Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year

Happy New Year from the Bike Shed. I am still working on the 1958 Raleigh Sports, but progress has been slow. The weather has been cold and I've been busy with other things. However, I still intend to finish up the 1958 Sports and make a really nice, period-correct rider out of it.

It's hard to believe the weather can change as much as it does. Here's a shot of the 1974 Raleigh Sports from July 2013.

It was pretty hot and right before a thunderstorm. Tonight it is well below freezing. In the summer, I think about how hot and humid it gets and wonder when the cooler weather will return. In the winter, I wonder how long until warmer weather will return. I suppose I can always just try to go skiing for now... 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Fall-Winter Bicycle Riding

One of the bigger challenges is squeezing in rides as the days become shorter. The month of December contains some of the shortest days of the year, and often involve darkness by 5 PM.

I worked an early day today and managed to squeeze in a ride on the New World. The weather has been all over the map, getting up to almost 70 degrees today. The Schwinn New World is a lively, lightweight bicycle with lots of character. The three speed conversion has turned out, so far, to be a great idea.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Patching Bicycle Tires and Tubes: The "Old" Way Is Still Relevant

Fall and winter can pose additional road hazards that can lead to flat bicycle tires. I recently managed to pick up a rear wheel flat after hitting a Sweet Gum spiked, seed pod ball. These things look exactly like the name implies- it's a ball of spikes holding the seeds of the Sweet Gum tree. The spikes puncture your tire and result in a slow flat. It generally will not blow out spectacularly. Instead, it will gradually lose air until it is down about halfway after 24 hours and completely flat after 48.

The large tear is easy to see and usually you just replace the tube. Don't be fooled into thinking you need a new, "wonder" patch or the like. The "slow flat" is tricky to find, but using the old way, you can do it competently and without spending much money. Get yourself a traditional, "patch and cement" kit. Grab some plastic tire levers as well.

The traditional method of rubber cement and patches has never really been surpassed. I've had some experience with glueless patch stickers, and they just aren't as good as the traditional method.

Remove the tire and tube from the wheel and get a basin of water.

Take your tube out of the tire and put a little air in it, enough to harden it up just a bit.

Submerge a portion of the tube in the water. Gradually turn the tube so that different parts of the tube go under the water. When you see a steady stream of bubbles start to flow up, you have found your leak.

Once you've found the leak, take some coarse sandpaper and rough up the area where the hole is. Dry the area completely when roughing it up. Deflate the tube so it is no longer hard.

Next, cut a rubber patch the size of your roughed up area and get out the rubber cement. Apply a thin layer of rubber cement on the roughed up area of the tube and let it set for a bit.

Once it starts to dry a little, remove the protective backing from the patch and apply that side apply so that the entirety of it sticks to the tube. Work out any bubbles in the patch from the center outward. Let the patch dry in place. I usually let it sit overnight.

Inspect the tire skin both inside and out for the thorn or other source of the flat. Remove it when you find it. Then put the tube back in and mount it all onto the tire as normal.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Raleigh Sports Three Speed- Fall Ride

As the days get shorter and colder, you have to take the riding conditions as you find them. Today was a prime example. At 70 degrees and sunny, the evening really demanded a ride after work. I managed to slip an hour's ride in and even get a couple of pictures while I was at it.

The 1974 Raleigh Sports is a sharp looking bicycle and the Bronze Green paint really looks good in the sun. The Dynohub and Sturmey lamp set work well enough to be seen by cars as dusk closes in, though I wouldn't want to be out on them in pitch blackness either.

It all goes to show that even a week or so before Thanksgiving, you can still hit good weather here in Virginia. The biggest limiting factor is the switch to Eastern Standard Time, which happened a couple weekends ago. That loss of an hour of light in the evening really hurts, and you have to take the best days when you can get them. You also have to work on your dark and cold weather cycling outfit, which I talked about last fall.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Schwinn New World Update

As many readers here know, I have owned a 1947-48 Schwinn New World roadster for about a year. The bicycle has been on the road since late last winter, in a mostly original form. It originally had a large flange, single speed freewheel. The freewheel is well-made and runs very smoothly within a narrow range of speeds. In fact, I prefer it to even the venerable Sturmey Archer AW in that narrow speed band.

Nevertheless, the freewheel is very limited outside that narrow, ideal speed range. It's very slow to start up from a stop, especially on an uphill start. Going downhill, it spins out pretty quickly. The idea behind thia project was to keep the bicycle as original as possible, while making it capable of running on a greater degree of terrain.

