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Proofide and Upgrades for Eliza and Bert

Proofide and Upgrades for Eliza and Bert

Eliza Doolittle (the rod-brake ’78 Raleigh DL-1 that used to be Fiona’s) came to me with a Brooks B-66 saddle. Then I scored a ridiculous deal on a vintage B-66-S on eBay, which I installed on Eliza, and Bert inherited the B-66. So we now have two vintage Brooks saddles, one of them almost as old as I am, that are a bit dry and stiff, but seem to be in great shape (little surface cracking), despite their age and unknown maintenance history. I thought it would be best if I gave them some love.

Eliza’s new-to-her vintage B-66-S before treatment.
The 1978 B-66 that’s now on Bert. Poor thing probably hasn’t seen Proofide since the factory. 

I know there’s a perennial discussion going about alternatives to using Brooks’ Proofide product to condition and waterproof saddles. Everyone from Sheldon Brown to the guys at BikeForums.net have weighed in at some point on it. The neetsfoot oil used to soften baseball gloves is often suggested instead, particularly for reconditioning older leather that has dried out, but some think it can make the leather too soft and ruin the saddle. My feeling was, in this case, using something other than the saddle goop recommended by the original manufacturer might be false economy, so why overthink it, especially when I can easily buy it at my favourite LBS for less than twenty bucks? (However, vegetarians take note: if you’ve decided to use an existing leather saddle, you’ll want to research the alternative products that are available, since one of the main ingredients of Proofide is, um, beef tallow.)

This is how much Proofide I was told I should use. 
Like the old Brylcreem ad says, a little dab will do ya…

…unless your saddle is as ancient and neglected as mine were. Here is the B66S gooped up with about four times that amount, spread in a super thin layer all over. Immediately after spreading the goo (it feels just like hair wax, too) and taking this photo, I wiped off the excess with my rag.

Here’s what it looked like immediately after I wiped the excess off (still a bit shiny). If you look at the cloth on the rack, the slightly discoloured part was used to wipe. After taking this photo I went in with a corner of the rag to get the little globs on the edges of the holes. At the advice of the guys from redbike, I only did the top, not the underside (apparently the underside is only needed if you don’t have fenders.).

And here is Bert’s B66 gooped up with six times that fingertip amount – it was thirsty! After taking this photo, I wiped the excess off, then redid the driest bits with another two fingertips’ worth.

This is how much was used out of a 40 gram tin – the smaller 25 gram tin would have done me just fine. I think 40 grams might be a lifetime supply, if the stuff doesn’t go rancid.

Here is Bert’s saddle when I was all done.

Here’s a detail of one of the driest parts of the saddle after treatment – you can see that the surface of the leather had started to crack and flake a bit, and it’s rough enough that it was pulling tiny threads from my wiping rag – but feeling much smoother and looking better now.

The nose of the saddle was the other especially dry bit that got a second application of Proofide. I also noticed that the saddle looks like it may need retensioning, so I’ll get the guys at redbike to do that for me soon.

The chain on Bert was looking pretty cruddy and a bit rusty in spots, so I decided to apply some lube next. One generous drop per link, on the little roller in the middle (whatever it’s called), then wiping off the excess with an absorbent cloth.

The oil I used, bought at MEC, feels like veggie oil, because it pretty much is veggie oil. Since its purchase I’ve learnt that this stuff gets brutally sticky in our climate, and catches all kinds of road gunge, in addition to being best for the warmest temps – but since I’ll only be riding Bert with the trailer bike attached on the neighborhood sidewalks with my kids during the good weather, I might as well use it up.

The chain looked much better, and the rag looked much worse, when I was finished, and my hands were nicely moisturized from the veggie oil. …I guess the next job will be to clean all Bert’s little rust spots and carefully apply some wax or clearcoat.

Lookin’ pretty good, Bert.

Since I last griped about Bert, the correct Shimano shifter has been found and installed, the rear wheel has been pulled back so the chain isn’t too loose, and the Wald rack and a Crane bell have been installed, with the expert help of both Coreen and Keith at EBC. I’m still figuring out the little chainguard rub and trying to decide if the handling only feels squirrelly when the trailer bike is on it or if the headset needs attention or what. But all in all I feel pretty good that I’ve at least been in the room watching and taking mental notes and that I’ve gotten my hands good and dirty getting Bert to the point where he’s useable, even if my husband never ends up riding the darn thing. 

Eliza just came home this afternoon from a holiday at redbike with her new Steco rack with integrated kickstand (ordered online through the legendary David Hembrow‘s Dutch Bike Bits, because redbike couldn’t special order it through their suppliers), and the same kind of rear light that Pashleys have installed. They also tightened the tension bolt in the vintage Brooks B66S for me because they noticed the leather was practically touching the rails. Thanks guys!!

