Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Happy New Year, Happy Old Bikes!

How to Care for Leather Saddles

A couple of goes with saddle soap did so much to improve the look of my new old Brooks B-72 that I wanted to post an after picture and also solicit comments from readers about what they use to clean and maintain their leather saddles, especially the old ones.

For the Runwell's saddle, which I originally thought beyond redemption, I used a combination of several cleanings with saddle soap and then several applications of neatsfoot oil, which is what I always used on my horse tack back in my equestrian days. While still very much showing its age, the saddle cleaned up very nicely.

But that was a hard case, and this new saddle came out looking much improved with just three applications of saddle soap and then buffing with a soft cloth. I'll do a couple more applications before the Huffeigh is assembled (which will still be some time), and then occasional saddle soaping and maybe a light oiling now and then. What do you do?

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

The Buzz About Old Bikes

Okay, so my blog post title puns aren't as good as some, but I try. This post isn't much on content, but I thought it was interesting and wanted to pass along that I found this little buzzy fellow in the seat tube of the Huffeigh, looking a bit cleaner but otherwise very much like this guy, who was found in the bottom bracket of the Columbia. Has anyone else found yellow jackets, hornets, or wasps in the frames of their old bikes? Is that a thing? Or is it just the bikes that I end up with?

Monday, 29 December 2008

The Huffeigh's New Saddle

To be more in keeping with the Huffeigh's British roots, I've decided to replace the vulgar Taiwanese vinyl-and-rust job that was on it with a "vintage" (read: "old") Brooks B-72 purchased on eBay. It needs cleaning, but it's otherwise in fine shape, and is going to make quite a difference, both in terms of aesthetics and comfort. I like the well-worn look, since I think a brand-new saddle looks a bit odd on a bike that is also well-worn. It will darken a bit with cleaning and oiling, which will be good, since it will better match the black bike and (the eventual) new black grips. The photo below illustrates the simplicity of the Brooks compared to the mess that is the underside of the Taiwanese Wonder-Saddle.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Reader Project(s): Steve's 1967 Schwinn Breeze and 1960s(?) B.F. Goodrich Bicycles

Here's a trifecta of lovely Schwinn-made bicycles from OBB reader Steve (regular readers of the comments on this blog will perhaps recognize Steve as "SS:Mtn Biker").

The first is a straight-forward, brand-name 1967 Schwinn ladies' single-speed with coaster brake. There is no model identification, but I'm guessing from frame style, chain ring, and chrome fenders that this is a "Breeze." Corrections from people better-versed in Schwinn anatomy are happily accepted.

The second and third bikes are undated his and hers Schwinn-made B.F. Goodrich bicycles, which were sold in that company's tire stores. Both have single-speed coaster hubs.
Apparently, prior to the 1950s, Schwinn branded their bicycles under different names to cater to big chain stores, but then dropped the practice, except in B.F. Goodrich stores. Other than that, there's not a lot of information that I could find on the Interwebs about these bikes, so dating is hard, but I'm taking a wild guess (based mainly on frame style, decals and motifs, etc.) and saying maybe 1960s. If anyone has better information, please pass it along.
I love the clean, simple lines of all three bikes, due in large part to the lack of brake levers, cables, and calipers. I know they fell out of fashion for a few decades, but coaster brakes are coming back, baby! And I, for one, think they're pretty neat. Some might disagree.

Friday, 26 December 2008

The Huffeigh's Stuck Stem Bolt: An Inelegant Solution

Last week, the Huffy/Raleigh underwent an operation to free the stuck stem bolt/expander wedge. You'll remember that the bolt was stuck fast, despite loads of penetrating oil (I even tried the WD-40) and about two weeks of letting it sit. To complicate matters, the head of the bolt was stripped so that I couldn't get a good grip with any kind of wrench, pliers, or grips. I finally settled on that ultimate in refined tools: the hacksaw.

I first sawed down through the washer, so that I wouldn't have to undercut the washer to get the head of the bolt off cleanly. I was also working partially on the theory that the head of the bolt and the washer, instead of being two pieces, were actually one. The photo below shows the status of things at this point:

Now, with a good vantage point to cut the bolt, I laid the bike down on its side and began cutting. I was able to saw through the bolt cleanly, flush with the top of the stem (I stupidly didn't get a photo of this). Turns out that the bolt and washer were indeed two pieces, but had partially fused with rust and an extreme case of over-tightening at some point. I then stood the bike back up (resting on the fork and bottom bracket now) and set about trying to tap the bolt down to knock the wedge loose.

