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.

 

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.

Springtime for Tweed

It has been a while since I last wrote here. Well, as usual I have no good excuse for not writing. More that laziness and that the weather has been bad (says the fellow who wrote an article about riding a bicycle in Helsinki in the middle of February).

That is true, but can I say to my defence that I actually had nothing interesting to write about? After all, reading about bicycles and more bicycles can be a bit boring for you. Considering that I once stated that the motto of this blogg was “my view of things around me”. Then the question is, how difficult can it be to write things that are around me? Strangely, not difficult at all.
But, what can I write to still keep the level of my writing style? I can of course write political articles, reviews of things that I tried. I could write endless posts about movies, music, life and so on. But would I like to do that? Strangely, yes and no.


the sticker from Helsinki tweed run is still there

If I started a long time ago and kept it all under one roof, all writings, thoughts and articles collected here under this blogg. Then it would have be a great collection of my views. An time line over what I, as a person, was developing. Different interests and ideas over the years. But after starting this blogg rather recently.  I realized that I wanted to keep it clean, no statements other that “tweed is nice” and “vintage bicycling is the bees knees”, you get the point. An sort of silly, harmless writing about things that offends no one. That is what we really need at this day and age. More harmless silliness about nothing.

So here I am, writing about old bicycles and Tweed hoping that I offend no one.

In fact, now when writing about it. I realize that I never have written anything about tweed it self, the cloth. All my experiences of the cloth with stories from my early teens up to the present. The change in fashion and other ideas all over but how tweed always was important and why a grey herringbone tweed was important for me. Could that be something for you to read?

Or I could write about my ideas for a new bicycle project that I have been thinking of for many years. Once I had an old Swedish military bicycle from the 40’s. Sadly it was in a pretty bad shape and was later even stolen. But today, I would really like to get one again and this time really try to get it in good working order. It would be fun, they are heavy, but reliable!

I can also now officially let you know that I have an vision to participate of 5 different Bicycle Tweed Rides/races/runs this year. That vision brings me to the issue of bicycles in general. After all, I really would love to only have one good vintage bicycle that I could use and participate in different Tweed Rides. But as now, I had different bicycles in every event. There is more articles to write about. In fact, when thinking about it. I have no time to do something else than writing. The questing is how to earn money on writing?

To something completely different. The weather today was an lovely day in the spring with lots of sunshine and chirping birds. In short, it was a perfect day to take the 1956 Hermes bicycle for a ride. I have not moved or looked at it since my return from the Helsinki event, I have not even cleaned it yet. But still the tires had full pressure, nothing on the frame was loose.
I brought my tweed jacket and took a ride. It went smooth as silk. They knew how to make great bicycles back then.


the weather was perfect for an ride with an vintage bicycle, springtime

Happy Tweed!

Winter and an old bicycle

Hello there dear reader! I hope that you end of 2016 was great and that 2017 has started in a good way. I am sorry that the updates are rare here. But I guess that is what happens when work and real life wants attention. Besides, it is not so fun to sit in the basement, mending bicycles when it is snowing outside. The basement is gloomy place as it is, but when it gets cold outside, the basement is filled with an bone chilling cold and raw draught. But did that stop me from mending and repairing old bicycles? No, of course not.
I was down in the basement anyway, fixing my latest project bicycle.

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The saddle is a worn non original Brooks

A while ago I bought a bicycle that my brother would use when we went on the Bike in Tweed event. But by coincidence he bought an 1920’s rusty old Monark bicycle instead. So the one I bought become standing in his storage unused. One day I asked him if I could take it back and use as a project. It turned out that he needed some space in his storage so he was only happy to let me have it back. We had already started an light renovation of the bicycle but never really got around to complete it. Now when I had it back in my basement I started to do some research about this new bicycle I suddenly had. What I knew was that it was an Nordstjärnan (Northern star) and that it could be a genuine Stockholm bicycle, but they where own by Nymans that was based in Uppsala. My question was; was it made in Stockholm or was in assembled in Uppsala? How could I date it? Here is a quick story about the bicycle brand.

