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Barn find story like we all dream about . . .

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Barn find story like we all dream about . . .

Old 10-15-11, 11:20 PM
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Alex Moll
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Barn find story like we all dream about . . .

. . . the great thing about old bikes, though, is they don’t need to be stored in a barn. Sometimes they are stored in nice, warm, basement garages . . .

First, I need to back up a little. It’s been an extremely busy fall for me. I’ve started a new job as a middle school wood shop and PE teacher, and I’m also coaching Cross Country. A couple weeks ago, I’d just come home from a rainy mid-week Cross Country meet, and found a phone message from my friend Bob Freeman. (Bob is co-owner of Elliott Bay Bicycles in Seattle, and has a very impressive vintage bicycle collection.) He told me he was going to look at some old bikes that night, and a couple of them were my size – would I like to meet him at the house? A quick call to Bob reveals the pair are 50s vintage British lightweights: an R.O. Harrison, and a W. F. Holdsworth.

I was tired, but not that tired! I quickly shrugged off my fatigue, and made arrangements to meet him in Seattle. It was a cold, dark, rainy night, and I was foiled by highway construction. I was supposed to meet him at 8 pm, but didn’t get there until 8:30 pm. Luckily everyone was still there, chatting up a storm. Now, I need to back up in another direction.

A friend of his alerted Bob to these bikes – over six months ago! The friend told Bob he should go take a look at these “old bikes.” Bob said sure, but figured they were old 3-speeds, or worse. So one day the friend swings by the shop with an envelope, filled with original air-mail correspondence from W.F. Holdsworth, Holdsworth invoices, an original 1956 Holdsworthy “Aids to Happy Cycling” catalog, and a mint condition Campagnolo Catalog #13 (1955.) Needless to say, that got Bob’s attention, and he asked if he could see the bikes that evening! Fortunately for me, Bob thought to call me when he heard they were 25 inch frames.

The 88 year-old gentleman wanting to pass the bikes on, was the original owner. He cycled for transportation, and recreation, and didn’t own a car until he was 34 years old and work required it. He ordered the bikes from England because you couldn’t buy quality lightweights in Seattle at the time (things have changed!) He ordered the R.O. Harrison in ’54 or ’55, and the W.F. Holdsworth a couple years later. Both were made to order, to his specifications. He also specified every component on the bikes. He told me a number of great stories of commuting by bike, and of some great tours as well.

I’m a retired Navy (Seabee) Master Chief, and when I mentioned to him that my first duty station (Sand Point) was just down the road, he lit up and told me he was a WWII vet. He was an Army surgical assistant, and told me a number of great stories from the UK and France – including landing on Utah beach 3 months after D-Day.

I think we all enjoyed our visit very much, and I will definitely visit him again. I’d like to know more about the bikes, and the choices he made. I also want to show him the bikes after they are overhauled, and back on the road. He seemed very pleased they went to a good home, and I’m honored to be their caretaker for the next 4 or 5 decades.

So, what did Bob get out of all this? Well, I do feel a little guilty, but he did okay. Especially since he’s already got so many great bikes – I bet he could ride a different one every week of the year. He ended up with the wife’s bike: a mint condition ’59 Lenton Grand Prix. We also split a fair number of great NOS spare parts, and tools. He also has that amazing Campagnolo catalog – it’s really neat. Best of all – we all had a blast!

Enough words – here are some pics.

First, the R.O. Harrison. Reginald Harrison died of lung cancer in 1955, so this would have been one of his last frames!


** Did not come with a rear wheel - that's a spare I had available.


Cyclo Benelux rod operated front changer. Cool cranks and rings. Great pedals, too!


Neat pump peg. Spear-point lining. Great lugs.






Campagnolo Gran Sport. The shiz back in the day. Owner mentioned that he paid well over a hundred dollars for this bike. That's a pile of dough in the mid 50s.

I didn't sleep much the first couple of nights after I brought these home, and I'm still buzzing about it.

Last edited by Alex Moll; 10-16-11 at 09:50 PM.
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Old 10-15-11, 11:23 PM
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I'm sure you'll also notice there are no down tube transfers, nor tubing decals of any kind. Only the metal head badges, and the owners name hand painted on the top tube. He must have specified that, but I will ask him about it when I visit next.
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Old 10-15-11, 11:31 PM
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Great story, and great bikes! Congratulations on your new beauties!

Flash
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Old 10-15-11, 11:32 PM
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Thanks for sharing... great story.
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Old 10-15-11, 11:44 PM
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Now, the W.F. Holdsworth.


