Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The book 'Wiener Mechaniker Raeder'

I recently purchased the German language book 'Wiener Mechaniker Raeder' which has dusted down long forgotten and little used, A level German vocabulary. My computer keyboard is English, so I don't have the umlaut or eszett and have used the English dipthong 'ae' instead of the 'a umlaut' in the title. The book is subtitled 'A journey through more than a 100 Vienna bicycle makes 1930 – 1980'. The blurb on the back translates as:-

Vienna is big, but the diversity of Viennese bicycle marques was once much bigger; more than 100 marques existed in the city from the 1930s to the 1980s, among them innovative, oblique, noble, freakish, good dependable, solid and off the peg, - for example, noble racing bikes with paint finishes from another time (Rih), Aero bicycles from 50 years before the aerodynamic craze (RZ), prototypes from aluminium and small diameter steel tubes (Austria-Alpha), lugless welded frames (Degen), rethinking of frame design ( Wisent Einheitsrad), to name but a few examples.  For the first time, the complete history of the Vienna bicycle marques in a picture book, with all marques from Alpenrad to Ziel. 

I found the contents of the book fascinating. It educated me as to the variety of different bicycle makers working in Vienna, some from the 19th century onwards, others appearing for a few years after WW2, then disappearing. The bicycles used to illustrate the book are well photographed and in some cases I would have liked to have seen a little more detail, such as head lugs etc. However, I'm sure the authors were forced to cut down the amount of material, to be able to make the book format and they have done a superbe job. The book has the following chapters:- Introduction (Prolog), Authors thanks (Dank), The bicycle marques A – Z (Wiener Fahrraedermarken A - Z), Puzzling machines (Ratselhafte Gaule) , And now? (Und Jetzt?), Picture index (Abbildungsverzeichnis), Bibliography (Literaturverzeichnis) and finally about the authors (Uber uns). The book is printed on glossy art paper, and each marque is given an introductory text box showing the years of production, the company address, the owner details and whether they built their own machines or not. There is then narrative text, accompanied by the superbe photographs. The authors have a passion for their subject and have done their research well, as they mention some bicycle makers lost in the mists of time, of whom, only a printed advert from a newspaper or magazine show they existed at all.

The cast aluminium RZ / Err-Zett children's bicycle illustrated on page 235 of the book and on the front page of the publisher's website, predates the Kirk Precision cast magnesium frame by some years. The authors record 'Wem dieses Design einfiel, ist leider nicht uberliefert, vielleicht war es ja ebenfalls Ottomar Rosenkranze selbst' – 'Whoever came up with this design, is unfortunately not recorded for posterity, but perhaps it was Ottomar Rosenkranz himself'. The frame material used in the Kirk Precision may have been different, but the concept of a cast frame was clearly established much earlier by RZ / Err-Zett and gives weight to the old saying 'There is nothing new under the sun'.

The book has a small section pages 332 – 338 on puzzling machines (german jocular chapter heading meaning enigmatic old nag, or gift horse!) which the authors believe to be Austrian bicycles made in Vienna but of which they have little or no information. The book finally brings the story up to date with information on modern framebuilders working in Vienna.

The book can be bought via the publishers website and is now available through Amazon,  the ISBN number is 978-3-85119-342-8. If you order a book through the publisher's website, you will be sent an invoice in Euros, which will have to be paid through your bank. Once payment has been made, delivery to the UK takes around two weeks. The book is well worth the money and is cheaper than some of the recent Japanese and US books on Toei, Singer and Herse. The authors have set out to record methodically the custom built marques originating in Vienna over a 50 year period and add considerably to the body of historical knowledge. It shows what can be done and it would be nice to see a similar work published on the framebuilders working in the London area over a similar time period! The only caveat is that if you rely on an internet language translator, you will get a literal translation of the words. The danger here is that you often need to translate the concept, not the literal words, to make sense of what is meant by the authors. However, it has been a very enjoyable and educational time spent with my old German dictionary and this book, discovering the delights of the Vienna bicycle trade. I can heartily recommend it.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Frozen handlebar stem

