Hi there. I am a life long rider and cycling enthusiast. I enjoy all kinds of bikes, but especially have come to love hand built steel classics built from the 30’s through the 80’s. I have focused on restoring French touring and randonneuring bikes and other classic lightweights. I welcome your comments and suggestions. If you are interested in purchasing a bike featured in a blog post, please visit my Store page and my eBay site. If you like the photos you see in this blog, you can purchase them as greeting cards, framed pictures, and other media at my Redbubble site.
I also have a FB page where you can post your restoration projects and bicycle photos, and you can visit me on Twitter @restoringbikes.
Nola, I was dazzled by the Camille Daudon. Can you pls let me know the frame size (assuming it is not finished and sold already? Thanks.
Hi Miranda, the Daudon is indeed a dazzling beauty. I am holding off restoration while I contemplate the best way to treat this rare bike, which was custom made for Irene Faberge Gunst in 1947. I’ll be sharing a blog post soon.
Thank you for the response, I’m looking forward to reading how you tackle the project. I’ve done some homework and I gather that getting components for older French bicycles can be challenging in terms of threads and tube sizing. I’ve also realised how rare and special this bicycle is, not quite the elegant steed for low maintenance, trouble free zooming around town that I had imagined! Best of luck.
Wonderful site and great restorations. I just had a question about a bicycle on your site. I noticed that the seat clamp on the bicycle on the header page is reversed of what I knew to the the only way to install a seat clamp. Can a seat clamp always be installed in this position.
Thanks and take care,
I’m glad you like the site. Yes, a seat clamp can be installed in either direction, but the standard way is to have the closed part of the clamp at the front of the saddle. In the photo you mention, the clamp is installed in the reverse direction. This is useful when riding a bike with slack angles or perhaps a too long top tube – it brings the saddle closer to the front of the bike.
I love your site! I have a couple questions that might be of general interest to your readers:
How did you get started in bike restoration? Did you take any formal classes in bike repair/overhaul or learn “on the job”? (I do see that you took a frame-building class at UBI). How do you find your bikes? Any good stories about “barn finds”, etc.?
I see you’re a CPA so I assume that’s how you make your living, and not by wrenching. I find working on bikes relaxing, and I’d like to expand into restoration like you do. You’re fortunate to live in such a bike-friendly area – I’m in Florida and most people here are too busy trying to run over cyclists rather than appreciate the bike culture!
Keep up the great work, and show us some of your best “barn finds”!
Thank you. I have always worked on my own bikes, but took a professional mechanics class from UBI a number of years back. I definitely recommend some kind of formal training because of the safety issues involved for both your customers and yourself.
As far as making a living goes, this kind of work is not really scalable so it does help to have other streams of income especially while starting out. I have chosen not to have a brick and mortal retail presence at this time. Since there are riders and collectors all over the world, and since technology can now put us in contact, this has worked well for me.
I don’t have the time in my schedule to seek out barn finds, but I think they still may exist. People often contact me about a wonderful bike they have discovered. I have a Facebook page where such discoveries can be shared:
I think the tide is turning regarding the importance of cycling in daily life. A bicycle has so many appealing aspects – it provides transportation, sport, health, peace of mind, and has little negative environmental impact. And, vintage bicycles were not only works of art, but were built to achieve mechanical perfection – an ethic which I think is finally returning to the industry at least among custom builders.
Good luck with your pursuits!
Hi Nola, Thanks for your blog – its great! I’m currently undergoing my first restoration project on an 80s Windsor Woodstock road bike. There is alot of rust on the rims, handlebars and chain cog – do you have any tips on how to remove this or do I have to get new parts? Also, what is the most effective way of re-painitng the frame in order to get a ‘smooth’ look? Any tips appreciated.
Thanks again! Arun
I’m glad you like the blog. I am not familiar with Windsor bicycles. It sounds like you have steel and/or chrome wheels and handlebars. If the chrome is really bad, and not just a bit pitted, then when you try to clean it, the chrome will just come off. In that case you would want to replace the bars and possibly the wheels. If the bike is not a rare bike you might be happier upgrading the wheelset to an alloy set which will be lighter weight and will not rust. Upgrading the wheelset may also give you more options for gearing choices. As far as painting goes, I generally do not believe in repainting frames for the rarer bikes, but if you are doing an upgrade, then re-painting is fine. I definitely recommend using an experienced frame painter. Good luck with your project!
Hi Arun. If the rust is not too bad (little spots) then either cif cleaner with an old sponge works well, or I prefer aluminium foil with a bit if water. It creates a black paste (aluminium oxide) whoch removes rust without scratching the chrome. Use rubber gloves otherwise it’s hard to get off your skin. For worse rust you might consider fine steel wool and some wd40 lubricant to reduce the worst of it, then proceed with the alu foil. Course steel wool will scratch the chrome.
Great suggestions, Alex! Also I have added a Queries page to my site to help answer these kinds of questions.
Thanks to you both Nola and Alex! Most helpful. I’m going with steel wool and wd4o but its tough to get a nice finish. Would either of you recommend a light coat of chrome/metal paint for the wheels/bars?
Hi – you could re-chrome the bars but I would hesitate to do that on the rims. Remember – a little bit of rust on the rims helps to improve braking! Seriously, though, it really is okay to have some rust left but you want to stop the rusting process from continuing.
