Archive for the ‘old three speed bikes’ Category

it must be spring..

it must be spring..

This is a partial rethink of the ” Almost Forgotten ” 3-speed bike of a few posts back. I’ve now refitted it with different drop bars – these are “PureFix” brand 25.4mm in alloy, with a more anatomic bend than I’m used to. Although a bit narrow ( approx 39cm ), they are a definite improvement in comfort over the previous bars, and the new Ritchey Classic bar tape absorbs some jarring of the hands and arms, thanks to its extra thickness. The levers are comfortable from the drops but would be improved with some rubber hoods for cushioning when riding with my hands on the tops.

@ belmont bay

@ belmont bay

I’ve changed the front hub to a low flange model and I think it better suits this bike. The rims are now a matching pair of Ukai 27×1″. The non-original fork on this frame has made the handling more ‘up-to-date’, at the expense of some comfort when compared with the more laid-back (missing) originals, and I think that’s partly why I had the pain problems I noted last time.


e-ne bell stops bar-room brawls … small bike, tall stem 

The new bell is a Crane E-Ne ( ‘eenay’ ) which can be used horizontally or vertically. It has the typical rich Crane sustain, but in a smaller size. The clever little strap mount tightens with a single hex key and needs very little bar room.

The classic Brooks B17 Narrow saddle has better bag mounts than modern versions, in that they are thicker and more rounded, and so less likely to cut through the leather straps over time. The rivets are polishing up nicely with use, and it’s already comfortably pre-aged !

no year code on this one !

no year code on this one !

The Speedwell Special Sports frames aren’t as lightweight as the Flash’s, but the lighter wheels and components on this one help me to move it along at a reasonable pace, and the 3-speed hub is more versatile than the 2-speed kick back coasters that I’ve used on some of the other Speedwell bikes.

Happy Re-cycling !

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a genuine user, complete

a genuine user, complete


Say “Hi” to the Speedwell Classique 3.

We’re into the 1970s again and the days of Australian made Speedwells are over – but this one is a throwback to the days of the classic ladies’ 3-speed roadster. It’s a basic design that will never die, though in this case is influenced by the 70s era ten-speed boom in its frame design and angles, and with typical period 27″ wheels.

There are even modern 700c equivalents still being made, like the 3-speed versions of the Giant “Via” step-through, not to mention the many new ‘retro’ step-through bikes that are available these days.

This one was appealing to me because it’s in reasonable condition and complete with the original “Speedwell” sprung saddle, painted and lined mudguards, and matching painted chainguard.

shimano click-trigger

shimano click-trigger

It’s Taiwanese made, and the Shimano 3S hub with trigger shifter is the same that I bought new to “upgrade” my old Speedwell coaster braked roadster so many years ago.

shimano bellcrank and pushrod design

shimano 3S bellcrank and pushrod shift assy.

saddle in good nick is a big bonus - but there's lots of rust on the saddle frame

original saddle top in good nick is a big bonus – but there’s lots of rust on the saddle frame

There is an art to pre-visualising – or imagining in the mind’s eye how an old bike will look when refurbished and this one’s looking pretty good to me !

accessory lights even - lol

accessory lights even – lol

It does need a complete overhaul with special attention to the wheels and bottom bracket, and so hopefully will be interesting to follow as a project, especially if you are restoring something similar yourself . There will be decisions here on what to retain and what to replace, depending on condition, looks and performance.

Does it have to be strictly original or a modern (sometimes!) improvement ? Your choice.

In my case I would never consider repainting this frame – “it’s only original once” !

eek !

eek – omg !

Above is the butcher’s method to cotter pin removal, drilling into the pin’s head – but with care it works well. I use it when all other methods fail. I don’t have a pin press but use a hammer and punch and releasing agent first.

It’s very important to avoid damaging the crank or axle with the drill if you want to re-use them, and to support the crank on a notched block of wood while banging away at the pin, or the bearing surfaces may be ruined.

If you’re sure you are going to scrap them then it doesn’t matter, I guess.

success !

success !

In this case the heat of drilling must have loosened the rust bond as the pin tapped out without going all the way with the drill. I knew the bearings were no good from the initial feel of the rotation but it’s always better to be gentle in case they can be saved.

