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.

 

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

More projects and old bicycles

Dear reader! It was a while since the last update. I am sorry for that, but work and real life demands attention as we all know.

I just wanted to update you about what is going on around here. You perhaps remember the “happening in white” that I was planing to build as an retro-path-racer-looking-odd-thingy-bicycle. That project come to a halt, the bicycle now stands locked in a public bicycle shed waiting for better times. I was planning to fix the frame so it would loose all parts that are unnecessary. Such as the welded stand mount, the welded bracket for the chain guard. Then have all the paint removed, get better looking wheels and new tires. Simply to build that dream racer bicycle I once saw, or at least try to build one. Just to have things to do. But then I got the black frame that was made in 1933 that I wanted to build an original roadster bicycle by using only period parts. Now that project become more difficult than I realized because all the parts I bought, on auctions and in odd shops all over town turned out that they did not fit in the way I wanted to. Small details that disturbs me. Then I had the adventure of the wheels and how they was spoked. That was an setback for me. The mudguards could not be 100% correct fitted to the frame. That was the second issue. Then it all went down hill when I could not find a front fork that matches the frame. So I simply got tired of it all, I still got all parts in the basement. I am doubting that I will ever start to build a bicycle in the end. So, here I got 3 bicycles I can not use. One complete, one semi complete and one on parts.

I was out riding the old Hermes bicycle one day recently. I stopped at an small patch of birch trees and started to think about all adventures I had with my bicycles.

The first one is the black Pelago racer that I build 2 years ago. I can not use that one since my back is really hurting me when I am riding leaning forward. So I am thinking of selling the Pelago, it is a shame that it just stands in the basement collecting dust (it is covered with sheets of cloth). But still it is a great bicycle, I can not use it.

The black 1933 frame with all it’s parts in the basement will remain in parts for a long time I guess. I have not energy to mess around with parts that do not fit perfect. I will see the errors all the time, at the end I will only see those errors and miss matched parts.

About the “happening in white/silver Monark” racer project. Perhaps I will rebuild and make it as a working bicycle to a fellow enthusiast. If he want to use it on bike in tweed 2016? It would be fun! He is a bit short so perhaps a 28″ wheel bicycle might cause some issues. I will speak with him and explain my visions about the that bicycle. If he likes it I can fix the bicycle in a week looking fine. But 2 weeks when I have to look for some special parts.

The Rex tandem, the dreadnought from Halmstad. That is a keeper. It is a fun bicycle, so nice to rid around with it. People stops and looks. A real gem!

Lady in blue? That is a museum piece. All details and the colours are so nice and the finish are excellent. That is a keeper to. In short, I need a bigger storage for all parts!

Bike in Tweed 2016 will start 24th of September. I with will be there, but what bicycle I will use? I have no idea as for now, but I guess that is the least of all problems I have with all my bicycles. The main problem for me this year is what kind of sandwich shall I bring in my bag? What if it rains? That is no problem either, a tweed suite handles rain quite well. It just smells like a wet dog.

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Reflections and thoughts about the bicycles

There comes a time in a mans life when he realizes that he has to many bicycles. Is that even a thing Can it even be possible? Can one have to many bicycles, I hear you ask.

Yes, you can! When you have a very limited space in a cold, dark basement. When you can not enter that space due to the simple reason that the bicycles (and all the crates filled with all sorts of bicycle parts) are blocking all access to anything anywhere.After all I need space to prepare the bicycles for bike in tweed 2016.

Situations like that demands actions, no matter what! So, I decided to sell one of my old bicycles to a girl I know. She was very happy for it and wanted to try it at once, I adjusted the seat and off she went. It was nice to see her riding on a bicycle from 1941. She handled it with grace and style. Even the bicycle seemed happy, not a squeak or creek anywhere. An vintage bicycle like that one, 28″ tires and a steal frame, then you can not rush, it is a promenade bicycle. Simply climb up, and gently pedal away into the smoothness that only 28″ balloon tires can offer. She took the old bicycle for a short ride, on the way back she had a big smile on her face. That smile made it all worth for me. The happiness of others that appreciates the feeling and joy of something old, the small details and things that makes a vintage bicycle so great. The comfort, the design, the way it handles. Simple but well thought of functions like the double stand, the decorative and functional holders for the bicycle pump. All made locally and designed for usage. Not a plastic “34-geared-race-use-now-throw-away-later” bicycle. The old ones was made to last. Built like tanks!

In the basement there are more bicycles standing, waiting for my attention. I have made some minor updates on some older ones. For example the Rex tandem have received an original front mudguard ornament and a better looking reflector on the rear mudguard. Lady Blue have a new set of tires. The tires I fitted had the makers horrible colourized brand name on the tire wall. It looked horrible! But I have found a retailer that sells tires with a vintage tread pattern and a very nice vintage looking tire. The white lightning will get a new life as a retro racer with a new owner soon, more of that in a post further on.

