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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?
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.)