Rex Duplex tandem

“Opps, I did it again” as the song says. After the #bikeintweed2013 event, where I and a friend participated on a blue Rex Duplex tandem (the bicycle belonged to the friend). I realized that it is really fun to ride a tandem bicycle. So, just for fun I started to look in the local ads for old tandem bicycles. No luck right away, but a few months later. There it was. The perfect project for me, I do not mind working, renovating and fixing. Quite the opposite. I enjoy working with my hands. Just take a look at “Lady blue“, she is soon ready for the spring sun.

The Rex tandem was for sale just outside a town 2 hours car travel from here. My brother helped out and said that we could make it as a road trip. Chat about life and get up to date with everything meanwhile driving there. Join pleasure with work, in  a way . So, we went there a few days later. I had told the fellow with the ad that I would buy the bicycle and left a deposit. It was fine with him. He also told me that he would tell me the story behind it as he knew when we picked the bicycle up.

We got there, in the middle of nowhere, sometimes the modern technology is great to have. Thanks to the GPS, we found the sellers place right away.

There is was, dirty and a bit rusty, after all it is 60-70 years old. All parts needed where there, no parts were missing. Some where new, but nothing critical. He told me that he bought the bicycle 1.5 years ago, as it turned out from the same area where I live now. The bicycle was going “home” so to speak. He also told me the that he and his wife were using it on some cultural events in this small town. But she did not like to sit and being not able to steer, she was a used to ride a regular bicycle and able to steer. But the main reason was that he after visited the cultural event and he had one to many to drink and was going to dismount, his leg got caught in the rear handlebar and he fell, with the bicycle on top of him, rather bad. Causing him a 9 week sick leave. Or as he put it “it became a very expensive bicycle”.

After some more talk and him showing us some other projects he had in his garage. I gave him the money, I got a receipt we said good by and my brother and I lifted up the bicycle on the car roof and secured it. Let us go back home!

The journey home was calm and with no major issues. Back home, we unload the bicycle and I put it in the basement along with “Lady blue“, “Black Malin” and “Mr Hermes“. It starts to look like an bicycle shop there.

Little about the bicycle itself.
This Rex Duplex tandem bicycle is made about 1940 in the Swedish town of Halmstad. (Here is a small film about the town, but also where they made Rex bicycles click here for the film). It is in Swedish, but it is fun to see the old work shop for bicycles, how they made them, painted and put them together. I realize where I would like to work, sadly 70 years to late. The word Duplex is the name of the frame style with two frame tubes on top curving down to the rear wheel hub. All Rex tandems where of this style and it was a very popular and steady frame, at least I have never seen a Rex tandem without this frame. Many of the standard Rex bicycles got this double frame to.

About the tandems, entire family’s used to ride them, father and mother on the seats, kids on the luggage rack and so on. In the years before the 2′nd world war and up to the 1950′s the main way to get around was with a bicycle. Tandems where good for family vacations, just add an small trolley at the back. Then you got everything with you. Tent, sleeping bags, stove, food, water. So they are used to pull a heavy load.

The one I bought now has a year stamp on its rear wheel hub, a German Torpedo hub. The wheel itself looks like it has been changed but the stamp says “40″ that is a sign for 1940. But it is a good match with the other details on the bicycle. 1930′s style ASEA dynamo, pre-rear light, the handlebars has the mid 1930′s curves and the seats that where the typical “Terry” seats, today they are really rare in good condition. They where made with soft leather and horse hair as filling. One rain shower and the seat starts to fall apart. Imagen 60 years of being outside. The seats are original, but in very poor condition. The pedals are typical “reform” style. They are badly damaged so I need to find new ones. So all signs says it is from 1940. But one fun detail is that is still got it’s original luggage rack. Rex used to weld the rack into the frame itself. So in the 1950′s when the “help engines” became popular, many luggage racks where cut of and replaced by an engine. But this one never had that faith coming. That is great!

The only real damage is to the front mud guard. It is as they have being riding down a large curb, and the stone crushed the tail for the mud guard. But since they were so long (deep) back then. I can make a good looking finish to the guard. The main part that is changed is the chain guard. It is made by the fellow I bought the bicycle from. It is a really good and sturdy guard. It is to modern sadly, but it works. I will have a think about that one. Perhaps find two 1930′s ones and do a version my self. We will see.

