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. After all I got the rims, the spokes and the hubs. Also lovely Torpedo hubs with nickel finish. The rear hub was 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. The front hub was a find in a shop in a good bicycle shop in the city.

I looked on internet how to thread bicycle 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 wheels threaded in the old way so it looked as the other wheels I had. So I went down in the basement and looked at my old bicycles wheels. Counted the spokes, made a drawing on how the spokes were placed and how they were threaded.

Then I started. The rim, spokes, nipples and hub was laying all over the kitchen table. First spoke, in the first hole on the hub. Thread the spoke by the hone in the rim, ine hole next to the hole for the valve for the tube. 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 nipple? Third spoke, who placed the spokes over there?! Repeat the process, then it came the matter of crossing of spokes. Now that spoke should go there, in to that hole. Where did the nipples go?! With the left hand trying 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 are there nipples on the floor?! Who moved the spokes?!

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 myself.

Now the matter of truing the wheel. Remembering the fellow in the shop saying that he could do it for me. 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 to 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 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.

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

The story of a bicycle

I got an old bicycle from a co-worker some time ago. The reason why is simply that I was talking about an event in Stockholm called “Bike in Tweed”. There is an “Tweed run” in London that has become an regular yearly event, people dressing up in vintage clothes (often tweed) and on vintage bicycles are doing a parade around London. That idea has become a huge success so many other city’s have done similar events. For example in Helsinki / Finland the have the parade in the winter time. For anyone interested, just do a interweb search for “tweed run” or “bike in tweed”. Lots of great photos of lovely clothes and bicycles.

Back to the bicycle. It was the co-workers mothers bicycle. She dont use it any more so she was glad to get rid of it. I am not 100% sure of the personal history of it. I will do some research.

But the bicycle itself is a old Swedish one. It is a Hellas made by Fagergren and Johnson in the southern town of Kalmar. A approximately way to date the bicycle is to look at the rear hub. Almost every Swedish made bicycle in the years 1925 up to 1960’s used the German Torpedo hub. Those hubs are stamped with the last two digits of the year.  That gives you an roughly date, add a couple of years and you are in the ballpark. Add the details of the bicycle, such as frame paint and other small details. So with all that in mind I can say that the bicycles hub is made 1931 and the frame has the details of late 1920 and early 1930’s.

Today I started to take it apart to check on details and do some cleaning. I must say, its is in very good shape for its age. Hardly no rust, some dents on the mudguards. The handlebars are repainted many years ago. The handles are stuck, but that is not a big deal. After all there was many different versions and styles of handlebars at that time. Also the most popular handles where so called black “Rambler” handles. The saddle is most likely in a to bad shape after all exposure of weather and wind. But I dont think anyone will blame me for getting a new “aged” Brooks saddle in a vintage look. As for the handlebars, I might be able to find a better used one. Rambler handles does surface on auctions and so on from time to time. I might ask my connections in England to help out on that one.

I will wash, clean the frame and mudguards. Take apart the hubs and clean them out, re lubricate them (I have grease from the 50’s so even that will be vintage). I have 11 months to complete the bicycle. It will be in the “Bike in tweed 2014”. There is all reddy a person that want to use the old bicycle all dressed up in vintage clothes. If it all turns out well, a photo will be taken of them two for the Schneebremse blog readers.

I will keep you all updated on how it all turns out.

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