I bought a 1982 Hirame Model 48 SUMA bicycle frame a couple of years ago on e-bay, which came complete with a frozen handlebar stem. Hirame were made by Kuwahara, from Osaka, Japan and imported into the UK in the early 1980s, by the now defunct bicycle business Evian (G.B). The frame had been used as a winter bike, judging from the nature of the corrosion and all the gear tunnel braze ons and rear gear hanger had been removed from the frame. It was no longer in the original paint. My frame is not from a top of the range machine built with Ishiwata tubing. It was my intention to restore the bike to as near original as possible, with all Japanese parts. The frame originally had full chrome forks and rear dropouts. The difficulty was how to remove the original alloy stem which was stuck in the frame due to galvanic corrosion? I intended to try and save the stem if possible. It would be easy to cut the stem and melt the seized part out of the steerer tube with a gas torch. I had done this in the past and read of various methods on web forums, of how to remove the stem, but all involved the destruction of the alloy stem. I preferred to try a different method. Making sure that the expander bolt assembly was in the stem and tightened up, I up-ended the frame and hung it over a drip tray. I then poured a product called Plus-Gas, down the steerer tube, leaving a small reservoir above the expander bolt and left the frame for three weeks, refilling from the drip tray as required, adding some new liquid each time. Once the liquid had finally drained out of the steerer tube, I then righted the frame and inserted a front wheel into the forks. I then released the stem expander bolt and inserted a used, salvaged, long steel riser MTB handlebar into the stem to try and turn the stem.

It gave easily and with a little effort, levered out of the frame. There was much evidence of galvanic corrosion, especially in the slot at the back of the stem above the shaped expander nut.

I cleaned the alloy with a brass brush before using a metal polish. There was a linear crack spreading horizontally, each side of the circular hole at the top of the slot designed to prevent cracking!
I would guess the damage maybe occurred when someone tried to remove the stem, whilst it was welded in through corrosion, prior to the frame being sold. I am disappointed that the stem is not safe to re-use, but it was worth the effort to try and remove it in a non destructive fashion.  I have learned something along the way.   I don't know if this method will work in every case, but I will certainly try it again in the first instance, to try to remove a stem without damage, before resorting to a more destructive method of removal as a fall back position.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

1925 Raleigh Roadster

It is one of the dilemmas that any collector or restorer of old bicycles faces at some stage, to restore or not? I received a 1925 Raleigh bike for some repairs last year. The bicycle had great sentimental value to the owner. It had belonged to his uncle from new and had been his uncle's main form of transport for most of his working life. The bicycle had been ridden at least 44 miles return journey, daily to work, carrying his tools and his 'piece'. The wheels had been renewed in the 1950s judging from the date code on the Sturmey Archer hubs. This would equate to a major overhaul of the bike and probable conversion to a three speed gear, from single speed, after roughly 25 years of use.  The rear wheel was a quality Raleigh product, 40 hole stainless steel Westwood rim, laced with stainless steel spokes into a Sturmey Archer AW hub. The front wheel was a very rusty chrome Westwood rim, laced with equally rusty spokes into a Sturmey Archer GH6 dynohub. 

My concern was to try and keep as much of the bike original as possible, but it was obvious that the hubs were in need of some attention. The bike was covered in a black oily filth which had protected the chrome plating on the hubs. Once the rear AW hub was opened, it was one of the dirtiest I have ever had to strip.

The component parts all had to be thoroughly cleaned to be able to assess the extent of the wear. What was obvious, following cleaning, that the cones were badly worn, along with the driver and ball ring. The springs all needed replacing as well. The axle threads were also very worn, but as the bike was only to be used occasionally, I decided to keep the axle as the sun pinion teeth were good. New parts were fitted and the hub internals re-assembled and lubricated. Once the completed internals were refitted into the hub shell, it was obvious the new parts had not removed all the play from the bearings. The left hand K517 ball cup was obviously very worn and tired from the heavy mileage it had endured. To top it all, the threads stripped on the axle when putting the wheel back into the frame. I wanted to keep the back wheel, so the AW was stripped down again. The left hand ball cup was removed after some reluctance.

