Saturday, June 29, 2013

Hercules Model G- All Black Handlebars

The 1935 Hercules 3 speed was an "all black" model. That is to say you could buy the bicycle with black handlebars and trim rather than plated. It's hard to imagine anyone wanting black paint over chrome plating today, but back then the black trim was quite common and some riders even preferred it. There was no "extra" cost for black trim instead of plated. It was probably a clever little marketing trick saying it that say because good plating generally is more costly to produce than plain black enamel.

The handlebars on this Model G were originall black, as proven by the area underneath where the grips were. They were, like the rest of the bike, painted in some sort of spray or house paint. I used Acetone and a green scouring pad to pull off the overpaint. This exposed the original paint, along with all the wear that was on it at the time it was painted over. The result looks pretty rough, but will actually clean up nicely.

In order to revive the original paint and fill in the very small scratches in the finish, I once again turned to the impregnated paint rag method. Briefly put, you take a lintless rag, and prime it with a little clean paint thinner. Then take your oil-based enamel and pour a little onto the spot where the thinner is. You may need to use a little extra thinner when getting started, so the rag does not stick. You keep mixing in thinner and paint until the rag is "impregnated" in the threads/pores with the thinned paint. Next, gently rub the rag on the surface of the work piece. If you've done it right, it will bring nice shine back to the original paint, while at the same time filling all those tough micro-scratches with paint. Make sure your paint matches when you do this, and the results will probably be quite nice.

Wait until it dries and cures. Then you can attack the larger wounds to the original paint. The rag rub will not address the large spots, but you can do that with some thinned paint and a brush, building up layers of paint until it's level with the rest. The handlebars are currently at the phase where I have done a layer of rag rub, but have not addressed the larger holes in the finish with the brush.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Hercules Model G Three Speed Progress

This past weekend I gathered the components of the Model G up and assembled them. I had to replace a few small screws that were damaged or stripped, but it mostly went together acceptably. I was uneasy with the chain case in particular, but it proved to be easier to mount than the Raleigh Dawn's case.

There is still some work left. I have to clean up and re-build the brake system, as well as clean up and touch-up the handlebars. This particular bicycle came with black handlebars rather than chrome. The 1935 catalog indicates that such an option was the "all black" trim package. I also have to clean up a few spots on the paint overall, particularly on the chain case.

I briefly test rode the bicycle on the little street in front of my house. It was a slow ride because I had no brakes, but my first impression of the bicycle is that it's like a cross between riding a bicycle and walking on stilts. The 24 inch frame makes this one tall bicycle. The rubber saddle you see is a place holder. I have a leather Brooks that will go on it. The axle kickstand is a Wald type. The chain case's support system will not allow for a normal kickstand to be used.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Westwood Bicycle Wheels- 26 x 1-1/2, 650b wheels

The Hercules is somewhat unique in that it features a 26 inch wheel on a rod brake bicycle. Many people are familiar with the Raleigh DL-1 28 inch wheel bicycles. The Flying Pigeons of China and the Eastman roadsters of India follow that pattern. However, other sizes existed. Hercules, among others, made bicycles in the 26 x 1-1/2 size. This size today is known as "650b". The rim seat is smaller than a regular Raleigh Sports, but uses a fatter tire. It gives the bigger tire of a Raleigh DL-1 type bike, but with a 26 inch wheel.

Before mounting the tires, I lubed up the hubs. A cleaning and re-lubing usually leads to an oily mess for a time, and you don't want the stuff on your tires. I do the lubing and let the hubs drain somewhat before putting on the tires. Remember to put the flatted cone for the front wheel on the non-drive side of the bicycle. 

Until recently 650b was somewhat of a forgotten size. It was primarily used on old French working bicycles and tandems. In fact, Schwinn used a variation of 650b known as "Demi-Balloon", which was a wide version of 650b (26 x 1-1/2 x 1-5/8), on some of its tandem bicycles. Several companies, including Raleigh also experimented with 650b in the early 1990s. The size did not catch on at that point, however. In recent years, as interest in old bicycles and utility bicycles has grown, 650b has returned to the market somewhat. Tires in the 650b size (26 x 1-1/2 nominal/imperial size is quoted) range from somewhat skinny, road-oriented wheels, to very fat, mountain bike tires.

The tires I have selected are Kenda 650b road tires. They are 40mm tires in the 650b size (40-584 if you use ISO sizing). I actually bought two sets of tires- the Kenda 40mm tires and 44mm Demi-balloons. I wanted to get a sense of each before mounting anything to the bicycle, since I have never used 650b before. I ended up choosing the 40mm size, which appears closer to the original roadster size tires. In fact, the Kenda Raleigh DL-1 tires marketed today are usually 40mm, but for the 28 inch wheel.

