Thursday, May 23, 2013

Sturmey Archer Model K

The Hercules Model G has a 1935 Sturmey Archer Model K hub. The model K is the forerunner of the long-running AW hub, but with some slight differences. It is yet another in the long line of 3 speed Sturmey Archer internal gear hubs.

The hub shell is the same size (or very, very close) to the dimensions of the AW. The axle is the same style of flatted, hollow rod. The oiler threading allows the use of a modern AW oiler cap. I actually bought a regular AW oiler from Harris Cyclery. The rubber ones actually work better than the old metal ones. The metal ones leak more.

The hub script is somewhat ornate and rather nice. The imprint bears"K  5".

The gear ratio is the same as the AW: 1= -25%, 2= direct, 3 +33.33%.

There are a couple of notable differences. First, there is no "neutral" between second and third. Second, the clutch has ramped blades on it. It would be many years before the AW itself got a "no in between gear" feature.

One of the best things you can do for a K or an AW is swap the 18 tooth default cog for a 20 or 22. Remember, you may need a bigger chain for that once you're done with the swap.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Shining Up Paint: Hercules Model G

The Problem: an uneven paint finish

I earlier showed that I was giving the Hercules Model G a rather aggressive polishing. The reason for that is the bike's frame was over painted with black paint at some point, creating an uneven surface. The black paint the individual used was not bad quality, but the application was sloppy. The paint actually appears to have been considerably better than the over-paint that had taken place on the fenders. I was able to strip the fenders back to the level of original paint, then touch them up.

The paint on the frame is tougher.  What I found is that I could get the frame over paint to match the rest of the bike, but I needed to "level" the surface so it matches. Hence, I used a mixture of 2000 grit sand paper followed by Scratch Doctor polish to level off the surface. This left some spots shiny, some a bit dull, and some actually worn through (where the paint had chipped off). A test revealed the original paint could not be fully restored because (a) the over paint had bonded hard to it and (b) the original finish was fairly badly damaged on the frame.

A solution:

In order to remedy that problem, as well as make the bicycle parts consistent, I employed the "thinned paint rub" method I previously used to touch up the fenders. The idea here is to use the existing over paint, which actually used decent black paint. However, it was applied with a brush so it was uneven. A sand/polish/paint wash will solve it.

(see )

The method was simple: take a rag, then apply some paint thinner to a particular area of the rag. Next, take matching paint and apply it to the area where the thinner is. When mixed properly, the paint should become impregnated into the rag. The thinner you previously put on there pulls the paint into the rag fibers by thinning the paint. You do not want it where you have big globs of paint on the rag surface. You want it where the rag absorbs both paint and thinner.

Finally, rub the paint onto the part in long strokes, being careful to keep the layer applied thin and even.

I prefer this method for filling minute scratches and pits, as well as balancing out a finish that is somewhat uneven. In this case I wanted the "wash" of paint to seep into the low spots on the finish without leaving a thick layer like you would get with a brush.

Note: this is only an alternative method!

The method I have described above, is only one alternative. If the finish you have is particularly thick, you may be able to actually just sand and polish it all the way down to level without having to fill using the wash. On this bike, I had a particularly nasty combination: an over-paint from a previous owner, combined with uneven application of paint as well as chipping of the original finish to the extent it could not be just brought all the way back to original.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

1935 Hercules Model G Fork Is Back

The Hercules Model G fork is back from the frame builder. The item has a few interesting twists to it.  First, the dropouts are not separate pieces brazed into the blade tubes, rather they are crimps stamped into the ends of the blade tubes. It appears the factory stamped the drops into shape, then filled the core of the drops with steel to strengthen them. The result is the shape and skin of the drops are stamped but the cores are filled with metal. It certainly is the the same as what Raleigh did, which was to take a separate, pre forged piece of metal and braze it into the blade tubes.

He looked over the damage I had previously shown here on the blog.He found that the area of the drop had begun to separate around the joint. The separation ran about halfway around the drop. He also found that what I had previously believed to be cracks were not major. He indicated they were mostly deep scratches, though they appeared to be cracks at first. The material being steel, he believed a repair certainly possible.

I picked up the fork from him today. He ground down the scratches and added fillets (see ). This leveled off the surface and made it smooth. He  brazed the part where the drop had started to separate. He indicated the project had turned out to be less difficult than anticipated, and that he was very confident in the quality and strength of the repair. As you can see, the work looks very good. I'll need to patch up the paint in the area, but that can certainly be done. The gold is the fillet built up and leveled to smooth the surface. It will soon be back to work on this project.

