Archive for the ‘decorating your bike’ Category


the final version ?

the final version ?

the sturmey s2 hub

the sturmey s2 hub

A while back I converted my Road King ten-speed into a two-speed by using the Sturmey Archer S2 kickback hub. I really liked this hub, but disliked the “deep V” rim it came fitted with, firstly because I find aero rims ugly and secondly, the rim was very heavy, and the depth and short spokes made for very rough riding on the already non-compliant Road King frame.
So I dismantled it and found another reason for disliking deep-Vs , i.e. the spokes are a pain to work on…

s2 road king

s2 road king – one version

Having 32 spoke holes, upgrading the S2 hub required me to order some new rims and a new front hub. I settled on H Plus Son ‘Archetypes’ from Wiggle, in a bold black anodised finish with classy upper case white lettering, which really suited the frame I had chosen. The front hub is a Miche Primato 32H low-flange track model. These rims were a relative pleasure to fit to the chosen hubs  and they ran true without too much fiddling.

the mystery bike

the mystery bike

This frame is a mystery, and the previous owner could not throw any light on it. The cast rear dropouts are Gipiemme (suggesting 1970s at the earliest) , the original fixed BB cup was an older Brampton but the bike had been fitted up with a Shimano 600EX Arabesque group. I wanted this group for another project though, so I had to begin anew with this frameset.

tapping the bb

great care is needed – tapping the bb

No wheels were fitted as found. The BB is stamped “V26272”

The frame decals are “Speedwell” but have been added after some repainting – I don’t believe that Speedwell is the original brand as there are no indications of the Speedwell head badge having been fitted.

There are brazed on guides under the BB for front and rear derailleurs and for shifters on the down-tube. No eyelets or bottle cage threads fitted though.
I had to use a Tange fork from another frameset as the old ones had corroded dropouts. Coincidentally the tange fitted well, and is the right colour red also.

To up the gearing a little from the Road King’s 42 x 22T, I used a Token TK2051 crank with a 44T ring and the 22T rear cog. This gives a moderate 2:1  ( c.54 inch ) bottom gear and a good all round ‘urban’ top gear ( 1.4x – my guess is roughly 44x16T equivalent ).

I retained the original fluted SR Laprade seatpost and the 3T “Competizione” drop bars and fitted a new VP head-set and a Genetic 100mm road stem. Brakes are new Tektro R559 long throw with Dia-Compe Q.R. levers. I used Cinelli “Mike Giant” arty bar tape in black & white for some more character.

The trickiest part of this rebuild was the bottom bracket, as the threads would not allow me to fit a new sealed square tapered BB. I’ve had this problem before on old bikes, and I guess it’s because the sealed cartridges have a wider threaded area on the fixed cup than the old non-sealed ones which, over many years, allow grit and moisture to clog and corrode the inner shell threads preventing further inward travel.

heaps of swarf

wow – heaps of swarf

I decided to bite the bullet and buy a BB thread tap and shell refacing kit. The Park Tool kit was too expensive to justify for this hobbyist mechanic, so I went for a ‘Lifeline’ kit. This worked quite well but the instructions are poor – and one needs to be absolutely certain that the correct tools for each side are used ( as there are both left and right handed threads on an English threaded BB ). Luckily the Park Tool site has a useful ‘help and repair’ section and their kit functions in quite a similar way. The new sealed BB now threaded in smoothly and easily.


a shiny result !

a shiny result !

Tyres chosen were Schwalbe Delta Cruiser in cream, and these 35C jobs give a smooth ride and roll reasonably well at the recommended 65psi ( for such ‘semi-balloons’ at least ! )

I wanted the tyres to contrast with the black rims and I am rather pleased with the look. Tyre clearance is close at the rear and the nutted Tektro brakes work very well. They were the best I could find for the large drop and wide tyres.
With these tyres, the laid back seat tube, the longish wheelbase and thick bar tape, the bike gives a comfortable ride on the rough urban and suburban roads I often use.

isca-selle tornado

isca-selle tornado

The frame has a 56cm seat tube and 58cm top tube ( C-C ). These old style ‘over-square’ frames often give an unfashionably slow and yet lovely stable steering. To my mind it depends as much as anything on one’s riding ‘mood’ and environment as to which is preferable.

And there’s no toe overlap here, even with large toe clips.

