The black bicycle, part 3

The wheels.

Those wheels that made my hair grey, my wallet cry and my blood boil.

Now it can not be so bad I hear you say. Well, it can. Because after buying all parts in that strange shop in the city. I sat down and started to think on how to tread the wheels. I got the rims, the spokes and the hubs. Lovely nickel finish Torpedo hubs. The rear hub made in 1935, spotless and all cleaned up by me. I bought it from Germany just to get the right style. I was happy, things started to move.

I looked up on internet how to thread wheels. It seemed simple, just remember to focus and always count the numbers of spokes and the holes in the rim. There is many different ways to thread a wheel, but I wanted the old way. So I went down in the basement and looked at my old bicycles wheels. Counted the spokes, made a drawing on how they were placed and threaded.

They I started, rim, spokes, nipples and hub was laying on the kitchen table. First spoke, in the first hole on the hub. Thread the spoke by the hone in the rim. Screw on the nipple. There the first spoke was in place. It felt good. Second spoke, three holes, turn, adjust, hold the hub, keep the rim in place, now where is the nipples, third spoke, repeat the process, then it came the the crossing of spokes, now that one should go there, in to that hole. Where did the nipples go?! With left hand try to get the nipples on the right side of the table at the same time the right hand is holding the hub. Now It is time for the other side! Why is there nipples on the floor?!

After a while I got the hang of it. Of course I did some errors along the way, but if you do something many times you get the hang of it. So did I when threading the spokes. The look was exactly as the vintage wheels I had in the cellar. I was quite please with my self.

Now truing the wheel. Remembering the fellow in the shop saying that he could do it. I decided to take the wheel to a different shop. They are professional and has a huge store. I went there with my wheel, happy as can be. The person behind the counter took the wheel and accepted the work. Now things became strange. There was another fellow there letting me know that I threaded the wheel wrong. I explained that it was not wrong. I did as they used to do back in the days. No, that was wrong. I have never seen that style of threading. Well, I really would like toe have it the way it is, only truing the wheel.

After a week the wheel was ready. Then I got the surprise of realizing that they had retreaded the wheel, they made a “modern” style of threading, a more racer adjusted crossing of the spokes. I was really disappointed. Not only did they rethread the wheel they also charged me for the work to tear down my threading and build up the wheel again from loose spokes, rim and hub.

The payment for that rear wheel landed on almost £200. That is more than what I paid for all parts in total. For £200 I can get a complete vintage bicycle in good condition. I felt that my heart was sinking, my black bicycle project came to a halt. Also that I needed to build the front wheel too.

In the end. Two wheels, front and rear. Black 1930’s rims with white lining, Torpedo hubs and brand new spokes and nipples costed me more than 2-3 complete bicycles. I put the frame, mudguards and wheels in the cellar, behind old cardboard boxes. It was painful to see the parts, they reminded me of my own stupidity.

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The black bicycle, part 2

My search for a black bicycle had started after I got my interest back for vintage bicycles. I knew it was impossible to get exactly the one my father once had. But I wanted a similar one.

One day I found an odd bicycle shop located in a cellar in the central parts of Stockholm. In the basement they had a range of bicycles for sale. Many brand new bicycles but also used modern ones. But in the back, behind huge piles of rusty mountain bikes and cheep standard bicycles were some vintage bicycles that caught my eye.

Like a line dancer on a windy day I manage to get closer to the vintage bicycles to find out more about them. They were dusty, rusty and had flat tires. But they all had price tags. Oh dear!

Now that was rather high prices for those old beaten up bicycles. I got out from the cellar and talked with the man behind the counter. He said that vintage bicycles was the greatest thing at the moment. He was selling them like never before. There was a huge demand for them. As we talked for a while, I mentioned my idea for the black bicycle. He got interested and asked me to wait a moment. He went in to the storage and after a short while came back holding a frame. It was a old 1930’s frame without any parts attached, it was only the frame.


The start of my first vintage bicycle

He said that he had an storage on the countryside where he had parts that could fit. If I was interested he could collect the parts needed for me. So I could build my own bicycle. It would be cheaper that way, the man said.

A few weeks later I returned to the shop. Now they had some parts i needed to build a 1930’s bicycle. Frame, mud guards and rims, all parts was painted in a lovely black finish with gold pin-striping. The frame had gold filled ornaments shaped like wings. He also had collected spokes, Torbedo hubs (a demand from me) and a set of original screws to fit the entire bicycle. It all was in the shop for me to buy. He had told me that I should thread the wheels myself then return to him when I was done and he would make them true and tuned up.

Some parts were to damaged in my opinion, like a rusty chain wheel and a crooked luggage rack. I thought that I could get them my self on internet auctions. Piece of cake! I would soon have this bicycle running.

I got home happy as could be.


Frame, mud guards, rims. It was a promising start.