Original owner modernized the drivetrain a bit in the 80s. I'll take it back closer to original.








Yup - that's a Stronglight Competition STEEL cotterless crank. Cool.




Last edited by Alex Moll; 10-16-11 at 12:01 AM.
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Old 10-15-11, 11:45 PM
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Rare Campy L wrench


The dumbell tool appears to come apart, and has that threaded bit - sorta like an extractor. Not exactly sure what the Rollfast tool is. Spoke wrench/guage???
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Old 10-16-11, 12:00 AM
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This documentation makes this find extra special:










So polite. Such civility. I wish we all behaved like that today.








From google maps! Apparently, one of the original shops still exists. Very cool! The brand was purchased by Falcon quite a while ago. They recently did some sorta neat vintage/KOF tribute of the 70s orange and blue professional scheme. I think it's a cool bike, but I like my vintage one better.
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Old 10-16-11, 12:00 AM
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I've been saying that we need a salivating, tongue hanging out emoticon. I think this thread is a strong argument for that.
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Old 10-16-11, 12:27 AM
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Quite the find there, Alex. You'll be hard pressed to find anyone on this forum NOT jealous over it .
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Old 10-16-11, 12:34 AM
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++++++1 on that!! Alex, you had the rare good fortune to win the bicycle lottery!
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Old 10-16-11, 01:54 AM
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Holy Makola! Thanks for bringing this to us. What a great story and fabulous find. The kind of stuff I love to see on this forum. Amazing!
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Old 10-16-11, 01:59 AM
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Love that card of Kapiti Island! As luck would have it, I was standing at about that exact spot earlier today!
And yes I'm jealous over those barn finds!
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Old 10-16-11, 02:04 AM
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That is fantastic! What great bikes, great parts and tool treasure trove, but the correspondence is the capper!
Really enjoyed seeing good pics of that Holdsworth, and very interesting to see the unusual (compared to later) style of lining on the stay caps.
I believe the Rollfast is an adjustable spoke wrench, fits all sizes, even those that are a little mangled.
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Old 10-16-11, 02:07 AM
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If it hadn't been for finding this outstanding thread, I'd really question my sanity ...being up at this hour. Seeing those two bikes was the reward.

By the way. Is that Bob Freeman ?, .......riding a mattress saddle ?!

Last edited by rootboy; 10-16-11 at 02:14 AM.
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Old 10-16-11, 03:25 AM
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Great finds are, well, just great. And the story was certainly worth a read, also. Good job!
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Old 10-16-11, 05:22 AM
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Originally Posted by unworthy1 View Post
I believe the Rollfast is an adjustable spoke wrench, fits all sizes, even those that are a little mangled.
nice nice nice

yeah that is an adjustable spoke wrench - i have tried to score one as there have been a few on ebay recently but the bids keep going up too high for me (at least for such an an item)

looks like you got the stronglight puller in the package as well
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Old 10-16-11, 05:49 AM
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That is just amazing. I would be happy to find one of those Dunlop patch kits, let alone anything else.
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Old 10-16-11, 06:14 AM
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Holy crap! Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful!!!
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Old 10-16-11, 06:24 AM
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Great story, yes, lot's of drool hitting the ground at this point.

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Old 10-16-11, 06:40 AM
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I had a similar score a few months ago with a trove of amazinig stuff from an ex-racers basement... unfortunately only one of the three was my size, you have two, so I'll have to be jealous still.

the paperwork, especially the correspondences, is fantastic!, the tools are droolworthy, the parts are great (whats that there saddle you snagged?), and the bikes... don't even get me started on the bikes. Congratulations!

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Old 10-16-11, 06:47 AM
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excellent story and what a great treasure trove of goodies! I must admit to be being very jealous of that rod operated FD on the Harrison. Personally I would not change anything on the Holdsworth
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Old 10-16-11, 07:05 AM
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Wow.. Great score, Alex!

DD mentioned this to me the other night, but I didn't grasp on to the extent of your haul. Thanks for sharing the story. If any extra 25 inch frames jump out of the garage, please let me know.

BTW, I was fortunate enough to meet and talk with Bob Freeman a few weeks ago. Very knowledgeable and nice guy.

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Old 10-16-11, 07:33 AM
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I'm speechless. Wow, what a find. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 10-16-11, 07:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Bianchigirll View Post
I must admit to be being very jealous of that rod operated FD on the Harrison.
my favorite piece as well - Bianchi - arent you selling a rod FD?
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Old 10-16-11, 07:49 AM
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Simply amazing!
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