The mechanical issues is only the front crank bearing is loose. I will take a closer look on that one. I see no real problems with it.

It will be a fun project. The nights are saved, no sleep. The light will shine and the smell of oil and grease will again spread in the air.



Rain, snow and hail is no problem

The Hermes manages every kind of weather. The owner, well. The nose got a bit cold but that is nothing a hot cup of tea would cure. Today I was thinking it would be nice to take the old bicycle out for a spin. The bicycle in question is a old Hermes made my Nymans verkstäder (NV) in the Swedish town of Uppsala. Hermes was a sub-brand of NV, they had their own chain guard logo, and logo on the frame badge. But they was still a NV bicycle made in the same factories as the other sub-brands of NV. I have researched the bicycle for some small indications and signs for age and found out that it is made about 1954-56. 
What I can say with 100% certain, is that my bicycle is a Hermes, made in Uppsala, Sweden in mid 1950′s.

So it is a old one, it is used a lot. But not abused. It is in a rather good condition for its age, everything works as it should. Even the dynamo for the headlight works. Sadly the previous owner, at some point decided that the original paint needed to be refreshed. So the owner simply painted the frame with a dull rust proof paint instead. But of some reason he decided to paint the front of the frame in a white colour.
When I got the bicycle there was plastic handlebar grips from the 70′s mounted. That was the first thing I removed. By coincidence I had a pair of original wooden grips in a drawer. The handlebar had rusted rather bad at the ends. But with some sanding and cleaning, it looked acceptebel. I mounted the old stock grips, the fitted right away. Strange how a pair of grips can change the entire look of a bicycle. Now it looks original. Even down to the tool box underneath the rack. The tool box is, by the way, locked when you lock the bicycle with the frame mounted lock by the rear wheel. It just proves they knew what they where doing back then. In the tool box there is room for small tools, repair kit, a small pump and other bits an pieces. Quite handy!

The bag on the rack in the photo is my grandfathers old bicycle bag that he always used. It was handed to me after him and it is a superb bag for almost everything. Sandwiches, a flask with tea, bottles of lemonade, food in containers, books, things. The bag it self is fastened with three hooks. Two on top and one at the bottom. To mount it, simply slide it on the lower frame leg that goes to the wheel hub up to the rack, then hook it on the rack. Takes 5 seconds. Then because of the weight in the bag, it stays firmly in place. It also matches the paint on the bicycle, a small coincident.

There is a strange looking handle on the handlebar. That is not an hand break, as there is no front wheel brake sadly. No, it is a lever I found thrown away, that can used for many things. I have an idea for it’s use. I am thinking of a bell that is activated by the lever. It will rotate a small wheel on the tire and creates a alarm type of sound. Could be fun, we will see.

Anyway. It was a nice ride, it is always a good feeling to ride a bicycle. Getting fresh air and some exercise. The old god from Olympen (at least Uppsala) needed to stretch out his legs.



Pelago shop

I was on a weekend trip to Finland and the capitol Helsinki. What to do there? Easy, the bicycle maker Pelago has their shop there. A visit is was a must! After all I have a Pelago Bristol bicycle. I went to the shop that is located about 10-15 minutes walk from the railway station. It was really easy to find, not only good location. But also because the big signs and bicycles outside. It was a real treat to visit the shop and the area surroundings. There is a courtyard where they are building the bicycles that are sold in the shop (I guess). So while I was standing in front of the shop a fellow came riding on a sport model Pelago and parked outside the shop.

I went in, inside there was really nice. Lots of bicycles and accessories. Bicycle parts, saddles and bags from Brooks. I stepped up to the desk where there was a customer and the staff where talking. She noticed me and said hello right away. I said hello and told her that was a Pelago owner from Sweden. She smiled and asked what model I have. I told her that I have a Bristol and I just wanted to see the shop while being in Helsinki. She was very kind and said that if I wanted any help I should let her know. I took a walk inside the shop and was amazed of it all. It is a really nice shop with a friendly atmosphere. After looking around for a while. I bought the item I came for. It was a small multi tool with the Pelago name on it. I wanted to have one just for fun, a souvenir. Then she told me to take some stickers and gave me a bag for the tool.