The black painted Hermes frame from 1934 with its the wheels I mentioned last time. Is still missing a front fork. After all, if I am going head over heels to make it perfect. Then the front fork should be the same brand too. But since when I am looking at the wheels as all I can see is the spokes that are laced the, for me “wrong” way. I can not see anything else. I know that is exactly what would happen if I mounted the wrong fork. I would only see the errors and after spending the amount of money as I have done. That would be a project that would haunt me for the rest of time. My decision was not easy, but logical. I will save all parts and put it all in a safe place. Perhaps one day I will finish the project. But as it feels now, no. I am tired of the 1935 Hermes.

Then we have the black Pelago. Well that is a sad story. The Pelago path racer I put together from parts that I bought from all over the world, is standing in the basement unused. I made it in a style where you have sit and reach down to the handlebars at an steep angle. My back can not deal with that at all any more. I get a horrible back ache when using the racer, of course I should have known that from the start. But it was such a good look and all parts really came together well. I was hoping all the way that my back could cope with it. Sadly, I will have to sell that one since I can not use it. But there is a person out there that enjoys the Pelago as much as I do, I am sure of it. It is a great bicycle!

Last but not least, there is a new old bicycle standing in the basement at the moment. It is an mid 1930’s Swedish made real iron horse, heavy with a divine roll in the wheels. The paint, mudguards wheels and handlebars are all original, except the saddle and the tires that have been changed due to wear and tear. I have mounted an 1930’s Bosch dynamo and front light so it looks just right now. This is the one real vintage roadster I have being looking after for so many years. It has all details I wanted, oil nipples on front and rear hubs, double legs stand. Undamaged and straight frame, trued wheels, all parts are worn in the same moderate way. The only problem is that is does not have my loved Torpedo rear hub. That would have been to perfect.

Along the way of looking for parts to all old bicycles I got some ornaments that was supposed to be mounted on the front mudguards. They where made by all sorts of different brands, but there was also many “no name” ornaments available back then. You could by them as decoration for your bicycle if the maker never issued one. I have this lovely Pegasus ornament that is lovely in all small details and it is worn in just the right way, the nickel finish has worn off from some parts of the ornament. But it is not damaged.

Now the question is, should I drill a hole in an mudguard from 1930’s to mount a ornament from 1930’s? It is tempting, but at the same time. It would be a shame.

Vintage bicycles, a source of silly problems.

 

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Wheels and spokes

As I mentioned, I was going to build the wheels for my new project. I got the rims and the hubs, everything original 1930’s. But the spokes and nipples was new, better safe than sorry. After trying to mend and fix my old bicycles I have realized that the old vintage German made Torpedo hubs are so easy to work with. I have taken them apart and together again many times. in fact it went so far that I got some tools for the hubs. They are simple to understand and make work. So for me the natural choice for an hub when building a rear wheel was of course Torpedo. The frame I got for my really old bicycle are from early 1930s, so I needed an hub from that era. I found one that was just perfect. The only drawback was that it did not had the beautiful beak arm that some Torpedo hubs had back then, a slightly curved arm with the name in relief. So nice details! Sadly the hub I got has the 1940´s break arm mounted, I have an extra old curved arm laying around. But sadly it does not fit.

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a Torpedo hub, keys and an German made Torpedo copy from DDR.

After looking around on internet I found out how to spoke the wheels since I never had done it before. I found many tutorials on how to make the modern overlapping style. But when looking at all my vintage bicycles I noticed there was something odd with the way they were threaded. There was no overlapping, it was space and the spokes was in an easy and understandable way. As I did some research I found that the overlapping method seemed not to be so common back in the 30´s at least for regular bicycles. More an competition style bicycle. One night I sat down in the kitchen and started my work. I made some errors, looked and an old wheel, counted and finally the result was made. I was proud of the work I made. I needed to true the wheel, but since I wanted it to be perfect I decided to go with the wheel to an shop. That where the shop owner said I had made it all wrong. I should overlap the spokes!

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here are the wheel whit the “old” style of not overlapping the spokes.

I tried to explain that the old way was this simpler style and that was the way that all my old bicycle wheels was made. Yes, the owner said. but the over lapping way is safer and more sturdy and they DID do that back then. Your other wheels might have been renovated earlier. That might be the case, but I like the simpler style.

When I collected the wheel from the shop later on. They had remade the entire wheel in the “modern” style. I was not happy, but it was made by professionals and was well made. But it looked wrong for an old wheel. I found some new made tires that was made in an vintage style pattern, black of course! I mounted a new rim protector, hose and tire. It looks great, but all I can see are those overlapping spokes, perhaps I will get used to the spoke issue. Most likely I am the only one noticing that thing.

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soon I will start to put the bicycle together