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an Earth Day ride and Eliza

an Earth Day ride and Eliza

To celebrate Earth Day today, Audrey and I went for a ride around the neighborhood. It was a gorgeous day, sunny with a cool breeze. The snow has mostly melted, and street cleaners have started to remove the winter debris from the roads in our neighborhood.
Audrey dressed in purples to match her bike.
We practiced signalling – Audrey is almost as good as me now – and also spent awhile practicing turns in the parking lot of her elementary school. She’s ready to have the training wheels pulled off her bike. Actually, she’s ready for a bigger bike. We’re going to see if we can get a bit more life out of this one by adjusting seat and handlebar height. Once she’s done we might cannibalize this bike to get the little blue Deelite working for when Dom outgrows his Tigger bike.
{Update: Audrey’s bike appears not to have adjustable handlebars or seat. Not impressed! So we’re going to prioritize getting the Eaton’s Glider frame fixed up for her ASAP, and her current bike will become a part donor for Dom’s Deelite and Damien’s Rapido. Vintage kids’ bikes FTW!}
I rode Eliza, the 1978 Raleigh DL-1 Lady’s Tourist that used to be Fiona’s.
Everything except the skirtguards and basket is original. 
I haven’t changed anything on her yet, so the seat is still a bit high for me.
Sturmey-Archer 3-speed hub marked 78 7 AW
The plastic trigger shifter has lost its adhesive label.
I think I’ll get it replaced with the chromed SA shifter with a screw-on faceplate that came with Bert.
Front rod brakes.
I didn’t remember to look for marks on the Westwood (rod-brake-only) rims.
The tires (or should I say tyres) are labelled Raleigh Roadster,
40-635 (28 x 1 1/2), 50 lbs/in2 – 3.5 ATM
Heron chainwheel, rear rod brake, pedals marked with the Raleigh crest.
Both the headbadge (hidden under the basket) and the decal on the rear mudguard are marked Nottingham.
Notice that the fenders have a rounded profile, instead of the ridged versions on Mary Poppins and Ms Trudy.
The Brooks B66, nicely broken in. I can see how a B66S might be more comfortable for me,
since the nose on the B66 feels a bit long.
Closeup of the OTT Simeli crocheted skirtguards.
Eliza still needs a thorough cleaning and some lemon-and-foil to really make her shine, and I might touch up her paint where it’s been dinged – her front forks are especially scratched. At the advice of uber-mechanic Keith, I’ll be considering an imported Dutch centre stand (the kind that attaches to the back wheel) to allow me to carry a grocery-loaded rack – this is crucial for me, since I need Eliza to earn her keep as my errand-running bike, and installation of any of the other double kickstands is made impossible by the rod brakes. (It is possible to install the specially-made DL-1 Pletscher prop stand, or to grind down a prop stand and install it with a shorter bolt, but those solutions aren’t stable enough if you plan to carry heavy loads.). If I’m not happy with how the brakes feel after new Fibrax rod brake pads have been installed, rebuilding the rear wheel with a 3-speed coaster hub (like Velouria did) will provide secret stopping powers. 
{Update: it seems that Steco make a black-powdercoated rear rack for 28-inch bicycles with an integrated swing kickstand, and this is what comes standard on the Achielle Oma – so now I know what I’m asking the guys at RedBike if they can special-order for me. Or am looking to bring back as a souvenir from Japan.}
As you can see behind me, in installing the (wave-style) bike racks at Audrey’s school in a sheltered location they managed to ensure they’ll be buried in a snowdrift after the rest of the snow is long gone. Oops.
Aftermarket wire skirtguards

Aftermarket wire skirtguards

I just won these vintage skirtguards for 26″ wheels from Easywind Bicycles on eBay. I think Bert-the-Bike will probably wear them, if they fit properly. Does anyone recognize these and know who made them?

Related question: will they rattle when installed and drive me insane?

Antique Cycle Chic (1900s-1940s)

Antique Cycle Chic (1900s-1940s)

While I waited for a chance to bring Bert-the-Bike home and install my Christmas goodies on Mary Poppins, I creeped eBay looking for Objects Of Interest. It turns out that there are lots of wonderful early photographic portraits of stylish women with their rod-brake loop-frame lovelies available. Naturally I’m now a bit obsessed with them.

In the early 20th Century, getting a professional photographic portrait done was a Really Big Deal, and I imagine that having it done with your bicycle started as a declaration of independence, then as cameras became more common it gradually became more like a rite-of-passage (like teenagers getting a photo taken in the driver’s seat of their first car now). I love that they’re dressed in their finest suits and hats – oh, what hats! – and that they’re looking so serious and pensive for the camera. I also love the later, more candid shots, which show how practical loop-frame roadsters with fenders, chaincases, and skirtguards were for riding in everyday clothes – but the early studio photographs with carpets and curtains are awesomely incongruous. Sometimes you can learn details about the bikes themselves, like how the skirtguards attached or how high the seats were set (no way could these girls put a flat foot on the ground, like my parents taught me was necessary – that must be a cruiser-bike thing).