"toy camera" effect

“toy camera” effect

I originally tried an Iscaselle “Tornado” classic saddle that I acquired with another bike, but while it looked great, it’s not as comfortable as any of my regular Brooks, so I am now trying my ‘Team Pro’ instead. Although the Italian ‘leather over foam and plastic’ saddies feel initially softer than Brooks I find that over a distance my bum somehow partially settles somewhere on the hard chassis, whereas the Brooks ‘hammock’ style keeps the pressure points more evenly supported.

now with "team pro" saddle

now with “team pro” saddle

I’ve learned a little technique after using this hub for some time, especially for the tricky down changes. The rattly freewheel sound while coasting in high can be quietened by back-pedalling very slightly, then, if necessary a small quick back kick from there will shift it to low. Still catches me out sometimes though …

I left the frame pretty much as it was, just a rough de-rust and paint touch-up.

hmmm ?

hmmm ?

I added the hand painting of the head tube inset – black with a white question mark – as being appropriate to this mystery frame and I kept the Speedwell decals as they’re part of its history now.   The lugs have been lined in white and — hey presto !

A new-old rough ‘city fun bike’.… and was it worth the trouble ? Well, I think the heavy and harder riding Road King now has to go anyway.

Happy Re-cycling !


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at marks point

at marks point

Unfortunately I have no photographs or precise memories of how this bike originally looked. That’s not a bad thing as it allows me some free rein, and I’m not averse to modernising components to make it a better ride, unlike my blue Speedwell that I want to keep fairly original. I might mention that  ( in near faithful ‘Grandfather’s axe’ fashion ) only the steel frame itself – without the paintwork – is really original.

e-thirteen lg1+ pedals

e-thirteen lg1+ pedals

These flat pedals have good grip thanks to the many threaded studs, though I think I prefer the feel of Speedplay Drilliums. To me, the white finish suits this bike though some may see them as garish. It seems they run on bushes rather than ball bearings and have spin adjustability  for your personal pedalling preference.

some basic stencils

some basic stencils

I cut these stencils with a craft knife based on the blue bike’s stencilled lettering. It was hard to get a clean finish – if the foil is too thin it won’t stay put when you curve it around the tubes. If too thick, it is hard to cut cleanly. Nevertheless a little later repainting of the  area around it should solve the overspray and run problems. I stuck the fiddly bits down with tiny spots of blu-tack before spraying.

I took a lot of liberty with the seat tube decoration, making it a ‘modernised’  and simplified version, using the same letter “S” and some gold lines and trim with red and indian red.

after some tidying up

after some tidying up

The head tube was infilled with Indian Red enamel by hand ( without being too particular ), and I left some black around the home-made head badge to add visual depth. This head tube colour infill makes a big visual improvement over the previous all black finish.

infill headset

infill headset & rework lining

I accentuated the gold hand lining as well. I find that it’s best to use a slightly thinned gold enamel with a good quality pointed artist’s brush and to try for a continuous and confident brush stroke. A turps-y rag will wipe off mistakes.

getting close now

getting close now

It’s the best I think I can do without repainting all one colour, though I am still open to more  lightbulb moments regarding the decoration …

imperial narrow, with cut-out

imperial narrow, with cut-out & laces

From my humble collection of Brooks saddles I decided to use the B17 Imperial narrow – so far, so good. The B17 narrow is becoming a favourite saddle of mine on bikes with drop bars. I’m not yet certain if the cut-away is of benefit over the standard B17 narrow, but it’s comfortable anyway.

kt leather bar tape

kt leather bar tape & soma flares

The Soma Road Flares are a rather bling-y kind of safety feature. Just don’t drop the bike or lean it on a wall, and make sure they can’t hit the top tube on full lock … any bars with rear facing ends should be fine – albatross, gull-wing, drop, porteur etc. I guess they would also work as bar end caps using lock-on grips on upright bars, as well as with the bar tape used here.

soma road flare

soma road flare – what bling !

constant or flicker on AAA batteries

constant or flicker on AAA batteries

The switches underneath are hard to locate ( hence unobtrusive ). AAA batteries are a good idea. The flares fit firmly yet are easy to remove. The little top windows are a nice touch.

another view

another view

I didn’t really want reproduction decals on this, so why not D.I.Y. ? It’s fun, if a little time consuming, and a pleasant task in the winter sun. Decorating it was enjoyable, but best of all is taking it for a cruise-y ride on a sunny-cool winter morning off  …

at blacksmiths

mangroves at blacksmiths

Remember though, once any bike is re-painted you will have to wait a long time for that nice patina to re-develop.