I wanted to make the bike "trail-ready" in terms of being able to go on some of the local, paved trails. This means being able to tackle light climbing and modest descents.

A 3 speed with the proper rear cog would do the trick, but I didn't want something entirely new. A few weeks ago, someone was selling a set of Schwinn wheels from the early 1960s, equipped with original Schwinn script front and Sturmey Archer rear hubs. They had all the original spokes even and could be made road-ready with just some clean up and truing.

I bit on them and later acquired a proper, vintage shifter. I located a metal SA pulley in my box. I bought a fresh cable and pulled some of the spare frame clamp hardware in my box.

The Schwinn tubular S-5 rims were in good shape and mimic the Raleigh Sports "westrick" pattern rims, one of my favorites. The chrome was in nice shape. A little light clean up with bronze wool, wire brushes, and WD-40 did the trick to get them ready cosmetically. I relined them with fresh rim tape.

The New World has a classic, American skip tooth set up. Sturmey Archers generally don't come with that, and are instead the usual half inch pitch. However, I was able to locate a seller of skiptooth cogs for Sturmey Archer and Shimano hubs online.  The result is the ability to run the original skiptooth chain and set up with the Sturmey Archer hub. I picked an 11 tooth cog, which equals a 22 tooth standard.

The brakes remained the same, classic "Schwinn Built" calipers. They're really neat parts and much more uncommon than the later, "Schwinn Approved" West German types. The brake pads remained the modern, basic, utility types. Safety is key with those sorts of parts, and that often means new pads.

The bicycle retained many old parts despite the changes. The concept behind this project, like many of my others, is to preserve a period feel for the bike, but also make sure it is road-ready and can be taken out for a spin any time of the year, both on the open road and on paved bike paths.

 I ultimately decided to convert the saddle from the now-disintegrating long spring type to a nice, leather Brooks B-66. I'm a huge fan of the B66, and have gotten many years of nice service from the one on my 1974 Raleigh. I decided to get the "antique brown" color to go with the aged look of the bike. It has a nice mahogany fading to it that really goes with the New World.

The finished product is a nice, period, road-going machine that fits me and is a blast to ride. The unique drivetrain combination does well to keep the original feel of the bike, but give it a little more variability on the road. The wheels are vintage themselves, just a few years newer and in better shape. I will preserve the old parts in case I ever want to put them back. This one is a real road-going machine now.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

1947 Schwinn DX and Cleaning Up Bicycle Fenders

I had two candidates for the multispeed cruiser project: the 1956 Schwinn Spitfire I earlier discussed, and a 1946 Schwinn DX balloon tire bicycle. After looking them both over, I've decided to keep the DX and sell the Spitfire. There's just something I like about the classic combination of balloon tires and the aesthetics of the old cruisers.

So here is the core of the DX. Part of it is still packed, but I will gradually unpack as I need more of it. For now, my task is to clean up the sheet metal, including banging it out and removing surface rust. This will serve as a prep for some pain touch up using the "impregnated rag and paint" method I've employer many times before.

 We start by removing the fender braces because they are particularly rusty and need a full soak in Oxalic Acid. We basically take a drill gun and a 5/32 bit, then drill out the centers of the rivets.

 The rivets are pretty soft. Just keep the drill straight and work slowly. You can choose to drill all the way through, or you can stop just short, and use pliers to crush the inside of the rivet, then press it through the fender hole. To the right, you can see a rivet where I used the second method: drill almost through, then crush with pliers and extract.
 Now that the braces and fenders are separated, they can go into the bath. The braces will spend a long time in the bath because the cad plating on them is gone and they are heavily rusted. The fender will be closely monitored to make sure the Oxalic Acid does not remove the pain. Check often and stay close by.

 Meanwhile, I have removed the tank from the frame. Like many bikes, the truss rods have bashed the sides of the tank, creating two oblong dents in the tank near the front louvers. You can see them to the right if you magnify the picture.

First, disassemble the tank, then remove the horn. Next, take a ball peen hammer and your choice of block or dolly. Carefully tap out the dents being careful not to go too far. The result is to the left. You can see the dents are gone. The remaining marks are paint defects from the truss strikes. I will take care of those with other paint work later.

 After that, the fenders were ready to come out of the bath. You can see they look a bit better. Give them a good rinse and wipe down to remove any remaining Oxalic formula. These fenders cleaned up moderately well, but still need some paint clean up, which will be taken care of later.