A suitable spanner was used with an 'enforcer bar' to increase the leverage, so as to overcome the reluctance of the ball cup to screw out. A new old stock K517 ball cup was fitted after the hub shell threads had been thoroughly cleaned then greased. The hub gear internals were then stripped down again and a new axle fitted and the unit rebuilt. This was then inserted into the hub and quickly and easily adjusted. The indicator rod was then refitted, before the wheel was put back in the frame. The gear cable was then refitted to the indicator rod and adjusted so all the gears worked. I next started on the front wheel. The rim and spokes were both badly corroded. In addition the rim had a number of flats. I stripped the dynohub down to check the hub shell ball cups but these were worn out too. 

It was a case of find a replacement hubshell, fit new cones and refit the dynohub internals into the replacement hub shell. Once this was done, I built the hub into a new 32 hole 28 inch Westwood rim.
It was also necessary to fit a new front tyre. The new wheel was then refitted to the frame. I also fitted a new front mudguard at the request of the owner.
The bike was taken for a run to see that the gears worked properly. The headset and bottom bracket were both worn, with some play in the bearings, but this didn't have any adverse effect of the handling of the bike. Although very heavy by modern standards, the bike was actually very nice to ride unlike a modern heavy steel mountain bike. The bicycle felt lively and responsive to the pedalling input once the initial momentum had been gained. I can see how people toured on these roadster bikes 80 to 90 years ago. Although, not considered by some veteran bicycle aesthetics as being worth bothering with, who disparagingly refer to these machines as 'nondescript', due to the fact they were mass produced in a factory. These machines may have a low monetary value and lack the perceived cachet, or one upmanship of a rare brand or hand crafted bespoke frame, which some of these self appointed guardians, of taste and historical worth, espouse.  However, these humble machines do relate, very much, to social history. As the ordinary working man's transport before mass car ownership, they represented a considerable investment by the owner and were usually bought through the cycle manufacturer's hire purchase scheme, via their cycle agent. Their survival after decades of storage is an indication of the value in which they were held by their original owners. Where the history of a particular machine and it's owner is known, this can often open a historical window into the working and recreational life of the former owner.  As this machine predates the opening of the Raleigh factory in Dublin in the late 1930s, after which Raleigh increasingly had the lion's share of the Irish bicycle market,  the owner obviously made a conscious decision to purchase his Raleigh in a more varied and competitive bicycle market. It is now getting more unusual to find pre WW2 machines, as many older machines were scrapped as part of the wartime metal salvage campaign.  It was good to return an old veteran back into a rideable machine again.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Building a 650A Randonneur

