The red bicycle

I guess it is all my own fault. Who else is there to blame? I saw an ad for an Swedish made Ridax bicycle that was made by A. Ekström in Hallsberg back in 1940´s.

My first thought was that I do not need one more project in my already cramped basement. Especially when the seller wrote in the ad that some parts were missing. Parts like the saddle, chain guard, pedals, rear baggage rack, kick stand. But when I saw the photos the seller had posted, there was something with the bicycle that was really striking a note with me. Perhaps it was the decorations on the frame, the red colour with black and gold details. Or was it the 1940s design of the frame?


Details of the ornaments

After meeting the seller I went home with one more bicycle. Since there was no saddle or pedals on the bicycle I had to walk home. Along the way I got to know the new project quite well. The bicycle had most likely been involved in a accident.


Walking home with the new project

The handlebar stem was crooked, the front wheel was changed to a modern one. The rear wheel was badly warped. It rear wheel so bad that the rear tire had been grinding against the frame, rubbing away all the rubber from the tire at one spot. It was only a question of time before the tire would puncture beyond repair.

When got home I decided to mount a head light and a dynamo, a worn chain guard and a set of pedals I had in a drawer, just to try it out. I borrowed a saddle from one bicycle just to get the look. It all looked great! Pedals and chain guard was not a big problem, those parts are common.


Added chain guard, saddle, headlight, pedals and a dynamo. It looks quite nice.

But what to do with the wheels? The rear wheel was original with an Torpedo hub from 1942. To find an original front wheel with the same colour scheme is impossible. After I removed the tire to inspect the rim I found that it was not only warped, it was rusty and had some cracks. I needed new wheels.


Torpedo made hub on the original rear wheel. 50 milion jubelee, the hub is made in 1942


The rear wheel, warped and beaten up


Cracks and rust

I was offered to buy a set of stainless steel wheels from 1950’s from a shop in the city. The hubs on those where also Torpedo, but the rear one was the beautiful Zweigang model from 1953. Sadly with out the shifter or linkage to the hub. But I bought then. After all, they were all chrome and together with brand new grey Duro tired they looks amazing together with the red bicycle frame.


Two geared Torpedo “Zweigang” from 1953

Now the fun part of taking down the bicycle to pieces to could start. Clean, inspect and polish all parts before putting it all together again. Also to find the parts that are missing.

 

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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.

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.

Malmö Tweed Ride 2017

I made a new years resolution this year. It had nothing to stop smoking or joining an exercise group. No, I said that year 2017 is the year when I will try to attend to as many vintage tweed rides as possible.

With my work in mind I started to plan what events that would be possible for me to attend. I figure out that I could attend 5 different rides. Only a matter of planning and trying to figure out the logistic problems with the bicycle. Trains is not an option any more since they do not allow bicycles on inter city trains any more. But with some bribing and threatening I got help with transportation of my bicycle. My plans started to work out. Earlier I have attended the Winter Tweed Run in Helsinki. I also held my own Enskede Tweed Ride, I never made any big deal of it. It was just for fun.

But the 2nd of September 2017 was the date for the 5 years jubilee of Malmö Tweed Ride. I was there with my bicycle 2016 and decided to join one more time. This year I got company of 2 more tweed bicyclists, it was my brother and a co-worker that has been hooked by the tweed bug. We all decided to join the Malmö Tweed Ride and ride our vintage bicycles for just fun.


The registration and handing out participant pins at Gustav Adolfs torg

After signing up and paying the entry fee before the summer, we really looked forward to the event. Dressed in my grey tweed suit and with the ticket for the event in my pocket we arrived at the start at Gustav Adolfs torg in central Malmö.The event started 1300 with signing in and receiving a pin. Every year the organizers have made pins for the participants. This year it was 5 years jubilee. I am afraid to say that comparing to the last year, this year was a bit of let down. The bin has looked the same for 4 years, a nice metal pin of high quality. But this year it was a bit cheap pin, larger and plastic. Many of the riders I talked to was feeling the same.


On the left is the pin from and on the left is the pin from 2017

After a speech from the organizer, or perhaps he was not one of the organizers? Anyway, he wished us all welcome and informed that it all was about to start. He mentioned a leader that would show the way for us all. They had planed a route that went around Malmö, the city, suburbs, sea side. A few minutes later the riders started to ring their bicycle bells and we were on our way.


On our way along the streets of Malmö

At the half way mark there was a planned stop with refreshments. Cucumber sandwiches and lemonade served to the tunes of old jazz played on 75 rpm records. It was really tasty and nice to chat with other tweed riders. It was there the group photo was taken. All 150 of us got together and got photographed, we all took photos of each other too. After all, we had dressed up and was looking smashing!


