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.

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