Thursday, June 20, 2013

Westwood Bicycle Wheels- 26 x 1-1/2, 650b wheels

The Hercules is somewhat unique in that it features a 26 inch wheel on a rod brake bicycle. Many people are familiar with the Raleigh DL-1 28 inch wheel bicycles. The Flying Pigeons of China and the Eastman roadsters of India follow that pattern. However, other sizes existed. Hercules, among others, made bicycles in the 26 x 1-1/2 size. This size today is known as "650b". The rim seat is smaller than a regular Raleigh Sports, but uses a fatter tire. It gives the bigger tire of a Raleigh DL-1 type bike, but with a 26 inch wheel.

Before mounting the tires, I lubed up the hubs. A cleaning and re-lubing usually leads to an oily mess for a time, and you don't want the stuff on your tires. I do the lubing and let the hubs drain somewhat before putting on the tires. Remember to put the flatted cone for the front wheel on the non-drive side of the bicycle. 

Until recently 650b was somewhat of a forgotten size. It was primarily used on old French working bicycles and tandems. In fact, Schwinn used a variation of 650b known as "Demi-Balloon", which was a wide version of 650b (26 x 1-1/2 x 1-5/8), on some of its tandem bicycles. Several companies, including Raleigh also experimented with 650b in the early 1990s. The size did not catch on at that point, however. In recent years, as interest in old bicycles and utility bicycles has grown, 650b has returned to the market somewhat. Tires in the 650b size (26 x 1-1/2 nominal/imperial size is quoted) range from somewhat skinny, road-oriented wheels, to very fat, mountain bike tires.

The tires I have selected are Kenda 650b road tires. They are 40mm tires in the 650b size (40-584 if you use ISO sizing). I actually bought two sets of tires- the Kenda 40mm tires and 44mm Demi-balloons. I wanted to get a sense of each before mounting anything to the bicycle, since I have never used 650b before. I ended up choosing the 40mm size, which appears closer to the original roadster size tires. In fact, the Kenda Raleigh DL-1 tires marketed today are usually 40mm, but for the 28 inch wheel.

 These Kendas have a slightly different street tread, but otherwise appear to be the same as what you'd buy for a DL-1, only in a smaller wheel size. Panaracer, Grand Bois, and other makers also offer 650b, in a more premium tire. The Kendas are your basic, primitive utility tires. That said, they most closely approximate the old roadster tire I pulled off the front wheel of this bicycle.

As usual, I employed Fond De Jante cloth tape. I am quite fond of the tape and it is very durable stuff. I much prefer it to the cheaper, rubber strip offerings as wheel lining.

The 650b tires went on easily. The wheels are approaching the point of mounting, though I may opt to swap on a larger rear cog before everything is on the bike.

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