I also upgraded Eliza with my vintage chromed Miller bell, which used to be on Mary Poppins. (The little bell that came with Eliza got inherited by Audrey’s balance bike.)

A clear plastic shower cap will make a handy rain cover for the saddle until I can get something cuter.

Next I needed to install my antique quarter-sawn oak egg crate, to complete Eliza’s transformation into Super Grocery Bike. I carefully lined everything up so the crate is centred and the screws for the homemade clamp have lots of clearance. The back edge of the crate is just off the rack to give me the most possible butt clearance for riding comfort.


View of my home-made clamp from the top.

 

I tightened up the thumbscrews and voila! This is super sturdy and ready to carry a fairly heavy load.

 
The egg crate is now solidly clamped onto the rear rack.
Eliza is looking so useful and beautiful and timeless!
 
About a half hour after Proofide application, the saddle is looking much less shiny. 
I’ll still wait overnight before I take it for a spin.

As a finishing touch, I added fabric flowers to her front basket (I had these on the egg crate last year).
 
Eliza’s ready for her first grocery run!

PS: This post is part of our series for the LGRAB 2011 Summer Games! This is a “perform a maintenance task on your bike” post.
A Deelite-ful Balance Bike

A Deelite-ful Balance Bike

Remember the adorable little mid-70s banana-seat Deelite that was going to take so much work to make roadworthy? A couple of Sundays ago, we took it in to EBC and turned it into a balance bike, with Coreen’s supervision. The genius of this plan is that it means no need to repack the bottom bracket or fix the coaster hub – and that it will help Audrey with her rocky transition from 16 inch wheels with training wheels attached to 20 inch wheels and no training wheels. Once she’s done we’ll give the banana seat a makeover to make it less girly, and it will become Dom’s.

As found. 
Much to my surprise none of the nuts that had to be removed from the cotter pins, chain adjusters, or axles were seized. We used a cotter pin press to remove the pins without incident, pulled the pedal cranks off, then broke the chain. Here’s what I saw when I pulled out the axle:

Coreen: “Wow, that bottom bracket looks even worse than Poplar’s!” I doubt that somehow, but it is pretty dessicated, and when I smushed the rusty granular goop together in my hand it was the consistency of that sticky putty you use when you install a toilet. That is not how grease should feel.

After cleaning the bottom bracket out, I smeared a little Phil Woods goop in there to help keep it from rusting, then put the cups back in place. Those two holes you see above mean a pin spanner is required for the job of screwing and unscrewing the cup from the threaded bottom bracket, in addition to the bottom bracket wrench with three prongs for the outer ring. Yeah, I had never heard of a pin spanner before either.
All done for the day. As you can see we also removed that rattly front fender, which involved taking the front wheel off entirely.

Best helper ever.

Leftover parts, minus a few ball bearings.

Yesterday I finished the job by changing both inner tubes, since neither of the old ones were holding any air, inspecting the rear tire that supposedly needed replacement (looks okay now that it won’t be a braking surface), and resecuring the no-longer-needed chain adjusters. I’ll have to get Coreen or Keith to take a look at the front forks, since I had to be really careful in placing the wheel back in there to find a position where it didn’t rub as it turned – I think something must be bent to be causing that – but it’s working okay for now and will fulfill its’ immediate purpose.

And here it is in use! We fancied it up a little with a plastic front basket and some NOS Milton plastic streamers I found on eBay. Audrey is doing great on it – she says it feels really weird to be not pedalling – and in a few short days I think she’ll have enough confidence to graduate to her big-girl bike. She’s already working on building up a little speed and seeing how far she can coast without putting her feet down.

PS: Oh look, our heroes at Chicargobike have already posted a summary of balance bike history and make-it-yourself instructions.

How do you do….Bike Storage?

How do you do….Bike Storage?

Where the “Second Car” ought to be. (yay no 2nd car!)

It’s spring cleaning time and I’ve decided to tackle the garage first. Mostly because the bulk of my “possessions” (not clothing, books, or kid things) are in the garage….aka, my lovely bikes 🙂

 

(See: Ella, Daisy, Galaxie, Gino (which is actually a long term loaner to the Hubs, but he still counts), and Free Loading Bike (a mountain bike who shall (for seriously) become my winter-ish bike). Not to mention the Foldy Twins, Damien’s Spider Man bike, and Liliana’s Trike. Oh…and 2 different trailers (one of which was turned into a storage center so all bikey bits stay in one place.) Some of these are admittedly in various states of needing work to be rideable)

I’ve hit a road block though. I’d like to find some more cohesive manner of storing them than stacked along the sides in a non-accessible way. Currently if I wanted to work on my Galaxie, I’d need to move at least 3 bikes, plus or minus a few kids bikes or parts.

