Sunday, October 17, 2010

Autumnal Updates

When I acquired my vintage Gazelle two months ago, I had meant to give her some TLC and a tune-up - but ended up doing absolutely nothing to her until now. She functioned fine despite having sat abandoned in someone's basement, and I've been taking the poor, loyal creature for granted. But every bicycle enjoys care and personalisation, and I have finally given Linda some much-deserved attention. 

The original rubbery-plastic grips must have been reaching the end of their life expectancy, because they felt soft and sticky - as if the material was slowly degrading. So I replaced them with Elkhide sew-on grips from Velo Orange. Although these are not exactly a breeze to install (they are strips of leather that you must cut to size and sew on yourself), the result is worth it - soft, pliant, subtly textured, and beautiful. Luckily, I did not have to destroy the Gazelle grips in the process; with some effort they slid off and I will hold on to them as keepsakes.

I have also outlined the head tube lugs in silver. There was trace evidence that they had once been outlined in this manner and I wanted to restore Linda to her prior glory. I think the outlining goes nicely with the chrome fork crown and the silver headbadge. 

But while these changes are nice enough, the Co-Habitant gave Linda a gift that is even nicer: he "brightened" her headlight by replacing the halogen lightbulb with an LED. This is a temporary solution, before we execute our grandiose plan to overhaul both the head and tail lights with a super bright LED + standlight system, while retaining the original Gazelle casings. It was reassuring to see that DBC did this to their bikes; hopefully our project will be equally successful (if it works, we'll post instructions). But for now, at least I have a brighter headlight - good to have that sorted now that it is starting to get dark so early. 

In addition to the lights project, we are still planning to eventually replace the old, cracked tires with cream Delta Cruisers, and to finally give this bicycle a proper tune up. I am also considering whether I should replace the standard dress guards with something personalised, like the beautiful hand-made guards I've received from Bobbin and Sprocket.  

Linda has been so good to me since I got her, that it is only fair to reciprocate. It's true when they say that one person's trash (she was discarded by her previous owner) can be another's treasure. 

29 comments:

  1. "she was discarded by her previous owner" - that's astonishing... such a lovely bike! She's fallen on her tyres with you; the work you've done so far is both beautiful and practical (well, I don't know how practical the silver lining on the lugs is :-) ). I'll be interested to see how your final lighting project turns out. I do love the classic headlight casing but can imagine the original headlight gave a not-terribly-useful yellowish white illumination.

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  2. The silver lug-outlining is a nice touch. It makes them pop. I also like the little autumn decoration near the bell.

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  3. The best way to remove old rubber grips is with soapy water -- I mix dish detergent with water in a little glass, then stick an old pen, an over-sized toothpick, or a popsicle under the grip, and squirt in a little of the soapy water. If you do this the grip slides right of with a few twists.

    BTW, congrats on the lug outlining. It looks brilliant.

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  4. Carinthia - The original light was not all that bad, but with the LED it's 2x brighter. I really did not want to clip a supplementary battery-operated light on the fork, so the extra power has helped.

    roseread - Thanks; the bell bracket makes it easy to stick things in there. I think I will give Linda a new corsage every season...

    Herzog - Lug outlining is too easy to do for my own good; sometimes I have to hold myself back from outlining random bicycles locked up on the street...

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  5. Nice job with the grips and the lug highlighting! I had been considering those same grips for Hedwig. Something MUST be done about her rubber grips, and soon. I am definitely looking forward to what you will do in regards to lighting. I would love to use the original lights that are on Hedwig, with LEDs in them. Linda sure is one lucky bicycle!

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  6. I love your outlining on the lugs. It's incredible to think that utility and transportation bikes used to have details like that.

    As for one's person's trash: Charlie and Max were both rescued from the street. They are the sweetest and most affectionate cats you can imagine. They're curled up by my sides right now!

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  7. great work on the LED conversion! did you buy an LED made for AC current or did you rig up a DIY diode rectifier circuit? which LED did you get? i'd love to do this for my DL1's dynamo lights!

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  8. Justine - my two cats, who are adorable and incredibly sweet-tempered, were rescued as well. They are from the same litter, and someone had cast them out as soon as they were no longer tiny kittens.
    Heartbreaking : (

    Amy - give it a try with a paint pen and have a wet napkin at the ready in your other hand in case you make a mistake. You really can't go wrong, and the outlining looks so nice.

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  9. somervillain: you are overcomplicating it. I took the guts of a cheap LED flashlight designed for 6 volts (4 x AA). I removed the switch circuitry but kept the LED circuit (obviously) and the reflector, which was smaller than the stock Gazelle reflector and I didn't feel like fitting the LED to a larger reflector than it was designed for. The wiring was pretty simple and I used silicone caulk to secure the parts inside the Gazelle light.

    For my next "real" project, I intend to get a capacity, LED circuit board and a nice, modern super-bright LED, a high-end reflector or optic and put together a real light. This was just a simple exercise with so-so results.

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  10. Velouria -- Guerrilla lug outlining?

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  11. I stumbled upon this blog this afternoon and have been poring over it for ages...you've encouraged my budding velophilia and helped me a lot in my search for the perfect bike. Now I'm planning on squirreling away spare change until I can save up enough for my very own Pashley. Happy riding!