To the left you can really see the parts of the fenders sheltered from the elements. They appear much cleaner because they were not exposed. I will work later to blend the fenders together and make the  weathered parts better looking. The goal is to maintain a "vintage" or "relic" look, but make it more presentable, smooth, and rust resistant.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Fall Rides: Schwinn New World Bicycle On the Road

Before the weather turned to rain a couple days ago, I managed to get in some fair weather riding on the 1940s Schwinn New World. I decided to take a few shots of the bike, which has that nice "relic" type condition to it without being ratty.


I have put back the original type Mesinger mattress saddle to help move me a little closer to the handlebars. The Mesinger is nice in that it has the ability to slide forward and backward to adjust the riding position.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

1956 Schwinn Project: Repairing Damaged Bicycle Fenders

The weather today was much improved over yesterday's rain, giving me a chance to work on the Schwinn two speed project. Today's project was hammering the dents out of the fenders and some mild shaping of the chain guard.


The rear fender in particular had a very bad crease in it, so bad in fact that whatever caused it also buckled one of the rear fender braces. Using a block and a hammer, I gradually worked the crease and the smaller dents out of the fenders. I also straightened the buckled brace. Although the fenders are not perfect by any means, they are much more presentable now.

With some careful finishing and paint work, the crease and dents should be minimized even further. I have ordered matching red and cream colored paints from http://www.vintageschwinn.com/paint.html#  and I will post a review of their products once I get a chance to try them.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Another Project: 1956 Schwinn

I have been turning over the Bike Shed collection a bit lately. The Raleigh Dawn and Hercules Model G have left, and I have picked up a 1956 Schwinn middleweight bicycle. The Schwinn will be my next project, the concept being a bicycle with classic, American cruiser style but with some extra "go" to it using vintage upgrades.

The birth of this idea came back in July, when a visit to Chincoteague Island left me wanting a classic, American type bicycle with an extra degree of flexibility it going up small hills or inclines. I decided I wanted a bicycle with the typically "over the top" American colors and detailing, but with a somewhat upgraded, yet still vintage hub.

This 1956 Schwinn fits the bill. This bicycle, I believe, is a base model Spitfire, but received some vintage upgrades at some point in the past. First, the rear hub is a 2-speed "Red Band Automatic" Bendix from the early 1960s. The extra gear gives this bicycle a bit more "go" than the average, single speed coaster brake model.

Second, someone added Schwinn-type truss rods to the frame, giving the look of a more luxurious Schwinn Hornet model. At first, I thought that the bicycle might actually be a "Hornet", but the faint remnants of the chain guard details hint at this being a more basic, Spitfire model.

It really was the addition of a 2-speed Bendix to the painted wheels that got my attention. It was exactly that type of vintage upgrade I had been seeking. That extra gear would prove very helpful on small inclines, which you can find here in northern Virginia and over on Chincoteague Island. Finally, the bicycle is a "middleweight", meaning it has 26 x 1.75 tires and runs a little lighter than a balloon tire bike.

I already have a Columbia balloon tire model, and wanted something to bridge the gap between the ballooner and my lightweight Raleigh and Schwinn New World bicycles. I bought the Spitfire as lighter, faster alternative to my 1949-50 Columbia balloon tire model.  This will be a project for the fall and winter. The pictures shown here are the bicycle as it is today, which is to say without any work put into it by me.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Bike Gear Talk: Banjo Brothers Minnehaha Bag

I have a strong preference for practical, vintage and period-correct accessories on bicycles. However, sometimes you find new items that capture the spirit of old. I have been using a black canvas and leather Minnehaha bag on my Hercules Model G. The Model G is going up for local sale here in the Washington DC area, but I want to keep the bag.

I decided to put the bag on my 1949-50 Columbia Three Star DeLuxe cruiser. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the canvas bag went with the balloon tire bike. I had thought it might look out of place because it was "too new", but the Minnehaha bag captures the spirit and look of classic saddle bags well enough to fit in nicely.

It has that "old motorcycle" look that goes with the styling of the Columbia. After all, the American ballooners were meant to mimic the styling of classic motorcycles. It's also nice to have the durability of new leather and not have to deal with 60 year old, dried out hide.

The bag adds a nice element of practical carry to the bicycle, being able to bring small items like a cell phone, keys, small wallet, and small repair items. The bags are generally inexpensive and I recommend them if you want a new bag with a vintage look and a fair price.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Summer Rides: 1935 Hercules Model G Three Speed

I've spent the past few weeks bouncing back and forth between the 1974 Sports (have had it 10 years and its workings are second nature to me) and the 1935 Hercules Model G (got it and rebuilt it just this year, still getting used to its capabilities). There's a thought that once you've ridden an English three speed, you've ridden all of them. It isn't true.