The following weeks I started to collect parts, buying from internet auctions. Handel bars, chain guard, chain wheel, saddle and so on. One day I decided to look at all parts I got more closely. It was then I noticed that the frame had drilled holes on the front post. Holes clearly meant for a badge of some sort. Funny thing was I recognized the pattern from somewhere. After searching in my old “could be usable one day parts” drawer I found an old Hermes bicycle badge. It fitted the pattern of the holes! It was an Uppsala build Hermes frame, I looked up the serial number and found out it was from 1933. That was just great! But could I use the chain wheel I had bought on auction? Now I knew that the frame was a Hermes and the chain wheel I got was a odd 1960’s one. It would never look good.


Chain wheel and handle bar post, I have no idea what brand they are.

Never mind. I thought that I would try on the mud guards, just to see how the look of the bicycle would end up. They mud guards I bought from the odd shop in the city was original 1930’s ones. Never used, shiny black with golden pin-striping with duck tails. The front guard fitted like a glove. But I tried the rear guard, it did not fit! The mud guard was to wide for the frame, I could force it in. But then I would destroy the mud guard.  Beside that the front fork was not original to the frame, it missed the wing ornaments and was painted white. What to do?

I decided to go on. Build the wheels and make at least a working bicycle.

Next episode of the black bicycle, the amazing adventure of the wheels.

The black bicycle, part 1

I have mentioned the black bicycle many times before. So many times by now that it has almost become a mythical story. But this time I will tell you the story behind it and my intentions with a black bicycle.

It all started when I was a kid. There were always bicycles all around me when I grew up. I grew up in the same house as my father grew up in when he was a kid. Back then in the late 1940’s bicycles was the main transport for short distances. My fathers parents was always riding their bicycles around the city and surroundings of Stockholm. My grandfather was a special keen bicyclist from an early age when he lived in the country side.

He used his bicycle every day going to his work. No matter weather, no matter season. In the heat of summer or the freezing cold winter with up to 1 meter snow. The entire family was riding bicycles all the time. So it was only logical that I grew up with old bicycles around me.


I have always been using vintage bicycles. Here I am in about 1986 about to ride bicycle from about 1940.

Back in the early 1980’s my mother used an old U-frame bicycle, or “ladies bicycle” as they are called in Sweden. She had painted it blue with a brush of some reason and used it every day to the grocery shop and to her work. It was standing outside in a bicycle rack day and night where we used to live. One day my mother discovered that it had been stolen during one night. But that was no problem for her, she got a different similar bicycle, painted it blue and kept pedalling on.

My father had an old bicycle that he had got from my grandfather. It looked different from the other bicycles I was used to see. It was all worn and the black paint was scuffed. I liked it a lot, it looked cool. I remember that there was a name plate that was mounted on the frame with a previous owners name and address. Why I remember that plate so specific is because that plate left an imprint on my thigh more than once when I was a kid, I was sitting on the frame when my father gave me a ride sometimes. Now, why I did not use the rear luggage rack? Simple, it was impossible to sit on. It was the style of rack made of flat irons, typical style in the 1930’s. To sit on flat irons was really painful when getting a ride, even for a little kid. But all those details, the bell, handles, pedals, name plate on the bicycle. They all stuck in my mind.

One of my first adult bicycles was an 1940’s Monark. Or, something like that. It was put together of all sorts of strange parts laying around. Sadly I was very reckless with it so it broke down and got replaced. But I liked the upright seating position when riding that old bicycle. Upright, looking around at the world when cruising along the asphalt on a old iron horse at an slow pace.

After a few years my father saved some money and bought two brand new bicycles for him and my mother. 10 geared racers with thin tires on shiny wheels with silver frames. The old bicycles were left alone in the basement. Some years later we moved away from the house, the black bicycle and some other old bicycles where left behind.


My fathers “new” shiny racer, slightly modified back in the 1990’s.

I never forgot that old black 1930’s old grandfather bicycle. A few years ago I got thinking of getting me an old bicycle. A black 1930’s bicycle! With the one my father used to have on my mind, I started to look for parts to build me a bicycle. Why build instead of buying a complete one?

That is easy. I wanted to work with my hands. An decision I have regretted over and over again along my bicycle adventures.

 

Pelago Path Roadster?

Do you remember the Pelago path racer I build from parts a while ago? If you do not remember, I do not blame you at all. There has been so many bicycles on this blogg that even I get the feeling of being lost among all names and brands. Pelago, Hermes, Snabb, Rex, Hella and more Hermes. But after all, bicycles are fun to handle and repair. They are cheep to, well not all obvious. For example my own version of an retro bicycle.


Pelago in nature

A few years ago I had an idea of building a path racer, a racing bicycle but with modern parts. Back then retro racers was not so common, Pashley had their Guvn’or and later on the Speed 5 model. Really lovely looking models. So I got a silly idea. Why not build one my self? Now I know the reason why I never should attempted the build. The first I needed to get was a frame that I liked. Pelago in Helsinki was very helpful and kind. They sold me a frame that I could base my build on. I started to look on internet for parts, wheels, tyres, chain wheel, pedals, cranks, seat post (how many parts are there on one bicycle..), seat, handlebars, stem, grips, brakes, chain, tubes, lubrications for the moving parts and tools to put it all together.


