After having problems with the breaks on the red bicycle, the Greek god Hermes (you know, the god with wings on his feet). I decided the last weekend to take a look at the breaks condition on the bicycle. After all, when you think about it. Breaks can be useful sometimes when cycling in traffic or cycling in general. As I mentioned in a previous topic about the breaking capacity of the Hermes bicycle and that leaves some things to wish for. In short, the breaks on the bicycle were there. But were there only in a pure theoretical way. Physical, they were not so much there, or even not at all, to be honest.
The break was perhaps well used, old, worn or simply broken. Something was wrong with the break in the rear wheel hub and it needed to be fixed.
A while back I bought an very old, very worn, black metal box that contained vintage bicycle tools and parts at an internet auction. In that box there was among other things an old Torpedo non-geared hub, complete with an break cylinder. So I thought that I got the tools, I have dismounted and remounted Torpedo hubs before. Why not take a look at the hub, and see if I can fix or change the break cylinder. It could be a fun project a Saturday afternoon.
So I took out the bicycle out of the storage room in the basement. Put some rags on the floor to protect the wooden handlebar grips and the saddle. Turned the bicycle upside down and then I started to lay out the tools, almost like a surgeon before an operation. I had a small can of fine oil, one can of regular oil, one bucket of grease, a big bottle of cleaning agent, a regular slotted screwdriver and three special tools. One was a multi tool to loosen the bolts that holds the wheel in place. The second tool was a Torpedo multi tool, special made for the Torpedo hubs back in the olden days. The last tool was to be able to loose the locking bolts on the front wheel hub.
With the slotted screwdriver I loosened and removed the four screws that hold the chain guard in place. With the same screwdriver I removed the chain lock and removed the chain, it was due to be cleaned anyway. After all, oil and grease from 1954 is not so lubricant these days. Perhaps more an stale layer of dirt and “stuff”. The chain needed to get cleaned then greased up with new fresh grease and oil. This fixing the breaks operation, turned out not to be an total cleaning of the rear hub only. But also a cleaning of the front hub and lubrication of the moving parts there. I took a look at the crank for the pedals, well… To be honest… I must save something to do this winter, I can not do everything now. I must save some work for those long and cold winter nights. After all, the pedals spins around rather well as they are. So they will stay so for a few more months. No need to tear down those parts just yet. But the front wheel needed new lubrication and a good cleaning since it was a bit friction in the hub.
Back to the rear Torpedo hub. After loosening the bolts to the rear wheel, removing the wheel. Loosening the bolts and washers with the special tool I started to clean the parts I took apart. The colour of the grease/oil/dirt that I wiped from the bearings and axle, well. It was not looking healthy to say the least. I started to clean all parts carefully. I put them in a jar of cleaning agent, then after a while I took the parts out one by one and wiping them clean, drying, re-grease and placed them on a cloth. After inspecting the parts so see if anything was broken. I found that on the rear cogwheel one cog was missing, broken off. That would explained the crackling chain noise when cranking before. I remounted everything together again, it fitted well together and then I mounted the hub parts in the hub casing of the wheel. I noticed that the casing was worn inside, where the break had been eating away a little bit of the surface of the metal. I tightened it all together with the tools and then I put the wheel in the frame again. There I tried to see if the wheel was spinning in a good way. No problems at all. I added some drops of fine oil into the fill cap on the hub. There is a small cap for refilling oil on the hub, at the same place where all information about maker and year are located on the Torpedo hub. They knew what they did back then.
Then I did the same with the front wheel. Sadly no oil cap there. But still, new grease and a drop or two of oil. It was needed. Original grease since 1954.
Then it was the chains turn to get cleaned. I let it soak in a cleaning agent for a while. Then with a old tooth brush I brushed away all the dirt and oil residue. Then wipe, clean and repeat again. After a few passes the chain looked really good and did not crackle or had any stiff joints at all. I used the thicker old oil and lubricated the chain. In the same style as my father did, and my grandfather did.
