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Father’s Day Hauling! (LGRAB Summer Games post 3)

Father’s Day Hauling! (LGRAB Summer Games post 3)

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


Yesterday was Father’s Day, and since I only had Lili home (Damien regularly spends his Saturdays with his grandparents, I’m not complaining at all!) I figured I’d leave her at home and go get a few groceries on my own with Daisy.

First though, Daisy needed more carrying capacity. Deborah donated a LOVELY red “milk” crate. Which we think might actually be just a plastic crate as there’s a barely readable tag (dollar store or random flea market variety price tag). Either way, it’s gorgeous!

Here’s hubs doing the (reusable) zip-tie attachement:

Because my butt is big (total disclosure!) I didn’t want the crate RIGHT against my seat so we used the existing rack to kind of pull the crate in a few different directions, and then added side ones to stop side-to-side shakes.

Then I pedaled my way to the closest grocery store. En route I had to wait for an ambulance to turn towards the hospital, turns out an elderly lady had fallen across the street from said hospital, causing a mini traffic jam. I know it’s bad, but because I had the option and didn’t want to wait in all the backed up traffic and because I was able to, I jumped off Daisy and just walked her on the sidewalk. I stay well out of the way of the ambulance workers and other helpers, but I ended up well ahead of all the cars trying to maneuver around a 4-way stop filled with an ambulance. Biking 1 – Cars NADA!

Anyway, arrived at the grocery store, and locked Daisy up!

Considering my location I was pretty surprised to find NOBODY else had bothered to bike ANYWHERE in the area…I was actually kind of saddened. Anyway, Daisy’s crate held all our groceries (including a 4L jug of milk) no problem, I just need to get some bungee cords to hold things down better.

I didn’t manage to get a picture when I got home because Daisy’s kickstand, well it sucks for holding loads, which means I’m in the market for a double kickstand, I figure it’ll be beneficial both with the kids behind me and a full pair of baskets.

Side: Saturday I rode with my sister-in-law and Damien down to our Bikeology Festival Day & other downtown proceedings. It was a BLAST! They closed a bunch of blocks of downtown streets and had various activities, including bike demos, parkour-style bike tricks, bike fixing, and then further down, MEC had a few things, the YMCA had kid-friendly stuff (Damien got “face” painting, played in a pool and did a Zoomba demo with us) plus probably a MILLION other things I missed.

It was really fun and AWESOME to see the amount of people out on bikes taking advantage of the fact that motor vehicles weren’t allowed but bikes were! YAAAY Edmonton!!

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!
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.
Rust removal on the CCM Galaxie

Rust removal on the CCM Galaxie

Kitchen chemistry is intrinsically cool. We have demonstrated it previously, with lots of thanks to the awesome Green Cleaning post from Riding Pretty for giving us the idea. However, today was a beautiful spring day, and Angel’s CCM Galaxie needed some love, so we pulled out the lemon juice and aluminum foil again.

Before we started.

The underside of the grips, where sun and use have had no chance to turn them black and grungy.

Uh-oh, is that the dreaded Shimano 333 hub?
(Sigh.)

Hm. Actually, it’s a Shimano 333 coaster brake, not the 333 3-speed hub that Sheldon Brown warns can fail catastrophically. The guys over at the Old Roads forum say that the 333 designation was used on a number of pre-1975 Shimano parts – so maybe the coaster brake will work okay?

The original tires are rock-hard and have deep fissures, so they will definitely need to be replaced. But for the record, the originals are Canadian-made Nylon 26 x 1 3/8 Clipper tires marked for EA3 rims:

The rims are unmarked except for this:

Just in case you needed evidence that rusty chrome plus lemon juice plus aluminum foil plus a little elbow grease magically equals shiny fabulous chrome:

This especially rusty area on the front fender was what we tried first, to compare methods. RustCure and extra-fine steel wool was working okay, but couldn’t get everything; aluminum foil and lemon juice worked like magic. (Angel, is there anything you’d like to add, since you worked on this section?) That remaining spot you can see along the edge is bare steel under the chrome plating.

To our amazement, the foil-and-lemon-juice method even removed the discolouration on the white painted decal – without scratching up the decal (I rubbed VERY gently). The chainguard now looks practically new.

Cleaning up Winnie

Cleaning up Winnie

{This is actually a guest post by Nicki about her ’51 CCM-built Garry.}

My first post on Loop-Frame Love! Very exciting! Hope everyone can put up with me. I’m a complete novice and this whole process is definitely a learning experience for me. Feel free to correct me in the comments.

As you know, I’ve acquired a 1951 CCM! She’s gorgeous and has since been christened “Winnie”.

Last weekend was our bicycling cleaning party. Myself, Deborah, and Angel took on the task of cleaning up Winnie with a little Rust-Cure and investigating her a bit more closely.

We started with some disassembly. We took off her basket (which took a bit of time. Yeesh.) and we also removed the electric-taped wiring from the generator/Miller dynamo light. The wire was pretty much shot and will definitely have to be replaced.

After removing the basket. Better picture of where my missing headbadge should go.

You can see a bit of what Winnie’s original colour is like. Seems that she had a gold colour with burgundy painted over top. My plan is to eventually restore her to the original colours.

Burgundy over gold colour.

[Editorial note from Deborah: you can also see the holes where the headbadge rivets would have been in the photo above – they helped confirm the CCM hypothesis, along with the 1951-era serial number stamped into the frame right under the seat.]

Another exciting discovery: it turns out that there are tiny reflectors in my handles! Upon realizing this, my excitement level hit an all time high – imagine being 6 years old and having streamers in your handles. That’s how I felt!

Handle with clear reflector

Deborah and Angel did some research: we had all originally assumed that the two holes in Winnie’s fender were for a mudflap and a reflector. Turns out that it’s actually for a reflector on a two holed mount. Here’s are my empty holes (look closely at the middle/bottom of my fender):


Finally, here’s a picture of my less dirty chain wheel. Rather than me attempting to elaborate and possibly mix things up, I’m just gonna quote Deborah here:

Thinking that the lack of iconic CCM chainring means this bike was a CCM-manufactured bike with another headbadge.

Very cool stuff! And this is only the beginning!

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?
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:

Before.

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?