A ride in the night

It is summer over here. The nights are long and bright. It is the perfect time to ride around on a bicycle and just feel the warmth of the summer night embracing you. No need for a tweed jacket or an cap. Besides soon it is winter and we all need studs on the tires not to slip and slide along the streets on all snow and ice. But that is not the case now. No, only the breeze and I on the road.
But after riding for a bit I noticed some strange sounds from the rear of the bicycle. A sort of squeaking and rattling. It turned out that I need to adjust the rear wheel, the hub has become a little un-tight after all rides I have made this year. It is an easy fix, and a sign of usage so nothing to be concerned about. Old bicycles are like old cars and motorcycles, it is an need of constant maintenance, tightening, adjusting and fixing.
If you got the tools and the know-how it is not a big deal.

So now I got plans for the weekend, repairing and adjusting an old bicycle. A nice weekend!
The question is, should I clean it too? I have not done anything to it since I got it. It still have dirt on the mudguards since the previous owner used it. The previous owner was an elderly gentleman how really was strict with things. It was really interesting to look over the bicycle the first time. The owners little personal things and ideas are clearly visible. I tried to keep so much of the original as possible. Let me explain.

The bicycle in question is an Swedish made Hermes, made in the town of Uppsala. It is made about 1956, at least that is what the rear hub says (German made Torpedo). The bicycle over all is in fairly good condition. All parts are there, they are used and fixed along the way but not abused. The frame has been repainted in some sort of rustproof colour at some point in time. The bicycle has been used daily for a long period of time, standing outside in all weathers. The handlebars is rusty, the original grips where missing and replaced with typical 1970’s plastic grips. The stand was broken and was held in place with a piece of string. In the late 1950’s there was a law in Sweden that said all bicycles must have a rear light. This one have an after market tail light mounted, with the typical “let us make this work” cable montage. That includes lots and lots of electrical tape. The glass on the head light was broken. But the tires where good and kept the air good.

First thing I did was to take a look at the stand. I guessed it was the spring that holds the stand in place where either gone or broken. Sure enough, it was broken. So I simply extended the spring one loop more, adjusted it with a pair of pliers. Removed the string that hold the stand in place. That was fixed. The broken headlight glass, well I had a replacement. Fixed. The headlight brand is Robo and was mounted with a Robo dynamo, they still work perfect. The electrical cord that was hanging around on the frame to the rear light. Removed and saved. Now it looks better, cleaner. Still need to remove the rear light casing and all the traces of the tape. The wheels where turning fine. It seemed to work just fine. The bell on the handlebar is an original “pearl” Swedish invention, they use to be loose and rattle. Not this one works perfect.Last thing I did was to remove the plastic grips. They came of easily only to show that the ends of the handlebar was badly rusted. I removed the rust as well as I could. In my drawer with old parts I had a pair of original grips, the kind that sits with two studs/nails and one screw. Amazing that a pair a grips can do such a huge change. Now, even in the used condition, the bicycle looks much more original and vintage. It is just having polished shoes. You can be dressed in top hat and tails, but if your shoes are dirty it makes a sloppy appearance. If you have polished shoes and regular pants, the look improves plenty. A small trick we learned in the military. Back to the bicycle.

After fixing all the small things I decided to take it for a spin. What a nice ride it was, quick and smooth. But suddenly a girl on a bicycle on the road appeared in front of me. I applied the breaks to lower my speed not to crash in to her. I applied the breaks! THE BREAKS!!! BREAAAAK!

The old bicycle had no breaks. It had been standing so long that the break in the rear hub was not in so good shape. It all turned out well, a couple of hard cranks of breaking. The break slowly started to work again. It is at 50% strength now. No need for more actually, you have to plan the ride more now. Besides you are not supposed to ride full speed into crossings and so on.

I am thinking of tearing it down in to small pieces and having an professional painter refinish the frame. Perhaps paint it black, an black frame with chrome details. What a looker! Hunting down parts to replace all parts that are rusted and so on, it is a fun detective work. It could be a really great looking bicycle after that. But on the other hand, it is in a good shape as now. It is only in need of some road service. I will fix the rattling rear hub and change the saddle (the original one is a bit to squeaky). After all I have an old Brooks B67 saddle in the drawer for bicycle parts.

Riding a vintage bicycle is a ride of style, not speed. While riding along in the summer night, there is no rush at all. You can always stop and take a photo.


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