The biggest problem I face is that I have a huge garage that I’d like to make as multi purpose as possible (aka on a rainy day, moving the mom-mobile and letting the kids ride around in the double garage would be fantastic). However, with my bike collection currently the opening is close to that of my van. So…not exactly great riding space.

Current options in stores or online seem to be aimed towards either apartment dwelling or bicycles with straight top tubes instead of my plethora of step through variants.

My biggest hindrance at this time is cost and time. I’d like something affordable and safe, but also don’t want to spend a month building something that will require me having to ask for tonnes of help. (aka my dad just left from a brief visit yesterday and I’m gonna guess he’ll be hesistant to come back out if his first “project” is bike sorting).

Current options that I am considering:

Canadian Tire sells simple vinyl coated hooks, meant for bike storage. They’re incredibly affordable ($0.94 each) and I’d like to think when used properly, would easily support a bicycle. I’m thinking some sort of staggered hook placement that each bike would need to be measured for before hand (thus every bike in it’s place?) but I’m not sure if my garage has the right spacing between studs to allow this to be done quickly and easily or if I’ll be building around them to make it work. (I guess this means going and measure precisely which bikes need which space and which can go where?)

My dad suggested using a pulley and some hooks to haul bikes up to the rafters. At first I thought this a brilliant idea until the only hooks I could find were a: uncoated or coated with an abrasive substance  and b: definitely not going to work for any bike except possibly Gino. So yes, he’d be up and out of the way, but he’s also the bike Hubs prefers to “ride”, aka foot along the paths with the kids with, so it’d be slightly impractical to put him up except for in winter.

So how do you store bikes? In home or garage? Did you build something up or do you do the “stack along the wall” method?

((ETA: Upon browsing Canadian Tire’s website for a link/photo of the desired cheap hook I found this:  Bicycle Lift. Anyone used something similar? It looks like it might actually work for all my bikes, which would potentially mean that, assuming they all are similar enough to not require adjustments all the time, it’d be a viable option to at least keep whichever is the currently least used bike up “out of the way”.))

Why I DIY

Why I DIY

I just wanted to recommend the recent post about when doing bicycle DIY is worthwhile, from Lovely Bicycle!, and its comment thread to our readers.

I’ve written before about why I’m learning to do my own bicycle maintenance tasks:

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!

… So for me, DIY has little to do with saving money or time. (Anyone who has followed my bicycle projects realizes that I have many started, and few finished, at this point – in large part because the life of my young family doesn’t mesh well with my local coop’s hours.) I’m also doing any specialized DIY under the supervision of talented mechanics at my local co-op and using their specialized tools, so the costs and risks associated with my newbie status are significantly mitigated.

I describe DIY projects here because I think they’re neat, and they may be helpful to someone else who is trying to do something similar. I also want to demonstrate that mechanical work on vintage bicycles is not rocket science or something to be intimidated by – if I can figure it out, anyone can. Furthermore, I am gaining enough understanding and vocabulary from these projects that I feel more comfortable talking to bike-shop staffers and people at the co-op – which can only be a good thing, especially when (right or wrong) we girls too often feel intimidated or talked down to by bike guys.

However. I’m coming to the conclusion that I don’t get nearly enough time at EBC to do all the projects I have lined up, and I’m getting impatient to see some of them finished – so I’m going to be taking some of them in to the talented mechanics at my favourite LBSs. Their hourly rates are surprisingly reasonable, and I’d really rather be spending my free time during the fleeting days of fall riding my bike instead of working on it. (It’s supposed to be an early & brutal winter this year, if the almanac people are to be believed, and I’m not outfitted for full-on winter riding, so I’ll have more time for such projects while it’s cold.)

Furthermore, I agree with Lovely Bicycle on one crucial point: nobody should feel like they need to be able to fix their bike themselves in order to start riding it. Just go enjoy your bike, guilt-free. As long as you have a great LBS with bike mechanics you trust to maintain your bike for you, you don’t need to take classes from the local bike kitchen, or hoard (ahem) collect parts from the same decade as your vintage bike(s) (All the more for me. I mean what?). But the flip side of that is: don’t be intimidated by basic bike maintenance tasks. Part of the beauty of bicycles is their intuitive design and simplicity.

Carrying A Load (LGRAB Summer Games post 4)

Carrying A Load (LGRAB Summer Games post 4)

Today I’m blogging about carrying a load as part of the Learning Experiences section of the LGRAB Summer Games.




Originally I was going to use the freeloading trailer for this post, but then something snapped inside Angel’s kid trailer attachment – and freeloading trailer got used for parts. So instead, I decided to try a grocery run using a box. There is a long and noble tradition of using fruit boxes and milk crates for carrying loads on bicycles. I love both the utilitarian look of a milk crate, and the romance of using a vintage wood box; but I wondered, which would be more functional? So Angel and I decided that we’d do a head-to-head comparison.


