Restoring an old 3 speed bicycle
Years ago when I was much younger I had a bicycle with a 3 speed Sturmey-Archer internal gear hub. It was what was loosely called an "English Racer", having dropped handlebars and caliper brakes, and steel wheels, as just about every bike did then. 10 speed derailleur gears were an exotic item. I remember riding several hundred kilometres on it during a tour to the mid-west part of NSW (Australia) with a friend who had one of the exotic 10 speeders. Not too many hills fortunately, but I was in better shape then, and could lift the front wheel on the flat even in top gear (yes, surprised me too!)
While browsing in an Op Shop I saw an old 3-speed step-through bike, pink with rust but straight and with round wheels (not all do 8^D). Thought about it and decided it would make an interesting project, so back the next day....
What it looked like
Here it is as purchased.
You can see the rust pits poking through the paint
The front, chromed steel, wheel was badly pitted
The back wheel was a bit better, presumably due to oil off the chain in days gone by
and seat post
My assistant (a keen young cyclist next door) and I dismantled it, first taking a lot of photos to aid in re-assembly.
- removed all paint from the frame and guards (wire brush in my 100mm angle-grinder was the most effective way)
- cleaned up the chrome using wadded aluminium cooking foil and water - amazing how quick this is. It is great on mildly pitted and rusty chromed steel. Some metal polish is needed after to give a bit of protection against re-rust. The really badly pitted and peeling parts had to be wire-brushed and painted (rims, cranks and side-stand) or taped with PVC insulating tape (handlebars). The brake parts are showing some rust again, so I may have to paint them too. The aluminium foil and water trick is worth a try - results are quick and impressive, though some items you think beyond help come up beautifully, while others you thought would be OK reveal peeling flakes of chrome; watch your fingers, as the flakes are sharp. If it flakes, best to get out the wire-brush or sander. The bits that cleaned up well were:-
- seat post
- gooseneck for the handlebars
- bell off another old bike
- some of the brake parts
- cleaned and lubed the chain and cables
- squirted thin oil ("Inox"; sort of WD40 stuff) into the 3 speed hub via the selector rod hole
- cleaned and greased all bearings - the bottom bracket bearings were pitted so I replaced the cups and balls with new ones
- new "Velo" sprung saddle - $20 on eBay
- hand grips off an old bike frame I had lying around
- new el-cheapo 26x1.375 tyres (Duro brand)
- one new tube for the back wheel
- all painted metal was primed with a red anti-rust metal primer. Frame with spray-can black, guards ditto in cream, and the rims and spokes with silver.
Back on its wheels after painting
No brakes yet!
...but that didn't stop a quick test ride
= Finished! =
Here it is finished (well, almost - are home projects ever really finished?)
My legs are getting back in shape - last ride I was able to get to the top of the hill out of my place without stopping.
For those interested, the 3 speed hub is a Shimano, with an 18 tooth sprocket. I changed the chain wheel from 46 teeth to 40 to get some lower gears - its hilly where I live.
It is not too bad to ride - my mountain biker son is not so impressed, but it'll do me a while. Handles bumps in the road well, and the gears work as they should. Brakes are so-so, but probably as good as they were 30 or 40 years ago.
This page http://tardus.net/lucy3speed.html
Last published: 12 October 2011
Contact me, "Tardus"
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