The idea of building a 650A Randonneur bike came about after reading articles in the US cycling press about 650B French Randonneur bikes. I have never liked the MTB 26” wheel size, as from my experience, I found they didn't roll as well as older British 26” wheel sizes. The French 650B size is not widely available in the UK or Ireland, but tyres and rims were available in 650A or 26 x 1 3/8. Could I build a randonneur bicycle with 650A wheels, with a Schmidt SON lighting system for under £1000? This was the challenge. I began by sourcing a suitable steel frame. It was tired as found and I had it powdercoated a pale blue colour. It was fitted with a new Tange-Seiki threaded headset. The frame was not to be altered as it was worth more in it's orginal condition, so this was the first compromise. I used SKS MTB muguards, with Brooks leather mudflaps front and rear. A new triple chainset for square taper bottom bracket was sourced and a sealed BB unit was also fitted.
I chose to use some Sunrace components as I wanted to see how they well they worked, when compared to the more expensive brand name parts. The front stainless steel rack is a Velo Orange 'PassHunter' which didn't fit the frame as received. It had to be cut and re-welded to make it fit.
The STI levers whilst comfortable, don't allow the use of a handlebar bag, because of the routing of the cables like Shimano. They do work very well though. The wheels were built with stainless spokes and alloy rims. Tyres are Schwalbe. I have received comment about Schwalbe tyres being heavy and not rolling well. (I don't believe the correspondent had actually used the tyres in question, but had obtained his information from internet forums). I have to say, I have found them great, they are 590 x 37, roll well, comfortable on our less than perfect road surface, offer some degree of puncture resistance and are a heck of a lot better than some of the tyres I have used over the past decades. I have no problem riding the bike on these tyres for day rides or keeping up with others on bikes equipped with 700c wheels. The lighting system with the Schmidt SON Klassic hub is brilliant. I use the hub with a B & M Cyo and B & M rear light and I have no problem being seen and more importantly, being able to see and ride safely on the rural roads of the area.
I was able to build the bike for less than £1000. Am I happy with it? Yes, I certainly am, but having built the bike up, I know the problems encountered and compromises I had to make, so a Mk2 version will address some of these shortcomings. I enjoyed building the bike and working out the solutions.
I am very pleased with how well the bike rides and intend to take it on a tour next year. This year in terms of touring, did not pan out, owing to a health problem requiring surgery. (I am now well into the post op recovery, but still not able to drive or ride the bike). I loaned the bike to a friend for his evaluation. He rode upwards of 500 miles on the bike in the autumn of 2012. His impression was favourable, particularly the lighting system. If you were to commission a custom made frame, then your bespoke frame could address many of the pitfalls of using an existing frame, however this would be at a significantly increased cost. My bike was built to test ideas, assess components and come in under a strict budget limit. There was always going to be compromises, as compared to a bespoke bells and whistles solution, with a budget for branded components. Has my idea worked and delivered a bike which is pleasant to ride and fit for purpose? I think so. Following his testing of the bike, my friend's comment was, 'You could ride round the world on it'.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Visit to Scottish Cycle Museum, Drumlanrig Castle

I posted earlier on 11th July about a track bike which I saw at the Scottish Cycle Museum in the Stableyard at Drumlanrig Castle. I spent a few enjoyable hours looking at the bikes. I have to confess that I have no real interest in early machines such as Hobbyhorses or Ordinaries. I accept that some people do have an interest and I acknowledge that without them, we wouldn't have the machines we use today. I suppose my interest in bicycles and cycling was shaped by the people I knew growing up, some of whom who had cycled from the first decade of the 20th century. I was more interested in hearing how the custom built lightweight bicycle had developed following the Great War. 

This was the machine that I could relate to, from my own experience of cycling. It was interesting, as a teenager, hearing tales of marques of machines and how folk cycled in the 1920s and 1930s. 
Having grown up in a cycling family, I was well versed in my parents experience of cycling after WW2. So my interest in cycling only goes back around 90 years.
I was very interested to see the examples of bicycles made by some of the Scottish framebuilders. Flying Scot are well known, but there were others builders, not only in Glasgow, but outside the central corridor.

I was particularly interested in the bottom bracket detail on the Lindsay of Dundee Scottish made bike, as the same detail was also found on some of the Leach Marathon frames, built by Bill Leach, a London builder. 

I really enjoyed the display of Scottish made machines and I would loved to have tried one or two, just to see how they rode. 

Another bicycle which caught my eye was a pre WW2 Granby. I was able to see it had the frame number stamped into the underside of the fork crown and had the Granby designed rear dropouts. 

More recent developments weren't ignored and there were two cast magnesium Kirk Precision frames there, a complete road bike and the MTB version – frame only. 

Mark Beaumont's Koga Miyata bike that he rode around the world to break the record on was also on display. 

