektro linear pull models. The braking power was good with the cantis but is nothing short of astounding with the V brakes.
I have yet to powdercoat the frame, I went off to Portland in August to get married and did get lots of opportunity to test ride the newly modified bike and could not be more pleased.
Forrest handles like he is on rails and some changes to the bb drop gives me a little more pedal clearance… and he gained about an inch of wheelbase in the rear.
After… and the saga will continue.
I have decided to powder coat Forrest a lovely shade of copper and still have to build up custom racks although I find myself looking at the old guy and think he looks like he wants to race someone in his stripped down form.
2012… The Saga Continues.
After test riding Forrest to assess the ride characteristics of the changes in the frame geometry and finding that I was most pleased it was time to tear him down for powder coating even though more than a few people said I should just clear coat and preserve the beaten up and set on fire look.
Arvon came and picked up the frame and brought it back this past Thursday and when I saw the dual stage brown/orange powder coat I was exceptionally pleased with this and the little bits of post clean up work that he did.
The frame and fork… and Bijoux the Shih Tzu.
The front fork was salvaged from a wrecked Nishiki International, rebuilt for the 20 inch wheel and is suspension corrected…
The rear bottle cage and cable stop for the front derailleur…
The seat and chain stays were taken from the wrecked Nishiki and joined to the Phillip’s seat and chain stays with chromoly sleeves to provide the brazed joint.
The hinge bolt was fabricated with an integrated washer.
The chain stay was joined and then filet brazed to clean up the original Raleigh welding.
The rear dropouts are Suntour.
And finally… Forrest is reborn. *click* image for larger view
I will be adding more pictures… stay tuned.