Friday, May 10, 2013

1950 Columbia 3 Star DeLuxe - Riding Balloon Tire Bicycles

Today was a summer-like day, which brought me to ride the Columbia 3 Star DeLuxe bicycle. I ride this bicycle somewhat sparingly not because of any mechanical defect, but because it's a rather heavy bicycle that's a bit hard on the knees.

Size Issues

American balloon tire bicycles are among the most attractive and unique machines. However, many suffer from having small frames. While the wheels are the conventional 26 inches, the frames have high bottom brackets that cause fully grown, adult riders to have a cramped position. The stand over height is not particularly remarkable, but the high bottom bracket makes it hard to get proper leg extension. At 5ft 7in tall, I can manage on the balloon tire bikes usually, but many larger riders have difficulty. Besides just raising the seat, which becomes a liability beyond a certain level, you can also move the seat back if you have an "L" shaped seat post. Still, the frames are on the small side.

Take a Raleigh Sports 3 speed as a comparison. The Raleigh Sports has 26 wheels the same as the balloon tire bicycle, at least nominally. However, the Raleigh's frame has a lower bottom bracket and usually runs 21 or 23 inches or so from the bottom bracket up to the top of the seat post. That's the nominal size of the frame. If you take a normal balloon tire bicycle, you'll find they run from about 18 inches up to 20 or maybe 21. The high bottom bracket plays a role here and cramps the ride. The makers of these bikes intended them as toys or newspaper delivery machines for teenagers, not as serious adult transportation. They can be made to fit adults, but you have compromises. Moving the seat back and raising it are options here. You could also look for a larger frame. Some manufacturers made sizes going up to about 22 inches, which is better for a taller rider. One quick and dirty way is to look at the head tube. The longer the head tube generally, the taller the frame. This has exceptions, but you can use it as a starting point for most balloon tire bikes.


Weight still comes into play as well.  Even though the rider isn't overly concerned about weight overall, certain accessories and bicycles weight noticeably more. Racks, tanks, and lights all add weight. Tanks are particularly bad offenders if they are a full-sized tank, have a horn unit, and are equipped with D-cell batteries. This is partly because of their weight and partly because they usually sit high in the frame, messing up the center of gravity. The Columbia 3 Star that I have came with a tank from another Columbia bicycle. It fit but the color did not match. I rode it that way for awhile, but quickly found the tank made the bike a dog to ride. It was quite heavy, but worse, it threw off the center of gravity so that turns were very uncomfortable. The bicycle could not maneuver well at all. Even though the bicycle was still heavy without the tank, the center of gravity moved enough to make the bicycle much more pleasant to ride. The tank not being original or matching anyway, I sold it off.

Neither am I advising people to dump original, nice tanks at all. The tanks can be quite attractive. That said, if you're looking for one place to improve the feel of your balloon tire bicycle, losing the tank is a consideration. Most purists want to ride with the tank in there, but it comes at a palpable cost. I suppose if I had a nice, original tank, I would have left it in. Nevertheless, I don't have that, and I've been happy without the non-matching/non-original one I had.

There's also something I like about the base model ballooners. I may be a bit different, but I actually really like the look of the plain, double arch bar roadsters and the plain C-models. They have a nice mix of space and material to form a coherent design. The straight bar Columbia is nice too.

Drive Train

The drive train is likely a coaster brake and a single speed. Some had 2 speeds and some also have 3. Modern variations may have a 7 speed internal gear hub. The drive train is really about what sort of performance and originality you want. Shimano Nexus hubs are nice, as are New Departure 2 speeds. Sturmey Archers aren't bad either. Just make sure your coaster brake is lubed properly and in good working order. You likely have only one brake, so it needs to work.

Enjoying It For What It Is

You're not going to make your best circuit time with one of these bicycles. They're heavy, have slow tires, and usually only have one speed. But you ride these bicycles for the fun of what they are, not for speed. It's ultimately up to the rider to decide what he enjoys most about the bicycle. Some riders may temporarily remove accessories so they can climb hills near their house, while others will insist on going 100% equipped and original. Either is fine, provided you don't do anything to permanently harm or damage the bicycle. It's about comfort, an attractive bicycle, and the sheer fun a simple and vintage machine on a nice, summer evening.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Schwinn New World Bicycle (1947) Spring Rides

The weather has finally settled into a pattern of sorts. Here in Virginia, April brought a bipolar mixture of very hot days and, sometimes, frosty nights. The up and down became so bad at one point that it killed all of the herb seeds in my greenhouse. It also meant one day riding in a heavy coat, the next in shorts.