If you are ever in or near Thornhill, the cycle museum at Drumlanrig Castle is well worth a visit.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Another Chapter Closes

It has been a week of sad news for anyone of a certain age in this corner of the world. Cliff Morgan, BBC sports commentator, former Welsh rugby international and Question of Sport team captain passed away. The news was quickly followed by the announcement of the passing of renowned poet and sometimes broadcaster, Seamus Heaney, then broadcaster and writer, Sir David Frost and yesterday, the passing of broadcaster David Jacobs. In the days before 24 hour television broadcasting and multi-channel, terrestial or satellite T.V., broadcasting started about lunchtime and finished around midnight. You had a choice of 3 television channels BBC1, BBC2 or ITV. If you wanted 24 hour broadcasting, you had radio. I knew David Jacobs best from BBC radio. He was the soundtrack of my childhood and early teens, journeys in my father's car, usually on a Saturday. Hearing David Jacobs broadcast on the radio immediately transported me back to those formative years. He was a still tangible link, to times and friends long gone. He was the radio soundtrack of my travelling to the first event of the race calender year, a circuit time trial, usually held on the last Saturday afternoon in February. His voice was as evocative to me, as the whiff of embrocation rubbed into the legs before the race. It just brings the memories flooding back. Unloading the bike in the pub car park. The wheels lifted out first, chrome spokes glinting in the light, then the frame wrapped in a blanket, blanket off and rubber car mats set on the ground to rest the upturned bike on. Wheels put into the frame, hub quick release tension adjusted before closing the levers, bike righted and tubular tyres pumped hard. Bike parked along the car park fence, along with all the others, changing bag with the kit in, collected from the car. Go into the pub, 'Whittley's Tavern', to sign on and collect your race number. Then into the 'changing room', a store at the back of the pub. Chamois cream rubbed into the chamois leather of your wool cycle shorts. Change, remembering to use the clip on braces to hold up your wool shorts, 'Belfast Telegraph' shoved up the front of your club racing jersey to keep out the worst of the cold and wind. Embrocation rubbed into your legs and arms, followed by a covering of olive oil to try and keep out the cold. Help a clubmate fix his race number to his race jersey with safety pins and he does the same for you. Black shorts, club jersey, white socks and 'Pete Salisbury' leather shoes with nailed on T.A. shoeplates on the soles. Clatter out to the toilet 'for a leak' as both nerves and cold are starting to have an effect, then collect your bag and gear and return them to the car. Collect your bike and take it to the scrutineer, brakes and bell, spare tub protectively wrapped and held under the saddle with a toe strap, pump, junior gearing, all correct. Get on the bike and off to the start. Time keeper is Tommy Taylor, and it will be either Jimmy Nichol, Jimmy McBride or Frank Mckeown who will be pushing off. Check the number of the rider waiting to start to see how much time you have and off down the road, in the opposite direction, to warm up. Back up to the start, two minutes to go, rider off, now the one in front and then it's my turn. Bike held, a bit of banter, time keeper studiously watches the stop watch, three.... two.... one.... GO!  A firm shove, turning the gear as fast as I can, as bike gets up to speed. Which way is the wind? Side wind, so no help today and head wind along the third leg. Breathing hard and cold air making the airway ache, I approach that first turn onto a main dual carriageway. The road undulates and is also quite open to the wind for the first quarter mile or so. How far can I get before my minute man catches me? Frustration builds as the cold and wind start to have an effect. Cars speed effortlessly past. Second turn left and now into the head wind. It becomes more of a grind and the seconds just slip past. Third turn and the climb up to the finish. Going as hard as I can, but another rider passes me just to add to the frustration of cold, tiring, muscles. Finish comes into sight at last, but doesn't seem to be getting much closer. It just seems to be a slow dance, then out of the saddle and all out effort for the line. Back to the car, collect my gear and back into the changing room. The shadows are lengthening and the cold is getting more intense. Jersey off and strip to the waist before rubbing down with a dry towel. No showers here. Warm dry clothes eagerly put on, then wipe legs down with a damp cloth, to remove the road dirt and remains of the olive oil, before drying. Finish getting dressed. The feeling of warmth is great. Back to the car, gear stowed, then the bike is dismantled and returned to the car boot. Off to the pub for a cup of hot tea, not old enough yet for the strong stuff. Walk down to the finish to check the results. First time I've ridden this event. Wasn't first, but hey, I wasn't last and I have now got a time to aim to beat next year......
That instant link to happy times is no longer tangible. It has now become a memory like those it formerly brought flooding back. I have a lot to thank David Jacobs for, although I probably didn't appreciate it at the time. His broadcasting touched me in a way that neither he, nor I, would have expected, but he certainly enriched my earlier years. For that I own him many thanks, may he rest in peace.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Rathlin Island

