Browsed by
Category: Lycett

Lycett sprung saddle makeover, part 1

Lycett sprung saddle makeover, part 1

I picked up this Lycett saddle on eBay for US$3 and shipping, originally intending to take it apart and switch out the springs in my original saddle.

From the Flikr Lycett Saddles group page:

The Lycett Saddle Company was founded in the early 20th century when Edward Lycett was granted a patent for a saddle spring making machine in 1908 and started producing saddles at his factory at 164 Deritend, Birmingham – at the southern edge of the city centre. The company was taken over by Brooks in the 1920s who went on to produce cheaper versions of their Brooks saddles under the Lycett brand.

So, this is a Brooks-made seat, appropriate for a Raleigh-made bicycle, with two-toned vinyl in the same style as the one I need to fix, so of the appropriate period (If anyone knows when Brooks stopped making Lycett-branded saddles, please speak up and let me know!). What I didn’t realize when I bought it was that the photos show rusty springs and horsehair, not a rusted-out metal seat bottom. This means this is actually a better-quality seat than the solid-metal-pan one I’m trying to repair. Here are the before photos, screen-captured from the listing on eBay:


Makeover Step One: I opened the rusty clips holding the vinyl-and-horsehair cover in place (easy peasy – I just bent them with a screwdriver) and removed the damaged upholstery. (It stank, too. Ew.) This has been set aside for use in Step Four.

Makeover Step Two: Next I cleaned the seat’s bones as best I could. First, I sprayed the seat with a liberal application of Rust-Cure 3000. This stuff has an oily consistency, and contains a penetrating oil, which makes it a first-class gunge remover. It also has a mild reducing agent in it – you can actually see it making little bubbles of gas as it reduces any exposed rusty metal. The can says it’s completely nontoxic as well, and it’s gentle enough that I could touch it in a careless moment with my bare hands without getting hurt (not recommending that, just saying). I’ve been using it sparingly with a soft rag on any parts of my bicycle that could be scratched by more abrasive methods of rust removal, and have found it works well for clearing away grease and road grime and some of the rust while maintaining a nice patina and not damaging the paint and chrome.  I sprayed the seat so the whole surface had a 1-2mm coating (probably overkill), let it sit for about ten minutes, then wiped it off with paper towel. The seat came clean, but still had surface rust. Most impressively, the small springs on the seat’s surface, which had originally looked like they were rusted solid, were now clean enough to assess that they were still strong and useable and had considerable give.

Makeover Step Three: lemon juice and aluminum foil (as per the Green Cleaning article I’ve mentioned before) to remove the rest of the rust. I actually changed the method a bit, grabbing a 4L plastic ice cream pail, crumpling a couple of balls of aluminum foil, half-filling it with water with a generous amount of lemon juice in it (um, probably a half-cup or so – I just poured in glug, glug, glug), then putting in the seat to soak. While half the seat was submerged, the other half was exposed to air, so I worked the exposed half with foil moistened in the diluted lemon juice. When I felt like I was no longer making a difference on the part I was working on, I switched the seat’s position so that I could work on the part that had been submerged. I repeated this process three or four times. My goal was to get the seat back to useable condition, not like-new, since it’ll be covered. Once I felt it was there, I gave the seat a rinse with plain water, then dried it with a rag. Foil balls went into the garbage, and now slightly brownish lemon water was poured down the sink. (The chemical reaction in this case should have left the iron on the seat, reducing it and oxidizing the aluminum; the brown colour in the water is partly aluminum oxide, which rinses easily off the foil, and partly tiny bits of iron oxide knocked off the seat by rubbing with the aluminum foil. The citric acid in lemon juice could be replaced by the acetic acid in vinegar or the acid in a carbonated soft drink.)

Here are my after photos. As you can see, the rusty springs are still blackish – I think because their surface is still mostly iron oxide – but now to the point where I can reupholster them. If I’d let the reaction sit overnight, I might have been able to get them shiny, at least temporarily. 

Kitchen chemistry FTW!

Step Four will involve using the horsehair-and-vinyl cover removed in Step 1 as a pattern to create a new cover. I happen to have a discontinued upholstery sample of good-quality white leather (found at the ReUse Centre) that’s big enough, so I’ll use that. Hopefully I’ll be able to source a small remnant of horsehair padding from a local upholsterer (the only kind I can find online is loose, not batting). If not, I think I’ll use felted wool for the padding, since it shouldn’t stay wet like cotton batting would, and lack of moisture retention would be why the makers had used horsehair in the first place. I’ll also have to look into what conditioner I can use for the leather that won’t mess with the white colour.

Watch for Part 2 of this post – and meanwhile I’d be delighted with any advice you can add, or leads on other people who’ve posted similar projects!

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?