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.


Projects and visions

I know I have written about all my bicycles that I have and the ideas that I have for all of them. But is that all? Have I told you everything? No, sadly not. It is worse. Thing is that one bicycle was the gateway to a second. As of now I am at 7 bicycles. This must end, I can not collect more. Well, of course I can. But there is more of an logistic matter. Where to store them? My basement storage is now filled to an such extent that I can not enter or mend the bicycles inside. I have to take the bicycles outside to access my tools and spare parts inside of the storage unit.

More than the project with the black Hermes bicycle from the 1930’s that I am currently saving parts for and that I will build into something that I will use as an homage to my grandfather. But also use at Bike in Tweed 2016. I also have the old Monark bicycle that I was going to turn into a retro racer, the white lightening. The original plan was that I was going to re build it in to a path racer just like the Pelago. But this time using an vintage frame and keeping the original worn and rugged paint. But since I have been using the bicycle I feel that I need to do something special with it, it is a fun bicycle and needs more attention than it have now. I am thinking of an complete repaint because, partly because of all the brackets that are welded onto the frame. The chain guard, luggage rack and side stand brackets are just unnecessary now. Simply grind them off, have the frame completely sanded down and the repainted in a nice colour, perhaps in British racing green? That would make the frame looking just great. The mount it all with the original parts all polished, cleaned and shiny.

The original rear wheel hub is worn and in a messy condition. After all it has been abused since the late 1950’s so I guess it has have all rights to be worn by now. The plan is that I have a old Torpedo hub from the 1950’s in my storage that would fit just great with the Monark’s chromed rims . I will re-spoke the rear wheel, truing it and have new tires mounted. The chromed front fork, the stem and handlebars, add an black Brooks saddle. I have some unused black wooden old grips in a drawer that will be perfect addition to the racer. If it all turns out well, perhaps I will contact the Monark bicycle brand (that still exists) and ask if they got some old vintage sheets of decals for the frame. It will be quite nice looking.

But still, I have no room for all bicycles. That forces me to reconsider my plans. In short, I need to sell some of my bicycles. But how and where? Who wants to but a worn old bicycle where I started a project and never finished it.

It turned out that I know a fellow bicyclist that owns a shop for new bicycles. I will ask him if I can sell my bicycles in his shop. Since the ones I am building are looking quite unique I think that they might act as magnet in his shop. Customers will enter the shop and look around get a look of my old retro bicycles and will be curious. Perhaps even buy something in the shop. I think it is a good idea, perhaps the shop owners will think that to. After all I think it would look nice with both the Pelago path racer and the Monark racer side by side in a shop. New and old, both retro. Ready for riding the streets in the summer, with or without tweed.

Visions are important.



A sunny afternoon with Rex

It was a sunny Sunday afternoon here in Stockholm. Why not bring out a bicycle and take a trip around, enjoying the weather and cruise down the roads. Today I decided that it was the Rex Duplex tandem bicycle that was going to be used. Why not, after all. I have not used it so much since I made the renovation.

It is not in good shape, the paint is worn and the rear hub is close to being a write off. But with the parts I got to it a while back, it now looks like it was updated back then. The ornament on the front mudguard. It is not the original Rex lion, but a cool arrow. The front light and dynamo, handlebars grips and worn Brook saddles. It look used in a good way.

How about the handling? Well, it sure feels that the rear hub is totally worn. Breaks? The bicycle breaks like it turns. Like a battle ship in heavy sea. It takes time, when riding it you really need to plan ahead. The front break are only there for decoration! It only got 5% breaking!  Now the break handle is useless for anything except hurting your self. There are sharp corners and badly fitted parts in the handle. So my thought is that, since the break is useless in any case. Why not use the leaver I found on an different bicycle and use it as an “parking” break. A simple on-off lever. That would make more sense rather than having a front breaking handle that never works. I will sort that one out.

Starting and stopping is a thing that comes after a few trials. The simplest way so far I found out is that the front rider mounts first. Then the rear rider mounts, makes redy by putting a foot on the driving pedal, then pushes on and the bicycle starts moving the front rider starts to pedal too and there we go. Stopping is simplest by having one foot on the ground, the rear riders dismounts then the front rider dismounts. With some practice it get to be a good routine.