Now, I only will need a real Brooks saddle bag to put it in. Perhaps wrapped in tweed rag?



Now it is close to the finish line

The last steps in the “Lady Blue” story. Well, it is just 2 more things to do. First its to fit the chain guard properly. The front bracket fitted like a charm, but the one in the back was missing from the guard that I bought as an replacement. The old bracket from the old guard did not really fit so well. But that is an minor problem, I will make a new bracket. What surprised me was that the new, never used (still got the price tag on the back), chain guard fitted so perfect. When I mounted it did not needed any form of modifying, just a perfect fit from the start. That is the moment when you start to ask what is wrong. Things never work straight away or with out problems. But this time, like a hot knife in butter a summer day. So smooth. (the problems turned up later, more of that later on)

So the final step is waiting for the handlebar that is currently in Thailand. Mount that with its new grips and then we are done. I think you all will like the new grips I got. Then I am thinking of perhaps change the head light. After that “Lady blue” is ready for the road again. After at least 20 years of storage. I will ask a co-worker to be a model for it. In typical cloths of course. But if that dont work. I have one idea that might work. A good presentation is everything!

Now to the part of the problems as mentioned earlier.
As you all by now have noticed this bicycle, since I got it , was supposed to enter the Bike in Tweed event 2014 in Stockholm. I have planned to enter the event since last years event. I checked up the dates and calculated everything. All previous years the event has been in the first or second week of October. Since this year I am turning into an old man, there is a event planned in the end of September involving other people and mandatory for me. But that was totally fine with me. Since logically the Bike in Tweed event is held in October, so I could be a part of it and everything just worked out like a charm. Because I had been looking forward to the bicycle event so much. But this year they decided to put the event a few weeks earlier! Right on the day I am planned to other things.
Now I understand why the repairs went so smooth and easy. I can not join the Bike in Tweed 2014 event.

Karma or faith anyone?

The last word has not been said in this matter!
But I got a great bicycle in the cellar, “Lady Blue” in good condition. I can always keep her in good condition until next year Bike in Tweed 2015. It is a matter of planning ahead!


Old taperecorders and new phones

It is not all about old bicycles around herein Schneebremse world. No, it is even about old tape recorders.

I had an dream for many years. Ever since I first saw a Nagra reel to reel tape recorder I wanted to own one. All those dials and buttons was very impressive to me and it was a rather good looking machine. Later on with internet, I started to do some research about the recorders and found out much information that made me even more curious about them. There was only two small things that was stopping me from getting one. First, the availability. They are rare. Not an item found in your local supermarket. Second, when finding one in working order, the price is rather expensive. But one day I saw an Nagra 4.2 reel to reel tape recorder for sale in an auction. I placed a bid and waited.

I won!

There I had it! My very own Nagra 4.2 tape recorder. Made by Kudelski SA in Switzerland in the 1970′s. The one I won at the auction also came with a large carry bag.  Sadly there was no adapter for the Nagra to work on the electrical grid. So I bought 12 (twelve!!) batteries. Not the small AA ones. No no, the large “D” ones was needed. I mounted them in the recorder, flicked the switch for power, tested the power level and started it up. It worked like a charm! Playback, recording, everything. The machine itself was a piece of art. Clear plastic cover on top, protecting the tape and reels. All metal chassis, knobs, dials and an large VU meter with scales all over. Impressive!

Later on, a friend who wanted to record a podcast, asked if I could bring the recorder along so we could try it out. “No problem” I replied. I packed a microphone in the bag along with the Nagra recorder (with it’s 12 batteries). Then we went out on the town to record “on-the-go” podcast episodes. We walked around, looking at things, recording along the way. It felt just as the good old days or reporters.
We recorded some episodes for testing. They sounded great! The feeling of an real reel to reel tape recorded working, while recording. It was a fun and “cool” feeling. It was a “genuine” reportage and recording. Later when I came home I realized a big disadvantage with recording with the Nagra. That was to get the recording up on internet, I needed first to record the recording again. That is record the recording into my computer so I could get a digital copy. It felt like a bit of double work there.

Some months after the first recording, the friend asked if we should do a new recording. But this time he had bought a small microphone made for his smartphone that he wanted to try out. We met again in town, did some recordings. Again we walked around recording things, talking and describing the town. When we stopped for lunch, he simply uploaded the recordings right away into my email. So when I came home, I simply edited the results adding theme music and so on.