Unfortunately, with the sawn bolt now flush with the top of the stem, it was quite difficult to hit the bolt hard enough to dislodge the wedge, and my efforts were not successful. I had already purchased a replacement stem and handlebars (a one-piece deal off a 1960s J.C. Higgins--very close in shape and spread to the original, but the bars not adjustable) on the assumption that I might have to do something drastic, like cut through the stem, in order to get the wedge knocked loose. So, I gritted my teeth and set about cutting through the stem to get better access to the bolt.

I again laid the bike down, resting on a couple of paving bricks padded with a towel, and started sawing through the stem near the top. I cut around the stem, rather than through the bolt in order to preserve as much of the bolt as possible to get a grip on. Here's the result:

Once I stood the whole works back up, I was able to grip the bolt with pliers and turn it loose, which it did maddeningly easily. So, the bolt wasn't rusted to the wedge after all! The problem turned out to be that the wedge was a bit too wedged in the stem tube--so much so, in fact, that just knocking the bolt (and quite hard) wasn't about to dislodge it.

With the bolt removed from the wedge, I was able to get a rather long and hearty screwdriver down in there and after a good deal of pounding with the hammer, managed to finally knock the wedge out. After that, I was able to separate the stem and fork easily, and I even managed to catch the loose headset bearings quite neatly as I pulled the fork from the head tube, allowing me to forego the swearing, muttering, hands-and-knees search for errant bearings.

All told, the only victim was one original, but very rusty, stem. I must say, I really hated to destroy the stem, but I'm not too broken-up about it, since I have the new stem already, and I can probably find an even better replacement at some point down the road. I might have puzzled through a better way to accomplish this whole operation, but I'm well enough pleased with how it turned out.

So, final verdict on a hacksaw as a bicycle tool: quite effective, if a bit drastic. Gives new meaning (or, perhaps, original meaning) to the phrase "bike hacks."

More on the cleaning progress soon, including a stow-away hiding in the frame.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Happy Christmas!

And Happy All Other Seasonal Holidays, too!

The OBB will be on a short hiatus until after the holiday. Until then, comments may take a bit longer to appear, but they will make it up eventually.

Here's hoping everyone gets an old bike under their tree this year!

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Reader Project: Ian's 1936 Rollfast

As promised, here is Ian's 1936 Rollfast, mentioned a couple of posts ago. Ian sent me the full link to his Picasa album, which for some reason was chopped off in his comment the other day. Here's the link, which includes some very helpful text and some nicely labeled parts, including the bits of the bottom bracket and headset. I hope I can encourage Ian to post some more pics, too, especially of that stylish rear reflector. And maybe it's just me, but I actually like those painted black handlebars with the brown grips.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Beautiful Poster Art by Nick Dewar

OBB reader and budding old bicycle addict Nick Dewar sent me this link to an awesomely awesome poster he created for ReadyMade. The idea was to re-imagine the iconic "populist poster art" of the 1930s in our current, er, troubled times. I love everything about this poster. If such a thing is possible, it makes my brain salivate. There are four other beautiful posters, too, all available for free download, but this one is really top o' the pile.

Here's Nick's website, too.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

A Letter

Dear 1960s/1970s Owner of My Bicycle:

Why did you put so much reflective tape on the fenders of your bicycle? I mean, I know why you did it, safety is always important; but you should know that that tape has been fossilizing for forty years now, and is quite impossible to get off. Why didn't you just buy an extra reflector and attach it somewhere else? Maybe on the seat? Why did you cover up what was once a lovely paint job with all that sticky, sticky tape? I mean, there was already a reflector right there, built into the rear fender, and a bright white stripe, so surely you didn't need that much more tape, right? Well, anyway, I just thought you should know.


A Very Wonderful Note

I want to share this wonderful note, which was recently left in the comments of an old post. I didn't want folks to miss this fellow's story, and didn't figure too many people would see it languishing in a post from a few months back, so I've decided to give it the attention it deserves. This, everyone, is why I started this blog, and why I love it so much.

