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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Rudge Reanimated: From bike wreck to Path Racer?

Sometimes you just don't know how something's going to turn out. Sometimes the turnout isn't pleasant.

Or sometimes it turns out more pleasant than you thought it would.

Last year, Todd Boulanger of Vancouverland, USA had an old 50's Rudge Sports in unridable condition, taking up space in storage. He took receipt of the bike several years ago from someone who rescued it from a garage somewhere in Portland. It sat in storage, waiting to be forgotten. He had no time or energy to do anything with it, and wondered if I wanted it. This was the photo he sent:

When I saw it, I initially said no. It looks like it had been stored underwater! Look at those wheels! I don't need another bike project, since I just finished building up the Raleigh. What would I do with the bike?

Then I thought about it. Maybe another bike project would be fun. But I soon would be departing for the Cross-Con Tour. Any time, energy, and money on bikes should solely be spent on the Long Haul Trucker, since it would be my conveyance across the continent. And where would I store it in the interim? I told Todd I couldn't take it now, but if the bike was still around when I got back, I'd take it.

So I get back and the bike is still around, so Todd delivers it to me right before Christmas. This is how it looked then:

It was a wreck, indeed, but not as bad as I thought it was. Keith the Raving Bike Fiend looked it over and felt that a lot of the componentry was salvageable. Even the rear wheel, which I thought would need to be replaced.

Fast forward to last week. The Raving Bike Fiend and myself made time to tackle the Rudge. We put it in the stand. It still pedaled! The hub still works! Woo hoo! We took off the wheels and had to cut the grips to get the handlebars in the "correct" position. That's when we discovered two things: these bars are not original, as they are Italian drops. And that at some point, the bike or the bars came from Goodwill:

This discovery guided what I would "do" with the bike. Last spring I thought about styling it like a Path Racer. The current path racer styled bike is the Pashley Guvnor:
From flickr user baudman

Nice bike. But at $1,500 or so, there's no way I could afford it (or justify to afford it) any time soon.

But then I thought: this is a post-war bike, not pre-war. This would be the era of "Clubman" bikes in British bike culture. So going with a poor-mans Clubman would be appropriate. I could use the drops that were already on the bike, or go with a Lauterwasser drop bar.

But we determined that the current drops wouldn't fit, aesthetically or to my riding position. Lauterwassers would run around $40 for the CroMoly ones, money I didn't really have to spend. But what about "dropped" North Road bars? That would mean it would look more like a path racer after all. The path racer look would also solve the question of "what to do about fenders?" The steel ones that came on the bike were salvageable, but in order to make the bike a poor-mans Clubman, I would need lighter plastic fenders. Path racers generally had no fenders. So it was decided. Take the fenders off! Yes, this means the bike wouldn't be a rain bike, but steel rims are sucky in the rain anyway. Besides I have other bikes that I can ride when it's wet out. This is going to be a fun bike. A sexy, stripped-down machine.

I found a set of nice used North Roads at A Better Cycle. Since the original stem was a tad shallow, we swapped it with a Raleigh stem originally from another roommates bike to give more reach.

It's already coming together!

The major thing that needed to be taken care of, though, was the cranks. Not only were the original pedals mismatched, but so were the cranks. And they were not "in line" either, a common problem when one cotter pin is replaced, but not both. Keith admitted with a heavy dose of sarcasm removing the cotter pins would be the most "fun" thing to do. But with a cotter pin tool and hacksaw borrowed from Roger Noehren and a lot of brute force, Keith removed them, got the cranks in line, and put new cotter pins in.

The other major thing was the rear wheel. Could it be saved? Yes, mostly. Keith put the new spoke in to replace the broken one. The other nipples were turning, so Keith trued the wheel--mostly. The rim is a tad bit on the bent side, so it won't get totally true without some force. And the flanges of the hub are a bit bent as well. Mid-fifties aluminum production isn't what it is today--they didn't realize that aluminum construction needs to be beefier than steel construction. But the wheel is still rideable. It's a testament to how well these old wheels were built: steel rims, 40 spokes, hand-built. And some elbow grease, lemon juice, and aluminum foil brought back the shine and ate away some of the surface rust, though the rim lost a lot of chrome in the intervening 60 years. Hey, it'll add to braking power, right?
The Raving Bike Fiend works his magic.

That's it for this time. Next up: the Rudge at 85% done.

1 comment:

  1. This is inspiring me to get that old CCM out of the shed and get going on it! I't slanguished while I rode\built newer projects-but for too long,it'll be done this year. Good read,enjoyed it :)

    The Disabled Cylist


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