— Spherical Thinking

Always thinking around.

Introducing Betty

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been working on refurbishing an old bicycle that was given to me. The bike in question is a old english 3-speed that was made by Hercules. Here in America this brand is not very well known, but over on that side of the pond it was as common as Huffy. When I got the bike it was in pretty decent shape for having been left out in the elements for a good number of years. The old seat was absolute trash and was promptly discarded. I rode it for a few days as it was (after I put a new seat on it) and it rode fairly nice. Since it turned out to be a decent ride I decided to make sure it was all prettied up. First time I went to put air in the back tire she blew up on me. The tire had been hit with dry rot and the inner tube erupted. Funny thing was that whomever had put the tube in had folded it inside the tire and rim. I don’t know how that works but they did it. So the first purchase was new tubes and tires. Also the shifter line was broken and so it was stuck in one of the 3 speeds. I made the mistake of unhooking that and the little chain pulled back into the hub. It is now a freewheeling single speed. Anyways, I rode it for the rest of the summer as it was and enjoyed the heck out of it. Sometime during the winter I decided that I wanted to fix it up nice and get it ready for the next riding season.

How'd you like to sit on that seat?

This is what she looked like when I got her.

Since I have the work space to partake on such a project I decided not only to clean her up, but to completely strip it down to the frame and repaint. It was a fun project to take the whole thing apart down to the bits and pieces. And while I won’t go into little details about it, I will say that this can be as hard as you want it to be. I wish now that I had thought about some of the things I was about to do, before I had done them. The biggest of those was when I went to remove the headset. In all of my previous bike disassembly past, the bearings have all been in races. Seeing as this is a much older british model, it did not, and I did not anticipate that difference. Needless to say, I lost basically half of the bearings into the dirt floor of my shop. I was a quick learner however, and figured as much from the bottom bracket, and sure enough there where no races there either. This time I was more careful and was able to keep track of all of them.

British through and through

Notice the electrical tape being used as handlebar tape.

Working on this project in my spare time at night I was able to get the whole thing stripped down and cleaned down to bare metal in about a month and a half. It could have gone faster, but I liked being able to take my time, and I also wanted to be able to do other things at night. Once I had everything cleaned up I made up a little holder for the front fork and hit it with some primer. For my design I wanted a completely different look for the color and chose to go with a flat black. One of the things that I wanted to keep after I had repainted was to to keep the 4 stripes that were on the seat tube. I knew that was part of the original Hercules design, and I wanted to keep it somewhat original in that respect. I decided to paint those stripes back on, and chose to make them a medium to darkish red like the bike originally was. I also had originally wanted to keep the emblem on the front of the bike, but as I was sanding/grinding down the frame it become more of a hassle to work around it and I just took it off.

Don't mind the mess, I'm not much for cleaning

Black and red, one of my favorite combinations.

After I got the rest of the frame clean I hit it with some primer and then masked off all but the seat tube. I painted that with some Rustoleum paint that gives the appearance of hammered metal. I kinda wanted those stripes to pop a little in contrast to the dark flat black. After that I wanted to give the red a clear coat before putting the black on. Before I did that, just out of habit I guess, I tested the Krylon matte clear that I had on a spare bit of metal that I had painted with the same red. The clear reacted to the red paint in a way that I had completely not planned for at all. It basically worked like a paint stripper and started to peel and bubble up the paint! At this point I was very happy with myself for testing this on a piece of scrap and not going straight to the frame with it. So I went out and picked up a Rustoleum matte clear and ended up getting the results I wanted. After the clear, I gave it 2 or 3 coats of black and then 2 or 3 coats of clear over that. The clear ended up making it a little bit shinier than I had hoped for, but I still like the results. After that I put some of the clear on the fork and it went a little funny. Near the bottom of the fork where the wheel fits in, it turned cloudy. I don’t know why, and now the fork has a black to grey fade in that area. Kinda mad about it, but not mad enough to want to clean it all off again and repaint it. Also the frame had some spots where, in the badly lit area that I was doing the painting, I didn’t get a good job done on the black. Tiny speckles of the primer show through in areas. Again, I don’t like it but its not enough for me to redo the job.


A profile of the whip.

Since I had lost a lot of the bearings from the headset I had to order some online, and while I was doing that I also got some black cloth handlebar tape. I also had to order some new cotter pins for the cranks, as one of the originals was so rusted in that I damaged it getting it out. It took me considerably less time putting the whole thing back together than it did to get it apart. I think that was because I had already gotten to know where everything went and that parts where cleaned up and not rusty afterwards. I left the rear hub as it was, and still do not have a shifter. I also reused the original brakes, except for new pads, and brake line. I didn’t have a good way to properly attach the brake line, so I used some hose clamps. As I didn’t want to mess up my new paint job, I took the old inner tube that I still had laying around and cut some strips from that and wrapped the tube before putting on the clamps. I think it gives the bike character. At some point I would like to rework the rear hub and get it working properly again. I would like to add a shifter just near where the seat attaches to the frame right about where the hose clamp is now. I like the idea of not cluttering up the handlebars. I almost want a coaster brake for that same reason, but like being able to backpedal while I coast too much.

I took it out this past saturday for its inaugural ride, and was pretty pleased. I am not sure on how I like the cloth handlebar tape. It is most likely a result of my not knowing how to do it properly and butchering the job. I also think that I may have been wrong with the way I put the handlebars back on. I like the bull horn style in that it just feels better on my wrists and that they aren’t bent uncomfortably. Originally when I set the bike up to ride last summer I put them this way, but with the handlebars facing higher up than down. This time I wanted to have a racier feel to the bike and so I dropped them lower. I think this was a mistake. I feel very hunched over. (Which I know is how you ride a racing bike. Why would you put them that way if you didn’t want to ride it that way?) I have only rode the once though, and will give it a longer try.

Can I ride it?

Audra thinks the bike is too big.

Woah black Betty!

A view from Betty's backside.








It was a fun project and I look forward to doing more like it in the future. On a side note, this was as far as I can tell, the longest post I have done on the blog so far. It was nice to be able to put down the whole process and get some thoughts out of my head onto … well, not paper… but you get the idea.

Oops, nothing else quite matches this post.

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