Monday, 26 February 2007
Restoration it's easy if you know how
When most people think of restoring a bicycle they think it involves a lot of time and money, well it can be if you want a repainted, re chromed showroom quality bicycle that you'll be to scared to take on a ride in case it gets scratched etc. In saying that fully restored bicycles can look fantastic but first you must consider what you actually want to do with the bicycle once it's restored. Do you want to display it or do you want to get out and ride it. In this post I'll cover the methods of restoring a bicycle that you can use as your everyday means of transport. I've been restoring bicycles since early 1990s and over the years I've developed some good methods of restoration , first of all it depends on what you start with of course. If you happen to find a nice early bicycle say a 1903 BSA racing bike that is in bad condition but a good example it's worth spending the time to fully restore it. Which may involve sandblasting the frame or using paint stripper to bring back the frame to bare metal as in a bicycle of this age it's necessary to take the frame back to bare metal to check for cracks that may render the bicycle too dangerous to ride. Image the horror of flying down a long decent only to find the head tube or bottom bracket part with the rest of the frame because you didn't realise it was cracked under the baked enamel and the results of that having an accident like that may render you unable to ride again. So after cleaning the frame back to bare metal and once you have considered it safe and sound then it needs to be re painted . You can undertake this yourself with spray cans ( don't paint it when it's windy as you'll suffer abuse from the next door neighbour who has just hung out their washing ) or take it to your local car body shop and find a suitable color that matches the paint you took off it. Once it's painted and the remainder of the parts cleaned of excess grease and polished then you can re assemble it, you will need new ball bearings for the hubs, headset and bottom bracket etc but in some cases the old ball bearings may still be of use. In re fitting the parts to the bike you can now decide if you want to re chrome or re nickel any of the parts ( remember don't re chrome parts for a pre 1930s bicycle as most bicycles leading up to the 1930s had nickel plated parts and it's the sign of a bad restoration, also chrome looks really bad on an early period bicycle and it's the first thing other collectors will tell you when they see your finished bicycle ) . Some parts look great without getting them re plated at all , but if you are going to re paint the frame you might as well have everything looking as new, this can add to the total cost of the restoration but if you do most of the work yourself you can keep the price down. Don't be in a rush to restore a bicycle , do some research and try and find a bicycle catalogue showing your bike which will help you determine if it has the correct parts or not and then you can hunt around junk yards, old bicycle shops , E bay and ask other bicycle collectors for the correct period parts that you'll need to finish your project. In the case of my current restoration ( 1947 Humber sports ) the baked enamel has plenty of chips and in some cases bare metal but the remainder of the paint looks great and it's original which is what I like about it and it has the original shop transfer which I would lose if it were re painted . Also with this restoration I'm trying to make the Humber look like it was well looked after rather than restored and the only tell tale signs of it being restored are the new spokes ( the old ones were badly rusted and unsafe ) , new tyres and tubes ( the original Dunlop NZ tyres were too cracked to use and unsafe for long distance cycling ) . Apart from those new items the remainder of the parts that have been fitted to it are old parts from the 1950s with flaked chrome and chipped paint as they match the rest of the bike. The picture in this post is of a mid period bicycle which would be perfect for restoring as it looks to have all it's parts. So if you happen to find a nice old bicycle to restore , take your time researching and restoring it as it will be well worth the effort once it's finished and something you'll be proud to ride.