Mystery antique bike tool – can you guess its purpose?

Mystery Bike Tool

Mystery Bike Tool

Hanging out at our local community run bike shop, Bikeworks North, has given me many opportunities to glimpse the diversity of bicycle technology new and old. While it’s neat to occasionally see somebody wander in with a skookum carbon fiber bike (that cost more than I could sell my internal organs for on the black market), what I enjoy most is getting to see some of the odd avenues that bicycle manufacturers have wandered down in the past.

I freely admit that it doesn’t take much to impress me. As a 40-something year old whippersnapper who has really only been sucked into the cycling history vortex in the past couple of years, I have a lot to learn. The internet is, of course, a wealth of easily accessible information but you can’t beat the opportunity to actually to see something in person.

Earlier this month I was lucky enough to be in the shop when an older gentleman brought in the tool shown in the opening photo. This fellow is 85 years old and operated a bike shop decades ago. I didn’t catch when he shut down his business, but judging by the NOS parts he donated during an earlier visit, it was likely in the early 80’s. He commented that as a small shop he couldn’t compete with the volume discounts that the suppliers started offering to the big stores. It interesting to chat with him about the cycling shops that have come and gone in Edmonton long before I moved here.

On this day, he had brought in an old bike tool and he challenged the volunteers present to guess what it was used for. I was well out of my depth here. It was looked to be double-ratcheting, tightening something with both the up and downstrokes of the lever, which reminded me of a cider press I rented once. However, I couldn’t guess what would require that on a bicycle.

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Here is the other side of the tool.

He also brought in a child’s CCM bike dating from the late 40’s or early 50’s. This was nifty to look at all on its own. In the photos below, an observant reader might be able to spot a clue to the intended use of the tool.

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This use of the mystery tool dates back to the dawn of cycling and something of its sort was used with the iconic penny-farthings. I imagine it wasn’t much used by the 1940s but was still a requirement for working on children’s bicycles as well as for baby carriages. Still stumped? The next photos should clear things up.

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Pneumatic tires have been around since the late 1800’s but before that solid rubber tires were used and were tightened onto the rim by means of an internal wire. The mystery tool was used to tighten the wire. While the cushioning effect of the air-filled tires made them immediately popular, the durable and puncture proof solid tires remained in use for some applications. Even today you can still buy modern varieties of airless tires. The photo above shows a tire that wasn’t properly fit to the wheel.

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The tire material was sold in coils and you would simply cut off the length you needed for a particular wheel.

My wife doesn’t share my bike interests, but is tolerant when I pester her to look at something I find interesting. When I showed her the photos of the tire machine, I was surprised when she said she had seen one before. Her grandfather was a cobbler in Saskatchewan who also repaired bike wheels and she remembered seeing a tool like this in his shop. She had also seen the coils of tire material there. When I mentioned that these sorts of tires had been used on baby carriages she said that there were carriages handing from the rafters of his shop.

I snooped around the internet for a bit, and while I didn’t find an example of this particular type of machine being used, I did find some examples of different machines being used for the same job. Here is a video of one in use.

I doubt I’ll ever have occasion to use a device like this but it was fascinating to learn about this old style of tire. Maybe I need to add a penny-farthing to my small fleet.

 

 

Bike of the Week: Early 80’s Cambio Rino Competizione

Cambio Rino Cometizione

This is one of the prettiest bikes that’s come in as a donation at Bikeworks North. I don’t know much about Italian road bikes, vintage or otherwise, but I think this is a sweet ride. There is some conflicting information out there on the Cambio Rino company, but I found this concise summary at Disraeli Gears.

This bike has Rino branded hubs, headset, derailleurs, seatpost and shifters. Some of the other components include Universal brakes & levers, Wolber rims and a nice copper riveted Brooks saddle. I have to be shallow and admit that my favourite thing about this bike is the luscious green paint job. The paint is mostly in good shape but is flaking off at a few points showing the chrome beneath. Click on a few of the photos below to get a better look at the colour. A few other nice details are the pretty, but not overly ornamental,  lugs and the Rino logos on the fork crown and seat stays. I also like the shifters which are nicely ornamented, and with the rear shift lever having a pleasant curve.

