|"VINTAGE LIFE CYCLES"
CANADIAN & VINTAGE LIGHTWEIGHT BICYCLE
BICYCLE RESTORATION GETTING STARTED GUIDE
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FIXING UP VINTAGE BICYCLES
| Acquiring and/or collecting vintage lightweight bicycles is a relatively inexpensive hobby to participate in. The bicycles themselves, sold in the millions of units during the Bike Boom of the early seventies, are reasonably easy to find, require a minimum of special tools to rebuild and maintain, and can, often times quite literally, be had for the asking.
For someone just beginning or getting back into riding bicycles, the number of options are few when it comes to getting a bike, be it new or used.
For a relatively few dollars, let's say a couple of hundred bucks, a bicycle can be purchased from a local department store. Bicycles such as these are often of comparatively poor quality and designed to be used by children or adolescents - people who do not weigh nearly as much as a full grown, probably overweight, adult. These bicycles tend to go out of tune quickly or just break soon after purchase. One department store bicycle lasted only two days before the tapered crank arm loosened off and began squeeking like crazy. Riding the bike around the roads in Jamaica earned the owner the nick name, "Squeeky Foot". With this in mind, the initial bicycling experience looses something, becoming somewhat less fun than was expected, and often times leads directly to giving up on the whole idea. The new department store bike is relagated to one storage corner and then another, until the bicycle finally ends up in some landfill site, an incredibly common story.
A second popular option is to purchase a quality bicycle from a local bike shop. This then becomes a situation of getting what you pay for, and pay you will. Quality bicycles are considerably more expensive than their department store cousins. Expect to pay, at the very least, twice what a department store bike would cost and that price tag will get you a bottom of the line local bike shop bicycle, however; doing so will offer a number of important advantages to the buyer and, ultimate, user.
By putting up the extra money to buy from a bike shop, you will end up with a much better bicycle. The bike will be well built, properly set up by the shop and it will fit you the way that it is supposed to. Few department store employees will go to the trouble to ensure that the bike purchased actually fits the buyer properly. A sad commentary, but true none the less. Not only will your new and expensive local bike shop bicycle be well tuned and fit properly but you will be offered a test ride to ensure the above. You will likely be granted a reduction in purchased accessories for years to come. A free tune up will be part of the package, as will a warranty that is, usually, honored almost instantly. Then, there is the advice that is yours for the asking. The bike shop owner and staff will become a valuable resource to you in maintaining your new expensive bike. The only problem here is that you might not actually like the riding experience you just paid a great deal of money to participate in. So, like the department store cousin, the big buck bike is relegated to one miserable storage location after another until the local landfill site claims yet another velo victim.
So your choices thus far are, take a chance with a cheaply made, poorly fitting and set up department store bike, which you might not enjoy riding, for a number of personal and equipment related reasons. Or, you can drop the coin on the counter, spend what is necessary for a quality local bike shop bicycle that will suit your needs and be well assembled, however; you are still facing the possibility that you will not actually enjoy the riding experience, for any number of reasons(new expensive bikes are targets for thieves), and it too will begin its long and uneventful journey to the landfill site. The bummer here is that you will have invested a lot of money. But there is a way to "have your cake and eat it too", so to speak.
The third and final option offered here, and that is not meant to suggest that there are only three options, is to find and refurbish an old lightweight bicycle. Following this path leads to a number of advantages. It does not cost an arm and a leg to find, acquire and fix up an old bicycle. If you do most of the work yourself (a very realistic goal for the average person), you can probably complete a refurbishment for less than half of what a department store bike would have cost you and still end up with a quality bicycle. Not only does one get more for less, (cash outlay only considered) but the learning process, during refurbishment, means that the rider (you) will be better equipped to maintain his or her own bicycle, saving cash in the future and helping to ensure trouble free rides. And, even if you do experience trouble on a ride, you will be better prepared to deal with the problem, thanks to what you learned during the refurbishment effort.
