Velobrico Tinkering: Dynamo lights

Though I have absolutely no experience with dynamos, nor any real idea how they work, last Sunday I decided to tackle the non-functioning rear light from the Tigra ladies’ bike.

This bike has a dynamo installed, even though it is not such an old machine. I was recently told that in Germany it is illegal to ride a bike with battery powered lights. I’m not sure if that is true, (German cycling laws here…) as it does sound pretty nonsensical, though I’m pretty certain you are allowed to ride in Switzerland with whatever lights you want.

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Once I figured out how to engage the dynamo so it would work from tyre rotation (this seriously took me a few days of prodding and pulling to figure out), the front light functioned fine but the rear refused to shine.

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First, I removed the plastic housing and checked the bulb. Filament looked ok. Checked continuity with the multi-meter, all good. Screwed it back in. Crossed my fingers. Nothing.

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Then I had a look at the wiring. The dynamo has two wires coming out of it, one for the front light, another for the rear. Not sure how this can make a complete circuit, but I guess that’s not necessary for DC power. The bulb socket seems to be connected to the mudguard itself, so presumably being grounded is sufficient for a DC circuit. My lack of electrical knowledge is by now apparent.

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The wire hanging out of the bottom of the dynamo seemed loosely connected, but I noticed a spring-loaded connector in the bottom which holds it in place just fine. The wires head into the rear mudguard, then follow a crimp in the side until exiting through a hole in the rear, into the light fitting. This wire is then connected to another metal clip, basically wedged into a bent flap, held in place only by the “springy-ness” of the metal itself…

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The wire going into the rear light fitting looked a bit corroded, so I took it out, sprayed some white vinegar on it (helpful for oxidation), dried it, rubbed it with some steel wool. The copper colour shone nicely, so I “re-twizzled” the strands, rubbed the metal clip with the steel wool and reinserted the wire. Crossed my fingers. Tested it it again. Nothing.

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Then I removed the bulb and filed a tiny bit off the bottom to ensure good contact. No joy.

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I now removed the wires from the dynamo and did the vinegar, steel wool and “twizzling”. Crossed fingers. Tested again. Nothing.

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Not to be deterred, I removed the bulb again, and found bits of spider eggs or some other insect leftovers. Blew those out. Another round of vinegar, steel wool, scraped a bit with a screwdriver, dried it, sprayed a bit of WD40 on it.

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While I was at it, I sprayed a bit of WD40 on the metal clip and the wires at the dynamo. A bit of WD40 often works wonders.

Screwed the bulb back in. Crossed my fingers. And it worked!

A well earned cup of tea followed. If only every Sunday were so productive!

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Velobrico Workshop: Tigra ladies’ bike

Another stray joined the workshop recently. 

Actually, as you can tell from the photos, this was a while back, when there was still sunshine and no snow!

Tigra is a historic Swiss manufacturer (I understand they disappeared in 2001, bought by Villger, another Swiss brand), which adds another local bicycle to my collection.

This one was left by the bins with flat tires, lots of cobwebs and wrongly adjusted this and that. Nothing major missing though (like saddle, wheels, pedals, handlebars etc.), so all it needs is a little TLC.

I love the frame colour. It’s a really electric blue-green aquamarine which almost looks cromovelato. Really nice. The pictures here don’t do it justice.

The lugged steel mixte frame has the usual mistreatment scratches, but from being badly stored rather than well ridden. The “Tigra” decal from the down tube has disappeared, but the lettering is faintly visible.

I haven’t done any research, but judging from the components I would say this is an early 90s bike. STI shifters. Shimano STX hubs, no-name aero rims. The pedals seem to have been replaced relatively recently (these are the Decathlon urban flat variety, cheap but decent pedals).

Gear shifters and brake levers were oddly inverted, which must have made braking tricky. Gears didn’t shift correctly (WD40 sorted that). One tire pumped up fine, the other needed a patch. One wheel needed a bit of truing, but nothing major. Re-greased the hubs and gave it a wash (after taking the “before” photos for once!)

With very little effort, this middle-aged lady is back on her feet. I bet she’s glad I rescued her!

