I’ve had this bike for a little while now and bought it on ebay when I was thinking about getting a frame to build up to a single speed. I was also expecting a few visitors in the following months that might be staying for a while and I wanted something I could lend out that would get them from A to B in some style.

When I turned up to buy the bike it was too small for me, however I took it for a ride anyway and it worked well, and just felt like a nice ride. I couldn’t resist it’s originality even though I knew it wasn’t from a recognised frame maker. Since buying it I haven’t found out too much more about the frame builder, but imagine it is essentially a ‘kmart bike’ from an era when cheap bikes were heavy and robust.

I’d had the bike a little while and one morning I found my regular ride with a flat tyre and on a whim decided to take the oxford. I rode it as my regular commuting bike for the next couple of months and although it wasn’t nearly as efficient as my regular ride, the small size and simplicity of the bike kept me riding it even though the tyre on my regular bike was long since repaired

The only problem it developed during this period was that the jockey wheel (?) that carries the actuator cable for the sturmey archer 3 speed failed due to old age and so fouled the operation of the geared hub. Since then, I had put the bike aside until now, hoping to find more time for it. As I suspected, months later, I still have no significant time to spend on it but I thought I’d document what I have and strip it back a little. My original intention was a single speed, but I think I can get some of that flavour by simply stripping it back, but keeping the strumey archer 3 speed hub for the sake of practicality.

Front Badge

Not a great photo, but the the best one I have to introduce the bike until I find one that shows the whole thing unrestored.

upside down

This is the underside of the bike just for an idea of general condition – I’m sure I took one of the bike the right way up…

Once I started pulling it apart I found most of the bike to be in pretty good condition, It looked, in the main dirty, with some surface rust.

This looks like the original Sturmey Archer shifter/

Broken Sturmey Archer cable jockey wheel – I’m calling it that but it probably has a ‘real name’ that might be useful to know if I decide to replace it.

There’s always one rusty nut that takes far too long to remove

It’s a good idea to take photos as you dismantle to remind yourself which washers go where.

[Time Passes…]

So after finding an hour to quickly clean some of the dirt off the bike. The frame, the hubs, and rims came up well. the rear rim will need some work, but looks salvageable. Not sure about the handlebars. After the quick clean I am surprised these bicycles aren’t better known. This must be a 35+ year old bike and the frame looks to be in reasonable condition – there is a little bubbling under the paint on the forks, and the chrome looks pretty good – from how well it has stood the test of time I think it must have been made with reasonable materials. The Sturmey Archer 3 speed is also a nice addition to the functionality of the bike.

Clean ‘Velo’ front hub

Front Rim – pitted chrome

Clean Chain Wheel

Rear Rim – looks OK – Made in Japan

Shiny Sturmey Archer…

That’s all I have time for this week.


Somewhere in central Australia

Deadly Treadlies was a bicycle recycling project minted in 2003 in Alice Springs by Ian Sweeney and Mick Cafe, working for the Tangentyere Council and Central Land Council. In brief, the project provided the materials and skills to recycle 2nd hand bikes for the Alice Springs community. It won awards, it recycled bikes and it kept Ian Sweeney off the street – all good news.

I went out to visit Ian in 2008 for about 10 days and spent a couple of days with him in the Larapinta Valley camp where he was managing the administrative centre for the camp. Ian and I spent two days fixing bicycles, recycling old parts and generally getting kids on 2 wheels in a collaborative workshop setting. It was part of the kids activities roster for the camp and it was great to get out there and be a tiny part of developing the bicycle scene in Alice. At the time I felt pretty ill-equipped to really ‘touch base’ with the community other than to be another well intentioned ‘blow-in’ from the big smoke. But bicycle repair was the only thing I really had to offer, other than an open mind, and for whatever it was worth, they got what I had while I was there.

Larapinta Valley Admin Centre front and back verandahs

To say it was rewarding is a massive understatement and I gained a whole lot more than I gave. As part of my day job I had done some aboriginal cultural heritage awareness training and so that had essentially briefed me on some of the most easily grasped issues, Ian filled in some of the finer detail about the work his does and the community I was visiting. It was a week that I won’t forget and feel now that I was given a real gift – just being out in that part of the country is special. Ian had been out there for about 5 years at the time, and since having a short sabbatical in Melbourne, he’s back out there again working with the community. The desert can capture a man’s heart so they say.

Something that I saw that will stick with me was this little girl who hadn’t ridden a bicycle before, getting on, pushing off, then riding through the sand like it were mown grass. Cycling in sand is hard and cycling for your first time usually takes some time to master – heading off into the sand is the cycling equivalent of jumping off a harbour ferry to learn to swim. It was impressive from a girl who was probably three and a half.

Somewhere else in Central Australia

I’m writing all this down because I think it illustrates the power of the bicycle to build capacity in communities. The joy of riding a bicycle is something that has no boundaries, and is easily shared with a simple smile. Its also a damn useful, sustainable, cheap and appropriate transport mode.

I’ve recently written a review of the movie Bicycle Thieves and although it’s not much of a ‘cycling movie’, it is a story that illustrates how a bicycle can create markets, economies and sustainable work. Perhaps I am making too much of all this, but suspend your disbelief for a moment, and imagine a city with all it’s short, commuter and general transport trips taken by bicycle. It’s a deadly idea.