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September 2, 2016

Hot Dog! Restorating a 1999 Gunnar

The client had a wonderful idea for restoring this 1999 Gunnar Hot Dog! steel bicycle. Why not use a group of Sram Force 10 speed components from a retired road bike? The Reynolds 853 frame and Time Stiletto carbon fork needed some touch-up paint and clear coat, but were otherwise in good condition. So we replaced all of the components and added a set of Fulcrum wheels for this retro rebuild. This is the client's commuter bike, so we dressed it up with high visibility reflectives for those early morning commutes. Find the complete story on the Vintage Restorations page.

July 22, 2015

Restoring an American Classic: Schwinn American DeLuxe 1963

The client led me through an overgrown yard to his garage. The bicycle, he reported, had been his brother's when they were kids, and it was always a little too big for him. He had stored the bike in his garage for about the last 25 years, but no one had ridden it since the late 1960s. It was hidden behind a couple of ladders and some lawn equipment. We brought it outside and I snapped some photos in the snow. A Schwinn American cruiser, probably early '60s vintage. 

Back at the shop with the bike disassembled, I began to realize that it was in pristine condition. Coated in layers of oxidation and grime, initial impressions were deceiving. But there was very little rust, and the bike turned out to be mechanically sound, with only the coaster brake and wheels needing some attention. A model of simplicity with no gears or cables, this bicycle was designed to ride through the park on cool Sunday mornings, gliding gracefully, chrome gleaming in the sunlight.

Stripped down to the one-piece crank, I cleaned and polished the bearing races and replaced the bottom bracket bearings. The frame was compounded and fresh clear coat applied for a renewed glossy finish. The chrome needed only degreasing and polishing with aluminum oxide, with a final wax coating for preservation. Wheels were re-tensioned and trued, bearings replaced and re-packed, headset races polished and bearings replaced. The vinyl Schwinn saddle and grips were treated in a bleach solution and then a preservative. 

Dated as circa 1963 via the U.S. catalog, this 52 pound bicycle was restored to its original glory. A long wheel base upright cruiser and true American classic.

Road and Touring Bikes, 2015 

Motobecane Super Mirage 1978

Columbia Road Bike 1970

Raleigh Grand Prix 1973

Custom Road Bike 1979

January 10, 2015

Restoration: Raleigh Lady Sport

Once in a while an extraordinary project comes along that proves impossible to resist. The client contacted us asking if we restore old bicycles. "Certainly," we responded with confidence. The bike: a Raleigh Lady Sports Tourist, circa 1950, heavily rusted. According to family stories, the client's mother purchased the bike in England and traveled with it through Europe before shipping it back to the U.S. The client herself had ridden the bike as a girl, and she refused to part with it. Unfortunately, the bicycle had been left outside exposed to the elements for some time, and was in rather poor condition.

Following considerable research on this particular model, the client was presented with several options and price points for restoring the bike. Presenting options or "build packages" to clients is one of the ways Evo maintains a "custom" experience. Following discussion of the pros and cons, the client selected the option that best suited her needs and budget.

After verifying the 1950 manufacture date by tracking the serial number (imprinted on the frame), the bike was disassembled, each section carefully photographed for reassembly later. The frame was compounded to remove rust and revealed the still bright Raleigh green factory paint beneath. It was also carefully examined for structural damage or defects. Incredibly, there was not a hint of rust inside the frame tubes or bottom bracket, and the high carbon steel tubes and brazed lugs were solid, a testament to 1950 Raleigh build quality at the historic Nottingham, England, factory. So far so good.


This bicycle may be rare today, but thousands were hand built by skilled workers through the 1950's, a time when Raleigh was considered by many as the largest bicycle manufacturer in the world. The company's global reach also established standardized specifications, especially sizes of components, that continued until quite recently. Prepared with this knowledge, several "parts bikes" were located, and one selected for the job: a 1962 Raleigh Lady Sports Tourist in very good condition. According to the project outline the client had selected, this bike would supply many of the components to replace the most corroded parts on the 1950 bicycle.

"It is astonishing to work with 52 year old parts that were built so heavily as to endure and function almost indefinitely."