This bike has been tempting me for several months now even though it’s a smidge too big for me at 58cm. It’d be great if somebody dropped by the shop and bought it so I could stop mulling the possibility of adding an Italian bike to my little fleet.

A Tale of Two Mouldens

Moulden Ride

More of a short story really…

For the final installment of my Thanksgiving weekend cycling, I joined The Raving Bike Fiend on Monday for an easy cruise from Bikeworks North to Whyte Ave and back. We were both riding bikes made by Edmonton former frame builder Jim Moulden. Jim established Hardcore Bikes  back in 1989 and built frames up until 2003. The photo above shows both bikes returning home.

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Both the bikes are nicely fillet brazed. A little measuring with the calipers at the shop before the ride, showed that the main tubes of both bikes are the same diameters, resulting in one being a pretty lightweight mountain bike, and the other being a stiff, strong road bike. I’ll be posting about my bike in more detail soon.

The Fiend's Moulden. You can read more about it here.

The Fiend’s Moulden mountain bike. You can read more about it HERE.

My Moulden Road Bike.

My Moulden Road Bike: a bike made for going fast.

After, this photo session we headed down Whyte Ave and stopped at a coffee shop for some hot beverages. While we were sitting outside enjoying the fine autumn weather, another EBC volunteer pedaled up an joined us, giving me the oppourtunity to add a little bit more Canadian content to this blog post.

A gorgeous Marinoni, mostly equipped with Dura-Ace components.

A gorgeous Marinoni, mostly equipped with Dura-Ace components.

Bike of the Week: ’70s Sekine GT Novelty Mini Bike.

Sekine GT

Sekine GT

This week’s bike is a weird but fascinating old Sekine GT that showed up this past week as a donation at Bikeworks North. Since I first spotted it, the Sekine GT has been clouding my mind with a befuddling fascination. I don’t actually want the bike, but I keep looking it over each time I’m in the shop. It’s so peculiar that it draws the eye.

Sekine was a Japanese company that made bicycles for many decades. They’re fairly well known here in Canada because during the bike boom of the ’70s they opened a factory in Manitoba. At the time the Canadian government  had imposed some very high tariffs on imported bicycles (doubtless at the urging of the dominant domestic bicycle maker CCM) and Sekine was able to avoid this tariff by assembling most of the bike in Canada. The bikes were of good quality and sold well.I have seen many old Sekine 10-speed road bikes here in Edmonton.

This Japanese made Sekine GT is a different and fascinating little beast. I can find no reference to it on the internet, and perhaps they didn’t make very many of them.

Here is a combination you don't see every day: a cottered crank and rear suspension! It's interestig how this suspension system isn't wildly different than modern mountain bike suspension.

Here is a combination you don’t see every day: a cottered crank and rear suspension! It’s interesting how this suspension system isn’t wildly different than modern mountain bike suspension. The big 57 tooth chainring is paired with a little 3-speed freewheel in the rear.

Sekine GT

I love the look of biplane fork crowns on old bikes. This is the first “triplane” I’ve seen. If I owned this bike I might call it “The Orange Baron”.

Sekine GT

Very funky rear rack-like object.

Very funky rear rack-like object.

A huge Sekine branded reflector.

A huge Sekine branded reflector.

 

It has 14" X 3" tires and band brakes for both wheels.

It has 14″ X 3″ tires and band brakes for both wheels.

Sekine GT

This crazy little bicycle will make some collector very happy.

This crazy little bicycle will make some collector very happy.

Musical R20 Ride

Last night I loaded up the Raleigh 20 with instruments and alcohol and headed out to a friend’s birthday party to play a few tunes. The instruments of choice were the Republic resonator mandolin and my beloved Sandner waldzither-to-cittern conversion. The beer of  choice was Muskoka Summer Weiss.