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I hope this entry is not too long but nonetheless interesting.
I have been inspired by your site and feel a desire to share my own story as I consider it a full circle journey through the course of my life. I am now retired but have for most of my life been a cycle enthusiast. My first foray into cycling (after my younger days of peddling newspapers off of a stingray bicycle) came with the purchase of a Schwinn Varsity. This bike gave me my first real taste of mobility independence. Since that time and still to this day I have an almost euphoric feeling of freedom from being able to move about and explore on such a mechanical marvel and completely under my own power. During my college years and while establishing my career as a cabinetmaker bicycling was put on the back burner. Marriage and family also took a significant amount of my time but when our youngest two children were still toddlers my wife and I decided to get back into cycling by purchasing two affordable Huffy ten speeds. We installed child seats on the back of both of them and an old passion was rekindled. Even though they were not upper end machines and heavier they were quite reliable and easy to repair and service, no plastic deraillers or shifters like those found on department store bikes today. In fact a few years later when restoring an old 50s JC Higgins single speed for my wife I stole the bottom bracket and single piece crank out of one of them which fit perfectly into it. Even to this day as I look at people riding on their entry level department store bikes I reflect that it is not really the quality of the bike but the enjoyment and pleasure of the ride that are the important thing about cycling and I am happy for them.
As a few more years went on and the kids grew and had bikes of their own we still occasionally rode but interest had waned and other familial pursuits took precedence. It really wasn’t until the last of them had left home that we rekindled a desire to again seriously take up cycling. By this time mountain biking had come on the scene and we started with that by purchasing a Marin and a Giant set of mountain bikes. This quickly faded and gave way to road biking due to both safety concerns and discovering some amazing road bike trails in our area. Our first “real” road bikes were a pair of his and hers REI Novara aluminum frame bikes with Shimano Tiagra components. I went through a period of gullible experimentation with component changes from upper level Shimano 105, Ultegra, Dura Ace even to some SRAM group sets only to finally come to the realization that it did little if anything to the quality or enjoyment of the ride. While we increased in ride length, speed and our circle of cycling friends (another one of the great fringe benefits to this worthwhile activity) we found that we had reached a plateau.
While we did enjoy many organized rides and had worked our way up to some century level rides age and desire began to wain. Having the newest or best bike did not add to the enjoyment. In fact in helping some of the younger generation get into the sport I had turned to purchasing what I considered vintage, affordable bikes. At that time I was still focused on the early era of brifter brake/shifting, purchasing several early 90s Treks and a couple of 1980s Nishiki’s for friends and family. I also acquired a Bottechia from that era. It was also during this period that my wrenching skills increased and I found myself enjoying restoring older bikes almost as much as I did riding them. I learned a lot during this period about fully disassembling and rebuilding bikes, having purchased and read several books about it by Zinn, Park and others.
It was at this time that I made two separate purchases that would redirect my whole bicycling philosophy and interest. The first was a 1987 Bianchi Brava with down tube shifters. Still being enamored with brifters I purchased a used first generation set of Shimano 105 brifters and put them on the old Nitto Noddle handlebars I had on the bike. To my surprise I discovered that the ride quality and experience was equal to what I had with my other bikes. Next however was the bike that came along that really finally turned my attention from the modern treadmill bike mentality back to what had all along captivated my heart from the very beginning about bicycling. It was an old 1972 Raleigh Super Course that had stingray type handlebars installed on it. As the price was dirt cheap I decided, almost on a whim, to buy it. I proceeded to completely rebuild it by repacking all the bearings, putting on new cabling and brake pads and changing the handlebars to an old set of drop bars from my by now large inventory of parts. I switched out the old worn out rear derailleur and down tube shifters with an earlier set of Shimano 105s I happened to have on hand. As I had invested well under $100 into the whole project I really was not expecting much from the ride. It was shortly after that we did a group ride with friends across the city. Almost on a whim I decided to ride the Raleigh. My eyes were opened! It was an epiphany for me. It was as if I had stepped back to those early days when riding my old Schwinn Varsity. The whole reason why I had fallen in love with the bicycle seemed to return to me. This was just a joy to be upon and to peddle. I felt as much, if not more so, connected to this bike as I had to any other. Perhaps it was just nostalgia or a reconnection to my past fueling it but still to this day when I want to just get on a bike, just for the enjoyment of getting out and experience the air on my face and feel alive as I, under my own power, move myself through life and connect firsthand to my surroundings, I will choose this bike from my collection.
Thereafter I have focused on vintage for the most part. I did however buy a Rivendell Sam Hillborne frame which I built up with mostly Velo Orange parts, it probably being the closest thing I’ve experienced to a modern “vintage” bike. I also dabbled briefly with vintage Dahon folding bikes.
Since that time however I left modern cycling behind, both in pursuit and principle, and have looked back, so to speak, acquired and restoring several other vintage bikes. I have discovered that, for me, even the quality level of the original vintage bike is not as important as the connection I have felt to each one of them. In fact to me the differences in ride quality are minimal. This is not my all consuming passion but nonetheless a very relaxing and certainly satisfying hobby. Even though my age and strength have waned I find myself at a very peaceful and satisfying stage of life. I realize that this cyclical (pun intended) journey with bicycles in some ways has mirrored my own life.