When I was going to mount the chain on the bicycle again. I noticed that the chain’s every joints had become worn during all the years of usage. The chain had become longer than it was from the start. If a joint adds 0.5 mm it do not seem like much, but when that happens to 40-50 joints it is a becomes quite a bit longer. So, I needed to shorten the chain. Now days they use an special tool that is easy and quick, with a few turns you have shortened the chain. But since the methods I use and every tool available are from the 1940’s. I simply shortened the chain as they did back in the 1940’s. I used an steady bracket with an hole in it. I placed the chain flat on top of it with the joint positioned over the hole. Then grab a punch and a hammer. Find the joint stud that are the match for the chain lock link. Give the punch a good whack with the hammer and there you go. A shorter bicycle chain.
I fitted the chain to the bicycle after the adjustments, a perfect match! Now I can even adjust the chain tension by moving the wheel forward or backwards. Before I cleaned up everything the wheel was as stretched as could be, still there was a 5 centimetre play on the chain (it should only be about 1 centimetre flexibility). There is a reason why only there should be an about 1 centimetre play on the chain. It is because the risk of the chain jumping cogs while riding the bicycle. When stressing the cranks-chain-cogs. Some thing is bound to happen, like the chain jumps a couple of cogs. Or worse the chain jumps all cogs or even jumps away from the cogs so suddenly there is no tension at all. If you are pressing hard on the pedals, perhaps even standing up in a up hill and the chain jumps. Well, it can end up really really bad. But also the wear on the cogs is greater with a chain that do not fit the cogs properly.
Now the chain was in place with good tension, the wheels where in place all cleaned and lubricated with grease and oil. It was like brand new bicycle! I tested to crank the pedals while the bicycle was standing upside down. Not a sound. I tried the break. It worked, everything was in place. Time to take the bicycle out for a test run. Out on the street I jumped on and tested it. Not a sound, squeek or crack from the wheels and chain! I even tried to hit the break hard. The rear wheel stopped at once and made a tire scream!
I have breaks again! Now I can use the bicycle in traffic again with out having the special feeling of bad or even non-existing breaks. After all, there is some advantages with breaks and having the choice to stop when I want.
Back in the basement again, I decided to also clean up the chrome/stainless steel mudguards and the other details while I where at it.
There is something therapeutic with a chrome polish a rag. Sitting and listening to jazz and polishing metal, seeing the before dirty and spotted metal becoming all shiny and clean again. I got carried away of course so I polished the handlebar, headlight and so on. Now it is only the frame left to clean. But as I mentioned earlier, I will save something to do for the long cold winter.
One thing that is amazing with this bicycle. That is the way how it is made. All parts and so on, there is a thought behind it all.
1955 is the perfect bicycle year in my opinion. For example, there is a handle on the frame placed so when you lift the bicycle in the handle it is perfectly balanced. Regular front wheels use to turn when lifting up the bicycle. But here they made a small spring loaded steering guide, that keeps the front wheel straight while on a stand or being lifted. Genius!
Then we have the tool box under the luggage rack. It contains tools and an air pump for the tires and got a small compartment for an tire repair kit. When you apply the lock on the bicycle when parked. Even the tool box is then locked in place by the lock. So you can not open the box with out the key! Also, the chain guard is mounted on special mounts that are pre drilled and welded onto the frame. No need for a nut or fiddly brackets, only the screw. Unscrew 4 screws and the chain guard is removed, easy as 1, 2, 3.
I got hold of some tools earlier. With these tools I can take the bicycle down in small pieces. Multi tools from an era where they used real grease, not the stuff you use in your hair or on modern mechanical parts. The tools are amazing. With those special tools, I can unscrew the most things.
I mentioned above in the text that I have an special key to the Torpedo hub. There is nothing I can not do with that key. Well, at least when it is about Torpedo single gear hubs from 1930-1950’s. But now I at least can mend and fix vintage Torpedo hubs. I am not to sure that is an skill that counts when applying for work today. Who knows…
But those simple tools made of metal works today as well as they did back then. It is fun to repair and fix things when you got the tools for the job.
Even if the tools are over 60 years old.