Happy Re-cycling !


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retro thang

retro thang

Well, here it is finally – a sporty retro cruiser – and if that’s not an oxymoron, I don’t know what is !

It’s taken a while because I had to find the room to store it assembled.

It could be a poor person’s “Guv’nor”,  without the laid back frame angles, painted wheels or the front hub brake.

Or the price – but the Pashley “Guv’nor is a beautiful bike nonetheless … I’m not pretending this is as good.



Simple, lightweight and relatively low-cost – I know that some might not like the brazed on cable stays remaining, but you never know, I might want to convert it back to a ten speed one day !

There will be some further detailing to come – after some thoughtful test riding, as usual.

Anyhow, here are the parts I used ;

as found ...

as found …

Frame : Road Chief 10-speed steel – 54cm  —- ( O Ye of little faith ).

Headset:   A basic new  Dia-Compe gold alloy  – 1″ threaded

combined reflector and brake stay

combined reflector and brake stay

Bottom bracket / Chain set :       Miche Primato BB / Miche Xpress  forged alloy 170mm – 48x18T

The “X-press” chainset looks more traditional than the trendy “Advanced” model, as well as being significantly cheaper.  The resulting chain line worked out nicely though I had to use spacers to match the hub to the dropouts.

trad. chainset

trad. chainset

Pedals : Genetic gold alloy track with Wellgo clips and Urbanvelo brown leather straps

Seat post :   similar to original plain steel 25,8mm – ( up for revision later on ).

Saddle  :     Brooks B17N brown

Wheels :  Recycled – 36H Alesa 700c alloy rims, Hi-flange front steel hub, Falcon coaster rear.    My first recycled wheel rebuild ! Not perfectly true, but pretty close.

Stem :   Nitto Dynamic 10 cm quill

Bars  :  Inverted alloy ‘tourist” style with cardiff cork grips shellacked

inverted tourist generic bars

with inverted “tourist” bars

Front Brake  :  Dia comp DC750 long reach centre pull calliper, recycled Polygon alloy lever. The long reach calliper is for the change from 27″ (630mm) to 700c (622mm) wheels.

dc-750 calliper

useful dc-750 calliper

Tyres : Schwalbe Delta Cruiser 700x35c

Hub-shiners  :  made from a worn out leather belt ! I’m rather pleased with these.

the little bolt weighs it down on the hub

the little bolt weighs it down on the hub

and the rear with schwinn dome nuts

and the rear with schwinn domed wheel nuts

more fun to come !

more fun to come !

See Ya !

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caprice, with new bars and stem

caprice, with new bars and stem

Due to the complete lack of carrying capacity on my wife’s refurbished Raleigh Caprice, I was asked to get a front basket for it. The Rixen Kaul seemed well made and reasonably priced, with a clever quick release stem fitting – but Oh ! – what an ugly chunk of black plastic that “Klickfix” stem bracket is !

Otherwise very practical, the bracket as it comes is an unsuitable style for a classic bike such as this.

the dreaded bracket

the dreaded bracket

Wicker baskets can be a bit of a cliche these days, I know, but they are also functional and useful things too.

Anyway, thinking there are ways and means, I decided to give it the twined treatment to visually break up the enormous black lump. First step was to wrap the arms in sticky double sided tape. This doesn’t have to be perfect as it only serves to hold the twine in place for shellacking.

twine and sticky

twine and sticky

There are two methods I use to fix the ends of the twine, one is to start the wrap so that the first length of twine goes onto the tape to lie perpendicular under the later windings of twine  – you can’t do this at the end of your string, of course !

in tis case i went from the ends to the centre

in this case i went from the ends to the centre

So in that case I will either wedge the twine tightly within the last turns of itself ( though the sticky can often ‘let go’ when wet shellacking ) or more usually, I use a tiny drop of cyanoacrylate (superglue) to fix it in place.

Once that’s done, I check that the twine windings ( twinedings ?! ) are all tight and fairly close together and, if not, I squeeze them together or may even rewind them. Then I “first coat”  them with shellac, allow to dry and repeat till satisfied with the colour.

first coat

first coat

Amber shellac is a good match for the honey coloured saddle on this bike, which now has its bars changed from riser to swept back, requiring a ‘new-old’ stem to take them, and new cork grips were added, these changes made to improve hand comfort.

the finished bracket installed

the finished bracket installed

I would note that with a decent classic bike like this, I carefully keep the old parts together so that it may be returned to original later on.

