Rebirth of a Vintage Canadian Bicycle

3 08 2010

Last spring, I found an an old CCM with a Garry head badge at EBC in extremely rough shape and began fixing it up.  It was initially intended to be sold at EBC, but there is so much damage to the frame, hubs and wheels that it couldn’t be sold as a practical, rideable bike. I dubbed her “Poplar” and decided to follow through on the repairs anyway, so I could learn more about vintage bikes and hopefully get at least one sweet ride out of her instead of going into the scrap metal heap. My one sweet ride came via Critical Lass. The second time I rode her, to the Bikeology Festival, her tire exploded on the way home, during a sudden downpour.

Bam! And, there's no fixing that tire. BTW, nobody believes those are mechanic's hands, my secret is Worx and good keratin production genes.

Replacing a tire is not a big deal, except Poplar has 28″ Canadian size tires, and I had to wait close to a month for a new specimen of that oddball sized rubber.

Canadian size - translates to "good luck finding a replacement"

Canadian size, made in Sweden? The replacement tire was made in Taiwan.

After changing the tire, I decided to work on six decades of rust using the secret recipe for rust removal from Loop Frame Love: aluminum foil and lemon juice.

To the left, clean but rusty rim. To the right, shiny after being rubbed with aluminum foil moistened with lemon juice.

There was a point, possibly even on the first night I worked on this bike, that I knew I’d spend more time fixing it up than I would riding her. So far, I’ve overhauled both hubs, trued the wheels (which included some serious banging to bend back the rims), replaced a bunch of spokes, tightened the bottom bracket, spent hours and hours scraping off 60 years of WD-40, poplar sap and weed overgrowth, bent the fork, the rear triangle and both sets of dropouts back into shape, and replaced the grips and pedals. I have used more brute force on this bike than any other I’ve ever worked on (which is pretty amazing, given my experience with winter bikes), but there are still things, like the bent steerer tube now mounted permanently in the head tube, that no amount of muscle can fix.

New tire & new shine! I also added a basket that, fittingly, had bent stays that also can't take a load.

I feel like I want to take this bike to some sort of completion, not necessarily restored to its original state, given the state of the frame it just wouldn’t be worth the investment, but restored to a semblance of both function and prettiness (BTW, I’d be very interested to find a set of 1/2 inch rubber pedals). This will never be a bike I’d feel comfortable riding fast or far from home, but I think I do want to take the last major step in sprucing her up and give her a new paint job. There is burgundy paint underneath the green, and on the fork there is a sparkly blue paint under the burgundy and green, so I’ll take that into account when I decide what colours her new look will include. She’s a delightful little bicycle, and I hope she has at least a couple more special occasion rides left in her.





Back to our Regularly Scheduled Season

10 04 2010

Early April in E-town is more often a time of snow and chills than of anything most people would consider springlike. This year, the snow melted early and the sun has already started sucking what little moisture is left from the parched ground. The last decade has been among the driest on record, and years of drought are  beginning to do permanent damage to Edmonton’s urban forest. Knowing this makes it harder to embrace an earlier retirement of the long underwear for the season, as it comes at the expense of the trees that protect me from the summer sun and break the brutal winter wind.

So, a change in weather is welcomed, but not one involving gale force winds.

A dust cloud rises over downtown. This is taken from the same spot as one of the pictures in the previous post where you can see the skyline.

This is the type of wind that sandblasts you and everything around you with dirt and gravel and sticks and garbage. It’s the type of wind that, when it’s at your back, can blow you up a hill, accelerating without pedaling, and when it’s at your side it can blow you off balance. It’s the kind of wind that will leave you motionless, blind, and breathless should you be so unlucky to have to ride straight into it. It’s the type of wind that evaporates precipitation before it hits the ground and sublimates snow before it can melt and be absorbed by the soil. In short, it’s the last thing this thirsty burg needs.

Street art near bicycle bottleneck.

Having an errand to do, I arrived at EBC just as the first clumps of snow began blowing in horizontally. I was light headed from the wind but ecstatic about the prospect of precipitation that could actually stick. That’s when I saw this old girl that had appeared mysteriously in the yard overnight.

A vintage step-through frame with most of its parts but in very rough shape.

Perhaps it was the prospect of enough moisture to quell the dust storm mixed with the first flashes of fever from an impending flu that made me so infatuated I decided to start fixing her up on the spot. The impression I have is “farm bike,” used & abused for many years before being abandoned, overgrown and partially buried, then rescued, repainted but never given more “maintenance” than the occasional shots of WD-40. I was hoping to restore her into a stylin’ ride for EBC to sell to a very lucky someone, and eagerly began cleaning, sanding, and replacing spokes and bearings. However, everything I’ve taken apart so far has revealed major issues with this bike, including bent frame & forks, shot rims & worn down hubs, serious enough that it shouldn’t be resold. Still, I want more practice working on these old cruisers, so I’m going to see how far I can get with this one.

Hub crud - one of many reasons you should keep WD-40 away from your bikes.

The hub was encased in an unholy epoxy of balsam poplar sap (and buds) and WD-40. I had scraped off approximately 90% of it before taking the picture above, and was still left with a sticky gungy mess. When I finally did get things clean, I was greeted with a pitted hub and disintegrating cones.

This is what a cone should not look like.

All the poplar-cement (my new least favourite thing found in a hub) removal took a few hours, and I’ve still got much more to do. Here’s hoping for no sap in the bottom bracket. As the snow had started to collect on the bikes outside and the wind was forming it into icy drifts on the side streets, I ended my impromptu repair session to return home to curl up with the kitties and listen to the wind howl.

EBC yard bikes under a blanket of snow. Don't worry, petites bicyclettes, spring is coming and we'll find new homes for you soon.








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