Rex tandem bicycle, the style of the 1940’s

In my earlier post, Roadwax wanted to see more of the bicycle and how it looks. I have taken the “before restoration” photos so why not post some of them?

Tandem bicycles always has been in the style of welding two frames together. But along the way the started to add a tube in the frame that went all the way from the back for strength and support. Every maker did their own design. For example there is some American tandem bicycles that has very deep curves and “cruiser” looking features. Then we have the racer tandem, that is build for speed. All sorts of designs.

Here in Sweden there was the main “two frames welded togheter” look dominant untill about late 1930’s when the two company “Monark” and “Rex” started to build their tandems with a sweaping tube, Rex did their Duplex frame with double tubes and became a huge favourite. To me they are just good looking. The Monark ones has a really interesting end at the rear wheel, where the frame goes beyond the wheel and turnes almost into an bumper.

But my Rex is the really good looking one. I notice that mine has some odd features. Like the strap from the luggage rack to the rear mud guard, that is not original. Or the pedals, they are stamped with “N” for Nymans. A different bicycle maker all together. But all modifications seem to be made back in the day when it was used on a regular basis. I am thinking of keeping all those small unique things. Only change I will make 100% certain is the saddles. The original “Terry” ones has been badly damaged by the weather the last 70 years. So it not an option to sit on them any more.

Here we have how the Rex tandem with Duplex frame looks like.




Before the big Rex restoration

I thought that you might like some text before I started to tear down the Rex tandem bicycle in parts.

The tandem is in great original condition for its age. It has been used, standing outside so it is dirty, rusty but complete. The rear wheel is not original, but it is typical to the tandem so it might be a replacement wheel that was mounted many years ago. One of the spokes on the rear wheel was broken and turned around one of the other spokes. A typical way to mend things back in the days while on the road. The breaks seams to work well. I have been thinking a lot of exactly what I need to do. I have decided to replace the saddles, the saddle posts the handles and posts. That is it! I will look around for worn parts that I can use.

I will soon dismount the bicycle, clean and polish the parts as good as possible. Both rear and from wheel hubs will be torn down, cleaned and lubricated. The crank shafts has the same coming their way. The rear crank shaft is no problem. The front one is a special one that is loose. I am not sure if I can fix that one. I will take a look. Let us hope for the best.

So now,  two used Brook saddles, two old handlebars in a old style. I already have one pair of handlebar grips. I also have a head light of the same brand as the dynamo that was mounted on the bicycle. In the box of parts “good to have” is an original cat eye that is made for the bicycle. Then it is a matter of putting it all together again.

That is the fun part. Then it is on with the tweed and join the “Bike In Tweed” race.


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.