The first thing you notice about the Hercules is that it is a much older bicycle. Its lugs are plain, its frame is heavy, and everything just feels and looks more primitive. It has side-mounted rear linkages, a plain front stirrup without any pad extension arms, and the old style, narrow handlebars. The hand grips are tiny by modern utility bicycle standards.

Once you are on the bicycle, the first thing you notice is that you sit way up in the air, in a very upright position. I've never ridden a bicycle where you sit as straight up as this. You draw looks on the road, especially if you roll up next to a truck or van. You literally are as tall as a pick up truck or cargo van when riding, and the people in those vehicles do not seem to expect a bicyclist to suddenly appear all the way up at their level. You tower over regular passenger cars usually.

The position is almost completely straight up and down. A road bicyclist will have a fair amount of forward position, but with the Model G, your back is almost straight up and down, with your hands almost on your lap. There is very little reach on this bike in terms of having to go forward to meet the bars. You are basically sitting up straight, with your hands just in front of your lap to steer.

The saddle sits with a good bit of backwards rotation. This is common to upright roadsters, but this bicycle particularly favors it because of how straight up and down over those rear saddle springs you sit.

Turns are easily done and relatively lazy. They are not as lazy as an American balloon tire cruiser like my Columbia or Schwinn-Henderson, but are lazier than the Raleigh Sports. It does not have that "snappy" feeling, but rather a more gradual turn. You also have to beware the bar ends and your knees in tighter turns- you will quickly run out of space and need to open your leg a bit to all the near bar to pass.

The bicycle is quite stable, though tends to drop off a bit to the drive side. It is likely the chain case's added weight, along with that of the drive train, on that side is the deciding factor. I have set up the gearing relatively low and the bicycle accelerates smoothly and cruises along well enough. The 650b/26 x 1-1/2 wheels soak up the bumps better than the Sports.  The Avro Westwood rims behave like any other Westwood type I've ridden. They have a fairly dead feel.

The brakes work as well as can be expected for primitive rods. I have nice, old stock Raleigh pads on there and they really do work as well as you can expect.  They constantly need to be tinkered with in terms of adjustment, at least during the period of breaking new pads in.

The quadrant shifter is squishy and does not give the crisp, positive response the common handlebar SA shifters give. You have to sort of "search" for the gear similar to the way a friction derailleur shifter works, though you do have three holes to "pop" into once you're in the correct spot. The hub itself is pretty solid and shifts well.

The gist of all this is basically that even if you have ridden your share of English three speeds, they're not all the same. There are these subtle differences you encounter that make each model a little bit different. I like this example in particular because it's older and demonstrates some of the more antique trends in these types of bikes.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Summer Rides: 1974 Raleigh Sports 3 Speed

The Raleigh Sports is the common light roadster produced in Britain and imported in large numbers into the US. The reason for their success, in large part, is their very nice balance between weight, handling and features. Whereas traditional, rod brake roadsters have longer frames and looser handling, the Sports is more a happy medium between a tighter road bike, and the looser rod brake roadster.

I suppose they have that "Goldy Locks" element of being "just right" for many riders.My particular Raleigh Sports is a 1974 model with a few upgrades. I bought the base model Sports in 2003 for $30 after my modern wonderbike of 27 speeds was stolen during a blackout following Hurricane Isabel. While I was pretty unhappy the previous bike was stolen, the incident may have proven to be a blessing in disguise, as out it came a bike I will most likely keep for the rest of my life. I've a strong attachment to this Sports and I've put thousands of miles on it in the past 10 years, all the while gradually upgrading components.

The bike is a great example of my philosophy involving vintage bicycles. I like to upgrade bicycles using "period" features, though I'm not dead-set on getting parts from the exact year or exact month as the bikes production.  This offers a "middle way" between using easier to acquire modern parts and looking for a dead-perfect vintage part that may never turn up. You get the vintage handling and looks then, but without all the waiting of having everything "1974", or whatever the year of your bike.

People familiar with Raleigh Sports upgrades may notice I've opted to run steel Raleigh "Westrick" rims. While it is true they do not brake or weigh as well as modern CR-18 aluminum rims, I tend to prefer more "period" characteristics in my bikes. The CR-18 rim is a common upgrade, and those rims are pretty well made, even if I have chosen to remain with the Raleigh rims.

This is just about as upgraded as a Sports gets. It took me years to put together a package I like on this bike, but I am pretty happy with it. The Bronze Green paint is attractive and the condition is nice. It's always good to take this one out for a ride.