Here's the note, in its entirety:
In the tradition of the old bike blog, I'm responding to an old post. I used to mountain bike exclusively, this was mainly because CHP ( in NYC was two minutes from my apartment. Now I live in Tacoma, WA and the nearest mtn. biking requires a car ride. Due to this I've sort of re-discovered my love of bicycling and bicycles in general. 

Concurrently I saw a 1936 Rollfast at a garage sale this summer for $25. It was beautiful and I had to have it, so I coughed up the cash and brought it home. Searching on the Internet I began to learn about vintage bicycles, antique bicycles, balloon-tire pre-war bicycles, etc. etc. My search led me to blogs such as this and exploded a new interest/hobby/obsession within me. 

I also discovered that to totally restore it to it's original state (won't even discuss the paint job - it appears new) will cost me several hundred if not thousands of of dollars for parts on e-bay. I bought this bike because it looked beautiful, and would love to see it restored to its original condition, but not at that price! I have lovingly taken the whole thing apart, cleaned rust, grime, and dirt off of metal parts, re-lubed many parts, purchased ball bearings, bearing grease, cleaning agents, rust removal agents, copper wool, wire brushes. Halfway through this process I discovered a new hobby/obsession, but also new that I don't have the cash to restore the bike all the way. Nor do I want to. I want to learn from it and ride it (actually make it a b-day present for my wife to ride.) I don't have the cash to re-chrome fender braces, trusses, chain-rings , and the handlebars which somebody painted black; I can't justify the $75 for a tank that's currently on e-bay, or the cost of a NOS light and generator. And on and on... So I'm compromising.

I'm going to clean and fix the best I can. New white walls, tubes, rim tape. Going to purchase (gasp) white spokes (one extra expense) because they will look cool with the red/white paint scheme, gonna teach myself how to true a wheel and then re-build the wheel with the newly cleaned New Departure Hub and white spokes. I got a cheap rack off of e-bay, which I will put on even though it's not an original 8-hole style rack. I got a set of non-painted black handlebars really cheap too, going to add those. 

So in the end the Rollfast will be a present to my wife. It will have given me hours of enjoyment learning how older bikes were built, it will have the feel and look of a fat-tire vintage bicycle, some new parts, some non-accurate parts, some old cleaned parts, and some rusty, not shiny, not beautiful parts. For an original investment of $25 I'd say that's a bargain. 

Wow, that's a lot. The point is I don't believe historically accurate restoration is for me. I don't have the patience or the money for it. I want to ride, ride, ride. Not collect, restore, and display. I'll leave that to others better equipped for it.

I'll send you some pics of the Rollfast, along with the 1975 Schwinn Suburban (rootbeer color, $15 at a garage sale), 1968 Women's Columbia Rambler ($35, still has sparkly purple-pink paint), Centrix Cruiser ($20 have no idea what this is or where it's from) and all the other bikes I pick up along the way.

Thanks Thom for an excellent and informative blog!!!
Aw, shucks. That really made my day, I must say.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Huffy/Raleigh: Day 4

I'm thinking of starting a new series on the OBB called "What's Wrong With the Huffy This Week." My main problem right now is that the stem bolt is stuck fast. The problem, I think, is that someone a long time ago pulled the stem up too far, exposing the slot on the stem steerer tube. Normally, the expander wedge and stem bolt would have been protected by being fully enclosed within the head tube, but exposing that slot in the steerer tube allowed moisture in there, and I think the wedge has rusted to the bolt. I've been soaking the whole works in penetrating oil, including turning the bike over and pouring oil down (up?) from the opening at the bottom of the fork tube (which actually gets oil on the expander wedge where it is attached to the stem bolt), but no luck so far. To make matters worse, at some point after it seized-up, someone apparently tried to get the bolt out and rounded off the corners, so I can't even get a good grip with the wrench. I, like my stem bolt, am stuck. Any suggestions?

More problems, er, "challenges" to come, including a fun little bit of jagged metal wedged between one of the crank cotters and the crank axle, which has chewed up the latter. Someone really did a number on this poor guy at some point.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Huffy/Raleigh Day 3

Henceforth, this bike shall be known as the "Huffeigh." Anyway, things have been progressing slowly with the new project, and I'll have more to say later, but I wanted to share how well the chain ring cleaned up--much improved over how it used to look. Both crank arms cleaned up just as well. This was done with fine steel wool and rubbing compound. The rest has not been so encouraging, but I'll save that for another post.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Stupidity or Cosmic Justice?