Musical R20

Musical R20

The 3-speed R20 performed its job as beast of burden with aplomb, it’s zippy maneuverability undiminished by the low-slung load.  At the party guitars, whistle, fiddle and recorder were also present. Tunes were played, songs were sung (not by me!) and beverages were sipped. The post-midnight ride home was warm, quiet and peaceful. I coasted through a group of muted late night revelers in the Mill Creek ravine, seeming to amuse them with my helmet light. I do love fair weather night riding, one of the great things about the approaching summer.

Midnight Musical R20

Midnight Musical R20

Bike of the Week: 1990 Rocky Mountain Fusion

WARNING: This post contains tedious, bike nerd content. My feelings won’t be at all hurt if you skip the text and just look at the pictures.

Introducing the 1990 Rocky Mountain Fusion

Introducing the 1990 Rocky Mountain Fusion

This winter I retired my old winter  ride, a 2007 Iron Horse Commuter. This bike served me well as my only bike for a couple of years before it was demoted to only winter service for two more years. By this time I was looking for something a little nicer for my winter ride. Preferably an older, good quality rigid mountain bike. What I ended up using was a slightly scruffy Rocky Mountain Fusion frameset  that had been kicking around, neglected, at Bikeworks North for several months.

About the Fusion Model:

The Fusion was first introduced in 1988. This bike’s frame was made overseas and then assembled in Canada. There was nothing unusual about this for the company, however, as in the previous year  six out of nine of the Rocky Mountain models were imported. By 1990, the year my bike was made, only the Fusion was not made in Canada. The 1989 model was made in Taiwan and I’m guessing that my 1990 bike was as well.  In the following year all the bikes including the Fusion were made in Canada. Ironically, I’m pretty sure that the pendulum has swung back and most if not all of Rocky Mountain’s bikes are made in Taiwan now. During these early years, the Fusion sat close to and sometimes at the bottom of the Rocky Mountain lineup. Even so, at  $760 in 1993 this was not an inexpensive bike.

1990 Rocky Mountain Fusion

It has Ishiwata triple butted chromoly tubing. Triple butted was a marketing term from the period and functionally it’s no different from double butted. The tubing mostly has a circular cross-section, except where the seat tube joins the bottom bracket. At this point it is shaped to an oval cross section, purportedly offering better stiffness under pedaling torque.  Looking at the bike you can see the hint of a sloping top tube, something Rocky Mountain was making a big deal about at the time. It’s nothing by today’s standards, of course.

1990 Rocky Mountain Fusion

It has sturdy rear rack bosses, eyelets for rack and fender in the rear, and for just a fender in the front. There is also nice attention to detail in the form of threaded holes for accessory mounting in the chainstay bridge, the seatstay bridge, and the fork crown

There are a few details that definitely place the era  the bike was made in. Firstly, the stem is the short lived 1 1/8″ theaded size. This size was briefly used in the early nineties but was quickly swept aside by the now familiar  threadless system. This isn’t  a big deal, but it will make sourcing replacements parts a bit more inconvenient. Secondly, while it has cantilever brakes in the front, it has a seatstay mounted U-brake in the rear. U-brakes were a fad in the late 90s, initially appearing on the chainstays, but later migrating to the seat stays before disappearing from bikes in the early 90s. There will be about that stupid U-brake later in this post.

Building the Bike:

Building this bike was the first time I’d ever started from mostly just a frameset. The only original parts are the frame, fork, headset, and probably the stem. All of the other components I either transferred from the Iron Horse or scrounged from my parts bin or the ones at BWN.

Starting off, the non-driveside crank threads were stripped. As we don’t have a puller at BWN, I cut the crank off with a hacksaw. The bottom bracket parts were worn out and I discarded them. Next, checking the frame with the alignment gauge showed that the rear triangle was bent to one side. Although this was my first time using the frame bending tools, the internet helpfully instructed me and I was able to realign the tubes, dropouts and derailleur hanger.

