Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Be Vewy Quiet...

When hunting old bikes in the wild, it is best to approach downwind and observe them unawares. If they catch your scent, they will often run off, but can be easily tracked by the trail of rusty nuts and bolts they leave behind, as well as their trademark squeals. Spotted in Balboa Park last weekend; a Schwinn Racer, I believe, with a slightly different handlebar shape than mine.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Down Townies Ride Report

Today's Down Townies ride took us around the 'hoods of South Park, Golden Hill, North Park, University Heights, Kensington, and Normal Heights and finally ended up at the Adams Avenue Folk Festival. This was one of largest rides we've had so far, and this contributed to a small group of us getting seperated at the back. Eventually, we lost the main group entirely. We're thinking of calling ourselves the Down Shifties. We are officially the slowest of the slow! Oh well, everyone knows the cool kids hang out in back.

Once we got seperated, we figured, hey let's do our own thing, and stopped at an excellent coffee shop owned by some friends of folks who were in our delinquent group of stragglers. I had the best chai latte I've had in a long time, and we got to chill with the owner for a while and meet some very awesome dogs. Gotta give a shout to Mystic Mocha.

The Down Shifties inaugural meeting.

The bikes had their own meeting.

The folk fest itself was rather "meh." There were a lot of vendors, more than anything else. Who buys window treatments at a folk fest anyway?  Saw the last few minutes of a great trio, but then it seemed like the music kind of dried up, and it didn't really seem all that folky or bluegrassy, either.

By that point, we decided we'd already had too much sun (whoo boy, we found out later just how much), so we headed home. I found a shiny new wrench laying in the middle of the street on the way home (just a small one, though), so the day wasn't a total bust. Oh, and the Huffeigh is a total blast to ride--nothing major has even gone wrong yet (knock wood).

Friday, 24 April 2009

What? A Relief!

Putting the Wald rear rack/baskets on the Columbia marked the last major task associated with the bikes in my stable (for a while, knock wood), and I must say, I'm incredibly relieved. If you follow this blog, you know that I've been working on at least one project now since July 2008. First, the Runwell, then a short break, then the Huffeigh, then recently the Schwinn, with the Mundo thrown in there in the middle (the Mundo is still a project, but a very slow one, so I don't count that).

As much as I really do enjoy doing refurbishment or restoration work, I also get tired of never having things finished. I'm really looking forward now to actually riding all of my bikes, rather than fiddling with bearings, hubs, spokes, paint, etc.

On that note, I'm announcing a slight change in the direction of the blog. There are three words in the masthead of my blog: "Recycle, Refurbish, Ride!" I've focused a lot on the first two, and now I'd like to focus more on the third, which I think is just as signficant. It's easy when you're working on old bikes to get caught up in what I call the "fetishization" of all of the little bits, while forgetting the actual point of the whole endeavor, which is to RIDE THE BIKE!

I believe it is important to show that refurbished or restored old bikes can and should be ridden, not just polished up, tucked away in a garage, and trotted out for a ride down the block now and again. Old bikes should not just be toys for grownups to play with, they should be real working machines, as they were intended. My task now is going to be to show my old bikes in everyday use: grocery runs, commuting, a jaunt to the post office, a picnic in the park, whatever. I don't have a "modern" bike to ride (the youngest bike we own is my wife's Schwinn Suburban, which is a 1977) so everything I do by bike is done on an old bike.

The point is, you can live a bicycle lifestyle without spending a ton of cash and riding some carbon fiber monstrosity. I've never paid more than $100 for a bicycle (excluding parts), and don't intend to anytime soon. All it takes is a willingness to learn some new skills, the time to invest in the work, and a large dose of patience. What you're left with is not only the gratification of a finished product, but also a perfectly sound, functional bicycle (or five).