You’re never going to get a perfect appearance with a big bracket such as this, but I think it’s a definite visual improvement. The twine could be made to cover more but there would always be some plastic showing.

The job would then be much more messy and less enjoyable, also  giving a ‘forced’ look to things .

That red quick release button is clashing-ly bright. It would look much better on a red bike.

all done !

all done !

The wicker basket appears well made and strong, though the metal support ring woven into it is visually somewhat heavy-handed. It also sits quite high, potentially obscuring the ground view directly in front. There are handlebar and head tube bracket options if  these would be more appropriate to your bike.

it's quite large

Picnic ready !

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a small detail ..

a small detail ..

Once upon a time long ago, ( when I didn’t know better ) I repainted my original old Speedwell bike that had become very rusty from living near the sea. To help do this I removed the “S” insignia head badge so I could paint underneath it, but sadly my efforts at reaffixing it were a failure and it was lost on the road somewhere in my misspent youth …

the ladies' popular

the ladies’ popular

Since then I’ve missed having it there and the steering head has looked kind of empty after refurbishing “old faithful” for the umpteenth time. So, just for fun, I tried a cheap and cheerful solution, and I don’t mean trawling ebay for an obscure bike badge. I had a roll of thin Aldi aluminium tape on hand plus some strong double sided sticky that I use for shellacking ( btw, how come shellac doesn’t have a “k” in it ? ).

empty headed

empty headed

I took a pencil rubbing off my Speedwell ladies’ popular and transferred it by tracing to the aluminium, cutting out with an Olfa cutter and scissors. The final touch was to use a concave nail punch head and thickish gold paint to simulate the rivets.

Sure it’s only cheap embellishment, and professional restorers may chuckle, but it has at least  given back a bit of nostalgic identity to my old childhood bike and I don’t see the point in spending on Speedwell repro. decals when this bike is so non-original anyway.

the transfer

the transfer

The tape will need clear coating to help preserve it as it’s quite flimsy. The badge could be coated with amber shellac to give a bit of rustic visual warmth if so desired.

these punches are great for making painted dots

these concave punches are great for making painted dots


ta-daa … positioning is very critical though , this is a bit low

Actually all this experimenting started when I tried to make an original head badge for the “empty headed” generic Pink Mixte that I’m refurbishing. Using the same process I cut out a “PM” badge – coincidentally my initials also …

no more "turbo"

no more “turbo”

This frame will have the lugs lined and some more detailing and coating yet, but you get the idea….

Depending on your patience, this process could be used to DIY decorate other parts of your restored bike provided it’s not done in a vulnerable location where a scrape is likely.

Also, shiny soft aluminium pet food containers could be cut up and recycled in lieu of the alu tape. Thin copper craft sheets also come to mind for head badges.

Happy Decorating !

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hi-rise frame



A current side project of mine is reworking my old Giant Boulder 550 ’90s model MTB. This bike was found as a dumped frameset a couple of years ago and has become the bike that gets all the cast-off bits from my other ones as they are upgraded, as well as various new bits and salvaged old parts .

I overcame my partial dislike of mountain bikes by fitting different handlebars to it as flat bars are really hard on my wrists. I really feel that a swept back bar “holds”  the same way your wrists relax when held at your side.

Other than that MTBs can make fine all-rounders, though I only like old steel ones with horizontal top tubes ( what a snob, you say ! ).

Especially purple ones!


v.o. “belleville” bars


These narrow Velo Orange Belleville “no-rise” bars should work for me because the large (61cm) frame size means that I can keep the bars high enough relative to the seat, and the swept back grips keep me a little more upright. They also give the bike a sort of old-fashioned “sporty” look along with the high frame and “small” 26 inch wheels.


fat serfas tyres


Thinking about what I don’t have in my collection of bikes, I decided to give this one a really low bottom gear of 1:1 for when I feel the need to easily climb the steep local grades. So, on went a Sakae triple front ring from a salvaged Apollo (48/38/28) along with a 5-speed cluster and a recycled front derailleur.

