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.

 

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

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.

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The Silver Arrow

I mentioned before (take a look here) that I was going to build a retro bicycle, in a sort of 1930´s “path racers”. To be honest there is not only one bicycle I have in the loop. There are two!

The first is based upon the Pelago frame I got from the Pelago warehouse. But the second is a project that I have been saving parts for at a long time. Some parts here, some there, it all adds up. But I think it is fun to plan ahead and get inspiration from different parts and styles. For example I have now an entire bag with odd bits and pieces that will add up to a rather good looking bicycle. That is what I hope at least.

I had that strange frame from China that did not really cut the mustard in several areas (budget story here). All parts was badly made, the frame it self was not so great. Badly made threads and so on. So no, that was a no go for my plans. One day when reading the classified ads on internet. I noticed a fellow who sold a bicycle he had build mixing old and new parts but had stripped the paint of everything. The look was so clean and crisp. I fell in love with the look and the style of his build right away. He was asking about €450 for his bicycle. Then I thought to my self, “Why not make something like that my self?”

In what style should it be? What parts do I need? How much will it cost me? There was many questions right away. But with pen and paper I started to write down what I need on a sheet and started to look for parts on internet. I had some parts since earlier builds and restoration. I decided that the frame it self was going to be a old Swedish made 1950’s bicycle. Because for me, that was the best era for frames and bicycles in Sweden. Perhaps not the best looking ones. But it was well made frames with the details still there. That was at that point they knew what they where doing, people still bought bicycles for everyday usage so they where robust like tanks. When thinking of the frame, I have not decided if I am going to remove all paint from the frame myself or if I am going to leave that to a professional auto-shop.  I will get some old style drop handlebars with the smooth curves, an vintage stem for the bars. Vintage race saddle, saddle post. A front wheel break, either drum or rim/calliper breaks with a single break handle. It would be really odd with drum breaks. But great looking. The we have the wheels. Torpedo hubs of course!

So, in short I need to acquire quite a lot of parts. But nothing is impossible, it will only take some time. After all, all costs are balanced out with me trading and selling items. So there is an reserved amount of money for this project. Removing the paint from the frame is no problem, the parts are easy as pie to get a hold of. In fact the collection started long ago, even before I knew I was saving parts. Here are some parts I have at the moment.

Fabuer crank with chain wheel, handlebar stem… now it is only the rest that needs to be found.
Perhaps this bicycle will be ready for “Bike in Tweed 2015” too?

The name of the bicycle are rather self explanatory “The Silver Arrow”…

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Cameras and bicycles, part 5 ”iPhone 5s”

It is time for the last presentation in the series about the cameras that I used on the bicycle photo session a some weeks earlier.

This time I used my own regular mobile phone, an iPhone 5S. It is not only a simple telephone that you can make calls with. It is also an minicomputer, organiser, media player and flash-light. But there is also an very good camera in the phone. The iPhone, or lets us say smart phone since almost every smart phone today got these possibility, got excellent editing possibility with in it self for some after editing.
But with a few simple touches on the screen you can find a large selection of different programs/applications (apps) for photo editing. More of that later in this text.

At the bicycle photo session, after I used the 3 other cameras I mentioned in the earlier posts, the old Kodak box, the Rolleicord and the modern Fujifilm x100. I took out my phone out of my pocket and wiped the lens clean from fingerprints and dust. That is one small but very important thing to do. Grease or smudge on the lens always creates effects that bad. Such as lens flares or an “foggy” look on the photos. The best starting point are a clean image. Then you can let loose you creativity and add what effects you like and create artistic and fun photos later on.
Even lens flares and fog if you like.

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Well, there is no knobs or levers on the “camera” to be honest. Only a few buttons and an touch display. One of the ways you can activate the camera is by pressing the home or sleep button then swipe the camera symbol upwards. There you have the camera all running and reddy to shoot. In that mode you can swipe on the screen at the sides to get video mode or a square frame for the photo. There is other options to. But for now we will go with the standard camera settings. By looking at the screen you compose the photo, the press either the button on the screen (big red button, the shutter) or you press the volume up/down button, remote shutters releases. Then you have taken a photo. As simple as that.

Now when you have taken an photo that you are pleased with. The fun part of editing begins. With almost every smart phone today you have many different options of editing tools and helps. You can choose either with the smart phones own built in effects/filter options. Or you can download for free or buy an app for editing photos. I use the “camera+” app. It costed me a few dollars. But it works for me, I get the results I like.
Beside it is an easy and fun program with many pre set filter options to choose from. There are options for exposure adjustments, tone, colour, contrast and so on.

I will show a few settings how you can change the photo in the smart phone, just for fun.

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Here are some filter options to choose from, there are a few categories of filter styles. Colour, retro, Special, Hollywood and more.

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You can change the tint of the photo, highlights, shadows and even more light settings.

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There is a cropping tool, that make you either choose the crop yourself or use one of the many pre sets crops.


It is fun to take photos with my smart phone! After  The time just runs away and you will end up with even stranger results than intended from the start. Of, course it is a phone. Not a primarily camera. But for all those “on the go” photos and photos for social media like facebook and instagram the smart phone is a really good option. After all, instagram was designed to be used for smart phone photos. There is almost no end to what you can do with the photo. It is like having the entire film laboratory with all skill of the personnel at your finger tips. You take the photo, develop it and then you can get it to any style you like. Things that 20 years ago took many hours of skills and learning to create. There is an entire new way of creating images today. If you with the smart phone connects it to a printer made for phone photos and prints the image you have edited. You only delay is how fast/slow you work with your editing. No more waiting for a developer to do their work for a week or more. Here you got instant result!
Of course the charm of the old cameras has gone in a way. There is perhaps just a matter of simply changing focus. Perhaps there is charm in the modern way of creating photos? After all, everyone is using smart phones today and the best camera in the world “is the camera you have with you” as they say.

In this case, I had my bag with cameras. But when I was going to use the smart phone. I simply picked it up out of my pocket, started the camera, composed the image and pressed on the volume button. Because I use my phone on silent mode, there was no shutter sound (sound playback) As I wrote in last post about the Fujifilm X100 shutter sounds must exist. But here in Europe we can turn it off. So I pressed the shutter release button and…

“……” (no sound at all)

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