This job would have been much harder on the drive side as the chain wheel tends to foul the drill – but it tapped out OK.

ready for rust conversion

ready for rust conversion treatment

And this is what your complete overhaul ‘parts box’ might look like after the bike has been fully dismantled.

some cleaning and sorting jobs

some cleaning and sorting jobs ahead …

don't lose these parts, or the pushrod inside the axle either

don’t lose these parts, or the pushrod inside the axle either

And remember to take some time off between dirty jobs …

now relaxxxx ...

now relaxxxx …

See Ya !


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ahh, nostalgia !

ahh, nostalgia !

My first attempt at a Sturmey Archer AW hub rebuild has begun – with a spirit of adventure I’ve started stripping down the Elswick Cosmopolitan rear hub. Why ? Because first gear wasn’t working and the hub seemed very noisy on its maiden voyage. Since then I haven’t had time to look at it or use it.

The other reason is – ” because it’s there ! “.

Upon taking the hub apart I found it to be full of rusty oil and the low gear pawls were rusted and seized, otherwise the AW is in reasonable condition. Worth experimenting with at the very least.

The AW 3-speed has been around for nearly 80 years and there is quite a lot of info on the web about it, from Sheldon Brown to the forums. There are also parts available for it, if you search a bit …

classic 70s !

classic 70s !

I also used a wonderful book called “Fix Your Bicycle”, a Clymer publication from 1972 – this is the upgraded 1975 version. It’s the only book I have seen with comprehensive overhaul instructions for period Shimano ( 333, 3SC ) and Sturmey Archer AW, S3C coaster, FW four speed and S5 five speed all with exploded and labelled diagrams … outstanding !

Forget the web – you can’t beat a classic bike repair book for sheer recycling involvement …

inter-planetary poetry !

inter-planetary poetry !

Therefore, there’s not much point me going into too much technical detail about it here, but I would briefly say that the main things I’ve noted from opening this 1984 model are :


1) The hubs are not as complicated as might seem from the diagrams as long as you are methodical about keeping related parts aligned and together. Perhaps the hardest part is dealing with all the crud in so many nooks and crannies. There’s a lot of cleaning involved – in a neglected hub like this, anyway.

sub assemblies

cleaned up – the sub-assembly shells – driver, gear ring and planet cage

2) The bearings are pretty well protected with double metal labyrinth seals each side, but as also applies to most coaster hubs, the right hand outer driver bearings seem the most vulnerable to water and wear.

axle & clutch assy. with fixed sun gear

axle & clutch assy. with fixed sun gear

3) The 4 R-shaped pawl springs are incredibly fine and easily lost – if you need them, buy more than you need !

ye gods theyre tiny ! --- the pawls and springs -stored in oil

ye gods they’re tiny springs ! — low gear pawls, pins and springs – stored in oil

4) Most sources advise greasing the caged ball bearings only, and using 20W machine oil everywhere else inside. This means lower internal friction and no sticking of the pawls each end of the hub. I used a light white grease and Pressol oil for re-assembly.

the planet pinions and pinion pins

the planet pinions and pinion pins

5) The re-cyclical (!) nature of the hub means that cleanliness is required at all stages to stop abrasive bits grinding around and around inside after the rebuild – with obvious consequences. The upside is low maintenance – if regular oil top-ups are done as the hubs are pretty bulletproof otherwise.

r.h. ball ring and hub shell

r.h. ball ring and hub shell

This steel hub has the traditional lubricator hole, unlike later models, and the spoke count is 28 holes for the 20 x 1 & 3/8 Elswick rim ( 451mm BSD, not 406mm ). Oil can be applied to later hubs via the indicator rod hole through the right side of the axle, if needed.

dust seal spacer, sprocket, snap ring

Although I am also a fan of coaster hubs they do have more internal resistance because of the grease required for the brake. The earlier non-coaster S-A hubs like this that are oil lubricated tend to spin much more freely. They also have a lovely click sound on the freewheels.

There was a fair amount of surface rust inside the hub, and that’s never a good sign. I had to soak some parts in phosphoric rust converter which I quickly washed off with water after bathing ( this was to avoid the black residue that appears in air sometimes if the converter is left to dry on the part ). Also, to do a thorough job, I thought it best to remove the hub shell from the rim in order to clean the whole wheel up properly this time.

After visiting a few bike shops in Newcastle, I decided it wasn’t worth pursuing S-A parts locally. Abbotsford Cycles in Victoria stocks a range of small parts at reasonable prices – just another example of the advantages of online shopping, provided one knows what one needs. In this case I replaced the driver bearings and cone, the clutch spring, and the low gear pawl springs. Everything else was serviceable.

