Monday, May 14, 2012

The L’Esprit – Complete

Sometimes fettling with old bikes is not all bread and roses. Sometimes it’s bruised and skinned knuckles, stripped threads and damaged, hard to replace parts. The L’Esprit has been all of these things. On Thursday morning (day off work) I began what I hoped was the final assembly process, but at lunchtime was called into the office. Being a diligent employee I downed tools and headed in.

Once work was over things just didn’t go well with the reassembly process. The thread had stripped off the tiny screw that attached the derailleur to the frame and my tired brain also struggled to remember how to attach it once a replacement was stolen off an old brake. Then I couldn’t get the newly rebuilt rear hub to the correct degree of tightness and I had a tube explode while I was polishing up a rim. All in all I became a little irritable with the bike and went to bed.

Unfortunately Friday was not much better with a hideous day in the office leaving me rather grumpy and impatient. Chain dramas were enough to send me to bed for an early night, knowing I had to be up bright and early to work on Saturday.

The problem was, Saturday was D-day. I needed to have the bike finished as a Rowdy Tweed Ride was planned for the evening and I really wanted my hubby to accompany me on this. In the end I bit the bullet and replaced the chain, which made me happy as everything was looking shiny and I wasn’t overly excited about attaching the rusty old thing back on the now beautiful bike. 

Built up it looked great and after a few tweaks and a couple of test rides and more tweaks it was ready for its night out. I felt so proud as my lovely hubby zoomed through Hagley Park, the bike looked great and so did he. I have only the Red Empire left to fettle, however I think I may leave her be for a while and perhaps tackle the creation of a Victorian Woman’s Cycling costume. You know, something a little less greasy. 

No photos of my beloved Bastoolio this week, just lots of the L’Esprit. Enjoy. 
Just to remind my dear, tolerant readers of how it looked before...
... and now like new after

Drive train is running great

Blinging cable guides

Cloth bar tape and some spray and wipe applied to the hoods and the cockpit is looking fine

Hub stripped, cleaned, regreased and polished. Looking like new

Mid Rowdiness at Smash Palace. Great fun was had by all

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Further down the Rabbit Hole

Well the last week has mainly been spent cleaning and polishing. Polishing chain rings and cranks, cable guides, handle bars, and a seat post. Now it’s time to move onto the really grimey stuff, bearings, cups, axles, cassette, hubs and rims. I’ve realised I actually don’t love cleaning and polishing rims. It is a big messy job that often batters one’s knuckles into submission. In the meantime I’ve been procrastinating by taking a trip to Dunedin with my lovely friend Rachel and picking up my new acquisition from my lovely friend Celia.
I shall name her Emmeline

The red Empire is even more stunning in real life than she was on the interwebs. Her narrow steeply upswept bars are jaunty and a little odd. Her fenders are shapely with chrome detailing and a built in rear light. Her carrier is like a freaking crocodile with the strength of its grip. And most surprisingly and endearingly she is still festooned with beautiful hand painted pin striping. Not bad for a girl who’s most likely in her 60’s.

Having little in the way of electrical knowledge I suspect it is unlikely that I shall be able to get this working again

The narrow, high bars make for an "interesting" ride

Original pin striping is still clearly visible

The discovery of the pin striping has led me to the realisation that she’ll be receiving a genteel restoration. The frame will be carefully polished, not stripped and repainted as planned. I rode her to work today and she runs beautifully, although it is going to take me a while to get used to riding with a coaster brake again. I’m itching to finish the L’Sprit so I can start work on the Empire and hopefully in the process put an age to her.
This is the head tube badge on a mean's frame

She’s lead me to become somewhat of a detective. She came without a headtube badge and my original thought was that it had been lost. However on closer examination I see that she probably never had one, given the clearly visible pin striping and lack of rivet holes.

As you can see Em has no rivet holes, but plenty of pin striping
 In my search to discover her age I’ve found she was made in Wellington at the Summit Cycle factory run by Hope Gibbons. A chat to the amazing Keith Guthrie at Cycle Trading turned up some gems of knowledge, mainly that Empires were produced from about 1930 to 1950, predominantly ladies’ and gentlemen’s cruiser style bikes, but with a few high quality racing bike models. I have various sources out looking for more information on the brand for me, but I suspect any further tid-bits will just be a repeat of what I learned from Keith.

The journey of the red Empire back to Christchurch was a lovely one with an extremely pleasant stop in Oamaru to investigate the historic precinct, which I hadn’t previously visited. Needless to say I highly recommend anyone with a vintage or steampunk fascination make a point of stopping, especially if you are passing through on the weekend. It is really magical.
Moeraki boulders on a stunning day

This awesome skull is actually the viewing mechanism for a kaleidoscopic moving picture display

40 times !?! I  must have one. Oh, wait...

In actual bike riding news I have actually been out riding, but not a lot. I’ve been taking the path racer out on “training” rides over the Cashmere Pyrenees. Knee shattering good fun. I’ve been cajoled into a bit of a race and at this stage I struggle to push the big gear up the little bumps, let alone sprint along. I suspect the race is going to be a fiasco, but great fun.

And, of course, here is my lovely Stoon deciding the not only am I a great and warm cushion, but also that the camera strap is just the right sort of toy for a lazy, happy cat.