Sunday, May 1, 2011

Chas King Prendero

From what little I think I know, Chas King was a plumber who emigrated from the UK in the 50s bringing his love for the English club cycling scene with him. Using his fitting and turning skills to build frames for a few of his new-found Antipodean clubmates turned into building them for the general public. If anyone has further information on this fine chap I'd be grateful for it.

Mr King built this cool old track bike that I have inherited. My dear friend Wheels had dragged it out from a basement all covered in rust and cobwebs, and he was going to take it to the tip but offered it to me first. Being a sucker for an old steel bike I snatched it off him and took it back to the Batcave to give it a good look over. The first thing I discovered is that it is almost millimetre-perfectly the size I would order if I was getting a custom track iron! I was initially going to get the prolific Ross Bee to repaint it but, after giving it a wire brush down and blowing all the crap out from inside the tubes, I decided I really liked it the way it is - Yehuda Moon's term "beausage" sums it up nicely.

The bubbling paint looks pretty bad in this shot, but the many coats of wax I've covered it with are preventing it from deteriorating further and, despite the tatty painwork, the Reynolds 531 frame seems to have held up fine from it's poor treatment. "Superleggera" is perhaps a bit of a misnomer, as this isn't the lightest steel track frame in the world, but the words "Made in NZ" on a headbadge are always great to see.

A Zues 2001 fork crown holds stout and stiff round fork blades below the still mint original Campagnolo steel headset.

An aerial view of the Zues 2001 fork crown.

King's name stamped into the seatstay caps.

A lovely Campagnolo Record aero seatpost would grace any machine.

At least the Cinelli Pista handlebars the bike came with are the correct 26.0mm ones for the mismatched 3ttt stem...

According to the learned David Benson from long-standing cycle wholesaler W.H. Worrall and Co. Ltd. the lugs Chas used are Prugnat ones. Chas used to bring his frames into Worralls for David to complete the tapping, facing and reaming of the bottom brackets and head tubes.

I am fascinated by how textured the steel looks in these macro shots! It truly doesn't look so rough IRL, I assure you...

A gnarly old hard plastic Super Coureur saddle is all you need on the track, and probably withstands the inevitable track rash better than a covered seat - my worst ever "road rash" occurred thirty years ago after a slide from the top of Hataitai Velodrome's banking to the bottom after a puncture, and the only thing damaged worse than my still-scarred hips and elbows was my lovely Concor saddle...

A trusty old Sachs 3/32 PC-80R chain rolls over my drillium Sugino 46t chainring...

...which in turn is bolted to some gorgeous satiny Campagnolo Super Record Pista 165mm cranks.

I'm not sure if the colours of the seat tube bands actually mean anything, but they set the yellow frame off nicely.

The seat cluster and the Campagnolo SP-RE-104 seat binder bolt.

Some old Look pedals from about 1989 connect my feet to the bicycle.

Some major altitude is lost to the drops with this severely angled 58 degree 3ttt stem - probably too much drop for someone of my somewhat bulky build right now, but man it looks cool!

And here it is. The original wheels were missing, so for now it wears the "hoops" I "curated" during my brief flirtation with fixie hipsterdom. Mavic MA3 clincher rims roll 32 deep on Dimension track hubs.

Thanks for reading, and please fire me an email to if you have any info or questions on this or any other posts - I love hearing from you. Cheers, Oli


Unknown said...

Hi there, did you find out anything more about Chas King? I just picked up a track frame of his that seems to be Tange tubing and was hoping to find out some more information...


Oli said...

Hi Ed,

I have been meaning to update this post for the longest time - not long after posting it I got an email from Danny King, Chas' Grandson! This is what he had to say; "Chas was a plumber who emigrated from south London to New Zealand in 1952, settling in New Lynn, Auckland. He'd been a keen cyclist for many years and represented Great Britain at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, winning a Bronze medal in the Team Pursuit.

He carried on cycling all his life both in NZ and over here in the UK for holidays, remaining a member of the CTC, and as you say built frames on a small scale. It's great that some are still about!"

Below is a link that may be of interest.

Cheers and thanks for the reminder, Oli

Unknown said...

I have a touring frame that Chas made to fit me in 1982. I remember bussing out to New Lynn to pick it up from him. I fited it with campag wheels and down tube shifters running a Suntour 12 speed touring set up.
The front I think had a 48 as the big ring. It had a Brooks leather saddle which came off a 1960's "touring" bike I found on a farm at Tolaga Bay.
I still have the frame and forks and its on the project list to maybe become a CX bike one day.


Unknown said...

9 years later and I came across this post as I was trying to find a little more about Charles King because the guy who sold it to me at the Henderson bike Hub casually mentioned it was made by an Olympian Charles King. Has his ‘CK’ engraved on the frame. Doing some restoration on it. Anyway nice post

Oli said...

Thanks, I am glad you enjoyed it. Hope your Chas King gives you as much pleasure as mine has. Cheers, Oli