These real-photo picture-postcards all came from eBay sellers. I scanned them on grayscale (some are actually sepia) at high resolution, which is like having a magnifying glass, then cropped them a bit and adjusted the fill light, highlights, and shadows so they weren’t quite so dark.

This studio portrait was taken in about 1910 and is labelled R. Guilleminot, Boespflug et Cie. – Paris. Check out her elaborate hat! This is definitely a corseted dress, and when you zoom in you can see she’s wearing (lace?) gloves, as often seems to be the case in photos of Victorian and Edwardian ladies. There’s a tantalizing glimpse of chainwheel and a clear view of the headbadge’s shape, so maybe someone who knows the continental makers can identify her bicycle.

Also Edwardian, but taken in England (the back of the card says it was taken by Valentine of Canterbury and Guildford). Great gloves, and I love the way she’s tied her hat on with a long sheer scarf. The skirtguards attach both in front of and behind the fork, and seem to be tied in groups of three cords. I can’t read the mark on the chaincase, but perhaps a collector can tell us who made her sweet ride?

Another English card, with “Mother” handwritten on the back. Her straw boater and ribbon tie with pin are great, the blouse is polka-dotted, and she’s wearing dark (leather?) gloves. What looks like a smudge on her forehead is actually wispy bangs. The skirtguard looks like it might be made of wire instead of cord, and I think her rear fender is chromed. Look at that quadrant shifter – swoon.

This pretty lady has a gorgeous netted skirtguard. Divine pleats on her dress, and charming layering of necklaces, but what I’d most like are frameless glasses like hers. Notice that she’s not wearing gloves. The back of the postcard has a handwritten date of 23 Novembre 1918 and other markings in French:

If I’m reading the handwriting correctly, it translates as, “23 years old” (not shown) and “A souvenir of beautiful days passed (adverb?) in Veron – H. LaForge”. (Maybe someone whose French skills surpass mine can help me with that word?)

This is a 1920s portait of a ‘sportswoman’, according to the seller. I love her flapper bob with pearl teardrop earrings, and the slightly rumpled pinstriped jacket and matching cap – which look almost like they might be her boyfriend’s. Her dress might be seersucker, and has a couple of dirt smudges, probably acquired while riding to this destination. Is that a lucite bangle? The back of the card is unmarked except for CARTE POSTALE, Correspondance, and Adresse – so she must also be French.

Closeup of her netted skirtguard.

I covet these German girls’ cloche hats and swingy coats. Photograph (the only one that isn’t an RPPC) taken in the 1930s, according to the seller.

I love this young lady’s confident pose, the cardigan with mother-of-pearl buttons, matching hat, and long pearl drop earrings.

She seems to be wearing culottes, stockings, and ankle-high boots. Her bicycle has front-rod-brake handlebars, but where are the rods? Is that little flap between the front tire and the mudguard the braking surface? The logo on the chaincase says Brennabor, who were originally a prewar manufacturer of bicycles, motorcycles, and automobiles in Brandenburg, Germany, and at some point became a Dutch-based brand instead. I’d guess she’s from the 1930s-40s, based on what she’s wearing, but the American seller didn’t give any information to help date it. The postcard only has “Foto Bayer” (that’s German) printed on the back, and two handwritten words: Kaaza (I think?), Kaan (a town in Rheinland-Pfalz).


Closeup of the Brennabor chaincase and netted skirtguard.

You can find more such photos on eBay or on Flikr by using the search terms “vintage”, “bicycle”, and “lady” or “woman”. Sadly most of the Flikr ones are All Rights Reserved, so I can only link to my favorites: 1895Edwardian, Edwardian, 1911, 1927, 1930s-40s slacks, 1966 culottes. Do follow the links – all these ladies and their steeds are magnificent. One of the commenters on one of these suggests that the girl is just there as window-dressing, since she obviously couldn’t ride dressed like that. Isn’t it telling that nobody (to date) has challenged his assumption in the comments?

This has me fantasizing about having a girly lets-dress-up bike meetup, in the Spring or early Summer, before it gets too hot, with a photo booth so we can all have great photos taken of ourselves with our steeds…

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?
DIY skirt guard inspiration

DIY skirt guard inspiration

I am totally inspired by this skirtguard on a pre-WWII Hawthorne tank bike that was up for sale on eBay:

Swoon. I’ve decided to figure out how to make a version that goes over the fender (ie, no drilling required). Stay tuned.