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Stockholm registration plate

Anton Wiklund had a bicycle shop in Stockholm back in 1886. Where he also had an mechanical shop where he started to manufacture bicycles in 1889. In 1894 quitted Anton Wiklund all work with his company, but the remaining owners kept the name since it was known that the name was equal with good quality. Wiklunds bicycles was very famous competition bicycles, known for their reliability. They made bicycles in their mechanical shop, and in 1900 they needed to move to a bigger place. They had a newly build 5 storage building at Kungsholmen in Stockholm where the company moved in. At that location they build bicycles and motorcycles and later on also imported cars with brands like Fiat and later on even Nash, Chevrolet, Packard, Mercedes-Benz and Rolls-Royce. Really good quality brands in other words. Then there was the economical crash of late 1920’s and the import of cars almost stopped completely in early 1930’s.

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The Wiklunds symbol the “W” inside a star. It is a nice detail…

When the Swedish military stopped buying Wiklunds bicycles around 1932 the business went down even further. In late 1939 Wiklunds went so bad that Nymas from Uppsala bought the Wiklunds company and moved the production from Stockholm to Uppsala. Then the second world war started and in 1941 Wiklunds was closed as a brand. There is of course more information and a great story behind the brand and all different models that they had, but we stops here with the history lesson for now.

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…that can be found on the front wheel hub

After I had asked around on some internet forums and different discussion groups trying to date the Nordstjärnan and looking for details about the bicycle. I tried to pin point the year for manufacturing to 1936-1939, that could make it an Stockholm made bicycle. But did I dare to hope? One day there was a fellow on one site I had asked about information that replied to me saying that he had an original catalogue from Wiklund from the -30’s. He enclosed an photo of the catalogue and there it was!

It was the same model, the handlebars was the same. The luggage rack, painting and pin striping. It all matched my bicycle. The catalogue was about the model range from 1938. So now I am 100% sure that it is made in Stockholm and that made me really happy since now I have a bicycle that is made in the town where I am born and where my family are from. Also the catalogue helped me in replacing some parts that was missing, for example the handlebar grips. Along the years a previous owner had replaced the original wooden grips with some 1960’s style plastic grips that was horrible. In a drawer I had a pair of original wooden grips, worn in a way so it matches the bicycle.

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It rides just great and with the visor on the head light it looks really cool

Sadly the luggage rack is in bad shape so I removed (I still have it) but I mounted an registration plate instead, I think it looks really cool and it really defines it to a bicycle made and used in Stockholm. One more thing I did, since the bicycle is used and worn there is no collector item or museum piece. I decided to replace the rear hub. It was original Wiklunds own brand “WINCO” hub. But I replaced it instead with the classical German made Torpedo. Only because, the access to spare parts. The Wiklunds hub have not been manufactured since 1940’s, spare parts are non existing. Around 1940-41, Torpedo celebrated 40 million made hubs. So parts are cheap and easy to find. Also it is very easy for me to repair an Torpedo single gear hub.

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The Torpedo hub from 1937 that I bought on German eBay looks just great

I also had an old Västerås made “ASEA” head light and an old dynamo laying in a drawer that I decided to use on . One day I saw a visor that fits those old ASEA light on an auction. I fell in love with it right away! Sadly the dynamo is a Swedish made “Neo” that was the bicycle makers Husqvarnas own brand. To be honest, I must replace it. I can not have the competitors made parts from Husqvarna om the Stockholm made bicycle.

After all Husqvarna is far from Stockholm and Kungsholmen.

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The Husqvarna made “Neo” dynamo, it looks impressive and still works after all years

 

The green bicycle called Snabb

I bought a bicycle earlier this summer, after all projects and every problem with parts that do not fit properly. I realized that it would have been cheaper and better for me to buy a complete bicycle from the start. Because this idea I had of using old part that came from my grandfathers old bicycle many years ago. All projects I had was either dificult to assembly or did not “feel” right. But one day I saw an ad on internet of an old bicycle for sale in the south parts of Stockholm in a shop I had visited earlier. It was an old Swedish “Snabb” (quick) bicycle from the mid 1930’s. It looked to be in a good original condition with ornaments on the frame and with the original green paint with the golden pinstriping details still intact.