Before deciding to go the "do it yourself" route, one must first evaluate one's own skill levels and decide what can and cannot be done at the "do it yourself" level. Almost anyone can change out a tire and tube on a bicycle. Oiling a chain is certainly no big deal but doing it the proper way does require a bit of guidance (this site and a host of others can help with that). Inspecting wheel bearings can be accomplished by the average person, however; dismantling, assembling and setting up wheel hubs does require special(inexpensive) tools. Even painting an old bicycle can be easily accomplished at home with a minimum of supplies, expense and hazard to your health or that of the environment. Be forewarned though, to "paint or not to paint" is a decision that should be made only under informed conditions. Painting a bicycle often deminishes the bike's value to collectors.
Before one can fix up an old bike, one must first have an old bike to fix up and, hopefully, one that actually fits you, the intended rider. This simple logic is all but self evident. Of course the question that surfaces is, "Where does one purchase a vintage lightweight bicycle?" Actually, purchase is not necessarily the correct word to use. As often as not, no cash need exchange hands. People are often happy to get that "old bicycle" out of their way, giving two wheelers away for free to the asker(you are likely saving them a trip to the dump). With this in mind, the modified question that floats to the surface is, "Where should one look to find an old bicycle?"
Word of mouth works wonders, believe it or not. You will be amazed at how many of your friends, relatives and acquaintenances have one (or more) of these old rides hanging in the basement, garage or simply sitting, tucked away (and forgotten), between the shed and the hen house. The word of mouth method for finding old bicycles can easily be supplemented through use of the bulletin boards at work or at neighborhood convenience stores, many of which have boards set up for employee or customer use, respectfully. This Canadian made Raleigh Superbe was located and secured following the bulletin board plan as was this CCM Redbird, twenty eight inch wheels and all. Both bikes are neat to ride, even though they do not fall into the vintage lightweight category. Both were offered for free.
Take the time to go for a walk in your neighborhood, focusing on travelling the back lanes, assuming that it is safe to do so, and keep your eyes open. This works best in the Spring and Fall seasons, when the leaves are not on the trees and bushes. As you walk down the lane, and without appearing too obvious about it, look carefully into backyards. Pay attention to the spaces between buildings that are close together. Often times, the bikes are tucked away - out of the way. Once located, be prepared to put some extra effort into refurbishing these finds. As often as not, bicycles stored out of doors will have suffered some environmental damage, such as rust formation. Once a bicycle is located, do not tresspass for a closer look. Be considerate of the home owner and knock on the door. Explain that you are seeking out an old ten speed for restoration purposes and ask, "What the plans are for the old bike in the back yard" (do not mention cash, money or buying at this stage) and, as often as not, the bicycle will be given to you for nothing, as was this Canadian made Peugeot UO 9. It really is as simple as that! And while you're there, don't hesitate to ask if the home owner knows where any other bikes might be found. Many of the bicycles on these pages have been acquired following this method. Even if you are not interested in any of your initial finds, make note of where they are located. You never can tell, the day might come when you choose to pick up the passed over bike for trading purposes.
Pawn broakers and thrift shops are sources for vintage light weight bicycles and, once again, these bikes can be had for very little cash outlay. It is, however, becomming increasingly difficult to find bikes this way. Few shop owners want to take them in due to the fact that there is almost no market for the ten speed bicycles in this "mountain bike only" world that we live in today. People want mountain bikes. Period! If you do choose to try this method, for finding an older bike, leave your name and number with the shop owners. Check back from time to time to ensure that the shop owner remembers you and your interest. Perhaps he or she will give you a call sometime in the future, making your day in the process. Who knows...
Check out your local newspaper for upcoming "Yard Sales". Yard and garage sales are great sources for finding old bicycles and there is often an added benefit - the bikes, as a rule, have not been stored out of doors. If you do not see an old ten speed for sale, don't hesitate to ask the vendor if he or she might have an old bike tucked away that they would consider parting with. It is not uncommon for the person holding the yard sale to say yes, probably wondering to themselves why they didn't put the darn thing up for sale in the first place. Give it a try. Yard sales are fun! Remember to bring cash.