Thursday, 23 April 2009

1955 Huffy/Raleigh Sportsman FINISHED!

Sweet Fancy Moses, this has been a long project! I started this back at the end of November, which makes it just shy of a full five months. Here's what I did:

-replaced crappy saddle with less-crappy used Brooks B72
-replaced stuck stem/bars after sawing off original
-replaced badly pitted and gouged crank axle
-replaced crank cotters
-replaced missing hub hardware and shifter cable
-replaced tires/tubes/rim tape
-replaced brake shoes
-replaced grips
-cleaned and repacked headset, bottom bracket, hubs
-sanded, primed, painted fenders, top tube, chain stays
-touch up and clear coat entire bike

The photos above are actually a bit disingenuous, since the chain guard isn't attached due to the chain rubbing on it terribly ("grinding" is really more the word). I was a bit worried about that from the beginning because of the wear patterns on the inside of the guard when I bought the bike, but I thought they might just be from years of neglect. I can't quite figure out why it's rubbing, actually, since the attachment points on the frame don't leave a lot of room for interpretation or adjustment. It must be on correctly, but it still rubs. Still working on that one.

Otherwise, it runs very well. It's very comfortable and smooth and surprisingly light. I had some trouble with the rear sprocket, the teeth of which had been misshaped due either to a too-tight or poorly maintained chain. When under way, the chain sounded like it was grinding through a poorly-adjusted derailer, which clearly wouldn't do. I swapped out the sprocket from the Columbia, and in the process, discovered that the sprocket on the Huffy had been put on backwards. I put it on the Columbia the right way to see if it would run any better, and it did! So, the Huffeigh sprocket is now working just fine on the Columbia, and the Columbia sprocket is working just fine on the Huffeigh. Thank you, Sturmey-Archer, for making such brilliantly-interchangeable parts.

I had planned on this being a cargo/grocery bike, but it turned out to be entirely too gentlemanly to be a beast of burden, so the Wald wire pannier rack I bought is now on the Columbia, which has been re-dubbed the grocery bike, while the Huffeigh will fill the Columbia's previous function as general run-around bike.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Sixth Annual National Meeting of Ancient Bicycles, Portugal

Going to be in Portugal this summer? Need an excuse to go? Here's one:

For more information, go to Men in Bike (English & Portuguese, mostly Portuguese).

Chicago's 1st Annual Winston's Tweed Ride

Since the OBB has roots, if not origins, in the Windy City, I'm quite happy to post this announcement for the First Annual Winton's Tweed Ride. Says the press release:

Inspired by The London Fixed-Gear and Single-Speed Forum's Tweed Run and challenged by San Francisco's Thursday Tweed Ride, I would like to announce the 1st Annual Winston's Tweed Ride! This celebration of herringbone, hip flasks, and our noble steeds will be hosted by British Bicycles of Chicago, or the BBC.

Everyone is invited! If you have a Brit bike, do ride. If you don't, but enjoy tweedy elegance, do ride. If you do both, CERTAINLY DO RIDE!!!

2 May 2009 marks the 80th anniversary of 
Winston Churchill’s invention of his exquisitely dry martini: gin poured over crushed ice while he observed the vermouth from across the room. The route, designed by the Right Honorable Lee Diamond, is 10 civilized miles meandering past (and into) some of The Windy City's most infamous (and still open) speakeasies. Where else but in these lively establishments would the ladies & gents find more bracing refreshments and hearty victuals?

As with our fellow tweed runs, we hope to offer small, but significant, prizes for

Dapper Chap

Snappy Lass

Most Stylish Noble Steed
Most Inspired Interpretation of Tweediness
(open to both lads and inventive lasses) 

Bike-Mounted Grill

Spotted at Streetsblog and I wanted to pass it along to people who might not see it there. Old bike + tiny grill = Freakin' Sweet!

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Meet the "Grocery Racer"

Here's the finished product on the 1962 Schwinn Racer refurbishment. The bottom bracket, headset, hubs, everything, were almost completely pristine once cleaned up, and although there's nothing more I can do with the paint (can't bring it back if it's gone) short of repainting it, which I'm not about to do for a long time, I kind of like the "beater" look. I took the front fender off because it raised a godawful ruckus, even on perfectly smooth pavement (which is hard to come by around here).