Going up hills are rough, but you can really get the bicycle going when two people pushes hard. The we have the adventure of going down hill. Well, let me put it like this, speed is not a problem. The breaks are!

But it is fun, people look and smiles. It is an eye catcher. About the Bike in Tweed event. There has been some updates and possible changes. Stay tuned. I will make a full report on that event with photos and lots of information later on.


Old taperecorders and new phones

It is not all about old bicycles around herein Schneebremse world. No, it is even about old tape recorders.

I had an dream for many years. Ever since I first saw a Nagra reel to reel tape recorder I wanted to own one. All those dials and buttons was very impressive to me and it was a rather good looking machine. Later on with internet, I started to do some research about the recorders and found out much information that made me even more curious about them. There was only two small things that was stopping me from getting one. First, the availability. They are rare. Not an item found in your local supermarket. Second, when finding one in working order, the price is rather expensive. But one day I saw an Nagra 4.2 reel to reel tape recorder for sale in an auction. I placed a bid and waited.

I won!

There I had it! My very own Nagra 4.2 tape recorder. Made by Kudelski SA in Switzerland in the 1970’s. The one I won at the auction also came with a large carry bag.  Sadly there was no adapter for the Nagra to work on the electrical grid. So I bought 12 (twelve!!) batteries. Not the small AA ones. No no, the large “D” ones was needed. I mounted them in the recorder, flicked the switch for power, tested the power level and started it up. It worked like a charm! Playback, recording, everything. The machine itself was a piece of art. Clear plastic cover on top, protecting the tape and reels. All metal chassis, knobs, dials and an large VU meter with scales all over. Impressive!

Later on, a friend who wanted to record a podcast, asked if I could bring the recorder along so we could try it out. “No problem” I replied. I packed a microphone in the bag along with the Nagra recorder (with it’s 12 batteries). Then we went out on the town to record “on-the-go” podcast episodes. We walked around, looking at things, recording along the way. It felt just as the good old days or reporters.
We recorded some episodes for testing. They sounded great! The feeling of an real reel to reel tape recorded working, while recording. It was a fun and “cool” feeling. It was a “genuine” reportage and recording. Later when I came home I realized a big disadvantage with recording with the Nagra. That was to get the recording up on internet, I needed first to record the recording again. That is record the recording into my computer so I could get a digital copy. It felt like a bit of double work there.

Some months after the first recording, the friend asked if we should do a new recording. But this time he had bought a small microphone made for his smartphone that he wanted to try out. We met again in town, did some recordings. Again we walked around recording things, talking and describing the town. When we stopped for lunch, he simply uploaded the recordings right away into my email. So when I came home, I simply edited the results adding theme music and so on.

I must admit, digital recordings are simple, effective, not depending on so many thing as length of tape, working electronics in the same way. But one of the heavy argument (no pun intended), a smartphone do not use 12 (twelve !!) “D” batteries . The Smartphone can easily fit in you pocket, so can the microphone. I would like to see anyone put a Nagra 4.2 tape recorded in their pocket. Or even more so, I would love to the the pocket that fits the tape recorded, also the microphone. Hey, the smartphone is smaller than the microphone to the Nagra. So now I am leaving the Nagra to a new auction. Now it is up next person who wants a piece of history and Swiss quality craftsman ship. I have owned own, so I am pleased now. After all, there is no usage for an Nagra 4.2 today, not as a recording device. Not as a play back machine either. Even that is better on the smartphone. On the Nagra there is some 30 minutes of recordings, on a smartphone you can have music for months… non-stop!

I am forced to say that the technology is advanced. Today it is simpler, lighter. It is so easy to create recordings with excellent result with an endless possibility to edit and change effects in an easy an accessible way. A recording with a smartphone is simply a small click away for the world to listen to.

But still. Nagra 4.2 is such a good looking recorder, there is no smartphone that has an analogue vu meter or shiny metal panels today.
It was perhaps not better in the old days, but they sure knew how to create great looking tape recorders.