There is some justice in this world, it appears. A couple of days ago, there was a particularly tragic hit-and-run accident here in which a bicyclist was killed while riding in a bike lane. The following story from the San Diego Union-Tribune tells the story of how the suspect was caught. May all hit-and-runners receive such swift justice:
Suspect Arrested in Fatal Hit and Run With Bicyclist
ALPINE – An Alpine man suspected in Tuesday's fatal hit-and-run collision with a bicyclist was arrested Thursday night after he went into a bar in view of the victim's friends and family at a candlelight vigil, authorities said. Relatives and friends of Edward Costa, 30, of Alpine were gathered at the spot on Alpine Boulevard near East Victoria Drive where he was killed, California Highway Patrol Officer Brian Pennings said. About 6:15 p.m., some in the group saw a white Ford F150 pickup with front-end damage drive past and pull into the Liars' Club bar parking lot, Pennings said. He said the witnesses, knowing the CHP was looking for a truck of that description as the hit-and-run vehicle, called the county Sheriff's Department. Deputies found Travis Weber, 44, in the bar and detained him for the CHP. Pennings said Weber was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving to the bar and on suspicion of felony manslaughter and hit-and-run from Tuesday night's collision. Pennings said the CHP received hundreds of tips, and Weber was one of several people mentioned by tipsters as a possible suspect in the case. Investigators had been trying to find Weber and the others named. Pennings said officers are confident that Weber was the driver behind the wheel of the Ford pickup, which was towed Thursday night as evidence.
RIP Edward, hope his helps.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Sturmey-Archer Trigger Shifters

In trying to figure out why the nameplate on my Huffy/Raleigh's Sturmey-Archer trigger shifter is upside-down, I've been directed to the following very informative article on the history of the S-A trigger shifter. Fair warning, the link goes to a rather large PDF.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Limited Edition Coco's Variety Store Letterpress Posters

I've posted about Coco's Variety Store in Los Angeles before. The inimitable Mister Jalopy runs the joint, when he's not blogging at Dinosaurs & Robots, writing for MAKE, or getting interviewed by the New York Times and NPR, and that's just a partial list. Well, over at Coco's, they've now got limited-edition letterpress posters only available in-store (Los Angeles), complete with a staple gun, for $25. If you live in or near L.A., these make the perfect Christmas present for that special power pole in your life. Do your part to spread the word!

Monday, 1 December 2008

Resurrecting an Old Bicycle

Here's a neat piece detailing the adventures of a first-time "resurrectionist" from Bicycling Magazine, posted to the discussion board of the Flickr group "Free Bikes, Cheap Bikes, Used Bikes."
"Just needs a little TLC," read the hand-lettered cardboard sign taped to the top tube. "Looking for a good home."  A sloppy two-tone paint job and an acute, framewide case of rust didn't leave me swooning. But when I picked up my find I understood the owner's urgency. The bicycle wasn't only feather light but was also exquisitely balanced, fluid almost, like the bones of the wind. I recalled an early 20th-century advertisement I had once seen of bicycles with wings, of riders gliding like blue-sky gods. It was almost dark, so I drew the frame closer and, even with my relatively uneducated eye, I saw things: ornate lugwork, Campagnolo components, an old, English-made Brooks saddle.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Day 1 & 2: Huffy/Raleigh Sportsman

The first shiny bits made their appearance today. I've got the wheels, fenders, chain guard, kickstand, etc. off the bike, but have left the handlebars/stem/fork assembled and the saddle and post on so that I can upend the bike to clean from all angles. I always clean everything first before I get too serious about the technical bits like bearings, crank, hubs, etc. Part of the reason is so that I can handle the bike without getting too dirty, and I also like the psychological boost I get from sprucing everything up. I washed the whole frame with Pedro's Bio-Clean squirted on a wet cloth, then went over it with rubbing compound to get a deeper clean and to coax what luster is left out of the paint. The fork and its chromed cap came out beautifully, but the head tube reveals the overall poor condition of the paint. The head badge turns out to be chromed copper, which explains the greenish hue it had. I made a go at the handlebars, and confirmed that much of the chrome is flaking off, but what remains shined up better than I expected; same with the stem. I didn't take a photo of that yet.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

1955 Huffy/Raleigh Sportsman

This is my new project for winter: a 1955 Huffy Sportsman, made by Raleigh, with a Sturmey-Archer 3-speed hub. This guy is a bit the worse for the wear, and I think quite a lot is going to have to be replaced. The chrome is mostly shot, and the frame has got a good bit of rust, but it's a solid old "British steel" bike. All of the components are Raleigh-made, and many of them are stamped "Raleigh Industries."

