The green bicycle, Husqvarna 1948

As always, it all started with one project to many.

A fellow tweedian mentioned to me one day that he was searching for a special type of bicycle. One that he could modify to be his daily commuter ride. His criteria were; a silver coloured semi racer with derailleur gear and luggage racks, both in front and in the rear of the bicycle.

It so happened, that I had my fathers old 1980’s Meteor racer bicycle standing in my basement. My fellow tweedian was intrigued by the bicycle, it was a good foundation for his project. Was it for sale?

I knew that among all bicycle projects he has in his basement, there was a old 1940’s green Husqvarna bicycle. It would be perfect for all the spare parts I have collected over the years. Parts that never fitted any of my earlier projects, instead ended up in boxes marked “might come in handy”.

Especially the Versol derailleur from 1940’s, that never fitted any of my projects. It only fits frames with rear dropouts with their opening forwards. All my bicycle projects so far has their rear dropouts with their openings backwards. I knew that the green Husqvarna have rear dropouts facing forwards. That would be perfect for my Versol derailleur.

I suggested perhaps a trade would benefit us both, my fathers old bicycle for his green project. It ended up with me coming home with yet one more project. I think it is the third time I said it was the last time for projects. But here we are again.

Fellow tweedian working on the Husqvarna 1948 project.

Back home I checked out the bicycle more. It is a Husqvarna made in 1948. I realised that many parts on the bicycle actually were original parts and in very good condition. Parts like the front chain wheel, the nut that holds the front fork in place and the front light holder. The mudguards were not original but they looks great together with the frame, both have the same nice green tone. But most important my Versol derailleur fitted like a charm.

Handlebars that fits the bicycle. This can be a great project.

Versol derailleur…

…and gear leaver

Right away I started to look in my boxes for other parts to complete the bicycle. Handlebar, grips, a front light. I had two wheels with stainless steel rims standing in the corner, they fitted perfectly. I traded some other parts I had laying around for a fitting stem. The handlebars with grips was mounted on the stem along with an original Husqvarna bell. It all started to look like a cool bicycle. Green, black and silver.

I decided to make the front light battery powered. Because I wanted to use one more odd part that never found any usage. An old east German made bicycle bell, “Radlaufglocke” or “Sturmklingel” that they are called in German. The bell is activated by pulling a cord so the flywheel of the bell is pressing against the tire and starts to spin. Then the bell will ring as long as the cord is pulled or as long the wheel is spinning.

All the bell needs is a dynamo bracket mounted in a way that the bell can pivot onto the tire to make in spin. I mounted the Sure enough, it worked like a charm. It´s steel housing and red flywheel fits the look of the bicycle just perfect. For activation cord to the bell, I used an chain from an old Swedish dog tag.

That is one cool bicycle bell, it sounds like a old tram on the run when used. It will most definitely get attention when used. I still had the old Berko battery box which I removed from the 1928 Crescent. I took some old electrical cord and make the front lamp work.

Only to make the bicycle somewhat legal to ride in the night.

Berko battery box with a cloth wound electrical cord along the frame to the front light

Bicycle bell that will ring as long the cord is pulled and the wheel is spinning

I also added an old id-tag. That type of tag was patented in 1942, so it is really a 1940’s bicycle

The bearings was in desperate need of grease

Now it was time to mount everything together, I bought new a bunch of old stock screws (shiny screws are needed for a shiny bicycle) and got to work. Mudguards, double kick stand, headlamp with visor, cleaning, oiling and greasing up old bearings. It all worked well and in some way, it seemed like the parts, although they were different brands, were meant to fit together from the start.

I tried to keep all the parts it in the same era as the bicycle frame, mid to late 1940’s.

Then we have the issue with the, by now infamous, Versol derailleur. It was a slight pain to adjust and to make sure it worked, or at least almost working as it should.

First of all, there are no fixed positions for the gear leaver. Changing gear is made by feel and listening on the chain travelling across the cogs. 3st gear, no problem. 2nd gear, well it is there somewhere keep trying. 1st gear? Well, now we are getting a bit optimistic aren’t we? Let us stay on 2nd gear for a while instead.

Then there is the ever so slight issue of being able to bring the bicycle to a stop. Since the derailleur are used on a coaster hub with a built in brake, it means that the chain will slack considerably when peddling backwards to brake. With a standard hub you only need to peddle backwards slightly to engage the brake. The Versols attitude towards braking, is that small and quick peddling are for wimps. There is more of effort to peddle at least half a turn while the chain might derail at any moment if the rider are being careless. So with the Versol derailleur system, braking is like stopping a boat forging ahead. You really need to think in advance and plan your stops well in advance.

