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.

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Critical Lass – Northside!

5 08 2011

This is the blog post where I nearly fail at Critical Lass. The weather was hot and sunny after days of rain, the rides are now regularly scheduled on the fourth Sunday of the month, and this month our starting point was the Taste of Edmonton Festival, where dozens of local eateries offer up samplings of their fare outside, in Churchill Square.

Feeling late, I was really booking it on Poplar as I crossed The Bridge, so much so that I nearly blew right by Deb and Angel from Loop Frame Love. They were taking it pretty easy, and another lass caught up with us as we headed towards the square. I still wanted to stop at the bank as well as pick up a cold beverage before the ride, so I left the group so I could bike fast, “ride” the errands, and meet up in time to rendezvous with everyone.

Except it didn’t happen. I arrived to a Churchill Square filled with thousands of people, but I couldn’t find the Critical Lasses.

Look! I'm not that hard to miss! I'm tall and wearing a sparkly hat!

I pushed my bike through that crowd for more than an hour, munching on some Padmanadi and taking a break to splash in the City Hall fountain along the way. Even in such a large crowd, how difficult could it be to find a bunch of well-dressed ladies with vintage bikes and foldies? Were they enjoying a Taste of Edmonton? Had they already left? Did the volunteer anti-bike gestapo get them? (I once was tackled, that’s right – tackled, for riding my bike through an empty festival site on a rainy day, and on this day was told several times by festival volunteers that I couldn’t ride my bike anywhere near the square, even though I wasn’t riding it.)

Growing tired of the suffocating sea of domesticated humans, I rode to a little place I know where there’s always room to breathe.

Blue skies self-portrait.

I knew which restaurant we were scheduled to eat dinner at, so I chilled in the park for a while before setting off to 118th Ave for one last attempt to join the ride.

Back on Poplar, in search of more lasses. BTW, I made that skirt the night before and hemmed it right before leaving the house for the ride.

I was overheated and wondering if I should have just taken a nice shady ride through Mill Creek Ravine instead when I spotted the bike pile in front of Habesha on 118th. Everyone had just ordered when I walked in, so I was able to eat with everyone else, and for a hungry vegan, Ethiopian food is good, good eating.

The Lasses! Hooray!

After dinner and good conversation, we got back on the bikes to head  downtown, stopping by the legislature grounds for a photo shoot and a little splashy splashy in the fountains.

Sweet bikes and good comapny in the shady rose garden.

The fountains at the leg (pronounced “ledge”) grounds are one of those rare singular things that vastly improves the livability of central E-Ville. So many days, on my way to or from ye olde sweatshop, I stop to dabble my feet in the cooling waters (FTR city hall is colder) and find momentary relief from the summer heat. The fountains, it is claimed, were never designed for wading and swimming, and were built with materials that don’t react well with chlorine (which they started adding to the water after finally giving up on constantly trying to chase people out of them). So now they are now scheduled to be replaced next year, so it was nice to get a little extra splashy time at the end of the ride. (And, um, I was too busy getting my splash on to take a picture).

View from a rose garden.

All in all, it was another lovely day out. For the whole story of the ride that day, check out Deb’s post on Loop Frame Love. See you at the next Critical Lass Ride!





24 Hours in the Slow Lane

21 08 2010

It was one of those restless summer weeknights where adventure and responsibility fight for the attention of the insomniac mind, when I decided I needed to ride. I often feel that I have to go farther away to find fresh scenery, and to push myself to go harder and longer, but this night I felt bored with that prospect, and instead opted take Poplar (my 1950’s loop frame bike) for a tootle.

The University of Alberta campus is close to home, packed full of all sorts of interesting stuff, and is delightfully abandoned and quiet after midnight, making it the perfect place for a slow late night ride (so long as campus 5-0 didn’t bust me for riding without lights or a bell).

View from a parkade top. Also, check out the reflective design on my hoodie!

I wanted to top a parkade on Poplar mostly because I wanted to feel what it’s like to do it on a single speed with a coaster brake. Turns out it was no problem at all, and I therefore have no reason to feel bad about any time in the past where I may have “encouraged” anyone else on such a bike to do it. 😛

I wonder if, in the 70's it was some art or design student's project to paint large circles at the top of a parkade...

Coasting down the ramps of the empty parkade, ducking my head because the ceiling seemed too close, I inadvertently rode into a photo shoot for a shiny black SUV. What an ad that would’ve made – sleek new car in huge empty space-age garage, and suddenly appears yours truly, smiling and rattling and rolling on a rusty 60 year old cycle. That image kept me giggling as I rolled down to street level and set off to explore more of campus.

Sculpture garden in the FAB courtyard, where steel goes to rust.

With the huge amount of construction on campus, routes are constantly changing, getting blocked off and detoured. The amount of change certainly keeps things interesting, and the temporary walkways can be a blast.

So, you're not supposed to ride through here, but when it's the middle of the night...

Not long after, with a big yawn I returned home for a second chance at sleep.

The next morning, the city was blanketed with smoke from forest fires 1000km away. Remember a couple of weeks ago when I was complaining abut the haze? Well here’s how bad it has to be for an air quality warning:

High Level Bridge disappearing into the smoke.

Everybody’s eyes and throats were burning, and everything smelt like campfire. Worse yet though, is the thought of the destruction in BC causing all this. The pressing question for me was whether or not I should bicycle commute. Sitting across from me in the living room, the answer was obvious, “Poplar, you’re going to work!” (Doesn’t everybody keep their vintage bikes in their living rooms?). There is no way I could ride that bike faster than 15km/h, therefore I wouldn’t be tempted to over-exert myself in the nasty air. I gathered some tools in case the bike acted its age and set off on my longest (non snow storm) commute.

I noticed more people taking it easy on slow bikes than ususal, and so many more people smiled and waved, more cars stopped for me – I’m not sure if was the haze or the bike. Not long after I left home, I realized I had brought neither a water bottle nor a lock, and started worrying I couldn’t safely leave my bike while I picked up something en route to soothe my burning throat. My remedy awaited in Churchill Square in the form of people giving out free mini cans of Sprite. Cold, fizzy, sweet, free liquid? Yes please! I was very happy that my coaster brakes allowed me to drink and cycle safely at the same time. Slow riding was looking better with every revolution of the wheels.

After work, where better to go for eerie, smokey pictures than a cemetery?

Baby graveyard, for extra creepiness.

I like riding in cemeteries. They’re quiet, green, with empty meandering paved roads, plus I find old gravestones fascinating.

Looking for the sun. Looking at the sun.

Next stop, a slow ride to 118th Ave for a gallery opening and some farmer’s market goodness. The guy at the fruit stand really liked my bike. I appreciate that the 118 market is chill enough that I could keep my bike with me, and that the Nina Haggerty allowed me to leave my bike inside.

Loaded up with fresh fruits & veggies and my pink tool bag, riding into the haze again.

After more errands, and some unexpected run-ins with friends, I headed back towards the bridge and the south side.

The sun was just a cold orange disc. I wonder if this it what sunshine on Mars would feel like.

The view of the river valley in the strange orange light was spectacular.

Or maybe this is just a prelude to some sort of post apocalyptic Earth.

Over 48 hours, I rode about 50 slow kilometers on Poplar, and maybe I’m just projecting, but I think she enjoyed it as much as I did. My 10km commute, not including the extra stops, was only 10 minutes longer than usual, and was far more enjoyable than I expected. I may have to take the slow bike to work again…

Smoke on the water, and fire in the sky...





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.