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Velobrico Workshop: 1930s Wonder tandem (update 1)

While trying to find some info on the Wonder tandem, (it’s easier to research on the net in winter than brave a cold workshop), I came across this great forum, all in French, related to this manufacturer from St Etienne.

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Some fantastic advertising posters.

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A few pictures of tandems, but Ravat models, not Wonder. This one looks pretty similar to mine. Similar derailleur, “gents” saddle at the front, wider “ladies” saddle at the back, same tool pouch, mudguards, but it has a split down tube and the top tube carries through to the rear seat tube.

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From the look of these pedals, mine aren’t original.

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I imagine myself pretty much as the chap in the photo below, casually pointing out a route on a map to his female companion.

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I was curious why the chain goes all the way from the front chain ring to the freewheel on my tandem. Typically I have seen one shorter chain between chain rings, and another between the rear ring and the freewheel.

The advert above says that this is how Ravat tandems were deliberately designed, along with a short rear wheelbase and thin lateral tubes, which “improves stability, rigidity and performance”. That’s a bit of a vague claim, and I don’t see how the chain length would help with that, but when I ride it I guess I’ll decide for myself!

Once I start on the restoration in earnest, I’ll be sure to reach out to the forum members. Looks like the only place to go!

Treasure hunting

I recently picked up a couple of cone spanners made by Sugino, the Japanese component manufacturer, at a second hand store in Switzerland.
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They are in immaculate condition and only the 13mm spanner seems to have ever been used (maybe once?).
Does anyone ever use the 14 or 16mm spanners? I have never owned a hub that uses them. Would be great if 13 and 15 came on a single spanner, as they seem to be the most common, but then they’d sell fewer tools!
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I already have a bunch of cone spanners but these will go nicely with my 1985 all-Japanese Fuji Del Rey. It has Sugino cranks after all. They are really nicely made, and in far better condition than the Fuji itself…
Any idea when they date from?
I’m guessing 80s-90s, as the internet isn’t yielding much in the way of info.
Remember, you can never have too many tools.
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Velobrico Workshop: Removable valve stem??

I guess you have heard of a removable valve core, but what about an entire stem?

I recently added another abandoned bike to the workshop and while tending to the flat tire I noticed the inner tube held air, but that the valve stem came out of the inner tube if fiddled with (with an explosive release of tyre pressure too!).

While I assume this is a fault in the inner tube, on closer inspection, it doesn’t look like anything has torn or failed. The inner tube has two rubber joints, the second of which seems to hold the stem base. The upper seems just to hold it straight.

I have replaced the inner tube with a new one from Schwalbe, but can a removable valve stem really be a thing? Never seen this before.

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Velobrico Workshop: Wonder tandem

A new arrival in the workshop today (yes, it is easier to start projects than finish them…). something really quite special indeed.

I’ve always fancied a tandem. Not really sure why. They’re heavy, large, unusable without a trained partner, don’t fit on the car, look a bit weird. But still, they do look fun, in an eccentric sort of way.

I’ve also thought it would be cool to own a bicycle from every decade of the 1900s. Well I have managed to tick both boxes with this one.

This is a “Wonder” tandem from the mid 1930s, seemingly remarkably original and in excellent antique condition.

I have never owned a vehicle this old, nor repaired anything with this much history, so I’m going to be treating it very carefully! That said, this isn’t going to be a garage queen restoration. My intention is to use it, but keep as much original patina as possible.

Watch this space, this is going to be an interesting restoration and a very unique bike to research, fix up and ride.

Any tips more than welcome. I’m in uncharted territory with this antique =)

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Not all bicycles are for riding…

Possibly more than any other invention, the bicycle seems to encourage mechanisation of manual tasks – moving one’s legs to turn a wheel can apparently have almost endless applications.

Once they can’t be ridden any more, it’s great to see bicycles continue to offer some utility far beyond their intended lifespan.

Here’s a great example of that, and some great grass roots entrepreneurialism too.

Everyone knows cycling and coffee is a great combination, now even before it reaches your cup =)

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-35132430

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