My favorite part is the chainring with the letters "NR", which I can only assume stands for "Nottingham Raleigh" (Update: nope, it's R.I.N. for Raleigh Industries Nottingham; the "I" is a bit hard to see). I haven't been able to find any other examples on the intertubes of this particular chainring design (wrong again--apparently common for brands taken over by Raleigh. See this thread at, about 2/3 down the page, as well as this bike).

My final goal is for this to be a cargo bike, all fitted out with racks and baskets and whatnot. I've got a lot more photos up at my Flickr account, with a bit of explanatory text, so go check them out. And, of course, I'll be blogging about the restoration here as I go. The previous owner has even promised to check in, as he expressed a desire to see this old bike returned to its former glory. I'll do my best!

Wednesday, 26 November 2008


I know I have some readers in India, and perhaps even a few from Mumbai. As the current crisis unfolds there, our thoughts and best wishes are with you.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

The Coolest Chainring Ever

...was posted today on Bicyclog: an Israel Cycling Manufacture (ICM) bicycle from the 1970s, and I just had to bring it to everyone's attention. Yes, that's a camel. How cool is that?

See more photos here.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Who's That Blogger?

I'm pleased to announce a new periodic feature on the Old Bike Blog, written by Shelly from Riding Pretty. Shelly will be guest-blogging about green products and methods for cleaning and fixing-up your old (or new) bike. I'll be returning the favor by guest-blogging at Riding Pretty about some basic tasks to confront at the beginning of an old bike refurbishing, including changing tires and tubes, adjusting saddle and handlebar height, chain care, brake maintenance, and lots of other things. 

Both features will be aimed at helping new cyclists get to work on that old Schwinn or Huffy that's been collecting dust in the garage, but more experienced gear-heads might benefit too, especially from Shelly's green tips and tricks. So, watch this space over the coming weeks for Shelly's guest posts, and check out Riding Pretty for my bike care basics.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Post-Raleigh Hercules: Can Anyone Help?

I received an email from Yanek of Bicyclog (which documents some of Tel Aviv's more interesting bicycles) asking if I knew anything about the Hercules brand. Apparently, Yanek has stumbled upon that dream of all old bicycle lovers: mint-condition old bikes in the back of someone's defunct shop.
I found an old bike shop here in Tel Aviv, (its not operating). I made an appointment with the owner of the shop, and at the back I've discovered these 4 black and one blue HERCULES 3 Speed bicycles the blacks are in mint condition directly from the factory, only the tires been eaten by the rats. and the blue is been slightly used. I wanted to ask you if you know how much this bike worth, and if you know something about this model or this brand.
I gave Yanek a partial answer, based on what little I know about Hercules, which is that they were bought by Raleigh in 1960, and that they manufactured their own 3-speed hubs before the buyout. These, however, have Sturmey-Archer hubs, so I'm guessing that they are 1960s or 1970s bikes.  If you know anything more about these bikes, and can help Yanek determine dates and values, please leave a note in the comments.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

New "How to" and "DIY" Labels

In my ongoing attempts to make this blog useful, I've been at work adding some labels to old posts that will make it easier to find the information you're looking for. There are new labels for "How to" posts, which generally contain useful information about working on some aspect of old bikes, and "DIY" which are more often ruminations on DIY philosophy or links or something. These categories will undoubtedly grow, if slowly, so keep checking them. Along these lines, the "Tips" label also still provides smaller tidbits of info about painting, cleaning, etc.

By the way, if you fancy yourself particularly expert at some bit of bicycle repair or maintenance, or if you have a time-honored method for truing wheels handed down over the generations (or whatever) that you would like to share with a broader community, I would very much like to hear from you. You can even be a guest blogger!  Oh, the glamour!

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

How to Dismantle a Suntour Bar End Shifter

An OBB reader and fellow Flickrer has posted a wonderful nine-photo sequence (link goes to first photo) on this very subject, complete with how-to and how-it-works notes. I'll have to take his word for it, but it sure sounds like he knows what he's talking about! Bar end shifters are quite popular these days, so it's definitely worth a look if you're thinking about a pair.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Old Bikes Around the World

In most parts of the world, old bicycles are more than just a novelty or a hobby--they're a way of life. Old bicycles, many of which have already seen decades of use, are still used and maintained by people everywhere who can't afford to buy new bicycles, scooters, or cars.

