Posts Tagged ‘vintage’

I have now fitted the wheels and mudguards, chainset, pedals and grips. The “new” vintage chain had many tight links from storage which had to be loosened by hand. I soaked it in kerosene and turned each link till it freed, then dried it. It was then lubricated in “linklyfe” which is a thin grease in a pan that is heated on a stove or burner. The chain sinks into it as it melts into a thin liquid that penetrates the links, is then removed, hung up and allowed to cool before fitting – it’s good for motor cycle chains too.

Finally I took it for a tentative spin … the coaster brake is very gradual, so I hope that there is some further improvement as it beds in again ( but I doubt it ! ). I also think that I will need to replace the pedals after all, but they will do for now. I won’t be adding accessories to it as the light weight is a big advantage for a single speed in a hilly area. It feels compact , much smaller and shorter than my Gazelle. The frame measures 22″ ( 56cm ) from BB centre to seat tube top. The Gazelle is a 57cm.

I’m happy with the looks, it’s the nostalgic effect that I wanted for this Australian classic —– so, here are some more photos for you, and a ride report will come later :



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The paintwork is now close to completion and re-assembly has begun. I have decided not to use the original drop handlebars as they are not going to be comfortable for me and I dislike the look of them turned upside-down as upright bars. So I will fit Velo Orange alloy “Tourist” bars instead with the “Cardiff” brand cork hand grips now stained fairly dark. Cork grips can be slightly slippery with shellac on them, but I love the warm feel that they have .

I am hoping that the coaster brake is sufficient, as the front forks aren’t drilled for rim brakes. I am also going to refit the mudguards (fenders) as I feel that a bike is not really complete without them – I am on the lookout for a suitable chain guard too. The large star motifs are quite imposing in red and white on black and were well worth the effort to paint them as accurately as I could.

Here are some details of the bottom bracket with new bearings, a N.O.S. (new – old stock ) locking ring and an exact replacement Partridge oil cap, courtesy of my (long) late grandfather’s box of bike bits. This magic box also contained some of the the tiny chain wheel bolts, an exact new Brampton top steering head race and a set of “new” original mudguard stay clamps..

I am pleased with the colour, though it’s not exactly how I imagined it would be. I have also added some gold lining (in my shaky hand) and hope it’s not too much. I imagined this bike as quite traditional looking, something that would not be out of place on a “tweed ride” … but perhaps it will be a little bit jazzier than that ?

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Well, I couldn’t help thinking about those drop handlebars, so I decided to have a go at restoring them. Yesterday I bought an adjustable kick stand as the bike didn’t have one. it looks too shiny, so I decided to tone it down a bit with shellac and twine, a process that I picked up on from reading “Lovely Bicycle” – ( see blogroll right ). I like the look, I’m not kidding myself that it has any practical function here, and this is the only place that I will use it on this bike except for shellacking the cork hand grips, as I think it can be easily overdone.

Shellac uses methylated spirit as a solvent and dries quickly, allowing for many re-coats, as it needs multiple coats to get enough density of colour. I first applied the double sided tape to hold the twine in place then wrapped the twine tightly and applied the shellac with a brush. It’s important to make sure the ends of the twine are in place firmly as they have a tendency to lift until a few coats have been applied. I keep coating until the colour looks right, sometimes adding some other shade of wood stain if it is too yellow.

I used the old handlebars to hold the grips while I coated them and then realised that I really liked the look of the old bars with cork grips. So, armed with flat and round metal files and coarse sandpaper I set about removing the heavy corrosion, then used steel wool to smooth the surface before applying rust converter. This works on rust, neutralising and blackening it, while slightly brightening non-rusted metal before forming a cloudy effect on it. The converter should be wiped off the non rust areas fairly quickly. When it dried I used steel wool again to polish, then coated the bars with clear epoxy.

Whether I use these original bars or not will now depend on how comfortable they are, and that will depend partly on how high I can raise them with the short quill stem. I can’t glue the grips until I know for sure – cork grips need adhesive to hold the bars without slipping :

I fitted the cloth rim tapes – one new and one reconditioned – as they were the original tape type – and then fitted the 28″ tubes and tyres – here they are with the kick stand after its multiple coatings of shellac :

King Parrots were feeding on the Cootamundra Wattle seeds and chatting as I worked today.  Now, back to the paintwork….

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I have been thinking about different approaches to bike restoration while working on the Malvern Star, concluding that the approach should depend upon the actual bike that one is dealing with. For example, with original paintwork that is of some possible historic value, every attempt should be made to keep the finish roughly “as is” while preventing further deterioration. This could be done for example with a clear coat, if suitable to the particular restoration.

If ( as with this bike ) the original frame paint is gone, then I feel that as the original patina and decals are irretrievably lost, it is all right to change the colour scheme and to add new paint. However in a bike of this age I do like to see some kind of patina, rather than just a renewing or re-coating of everything. I have decided to leave some things a little bit rougher, such as the quill stem, the seat post, wheel hubs, rims, pedals. Active and surface rust is to be removed as I have seen too much rust damage in my childhood days near the sea to become nostalgic about it.


It’s important, of course, to ensure that all the bearing surfaces are at least properly cleaned and lubricated to give the restoration a good chance of being useably reliable.

