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Bert Has Issues (LGRAB Summer Games post 2)

Bert Has Issues (LGRAB Summer Games post 2)

Today I’m blogging about performing a maintenance task as part of the Learning Experiences section of the LGRAB Summer Games.


Sometimes fixing a small problem makes you realize you have a larger one.
Remember this little issue with Bert, the 1976 Canadian-built Raleigh 3-speed?
Well, it turned out that what you see there is a Sturmey-Archer cable attachment that leads to the Sturmey-Archer 3-speed trigger shifter, and a Shimano bit (actually called a bell crank) that attaches to the 3-speed hub. Previously, I took Bert to my local bike kitchen (EBC’s Bikeworks) in search of answers, and with the help of Alex we figured out how to solve it, and Alex helpfully macgyvered a Shimano attachment onto the end of the Sturmey shifter cable. So far, so good, but we couldn’t adjust the 3-speed once attached because the bottom bracket was way too stiff. Come back another day and we’ll repack it, he said. It should only take 30 minutes. (Cue rueful chuckles.)
So yesterday we returned to EBC, and Coreen was a goddess of grace and good humour as she walked me through the 10-step process of repacking the bottom bracket:
1. Carefully remove the R nuts and washers from the cotter pins.
2. Use a press to remove the crank-side cotter pin: or in my case, bend it at a strange angle then snap the threaded end off. Then, use a chisel and a mallet to, instead of firmly and in a single stroke removing the broken cotter pin, flatten the end that used to have threads on it so that nobody will ever be able to remove it. Yes, it’s still there. Suggestions for fixing it will be welcomed in the comments. Lesson learned: cotter pins are definitely made of softer metal than steel, and the press absolutely must be aligned correctly at the start, or you’re boned.
3. Having utterly shattered your confidence, get the goddess of grace and good humour to remove the second cotter pin. Huzzah! It came out unscathed and can even be reused! Pull the pedal off, and marvel at how much grit is in the place where it attached. Clean with a rag and some Simple Green degreaser.
4. Carefully disassemble the next two parts, which are called the lockring and the cup. This part is complicated by the 16mm bottom bracket wrench being a fraction of a millimetre too big. Try not to drop all the ball bearings on the floor when the cup comes out of the bottom bracket. Pick up the ball bearings and count them. Wonder whether any of the ball bearings you picked up were there before you started work.
5. Take a look at the cup, and the bottom bracket. In my case, what I saw were matching rings of white. waxy, almost plastic, goop on both the cup and the bottom bracket – that must be what the original factory grease turns into after nearly 40 years without being cleaned or changed. I wish I had taken a photo of it. It chipped off easily using a combination of an old spoke, an old tootbrush, and my fingernail. There was also some brown debris (a mixture of rust flakes and dirt, I think) inside the bottom bracket, but there was surprisingly little of it.
6. Carefully clean out the cup and the bottom bracket. A rag, a toothbrush, a single spray of WD40, and some more Simple Green did the trick. Since we couldn’t remove the cup and bearings on the other side, we just did the best we could to flush it out then dry it off. Have your helpful god or goddess of maintenance work check to make sure that your cup isn’t too pitted to reuse.
7. Add new grease. Coreen handed me a tub of greenish goop from Park Tools, and I glommed it into the bottom bracket a fingerful at a time, then used an old spoke to push it to the other end in hopes that it would work its way into the bearings I couldn’t get at (thanks to the busted cotter pin from step 2). Once I was satisfied that I had filled the bottom bracket, I totally filled the cup with the green stuff, then carefully added new quarter-inch ball bearings in a circle around the edge. Only 11 fit. 11? Check with goddess that it’s not supposed to be 12 (the number picked up from the floor). OK, you’re good to go.
8. At this point, if you have been as generous as I was with the green stuff, your god or goddess of maintenance work will deftly swipe some out of the bottom bracket and some more out of the middle of the cup, set the cup in place, and hand you the wrench for reassembly.
9. Screw the cup back into place. Try not to strip it in the process since, as noted in step 4, the wrench doesn’t fit quite right. Do not, as I did, tighten it all the way, forcing the god or goddess of maintenance work to use a well-placed mallet strike to help with untightening. (If it’s tightened all the way the movement of the pedals will be too stiff, the ball bearings will get malformed, and you’ll have re-repack the bottom bracket.)
10. Next the lockring goes back on, then the pedal, then the cotter pin. Take care to make sure the pedals make a straight line. Oh, bugger, they don’t make a perfectly straight line; it’s off by a couple of degrees. Confer with Coreen before making the cotter pin permanent; decide that the broken cotter pin on the other side is to blame for the misalignment, and we can live with it for now. Use press to reinstall cotter pin, and cap with washer and R nut.
See the green stuff oozing out around the crank? That’s evidence of a job well done.
OK, so the bottom bracket is repacked, and as I turn the pedals the movement gets looser and faster. Yay! It worked! And it really wasn’t all that hard to do. Especially with expert help. I even think I could do it without help next time – or with just Sheldon Brown’s guidance.
Next we turn our attention to the chain, which seems a little loose. Well, is it too loose? Let’s install the chainguard I bought online and see if the chain rubs…