Cucumber sandwiches and lemonade


The photographer is being photographed while taking a photograph of a lady in a lovely dress

After the break it was time to ride along more streets and bicycle lanes towards the finish line at Pildamsparken in central parts of Malmö. There we all was served some food and drinks. Hendricks Gin and Eriksberg beer was the sponsors and we all was handed a gin and tonic for appetizer and a beer with the food. Of course there was non-alcoholic options for those who wanted that. The drinks was needed, it was hot and we all had been bicycling a long way. A well made drink taste better after riding a bicycle and being dressed in a three piece tweed suit.


The band from Germany played great version of jazz standards

A small band played some songs and made the dinner outside really pleasant. We talked and laughed a lot during the dinner. After a while there was time for voting and handing out prizes. The prize categories were, best dressed gentleman, best dressed lady and best looking bicycle.


Tweed riders at Margaretapaviljongen, having a chat and admiring bicycles and tweeds.

We were not there to win, but to participate, (said the man who did not win). Later that night three gentlemen dressed in tweed suits left the park in style for a calm bicycle ride back to our hotels.

Thank you all for a great event!

Why do I like Torpedo

First of all, I must say that I am not in any way a repair person. I am not educated or even pretending to know what I am doing. I would never try this on anyone else bicycle. Simply because I have no idea what I am doing.

For me the Torpedo bicycle hub made by Fichtel & Sachs is a great invention. During my years mending, fixing and trying to repair old bicycles I have come by a few different hubs. Winco, Novo and other hubs. But none has the simplicity and quality as the Torpedo hub. Now I am talking about the standard version that has only one gear and a break and coaster. That means the wheel turns and the pedal are still. It is made in the spirit of my way of thinking, “less is more”.


Torpedo hub shell made in 1957

There is no need for gears and special functions that are impossible to figure out. Like the Norwegian DBS I had as a young teenager. Two gears, you shifted by quickly pedal backwards and the forward again. Or the 10 speed racer I once had. The chain skipped tooth’s on the sprocket so many times, causing pain and frustration that I looked for a single speed geared bicycle after a crash with the 10 speed racer one day.  Then we have the gearing system that the German bicycle Adler has, an entire gearbox just as a car mounted in the crankshaft and a stick shift. Give me Torpedo any day.

When using bicycles that was made back in mid 1930’s, the chance is that the bicycle never have been serviced since 1950’s. Back then a bicycle was an investment, not a toy. Kids got their bicycles that was way to big for them. but they had them to “grow in to”. So here we are with an old bicycle. It is my old/new Nordstjärnan that almost never have been serviced since the last 50 years. With a rear hub that I bought on eBay in Germany and build the wheel my self.

This morning I decided to take a test run with the Norstjärnan just to see if it would manage a Tweed event. After all, on these events we use to ride for about 19 miles (30 kilometres). Having problems with a bicycle along that ride is not a good idea, there is one thing worse than riding a broken bicycle. That is manage a  broken bicycle while walking. So the test today was simply to see if everything was in good shape. After the ride I found some issues that I need to address before an longer ride. It is nothing major, merely small, easy things like a rattling headlight, rattling bars to the rear mud guard and the Torpedo hub that behaves oddly when coasting. It works great, but not perfect. That is the danger of making things yourself. Why settle for great when it can be perfect?


Torpedo hub from 1937, bought from eBay Germany that I serviced and laced the wheel.

The only adjustment that takes longer than 5 minutes is the Torpedo hub. With a few tools you can disassembly the entire hub, clean it and put it all together again so it works! The usage and worn parts are easily located, simply by looking at the parts. The brake cylinder has grooves on it, if the grooves are worn, well the the break is not good and trying to stop is an adventure. I know that by experience. That goes for the ball bearings to, you can see if they are good or need replacements. It is a simple sign if the parts are broken or shows sign of ware and tear.

To disassembly the Torpedo hub is really easy. First loosen the wheel from the bicycle. Then with some tools loosen the lock nut by holding the axle with the special key. There is a special key made by Torpedo that are perfect for that work, of course I have one of those keys. Then gently take the entire hub apart, put all the parts on a towel clean all parts and clean off all old grease.


The parts of a Torpedo hub, axle, brake cylinder and att the bottom left, the special key


All parts have the F&S and the dimensions stamped on it.

I use a degreaser agent to get all old grease and dirt removed from the parts. Some times the parts have to be soaked in the cleaning agent for a  few hours. Then with a brush, an old toothbrush works great, brush off the sticky residues. Clean all parts with a cloth and inspect all parts for damages. Any crooked axle, damaged bearings and so on. If all looks all right, lubricate it generously and mount it all in the correct order again.


The repaired hub, mounted and newly greased. Ready for long rides.

Tighten the hub by adjusting the brake leaver cone. I use to tighten the assembly so it is just a small amount friction, then loose up it ever so slightly. Because when you tighten the lock nut it tighten the assembly altogether. There you have it a perfect fixed hub and a wheel that spins without wobbling, rattling or any play.

Now the Nordstjärnan is ready for many miles of tweed rides.