1990 Rock Mountain Fusion

I mounted XT levers with the shifters removed. These are great short-pull levers with good braking force and modulation. I used Suntour ratcheting friction shifters. Friction shifting is much less fussy than indexed in winter conditions, when your bike is coated in sand,salt and ice. These Suntour thumbies are as good as it gets. Levers and shifters are mounted on a Zoom 170 butted aluminum handlebar.

1990 Rocky Mountain Fusion

I used a set of older LX cantis on the front. A little finicky to set up but with good braking power.

Biopace triple crankset. Some people loved the biopace chainrings, some hated them. I'm indifferent. The front derailleur is a nice,earlier Deore. Te rear derailleur is a nothing-special Alivio. Winter is tough on the drivetrain. No  sense in using anything too nice.

Biopace triple crankset. Some people loved the biopace chainrings, some hated them. I’m indifferent. The front derailleur is an earlier Deore. The rear derailleur is a nothing-special Alivio. Winter is tough on the drivetrain. No sense in using anything too nice.

Dratted U-Brake.

Dratted U-Brake.

When I started building the bike I assumed that it was supposed to have rear cantis. Posts on the seatstays equals cantilevers, right? Wrong! It wasn’t until I tried mounting a set of V-brakes that I noticed that the posts didn’t have a hole for the brake springs. I also belatedly noticed that the posts were higher than cantilever posts, above the rim in fact. What the heck was going on? U-brakes, that’s what.

U-Brakes are a sort of caliper brake on steroids.They do have plenty of stopping power, but have a few peculiarities. When bike manufacturers started using U-Brakes they placed them on the chainstays. These tubes are stronger than the seatstays, resulting in less frame flex during braking. Unfortunately it also put the brakes down near the ground where they tended to get clogged with mud and dirt. Builders, didn’t quite give up on them yet, though, and for a few years they located the U-brakes up on the seat stays. However,in this location they didn’t really have any significant advantages over cantilevers.

The geometry of the U-Brake system causes the pads to contact the rim higher and higher   as the pads wear out. Eventually, they will start rubbing on the tires with unfortunate results. This is not an endearing feature. While riding my Fusion this winter I made a special point of monitoring the pad wear to ensure my skookum studded tires were not ruined. Also, these brakes didn’t make it easy to squeeze fat tires and fenders on the bike. If you look closely at the photo you will see that I had to grind slots in the fenders to fit them inside the brake calipers. Add, a rack to the bike and it’s a real pain to make adjustments. Enough about brakes.

The front wheel is a Mavic something-or-other rim with a DT Hugi hub. I’d rolled with this wheel for two winters on the Iron Horse before using it on the Fusion. It’s continues to be great. Winter riding is one application where sealed cartridge bearings are very useful. Next year I may do something similar for the rear wheel (currently Mavic on an 8-speed LX Hub).

I wasn’t able use my DIY studded tires with this bike as the front fork clearance is quite tight. However, I lucked into some great second hand Nokian Haka WXC300 carbide studded tires. These have fantastic traction (I was down riding on the frozen river one day this winter) but are a beast to roll when you’re on bare pavement. The narrow fork clearance meant that I couldn’t fit a fender with these tires, either. I also used a set of Schwalbe Marathon Winter tires for a while, too. These 26 X 1.75″ tires were narrow enough that I could use the front fender with them. They don’t have anywhere near the grip of the Nokians but they roll much better on pavement. I used them throughout the last part of winter when there was a lot of bare pavement but still a fair number of icy patches.

RIDING THE FUSION:

Riding through the winter months on the lighter weight Fusion was much more enjoyable than on the clunky old Iron Horse Commuter. It’s stable, fast, and nimble. I churned through deep powder, ground across pits of brown sugar, climbed hills of sheer ice, and pounded across rutted hardpack. All the while whistling a jaunty tune (or maybe not).