Rathlin Island is a place that I often saw, when on a cycle run as a teenager, from the north coast. It lies 6 miles off the County Antrim coast at Ballycastle. A ferry service runs from town harbour to Church Bay on Rathlin Island. In my younger years the 'ferry' was on open boat on which you were just as likely to encounter livestock, as people. The six mile journey over Rathlin Sound, in an open boat, was not for the faint hearted, through the North Atlantic swell and strong tidal current running through the Sound. I heard enough stories of rough, wet crossings and sea sickness to put me off visiting the island in an open boat. However, a recent visit has shown me how much things have changed. There are now two vessels that operate the ferry service, a fast catamaran for foot passengers and bicycles, with a more conventional vessel for motor vehicles. 

Rathlin Island is relatively unspoilt, and it is only in recent years that the islanders have had electricity. Rathlin Island is around 16 miles from the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland. The island has 3 lighthouses, which reflect the often dangerous sea conditions around the island. The coast is littered with ship wrecks. Strong currents and often deep water make diving a challenging proposition. The wreck of WW1 cruiser HMS Drake lies in Church Bay and the site is marked by a buoy. Marconi transmitted some of his first commercial radio signals from Rathlin's East lighthouse to Ballycastle on 6th July 1898. The RSPB  now has a nature reserve for sea birds on the cliffs at Rue Point, the location of the west lighthouse.

On my recent visit I used the fast ferry and there were a number of bicycles on the vessel. Most were modern aluminium or carbon bikes, but I did see a 1960s five speed French lady's Motoconfort 650B bicycle equipped with a Huret Svelto rear mech on the ferry. 

The island is quite hilly and the roads quite narrow. The route to the west lighthouse at Rue Point is a challenge by bicycle. The traffic is usually light and a short walk or cycle south from Church Bay along the coast road will bring you to the remains of the Kelp House.

The gathering of Kelp was a local industry in the first half of the 20th century, the seaweed being used in the production of iodine. Only the shell of the Kelp house remains as, a visible reminder of this once important industry to the Rathlin islanders. Further along the beach from the Kelp House, the visitor can usually get close to seals resting on the rocks of the foreshore. 

They are unperturbed by the visitor and seem to embody the calmer pace of life on the island on a long summer's day.  The island is well worth a visit and can be reached by National Cycle Network route 93.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

On Cycle Threads

One of the things about working on bicycles are the different threads that you can encounter. Why is it important to know the type and size of thread? Firstly, if you know the type and size of thread, then you know what replacement part you need. Secondly, if you are fortunate enough to be able to afford the tools, then you can often repair damaged threads or clean (chasing) the thread prior to refitting the part. In Britain there used to be different thread standards, B.S.W., B.S.F., B.A., and B.S.C. British Standard Cycle (B.S.C.) replaced the earlier C.E.I - Cycle Engineers Institute who set the standard in Britain for cycle threads up to 1938. The cycle thread angle was 60 degrees, as compared to 55 degrees for B.S.W and the depth of cycle threads were shallower than either B.S.W or B.A.

Grease nipple
Bottom bracket shell
2 BA
Mudguard eyes on dropouts
26 TPI
Retaining bolt for bars
Headclip headset
Retaining bolt for top race
26 TPI
Seat bolt

26 TPI
Front hub axle
British Standard Cycle
26 TPI
Pedal cone thread
British Standard Cycle
Pedal axle
British Standard Cycle L & R I.S.O.
30 TPI
Fork steerer tube
B.S.A. headset
24 TPI
Fork steerer tube
British Standard Cycle I.S.O.
26 TPI
Fork steerer tube
1 3/8”
24 TPI
Bottom bracket
British Standard left & right I.S.O.
1 3/8”
24 TPI
Fixed Sprocket
Thread on rear track hub
1 3/8”
26 TPI
Bottom bracket
Raleigh left & right

The table above gives some of the threads found on older British made steel bikes and the list is not exhaustive. I have marked the ones that are commonly encountered  with the highlighted I.S.O.  Modern bikes tend to use metric thread – M3, M5, M6, M8, M10 along with some of the above. If you are working on French made bikes manufactured before 1980, you are likely to encounter French metric cycle threads. Italian bicycles also use a different metric thread. Tandems often use larger cycle threads than a solo bicycle. Worn tandem headsets on old tandems can be problematic especially if you have a French made tandem.