From this point on, much of the work focused on selecting which of the optional components to utilize and reconditioning them in every detail. Among the specialized tools and techniques needed was a mini rotary tool and steel brush bits for reclaiming chrome fittings, bearing races and threaded bolts; a fine compounding paste for the painted parts; and aluminum oxide for removing rust from the chrome. The frame and fork were treated internally with an rust inhibiting sealant, and externally with rust inhibiting clear coat.

Many of the chromed components from the parts bike were selected, cleaned and brightened to a soft glow, including the North Road raised handlebar and brake levers. It is astonishing to work with 52 year old parts that were built so heavily as to endure and function almost indefinitely. Equally fascinating was the continuity of size standards from 1950 to 1962, as nearly every component proved interchangeable between the two bicycles.

The client had elected to remove the lighting system and dynamo hub as the cost of refurbishing proved prohibitive. We also replaced the aluminum wheels, apparently part of a 1976 overhaul, with the 1962 Sturmey Archer chrome wheels from the parts bike. Ironically, the latter would have been the factory original wheel set in 1950. The wheel rims were treated for days in a penetrating oil bath to loosen the accumulated rust around the spoke nipples, and most of the original spokes proved functional. The wheels were adjusted for tension, round and trued, with only a few custom-cut spokes needed to complete the job. Every millimeter of chrome was then brushed and polished to a high gloss finish.

The 42 tooth 1962 chainring was selected to replace the 46 tooth 1950 ring, and matched with the older bottom bracket spindle which proved straight and undamaged. Bearing races and cups were polished using the tiny steel brush bits and rotary tool, and new caged bearings located for proper fit. The inner workings of the three speed Sturmey Archer hub were examined and relubricated, and later adjusted to shift smoothly and quietly.

"In the end, the reassembled bicycle combined original factory elements with a refreshed retro style appropriate for a bicycle meant for riding and not just a show piece."

But we ran into a problem. The fenders and chain guard panels were so heavily rusted that after compounding and rust removal, little evidence of the original paint remained. Painting was an option of course, and with the client's consent, we selected a closely matched hunter green rust inhibiting paint for the job. In the end, the color did not precisely match the clear coated and now slightly darker frame, but the client was happy with the bike's two-tone appearance. Later we would add cream tires which only heightened the two-tone color scheme.

Other new replacement parts included a KMC S10 stainless steel chain, Dia Compe brake pads, brake and shifter cables, a Sturmey Archer three speed shifter, Kraton rubber grips, headset bearings and kevlar belted Schwalbe Delta Cruiser tires in the proper 26 by 1 3/8 inch size. The only vintage replacement parts were a set of brake cable housings in ribbed vinyl rubber circa 1964, and a Brooks B.72 leather saddle circa 1982.

In the end, the reassembled bicycle combined original factory elements with a refreshed retro style appropriate for a bicycle meant for riding and not just a show piece. It is merely a technical curiosity that the finished bicycle combined components from two Raleighs dated, respectively, 1950 and 1962, both vintage. The client was pleased, stating that the restored bike looked like the way she remembered it as a girl.


In the Client's Words - Raleigh Lady Sport

"When family members said they were going to junk my mother's vintage Raleigh, I couldn't bear the thought of discarding a bike I rode as a kid. It had been left exposed to the elements for several years and was in terrible condition. I found Evo by searching the web for someone local who might be willing to restore the bike.

Vic was willing to take on the tough job of restoring a 65-year-old bike. At every step, he kept me apprised of the overall estimate and his progress.  He meticulously itemized the required work and the estimated cost of each component, and searched the globe for the parts that were needed. The care he took with each repair or replacement was impressive. 

The result was amazing! The bicycle looks fantastic. Even better, it rides like a dream, which is important. Postwar British manufacturers apparently felt the need to build their products - even bicycles - as solidly as the tanks they used in World War II. The 1950 Raleigh is steel and weighs 48 pounds, but the ride is so smooth I hardly notice its weight. It's like the return of a long-lost friend."

Jodie, Gaithersburg, MD







Photos & Links


Raleigh Colt 1968

German Children's Bike 1956


Schwinn American 1963

Before Restoration
Raleigh Lady Sport 1950