1990 Rocky Mountain Fusion

In the autumn, after building the bike and before the first snowfall,  I had the chance to take the Fusion for a test ride on the river valley singletrack. It flowed smoothly through the twisty trails, urging me to ride faster than my terrible off-road skills would normally permit. The difference between this bike and my previous imitation mountain bikes was noticeable. When I was racing down the the long, straight stretch leading to entrance to Kinnaird ravine I felt like I was outpacing the photons carrying  the visual information to my vibrating eyeballs. Good, clean fun.

It’s worth noting that the longish stem without much rise results in a very stretched out riding position.This aggressive stance felt great  on days when I was really digging in and pedaling hard.  However, on those commuting days when I was feeling less energetic,a more upright riding position would have been nice.

1990 Rocky Mountain Fusion

The Fusion also did a fine job of hauling cargo. I’ve loaded up the bike with panniers full of groceries on a regular basis and have hauled a few large awkward packages with no problems. These older rigid mountain bikes really are great all-around bikes. As a bonus, you can still buy them for cheap as they tend to be undervalued. However, there has been a lot more internet buzz about them in recent years so that change soon. If you are the sort that absolutely MUST have drop-bars,check out this forum thread to see some  conversions. For the summer, I’m thinking of going the opposite way and temporarily transmogrifying the Fusion into an upright city bike style. Stay tuned for details.

Whichever configuration it ends up in, this bike is now one of my keepers.

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The Raleigh 20 & The Society of Three Speeds

When I used to stop cycling during the winter I’d always keenly anticipate the first ride in spring. Getting back on the bike after the winter hiatus was always exhilarating.  Now that I cycle year round I miss having that first ride. On the other hand, I now get to look forward to the first ride of the year when I don’t have to use the winter bike. For the past few years my bike of choice for that ride was the 2008 Kona Jake CX bike, a happy blend of road bike and mountain bike. It’s a good choice for spring riding: zippy and rugged.

This year I had something else in mind for the first spring ride. Today I took my 70’s Raleigh 20 3-speed for a little trip to Bikeworks North to make a few changes to the ol’ folding bike. 3 speed bikes have been on my mind lately as I had recently received an enrollment in The Society of Three Speeds. Shawn Granton, the society’s self-appointed president for life, mailed me a membership package containing a number of buttons and stickers featuring his always great art. Receiving this bundle of goodies in the mail was a nice surprise that cheered me up on what had been a sort of lousy day (thanks Shawn!)

R20 &b the Society of Three Speeds

The three rules of the 3-speed society are:

  1. I will endeavor to promote three speeds as a viable means of transportation.
  2. I will not denigrate three speed bicycles and will not allow others to disparage these humble bicycles.
  3. I will ride my three speed bicycle with pride and immense enjoyment. If I have not yet procured a three speed bicycle, I will do my best to obtain one posthaste.

I can confidently state that I will uphold the rules of the society. I have two 3-speed bikes and have ridden many kilometers on them, both commuting and for the pure enjoyment of the ride. Readers of this blog may recall not only the Raleigh 20 already mentioned above, but also the 1965 CCM Continental. Both bikes are equipped with the Sturmey-Archer internally geared hubs that seem to tick along reliably doing their job for decades.

I picked up the R20 last year and spent some time in the early summer getting it road worthy and set up to my satisfaction. You can see my blog post showing its original condition here. Through the later part of the summer and early fall I put at least 500 km on the bike a lot of fun doing so.

The R20 had a number of peculiarities to consider when setting it up.

The bottom bracket is of unusual dimensions and requires heroic measures if you wish to set it up to accept a modern square taper crankset. Although  I have access to the tools to do this job I decided leave it unchanged as the original crankset was in perfect condition and featured a nifty heron design on the chainring. Unfortunately, this means having to deal with the crank cotters whenever I want to service the bottom bracket. Completing that chore for the first time was tough as one of the cotters was well seized in place and pretty mangled by the time I removed it.