Of late, the weather has improved. We're mostly in the 60s now during the day, perhaps up to 70 or so. At night it's in the 40s and 50s. This is prime bicycling weather for me. I love it cool. Even after 11 in the Maryland, DC, and Virginia area, I still do not do well in the sticky heat of summer. The winter is not too bad, but the summer is rough.

The past couple of years we've had almost no spring. In fact, the temperature immediately jumped into the 80s and 90s in April. This year, we seem to be having an actual spring, which coupled with the fall, makes for the best biking of the year.

This past Friday evening I took the Schwinn New World for a ride. I had planned on staying at work late to pick up some extra hours to use as credit time later, but the weather was just too nice. I saw several people slip out early to do things outdoors. I got in my full day, but didn't go over time.

As expected, the ride was outstanding and the New World behaved beautifully. The brakes work as well as can be expected (knock on wood), and the single speed freewheel is a mild, smooth riding hub.

I took a few shots of the bike in the orchard here, near the shed.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Vintage Bicycle Parts

One of the most difficult and frustrating tasks is to source parts for a vintage bicycle. Some bicycles in particular are notorious for expensive and rare parts. So where can you get them?

Vintage, Original Parts

The best part for the bike is the one it came with when built. They fit best, look right, and are original. Sometimes you can't have that. The next best thing is a part from another bike like yours, the same year, same make, same model. Sometimes you have to get one from a different year, but the part is still close in age and vintage itself.

This site is an exchange with a focus on vintage and antique American bicycles. You also sometimes get English parts there.

 This site has a focus on post-WWII lightweights, roadsters, and road bikes:

Then there's always Ebay:

Modern Reproductions

The next alternative is to buy a part that is newly produced, but is otherwise correct. Sometimes they are produced as actual "re"productions to copy a no longer available vintage part. The quality of those parts vary widely. I have a set of reproduction Torrington #10 pedals that I like. However, it turns out there are several types of reproduction Torrington #10 pedals. The type I got were good, but later ones were apparently quite poor in quality and the word "Torrington" was even spelled wrong.

Other times they are new production parts simply made the same way as years ago and continuing in production. They are not "reproductions" because production never stopped. It may have moved from one country to another, but the parts are essentially the same sort. The quality usually is not quite as good, but then you can still get a part that fits.

Here is an example:

I bought several parts for a very old, English bicycle from the above shop. The parts they stock are more or less the same as the 70+ year old originals, but are new production. The reason for that is that in some parts of the world, those old parts and bikes never went out of service. People there are riding new production bicycles that are very much the same as the originals from England. The quality is not quite as good, but then it's an attractive alternative to searching forever for vintage parts.

Modern Replacements

Sometimes an old part is such a headache that you want to switch to a fully modern alternative. One such example is the singletube type rim used in the 1930s and before on American bicycles. These rims took special tires that glued onto the rim, but which are larger and slower than modern sew-up or glue-on road bike tires. They're like a mix of a cruiser tire and a glue-on tire. You can still buy reproductions of those tires, but they are prohibitively expensive. They often run $100+ per tire. What's more, the single tube tires integrate the tube and the tire skin, so punctures are a massive pain to fix. You can't just patch or replace the tube and keep going. You have to fix the whole tire all at once. It's all the more a pain because you're working on a $100 tire and botching a repair will be costly.

So what can you do? You can replace the 28 inch wood and metal single tube rim with a modern 700c Velocity P35 rim. The rim has a very similar shape and size to the original wood and metal clad singletube rim, but will take modern tires and tubes in the 700c size. Effectively, you have a rim that looks almost the same, but now you can use any of a number of modern tires without worrying about a $100 singletube that may pose a problem later. In this case, replacing the original part with a modern one is a good idea (for more on it try here: )

That is just one example where you may end up replacing your original part with a fully modern item, in order to maintain a practical and ride ready bicycle. Other items that are candidates are improved brakes, changed gearing, improved chains, and better lights/reflectors.