About Nola Wilken

Cycling enthusiast and owner of Restoring Vintage Bicycles; CPA/Founder of Wilken & Company, P.C., CPAs

A 1965 Sears 3 Speed

Sears offered many bicycles over the years (all built by other manufacturers), but some of the best ones were those made by Puch/Steyr in Austria.  This 1965 model is very much like the one I rode in my youth over logging roads and along irrigation canals, picking up treasures on my way and loading them into its front basket.

While definitely a copy of the iconic Raleigh Sports bicycle, it also has its own certain charm.  The color scheme, with its black paint and cream accents (probably originally white), surprisingly classy head badge, and “windows” on the head lug make it especially appealing.

This is the bike as it came to me in its unrestored condition, except for a replacement Brooks saddle which I added for these photos.  The original saddle shipped had broken seat rails, and of course I planned to replace the saddle anyway.

This bike has a Sturmey Archer 3 speed AW hub, as opposed to the Puch/Steyr licensed copy found on other models.  You can barely see the “65” date code on the hub in the above photo.

The bike also has Weinmann brake calipers and a proper 3 piece cottered crank.  Other models often featured the cheaper and ugly Ashtabula one piece cranks.

I’ve always been puzzled by the odd “street sign” logo on the top tubes of these bikes.  Is it meant to indicate the way ahead?  The road less travelled? Or??  But, the seat tube logo is very attractive and evocative of the styles of the 1960’s.

The bike’s handlebars are equipped with Weinmann levers and are clamped with a one bolt stem that both tightens the bars and the expander on the steerer tube.

There are nice accents on the fork blades and full color matched fenders, with the rear painted white for visibility.

My biggest worry in restoring the bike is getting the hub in proper working order.  For these photos, and for initial assessment of the hub, I generously oiled it with some light weight lubricant.  Fortunately, the hub spins freely and may only need a flush to clean it, followed by some 30 weight automotive oil to keep it maintained.  The shifter did not perform properly, but these can be fiddly, and with the right cable tension can hopefully be brought back into working order.  If  I need to do a full on overhaul of the hub, I could attempt it myself (if I’m in the right frame of mind), or can send it out to Aaron’s Bicycle Repair in Seattle.  If I decide to do it myself, I’ll watch this video from RJ the Bike Guy, which will undoubtedly convince me to send it out…

I’m looking forward to enlisting this bike as my office errand machine.  It’s bound to offer a comfortable feel, and with the AW hub I should be able to get around on the minor hills in the neighborhood.  I’ll probably add a front basket or rear rack to make it more useful for lunch jaunts and local expeditions. Should be fun!

What to Do With a Benotto?

A few years back I wrote about a 1970’s Benotto that an acquaintance had entrusted into my care for safekeeping.  She finally decided to sell the bike to me, and now I’ve had a chance to disassemble the frame to begin the restoration process.

For a long time I wasn’t sure what model and year this Benotto was.  However, from the Campagnolo component group, with its helpful date codes, I was able to determine that this is a 1972 or 1973 model.  Meanwhile, over the years several enthusiasts have written to me, suggesting this is a 1972 Model 2500 and after looking at the few catalogs available online, I believe I agree.

This interesting lug design, beautifully chromed, has been used on much earlier models as well.

While this model doesn’t have the fancy cutouts in the bottom bracket shell, it is still nicely brazed, with chrome Campagnolo dropouts and fork ends.  It also has eyelets front and rear, adding to its utility.

I’ve been preparing the frame for some touch-up painting.  Fortunately, the areas of paint loss are minimal and pretty contained.  I also encountered a bit of rust on the fork and bottom bracket threads, so I also treated the frame with FrameSaver to prevent any further rust (after thorough cleaning of course).

As expected, the frame was built up with a full Campagnolo groupset.  The components are in very nice condition.  The above photo was taken before beginning the clean up and you can see that my job looks pretty easy.

The crankset (pictured before cleaning) is just a work of art!

