Puff Dog's 1971 Chrome Carlton Flyer Puff Dog and myself have been riding together for about twenty years. Back in the early nineties we'd both studied photography at the Queensland College of Art, became pro photographers and for many years ran the only two studios operating out of the Brisbane CBD. You'd think that our professional affiliation through seemingly parallel careers would have us talking about photography all day long, yet bikes is the true common ground, the leveler.
Puff Dog and myself came to bike riding from two very different perspectives, I'd been the guy who'd had many years racing bikes while Puff Dog just got on the things and rode them for the sheer joy of it. Back in the early nineties when it was just not cool to ride a bicycle anywhere, lets face it, who wanted to get about on an old steel bike and have crap and abuse thrown at them from cars. The antithesis of the 2012 world of carbon and loud sublimated cycle wear. A new world where everyone can look like they just stepped off the podium at their favourite pro bike race and into the cafe - the sport "looks good" and is popular now, but it wasn't back then. Puff Dog was one of the early urban riders who loved his steel bikes, he still has his Llewellyn, it's about fourteen years old. When we stop anywhere it doesn't matter what type of brand new carbon machine I arrive on, all anyone wants to talk about is Puff Dog's steel bike.
A couple of years ago Puff Dog's wife Sally bought the perfect birthday gift for a man who just can't get enough of riding bikes. Sally sought out the Carlton frame through local fixie legend Gypsy who also helped source the Zeus Crankset which came with a swag of chain rings, hubs and seat post. Puff Dog polished the Zeus high flange hubs within a millimetre of their existence. Apparently the hubs previously had the look of tarnished blackened alloy that had seen better days. Once the hubs acquired their new found brilliance they were paired up with old 1980's Velocity aero rims. Puff dog fitted the Carlton with an eighth chain to match the Zeus rings. A Brooks saddle was mounted to the Zeus seat post. Dia Compe brakes were mounted as a functional concept, the unit clamped to the fork, the idea was to leave the bike in original condition without drilling a hole to mount a brake. The Teknomic stem was added just because Puff Dog liked the look of it. To complete the bike Puff Dog found a pair of original Cinelli bars.
An aged brown look to the bar wrap was matched to the brown leather Brooks saddle. Sally completed the entire bar wrap installation, researching a process of using cork bar tape and a shellac finish applied over the cork. Rather than binding the ends with tape Sally used a twine glued in place with super glue. The final look is one of an aged patina, the tape looks like it's been mellowing on the bike for decades. Like good wine the bar ends were corked, straight from the neck of a bottle. The original idea came from Wood and Faulk. Wood and Faulk call the idea French Porteur, you'll find complete instructions on their site. There's also a post including step by step images, on the bar wrap concept at the Studio Sixty blog .
The head badge is a special feature of the bike, it's taken on a patina of it's own. Interestingly the head badge reads CARLTON CYCLES WORKSOP ENGLAND. Thanks to Chris for showing us the way with this. We'd erroneously assumed that a mistake was made with a batch of these head badges. As Chris pointed out, Worksop is a place in England, not as we'd assumed, that it might have been WORKSHOP with the H missing. Thanks Chris.
The chrome finish was rare in the seventies, I remember about 1976-77 Gary Sutton riding a chrome Jack Walsh at Wiley Park, it stood out. The Carlton Flyer still has it's original chrome finish complete with original stickers. The Reynolds 531 tube set transfer is still intact. Puff Dog was definite about keeping the bike original, it may show a little rust here and there but it's still in use. Carlton took pride in their chrome finish "All Carlton chromium-plating, their well-known speciality, is a copper-based duplex nickel coating followed by plating to a standard well above the 'severe service' red label B.S.1224:59 specification."
Puff Dog rides the Carlton on the streets, to the shops, sometimes on longer rides and occasionally it gets a run on a velodrome where it would have spent it's first years of life. The Carlton has also been run up and down the alley ways of Brisbane in alley cats.
Fred Hanstock began manufacturing Carlton frames in 1896 in Carlton, England. During the 1930's the frame building business was moved to Worksop into a larger building. The next owner of Carlton was Daniel O'Donovan who purchased the business in 1939. TI Raleigh then bought out Carton in March 1960, finally moving from Worksop to Ilkeston in 1974.
All photographs by Robert Cobcroft