I started by looking at a couple of old plastic milk crates I had in my basement. (These were inherited from postdocs moving to other cities, and are not from local dairies, so no ratting me out to The Milk Crate Recovery Team!) There are a couple of posts out there that describe methods for attaching a single milk crate to your back rack using a bungee cord or some simple hardware-store finds. If you want to attach two crates,  without making mounting a top-bar bike like Bert completely impossible, you can try the simple method at Dinosauropedia to make milk-crate panniers, which looks much more stable than just tying them together with rope(If you’re looking to use other types of plastic bins or buckets for panniers, there’s inspiration to be found at EcoMetro.)

I ended up deciding to give Angel a red milk-crate-clone with a Chinatown shop’s price sticker, which would be perfect for on the rack on Daisy. Since most people attach them with zip ties, that’s how Angel attached hers for our testing. She has already described her first experience hauling groceries using the milk crate. Her load was: 4L jug of milk, 2lbs grapes, ~2lbs cherries, 1lb blueberries & 6 pack clamshell of pastries; her wish list for next time is some canvas bags and bungee cords.  

Eventually I want to attach this sturdy fruit box ($12 at a local antique mall, and I won’t even have to reinforce it!) to the back of Mary Poppins, whose 28 inch wheels will accommodate a larger-scale box:
I haven’t quite decided how I’ll do that. The easiest thing would be to find an appropriate rack to fit the bike, then attach to that, but I’ve been having a LOT of trouble (including buying and returning a couple that were recommended) finding one that will fit onto Mary’s 28-inch rear wheel with no extra hole above the dropout. Perhaps I’ll get someone to make something like this bracket for me, or special-order one from the UK (they’re made by Adie) – or maybe I’ll DIY something using pipe strapping. Once I have a way to attach it, I can take inspiration from one of these similar projects using wooden boxes. Meanwhile, I have lightly sanded the box and given it a coat of this to protect it:
I also chose this gorgeous antique wooden egg crate ($38, but look how pretty):

It’s wonderfully versatile, since I can use basket straps to attach it to the handlebars like this…
…or attach it to a rear rack like this:


Turns out the egg crate is the absolute perfect proportions for on the NOS Steco rear rack that was on Bert. (I say “was” because attaching the CCM Bike Buddy trailer-bike for the kids, which won’t fit onto Mary thanks again to her 28 inch wheels, involved removing said rack from Bert. More about Bike Buddy another time.) The way this bike box on Etsy attaches looks especially elegant, so I decided to do something similar with carriage bolts and thumbscrews.


But first I needed to figure out how to attach the Steco rack to Mary, who has wire fender stays. A comment by Coreen about how they had macgyvered the connections on a similar rack at EBC got me thinking about what I could use in place of the provided hardware. The solution: 3/4-inch copper pipe-hanger clamps, which are sold for a pittance in the plumbing aisle of your local hardware store, are pliable enough to be easily bent from their U-shape to go around the stays of the bike, and are soft enough that regular drill bits could be used to enlarge the nail-holes to accept the screws from the other hardware. I cut a leftover piece of rubber gasket to fit inside so the paint on the stays wouldn’t get scratched and to improve the fit. It looks great, and feels really secure!


22 Oct 2010 Update: After a couple of bumpy rides I managed to lose one of the nuts you see below – so if you’re doing this, add some Threadlock (from the adhesives aisle at the hardware store) to keep your rack in place. Also: be aware that this solution is fine for carrying cargo, but the weakest point is still going to be the attachment point and therefore your rack won’t be able to carry as heavy a load as it may be rated for. So, you know, no attaching a child seat to this, m’kay?


Now for my DIY wooden attachment clamp. Here’s what I started with:

I cut two equal lengths of the hemlock door stop, sized to fit diagonally (to help distribute the load across the slatted bottoms) in either of my boxes, and sanded the cut ends, then marked where the holes needed to go, and drilled and sanded again. I won’t give measurements since it’ll vary with the box and the rack you’re using. The 2-inch brass carriage bolts are fine for the fruit box, but just a smidgen too short for the quarter-sawn oak of the egg crate, so I needed to go back and get 2.5-inch ones as well.


Also, the bottom of the egg crate was not attached to the sides, so I predrilled some holes (oak is called hardwood for a reason!) then used 3/4-inch brass wood screws to hold everything securely together.


Here’s the finished product installed (some pics with the fruit box and some with the egg crate):

(Clearly the fruit box is too long for this rack, 
unless I install it the other way and double my bike’s width.)