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  12. Claire -- You can that ages? You should see how it has taken over *my* life. ;)

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  13. Herzog - It would be fun... until the police launch an investigation into my identity.

    Thank you to both you and Claire for sacrificing parts of your lives to the cause of lovely bicycles : )

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  14. MDI, do you find that the LED flickers at all? by just removing the switch and wiring it into the dynamo, you are introducing an AC current into a circuit designed for DC.

    i've spliced several battery-powered LED into new switching systems for retrofitting into vintage taillight and headlight shells, but i've never gone from DC to AC. i have heard that without a rectifier diode, you get a rapidly flickering LED output, not a steady one.

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  15. Being the one who's cycled with this light, I can report that it doesn't flicker. Don't know exactly what he did to it though.

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  16. We have two bikes with dynamo LED headlights, the Royal H (SON28) and the Riv Sam (Shimano). They both have the same Lumotec IQ Cyo headlight (incidentally, IMO the best price/output production headlight at the moment). If the bike literally crawls at <1 mph the front light has a flicker, but it goes away by 1-1.5 mph. By 1.5-2mph, the light reaches full brightness.

    My setup behaves the exact same way. The LED circuitry is pretty good at governing the power you supply and it can handle AC current.

    But complications arise when you introduce a capacitor into the system for standlight functionality. Since my system doesn't have a standlight, I don't have to worry about AC current. The capacitor wouldn't charge from AC current, so the current has to be converted to DC before it reaches the capacitor, which itself would be placed before the LED circuit. The LED circuit has to be last because it further governs the current to provide steady light output with diminishing capacitor charge. At least this is my primitive understanding of things, before I read up on it further. I could be wrong. I am not recommending that anyone try this stuff because the capacitor is theoretically dangerous. Standard disclaimers apply. :)

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  17. These grips are quite something. They looks so soft! I still have the plastic grips on my Pashley and I wonder if I should upgrade them to leather. How do these compare to the Brooks washer grips?

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  18. I love me some Brooks washer grips. I have a set on my Pashley and another set waiting for my DL-1 overhaul. I've heard from two other cyclists who don't like the metal ends of the Brooks grips either because they feel slippery or cold in the winter. The grips are also a bit on the heavy side and attract attention.

    But the cool thing about Brooks grips is that you can set the tension you want (degree of washer relative movement) and the exact size you want (by removing washers). The washers flex a bit under your hand and conform to your grip. After a while, it looks really nicely worn in.

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  19. re: grips. I have the Brooks washer grips and I absolutely love them. I haven't found mine cold, though I get cold so easily that I am generally wearing fingerless gloves before normal people even feel a chill. Mine have already darkened and look beautiful and I've only had them for three months.

    I had the stock plastic grips for the whole time I had my Pashley (finally sold it yesterday, actually) and never upgraded but worried about theft.


    I love the outlined lugs. So good.

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  20. hey MDI... looking for another set of brooks grips cheap? i've got an unused pair :-).

    not sure if you were counting me as one of the cyclists who don't like 'em. if not, then make it three that you've heard from. the leather washers are fine, but i really don't like the metal ends. but what's the big deal in their being adjustable? you can adjust the length of regular grips too (as long as you want to shorten them :-)... and in a lot less time!

    i like the idea of wrap-on leather grips, like the ones in this post. i've never used them, but from the reviews thus far from velouria and others, the VO elkhide sew-on grips and the leather wrap-on tape seem really good.

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  21. Good tip on the wet napkin. Thanks! Maybe I'll give this a try on a couple of my bikes. :)

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  22. The grips are lovely. I've always wondered about leather grips in wet weather though, has anyone experienced this? I don't fancy soggy handlebars.

    ... from rainy Manchester, England.

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  23. So much Brooks grips hate on here. :) They actually do OK in the rain.

    I imagine leather wrap doesn't like rain and gets sticky and moist when it rains hard on it. To some extent Proofide helps, but Proofide is not waterproofing and neither is neatsfoot oil. I heard that "mink oil" helps with water, but have not tried it for myself. Bottom line--I wouldn't put elkhide on a bike that sees rain a lot.

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  24. neighbourtease - Congrats on selling the bicycle; may she have a happy new home.

    The Brooks washer grips are fine in the rain. I had them on my Pashley and somehow would always end up riding that bicycle in a downpour. The grips did fine. As MDI says, the leather washers shift ever so slightly under your grip, which can feel like a palm massage. Some love this, others find it annoying. I liked them a lot, but prefer not to have metal parts at the ends of my grips. The elkhides suit me better in that sense... and cost a fraction of the Brooks : )

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  25. I've mentioned this before(at great length) but once you start making room for homeless bikes in your life they just keep coming. That Linda is one of the sweetest foundlings ever but it makes you wonder what the next one will be like... all you have to do is give one away once in a while and the universe will keep flinging them at you.

    Spindizzy

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  26. Thanks, Velouria! It took a really long time for the right person to come along, but she did and I will probably see the bike a lot in the neighborhood, which is nice. No regrets at all.

    @Spindizzy, I think you're right as I have given away four bicycles this year (and sold the other one) and I got a surprise Retrovelo for my birthday a couple of months ago.

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  27. At least you lost four and gained one, and not the other way around! This year, let's see... I have sold 3 and gained 5. Not good!!

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  28. You're using them all for different stuff so it seems all good to me :)

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