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.

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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.

 

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

Why Harris Tweed?

Now days it is popular to organize tweed rides with the London Tweed Run as an example. All sorts of historical societies, groups and clubs organizes an tweed ride, run or social meeting in almost every town. It is fun, cheap and easy to organize. Bicycles are easy to carry around if needed, you can not carry a car and park it on the side walk at an café. Well you can, but it is frowned up on by many of the pedestrians that would like to use the side walk.

After riding vintage bicycles and attending all sorts of events for some years now. I realized that I was never quite out of style.  Because I have been riding vintage bicycles while using tweed since I was a teenager. Well not all the time. I was not using tweed in the summer when the heat was really demanding or when we were swimming in the sea during school breaks.

My first experience with tweed was my fathers old coat that was hanging on a hanger in the closet in attic. It was a Harris Tweed brown herringbone coat that he bought back in the late 1960’s at the famous Stockholm department store NK (Nordic Company).

By accident he bought the coat in the wrong size, it was just ever so slightly to small. Instead of returning the coat to the shop after you realized the mistake as you normally do. He kept it in an closet in the attic for many years. There it was left along with other clothes that he also bought in the wrong size some reason.

The coat was hanging there until the early 1980’s. That was when we did were looking after old things in closets to get rid off. My father found the old tweed coat, he asked me if I would like to have it. The coat was double breasted, 3/4 long coat and had an “Napoleonic ” style collar top fashion in late 1960’s. Because it was made of heavy tweed it was really warm, perfect for long winter days. My father remembering the fabric as “extremely sticky”, but I really liked it.

I never wore it to school. After all, the fashion amongst kids back then was jeans, sport trainer trousers, sneakers (white of course) and white tube socks. Anyone who came dressed in anything else was a open target for bullying. So I was only using the coat on my spare time.

There I was, dressed in fathers tweed. Beside an coat was better than a jacket when its cold, it keeps the behind warm. There were other cloths in the closet that I could use, shirts, sweaters. Sometimes when we were going to my grandparents I had his old ties and even dabbed on some of his old 1960’s after shave that I found in an cupboard in the basement. Sounds strange perhaps, but I guarantee that it was better with tweed, shirt and a tie than jeans and t-shirts. My mother always sighed and said that it was impossible to by clothes to me. I have no idea what she was talking about.

After all, I was quite fashionable back then. Almost straight from the 60’s. Sadly there are no photos from that era, it would be fun to see today how I looked in my outfit. Surely like no other kid in the middle of 1980’s. I would be beyond hip if I dressed like that in school today.

In the end, where did the Harris Tweed coat go? Te honest I do not remember, perhaps it was damaged in a house move at some point. Or perhaps it was decided to be thrown away at some stage. Only the label and the buttons exists today.


The buttons and the lable form my fathers old coat

Why did I got stuck in Harris Tweed? I guess there is three main reasons for that. First it was the coat mentioned above.

Secondly, when I was in school I met a teacher that was very special. He played chess, talked philosophy with us kids in a way no other teacher talked to us. We were equals, not kids to him. I remember that he had a photo of William Golding on the classroom wall and often quoted the book “Lord of the Flies” to us kids. Always when I saw him he wore an grey herringbone Harris Tweed jacket with dark elbow patches. He looked like an actor from an English TV-play, inspector Morse perhaps, Frost or any other of all these series. That teacher was the best one I ever had in school. I decided that I would have a jacket like that just because of him.

Thirdly, when we had lessons in school and I saw photos from Scotland. I fell in love with the nature of the highlands, the rugged landscape. I fell in love with the images you can see of the Hebrides. The sea and sunsets, it was then I decided that one day I should travel and visit the Harris Tweed factory.

But the years went by until one day a few years ago when I was looking around the internet for a new jacket. I found a web site of a small shop in Scotland that sells Harris Tweed clothing. I found a grey herringbone jacket, remembering my old teacher from school. I placed the order and a week later an package from Scotland arrived. It was just what I expected, heavy, strong, warm and great looking. But sadly without elbow patches.


Grey herringbone Harris Tweed, the same style of jacket my chess playing teacher used

Later when I started joining different vintage bicycle events I needed a suit. A suit in tweed naturally. My very first Tweed suit was bought on location while an vacation in Edinburgh. I visited an retailer on a Queens street and bought a three piece suite that I will write about in the future. It was an adventure from the start.

The following year I saved up some money and bought a genuine Harris Tweed suite from the small shop up in the highlands. The Harris Tweed suit I received is made to travel around the world on a bicycle! It is so well made and the fabric is marvellous, all the colours and the lining with the symbol of Harris Tweed embroidered. Details everywhere.


The Iain Harris Tweed suit, quality in every way

It is easy to understand why tweed has been so appreciated. It is reliable, warm, and looks amazing. It is a shame that I do not still have my fathers old tweed coat, but it got me in to tweed. Perhaps it is the destiny of some sort.


A lovely lady jacket in Harris Tweed, but the jacket is sewn by a different company

But the great feeling attending all sorts of vintage bicycle events dressed in tweed. Meeting other people that also dressed up enjoying the event. It is fun, not only for me but for the others. Look and admire each others outfits and bicycles. Perhaps there even is someone else among the riders that got to use their parents old Tweed suit, jacket or coat.

After all, tweed is a fabric that is almost impossible to wear out.