I may end up using this hub on another bike, as the rim braking is poor on the Elswick because of the deteriorated condition of the rims …

success - i hope !

success – i hope !

A lot of the younger salespeople in the local bike shops have never even heard of Sturmey-Archer. Well, I suppose Australia is more a Shimano kind of place these days, though even Nexus hubs are reasonably rare here.

We are still an under-developed country as far as broader cycling sophistication and understanding goes …. except perhaps for all that pertains to modern sports bikes – sigh …

lost & found

lost & found

Happy Re-cycling !



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it's ho-ho-hot

it’s ho-ho-hot in this get-up, hey santa ?

Those who live in the southern hemisphere truly understand the irony of Christmas, where overdressed Santas inhabit chilly air-conned shopping centres, while outside the mercury is in the mid 30s Celsius. The land bakes under a burning blue and white sky, and most people are wearing as little clothing as is publicly decent.

To get into these centres, one usually drives around and around in a crammed carpark, looking for the telltale signs of departing fellow motorised consumers, all quietly adding to the global buildup of greenhouse gases while morphing into grumpy old Christmas hating people. At least the SUV has airconditioning … ( cough ).

So, how otherwise might one stay relatively sane when doing last minute small item shopping ?

a stealth shopper

a stealth shopper with anti-sunburn gloves

Easy ! — by using one’s shopper bike.  The Elswick Cosmopolitan is a perfect example – with its front and rear carry racks over small wheels giving a low centre of gravity and an easy low speed manoeuvrability. One simply locks it to an immovable object right out front of the shops and heads on inside ….

It’s a little bit ratty and not very steal-able so that one doesn’t have to worry too much about theft while inside the shops. The re-cycled budget Italian plastic fruit crate makes riding this bike a truly Euro-Brit-Aus-Cosmopolitan experience (tee hee).

now load it up ...

now, load it up …

So then, the Elswick is finally operational, despite a missing on-line parts order which has since been replaced by the supplier. There are a few details left to finish, as well as the usual “post-resto” bedding-in-and-tweaking adjustments. Oh yes, and first gear is not working – so one day this may be my first hub gear re-build ( gulp! ). Two speeds are OK for now, but a bigger sprocket again may be called for meanwhile  – (22T ?).

midsummer stripes

midsummer stripes

de-rusted, pre-aged and hand painted guards (lol)

de-rusted, pre-aged and hand-painted guards (lol)

All this makes me wonder if there will ever be ride-through shopping, (or at least indoor bike parking) in our supermarkets…

Have a Happy Cycling Christmas!

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That’s “El-swick”, folks not “El-vis”… there has been some work going on since the previous assessment, piece by little piece. We are now waiting on some cotter pins and white rear brake cable outers to complete the work.

a sneak preview-not finished

This bike was never going to look new without replacing everything, and I’m not doing that for any old practical shopper ! Despite that, I like its quaint and homely look, and think it will be a useful alternative to the Dahon for short trips.

a city slicker’s sticker

What I want is a fully maintained and preserved rust free bike with character – and everything else is  secondary. So far it’s been 6 new spokes, a chain, a fibreglass patch kit (mudguards), some white shoe polish and a lot of rust converter and steel wool, with a can of “Rustguard” epoxy silver paint thrown in. And a lot of fiddling about …

What I call that silver is a “poor person’s re-chrome”. I’ll leave the expensive stuff for the next person, if they wish. I think you’ll agree though that it’s a big improvement, despite much detailing still to go.


I found two N.O.S. wheelchair tyres for $10 each at a local mobility store, co-incidentally the same as fitted.  Patched 5 holes in one tube. A salvaged 19T rear cog should give near perfect gearing though the 16T original was still OK. I find that most 3-speeds are a little over-geared as sold, and can benefit from a reduction in final drive.

The dry Sturmey Archer AW rear hub was flooded with machine oil, spun regularly and excess oil allowed to drain for several days without the tyres and tubes – so they weren’t perished. The front hub was reassembled with new 3/16 ” bearings.


gears working, despite the past neglect-note also the dodgy looking weld…

I am thinking too that the 451mm (imperial 20″) wheels look more elegant on this bike than the more common 407mm (decimal 20″) with fatter tyres would have. The rear mudguard had to be patched up and the lower section cut away and replaced with a thick rubber stay, as it was so rusty.

well, it’s cheerful anyhow..

