Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Runwell's History Lessons

Now that the Runwell is up and running again, with only a few things left to finish, I wanted to share a bit of its history, or at least what I can deduce from some its features. I still don't know the date of production, but the 1920s or 1930s still seems right. Apparently, most bikes with the Perry coaster hub were manufactured for sale overseas, but I know that the bike was in England until the previous owner brought it to the U.S. sometime in the 1980s (I think). I also know that the bike was in use during World War II, and here's the really cool part. The most obvious sign that the bike was in use during the war is the "Dunlop War Grade" tyres that were still on it when I bought it. Although these could have been remainders put on after the war, it's pretty amazing to think that the last time these tyres were changed could have been in the 1940s.

Another pretty clear indication that it was used during the war is the white "blackout stripe" rather sloppily painted on the rear fender (mudguard, for the Brits), apparently in house paint. I can imagine the original owner cringing a bit as he slopped white paint on his glossy black fender and gold pinstripes.

The final clue, and the one that is perhaps the most moving for me, is that replacement brake pads appear to have been cut from salvaged rubber and installed in the shoes, I'm guessing in order to conserve resources during the war. 

The sad part, and the real conundrum for folks like me, is that all of these features have now either been removed or covered up in the process of making the bike useable again. The material evidence of the bicycle's eventful past has literally been stripped away, out of necessity of course, but it's still a little sad. My great comfort, though, is that the bicycle will again be used for its intended purpose, rather than rusting in a back yard. I will also keep the tyres and brakes, of course, to pass on to the next owner of the Runwell, but hopefully that won't be for a long, long time.

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