As previously mentioned i’m pretty handy when it come to repairing bicycles. I can handle a puncture or two and I’ve replaced my fair share of brakes. So with this in mind I thought it might be fun to try my hand at a restoration project.
It was about a year ago, my neighbours were moving house and out on the front lawn was an old bicycle. We got into a conversation and I asked about the bike. She said it belonged to her husband and he used to ride it to school everyday, back in the 70’s.
She then told me they were about to take it to the tip. (For any none UK readers, the tip is a recycling centre).
I don’t really know why, but I felt like I couldn’t let this bike go on the scrap heap. I wanted to save it. At least what was left of it. So we did a little deal and I got to keep it.
It wasn’t in the worst condition. The wheels turned, so that was a start. It had been in a garage for, who knows how long. It must have been a while.
Which brings me too my first problem with this restoration. This bike belonged to my neighbour, who rode it to school. It didn’t really click with me until I actually got on the bike around six months later. He rode this to school. As a child. This was a child bike! I suppose I was just so excited by the idea of fixing up something that was around 50 years old, that I didn’t stop to wonder why the handle bars and seat were so low.
I was initially disappointed as I wanted to restore something for myself. I wanted a cool, vintage bike that I could call my own. But basically it didn’t fit.
So, what did I actually have here? Well it the classic Raleigh Hustler. Unfortunately I can’t work out the exact date. The model is from around the 60’s and 70’s and according to some online sources they are quite rare. Not sure how true this is, given the low prices people have sold them for but none the less it’s a pretty cool, little bike. This one is a two tone green affair, with a few small rusty bits, and some pitting on the chrome, but this just adds character, right?
The first thing I did was inflate the tyres. They are the originals and to my amazement they still hold air. In reality, if I were to give it the full restoration treatment I think I would replace both wheels entirely.
Next, I remove a weird plastic bracket thing that was added on at a later date. I raise the seat a little and giver her a test ride. It’s difficult to describe what the bike was like. It obviously hadn’t been ridden in years and it shows. Also it being a child’s bike, it was very difficult for me to ride with my knees under my chin. But nonetheless it did ride, all three gears worked and the brakes worked.
After that, a couple of weekends is all it took to get 50 years of grease and grime off and a wire brush for some of the more stubborn rust patches. But I think the best discovery was the Sturmey Archer Hub. All of the detail was buried under the dust and muck and uncovering it just made the whole bike look ten times better.
To be honest, if I were fixing this up for myself I would love to spend more time on it, but I think what i’m going to do is try and find it a new home. Some younger, smaller framed person might think it’s cool!