Jakarta, Indonesia

Like the fellow in Africa who made his own bicycle-mounted radio and earns money taxiing villagers over unpaved roads, there are thousands of others who use, reuse, and innovate old bicycles as everyday transportation.

 Kolkata, India

In many cases, their livelihoods depend on being mobile, and old bikes are the only way for them to get around. As more folks in the industrial world fall upon hard times, the same "keep it running" ethic that has kept old bikes rolling in so-called "developing" nations must be adopted here--not only for bicycles, but for everything we use every day.

Bicycle Repair Shop in La Antigua, Guatemala
Photo by Rudy Giron

It's time--past time, really--to unlearn the "newer is better" mentality so many of us have grown up with. If we're going to learn to do more with less (and we will most certainly have to), we're going to need to turn away from brand-new retail shops and toward our garages, local yard sales, and thrift shops. Just like most of the world already knows, there are a whole bunch of very serviceable old bicycles out there (and everything else) just waiting to be used again.

Some Funny Nonsense for Friday

I was skimming through my Flickr groups this morning and found an otherwise unremarkable photo of a bicycle with the most hilarious caption: "I'm faster than squirrels while riding on my Iron Duke." Since my wife has an ongoing feud with squirrels (she was viciously attacked by one that stole the bagel right out of her hands a few years ago), I found it absolutely hilarious. I used my lunch hour today to make this little cartoon for her. Add this to your list of reasons to ride a bicycle!

Tuesday, 21 October 2008


Yehuda Moon, the best (and only?) webcomic devoted entirely to bicycling. There's also a link in the sidebar under Miscellany.

Monday, 20 October 2008

The Sublime & the Ridiculous

My wife and I rode down to San Diego's South Park neighborhood yesterday to test my new basket on the Runwell.  I found the basket at a thrift store and added some wire to make hooks to hang off the handlebars. It holds just enough for an afternoon jaunt. I was worried that it wouldn't hold up over our terrible streets around here, but it did just fine. We locked up at one of South Park's cool high-wheel racks, walked around a bit, and when we came back, saw that the herd had grown. It was interesting to compare our very practical and stylish old city bikes to the (I'm sorry, but) goofy-looking wacked-out new mountain bikes, which were obviously not designed with comfortable city riding in mind. I see the practicality for mountain biking, but I'm always amazed that people chose to ride these bikes around town.  'Course, I suppose the way the roads are, a little suspension might come in handy now and again. Thank goodness I have the Runwell's patented "rigid safety frame"!

Sunday, 19 October 2008

The Runwell Head Badge Revealed

I've been trying to determine exactly what my faded and worn head badge used to look like on the Runwell.  I knew there was an image of a boy or man running, but many of the details were lost. Without an example of the company logo to go on, I was pretty much out of luck. Fortunately, someone doing research on the company at the University of Warwick offered to look for an example of the logo for me. They were able to get me a scan, which was still a bit blurry, which I then cleaned up, traced, and colored to get close to what was originally on my bike. Given my utter lack of artistic ability, I think it turned out okay. So, here's what I ended up with:

The head badge on the bike:
The scan of the logo:
And my ham-fisted rendering (with full, pouty lips):
Upon closer inspection, it looks like the words have a slight shadow outline, so I'll have to go back and work on that. It feels good to resurrect a nearly-lost piece of bicycle history. 

Oh, and I added a basket.  More on that later.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Type Bike T-Shirt at Neatorama

In keeping with my absolutely random blog posts of late, here's a cool t-shirt for sale at Neatorama, one of my regular reads on the interwebs. It's a bicycle design completely composed of type (letters and whatnot). The price is pretty reasonable at $14.95, but only comes in three color options, all too light for Greasywrench McMessy (me).

Image: Neatorama

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Handlebars as Musical Instruments

File this under "other things you can do with your old bike besides ride it."