Oh, it rubs, alright. Furthermore, the notes from the seller indicate that this Z-bracket is supposed to attach to a braze-on that isn’t on this bike, so we’ll probably have to macgyver something for that so it doesn’t rattle or rub.
Well, Coreen suggests that maybe it rubs because the rear wheel is too far forward in the drop-outs. Let’s take it out of the drop-outs. Oh, isn’t this interesting! This wheel is too narrow for the dropouts! (Well, of course it is. It has a Shimano hub instead of the Sturmey it should have.) We need to find a couple of washers to add on either side of the axle to make it fit better.
Once correct washers have been found in the big-bin-of-miscellaneous-washers, and new nuts too to replace the ones that are rounded off,  reassemble the parts in the right order on the axle, then try it for size. It fits! Now have the god or goddess of maintenance work help you figure out how to put it on the correct way, with the chain attached – you might need that chain to make the bike move. 
Aaaand… the chain is still too long. And you’ve been at it for hours, and it’s time to go home and have supper. Sigh.
So here’s what’s still to do on my next visit to EBC:
Shorten the chain. On a previous visit to EBC, Molly taught me how to break a chain, so I should be able to do this without help.
Reattach and adjust the 3-speed, assuming the Sturmey shifter will play nice with the Shimano hub. In the likely event that they won’t cooperate with each other, replace either the stupid back wheel with the wrong hub in it (the proper restoration and probably what would actually fix all the fit issues) or the shifter (a less expensive option that may or may not work correctly).
– Drill a hole and wire the chainguard into place at the top; epoxy the Z-bracket onto the bottom; manhandle to get it to stop scraping against the chain. If this doesn’t work, give up and remove chainguard, and resume looking for suitable replacement chainguard.
– Remove nuts on front fork and attach stays to half-installed Wald front basket.
Lemon-and-aluminum treatment of all rusty spots, then wax or clearcoat them, plus the bottom of the bottom bracket where I noticed the paint has chipped off the steel when I was cleaning it.
– Oh, and do something about that cursed cotter pin.
So why is this old bike worth so much effort? Well, first of all, there’s having a bombproof bike at the end of the process that will serve me and my family well, and likely survive another 40 years or more. These old three-speed steel bikes were built to last with minimal maintenance. There’s also the satisfaction and self-confidence that comes with making or fixing something with your own hands, and the practical skills your learn in the process. However, I also have more philosophical reasons to fix up my bikes myself: knowing how my bike works will make me enjoy riding it even more, and I’m teaching my kids by example that it is better to repair and reuse things than replace them. That’s surely worth the trouble!
Racks & Cotter Pins / Is Mary actually from ’66?

Racks & Cotter Pins / Is Mary actually from ’66?

The weather is turning cold here, so I’ve been concentrating on continuing the cleanup and adding bits to make Mary more useful. I’m still awaiting some things I’ve bought through eBay (the damaged seat I’m going to scavenge for springs, the pump, the front brakes, a little saddle bag to use for now). Meanwhile, I’ve been gradually cleaning the chrome, and I’ve added a bell (one of the Lime ones, for now, because I like the sound) and a couple of blinky-LED reflectors.