Fitchel and Sachs chain guide makes use as a spring bracket. Yes I know, it is all wrong.

Correctly adjusted it is not such a big deal. But having to slack the chain in a way that there is need for a guide to make sure that the chain stays in place and not derails. Well, that is not what I would call a optimal riding experinace. But still, Versol derailleur system derailleur was the most popular derailleur/gear system in Sweden during 1940’s and 1950’s. Perhaps because there were no others? Or, the alternatives where so complicated, impossible to adjust or perhaps just weird? Who knows?

My grandfather had an old Rex bicycle from the 1940’s with an Versol derailleur system mounted. Completely, utterly and totally insane. Not to forget the minor detail of it being really a really dangerous bicycle. I still remember my grandfather riding along the streets with his bicycle that had no front brake at all, only relying on the rear hub brake. While riding his bicycle wearing clogs at the age of  75. Could he ride his bicycle like that, so can I!

Headlight visor adds to the look

Modern Brooks B66 saddle, but it fit the colour theme of the bicycle, green, silver and black.

The green bicycle, dangerous and almost original. If I can’t brake, at least I will be able to use the tram bell so there will be a heads up before the crash.

But still, it is really good looking bicycle.

The winter project, part 1 (Fram bicycle)

There is a new project in the loop. Since it turned out that the £20 bicycle was rather damaged, it had a crooked fork, bent chain wheel, a damaged frame and other minor damages. I decided to scrap the bicycle, it was way to damaged to renovate and repair in my opinion. But I wanted to keep some of the parts from it like the chain guard, front light, the wheels, pedals and so on. Perhaps I could use it a project later on. It is good to have a supply of spare parts. One never knows what will happen in the future.

Later on, it turned out a friend that I have helped over the years with bicycles and parts. Had made a deal with another fellow on a internet forum about some bicycle parts. The deal was about an old frame that my friend wanted to use to build a vintage styled racer.

After some dealing with the fellow he received the frame. But it turned out that there was an entire bicycle included in the deal. Since he only needed the frame in the original deal, and it was the wrong style for him to build on and he did not had any use for an extra bicycle.  So, he asked me if I would like to take the extra bicycle. He described the bicycle to me in a mail with a included photo.

New projects and parts

It sounded like an interesting project. I decided to take over the bicycle. After all, I was looking for a replacement for the £20 bicycle that I scrapped earlier. I could need a everyday vintage bicycle, that can be used during the winter months. A good bicycle in a used condition, where salt and mud do not matter for the finish of the paint. Perhaps even mount the studded tires I bought a few years back, so it will be more secure to ride on icy roads. We decided to meet up in his basement storage for a closer look at the new project.

The bicycle is an Fram made in Uppsala. The name fram is a Swedish word for “forward”, as in getting forward. It was made in about 1941-1942 according to the stamp on the German Sachs-Fichtel made Torpedo hub. It had been standing in a barn the last 30 years so I guess the colour is grey, but a good cleaning will tell more accurately.

Fram, made in Uppsala during the second world war about 1941-1942

An old sticker “verkstad” (work shop), most likely a local shop where the bicycle was sold

The bicycle turned out to be in more or less an complete original condition. But the tires had since long rotted, there were rust on all the chrome parts like handlebars, stems and bearing cups after the years in storage. The saddle as the front light was missing. But it had the original Fram design luggage rack and all the brand decals still intact. It turned out to be a great project for me. I decided to go for it!

Different luggage rack design, but all original

Lovely Ford inspired design on the brand name. The Versol gearing system is visible, it is not connected, only mounted

Since I got the £20 bicycle I had a vintage Versol Swiss made gear system laying around. It did not fit on the old £20 bicycle frame that was made in the 1930’s. The gear is supposed to be fitted in the rear drop-outs. But it fits this Fram frame made in the 1940’s like a glove.

So just for fun, I mounted it just to see if it would work. I am not to sure if I should use the gear system. Those kind of systems does not work so well with a brake in the hub. The chain tends to jump gears while braking and making it an adventure with high stakes. But, the last word has not been said yet about the Versol. After all, it looks rather dashing on the frame.

The second thing I did was to remove the rotten tires that were covered with dust, grime and bugs from the time in the barn.

Versol gear shifter. It looks really great on the frame

The city and name of the founder of the Fram brand. “Fram – A-B Josef Eriksson, Uppsala”

The next step is to clean and disassembly the entire bicycle for cleaning and greasing up all those bearings with grease from the 1940’s. There is always something to do. But on the bright side, now I have something to do during those long, dark winter months in the snowy and cold north.

There is no rush, but part two will follow.