Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sir Walter R.

The blue Columbia has been talked about quite a bit here, but there is another bike in the shed, a 1974 Raleigh Sports 3 speed with a number of upgrades I've made since 2003. In September 2003 I had a Specialized bike with kevlar anti-puncture tires and 30+ speeds. It basically was the ultimate city commuter bike to get back and forth to Georgetown's campus. That month, a hurricane struck DC and knocked out the power for 2 weeks. While the power was out, I ventured down to the campus to recharge my electrical stuff, and when I returned to the campus rack to get the Specialized bike, it was gone. The campus police told me a delivery boy or possible hipster had stolen the bike. They were not hopeful it would ever return, and sure enough it never did.

Once the power returned, I ventured online in search of another bike. I wanted an old-style bike that looked like a bike, not a novelty. I bought, for $30, the 1974 Raleigh, which was still a pretty basic machine. Over the years I put a lot of miles on it and added stuff to it. It is sort of like a Swiss army knife- something for every occasion attached. It was built in Nottingham, England. Robin Hood once escaped on a similar bike from the Sheriff of Nottingham. The movies omit this because Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe would never be caught on a bicycle.

It has an internal gear hub, which means it can shift and adapt to the terrain, but all of the gears are self-contained within the wheel's center itself. It is adjusted via a shifter lever on the handlebars. It shifts more or less instantly and can be shifted while standing still.  It forgives indecision.

 The front wheel (above) has a frictionless power generator hub. As the wheel spins, a magnet generates power and sends it up those grey wires to the head and tail light. The lights are turned on via a switch attached to the underside of the tail light. The cool part is that whether the lights or on or off, you don't have to pedal any harder. I actually have ridden at night and it works alright.

It also has a big bell and a saddle bag. The bell sounds like an elevator bell, and hte bag is about the size of a gallon milk jug. It holds a lot of stuff. I usually keep spare tools and emergency supplies in it.

The bag even has a British flag on the flap, which is a lapel pin I bought at the Crystal City mall. It was modestly overpriced, as opposed to everything else at the mall, which is double priced.

The center of the wheel/hub is pretty fat, as you can see. It houses the 3 speed gears. The tail light is also visible. The white stripe is for visibility, a trend that started in the black out of Britain when the Germans were attacking during WWII. I have also put a bigger rear cog/gear on the chain so it can climb better.

The headlight is a chrome one. However, I replaced the bulb with a modern halogen bulb, which maximizes the 3 or so watts the wheel magnet puts out. It also has a bullet "hood ornament" on the front fender. It has hand brakes, which work alright.

The saddle is leather and made in England as well. The springs are meant for dealing with rough road. You need to be moon crater resistant on the DC-area roads.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Brooks Saddle Repair: B66

"Have a seat"

I've had an old Brooks B66 leather bicycle seat/saddle sitting around for about 3 years now. The front of it was pretty loose, which became annoying on the local DC/MD/VA roads and trails. I've heard they test moon rovers on these roads for durability before sending them to other planets. Anyway, it dawned on me that a good, vintage, leather saddle shouldn't be sitting around just because it's a little lose. So I set about fixing it.

I took it apart and found that the offending piece was a smooth rivet that had been pressed into place, but which had gone loose from riding over the years. I've got thousands of miles on this saddle and have been riding it on the green Raleigh 3 Speed since college.

So I took the top off and got the carriage/frame apart. Luckily, a thin pedal wrench fit the nuts holding it together, so I was able to work into all the tight spots and get it apart. I then drilled out the rivet and whacked it free with a hammer and punch. I took it to a hardware store over in Bethesda (big box hardware sucks for finding parts/anything except bowed lumber).  If you ever want to special fit a piece of hardware, go to a local, small hardware store. They usually have the trays of parts so you can hand fit what you need. Lowes/Home Depot sell by the bag, and you can't always hand fit what you need. The big box places also excel at making anything hard to find and I'm always getting lost there.

I then took the bolt and equipped with with a couple of lock washers and fitted it into the cradle where the rivet was. The head features a bit Phillips formation with a deep slot so you can really tighten it down.

After that I took a nut and a large, thick fender washer, along with another lock washer, and bound it together.

I then tightened the new nut down with some blue Loctite applied to the threads. This will help keep it from vibrating loose, along with the lock washers. Once again, I end up wearing as much Loctite as I got on the bolt.

And there is the re-assembled product. I tried to have the screw head as the outside part, but the nut and washer would not fit inside the frame properly, so it had to be done this way. The leather on this saddle is still pretty good, and hopefully it will work for thousands more miles. It sure beats any of that plastic stuff you see today.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The "After" Guy-

Well only a couple of things were left this past weekend- first add the grips back onto the bike, and second, paint and add the headlight. 

I like Aqua Net, it gives me the confidence and hold that I look for in a hair spray... that is in using it as a light glue. You take the basic Aqua Net you buy in the store and spray it on the handle bars where the grips go. The spray goes on wet, so the grips slide on smoothly. However, once it dries it becomes sticky and keeps the grips in place so they don't move around while you're riding. You can also use it in a pinch as a leeching glue- spray some into a crack and wait for it to dry to form a mild bond. The grips are both secure and stylish with their hair spray, no shampoo needed.

 The head light also arrived in the mail and was the wrong color. So back to the Preval unit with the matching paint. First prime, then paint. It dried nicely. This time I only ended up wearing about the same amount of paint as the light did.