Some cities have Police Auctions. Lost or stolen bicycles, retrieved by the police, are often offered for sale at auctions and good deals for ten speeds abound. People will pay almost full price for a used mountain bike at these events, while qualilty ten speeds can be purchased for as little as one dollar. This CCM Targa was picked up for a buck one Saturday afternoon at the Police Auction. Two other bikes were also purchased, a Norco, with a beautiful leather saddle, was scooped up for $12.50 Canadian and an almost perfect condition Lemage, once again for twelve and a half bucks.
An excellent place to find old lightweight bicycles is at the local landfill site(the dump). It is amazing how many old bikes find their way to the dump every year. Hundreds, and probably thousands, of bicycles meet this final end during "Spring Clean Ups" alone. Just because a bicycle has been left at the dump does not mean that there is anything wrong with it. Quite often, the bicycle is thrown away with care and reluctance. The owner still recognizes the bike's value but they are just tired of having the bloody thing in the way. The majority of the bicycles illustrated on these pages were found at the local landfill site and are now being ridden.
It is common to find department store bikes at the dump and rare to find higher end stuff, but it does happen. This "Campy" equipped Holdsworth and Sekine SHT and this Peugeot PS28, three higher end machines, are unusual finds for a landfill site but much appreciated, none the less.
Ebay and other web sites of the like are good vintage ten speed sources, however; expect to pay a fair price. The Holdsworth, acquired at the dump for nothing, will cost several hundred dollars, or more, if purchased through Ebay. Why? Because there are a lot of knowledgeable (and unfortunately, not so knowledgeable) buyers looking at the same opportunities that you are. But do not let this deter you in your Ebay quest. Find a bike that you are interested in. Explain your interest to a forum group like the Vintage Lightweight Group at the Old Roads web site and get a reasonable idea of what the bicycle is worth. Make sure you understand how big the bike is (e-mail the seller and ask any questions that you have) and, if satisfied, bid away. You have nothing to loose. Not only are Ebay like web pages a good place to find old bikes, but one can also find a host of vintage components to restore the bike after it has been acquired. Actually, once your vintage bicycle interest is acquired, viewing the offerings on Ebay becomes almost an addictive pass time. Go to Ebay - click Sports - click Cycling and, finally - click Road Bikes and Parts.
And what about the local bike shops themselves? They can be grest sources for older bikes and, once again, you might get an excellent deal. This Motobecane was purchased out of the basement of a local shop in Duluth for $20.00 US. The Gitane for $25.00 and a Raleigh, something or other, with a 751 tube frame, for forty. Did the purchaser get a good deal? Only time will tell! Even if there are no interesting bikes available at the time, don't despair. Ensure that the shop owner is aware of your interest, leaving your name and number just in case something worth while comes in on trade in the future. A Canadian made Peugeot UO 10, sans wheels, was picked up this way for a very modest price.
Join a forum, like the "Old Roads" one mentioned above. These sites are an excellent source for acquiring information, old bikes and parts. Expect to pay a fair price because you will, for the most part, be dealing with knowledgeable sellers and competing with knowledgeable buyers. When it comes to collecting information, "Old Roads" contributors offered more Sekine related information in a single weekend than could be found in four months of searching the net. This account of the situation is not exaggeration. It happened.
Scrap metal yards, estate sales and local auctions are just a few of the other potential sources for finding old bicycles. How many actual sources are there? Who knows? Let your own creativity assist you in determining how to find new places to look. One bicycle was found looking over the railing of a bridge one day. Actually, two ten speed bikes were sitting in the creek, waiting to be salvaged. Their condition was probably "HOT" and certainly deplorable. Bikes in this kind of condition would be worthy of restoration only if they were of very high end quality. They weren't! The point is, old bikes can be found almost anywhere. Start keeping you eyes open for opportunities now. You will begin to wonder how it is that you didn't see all of these old ten speeds before.
Once you have decided on which bicycle you intend to refurbish or restore, it is time to identify tool, facility and skill requirements. But that is another story...
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