The gearing is racing oriented, with a close ratio Regina 5 speed freewheel and 52/42 rings up front.  Likewise, the high-flange Campagnolo Record hubs laced to Fiamme tubular rims speak to this bike’s original function as a racing bike.  And therein lies my dilemma:  what to do with this fine old machine?  Tubulars are just not practical for most cyclists, so one thought I had was to re-lace the hubs to 700c period correct rims (I’ve got a nice NOS set of Mavic’s ready for this purpose).  Alternatively, I could replace the wheelset entirely.  However, I recently read an interesting article by Jobst Brandt about how to re-lace to a new rim without removing the spokes from the hub.  The process involves lining up the replacement rim’s “key hole” with the current rim, and, one-by-one, unlacing the spoke from the existing rim and lacing into the replacement.  Sounds interesting and even more Zen-like than regular wheel building!

Fortunately, this bike is blessed with rear spacing that will accommodate a 126mm hub.  I tried fitting one in and it floated up into the dropouts with no trouble at all, even though the spacing measures at 123.5mm.  That means that a 6 or even 7 speed freewheel is a possibility.  Likewise, clearance at the fork crown and rear brake was large enough to accommodate a 700c 32mm tire and fenders, based on a preliminary dry mount of an alternative wheelset.  So that makes for a lot of reinterpretation possibilities.

However, maybe this is a bike that should be left as is.  A new owner could decide on the tires and wheelset.  But, since my focus is on making vintage bikes accessible and rideable, I’m leaning toward something else, but I just don’t know what that is yet.  Any ideas are welcome!

 

A Ride to Leach Botanical Gardens via Portland’s Bikeways

Leach Botanical Gardens, in outer Southeast Portland, has been a well-kept secret for many years.  But recently, the park underwent a major transformation featuring aerial walkways amidst towering evergreens, a new “pollinator” garden, and many other upgrades.

The park was originally a residence, and clearly a refuge, built and curated by John and Lilla (Irvin) Leach, he a druggist, she a botanist, both avid naturalists and early members of the Mazamas. Lilla became an award winning botanist, identifying 5 new plant species and over the years developed an amazing array of botanical wonders in their multi-level gardens nestled along the banks and cliffsides of Johnson Creek.  The above photo is their residence, “Manor House”, which they built in 1936 after first residing in a lovely stone cabin on the other side of the creek.  Upon their deaths (John in the early 1970’s and Lilla in 1980), they deeded the property to the City of Portland to be used as a city park and botanical museum, but it took several decades after that for the city to finally recognize and invest in this amazing treasure.

A nice section of Portland’s bikeways – newly paved.

The garden entrance – the ALAN was the perfect bike for this trip.

The route to this destination can be done completely on Portland’s bikeways – an amalgam of neighborhood greenways and streets with bike lanes.  All of the bikeways routes are marked with periodic signage to help you navigate, but fortunately I looked closely at my interactive Portland bike map and plotted my course before venturing out.

My route took me from Mt. Tabor, down Mill Street with a jog over to Market, continuing east until turning south on 130th.  From there, the challenge is crossing the busy and bike unfriendly intersections at Division and Powell, but these crossings have been improved with some safety features.  The route continues south jogging amongst 130th, 129th and 128th, until finally reaching Foster Road, which has no bike safety infrastructure other than perilous bike lanes strewn with parked cars and trash.  So, once I hit Foster I proceeded the few blocks on the sidewalks until the turn off at 122nd which leads to the park.  Other than a few minor hills along the way, the route was completely flat.  Round trip is about 15 miles.  I encountered no cyclists on my way out, and only three on my way back. As it was a beautiful sunny Saturday, the lack of cyclists makes me think that these bikeways are pretty underutilized.  And, as is often the case with Portland’s bikeways, many of the road surfaces were potholed and there was still much winter debris to navigate – downed branches from this winter’s record-breaking ice storm as well as a lot of gravel which made me glad to be riding the ALAN with its micro-knobbies.  Still, any kind of bike would handle this journey just fine.

I’ve visited the gardens many times before, but today I could only stay briefly.  Below are photos from today’s visit and from previous excursions, for your enjoyment.

Alliums in the new pollinator garden.

A view of the Manor House from the aerial walkway.

A walk among the trees on the new aerial walkway.

Johnson Creek bathed in a bit of sunlight.

A deer I spotted on a previous visit.

One of the many botanical wonders you will see.

Trillums reaching for the sun.

If you decide to visit the gardens, be aware that with these new improvements, the city will begin charging an admission fee next year.  For now, they are encouraging “reservations”, but I arrived without one, and that presented no problem.  For those of you who live here or are planning a visit, I hope you have a chance to take in this awe-inspiring experience.