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The badge says, “Snabb, Prima Svenskt Fabrikat”. Translation: (Quick, excellent Swedish manufacturing)

I decided to visit the shop to have a closer look. After my visit I did a quick decision, the bicycle was perfect for me. Good condition, all important parts was there. So I simply paid for the bicycle and rode it back home, it was a good ride, smooth and everything worked as a charm. The bicycle was in perfect condition for what I had in mind. The idea of fixing up the bicycle as an homage to my grandfather and his passion for bicycles. After all he was riding them all year, no matter the weather, summer, wither, sun and rain. He was always riding his bicycle. In a way, the Snabb that I bought could have been a bicycle that he could have used when he was living in the central parts of Stockholm back in the mid 1930’s. That was the spirit of the idea I had.

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Nice mid 1930’s lines and look

I changed the small black 1920’s style headlight to a chromed bubble style headlight that was common in the mid -30’s. In my opinion it fitted the style of the bicycle better. I changed the seat to the old worn seat that was mounted on my grandfathers bicycle and that I remembered from when I was a kid. The bell, bicycle pump, the pump holders and other small parts all added up to an really great and lovely bicycle. There was even an old trouser clip that was an accessory back in the days. I do not use that, but I clamped it on the headlight mount. A small and nice detail.

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The headlight and the cover for the dynamo, all guarded by the Pegasus on the mudguard

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Original style lock with my grandfathers key tab attached.

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The trouser clip from 1930’s that I mounted on the headlight bracket.

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My grandfathers old saddle, worn and beaten up. But lots of memories for me.

But then I realized that on top of the frame were 2 holes and an outlined shadow of an earlier plate with the owners name. That was a very typical extra feature in Stockholm at that time. It was more common to have a ring around the stem to the handlebars with your name and address. But in Stockholm it seems that this frame mounted plate was common. What should I do? I needed a plate to cover the already missing plate. But where to find a nameplate from the -30’s now? Even with or with out a name engraved on the plate it is an impossible mission. Then I remembered that a friend has, like me, also an Rex tandem with the nameplate from one of the first owners. I asked my friend politely if I could borrow the plate to make a copy of it, I would be very careful with the plate since it is unique. He said yes!

By coincidence there is an silver shop that makes jewellery and art in silver in the area where I live. I went there and asked him about the name plate and if it would be possible to do a replica of it. Since the bicycle had the colours of green, black and gold I thought that brass would be a great material for the plate. The fellow at the shop said it sounded like a fun project. He loved to help me out.

For many years I had a brass casing from a 20mm air defence gun in a pile of “good to have” things. The brass shell was curved just like the frame on the bicycle so it would make a great nameplate. The silver shop fellow started to work on the shell but quickly realized that the shell was made in a way that never would work, it was to thick in the bottom end of the casing (designed to withstand an gunpowder explosion). So he decided to take an old cracked cymbal he had as a drummer many years ago and cut a piece out of the cymbal instead. He polished it and did a wonderful work on the plate, making it to look like the style of 1930’s old plates with my grandfathers name and the address he had back in 1937.

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The brass name plate. Looks really good and matches the colour of the frame and pinstriping.

A few weeks later I had a magnificent hand made plate in brass mounted on the frame of the bicycle. Of course it fitted to the holes and covered up the shadow on the frame, it looked a bit “new” and polished. But after a few days the brass started to oxidized and looked worn. A brass plate on a British racing green bicycle with details painted in black and gold, it looks really good.

After all parts were fitted to the bicycle, even the small key tab that my grandfather used to have, I was ready for a test ride. If it was good before, it was even better now! The Snabb made a popular entry at the Bike in Tweed 2016 even. I got many compliments for the looks and condition of the bicycle.

It is a keeper!

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Is there any one who recognizes the location of the photos?