You’ll notice that Mary Poppins has also been fitted with a double kickstand! This one is meant for 26-inch bikes, so it’s OK on perfectly level pavement and too wobbly on rough ground – but it will do until I can find one that’s the right size. The kickstand Mary came with was also too short, so this is still an improvement to parking stability. It’ll move to Bert once I get the right one for Mary.

Something that the process of installing this baby reminded me: I love having a vintage spanner (aka wrench) from the manufacturer of my bike. It makes these sort of jobs so much easier, because it’s designed to fit into tight spaces and fit the odd-sized bolts, and it’s great as part of my bring-along toolkit for when the bolts holding my fenders on get a little too loose (as happened on the Critical Lass ride). If you have an old bike and you know who made it, I highly recommend checking the old owner manuals that are online to match up to then eBay to see if you can get the right one for your bike. The Raleigh/Phillips ones regularly go for less than $5 before shipping – well worth it.

My 1960s Raleigh spanner. I use the hex-wrench shape on the end all the time.

The first thing I realized when I started riding was that I hadn’t left room for my butt! Luckily this attachment system is versatile, too: I just pulled over, loosened the thumbscrews, and slid the box about and inch and a half further from the seat . No problem.

I wore cotton capris and my favorite flat sandals. This reminds me, I need a pedicure.

The ride to two of the closest grocery stores to my place takes me on a multi-use path through this lovely park:

15 minutes door-to-door, including waiting at the lights on 23rd Avenue to cross busy Rabbit Hill Road as a pedestrian. Not bad! It’s nearly triple that when I walk it with my kids in a wagon.

Here is what I bought, about two bags’ worth of groceries, including all the items that were on Angel’s list. This is totally what I would have bought today if I had brought my car.

I took about 5 minutes to repack the groceries into my baskets. In the future I expect it’ll take less time since I will have my packing system figured out. The veggie tray, marshmallows, lemon juice, shampoo, and my purse went into the front basket, and everything else (including my lock) fit into the egg crate. Hey Angel, I think the egg crate wins.

I did find that it was pretty top-heavy, and once I had unlocked from the rack I needed to keep a hand on the bike to keep it from falling over (stupid too-short kickstand). Once I was riding it didn’t affect my balance much. By the time I got home, a fender-rub noise had developed, and investigating it showed me that all three of the nuts holding the rack in place had loosened and the whole rack had shifted a little bit to one side. Clearly someone with more hand strength than I have needs to retighten them, and DH has suggested that we try using lock-nuts instead of hex-nuts.

All in all: easy-peasy! I can totally see this being my new evening-or-weekend-morning grocery-run routine – which was part of why I wanted to get a bike in the first place.

Update, 22 Oct 2010: there is also a great wooden-bike-box how-to (with attaching a leather handle!) over at Eighteenth Century Agrarian Business.

Repurposed: trashed kid-carrier to cargo trailer

Repurposed: trashed kid-carrier to cargo trailer






Last fall, our down-the-street neighbors moved and put their house on the market – and left their old child bicycle carrier in the alley behind our houses. The nylon was rotted, so it was no good for its original purpose. All winter I have been eyeing it and trying to figure out how it could be used. A replacement for the fabric parts? Nobody seems to sell that. (Someone really ought to.) The other night I was admiring the photos on the Madsen website, and it came to me: how about attaching a big box and using it for cargo?

Of course my first instinct was to browse through a hundred links. (Ask Angel if you don’t believe me, she was the recipient of many links.) However, there’s a fantastic roundup of the DIY cargo trailer links available at Planet Green. The best link that article missed is one made from an old backpack’s external frame – but my favorite design is the bamboo trailer. How can you not love a designer who says this:

The value is not in the trailer itself, but in the knowledge of how to make a trailer. In a sense you will always have a bicycle trailer in your head if you ever need one. This knowledge makes you a richer person, and the world a richer place. 

Yes!

Anyway, let me show you some photos of the process. Our starting point: the trashed kid-carrier.

Not only were there leaves and mud in the bottom, there were sowbugs busily turning the leaves into soil.

The sun-bleaching is especially obvious on the rain cover.
You can also kind of see the surface rust on the wheel rims – 
nothing a little lemon juice and aluminum foil couldn’t cure.
The attachment mechanism is a little rusty but still sound.

For now, I’ve decided to use the nylon-and-strap bottom and sides of the cover, since they turned out to be in reasonably good shape. Once it’s no longer useable – or I get tired of the lack of prettiness, which is far more likely, let’s face it – I’ll replace the bottom with a bolted-on tray, and attach the carrier box to that. The roller bars can also be removed if desired, but I left them for now, since I may find that they may make handy lash-on points for larger items or to clip on extra bags using carabiners.

