Restoring a Canadian Classic – The ’46 CCM Loop Frame

15 08 2012

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.

Keith loads up the ’46 CCM and le Mercier beside it to get me & my bikes home. This would be the first time in months that I’d stepped into an automobile.

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.

A large part of a project like this is cleaning. There’s a nice cog under all that caked on grime, waiting to be exposed with degreaser and some elbow grease.

The parts of the coaster hub before reassembly. If you look carefully, you’ll see that every part, even the nuts, are stamped “CCM.” I don’t know why, but it makes my heart skip a beat in joy.

Reassembled and shined up CCM coaster hub. Made in Canada, patented 1937.

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.

Despite the watery surprise on the inside, the races, cups and chrome were in beautiful shape underneath the grime. Also, this is by far the best photo of anything I have ever taken inside BikeWorks.

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.

The headbadge has seen better days, my guess is because of a basket. Notice how the paint is unevenly faded where parts of the badge have chipped away.

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.

Two light coats of all in one Minwax stain/sealer on plain light beige cork. I then used a layer of double sided tape to keep the grips in place.

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!

The wolf was also excited about this old school bike and wanted to take it for a test ride too.

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 don’t care how late it is, I need to test ride this baby.

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.





Concentrated Awesome in 20″ Wheels

9 11 2010

People dump bikes outside the gates of the local bicycle co-op all the time, so often that it’s a regular chore to haul them in every time we open the gates. Last week, I was greeted by an old folding bike in really rough shape, wheels tossed into the garbage bin. The slightly faded coral red frame caught my attention, and since it turned into a slow day at the shop, I decided to try to make it rideable.

Meet the Eaton Road King Porta Bike, made in Hungary.

The initial inspection revealed the frame’s fatal flaw – a home welding job is all that’s holding the front crossbar to the folding plate and the resulting angle of the tube is slightly, but noticeably off.

Porta-Bike's scarred heart.

The weld seemed to be holding, so I decided to take a chance on investing the work to fix it up. The first step was to rebuild the bottom bracket that had been left in a disgraceful state. The adjustable cup was missing, the threads of the shell were stripped out, and the spindle was attached to crank arms of 2 different sizes. Luckily, EBC is fully equipped with tools and old parts, and I’m equipped with the know-how to use them.

Yep, it's cottered, but it's too pretty to replace.

I straightened out and reattached the fenders, overhauled the coaster hub, added pedals, grips, tires, changed the seat, removed the remains of a built in generator system and, since I’ve taken these pictures, overhauled the headset and embarked on a campaign of rust removal and shine-up. I still need to find a suitable replacement for the quick release levers on the seat, stem, and fold, which are made of a plastic that is so degraded that it comes off in massive amounts of white powder every time they’re touched.

But why put so much work into a bike with a broken heart, who’s frame could fracture again tomorrow?

The answer is simple: this bike is an absolute joy to ride.

Wheeee!!

It’s peppy, responsive, and maneuverable, and the riding position is comfortably upright. It’s a bike that gets in and out of tight places with ease.

Twenty inch wheels don't feel small.

I now understand why Keith and some of the other EBC mechanics are so crazy for their twenty’s: while riding one of those bikes it’s impossible to not be happy. Sure it’s a little demanding of the mechanic who wants to race over the High Level Bridge on it, cranking 120rpm, but my other bikes have been easy on me lately and I need a change and a challenge, and perhaps some adventures on a bicycle with a tragic past.

What's more fun than a jeep with two steering wheels that only travels around in imaginationland? Porta-Bike, that's what!





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.





Breaking Out the Summer Bike

11 03 2010

Three years ago, a couple of friends rescued a rusty old Raleigh from a dumpster,  got her working, dubbed her Marjory Stewart Baxter and gave her a second life. Sadly, they moved away not long after, but left Marjory to me to take care of. I’m so thankful they did, because she’s become my favorite bicycle ever.

Marjory Stewart Baxter and me. From this angle the tires look flat. It's the angle, I swear. Bicycle fashion shots with flat tired bikes are a pet peeve of mine.

That summer, I took a 4 week bicycle mechanics course at EBC where I learned by overhauling every part of that bike, cleaning and regreasing each nook and cranny, replacing all the ball bearings and cables, adjusting and tightening every nut and bolt. I found six different types of (dead) insects in her bottom bracket, including wasps and moths. I spent hours sanding off rust and trying to get those rusty steel wheels true, and I had a pretty good ride to show for it, until I had to replace the tires and found out that her wheels were an oddball 26×1-3/8 (597 instead of 590 for the bike nerds) size that was only manufactured for a few brief years in Canada. This meant any new tires I put on her would not be perfectly round and feel like I was hitting a bump on every revolution of the wheel, not fun.

Eventually, I ordered in some modern cheap alloy 26×1-3/8 wheels. I had to switch out the cones and lock-nuts on the axles to match the dropout widths but is was so worth the hassle. She weighs half as much as before, brakes 10 times better, fits standard tires and with a little love will glide smooth as sorbet for thousands more miles.

So this week, I’m riding Marjory for the first time since fall. How I’ve missed sitting upright on a perfectly balanced bike with a soft cushy seat, the only resistance the wind in my hair as I zip past cyclists with gear more costly than cars. Her only weak point is that her matching pinstriped fenders that gracefully save me from the puddles fit so close they leave no room for winter studs and can completely clog up with snow or mud. I’ve rode her everywhere else possible though, from mountain bike trails (as long as they’re dry) to overnight trips into the countryside, in style.