The R20 has an unusual headset, a sort of combination of a threaded and threadless headset. It also lacks top ball bearings and instead has a plastic bushing. I had read that this results in stiffer steering,perhaps a deliberate choice of the designers who may have wanted to dampen the quick steering associated with many folding bikes. When I first tried the bike I found the steering to be unpleasantly stiff. There is modification that you can do to replace the original headset with a 1″ threadless headset, resulting in better steering. Before going to this extreme I tried simply greasing the bushing and lower ball bearings and correctly setting the compression. Afterwards,I found the steering to be much easier: quick and responsive. For my purposes, no headset modification was required.

The one major change I made was to replace the steel rims with alloy rims. This is a good upgrade for old bikes, resulting in a lighter wheelset and better braking. I ordered the replacement rims from ebay and laced them onto the original hubs. I used Sun CR18 presta rims and drilled out the valve hole to accept schraeder tubes. After buying the bike and paying for the rims I was feeling a little cheap so I reused the old spokes. This is generally considered a bad practice but in this case the old galvanized spokes seem to be holding up just fine so far. They were a bit too long for the new rim,but a few minutes with a die-grinder shortened them adequately.

I also made a number of smaller changes to the bike.

The original saddle was horrible, so last year I replaced it with a salvaged foamy “comfort” saddle. This was OK, but today I swapped that one for a Brooks B66S that I picked up back in December via a Kijiji ad. Much classier and quite comfortable so far.

I also replaced the tires today. The original tires were beyond use and the only replacements I could find at Bikeworks at first were a set of grey wheelchair tires.These were in pretty doubtful shape themselves,with the wire bead showing through the cracking rubber at several points. I rode these tires for hundreds of kilometers last year and though they let me get the bike on the road, I was always aware that they could fail at any time. The tires I put on today are NOS tires that I discussed in this blog post. They are in excellent condition and I like he looks of the black tires on the bike more than the grey ones.

I added a rack to the bike. I used an old Pletscher rack that I had on hand. A small modification was necessary as the rack was made for a larger wheeled bike and so I had to shorten the stays. I cut them to the correct length and pressed new flats on them using the hydraulic press at work. Then I drilled new holes and was it was ready to install. Pletscher racks aren’t suitable for carrying a lot of weight but I have used this one on successfully on numerous grocery runs so far.

Pletshcer rack modification

All in all, the bike has shaped up nicely. The brakes still need some attention as the stopping power is less than great. I almost ordered some Tektro dual pivot long reach calipers but decided that I will first try a few more basic measures first like replacing the cable housing and cables. Eventually. In the meantime, I’ll still keep racking up the kilometers on this trusty ol’ 3-speed folder..

Raleigh 20

Happy Spring Riding!

How not to break in a leather saddle.

No saddles were harmed in the writing of this blog post.

No saddles were harmed in the writing of this blog post.

There are a lot of opinions on the best way to break in a leather saddle. I’m no expert. I have 4 leather saddles that I bought used and all but one of them were already broken in. The one that wasn’t broken in was a decades old NOS Wright’s W3N. It was quite dried out, hard as a rock and completely unrideable. While I was trying figure out how to bring it back into usable condition I did a bit of online reading on the subject.

For new saddles, the consensus seems to be to not do anything drastic. Break the saddle in by riding. Don’t oversoak the saddle with oil because once the oil is in it’s there to stay. Don’t mess around with the tensioning bolt until the saddle starts to sag after many years of use. Overall, the more gently you treat the saddle initially, the more years of use you will get out of it.

A while back I picked up a number of old cycling books from a second hand store. One was from 1980, “The Bicycle Touring Book” by Tim & Glenda Wilhelm. It’s a pretty good book, and deals out thorough (if sometimes outdated) advice on bike touring. It also has the following peculiar advice on breaking in leather saddles. The bold text emphasis was added by me.

First, place the saddle either directly in the hot sun or near a 100-watt light bulb. Do not put it where your hand is not comfortable with the heat. Turn it over after about half an hour. When the leather is as warm and soft as it is going to get, tighten the nut under the front of the saddle…Tighten the nut to the point where the saddle is drum tight, but don’t overdo it and tear the saddle from the rivets.

