Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Coaster Brakes

I tend to do most of my work on the weekends, but I do slip a little bit in here and there after work during the week.  It seems the mosquitoes like it when I work late too. They make as good an assistant as any, seeing as the purpose of an assistant is get in your way 90% of the time.

I spent the first part of the weekend rebuilding a 1940s era New Departure Model D coaster brake. Most people are familiar with brakes that work by squeezing a lever on the handlebars, but for many years in the USA, the brake of choice was a foot brake activated by pedaling backwards. A coaster brake is ideal for a casual rider who doesn't go very fast, and for politicians, because they are good at back pedaling once you finally get them to start going forward.

When you pedal backwards, a threaded driver pushes together a set of metal discs, creating friction and slowing the back wheel down.  As long as you pedal/push in reverse, the brakes are applied. Of course, you can pedal forward and coast when you want to as well. All of the parts are inside the hub of the wheel, so they are impervious to weather.

As the brake gets used, the discs that rub together get worn, eventually crack, and then need replacing. This time around I had no broken ones, but plenty of wear. I have some replacement discs around, so I figure it's time to replace the old ones. The new ones are pictured below.

In order to prevent excessive wear and heat, a 90 weight heavy gear oil is used to lubricate the moving parts.  These brakes are interesting also in that they have a small oil filler cap, sort of like you would have a on car, so that you can add new oil to the hub every so often. It serves a dual purpose: keep the hub cool and free moving, while also making a mess of the repairman and his clothes. Remember that your shirt and the brakes will each share half the oil you use.

With the new brake discs in and fresh oil, the hub is reassembled. I will perform a final adjustment this week/weekend. I am also doing some cosmetic work on the bicycle, which will be described in another post. Unlike most other 60-65 year olds in the DC area, no Botox will be used.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Getting Cooking in the Shed


The Bike Shed is up and running. The concept is simple: repair and restore traditional and vintage bicycles to be ridden on the road, while also discussing cycling in general. Although many people collect and display old bikes, the idea behind the Bike Shed is to make them the sort of thing you would want to ride on the road or trail. Everything I own I ride.

The shed has a nails and hooks for hanging parts (you can see some wheels and tires just below the top of the garage door on the back wall and in the back window), shelving for supplies, tools, and small parts (against the back wall), and wooden crates for floor storage of larger parts that will not hang but need to be kept dry still. There is also a floodlight on the front of the building just below the roof.

The line up in front of the shed is the current group of complete bikes Casey and I have in VA- a modern Forge Coco, a 1974 Raleigh Sports 3 Speed, and a 1950 Columbia DeLuxe balloon tire. I still have the 1978 Raleigh DL-1 3 speed and the 1936 Schwinn Henderson in CT. Casey has an early 1960s Schwinn 2 speed in MD as well. Against the back wall out of view is a 1930 Elgin/Westfield project bike I will be working on after finishing up the Columbia.


Tonight I took the Columbia out because it was nice and to diagnose a couple of problems. I've in particular been having problems with roughness and skipping in the coaster brake, though the braking power is still normal. I suspect I will need to take it apart to really fix the problem. I am, however, lucky enough to have a box of unused brake parts from the 1940s/50s around, which hopefully will address it. Repair and some cosmetic restoration of the Columbia will be the first project I detail here at the Shed. I also think that as the nice weather becomes more common in the fall, it would be timely to discuss bike trails and cycling in general. That's all for now.