Cleaning, Polishing and Restoring Vintage Aluminum Fenders

Having spent hours cleaning and polishing vintage aluminum bicycle fenders, I have wondered if there is a way to improve the efficiency of this process without harming a vintage fender’s finish?   Maybe not, but there are some products that work a bit better than others and are less likely to scratch or damage the fender’s finish.

Custom Meral steel fenders, with original wine cork spacer and attachment reinforcement

Aluminum fenders – hammered, patterned or smooth – are often found on vintage bicycles with 650b wheels.  Steel fenders, painted or chromed, were also used – although not as commonly as their aluminum counterparts. Lightweight chromed steel fenders can be found on some French, British, and Italian randonneuring bikes dating from the 1950’s on.  But, aluminum alloy fenders were generally the material of choice in those days.

Vintage 1950’s fenders with red highlights and a smooth surface

1950’s hammered fenders with dark brown paint highlights.

Vintage aluminum alloy fenders can have painted portions to add color highlights.  Cleaning and polishing these fenders involves a number of steps.  You don’t want to use any product that will dull the color highlights.  So, it’s best to focus on the unpainted portion of the fender for polishing.

As a first step, I remove the fender from the bicycle frame and remove all the mounting hardware.  Then I gently wash it with a mild surfactant, such as Finish Line’s pink bike wash. After that, I continue the cleaning process with a clean rag and some alcohol.

Because the fender is flexible and subject to damage  I place it over an inflated tire of similar width, mounted to a wheel and position this into my truing stand. I prevent the hub from turning by securing the spokes to the stand. This prevents the fender from getting twisted or misshaped while its being polished.

Once the fender is clean it is time to think about the best product to use for polishing.  For aluminum fenders, a wadding polish such as Nevr-Dull seems to work best.  I have tried many other polishes, but have found this product to work most efficiently and with the best results.

That doesn’t mean that you won’t need to reapply this product many times over a heavily tarnished fender.

I have also used MAAS metal polish with excellent results on any steel component.  So it is a good choice for chrome steel fenders (and any other steel component).

My 1973 Jack Taylor’s fenders were seriously tarnished and dull when I acquired the bike.  After polishing the fenders (over many hours), the luster of the metal was restored, as you can see from the photo above.  I used Nevr-Dull to polish the fenders.

The Lefol aluminum fender shown above is from an early 1950’s bicycle.  Cleaning and polishing this fender took some time (as in many hours), but the end result was well worth the effort.  Using a wadding polish for vintage aluminum fenders will yield the best results, as these products will not harm the underlying metal.

Library of Congress Historical Cycling Photos

Julia Obear, 1922 bicycle messenger

The U.S. Library of Congress is a treasure trove of historical data.  Much of the information stored there (which is technically part of the deep web) is copyrighted.  But, periodically the Library releases images and other information that is “Free to Use and Reuse”.  Recently the Library added a small batch of cycling images to this category.  Some of these free images pose questions.  In the above photo, Ms.Obear, a cycling messenger for the National Women’s Party, is astride a traditional diamond-framed bike, with wide drop bars, large wheels, and no apparent rim brakes.

In the above photo you can see that this cyclist is riding a fixed gear machine, sans any rim brakes on the front or the rear.  There is twine run between the two ends of the handlebar (why?) and this cyclist is wearing some stylish cycling couture, with comfortable low heeled shoes.  The large chainring and small cog at the rear wheel makes it seem that this bicycle was set up for training.  One must remember that in these early days of cycling, huge gears were more the norm, and cyclists would typically dismount to ascend steep hills.  Were these cyclists stronger than their modern day counterparts?

1942 Washington DC family out on a ride.

Another interesting photo in the Library of Congress’ free archive is this 1942 photo of a Washington D.C family out on a cycling adventure.  The child is astride a substantial looking kids’ trike, and her parents are riding American cruiser style bikes of this era.  I have to wonder where that little girl is today, and if she is still alive and still riding.

Fast forward to the 1970’s and we have Hertz getting into the biz of bicycle rentals.  A precursor to bike share?  The outermost bike at the lower left of the photo is a Gitane, equipped with centerpull brakes and downtube shifters.

1934 Argentinian tandem cyclists

The above photo depicts a pair of cyclists who started out in Buenos Aires in 1934 on a tandem machine, pictured above, who arrived in the U.S. two years later, alive and well.  The vintage tandem has rim brakes, front and rear, with the captain’s levers installed on the top of the upright bars.  It looks like there are two chain rings up front, but it’s hard to tell if there is a rear derailleur.  Either way, this journey is impressive.

Don’t try this at home!

If you are going to ride down a stairway, maybe first you should try to source a bike with a huge rear wheel.  That is probably what made the above feat possible. There are many other free to share images at the Library of Congress, and not just in the category of cycling.  I hope you have enjoyed these images, and for more, look here.

 

Vintage Bikes from Days Gone By

I’ve enjoyed riding, restoring, and selling many vintage bicycles.  Some of them are not as well known as the more popular marques or models.  Here are a few of those examples.

Austro Daimler:

1976 Austro Daimler Mixte with BCM lugs

This nice A-D mixte came with a Suntour drive train, SR cranks, and a Regina freewheel. It weighed in at 26 lbs.

Centurion:

1976 Centurion Super Le Mans mixte, with Shimano Arabesque shifters and derailleurs.

The Centurion mixte, with its iconic orange paint, is one of my favorite restorations. I sold the bike a number of years ago, but miss it now.

Schwinn:

Huret Duo Par rear derailleur

1986 Schwinn Passage Touring bike – Columbus double butted tubing, forged drop outs, and lots of braze-ons. A very nice touring machine.

Trek:

A beautiful 1984 Trek 830 “mountain bike” which I converted to a city commuter. Reynolds 501 frame with lovely lugs and fork crown.

This Trek was really fun to ride, with its long wheelbase and stable geometry.

Davidson:

1984 Davidson with Campagnolo dropouts

I toured on this Davidson all over Oregon. This photo is from a trip to the cranberry bogs in Bandon, on the Oregon coast. The frame is made with Tange Champion tubing.

Rudge:

The iconic Raleigh Rudge headbadge.

This early 1960’s Raleigh Rudge 3 speed was in excellent condition. I donated it to a charity auction and I hope its new owner is having fun with it.

Peugeot:

I have worked on many Peugeots dating from the 1920’s to the 1980’s. This is an especially nice looking 1985 mixte. It is built with Carbolite 103 using internal brazing- a technique mastered by Peugeot which eliminated external lugs and brazes, for a clean appearing joint.

Peugeot Crank with built in chain guard.

Raleigh:

This 1974 Raleigh Sprite was  fun to ride – very “sprightly”.

While this bike looks like a non-performer, I found myself keeping up with road bike cyclists while commuting. The bike is a conundrum, having a relatively heavy frame and components, but feeling responsive while riding.

Nishiki:

Nishiki headbadge, Dia Compe centerpulls

This Nishiki International touring bike included a SunTour drivetrain and Sugino cranks, as well as other quality components of this era.

There are more bikes that are equally worth considering for restoration, but I hope the examples above serve as inspiration for the cyclists and restorers who want to preserve and ride these quality machines.