Next, while the saddle is still warm, apply some sort of leather oil (neatsfoot, mink, Huebard’s shoe grease) to both sides of the saddle. Keep the saddle warm and apply oil until the leather won’t absorb any more. If the saddle loosen’s, tighten the saddle’s adjusting nut again to keep it taut.

Once the saddle is saturated, keep it in a warm place for 10 to 12 hours – in the sun or under a warm light. Now, find a comfortable place to sit and beat on the top of the saddle with a 12-ounce to 16-ounce ball peen hammer. Use the round ball end. If you don’t have a ball peen, use a rolling pin, section of pipe or any smooth rounded object. Beat on the entire surface but concentrate on the rear portion and along the top edge of the saddle where it folds over. Let the hammer do the work; you don’t have to pound hard, just continuously. How long? How soft do you want your saddle? The more you beat, the softer the saddle becomes.

If the saddle loosens up a lot, tighten the adjusting nut again. This process takes a few days to complete because your arm gets too tired. Do it while you watch TV or walk around the block – that will give the neighbors something to talk about…

Now test the saddle for flexibility. Most tourists like their saddles to flex a little; loosen the adjusting nut to accomplish this….You don’t want it drum tight either. Your saddle is now ready to ride.

It reads like a list of everything you are not supposed to do to a new saddle. Not to mention things nobody would consider necessary to warn against, such as hitting it with a hammer for two days. I think it might be useful if you need the saddle to be ready RIGHT NOW and aren’t concerned with having it wear out in short order. With these saddles typically costing at least $100.00 I’d like them to last as long as possible.

Has anybody out there tried this method? If so, I’d love to hear how it worked for you and how long the saddle lasted.

Tire Talk: NOS Winfield 451 (20″ X 1 3/8″)

It can be tough finding new tires for some old bikes. There have been quite a number of wheel sizes over the years and for those which have fallen into disuse manufacturers may be making few or no replacements at all.  In our household fleet we have two bikes that fall into this category: my 70’s Raleigh 20 folding bike and my daughter’s 80’s Norco Squire junior road bike.

Not going anywhere on these tires.

The Raleigh had its original tires when I bought it. I wasn’t riding anywhere on these.

The Raleigh takes 20 X 1/38 (ISO 451) tires and the Norco takes 24 x 1 3/8 (ISO 540). These fractional sizes are not compatible with the readily available 20″ & 24″ decimal tires ( eg: 20″ X 1.75). New tires do exist for both sizes as they are still used on some recumbent bikes or BMX racing bikes but bike shops in my city don’t stock them. I found one set of 451 BMX tires but they were pretty knobby, not what I had in mind for my Raleigh. I didn’t find any 540s at all. I could order replacements online of course, but they aren’t necessarily cheap and shipping can be steep. I have enough project bikes in the works that I don’t like spending any more than I absolutely have to.

A while back I heard that Bikeworks South had received a donation of some less common fractional tires. Back in the summer I had found a set of grey wheelchair tires there that fit the Raleigh. They worked fine but were in rough shape and didn’t look great on the bike. Maybe there would something better now.

Tucked among the hooks of used tires I found a mismatched set of 540s for my daughter’s bike. Nice. The real find, however, was a set of unused 451s still in the original wrapper. The plastic wrapping was yellow with age but the tires inside were in perfect shape and the rubber still seems supple. I’ve never heard of the Winfield band and I assume they were nothing special. It did tickle my brain’s nostalgia center that they were from Woolworth,a department store long vanished from the Canadian retail landscape. I haven’t mounted them yet as I won’t be riding the Raleigh until the unimaginably distant end of winter. I’ll provide an update then.

Still in the wrapper with tags attached!

Still in the wrapper with tags attached!

Winfield 20 x 1 3/8 Tires

I think I will like the combination of the flat center strip with the side blocks. You can jut see the dynamo strip on the sidewall,  an option that lots of tires don't have these days.

I think I’ll like the combination of the flat center strip with the side blocks. You can jut see the dynamo strip on the sidewall, an option that lots of tires don’t have these days.