Thursday, 29 January 2009

The differences between pre & post war bicycles

During the pre war years many bicycle manufacturers cut costs by enameling parts such as stems, crank sets & handlebars etc as the cost of getting these parts plated added to the total cost of the model and most customers did not have a lot of money to spend on a bicycle at the time. For most customers the bicycle was a necessity as they needed transport to get to and from work and therefore did not require anything fancy. After the war was over restrictions on manufacturers were lifted by the government and only then did models appear with chrome plated cranks, stems, handlebars etc. The two advertising pictures above show the differences between the Humber sports of the 1930s & the later 1947 model. According to my father who purchased his Humber sports in 1947 it was one of the 1st batch of bicycles to arrive in New Zealand from the UK with chrome plated components. Also during the 1st world war many bicycles were produced with all the components enameled black including rims etc as per the 1910 BSA pictured above.

Humber Cycling Musette

What is a Musette ?

A musette is a classic style cotton shoulder bag and in the cycling world they are often referred to as a feed bag. They commonly seen in long distance tours such as the Tour De France with the sponsors logo printed on the bag.

The musette is an open top bag that is worn over the shoulder and is used to carry snacks for cycling, I decided last year that a Humber musette would look pretty good so I set about to get one made. First I decided on the logo in this case the Humber logo and then I purchased some natural cotton and some matching cotton ribbon and approached the local monogram shop to have the logo stitched onto the cotton. Then I had a friend sew the bag up and they placed a magnetic button on the inside at the top to prevent it coming open when cycling. This is the perfect bag for short trips to the shops or a causal spin around town as its large enough for a wallet,camera & even some food.

If you are interested in buying a musette the following website has a great selection of classic musettes with various cycling designs

Pictured above is the completed Humber Musette

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Restoration tips - finding old parts

Well usually when undertaking a restoration you will come across some parts that are worn out, broken etc and if that is the case you will need to find a replacement of the exact same type etc. This is were things can take time as it is not always easy to find replacement parts for an older restoration. But if you have patience & are willing to wait eventually you will be able to come across the part you require. Of course these days you can always search internet auctions such as E-Bay and if you are restoring a British bike you may want to check out as that is where you are most likely to find the type of part you are looking for etc. But one of the bad points with buying from online auctions is that quite often the seller has no knowledge of the product they are selling and it may be advertised incorrectly. Also because its an auction the price will end up a lot higher than the true value of what it is worth, in the end it comes down to how much someone is willing to pay for it. Another good source for old parts are other like minded collectors who might be willing to help you out with the part you require at a reasonable cost or visit the older established bicycle shops in your area as sometimes shops have NOS ( New Old Stock ) parts gathering dust on a shelf out the back which they would be happy selling. Sometimes antique or 2nd hand stores may have old bicycle parts, but be weary of over priced items and if you feel it is too expensive make them an offer as they may be keen to get rid of something that has been sitting in the shop for years. On a final note there are a few online stores who are dealing in hard to find bicycle parts such as http: // where the proprietor Tim Gunn stocks a vast array of hard to find parts to complete your restoration. The steel mudguards for my Humber came from the shop mentioned above as the original ones were damaged.

Happy hunting

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Restoration tips - Chrome & Nickel plating

Most older bicycles have some form of plating be it chrome or nickel . Most pre 1920s bicycles would have had nickel plating but some research from old bicycle catalogs will soon tell you what type of plating your bicycle had and it will then allow you to get it re plated in either nickel or chrome correct to the period.

As in re painting a bicycle frame you can also save money on getting parts plated. Although most people can not re plate parts themselves you can save money on cleaning the parts prior to being re plated. This like stripping a bicycle frame with paint stripper yourself takes a lot of time and is a rather dirty job, but with the right tools it is possible. If you intend to clean up old parts for plating you will need to invest in a electric drill or angle grinder and then fit it with a wire brush suitable for the removal of flaked plating plus you will need protective safety glasses and gloves.

If possible mount the part to be cleaned in a vice and start removing the plating with your wire brush attached to the drill or grinder prior to using any electric tools you made be able to remove some of the flaked plating with a wire brush or sandpaper etc. If you are not keen to undertake this job yourself you can save a lot of time by getting the parts sandblasted instead. For a good quality finish all parts will need to be perfectly smooth for the plater to achieve good results. If you are unable to clean all the old plating off the plating company will undertake this job and that cost will be added to the final price of the parts.

As with my 1947 Humber sports pictured above the handle bars were badly rusted and were sandblasted before being re chromed with the remainder of the parts such as the seat post, stem & cranks being hand polished with a rust remover and finally chrome polish. In time the plating on the bars will age to match the remainder of the original plating. Always try cleaning old plating first as it may be possible to remove rust and polish it rather than spending the time & money on getting parts re plated but this of course depends on what type of restoration you are undertaking.