A fifteen speed triple is enough for a wide range, and close ratios are not really necessary here.


this f.d. required some cable re-routing

original rear mech. and my roughly hand painted “pie plate”


The original 7-speed rear derailleur was stop-adjusted to fit the 5-speed cluster and a new friction front/indexed rear  Shimano stem shifter from Vintage Bicycle Rebuilds added ( I have developed a fondness for stem shifters via my Road King rebuild ). It’s a 6-speed click so the first click (top) is a “dummy”

I also had to re-fit a cantilever front brake as the v-brake wouldn’t clear the front guard – a fiddly job …


nitto dynamic stem, shimano index (R) and friction (F) shifters


The wheels are from another chuck-out, and the guards another again, and so there are at least 4 or 5 bikes contributing here !  The art of recycling …


i like the graphics on this model, but only the seat tube is cro-mo, i think !


It’s not really rideable properly yet, and definitely cosmetically unfinished, but hopefully gives an idea of what you can do to customise that unloved old wreck in your garage.


kinda stylish ?


If I have enough time, I would like to make a home-made wooden front rack for it … hang on, did I say enough time …. ?

I’m dreaming, aren’t I  ?

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The best thing about front baskets and racks is the way they allow you keep an eye on the load (or your valuables) while riding…

I know this isn’t a new product, but it’s a very useful one that I have found to be just the ticket for quick trips to the shops and small grocery items. The Portland Design Works (PDW) Takeout basket is cleverly shaped to use vertical space above it for storage, and that helps keep to it compact.


the bag…unclipped

The basket is in lightweight alloy and comes with its own bag and mountings. The water resistant roll-top bag is plain and functional, plastic lined and it won’t absorb  the condensation on cold items. The bag folds down and clips onto the basket when not in use, and when opened up is deceptively roomy – I fitted a 2 litre milk and a 2 litre juice side by side easily, with room on top for several lighter items.


“tiki-look” clips !

The bag top is held closed with velcro when in use and has a non-adjustable shoulder carry strap for shopping. The bag clips are designed to clip around the sides of the basket to secure it when empty, and when in use the top 2 clips can lock together along with the velcro to help secure the bag top.


on the move


The basket clamps onto your bars either side of the stem, and has an optional brace to stabilise it on the stem only if it’s a suitable shape – it worked well on the short offset stem of my Speedwell to prevent the load from slipping the basket down. There are clever slot-in sliding shims for 1″ (25.4mm-26mm) bars that push into the clamps (they fit up to 31.8mm bars without the shims).

the optional brace (included standard)


If you are thinking of getting one of these, bear in mind that it seems mainly designed for either flat bars or road bars ( between the drops ) – if you have gull wing, moustache, or similar swept back bars, it’s worth checking that their curves (and especially your gear and brake cables) don’t interfere with the basket. The basket fitted the gull wing bars on my old Speedwell OK, but I now have only one front brake cable on my bars to worry about. I don’t think that it would fit easily on a number of my other old bikes though, because of these cable issues, the same as with many standard front baskets.

there’s a 2 litre milk and a 2 litre juice in here …

The styling is able to blend in well with both old and new bikes although it does only seem to be made in the black colour – that’s it, unless you are keen to paint over it. It’s more “functional modern street” in appearance than either wire or wicker baskets, yet to me still has a bit of “nostalgic flair” about it. The attachment points may be a bit industrial looking, but they would need to be so in order to support the weight of the laden basket.

There are other ways you can modify or personalise this basket – firstly, by using a different bag – a small camera bag comes to mind here, or any small e.g. leather bag that fits into the basket.

on my 27″ speedwell diamond frame


Second, while the (faux?) wood front PDW logo panel is quite attractive, it would be easy to cut a piece of e.g. ply wood or sheet metal to a similar shape and put your own design or badge etc. on it. Just make sure it doesn’t intrude on the u-lock holder section if you want to use that feature. I used a name plate from an old Newcastle business that my grandfather used to work for :

my customised face plate … scrap wood and shellac


Thirdly there is a useful threaded attachment point on the lower left side for adding a light or other accessory.

All in all, this basket should fulfil 90 percent of my current carrying needs – it won’t help carry a pizza box home if that’s your bag, but any other take-away ( Australian for take-out ! ) should be fine, or a six-pack of bottles. Capacity is rated at 12lb / 5.4kg. Not cheap, but worth the money I reckon…


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