I did toss the brittle, rotted-out rain cover and remove the child seat (this involved using a strong pair of scissors to cut the straps at the bottom, and temporarily removing the overhead bar so I could slip it out of the nylon sleeve):

For now, I went with quick, low-cost and functional: this $11 lidded plastic bin from Canadian Tire. Slip it into place in the nylon cover (or bolt it to whatever I have to replace the nylon with eventually), and I’m done. Cheap and cheerful and waterproof! (Absolutely no danger of it being stolen while I’m inside the grocery store!) This will allow me to use it right away and see how it works for me.

Sometime in the not-too-distant future (after I’ve tried it out like this), I’ll upgrade the cargo trailer and make it much prettier, first by removing all the nylon and putting in a plywood or bamboo tray for the bottom. Then I could either build a wooden box to size (in the case of this trailer, 20 inches by 31.5 inches), or use an existing wicker box. I like the idea of hacking Ikea’s Byholma lidded wicker chest and turning it into a cargo trailer… so much lovelier.
Over-The-Bumper Skirt Guard / Sprucing Up Vintage Vinyl

Over-The-Bumper Skirt Guard / Sprucing Up Vintage Vinyl

‘Tis the season for bike projects instead of cycling, and I scored a couple of sweet vintage white-vinyl accessories for Mary Poppins on eBay. (I know, eco-friends: no vinyl that’s final, right? I’m making an exception since this stuff is not newly manufactured.) Unfortunately, both items need a good clean – even the NOS one – because while in storage in their original locales they collected grime and some mildew grew on them.

That’s right, Albertans: mildew. That dark grey stuff that grew on the grout in the bathroom of your student apartment. In parts of the world that are wetter than here (ie, almost everywhere), it grows on almost anything that’s left lying around. Consider yourselves lucky.

Being me, I started by doing some research on how other people remove this stuff. Here are the best links I found for vinyl-cleaning methods:
eHow: How To Clean A White Vinyl Bag
– car restoration site Classic Tiger: Vinyl Cleaning Tips
eHow UK: How To Clean Mildew Stains From Vinyl

That sounds like a lot of work. Let’s see why it’s worthwhile:

First up: a white vinyl over-the-bumper skirtguard, NOS, marked Bluemels, at least 50 years old according to  the seller, from the UK – shown here just before I cleaned it, with a ruler for scale. Yes, it doesn’t have a brake-hole – but it’s also fairly narrow. It also may have been intended only for use on coaster-brake bicycles like mine. I can see why there aren’t a lot of these still in use since the plastic is as thin (and has the same texture) as the standard el-cheapo vinyl shower curtains – in regular use they would have gotten brittle and torn fairly quickly.
Before I use it on a bike, I’ve used it to create a pattern for reproduction. I’m pretty sure, now that I’ve measured it, that it won’t fit my 28″ wheels –  so I’ll need to make a second pattern that’s a little bigger. Here are the measurements for this one, which should be fine over the bumper of a modern standard 26″ wheel’s bumper:
 
Closeup showing logo and discolouration from storage. The tip of the triangle, if it was truly triangular, would make the sides 11.5 inches long; the elastic cord (you could use thin shock cord) makes a loop that adds about two inches to that before it’s stretched.
 
 
That angle is 65 degrees.
 
Inside out to show the heat-sealed hems and curved stitched seam, to give an idea of the seam allowances to build into a pattern.
Wouldn’t it be great to whip up some of these from thrifted plastic shower curtains or vintage oilcloth tablecloths in fun patterns? So easy, too – one curved seam, the hemmed edges, and reinforcing stitches where the elastic is sewn on.
 
Second: a sweet vintage white vinyl saddlebag.
  
…and that’s my 4-year-old assistant photographer in the background.
The pair of loops on the metal brace attach to the slots on the rear of the saddle, and the loop at the bottom goes around the seat post:
 
This is the bottom of the bag. The lighting isn’t ideal but you can see all the black scuffs and possible mildew spots on there.
  
Interior shot showing definite mildew spots. The sides are stiffened with exposed cardboard – not exactly luxuriously crafted, but authentic to the period of the bike.
Here’s how I cleaned them:
Step 1: I sprayed the surface liberally with a gentle oxygen-bleach based laundry stain remover (I used OxiClean Baby, since it was what I had on hand). This works for white vinyl, since you don’t need to worry about the colour changing with bleach exposure – I’d test in an inconspicuous spot first if the vinyl was any other colour. For the interior of the saddlebag, I carefully used a rag saturated with product instead of spraying, to keep the cardboard dry.
 
Maybe it’s the biochemist in me, but I love watching bubbles form as the nasty stuff gets oxidized.
Step 2: After letting it sit for a minute, I used an old soft-bristle toothbrush to gently scrub the surface wherever there were stains. I worked quickly.
  