The hub shifts well, except for skipping in third. I've done all the exterior troubleshooting I can do, so I think it's a pawl issue on the inside. For now, I'm not going to worry about it, since this thing is so freakin' heavy with the rear rack and crate, and there are hills between our house and the grocery store, ain't no one going to be riding this bike in third for a long time!

It's going to live in the courtyard we share with our neighbors for use as a communal grocery-getter and errand-runner. If, that is, anyone feels strong enough to haul it down the six steps to the sidewalk!

Here's the crate attachment system, which seems provisionally very stable after a short test-run with weight this morning. Just a basic rear rack with a wooden crate attached via wood screws. The crate is not well-constructed and the wood is super crap, but it was free, so I'm not complaining. I reinforced all the connections with copious amounts of wood glue, and put a couple of coats of spar varnish to keep the moisture out.
Looking down into the bed of the crate:

Below, the anchor slat under the rack.

(BTW, from the photo above, it looks like the fender rubs, but it doesn't.)

I cut the crate down (it was taller) and used one of the extra slats to anchor to under the rack (see photos), then laid another slat in the bottom of the crate and ran the screws down through these two "sandwich" pieces, going through the bottom slats of the crate for good measure.

All in all, the whole thing is a very solid, no-nonsense, utilitarian machine. It sits you bolt-upright, and the bars come back far enough that you don't have to reach at all. I think it would probably look more at home on a country road, or leaning up against the side of a barn, than in the city, but it'll be great for trips to the farmer's market.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Just What I Need

Another way to waste time online. This looks like it's been around for a while, but I'm usually behind the curve on these sorts of things, so I just found out about it. It's a fun little tool you can use to create a mockup of your perfect bike. There aren't as many options for configuration as I would ideally like, and the color on the fork in the mockup above doesn't match the frame, but you can at least get an idea of how a project might turn out. I tried to get close to what I hope the Mundo fixed-gear project will look like when finished (still a long way off--the stuck seat post is still posing problems, but I'll get it). It's less useful for old bike restorations than for all-custom projects, but it's still fun to play around with.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Fits and Starts

My apologies, readers, for being so inconsistent with my posting lately. I haven't had a lot of time to devote to either my bikes or to the OBB the last couple of weeks, but today I picked up the first of the last of the stuff needed to finish off both the Schwinn and the Huffeigh, and the rest should arrive on Thursday. I put the new tires on the Schwinn, and I'm working on a way to attach the rear rack/crate for carrying groceries. I'm hoping to have both bikes done by next weekend, and will hopefully get to take one of them for a ride on Sunday with the Down Townies. If I could ride both at once, I probably would.

Anyway, thanks for your patience, and don't forget to send me those photos of your own Reader Projects.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

The Old Bikes of Spring II

And speaking of projects:


Now that spring has more-or-less arrived, let's see how your winter projects came out! I would very much like to post after photos of all your hard work, and preferably, a nice "action" shot of your refurbished/restored bike on the road or trail. If you're not quite done with your projects yet (like some old bike bloggers, ahem...), just send along a photo of your progress at this point, and then maybe another when it's finished. Half the fun of finishing is getting to compare the before and after shots, so let's see what you've got!

So, send me an email with a few photos and a quick description of the work you've done, and I'll post them up here as they come in.

The Old Bikes of Spring

Now is the time to haunt Craigslist if you're looking for an old bike to restore or refurbish this spring. As people clean out their sheds, basements, and garages for spring cleaning, they just want to get rid of these "rusty old clunkers" and put them up for just a few bucks. In the last few days, the following CHEAP old bikes have been posted to my local Craigslist, along with several others without photos, all for $50 or less. Alas, with two almost-finished projects, and one long-term unfinished project, I can't justify rescuing any of them. Sigh.

Cycleworks Tyseley, Birmingham, England, single-speed ($30)

Murray 3-speed ($20)
With bikes like this, you can be pretty certain that they're not stolen, since the photos are clearly taken in someone's back yard, and they look to have been just recently pulled from the shed, which is probably just out of the shot. I've bought several (the Runwell, the Huffeigh, and the Mundo project) from people cleaning out their sheds, all for around $50 or much less.

