Thursday, May 18, 2017

Raleigh Grand Prix and MKS Sylvan Touring Pedals

I decided to swap out the old Raleigh quill pedals in favor of a new set of MKS Sylvan Touring Pedals. The quill pedals were a bit small for use with regular sneakers, but the MKS Sylvan Touring are great.

I was impressed with the quality of these pedals. They run smoothly, are lightweight, and cost under $30 on Amazon. They have a 1970s-style look, but with the smoothness of new parts and new bearings. I think these are winners.

Overall, this Raleigh has turned out reasonably well. The Carlton frame has some nice elements: cutaway lugs; wrap-around stays; and a good fit for me.

 When you build a bike, I think it's important to use good-quality parts, especially new stuff. The Velo Orange fenders look nice and are of good quality. They're not all loose and rattly like cheap fenders.

 The Weinmann center-pull brakes are nothing exotic, but they're solid and work well. The Raleigh headbadge is also always a nice touch.

By the end of my ride tonight, a thunderstorm was gathering, so I headed home.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Summer Evening

It reached over 90 degrees today, which led to a warm, humid evening. I really like this 1947 Schwinn Continental for those kinds of conditions. The lighter weight of the Cro-Mo frame and several aluminum parts makes it a little less work to go up hills in the hot weather.

The blue paint really shines in the evening sunlight.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Good Weather, Good Bike: Raleigh Sprite 5-Speed

 Nice night for a ride: 75 and sunny. There's plenty of daylight and you can't ask for better weather than this. This 5-speed Raleigh Sprite is a great choice.
 It rained for about three days here between last Thursday and Saturday, but it's well-cleared now and there's plenty of riding to be done.

Even these Mallards are enjoying the weather.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

1974 Raleigh Worksop/Carlton Grand Prix 10-Speed

This 1974 Raleigh Carlton factory Grand Prix is my latest project. I have owned a few 10-speeds over the years, and did not like any of them.

But when I saw this green Raleigh, I really liked it. It was previously being used as a beater bike by someone who rotated the bars all the way back and had bent the rear axle. I replaced the rear axle, replaced both derailleurs, and put a Brook 72 saddle on it. The saddle was sitting in my closet, so I figured I might as well use it.

This cool frame was made in January 1974 at the Worksop factory, which was formerly Carlton and had been bought-out by Raleigh.

What I really liked about this frame was the luminous green color, the wrap-around seat stays, and the cut-away lugs.

I fitted the bike with Velo Orange stainless steel fenders and Sun Tour 1970s-era derailleurs as well.

I topped the project off with a Banjo Brothers Barrel bag. It's a fun bike, but I'm definitely still an internal gear hub person. The derailleurs are working nicely and it has a very wide range of gears. It's also very light compared to a 3-speed and quite quick. It is something different to ride, but I still prefer the Raleigh Sports-style bikes.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

One of the things I wonder about in terms of bicycling is why people gravitate to one 'template' of bicycle or another. I suppose where someone lives has a lot to do with it - people who live near a lot of dirt trails may go for mountain biking, while people with good roads may gravitate toward road biking. That makes sense.

What makes someone go into vintage bikes? Part of it is an appreciation for history, and perhaps for old-style manufacturing methods.

More specifically, what makes some people cling to steel Westrick rims, versus replace them with aluminum modern rims? Perhaps some people are more 'conservative' as to parts and layout on their old bikes than others are.

But I think ultimately the best thought is that you have to be flexible: some projects demand all-out, original parts, while others allow you to build a custom bike up because they arrive incomplete or have been damaged.

When I started with vintage bikes I insisted on only "period, brand, and model correct" parts. I had to replace Endrick rims with Westrick originals where possible. I had to use original lighting, including stuff that was basically a joke in terms of being able to see at night. I paged through catalogs to see what kinds of tires, brake cable housing, etc were used.

After doing this for a very long time (over 20 years), I've settled on a view that says, 'examine the total project as it arrives, and see how it presents itself'.

I wish I could give more guidance than that to the new hobbyist, but that's really it.  Look at your project for completeness, rarity, condition, and why it appeals to you and how you plan to use it. Then decide if you're going to 'upgrade' parts or customize, versus go all-out catalog spec. But overall, you need to like what you're doing.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

What Tools Should I Have to Work on a "3 Speed Bike"?

What tools should I have to work on a three-speed bike "from top-to-bottom".

This is a question that comes up a lot, and which has gotten at least a little discussion lately on a couple of bicycle fora online. I don't think it is possible to produce a truly "perfect" list of tools, but it is possible to help someone get started.

This is a long list for the person looking to do 100% their own work. If I had to equip a little shop to fix these bikes, my list would look like this.  This list does not contain the obvious items, like tire levers, bike pump, etc that you should already have.

Rather, this list is for the person interested particularly in older-type utility bikes.
Modern  bikes rely basically on the head-head multi-tool. You see these in bike shops: a Swiss Army Knife-style tool with head heads to tighten any screw or bolt on a bike. With these older bikes, you can't get by with just that tool.

The items underlined are "must" haves, in my opinion. The items without underline are nice to have, but not necessary.