Brooks B135 saddle with a Brooks bag that of course contains a Pelago multi tool

After buying, trying, fitting and testing all parts I assembled with the help from another bicycle enthusiast. The Pelago Path Racer was born! It was really nice, slim and great looking it its all shiny black frame with chrome details and golden chain. But there was one problem. I could not use it! The seating position was a murder for my back. The angle of having to lean forward to reach the handlebars was killing my back. OF course I am not in the shape now, that I was when I was 15 years old and invincible. But I realize that I want to ride a bicycle in a more upright position instead of bending like a boomerang over forwards to even be able to grip the handlebar. In short, I needed a roadster so I can sit with a straight back and enjoy the ride more!

What to do with the Pelago racer? Well to be fair, I tried to sell it. I realized that I would never get back the money I put on all the parts for the racer. So I tried to sell the bicycle, way cheaper than I bought the parts for. But no one was genuine interested, only comments like “what a great bike” or “now that is the one I would love to have”. Finally, I was tired of trying to sell the bicycle. At that time a new thought was building in my head. Why not build it as an Roadster instead? After all it is a simple start by only shifting the handlebars upside down.


The Pelago path racers new look with the handlebars turned up

After that I thought that I would like to build a international bicycle. Finnish frame, Japanese hubs, Australian chain wheel, Chinese chain, Swedish handlebars and grips, English seat. Why not an German hand brake?

One very many older German made bicycles they have an lever system handbrake that presses a rubber pad against the front wheel. I knew this website in Germany that sells bicycle parts. I looked on their site and founded that they sell new made front hand brakes of that lever style. That would look really stylish on the black Pelago. At the same time I ordered an set of black painted mud guards for the Pelago.

After very short time I received an package with all parts I had ordered. One evening I went down into the basement and started to fitting the parts on the bicycle. The German style front brake was really stylish and looked very continental. The major draw back I quickly found was that I could not use the front mud guard along with the lever brake. There was no clearance what so ever between the tyre and the mud guard to be able to fit the rubber brake pad. That was a real shame. There was three options.
1, Keep the lever brake, but saw of the front part of the mudguard
2, Remove the lever brake and keep the calliper brake
3, Remove the front mud guard and the calliper brake

I went with number 2. But in the process I snapped one of the adjustment screw for the rods on the German style lever brake. That made me sad, it is a great looking break leaver. But now it is almost useless, simply because I do not have any replacement screws.


Calliper breaks on the front wheel, the tire is a Schwalbe Delta cruiser

After some time in the basement I finally had assembled the Pelago Roadster. It had become more grown, mature almost, bicycle. I even bought an black double stand at the local autoparts store and mounted some Pelago stickers on the frame. The sticker for the year 2017 Enskede Tweed Ride was added too. After all, that is a proof for attending the Tweed ride I organized. The ride was held in south of Stockholm and a friend of mine who had no bicycle asked me if I had one he could borrow for the ride. Of course, you can use my Pelago, said I.

After all years I had it standing in the basement without using it finally it was out on the roads and being used as it should. My friend said it was a lovely bicycle and he wanted to borrow it again. That is a good grade for me as a builder, to make something that others like. That is a really rewarding feeling.


Great looking details, the chain tensioners, the double stand, golden chain.

A while back I visited the Pelago store in Helsinki. As always it is nice to visit them, always helpful and understanding with my silly and strange questions. This time I even almost happened to knock a person over while he was taking photos of the staff. I was a bit out of my mind so I simply walked right in instead of waiting for them to take the photo. I hope they can forgive me.

My reason to visit the shop was to ask for some stickers, one can never have enough with stickers. On the images above you can notice a sticker on the seat post tube of the frame. I got that one from Pelago a few years back and applied it on the frame, it sure looks great. Sadly they were out of stickers this time, but the staff was so kind that they looked in some drawers and found some spare stickers that I could have. Now that is service! Visiting the place where they make the bicycles and speak with the staff, even after trying to run down the staff like a rugby player when entering the shop. Thank you Pelago! I will be back.


The stickers I got from Pelago

But in the end I am afraid that I will never use the bicycle to 100%. Sadly I never got along with my build. The Pelago Bristol, the model which frame I bought  is a great, well build and a great ride. But my build on the other hand, is a bit uncomfortable to ride due to only my own silly ideas. If I wanted an new Roadster style bicycle I would have chosen the Bristol any day. But I wanted an retro racer back then. When looking back I should have bought an Pashley Guvnór or Pashley Speed 5. One reason is that they are great looking, but also it is an investment since they are so special. But it would have been problems for me with the riding position, no matter what.

My Pelago was an adventure and learning experience. It was really interesting to find parts, visit the Pelago shop in Helsinki. In the end finally have a compete bicycle that I designed. After all, it is really great looking bicycle.


Pelago Path Racer, now a modern style Roadster