Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Different Project


Let's take a break from the farm life for awhile. Enough with the construction projects, the fencing projects, the bees, and the chickens. While these are interesting - and continue to occupy a portion of my daily routine - I have recently embarked on another project: the restoration of an old bicycle.

Bicycles define our family. Shirley prefers to bicycle rather than drive. In fact, she drives the car about once a month. Shirley does everything by bike: grocery shopping, running errands, even attending birthday parties, church services, and funerals by bicycle. Our daughter and her husband ride their bikes to work and to run errands, and our son, Mike, has recently expressed an interest in becoming re-acquainted with a bicycle
- after driving his car non-stop for the last three years .

I have lost my fascination and craving for the lightest, fastest and newest bicycle. My bike is about 15 years old and Shirley's is even older. Our bikes are workhorses with comfortable saddles (seats to the non-cyclists), panniers (bags on the back for hauling everything from 48 rolls of toilet paper from Costco, the cat carrier with a couple of cats, to 50 pounds of flour), and low gearing to enable us to climb the hills in the East Bay.

But lest I digress too much, let's get back to the new "project". After weeks of checking Craigslist, I found an old Carlton (British bicycle) that was hand-built from Reynolds 531 tubing in 1964. This bike has seen better days and the technology, while functional, is certainly not on par with new bikes being sold today. But this is not a project about building some exotic racing machine. Rather, this is a father/son project. Mike and I decided that it would be fun to restore this the Carlton to its original condition. Our plan was to sand the frame, knock off the rust, scrape off the gunk, replace a few broken or missing parts, true the wheels, grease the bearings, oil the chain, and put some air in the tires. This goal was pretty straightforward until Day 1. The bike - being of British ancestry - was built to exacting standards. Unfortunately, these "exacting standards" happen to be the manufacturer's standards which are different from other British bicycle standards, French standards, Italian standards, Japanese standards, and the standards adhered to by the handful of bicycle manufactures that were making bicycles in the U.S. The threads are different and every nut and bolt seems to be a different size. I have come across two bolts that I have yet to find either a metric or standard wrench that will fit it, and the right side of the crank has reverse threads! Disassembling this bike was like solving the Rubic's Cube!

So, over the next couple of weeks, I will take you through some of our work on this project. The following photo shows Mike preparing the fork for a coat of primer and hopefully some new paint.

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