The Raving Bike Fiend had offered me this bike some time ago, knowing that I have a soft spot for loop frames, the ability to properly fix it up, and that my own vintage CCM, Poplar, was in extremely poor condition and I was spending more time fixing it than riding it. But with both of us living car free, transporting a non-functional bike cross town can get a little complicated. With a big trip on the horizon, though, he got his car rolling again and outfitted it with the necessities: racks for multiple bikes.
The bike was given to Keith by another BikeWorks volunteer, whose grandmother was the original owner. In remarkably good shape, the burgundy rims still had their original white pinstriping, though the striping on the frame hasn’t fared as well over the decades and the white paint on the chain guard and fenders was particularly rough. It was missing a pedal, chain, grips, saddle and seatpost but still had all its integral components. However, the important question was how it looked on the inside.
The first step was to replace the missing components and get it ready for a test ride. Keith gave me a new old stock CCM seat post and I lucked out tremendously and found a Wrights leather saddle (history note – Wrights was an English manufacturer that was bought out by Brooks in 1962). With a brand new 1/8″ chain, it was starting to look like a whole bicycle again but started getting complicated when I went to install pedals.
I had found an appropriate set of 1/2″ pedals and had them ready to go when, after much grunting, swearing and penetrating lube to get the old one off, surprise! I discovered one side of the 1 piece crank was drilled 1/2″ and the other side was drilled 9/16″. WTH? Why would anybody do that? Did they start on the right side before realizing the left side was reverse threaded and needed a special tap? Disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to use the awesome pedals, I headed to the parts room to see if, by some major minor miracle, I could find a matched pair of mismatched pedals. Luck was on my side again, and you wouldn’t know they weren’t a pair by looking at them.
Keith had mentioned some concerns about the coaster hub, so I started the overhauls with that. Old CCM coaster hubs are fairly different than any other coaster hubs I’ve worked on, so if any of the parts were worn, finding spares would be an issue. Though very grimy on the outside, I was pleasantly surprised to find pretty clean lube and all the parts in excellent condition when I opened it up. When I tell people that hubs can outlast bikes if they’re taken care of properly, this is exactly what I’m talking about. This 66 year old hub was in better condition than a lot of 2 year old hubs I’ve seen.
My next priority was to repack the headset, which felt a little loose. No surprise that the stem was corroded in place inside the steerer tube, but after much grunting, swearing and malleting, I got it out. The wedge part actually had rustcicles growing from it! I disassembled the headset and set the fork aside to clean the cups when I heard the sound of running water. It turned out the steering column on the fork was full of water, which was now running across the bench and onto the floor. At least that explained the rustcicles.
The headset itself was in fine shape, and I didn’t have any other issues repacking it. While I had the front wheel off, I repacked the bearings in it too, and like the back, it looked like it had been maintained regularly and would see many more decades of use.
After all of that was reassembled, I could finally put on my grips. I wanted something special that would still be appropriate to the bike while fitting within my next to nothing budget and vegan values. I decided to go with cork stained to match the saddle, as described in Lovely Bicycle and in the subsequent comments.
The last major thing to do was the bottom bracket. After finding all that water in the steerer tube, I was really worried about what awaited me in the bottom bracket, especially considering the bike had been sitting outside with an open seat tube for an indeterminate amount of time. Bugs, leaves, sand were some of the things I expected, but all I found was enamel that had chipped off of the inside of the bottom bracket shell. There was a very small amount of pitting starting on the races, but it should be OK with diligent maintenance to keep it from getting worse.
The last step was take it for a late night test ride!
All these repairs took several nights, and I had been riding the bike back & forth to the shop without grips & overhauls, but that first guilt-free ride when you know you’re not pushing your luck by getting on an unfinished bike is something special. The bike is heavy and clunky, and I think I may need to look at the coaster brake again because it occasionally makes an unhappy noise, and the saddle squeaks like crazy, but it’s still a joy to ride. Upright, lady like and attention getting, the bike turns heads and I’ve gotten many compliments on it from random strangers. Because the frame isn’t bent, it handles much better than Poplar, and the gear ratio feels just right. The tires are in fair condition, but I know I’ll have to be on the lookout for appropriate replacements. The wheels could also do with a truing, which I’ll do when I replace the tires.
I fix enough bikes to know that some are more satisfying than others. This one was off the scale. I’m sure at least one of you wants to know if and what I’ll name this bike. For something that’s survived so well intact and potentially still has a long life ahead of it, it feels kind of presumptuous to give it a quirky moniker. But as I reread this post, an underlying theme of luck comes up, so I think I may use that as inspiration for a name.