I also procured a halogen bulb for the lamp- basically you get the old lamp, but swap in a modern halogen bulb to maximize the light you get from the two D batteries. There's nothing like using the biggest, most under powered battery you can find. The next step down is a candle.

The Columbia DeLuxe is finally done, at least for now. I may mess with the pedals some, but for the time being I'll call it 'done'. Once re-assembled, the light is put on the front fender with two bolts using the blue loctite. I like it when the loctite matches the bike color... that and the alternative red requires a torch to loosen once you put it on. I stick with the blue.

 When I had the time, ability, and boredom to stay up late some years back, I saw plenty of those late night TV informercials where you had a picture of the guy before the magic treatment, and a picture of him afterwards. Usually during the before he had no hair, weighed 400 lbs, and probably had Syphlis. The after guy was Indiana Jones. This isn't quite the same, but the Columbia "after guy" looks pretty good. It rides nicely too, thanks to that brake overhaul from earlier.

I think I'll do a little article on cleaning up a Raleigh 3 Speed next. Time for a little British flavor.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

 2 Weekends of work, and you end up blue...

After rebuilding the coaster brake, I set about re-building the front end with period Columbia parts I got through a parts exchange on the interwebs. The primary purpose of the internet is to find useful and interesting old junk. In this case I was able to get a 1950s Columbia front fork and front fender. The fork came from a red bike and needed repainting. The fender was the correct color but needed some shaping.

I started by taking oven cleaner and stripping off the old red paint. My bike is blue and blue is not red, unless your wife tells you it is. Since I am not yet married, blue is still blue... at least for the time being.

The oven cleaner is the usual junk you find at the store. It smells of lye and really eats at the paint. Acetone would work too but since I had the oven cleaner around, I just used that.

This is the fork after being stripped. It' sin good shape and there's no real pitting. For a 60+ year old piece of steel, it has done pretty well. The threads at the top attach to a ring that hold it in place in the frame. Ball bearings help allowed the fork to turn, and of course that's how you steer the bicycle. A straight, sound front fork is important to how the bike rides. If it's bent, the bike will veer to the side. If it breaks, you die. If you don't die, you'll wish you did when people come to visit you in the hospital and think you were stupid for trying to ride the bike. 

 After stripping the fork, I got some automotive primer to prepare it for painting. I sprayed it down with grey primer. This is not 50 shades of grey, it is one shade- automotive shade, also known as dull. If you have never painted a bicycle, or anything else with a spray, you usually want to prime so that the actual paint has a decent surface to adhere to. The primer also can be used to smooth out imperfections in the metal. The window is open to help with the fume build up. Shut the window and lose IQ points. It stays open.

While that was  drying, I prepared an old garbage can with Oxalic Acid. Oxalic acid is a chemical normally used to bleach decks. In this case I use a diluted form to remove rust. The cool thing about it is that it will not attack the paint much, if at all, but it will dissolve the rust. Here is the somewhat rusty fender on the way into the water. It has to soak for quite awhile. If you look very carefully, you can actually see that below the water line, the white stripe is quite clean. Above the water, there is still rust on the stripe.

 When you're done, the fender looks like the picture above. It's pretty clean now, but still has some surface wear. That can be smoothed out later with a little polish and filler paint. I had some matching paint made up at the hardware store in Bethesda a couple of years ago. The holes you see serve a purpose. The hole at the far right allowed the fender to mount to the front fork of the bike, above the front wheel. The two holes at the left are for a head light that mounts to the fender.

 The inside of the fender is pretty clean too. This usually is really rusty, but this one is pretty clean. Any remaining bare spots will be filled with matching blue paint. If you're thinking "there's a big fold" in the middle of the fender- you're right. These are "gothic" or "moorish" fenders with a stylized ridge in the middle of the fender. It's mainly a style thing.

The above picture is a before and after type shot. They do these in hair treatment commercials on cable TV. Our "bald before guy" is on the right whereas the "after" guy with the women and hair is on the left. The oxalic acid has done a pretty good job at removing the rust but leaving clean, original paint. The fender then was tweaked for shape, polished, and the low spots filled with matching paint. The fender is then ready for a night on the town, or just hanging out in the garage. Probably the latter. 

After the primer was dry, I ported my matching paint into a sprayer unit called a "Preval" unit. It basically is similar to one of those canned air devices from Staples, but using your choice of paint instead of just air. I filled the unit with my paint and sprayed the fork. After I could handle the fork, I placed it in the oven at low temperature to expedite drying. I did a couple oven sessions. What's that baking? It's Benjamin Moore Alkyd Enamel. I have not brought enough to share with the entire class though, just this one bike.

I then measure the off-white trim decorations on the bike and made a template in Photoshop. I printed one on oaktag and cut it with an Exacto knife. I then applied the template and sprayed the fork with matching off-white paint using a second Preval unit. In the end I was wearing as much paint as the bike parts. The fork went back into the oven for drying.

Here is the result- that red fork is now blue and white like the rest of the bike. The front fender was also mounted. As you can tell though the front end was not quite all together, but it was more or less ready for finishing. I'll detail that in a later post. I also polished the handlebars and stem, which were original. Most of the components for this bike were built in Torrington, CT in 1949. The bike was built up in Westfield, Mass. We're both northern yankees then, but it seems to do better in VA heat than I do.