 These Kendas have a slightly different street tread, but otherwise appear to be the same as what you'd buy for a DL-1, only in a smaller wheel size. Panaracer, Grand Bois, and other makers also offer 650b, in a more premium tire. The Kendas are your basic, primitive utility tires. That said, they most closely approximate the old roadster tire I pulled off the front wheel of this bicycle.

As usual, I employed Fond De Jante cloth tape. I am quite fond of the tape and it is very durable stuff. I much prefer it to the cheaper, rubber strip offerings as wheel lining.

The 650b tires went on easily. The wheels are approaching the point of mounting, though I may opt to swap on a larger rear cog before everything is on the bike.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Rebuilt Hercules Bicycle Wheels, Westwood Rims, Model G

I finished building the second Hercules Model G Westwood wheel this weekend. It's another copy of the original spoke pattern: 32 spoke cross 3. The spokes are DT Swiss straight gauge stainless steel. The nipples are 14mm brass DT Swiss.  I once again incorporated nipple washers at the rim and spoke washers at the hub.

The rim is an Avro 26 x 1 1/2. This is yes another copy from the original size. The main difference, so far as I can tell, is that the originals use a little heavier (probably better) steel, and the originals had a black paint stripe down the center at the spoke holes. I did not paint these rims because I've never been happy with my results anytime I try to paint over smooth plating. I've opted to run them as plain, plated rims.

The purist's answer for replacing spokes is to use the exact same part, at least when you can't use the originals. I have no aversion to straight gauge spokes as an option over double butted. The difference in weight does not concern me, particularly on this bicycle, which is already pretty heavy. Where I differ with original is in using stainless steel. I don't mind galvanized spokes, but I also like the corrosion resistance offered by stainless. It helps keep rust and pitting off of the spoke structure. It also resists that nasty state when corrosion gets into the spoke threads and freezes the nipple into place, preventing adjustment. My compromise is to use spokes the same basic size and shape as the originals, but with stainless steel as a more practical measure.

The front hub appears to be original. It's a thick hub with a metal filler cap with the letter "D" stamped into it. If I had to guess, I would say that means it's a Dunlop hub. Many people are familiar with Dunlop tires. In fact, they were a mainstay of the high quality bicycle parts market for decades. They made some of the best bicycle tires on the planet. However, not many people are aware of Dunlop's contribution to other parts. Many of the vintage English bicycle rims, bear a Dunlop seal.

 Whether Dunlop actually produced them, or simply licensed their marque out, I am unsure. However, it is not uncommon to find Dunlop rims. That said, I have never seen a Dunlop oil filler hub before. It's plain steel with plating. The plating shows some wear, but that's perfectly common on a bicycle approaching 80 years old.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Hercules 3 Speed Model G: Wheels Old and New

Awhile back, I received a fresh set of 650b Westwood bicycle rims for the 1935 Hercules project. The original rear rim was rusted inside quite badly, and on the outside brake wear had gone through the surface of the rim. I decided that for now, I'm going to run reproduction rims. I will hold on to the originals until I decide whether I can take them to a welder to be saved. For now though, I want the peace of mind that new rims bring. I've taken pictures of the newly build wheel (closest to the camera) alongside the old.

Building a wheel is tricky, but not as difficult as you may think. Sheldon Brown has written an excellent piece on it. The article sets forth the strategy for building a bicycle wheel. Essentially, you're working with 4 sets of spokes- a pair on the drive side of the hub, and a pair on the non-drive side.

If you have done your work correctly on a wheel such as this, the spokes around the valve should create a large opening so that you can access the valve stem. Follow the Sheldon Brown directions, and you should be able to do it properly.

My build is not overly difficult, and certainly nothing innovative. My wheel involves the original, 1935 Sturmey Archer Model K hub laced to a modern production version of the original rim. The specs are very close, though the length of the spokes differs slightly, owing to slight differences in the rims.

I opted to straight gauge spokes from They provide a straight gauge spoke similar to the originals, but in stainless steel. The originals are galvanized steel, but I'm fond of the quality of DT Swiss stainless spokes. Stainless also means no having to clean rust off of the spokes in the future, a big benefit. I went with 14 mm nipples, which matches the size of the originals. I used a "cross 4" pattern, which is the same as the original wheel.

As you can see, I have opted to retain the use of oval nipple washers. This is because the new rims, like the old, are single-walled at the holes. The washers give a little more substance to the hole areas. Modern rims often have built-in eyelets that accomplish this task. The original wheels both had oval nipple washers.

I have departed from the original wheel in adding brass spoke washers. These are just plain, small brass washers that go between the spoke and hub shell. This is to account for differences between the modern and original spoke shapes, so that the new spokes come off of the hub shell at an angle closer to the originals.