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Dinosaurs & Robots (& Bicycles)

I've been reading Dinosaurs & Robots off and on for a couple of months now, and wanted to pass it along to y'all. The honchos at D&R include Mister Jalopy of Coco's Variety Store and Mark Frauenfelder of BoingBoing fame. They're big into the "maker" and DIY ethic, which is very much in keeping with the mission of the OBB. Mister Jalopy is especially fond of bicycles, and periodically posts items of superlative interest to fellow cyclistas. A variety of guest bloggers and the principals' own catholic interests keep D&R constantly fresh and interesting. Go check it out!

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

African DIY Ingenuity

From the terrific and inspirational AfriGadget blog, the story of a bike-mounted radio that's good for more than just entertainment. Check out the site for a couple of other bike-related posts, as well.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Will You Join the Throng?

Columbia Bicycles Advertisement, 1895

The Wheelman on a Columbia Bicycle is an object of admiration. He is gracefully and naturally posed on a wheel which is perfect in construction and of elegant design and finish. Will you join the throng?

I dearly love my 1971 Columbia, but it's not quite as stylish as this one. For more stylish gentlemen a-wheel, see my other blog, The Cycling Gentleman.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

How to Install or Replace Crank Cotters

Disclaimer: I am not a professional bicycle mechanic. This post describes my experiences only, and should not be used as a definitive guide. You should consult other sources or visit a professional mechanic before attempting anything described here.

Here's the follow-up to my post a few days ago about removing crank cotters. If you're lucky enough to be able to reuse the old cotters (i.e., if you've removed the cranks only to access the bottom bracket), this process is much easier than if you need to replace the pins themselves, as was my situation. 

First, some fundamentals about how cottered cranks work. As I mentioned in my post on removing cotters, the crank axle of a bicycle with cottered cranks has a flat notch cut on either side. This flat contacts the angled flat of the cotter pin, and this is what keeps the crank arms 180 degrees apart. You can see in the photo below that with the crank arms removed, the notches on either side of the axle face away from each other.

When you put the crank arms on the axle, you can see more clearly how the pin is supposed to fit. 
In the image above, the pedal end of the crank arm is to the left, and is pointing toward the front of the bicycle. On the other side of the bicycle, the crank arm is pointing the opposite direction, toward the rear of the bicycle. Just to be perfectly clear, this is how it should look:

In the picture above, the bike is upside-down, but this is just for ease of photographing. Obviously, removal and installation of cotters is best done when the bike is upright, since the crank arms need to be supported while hammering. 

If you can reuse the old cotters, all you need to do now is reverse the process of removing them. When you place the pin in its hole, make sure the flat of the pin contacts the flat of the axle. Then, with the crank arm supported with a block of wood or length of pipe, use a hammer to pound the pin from the smooth (non-threaded) end. Strike it just as hard as you had to when you removed the pin, as you'll be wedging the pin tightly into its spot. Just like removing them, one or two hard whacks should do it. 

Once enough of the threaded end has emerged from the other side, put the nut on and tighten it with your fingers. Take another couple of whacks on the smooth side, just to seat the pin a bit more, and see if you can tighten the nut again with just your fingers. Repeat until the pin won't go any farther in, then tighten the nut down tight with a wrench. Repeat the process on the other side, but double-check as you work that the crank arms remain 180 degrees apart.

If you need to replace the crank cotters, all of this is complicated by the fact that the flat side on most new stock replacement cotters will need to be filed down in order to fit correctly against the crank axle. Many new pins are simply cut from a soft metal rod of more-or-less the correct diameter, then the flat is pressed into them, rather than machined to the correct angle. Even if the flat is machined, it is often way off from what it should be. I used a 6" general purpose mill file (single cut bastard), which removes metal more gradually and precisely than a double-cut file.

Ideally, you can use the shape of the old pin as a guide for filing the new one. The idea is to preserve the angle, but file it down so that it will fit your axle. This can be tricky, as you need to keep the file flat against the pin, but apply slightly more pressure to the down side of the angle. Sheldon Brown probably says it better. The photo below shows two new pins, the one on the left has been filed to fit my axle, the one on the right is how the pins arrived. This shows how much you may need to file to get the correct angle.
As you work on the filing, keep trying the pin in the crank so see how it's fitting against the flat of the axle. I found it helpful to support both crank arms with pieces of wood to make sure they were staying 180 degrees apart. That way, all I had to do was drop the pin into the hole to see if I needed to file the flat down any more. This took a lot of time, as I was proceeding cautiously, not wanting to take too much off, or ruin the angle of the pin. Sheldon Brown suggests using a bench-mounted vise to hold the pin in order to ensure that you're filing at the correct angle, but I have neither a vise, nor a bench to mount it on, so I held the pin with a pair of pliers wrapped in electrical tape (so as not to damage the pin with the teeth). 