I must admit, digital recordings are simple, effective, not depending on so many thing as length of tape, working electronics in the same way. But one of the heavy argument (no pun intended), a smartphone do not use 12 (twelve !!) “D” batteries . The Smartphone can easily fit in you pocket, so can the microphone. I would like to see anyone put a Nagra 4.2 tape recorded in their pocket. Or even more so, I would love to the the pocket that fits the tape recorded, also the microphone. Hey, the smartphone is smaller than the microphone to the Nagra. So now I am leaving the Nagra to a new auction. Now it is up next person who wants a piece of history and Swiss quality craftsman ship. I have owned own, so I am pleased now. After all, there is no usage for an Nagra 4.2 today, not as a recording device. Not as a play back machine either. Even that is better on the smartphone. On the Nagra there is some 30 minutes of recordings, on a smartphone you can have music for months… non-stop!

I am forced to say that the technology is advanced. Today it is simpler, lighter. It is so easy to create recordings with excellent result with an endless possibility to edit and change effects in an easy an accessible way. A recording with a smartphone is simply a small click away for the world to listen to.

But still. Nagra 4.2 is such a good looking recorder, there is no smartphone that has an analogue vu meter or shiny metal panels today.
It was perhaps not better in the old days, but they sure knew how to create great looking tape recorders.


Almost there

The vacation around Christmas was spent in a cold unheated cellar. Refitting the hubs, crank shafts and chain for the “Lady Blue”. It was many years since I had an rear wheel hub in parts and refitted all together again. It worked! The skill is still there. I guess its like… cycling (no pun intended). Once done, you know the drill.
The mudguards, stand, seat and handlebars of a different type was mounted. Then I mounted the head light, pedals and rear packing holder. I even put on the skirt-guard in crocheted blue wire. I found the skirt-guard in the classified ads. NOS (new old stock), never used, not even unwrapped since the 1930′s. The strange thing was that one of the side had correct 18 hooks. The other side only had 17 hooks?! If only I could complain, but I am afraid that the crochet skirt guard makers closed up their  shop about 60 years ago…

The original handlebars was sent with a co-worker to Thailand where he said he might know a shop for remaking the chrome plated finish. New grips are awaiting here for the handlebars. A dynamo is on its way. Then I guess “Lady Blue” is reddy for the roads again. As I mentioned earlier, there might be a nice girl that wants to take a ride on the bicycle later on when the weather is more “bicycle friendly”.

One of my goal is to be able to give a photo of the bicycle when it is done to my co-worker, who so kindly gave me the bicycle. So he can show it to the original owner. Just to show her that the history still is alive and the bicycle are being treasured.


Things are happening

It was the days before Christmas…

The fist assembly of the old bicycle took part in the basement. First I greased up the bearings for the fork and put it all together, now it swings around like a charm. Way better than before. Now it also looks good with it’s cleaned and polished mounts. Perhaps I will need to grease it up once more before the summer, or at least after it has been used a few times. So it has time to set and need a routine service.

While I was at it.  I decided it was time to put the new bought tires on the rims. The rims has been brushed with an wire brush and cleaned with strong cleaning agents so nothing would risk puncture the tube. First the rim protector cord went on, then the tire had to go on. I had completely forgot why I hate to change bicycle tires. Now I was reminded. My thumbs, my poor thumbs are now flat…
After the tire went on with one side or wall, as it is better called. Then gently tuck the tube inside the tire. Lastly comes the really fun part (big portion of irony here) that is to get the tire on the rim with the second wall. Again, my poor, poor thumbs.
After some sweat and hard work (and cheating with some tools) the tire was on its place. I filled the tire up with air and, behold! It worked it also looked really nice.

Then, repeat it all again for the other wheel.

There is hope for the blue lady to ride again. Only two small question marks that need to be cleared before is complete.
But that can be saved for some other day. It’s a long time until summer. It must become winter first.




Small update about “Lady Blue”.