If you don't have a bike rack on your car, bring along your tools (and some old sheets or towels to cover the seats), take the wheels off, lower the handlebars, and you should be able fit the whole works in your trunk or back seat without a problem. If I can fit 'em in our little Hyundai, anything is possible. Happy hunting!  

Monday, 6 April 2009

Sure Folly

I've opened up another blog, called The World Awheel, which is going to be a catch-all for the thoughts, ideas, ramblings, and other bike-related detritus that floats around in my brain most of the time, and which don't fit on the OBB. It's going to be a very sporadic beast, I think, but will perhaps be of interest to my readers here. Give it a look from time to time, and don't be afraid to leave a comment. 

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Pennyfarthing Help

I received this email from Nicky last week, and since I don't know anything about pennyfarthings, original or reproduction, I'm posting it here to see if anyone can offer any help. Just leave a note in the comments if you can help, or if you can suggest a resource that might help Nicky.
I couldn’t resist a reproduction pennyfarthing about 17 years ago and bought it.  Since then I have been told it is likely to be a limited edition reproduction constructed during the 1960s by Raleigh.  Unfortunately, Raleigh had no archive records at that point and I’m wondering if you are aware of anything that might prove or disprove this.  I can send you some more pics if that helps.  It isn’t in pristine condition as it has been stored in a garage before I got it and since, but is sturdy and rideable!

Friday, 3 April 2009

Ignore the Drugs, Enjoy the Bike

This commercial has been running for some time, but I've just now found a YouTube video of it. I'm pretty conflicted about posting an advertisement for a pharmecutical company, but I'll just assume that nobody here gives a bibble about the drugs anyway.

Yet More of Chicago's Old Bikes

Okay, this is the last of 'em. Mostly a mish-mash. Captions above images.

I can't believe I don't remember what kind of bike this was on.

Antenna-looking shifters on a Schwinn -- very cool.

I hope nobody rides this crashed Raleigh, but I think they do. Yikes!

Signs with bicycles on them do not a bike-friendly city make.

Executive 3-speed, made in Austria.

Starjet Sports Tourist, 3-speed. Never heard of it.

What's wrong with this picture?

Yup, you guessed it: the banana in the basket has gone bad!

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Online Museum of Tradesman's Delivery Bikes

Just found this beautiful site, definitely worth a look.

More Old Bikes in Chicago

I saw a ton of great old bikes on my trip, and here are a few of the most interesting, although not always the most-loved.

This lovely Manufrance Hirondelle mixte (no date obvious) was one that I really wanted to rescue. Check out the original white tires! The entire bike just screams quality, but the bars struck me as especially cool. Unfortunately, it's just rusting away, locked up, but apparently unattended.

A lovely Dunelt, which has unfortunately seen better days. This was another one that I really wanted to rescue. I forgot to check the year.

A beautiful, well-loved and definitely actively-used Triumph. Sorry, no year on this one either, it was raining and I wanted to get inside.

One of the most interesting, because I had never heard of it before, was this Phillips-made and Chicago-branded "Ranger." This one I actually remembered to check the date on the hub -- 1966.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Chicago: Land of Schwinn

So, I've been out of town for a few days, back to Chicago, where we used to live. Although it was not the primary purpose for my trip, I couldn't help but take a whole lot of photos of all the old bikes hanging around my old neighborhood of Hyde Park (and President Obama's neighborhood, woot!), and the campus of the University of Chicago. There are waaay more old bikes around than when I used to live there, go figure.

In the heyday of the mid-twentieth century bicycle boom, Chicago was to Schwinn as Nottingham was to Raleigh. Nowadays, Schwinns are no longer built in Chicago, nor are they likely to last as long as these bikes have.

I have another post or two in the queue about all the neglected old bikes I saw, but all of these seemed to have been used fairly recently, if not necessarily kept in the best shape.

Many of the bikes I encountered, including several of the above, had stickers from the Working Bikes Cooperative, which I've posted about before.

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