Eventually, I was able to file the angle of the pin down enough so that the threaded end of the pin was just poking out the other side of the crank arm. I lubed the pin with light oil to make it easier to drive, then gave it a couple of good whacks to drive it in. I actually had to do this several times, as the pin simply wouldn't drive far enough to get the nut threaded on. If this happens, it's no big deal. Just flip the crank over, drive the pin back out, do some more filing, and try again. 

After a lot of trial and error, I was able to drive the pin far enough through that I could tighten the nut. Again, get it finger-tight, then give it a couple more whacks, tighten the nut again, give it a couple more whacks, etc., just to make sure it's seated as far as it will go, then tighten with a wrench. And again, keep checking as you work that the crank arms are still 180 degrees apart. 

If you've filed the first pin correctly, it's easier to judge how much you need to file the second pin, since you'll already have one crank that is now fixed to the axle and not going anywhere. Sheldon Brown recommends replacing pins in pairs to preserve the 180 degree orientation of the cranks, but I was fortunate enough to be able to reuse my one good old pin, since I apparently did such a stellar job of filing the first one (how that happened, I don't know!).

Here's a few helpful things to keep in mind: 1) buy extra replacement cotters in case you mangle one of them trying to get it to fit; 2) the pins should be driven from opposite sides to maintain the 180 degree crank orientation; in other words, when the crank arms are parallel to the ground, the smooth head of the pin should be facing up on one side, and the threaded or nut-side of the pin on the other side should be facing up; 3) clean your file regularly as you work to prevent build-up of metal dust; 4) lube the pins before installation; 5) don't over-tighten the nuts, as this risks stripping the threads. The angled pin, driven tight against the axle is what keeps the crank attached, not the nuts. In other words, the nuts don't keep the pins from falling out, they just keep them from jiggling loose over time; 6) after a few dozen miles, repeat the process of hammering the pin and tightening the nut, as the pins will "settle" with use.  

Finally, let me say that this was my first time doing this particular repair, and most of what I've said above comes from my reading of Sheldon Brown's guide. The idea in presenting my experience is not to claim it as definitive, but to 1) show that it can be done, even by a doofus like me; and 2) to try to give a bit more detail from one specific experience to supplement Sheldon's more general admonitions and advice.

PS--Glory of glories, you can now once again buy cotter pin presses, which were discontinued by Park Tools in the late 90s, from BikeSmith Design and Fabrication, which is where I got my replacement cotters. The presses are a little pricey at $55, but I imagine they're worth it, since they eliminate the hammering from this operation. I haven't used one myself, so this is not an endorsement or recommendation, just a heads-up.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Bike-Riding Robot

No, no, no, no, no, no!

Holy crap, people, it's a robot riding a bike! Forget about Iran and North Korea, I say Japan is the major threat to global security until they stop making so many bloody robots. Prepare, everybody, the Robot Wars are coming (on bikes!).


Where has Hank & Me Gone?

Update: Thanks to a tip from Charlotte, we now have an explanation, via the Chicago Bike Blog.

Has anyone noticed that the wonderful Chicago-based bike blog "Hank and Me" has disappeared from the interwebs? Does anyone know what happened? 

Based on her last few posts, aLex had had a nasty run-in with a driver who apparently swerved towards her as a threat, then a bad experience with a 911 operator who didn't seem to care. I believe this was in August, and I haven't seen any new posts come across my feed reader since. I checked the actual site yesterday and it had been removed.

I hope everything is okay. We miss you, Hank & Me!

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Old is the New New

I whipped this up real quick-like today as a side-bar widget for the Old Bike Blog. This is my first try at such a thing, so it might be refined in the weeks to come. If folks are so inclined, this could be added to a blog or site and linked back here. Just click and save the image, add it to your design template, and link it here.  I wanted to make it stylish, intriguing, and not be too obnoxious about putting "Old Bike Blog" everywhere on it (or anywhere on it). 

Would anyone besides me be interested in a t-shirt with this design?

What About This?

Better, or worse? And how do the Ws grab you? I mushed a couple of Ns together since the original advert I was mangling didn't have any Ws, but I'm not sure I love them.

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