The bicycle is now in parts. All the parts has been inspected, cleaned and checked. The most damaged parts, has been replaced. The saddle, sadly the original one was in really bad condition so it had to go. I found a worn old Brooks saddle, they look vintage and are good for comfort. The handlebar was repainted in an industrial colour. There I found a good replacement from the same era, the handlebar grips, bell, lamp, dynamo, skirt-protectors to the mud guard in back. The mud guard stands, tires, tubes and rim protectors. All is parts now just waiting to be assembled.
It will be a great looking one when its done. The girl who wants to use it is looking forward to see the bicycle.

I learned some history of the bicycle from the co-worker I received it from.  He told me that the first owner was born in 1927, in the town of Kalmar in sothern Sweden. She was given the bicycle on her 8th birthday. Then she had the bicycle all her life until she became old and did not want to cycle around more. The the bicycle was handed to a friend of the old lady. Nowdays the friend never use the bicycle so I was given them instead.
So the bicycle was made in the same town as the girl grew up in and most likely to be from 1935. Only 78 years ago.

Oh, about the old enamel cup in the photo. It is good for drinking beer, water, hot coco, tea, lemonade. Not all at once of course, but it is a good cup, very usable. You can even put it on the stove, fireplace and heat food, soups, drinks.
Beside all that, it looks vintage to.


Grease since 1930′s

The time had come, it was time for see what condition the old lady bicycle was in. I started by taking off the chain guard, saddle, handlebars. Then the wheels, mudguards, chain, stand. When that was done I started by taking apart the front fork and the bearings.

Except the suspected grease from the 1930′s that was dried up and all dust, also since the 1930′s. The bicycle was in extremely good condition. Minor rust spots, the only rust I found that is of a serious form was inside the rims, where the rim protectors (made in cloth) still did their job and protected the tubes.

I started to clean some parts. Lots of cleaning products and rags, even more elbow grease. Long evenings in the winter will be spent in the basement. Cleaning and polishing.  Also the hunt for parts has begun, I have found several parts that is needed. The only real question mark is the handles. They seem to be more or less scarce to say the least. Over all it is a good project.

The goal of Bike in Tweed 2014 is an possibility.


The story of a bicycle

I got an old bicycle from a co-worker some time ago. The reason why is simply that I was talking about an event in Stockholm called “Bike in Tweed”. There is an “Tweed run” in London that has become an regular yearly event, people dressing up in vintage clothes (often tweed) and on vintage bicycles are doing a parade around London. That idea has become a huge success so many other city’s have done similar events. For example in Helsinki / Finland the have the parade in the winter time. For anyone interested, just do a interweb search for “tweed run” or “bike in tweed”. Lots of great photos of lovely clothes and bicycles.

Back to the bicycle. It was the co-workers mothers bicycle. She dont use it any more so she was glad to get rid of it. I am not 100% sure of the personal history of it. I will do some research.

But the bicycle itself is a old Swedish one. It is a Hellas made by Fagergren and Johnson in the southern town of Kalmar. A approximately way to date the bicycle is to look at the rear hub. Almost every Swedish made bicycle in the years 1925 up to 1960′s used the German Torpedo hub. Those hubs are stamped with the last two digits of the year.  That gives you an roughly date, add a couple of years and you are in the ballpark. Add the details of the bicycle, such as frame paint and other small details. So with all that in mind I can say that the bicycles hub is made 1931 and the frame has the details of late 1920 and early 1930′s.

Today I started to take it apart to check on details and do some cleaning. I must say, its is in very good shape for its age. Hardly no rust, some dents on the mudguards. The handlebars are repainted many years ago. The handles are stuck, but that is not a big deal. After all there was many different versions and styles of handlebars at that time. Also the most popular handles where so called black “Rambler” handles. The saddle is most likely in a to bad shape after all exposure of weather and wind. But I dont think anyone will blame me for getting a new “aged” Brooks saddle in a vintage look. As for the handlebars, I might be able to find a better used one. Rambler handles does surface on auctions and so on from time to time. I might ask my connections in England to help out on that one.

I will wash, clean the frame and mudguards. Take apart the hubs and clean them out, re lubricate them (I have grease from the 50′s so even that will be vintage). I have 11 months to complete the bicycle. It will be in the “Bike in tweed 2014″. There is all reddy a person that want to use the old bicycle all dressed up in vintage clothes. If it all turns out well, a photo will be taken of them two for the Schneebremse blog readers.

I will keep you all updated on how it all turns out.




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