The really big challenge for me, since I want to use the bike for runs to the grocery store, is that modern rear racks are not sized correctly for her 28″ wheels, and that vintage racks that would fit are relatively rare. This would also pose a problem if I wanted to mount a child seat (like, say, the cunning ones from Bobike) on the back for doing the school run. Still mulling over how to address this issue. If off-the-shelf extenders don’t exist, the answer might involve asking my dad (an amateur machinist) and father-in-law (a professional machinist) for their help in creating a custom part to secure everything properly.

If only I could just order from one of these old catalogues. Time-travel shopping would be awesome.

[Update: After much consideration, I’ve ordered an NOS-with-attachment-parts Pletscher-style chrome rack, made in the UK by Steco, via eBay, that should fit. I’ll mount a wooden box or milk crate on top of that. Child seats will just have to go on a different bike with 26″ wheels.]

It also turns out I shouldn’t ride her for now, since one of the cotter pins (they hold the pedal cranks in place) is missing its nut, and riding it without a nut could deform the cotter pin or the crank, according to Sheldon Brown’s advice. So, that nut needs replacing before I get back on it (Thanks to Thom and his readers for advice on this over at OldBikeBlog!). The gals at Edmonton Bicycle Commuters helpfully gave me a new cotter pin with nut and washer today, but the nut won’t screw on far enough – I haven’t sorted out yet whether that’s because the pin has worked a bit loose, or because the nut isn’t the correct thread for Raleigh-made cotter pins. I do notice that the nut on the other side isn’t screwed on all the way either. I may need to replace the entire cotterpin-washer-nut assembly, or just reset the existing cotter pins. More on this soon.

I’ve also done a little work on my daughter’s bike: blew up the flattened tires; tried to replace the handlebar grips, but the replacements were too narrow, so instead I put the old ones back on and capped them with wine corks, trimmed to fit, then drilled to accept glued-in tassels (so cute, and super-easy); and added a basket on the front, and a lei of fabric flowers in the same lilac as the paint wrapped around the tube under the seat. I also installed a bell on my son’s trike, and we’ve gotten him a new helmet since he’d outgrown his old one. It has Lightning McQueen on it. He’s four, so he thinks that’s all kinds of awesome.

In other news:

If the estimates on The Headbadge are correct, the serial number on the frame *might* tell me something! It appears that my 7-digit numerical serial number may mean my frame was numbered using “System 196X”, and a 7-digit number starting with 3 (like mine, 3464230) would date the frame’s manufacture to 1972. However, Jay also says there were other numbering systems used from the early 60s to early 70s, with duplicate numbers in some of them, and they haven’t all been worked out. So, let’s look at what other information we have from the bike.

– Mary has an 11 6 (Nov 1966)-dated Sturmey-Archer SC hub (made from 1963-1978). It’s definitely an 11 and not a 71 – one of these days I’ll get a decent photo of it, or do a rubbing, or something. Images and instructions for the SC hub can be found on pages 28-30 of this 1973-dated Sturmey-Archer catalogue (PDF).

 Now *that* is bike pron.

– The pedals are associated with a Raleigh model (the Chopper) introduced to market in 1969, in an oval style introduced in about 1967 – but could easily have been switched later.

– The spoking of my wheels is 32 front, 40 rear (Sheldon Brown puts that at pre-1973).

– Most of the parts, including the loop-frame, are in a Raleigh catalogue dating to 1963 (see my previous post for the link and a complete-ish list). Sadly the corresponding 1973 catalogue is a dead link right now.

– The chainwheel and an oval all-rubber pedal, but not forks or frame, are found in a Phillips fitments catalogue dating to late 1960s (PDF).

– Similar vinyl saddles, but not in the blue-and-white colour combination, are still being sold in a Brooks/Wright catalogue dating to 1973 (PDF).

– Forks for 28″ wheels sold in a 1966-67 Phillips price list (PDF). However, pricing is not given for 28″ forks or 28″ hockey-stick chainguards in Raleigh or Phillips 1971 parts price lists (PDFs) – so this definitely puts the frame at pre-1971.

– The only other thing that might help date the bike is the style of its decals. Can anyone suggest an archive of decals to compare with?

So taken together, I still think the evidence (especially the 28″ wheels) points to this bike being from the late 1960s, not the early 1970s. What do you think? Anything else I should look at?