The original bell sounded like a pathetic toy, so I fitted a new “ding-dong”.

I am now looking forward to riding a fully laden shopper past Graceland at Christmas

…  I hope it stays together !


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rust in peace …

My method of refurbishment is to fully disassemble the bike to determine what can be recycled and what is to be replaced, then to hop between the various cleanup and maintenance tasks back and forward until ready for re-assembly, and while sourcing or repairing parts.

I like to work out what the cause of abandonment is, and in this case it relates to the rear wheel, which is buckled and has a spoke broken, as well as a damaged tyre and punctured tube. The bike has been stored unused for quite a while, finally being disposed of as a rusty basket case. The rims are in terrible condition rust-wise and most of the chrome has flaked off or is blistered. There’s nothing for it but to scrape the loose stuff away and hit the rest with rust converter .

wire brush, phosphoric and steel wool – an improvement – some chrome has gone west though

I’ve also done the same with the racks, they’ve come up a little better, and here’s the seat adjuster clamp cleaned up too. Small parts can be soaked in the phosphoric acid ’til all rust and even some metal is eaten away, but converter works best if there is a thin layer of neutralised rust to remain as a blackish protective coat.

maladjusted & de-rusted

With the frame, I neutralise any spots of surface rust and clean out the bottom bracket threads of rust and grease. The BB is the “sump” of the bicycle, and a collection point of water related nasties. I make sure the little pin hole air vents in the forks and some frame stays are open and inject fish oil via a spray can with tube nozzle.

This frame has a myriad of hidden welds where rust has begun, all fish-oiled too.

mmm … chocolate

The paint work is cut back with metal polish paste ( e.g. “mothers” or “autosol” ) which brings back some shine, staying away from any decals or vulnerable surfaces. Sadly, the head badge has lost most of its detail already.

“she is – almost a mirror”

Here are the markings I have found so far, for posterity :

Frame No : E4C00611 on rear of BB shell

Seat tube sticker  : “Hand Built by Elswick Falcon Cycles Ltd.” – conforms to BS6102, blah, blah …

Fork : Akisu 84

Bell : Made in England by C.J. Adie & Nephew Ltd. ( ! )

Quill Stem  : I.T.W.

Hubs : Sturmey Archer, Rear is AW 3-speed dated 84 – 3

Rims : Rigida Superchromix (not any more!) 20 x 1 & 3/8 ”

Cranks : marked ” Made in France ” ( no name ).

Pedals : Union U50 white platform.

Grips : White ” Plastiche Cassano”

Kick stand  : Royal – Made in Italy

Levers : Weinmann alloy marked “7 83”

Calipers : Weinmann Type 810 – alloy.

BB races  : “Phillips – Made in England”

Saddle : unbranded moulded white vinyl padded, on rigid metal base.

The saddle is unstitched and has no gashes in the vinyl, so has lasted quite well except for a horrid brown spottiness – looks like it was left under a tree for years !

basic, but it’s lasted

Seat Post – so rusted it’s unreadable !

Tyres : Deli Tyre  Indonesia (off white)   20 x 1 & 3/8 ”  ( as found ). These are actually grey wheelchair tyres, and that may be the only option available now in colours other than black. It seems this size was sometimes used on BMX bikes too, but they are mostly 407 mm now (vs. the 451 size here ).

The head badge has barely readable Elswick Cycles – est. 1880 – Barton on Humber ( I Think ! ).

———- Next !

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as discovered – dusty & rusty but so handy, mandy …

I don’t know whether I’ve found this in time, as it’s extremely rusty, but “shoppers” are so rare around here that I have to have a try at least. I must also say that viewing the amazing range of shoppers on the “Little Bike Blog” from Melbourne has got me interested in these handy little workers.

the vinyl saddle looks like a white rhino’s hide


A 3-speed bike that was “hand-built” in England and fitted with front and rear racks, the Sturmey Archer hub dates it to around 1984.  The graphics have a borderline late 70s look too.

isabel busted ? – british bulldog bell !

The rust is beginning to go structural in places yet the bike still shows promise and has dismantled quickly and easily for such a rust bucket – and anyway, there is always some sense of achievement in getting a basket case like this going !

on guard, rust …

Tyres are an unusual 20″ x 1 & 3/8″  ( 37-451) so who knows whether they are still available, let alone in white ?

neat seat adjust lever- note “registered at a police station” sticker !

there’s a light bracket on the fork as well

i’ve seen better days


This may take a while …

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