This will be a sedate ride, so I am changing the steel drop bars to “tourist” type bars, as on my Speedwell. I haven’t ruled out trying the originals later, however the chrome has all but rusted away on the old bars except for under the grips. I would like to see how they look stripped back further and clear coated, maybe a project for later on :

I am going to go all out with the saddle and have purchased a Brooks B18 with a beautiful embossed pattern – it’s a so called “lady’s saddle” ( i.e. by Brooks ) but I like the traditional looks so much that I don’t really care. I have a B67s on my old Speedwell, which is also a “ladies” and find it quite comfortable.  The old Oxford saddle I will keep aside just in case, but I feel it is not really worth restoring – for the moment at least.

A saddle like the Brooks can be transferred from bike to bike if needs be, and to my mind is a good long term investment in riding comfort and appearance.

The B18 comes with a seat post clamp that fits the Malvern Star post perfectly. The double rail spring arrangement means that it may not suit modern posts or clamps, so check this first, if you are thinking of getting one .

Here is the 20T Surly brand track cog fitted to the coaster hub – it’s a bit fancy, which I didn’t realise when I ordered it, oh well – it’s not a strictly original bike anymore !




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This is the story of my old Speedwell bike that I saved from the dump this year. It began as my grandfather’s bike in Swansea when I was a child. It has been in the family now for 40 to 50 years … it is like the proverbial “grandfather’s axe”, having been through many facelifts.

The originally blue and white Speedwell popular began as a “coaster” or “back-pedal” braked bike, and was given to me on my 15th birthday, in 1973. It had a leather saddle, mudguards ( fenders ), and an analogue hub driven speedo (!) that was stolen decades ago. I would estimate that it was early to mid 60s vintage.

I ceased to ride it when around the mid 80s I bought an early Apollo mountain bike and donated it to my father on the central coast, where it was used for a time to collect his daily mail – a round trip distance of say 200 metres ! He now uses an MTB more suited to his gravel entry road.

So, what to do with the Speedwell ? I hadn’t the heart to dump it, even though it had little value, no longer being anywhere near original. I decided to make it into a transport bike, keeping whatever parts I could salvage. The front wheel and forks were unsalvageable but the rear wheel, gear cable and shifter appeared OK. The only chromed steel front wheel I could find was on a salvaged Ricardo hybrid 26″. I had to use forks with canti studs for the brakes, and these were pilfered from a Repco cheapie.

The unsightly orange frame paint and grey zinc rich galmet on the rear wheel took a long time to remove, but they had at least helped to keep the rust at bay. Knife, steel wool, WD40, sandpaper, wire brush and phosphoric acid rust converter were used on various parts.

The 48T cottered crankset was worn and replaced by a tapered prowheel 40T. For the rear. I used a Shimano Alfine 20T sprocket giving the lowish  2:1 ratio I was aiming for – The Alfine has the same 3-lug and spring clip retainer attachment as the old 18T 3S sprocket.

Here is the parts list:

Frame : Speedwell popular lugged steel diamond frame, steel unicrown fork.

Rear Wheel: Shimano 3S hub, Araya 27″ steel rim, Shimano 3 speed click shifter.

Front Wheel: 26″ steel, Repco 26″ unicrown steel fork.

Brakes : Alloy cantilever front, Dia-compe side pull caliper rear. Alloy Polygon levers.

Bars:   “North road” style alloy with Cardiff cork grips. Alloy quill stem.

Saddle: New Brooks B67s  “aged”.

Front Rack :  Basil “memories”  with basket from an old freezer, wooden panels from a recycled palette, shellacked ( as per rear wooden box.)

Lights : Vintage Miller 6V and generator.  Recycled steel bell, de-rusted and clear epoxied.

Plus various “Lovely Bicycle” type shellacked twine “experiments”.  So how does it ride ?

The bike is heavy, slow and comfortable, the swept back bars give good leverage of the front load. Pedal clearance is limited so some care in cornering is required, but I don’t tend to have problems with it. The gearing gives 15 km/hr in first 20 in second and a comfortable 20-30 km/hr in third on the flat at a comfortable cadence range depending on wind direction.

The small front wheel gives responsive steering and the 26 x 1.75″ front tyre absorbs road shocks pretty well. It’s one of my favourite rides.

Ugly maybe, but it works and is a unique old friend that makes me feel nostalgic when I follow the roads in Swansea on which I travelled as a youth.


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My friend Vicki from “Bicycles in Newcastle” has passed on this donated Malvern Star.  The bike is a “popular” style, a single speed roadster with back-pedal (coaster) hub brake. It appears original except for the paint work, though I can find no traces of original paint. It needs a lot of work !


Here are some details, the serial number on this bike is on the top seat tube lug :

Serial No: 52M 32–.

Chainset : Williams 48T track style chainwheel letters ZB relate to 1961 manufacture.

Rear Hub : Perry 40 – 14 England with 2 stars on brake arm next to Perry name.

Rims : “Rigida Deco – A – made in France”, chromed steel 28″.

BB Axle : TDC No.2

Tyres as fitted : Dunlop Highway Type ” Made in Australia” ! 28 x 1 & 3/8″

Pedals : marked  “Phillips England” rubber platform.

Grips : marked “Britannia England” Black rubber.

Saddle : blue and white sprung vinyl mattress “Oxford – Made in Japan”


The above are the only markings I have found so far.

As you can see, a great deal of TLC is required — stay tuned !


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