Not a bad photographer for his age, is he?
Step 3: Next I wiped the surface dry with paper towel,  and assessed if I needed to repeat steps 1 and 2. Then I rinsed the surface with water (or a damp rag, in the case of the saddlebag, since I didn’t want the exposed cardboard inside to get wet), to remove any residual oxygen bleach and detergent.
Step 4: Finally, I used an automotive vinyl cleaner-protectant spray according to the directions (i.e., spray on sparingly, then wipe down with paper towel to remove excess). I only did this step for the saddlebag, since the skirtguard plastic felt quite supple.

Here are the results:
Pretty impressive, yes?

Hopefully the weather will warm up enough to take some photos of these installed in the next week or two. (At time of writing, the outdoor temperature is holding steady around -30C… yuck.)
What bike projects are you working on?
Daisy discovered?

Daisy discovered?

Well, it turns out that my blackberry has a far better zoom, allowing me to get MUCH better close ups of parts on Daisy!

The best I can do for now, but this is the shifting set 🙂

A better shot of the brakes. (Forged Star = brand?)
I just thought this shot was pretty!
Now that I have these better close ups though I notice how dirty she is, a few puddles on my part and who knows how long she was neglected have meant a nice bunch of dirty spots.
I also noticed a few more spots where the paint has been rubbed right off (more noticeable in my first set of pictures) and am now going to figure out the best way to tackle this…do I try to do touch ups (obviously post clean up) or do I just hope that sealing the scratches will stop any further wear?
First ride on Mary, & adjusting a saddle

First ride on Mary, & adjusting a saddle

Yesterday I took Mary Poppins for her first spin around my neighborhood. She rides smoothly, with no noise from the rear coaster brake and only the occasional ‘tick’ sound that might be a moving part rubbing against a dent. That said, the coaster brake needs a lot of space to actually stop, and for quick stops (such as when my 6-year-old darts in front of me) I need to jump down off the saddle, which is less than ideal. I wonder if that’s typical of the Sturmey-Archer coaster brakes?

Mike took this photo of Audrey and I on our steel steeds just before we left. The riding boots, bought several seasons ago from J. Crew, work pretty well as a stylish alternative to a pant clip. I’m wearing a knee-length dress over harem pants – not that you can tell. Lesson learned: black outfits photograph poorly. Doesn’t Audrey look cute? Her bike was inherited from a neighbor, and it needs some TLC too – lots of rusty parts from being left outside, and the front tire is almost flat and may not be salvagable.

Anyway, before we could ride, I needed to adjust Mary’s saddle, since whoever had last rode her had either been a couple of inches taller than me or hadn’t cared whether they could touch the ground (I was on tiptoe). I took some photos during the process.

Before. The bolt in the centre of the shot is the one I needed to loosen. It was just a smidgen bigger than 1/2″, so I needed to use an adjustable hex wrench. It was, of course, seized. Luckily we had some WD-40 handy. I also needed it to work the saddle’s post loose. It wouldn’t go in further at all, so I pulled it out and sprayed a little lubricant into the frame.

This shot shows the top and inside of the seat post after removing the saddle. The top rim and inside are pretty rusty, I wonder if I should treat them with something? For now I just reassembled it…

…but not without taking some beauty shots of the saddle’s underside. That “MADE IN ENGLAND” stamp is the only identifying mark on it. Phillips catalogues from the period call these “spring mattress saddles”. A couple of things to note: at some point, someone needed to replace one of the screws holding the springs. Also, notice how skewed the springs themselves are! Holy cow! Somebody has ridden Mary hard (Am I allowed to write that on a family blog?). The springs can be removed and replaced, but I wonder if it’s worth the effort to find the springs for a saddle that’s damaged and not so comfy to sit on?

After reinstallation. It’s a good thing my legs aren’t any shorter! I also loosened the bolt in the middle of this shot to adjust the tilt of the seat. Getting it tight enough afterward to keep the seat from tilting while I rode was a bit challenging.

I did some hunting around on eBay, and it seems this unbranded vinyl saddle might not have been made by Brooks – there are almost identical blue-and-white saddles being sold that are labelled WRIGHTS that came off 1960s Hercules and Hawthorne roadsters (both also made by Raleigh), and a red-and-white vinyl saddle labelled LYCETT that came off a Raleigh.

So once again, I’d love some advice. Should I try to repair the seat? Should I replace the seat with a fancy new Brooks saddle? How should I handle the rust inside the frame? Is my coaster brake working as it should?

