Old bikes are nothing but fun. They creak, they’re bent up, used, and well-loved. Most of all, they have a lot of personality, more than what any new bikes can offer. When you get your hands on a classic [bike], you’re immediately drawn in by the patina, and nostalgia it conjures up. However, these bikes can be easily passed over because of serious mechanical issues. It can seem like the cost of a repair will never be outweighed by the potential of the finished product, but that’s not always the case.
I had a local business owner, the current owner of Playback Sports, ask if her classic women’s 3 speed bike could be repaired and made fully-functional again. My initial thoughts were “move-on”, “next!”, even “why bother?” However, this bike was special to her. She has sold the bike three times to the local college students, only to have them consign it back to her each time, and now she wants to use it for herself. The bike is fairly flawless, except for the loose cotter-pin cranks and a beat-up rear wheel.
The existing wheel was a Sturmey Archer 3 speed hub, laced to an old steel rim that had more flat spots than I cared to count. The hub barely turned and the internals were completely dried up. This was going to be a rewarding build as it would give the bike another chance to make somebody happy for years to come.
The new build plan was straightforward. Uniform spoke lengths, brass nipples, and an updated, eyeletted, 27″alloy rim that is stronger and lighter than any vintage rim.
The wheel turned out perfectly, in my opinion. The bike now has a safer wheel, with the nostalgia and original aesthetic intact (it probably works better now than the day it was first sold, too!).