How do you identify a thread? You can use a Vernier calliper to measure the outside diameter to give you the nominal size and then a thread gauge to measure the threads. The other thing to note is that C.E.I./B.S.C. threaded bolt heads on older bikes usually require a B.S.W. spanner to remove. It is worth arming yourself with a set of Whitworth spanners or wrenches in the smaller sizes for working on old bicycles. A set of metric spanners or wrenches are useful for bicycles made after 1980 and a set of metric allen keys would also be useful. (British bikes from the 1970s tended to use a mixture of imperial and metric hex allen keys bolts just to cause more confusion). Most sets don't include a 7mm hex allen key, but this size was used for the expander bolt on some French made bicycles pre 1980.

Cutting taps and dies in the correct sizes are the tools you will need to repair damaged threads. Metric taps and dies in M3 – M10 are easily available. Buy the best quality you can, use oil or cutting compound and go carefully. A taper tap is best, as it will tend to find the existing threads. Be careful that the tap is square to the hole, so you don't cross thread and end up doing more damage than you set out to repair. If you are not sure, take it to a bike shop that can repair it. British Standard Cycle taps and dies tend to be more expensive as they are less common. Steerer dies, bottom bracket taps, and pedal taps, are specialist cycle workshop or framebuilder tools and are not cheap. They are sold through the cycle trade by specialist cycle tool manufacturers and usually come with the die holder or tap handles. 

British Standard Cycle bottom bracket threads are handed left and right, so you need to know what you are doing. Manufacturers usually sell bottom bracket taps in Italian thread sizes to fit the same handles.On the subject of Italian threads, Campagnolo Gran Sport or Nuovo Record hub thread is a mixture, 9mm or 10mm by 26 TPI as compared to metric 9 x 1 or 10 x 1.  Zeus was another anomaly as the axles and cones were initially Campagnolo copies but the thread was subtly different to Campagnolo. Campagnolo cones would fit the hubs but not on the Zeus axles, so you had to replace this too, if you didn't have the correct Zeus spares!

Where you will struggle, is to get taps and dies in the older steerer and bottom bracket sizes. It is worth visiting auto jumbles, to see if you can pick up some of the tools in the sizes you need, as early motorcycles tended to use cycle thread. Make sure that you know the sizes you need and check the taps or dies you find are sharp. If they are loose in a box, covered in rust and filth, be careful as they more than likely have had the cutting edge knocked off. Taps and dies should be stored in such a way, so as they don't rub together, to preserve the cutting edge. 

The same is true for tapered and parallel reamers. Older taps and dies, if still sharp are good for chasing and repairing damaged threads. Do not try and use them to cut threads where none previously existed. This is a job for a new cutting tap or die which has to be very sharp along with cutting compound.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

The end of the road

A person I know brought his old bicycle to me rather than throw it in the skip. The bike was in 1970s trim and had been repainted black at some stage. 27” x 1 1/4” wheels, short mudguards, dynamo and a mechanical odometer driven off the front wheel which also gave an indication of the speed of the rider. 

The chrome steel rims had reached the end of their useful life, but a cursory glance at the frame seemed to indicate it didn't look too bad, but there was a question about the fork...

The bike was stripped down with patience to the bare frame with all the parts put to one side in a parts bin. It was my intention to have the frame powder coated once it had been checked for track. However, during the stripping down, it became obvious the bike had been hit at the front end. Close examinaton revealed the down tube was bent a not far from the head lug. 