Wrenches and Pliers

  • A set of good adjustable crescent wrenches: look for forged rather than cast wrenches, especially older US- or British-made. Make sure the wrench jaws are crisp and not chewed up. Get several sizes.  I have one very old, "Utica" brand crescent that belonged to my great-grandfather that I especially love. It's exceedingly well-made.
  • One Channel-Lok, wide-mouth adjustable crescent : Channel-Lok makes a wrench with VERY wide jaws that comes with a blue rubber handle. This wrench is wide enough to handle the very wide headset nut on a bike. If you don't have this, you're stuck with big pliers.
  •  Two small sets of combination wrenches in imperial and metric sizes: crescent at one end and box wrench at the other. Again, look for US- or British-made forged wrenches. I'm partial to old-school US Sears Craftsman.
  • What about "Whitworth Wrenches"?: Whitworth is an oddball sizing that's not metric or Imperial. The adjustable wrenches usually will be fine for this stuff, but if you do see Whitworth wrenches near you for a good price, pick them up. They help but are not totally necessary. 
  • A Sturmey Archer cone wrench and a good quality pedal wrench. These are the very flat, specialty wrenches used for those specific purposes. Both are life-savers when you need to adjust a cone or tighten pedals.
  • A set of good, forged pliers (e.g., Channel Lok, US-made pliers). These can be helpful to grab things, but if you're just doing a couple bikes you may not need them. 
  • A good set of cable cutters or bike cable nippers: you need something sharp, with a good edge to cut brake cables.

 Socket/Nut Drivers

  • Consider investing in a good socket set. I like Craftsman, but Napa and similar are good. Get the "nut drivers" with them -  those screw driver handle attachments that tighten down nuts and bolts using the screw driver handle. The nut driver is great for tightening brake blocks.

 Screw Drivers

  • You'll want a good, complete set of well-made screw drivers in flat blade and Phillips heads. Make sure the blades are not all chewed up. Get drivers with nice, firm rubber handles. 


  • Maybe a good rubber mallet and certainly a good ball peen hammer. I prefer the ones with nice, hickory handles. The ball peen allows you to hammer out fender dents, and the rubber mallet is a good "knocker" for stubborn stuff (where appropriate!).  The ball peen should be ball on one side, flat striker on the other.
  • A set of punches: get good, hardened punch like those that Bosch sells. These are used to loosen the ball ring on the Sturmey hub and to loosen up bottom bracket cups.

Other Tools/Supplies

  • The Bikesmith Cotter press: get this cotter press if you plan on working on bottom brackets at all. You can use a C-clamp and socket piece but the Bikesmith press is the best tool for the job. It works really well.
  • Calipers: not totally necessary but great for measuring unknown screws etc. I have a simple set of vernier-style calipers for a few dollars.
  • Grease/grease gun: invest in a decent lithium grease at the very least. You'll need grease. A small grease gun is nice (not totally necessary) for getting into cups.
  • Dremel rotary tool: if you plan to do more than one bike, or work on multiple bikes a Dremel can be great for clean-up/grinding/etc. Don't go cheap, get a real Dremel. 
  • 20 Weight Oil, Like 3-in-1 motor oil. You'll get used to looking for the little, blue bottle. Three speed transmissions on old bikes live on this stuff.
  • Penetrating oil, like Kano Kroil: this helps when you have something rusted out and frozen in place. Trust me, it WILL happen to you sooner or later. Grab some WD-40 as well while you're at it.
  • Bronze or copper wool and/or brass bristle brushes: great for cleaning rust off of plated parts.
  • A small torch, such as a butane torch to use with the Kroil to free frozen parts is nice to have, but not a "must" unless you're doing a bunch of projects or stuff that's been sitting outside a long time.
  • A tray of sundry nuts, bolts, and screws: you know, the trays you see in the hardware store with a bunch of differently sized nuts and bolts. These can be used to replace broken or stripped parts.
  • Canned air: normally thought of as a computer tool, this stuff is great to blow out old dust
  • Polish: great for shining up paint. Try Simichrome for chrome polish and any good quality car polish for paint. Remember to go easy with it though.
  • A small bench vise: even just a clamp-on hobby vise will do. You just need something to hold parts steady while you work on them.
  • A set of hex keys/wrenches: sometimes people throw head-headed screws onto old bikes when they rehab them. I have one bike where someone replaced all the chain guard screws with modern, bike-type head head screws. If you come across one, you'll be able to get it off of the bike.
  • A thin tipped but strong magnet: great for pulling out bearing balls from races without dropping them. Reach in with the magnet and pull them right out. If the magnet is strong, you shouldn't have to worry about dropping them.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Clean Designs: 1941 Schwinn New World Three Speed

 There's something very clean about these early Schwinn lightweights, this 1941 New World being a good example. It's hand brazed, but without lugs.
 The bike also has a minimum of accessories: a fenders, a bag, and a bell. You could add a modern LED if you needed to see in the evening or morning. Period electrical components aren't as good.
People see a Schwinn and assume it has a single piece crank. This one has a neat three-piece Schwinn crank system based on Birmingham England designs like Hercules.