Friday, May 1, 2009

About the Old Bike Blog

I'm not a meticulous observer of my StatCounter stats, but a recent increase in the volume of reader emails suggests that more folks are finding the Old Bike Blog, and the ranks of my mindless zombie army, uh, "Followers" are incrementally growing ever-closer to the 50 mark (maniacal laugh, wrings hands in arch-villain, mad scientist style).

So, I thought it might be time again to explain for new readers just what this blog is all about. I started it in July 2007 when I decided, with no experience whatsoever, to completely take apart, overhaul, paint, and reassemble my 1971 Columbia Sports III. This bike had been my daily rider for about a year, ever since the mountain bike I'd had since high school was stolen. I decided that since I was relying on this bike to get me around, I really should know everything about how it worked.

You can follow my naive progress on the Columbia by clicking on the appropriate label tabs at right. The point is, I did it. In the process, I learned quite a lot, and acquired a bit of an addiction for old bikes. The point I wanted to make with the blog, aside from chronicling my progress, was that if I can do it with no experience, anyone can resurrect an old bike themselves. The cost can be fairly minimal, or it can be extensive, depending on how much work you want to put into it. It takes time, effort, and a willingness to learn (and fail), but restoring an old bike to full functionality, and then using it,  is one of the most rewarding things I've ever done.

Although I have occasionally offered "how to" advice, my main goal is to show that old bikes, and bikes in general, are accessible, serviceable, and enjoyable to folks who don't consider themselves "bike people." I believe that old bicycles, and the skills that keep them running, have the potential to vastly democratize the bicycle culture, get more people on bikes, and increase our general competence level as a society. I believe that everyone should know how to service and maintain the bicycle they ride on a daily basis. For me, this means an old bike, and I hope it does for you, too. 


  1. Our paths are similar then. A little over a year ago, my work site changed and I was suddenly only 7 miles from home. I decided to ride my bike to work occasionally. The riding has become more frequent. Among the bikes I've used for the commute are:

    1984 Nishiki Olympic 12 that I had owned since new and which, sadly, I wrecked on my second commute on Valentines Day 2008. I bent the frame in the crash, making the bike a lost cause. I bent the fork back into place and rode it for six months more but it was all borrowed time.

    1994 Nishiki Sport XRS which I found used but in brand-new condition. This still is my primary commuter.

    1966 Raleigh DL-1 Tourist which I bought from the same person as the Nishiki. It is in excellent shape. I ride it to work occasionally, perhaps 10-20% of the time, just for a change of pace. I don't ride it more often, though, because it weighs over 50 pounds. I recently changed the tires out on the bike, a task that took about 12 hours of my labor. I love to ride the bike it was not made for easy maintenance.

    1983 Raleigh Marathon, aka Dumpster Queen. This was the first of several free bikes I've acquired, this one out of a dumpster. It needed a lot of work to make it rideable. The wheels didn't even roll when I got it. Now it's a dependable backup commuter and weekend bike. When I found out the Nishiki Sport XRS had cranks that were recalled by Shimano, I rode the Dumpster Queen to work for a couple months until I got the Nishiki's cranks replaced.

    I just recently picked up a 1973 Schwinn Varsity (at the city dump), but haven't ridden that one to work. Yet.

    All my recent bike acquisitions have been cheap or free, including a couple I will be fixing up and reselling... like a 1960 Hawthorne/Hercules and a 1970 Sears (made in Austria) with a unique shifting scheme.

    If you would be interested in doing a blog entry on the 1966 Raleigh or the 1973 Schwinn, let me know. I'd be honored.

  2. @ Doohickie: Gladly, both the Raleigh and Schwinn would be welcome additions to the Reader Projects file. Also, the Hawthorne/Herc and Sears, if you have photos. Click on my profile to email me pics and brief description of what you did and/or plan to do on each bike.

  3. Hey,

    I recently stumbled across your blog after a recent trip to Amsterdam! I came back with bike fever, and because I love all things vintage, of course I had to get an old English bike. I recently picked up a 1962 Dunelt that I've been working on and riding all over New York City. I get a lot of looks because I'm always in a suit.

    Anyway, I added your blog to my blogroll and I look forward to your future projects. I'll send some pictures of my Dunelt your way when it's finished.

    Myself along with a few buddies are trying to plan a New York City Tweed Ride...I'll keep you posted!


  4. @ I.A.: Sweet! Keep in touch...

  5. According to google reader, you have 161 subscribers in google reader ALONE.

  6. @ nelsong: Reeaaally? Very interesting. I hadn't been keeping up on that stat. How my legions grow...

  7. Don't let the fame go to your head! Us normal people want the old Thom!

  8. @ Will: "Normal", huh? :)

  9. I'm a long time touring cyclist and am messing around building a steam punk tricycle and need / want a three speed or better hub . Someone said oh I have these three bicycles I'm putting out in the trash and two are three speeds .I figured I would rip the the hubs off and toss the bikes . Darn , they're all in very good shape and here I am fixing them up . Of course the 1963 Hercules looks a lot like the bike I shared with my older brother as a young kid . Ha ! I'm not sharing this bicycle with him . It's sweet ,can't tour on it but can putter around town . I work near New York when is the Tweed tour and how much tweed is required ? Or is private ?
    Random Ray