Deborah’s restoration & DIY plans for Miss Mary

Deborah’s restoration & DIY plans for Miss Mary

Right now, Mary Poppins (my 1966 Phillips loop-frame bike) is in as-found condition and needs a little TLC, mainly rust removal and paint touchup, but not much. I found a genius post on Old Bike Blog on how to Green Clean Your Bicycle. Furthermore, the fabulous Miss Sarah tipped me off to the existence of a nontoxic, relatively eco-friendly rust remover called Rust Cure (which it turns out is considerably less expensive than the Cream of Tartar suggested in the eco-cleaning article), also recommended by one of Old Bike Blog’s readers. So, for Mary’s cleanup, I plan to use a combination of those sustainable methods and a lot of elbow grease. I’m really not sure how I’ll go about doing paint touch-up yet, and I’m not even sure I should – the original finish is in pretty good shape. So, to protect it with wax, or with a coating of clear acrylic Krylon spray, or both?

I’ve got my supplies ready, anyway.

Miss Mary’s basket will need a liner, as there are a couple of little breaks in the metal – but since it’s vintage, it’s not current standard dimensions (15″ x 10″ top, 5.5″ deep, and smaller at the bottom than the top), so I can’t just order an already-made one from Lucky Find Designs or Betty Bike Basket Liners on Etsy. Since it needs to be custom, I might as well dust off my sewing machine and make it myself out of vintage fabric – watch for a future post on that.

Inspiration: how cute is this basketliner from Lucky Find Designs?
If only it would fit my vintage basket.

The mattress saddle has some tears in the vinyl and isn’t especially cushy, so to protect its as-found finish – and my tail – I think I’ll also make a padded seat cover. Bust magazine ran an article on Pimping Your Ride that was mentioned somewhere, but I’ll need to look it up in print, since the how-to-make instructions for the seat cover isn’t part of the PDF on the Bust website (it’s just a faux-logo pattern, so not me) and the article is no longer archived there. [Update: I found it! It’s pages 21-23 of the Feb/Mar 2007 issue, which you can find at your local library or order through Bust’s website.)

Eventually I’d like to add an aluminum rack to the back and attach a wooden wine box, a fabric-covered milk crate, or a sweet vintage-style covered box pannier for additional storage. I do have an empty milk crate awaiting a new purpose, and wouldn’t Mary look sweet with matching covers in three spots?

If I decide I need a child seat for my little guy, here is inspiration for a DIY child seat spiff-up. (Of course, in researching child seats I’ve determined that the best one for my needs is a Bobike Junior… I wonder how impossible it is to find here?)

I’ll also need a lock, since that was stolen with my old bike. I love the idea of a U-lock cozy that I saw on the Lovely Bicycle! blog (there’s a Lock Cozy group on Flikr, too). Spincycle Yarns sell a pattern for a felted one that looks easy even for a novice knitter like me, if I decide I’d rather not sew one from the same fabrics I’m using for my other covers. (Also, their steampunk capelet would be supadupacute for cycling, no?)

Figuring it’ll take me forever to find a vintage Phillips bell, I picked up a cute little Lime bell by Trek, but I may return it now that I’ve discovered dringdring’s Etsy shop full of adorable handpainted bells.

For my helmet*, since I can’t possibly afford that Yakkay helmet that looks like a fedora right now, initially I thought I’d take inspiration from RidingPretty and spiff up an off-the-shelf helmet with a strategically glued-on flower. However, I’m starting with Nutcase’s rainbow-polkadot sk8-style helmet, which is already fun and fabulous:

here’s a side view so you can see all the Lego-palette colours.

*[And yes, I’m aware that in some circles my choice to wear one at all is a political statement. I sympathize with both sides of that argument, but honestly? I’ve made my choice for personal reasons. I have kids who have to wear mandatory helmets for their skating lessons. I’m trying to convince them that it’s no big deal, and that helmets can be fun. Also, my husband’s cousin owes his life to his helmet (he was paralyzed in a car-bike accident), so hubby has strong convictions about the importance of helmets.]

I’m also coveting a DIY skirt/coat guard like the netted one in this Flikr photo by Andre Koopmans. A commenter on Lovely Bicycle! mentioned this European (Dutch?) website selling handcrocheted (or knitted?) jasbeschermers – so pretty, and I think their use of bulldog clips to attach to the mudguards is ingenious. [Update: I’ve found a discussion of how to make a classic skirt net out of hat elastic, with great photos, on this Aussie forum. I also found a shop in the UK that will ship the standard plastic ones used in Europe internationally.]

I’d also love to have a cape. Not a rain poncho, since with only a coaster brake I won’t be riding when it’s wet, but something for cool weather. There are several pretty ones on Etsy, but most of them don’t look like they’re actually warm enough for chilly days in spring and fall. I may need to find a pattern for this too.

So, who wants to watch my kids so I can get all this done?

(Some content of this post was originally published on Deborah’s other blog.)