Please note if you are cleaning old plating do not use any coarse wire brushes etc as these will only damage the plating instead soft wife brushes, kitchen pot scrubs, toothbrushes etc are the best option for obtaining good results

Friday, 16 January 2009

Restoration tips - painting

As explained in my last post there are two types of general restorations and the following information can be used to help you in any type of restoration.

Painting - If you have decided for whatever reason to repaint the bicycle in question there are several ways to go about it which I will now explain.

Option 1. This method is the cheapest but requires a lot of time and manual labor to achieve a good result, first strip the bike down to its bare frame minus all parts e.g headset & BB etc then if you really want to save money go to your local hardware store and buy a suitable strong gel based paint stripper and a cheap 2 inch paint brush. Then place the frame on an old sheet on the floor or you can hang it from something and apply the paint stripper. Please note paint strippers have strong fumes & if you happen to get it on bare skin it will burn so please work in a ventilated area and wear gloves and a mask. Depending on the type of paint you are removing , some old frames have extremely hard baked enamel of several layers and it will take several costs of stripper to remove everything. A small box knife and metal putty knife will come in handy to help remove stubborn paint around lugs etc and one you have cleaned most of the paint of the frame a soft wife brush can be used to clean up difficult areas and then you can finish the frame off by sanding it down with some fine metal emery paper to give a smooth finish. Mineral turpentine can be used to clean up the frame in between sanding and one you are happy with the bare frame you can then get it painted. If you are still intent to save money go back to the local hardware store and purchase and good quality metal primer in a color that is easy to see as there are some clear coat primers around now which in my view are not suitable for bicycle repainting. Once you have primed the frame in at least two coats then choose the top coat of enamel you wish to use & give it several coats leaving it to dry in between each cost. If possible you will have saved some samples of the original paint to give you an idea of the top coat color. If you are unsure check another bicycle of the same model if possible or ask other bicycle collectors online etc. As you can see this option requires a lot of work but the satisfaction of totally stripping & repainting your own frame is worth it if you have time and wish to save money.

Option 2. Is a lot quicker and more expensive, if you want to save time of manually stripping the frame yourself as explained above you could get it sandblasted by a local headstone maker as they use sandblasting to cut letters into headstones and some plating companies can do this for you as well. One thing to be very careful of is the pressure of the sandblaster as if your frame is very old or has very light gauge tubing it may be damaged by sandblasting it at a high pressure. If there is a professional car restorer they will know best how to sandblast your frame. This can save weeks of work and leaves your frame spotless and ready to paint.

After receiving your frame back from the sandblaster you can then search out someone to repaint your frame. When I lived back in NZ the only option in my village was the local car body shop which did a pretty good job of re painting. But if you can find a professional bicycle painter that is the best option, before getting your frame painted by someone ask around to get opinions from others who have used the painter in question and if possible take a look at their work as well. Also it will be of great help to the painter to provide color samples of the original paint so it can be matched correctly.

So as you can see getting your frame painted does not have to be expensive at all if you have the time and like the satisfaction of doing the job yourself or just pay someone else to do all the hard work as in option 2. above.

Pictured above is two photos of the topics covered in this post

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Restoration tips

As there is not a lot of cycling to be done at the moment I thought I would write some restoration tips for anyone starting a project over winter. These tips are based on previous restoration projects dating back to when I first started restoring bicycles in the late 1980s. Now we are most fortunate to have the digital camera and one of the first things I would suggest is to take several photos including some close up shots of transfers etc so when it comes to putting the bike back together you at least have a guide as to what the finished bike should look like etc. After carefully stripping the bike down and cleaning the necessary parts it is a great idea to put the parts in labeled plastic bags so they are easy to find latter. After stripping the bike down you really need to decide what type of restoration you will be undertaking e.g

Full restoration - Which would include sandblasting the frame & checking for cracks in the tubing,repainting the frame in the correct color, re nickel or re chroming the appropriate parts - the most expensive restoration option but will give you a show room finish.

Refurbishment restoration - Any parts that are broken need to be replaced with NOS period correct parts, new tyres & tubes , cables etc. Note if the frame has a nice patina and the original transfers it is better to just polish the frame ( This is what I have done with the Humber sports )- a cheaper restoration option that will look like it has never been restored , just well used.

The next question to be decided on is what kind of use will the bicycle have, this is a main factor in what type of restoration you will undertake. For example will you be displaying it or riding it often, short day trips or multi day tours etc.

The other main factors which will help you decide on what type of restoration you will undertake are the following:

Money - How much are you prepared to spend in restoring your bicycle

Time - Will you do the majority of the work yourself , some restoration projects can take a long time to complete

Value - What is the value of the bike you wish to restore , not just the monetary value e.g historical value or family heirloom etc

In my view bicycles were meant to be ridden so they should be in working condition at least and reliable enough to take on a day ride without fear of it breaking down.

Pictured above are two examples of a Full restoration and a Refurbishment restoration