It was also obvious once the headset was removed that the front fork steerer tube was bent above the fork crown and the fork blades had also bent as the wheel twisted in the fork (see above). As the frame is steel, it didn't break and in theory, the frame is repairable. However, the frame tubing is Hi-ten and the residual value of the bike makes it uneconomic to repair. I had to break the news to the owner this afternoon. It should be possible to source a replacement of similar vintage, in good condition for him and at less cost if he wants. It is a straightforward job to clean and refit the dynamo, mudguards and speedometer. So what to do with the damaged frame? It has been moved to the 'donor' pile. It can now have a further life as a source of parts to repair other frames.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Frame numbering

One of the most frequent postings on web forums by people who are starting to collect bikes is 'can anyone identify my bike or frame?'  The easiest route to possible identification is find the frame number.   It sounds simple enough, but it is made a lot easier if you know where to look.   Volume bicycle manufacturers like Raleigh tended to use the seat lug, as in this 1925 Raleigh roadster.

The size and font of the numbering could also change over time as illustrated in the Raleigh Moulton frame number, although the location of the frame number was the same.  

One caveat about Raleigh frame number information on the web. Sheldon Brown is quite accurate on Raleigh frame numbering, except where he supposes about Irish Raleigh production. His information is simply incorrect. As it was posted 'on the internet', it is assumed by many, as an incontrovertible truth, when it is not. Sheldon's pages were a work in progress. Unfortunately, this all came to a halt, on his untimely passing. I will blog accurate information on Dublin Raleigh frame numbers using known examples at a future date.  Raleigh have also used the back of the seat tube, either below the seat lug, or above the bottom bracket, the underside of the bottom bracket shell and rear dropout as location of frame number.  Some of these locations were used for 'badge engineered' Raleigh production.  As mentioned above, the style of font used in the sequential frame number changed over time and the example below was found on a 1920s British roadster.  

Other British bicycle manufacturers used either the seat lug or a rear dropout. BSA sports frames tended to have the frame number on the left rear dropout. 

Hercules in the 1950s also used the left rear dropout and used a different font to BSA. 

Sunbeam during it's time of ownership by AMC used the right hand rear dropout on some models. 

Bespoke custom frame builders in Britain used various locations to install a frame number. Unusually, some builders put their frame numbers on the bottom bracket shell at the down tube lug. 

Others stamped the underside of the fork crown. It was not unknown to have the frame number on both the frame and fork. 

Often the frame number was stamped on the fork steerer tube as well. 

However, easily the most common location for a frame number was the underside of the bottom bracket shell. 

The number was usually stamped in line with the axle, or at right angles to the crank axle and parallel to one on the bottom bracket cups.  Imported Peugeot bikes from the late 1970s/early 1980s had a frame number stamped into the bottom bracket shell which was parallel to one of the bottom bracket cups. Peugeot also had a paper identifier covered in clear vinyl wich identifies the model, frame size and sequential frame number. 

The location varied between the underside of the bottom bracket, bottom of the seat tube above the bottom bracket shell, or on the left hand chainstay.

The model numbers appear to be slightly different according to the country of sale. Gitane put their frame number on the left rear dropout of their tandems. The sequential frame number is on the bottom part of the dropout and the year identifier above. 

A further complication and a bit of a red herring can be a re-finisher's number. 

Frames were often stamped by a re-finisher before being enamelled to make sure the right frame and fork were returned. These are usually 3 digit numbers and can confuse as they are on both frame and fork.

Once you have located the frame number, the process of trying to indentify  the machine that you have found can begin. Finding the frame number can be difficult if it is only lightly stamped, or been damaged on a rear droput, or covered up with paint. Some small bespoke frame builders didn't bother with a frame number. Late 1980s volume manufacturer (Londonderry built) Viking 531 frames also don't appear to have been given frame numbers. I have also found 1990s examples of Dawes 531 frames with the same problem. Finally, another recent phenomenon which can add to the confusion is post code stamping of a bike frame to try to deter theft and ensure the frame is returnable to it's owner. These are usually 7 digits, usually two letters, three numbers and two letters. They tend to be stamped where they can be easily found, so keep looking to see if there are any others!