Banks, money and local supermarkets

Hello! It’s me again. I am back, and I like to apologize for my absence the last months. The reasons why I haven’t been around are many and strange. But that will be saved for another post perhaps. I will get back when things calm down and I can yet again crawl up from underneath the stone I am hiding.  But until then, there is one thing I want to share.

A few days ago I got the silly, yes silly, idea of going to the bank who has had me as a customer since well over the last 20 years. I have a piggy-bank at home where I put all change received when doing some shopping. When I was young I was learned that “a saved coin is a coin earned”. So ever since then I put all my coins in a piggy-bank that was a present from my grandmother. Every time it was filled up, I took out all the coins and put them all in small paper tubes, different tubes for different values on the coins. Then we went to the bank to deposit the money in to my bank account. All was well. it was fun! My very own money, I even got an interest rate! By having money in the bank it became even more money by it self!! Amazing!

This way of saving continued among the years. The piggy-banks got larger and larger. Right up until a few days ago I was saving coins.

The first signs of problems was when they stopped handing out paper tubes to put the coins in. Then you had to bring your money in a sack/plastic bag/pockets/hat and pour the coins in a machine that eats the coins (that’s what it sounds like). Then gives you a receipt with numbers on that tells you what amount that was deposited on your account. The lovely game of searching banks that had one of those machines was a real challenge. Ever walked the streets of the city with huge bags of coins during a blizzard? The weight is just a pain when you get to one bank and they say “no, sorry we do not have that machine here any more, but try the bank at….”. The walk continues, the search goes on.

A few days ago I went to the only bank in the city that still had that machine (the one that eats your coins and gives you numbers on a receipt instead). As I entered the bank I right away got a feeling of something missing. The machine! It was gone!  It was replaced with a machine that only eats your paper money (in the same fashion as the coin machine). So I thought that the lady behind the counter had access to the machine for the coins. Of course I had to take a que note, with a number on it. Then I had to sit down and wait for that number on my note to be called out. After a long wait I finally got to the desk and asked the lady where I could exchange my coins to numbers for my account! She said that they (the banks) don’t do that any more. But she said that if I went to the supermarket they would have machines to change the coins to numbers on a receipt that I could exchange real money (not coins). So away I went. Off to the supermarket nearby and there I asked for a machine that eats coins. Yes, they indeed have one! Great!

Hang on a minute… “fee for exchange coins, 4% of the total amount”?!

The banks don’t accept coins any more, but they rather sends their clients to the supermarket with their coins. Only to pay a fee for a service that the banks don’t provides any more?! In today’s society the banks don’t handle money due to the risk of robbery, if you want money you have to use an ATM or equal. No matter of depositing or withdrawing money. There is a machine for that. “Nopp, we ain’t want your money, ’cause we’re a bank, see”?!

Now you only need to use your credit card that is connected to your bank for depositing, withdrawing, using, paying money. I understand that the future is happening now and we cant run around with the pockets filled with coins and banknotes. Or the old system of  bills in brown envelopes (old Swedish thing) every month.

Today everything is uploaded, megabits and text messages, SMS, MMS, BDSM, AOL and LOL or what ever it’s called. You can sit on the toilet and manage you entire personal financial disaster by some simple swipes with your finger on your smart phone.

But if you are an elderly person sitting at home with a piggy-bank you are totally lost. You need to take the money to a supermarket (in a bag), exchange the coins there, pay a fee for it and you get a receipt with numbers on it that you must exchange to paper money. That you deposit in a machine at the bank. I bet they are thrilled to pay a fee on the money that they paid tax on already just to deposit the saved coins on their bank account.

I accept the fact that the banks don’t want to handle money due to the risk of violence and robbery. But honestly, it must be a rather stupid criminal that want to rob a bank that only have coins in the vault.

“Stand and deliver! Hand ye swag”

“Sure do you got a fork lift for the 2½ tonnes of coins that we have in our vault, it will take you five men and three hours to shift that loot”.