Bringing one back from the Dead

(This story was written in June 2002)

This is the story of how I rescued a basic 3-speed bike from oblivion. Some may ask "why rescue one of these things? There are probably millions of them out there, so why waste time on one when you can find nice ones at the thrift store for $10?". Well, I noticed that this bike resembled a typical Raleigh Sports (of which my Raleigh Superbe is an upgraded version), in that it had a pointy front fender, Sturmey Archer hub (dated 10 - 72), and the whole geometry just looked very familiar. The name on it said "Eaton's Glider", and Eaton's was until recently one of Canada's largest department store chains. I found out later that Raleigh supplied all of Eaton's bikes, starting way back in the 1920's! So, this one was basically a re-badged Raleigh Sports. And since I have one of these bikes, the seedling of an idea began to grow...

This bike was chained up to fence that surrounded a vacant lot on a street where a friend of mine lives. I would see it every time I went to my friend's, and it sat there through the summer heat and autumn rains and winter snow. When the snows melted back in April (02), I decided to have a look at the tired old thing. The mattress saddle was rotted away, the frame and parts were really quite rusty (as the photos show), but the brakes still worked, as did the Sturmey Archer 3-speed hub! I thought "well, it can't be totally shot if the cables will still pull...". My friend said that it had been sitting there for over a year, so we could safely say it had been abandoned. It was chained to the fence with a big old link chain and lock, both very rusty.

But I noticed that the vacant lot was being readied for development, with workers starting to poke around the site. I waved over one of the guys, and asked him "what will you do with this bike when you have to open the fence?" He said they'd just toss it in the dumpster. So, I went to my friend's place and borrowed her hacksaw, and came back and had a lovely time sawing through the fat chain. I finally got the bike free, and walked it the six blocks home. I decided that at the very least I would strip off some parts for the reCycles Bicycle Co-op (where I volunteer), or perhaps I could actually give it an overhaul and a paint job. A neat coincidence was that the frame was an exact match for my Superbe; same size (23") and same tube angles, confirming that it was a re-badge.

Part of my reason for doing this is while I've gained experience overhauling bikes at the reCycles Co-op, this would be the first bike that I'd completely strip down and rebuild by myself. Anything I could do to the bike would make it look better than it currently did, so it was a great platform on which to start out. Once the project was complete, I would donate the bike to the co-op so we could sell it. So, off came all the components, and then I began the lovely task of rust removal and cleanup. Steel wool worked well on getting surface rust off the fenders and wheel rims, but the chainguard was very crusty, as the photos show. It was attacked with a wire brush, which got most of the ugliness off.

Once it was all done, I had to decide how to paint it. Now, I wasn't going to get fancy, no special surface prep and premium paint, no sir - this bike was getting the old Tremclad treatment! Now, the drawback to this type of paint is that it's enamel, and a bit soft at that. But it allowed me to paint right over any iffy areas, and it was cheap! I hung the frame off the laundry line out back of my house, and put tape around the headset and bottom bracket cups (wasn't going to dismantle those areas until I got the bike to the co-op). I first gave it a coat of white primer (recommended for covering rust that had become part of the frame), and followed that up with three coats of a nice dark green.

Once the frame had been allowed to dry, and I had finished de-rusting all the parts, I put everything into my utility trailer, and hauled it with my recumbent to the bike co-op for final assembly (see photo). Due to the softish Tremclad finish, I had to be careful not to scrape up the paint while refitting the parts. But except for a small oops here and there, it came together very nicely! Though I must say that truing 30 year-old steel wheels is not the treat it could be... The original handlebar had an unsafe dent in it, and the only bar we had in our parts bin that would fit the stem was an alloy one from an old Sekine bike. So, I guess I lightened the bike by about a pound or so by switching to this lighter bar!

Pretty well all the other old parts were re-used, though I did have to replace the chain, chainring and pedals, as the old ones were seized on. Fortunately we had an identical chainring and similar pedals in the co-op's parts bins! I also replaced the rear tire. Once the bike was back together, I took it out for its test ride, and it felt just like any 3-speed Raleigh I've ever ridden (no surprise there!). The bike now sits in the co-op's For Sale rack, awaiting the next 3-speed afficionado that walks in...

Would I do all this work again for an old bike? Well, I'm not sure. It was a very good learning experience, and I'm happy that the co-op will get money for it, but it IS a lot of work for a very common machine. I think I'll wait until something truly funky comes along before I spend this much time again on a bike!

(Good news! The bike sold in early August to a rather tall woman [she needed to be, as it was a 23" frame!] for the princely sum of $60.)

Image of rusty bike

The bike as I found it (with dead seat removed).

Image of freshly painted frame

The frame after receiving its final coat of paint.

images of old and refurbished chainguard

Before-and-after close-up of right side of bike showing change from a very rusty chainguard to a very nice one. You wouldn't know these two pics are of the same bike!

Image of bike in trailer

The repainted bike (and some other stuff) on its way to the reCycles shop for completion.

image of repainted bike

The bike it in its overhauled and repainted glory
(sorry about the dark picture).

Image of ffront of bike

The front of bike, showing off the paint colour and the alloy handlebar.


Copyright 2007 Mark Rehder; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.