You never know what’s going to show up at the local bicycle co-op. Take, for example, this Bickerton Portable. There can’t be that many to begin with, but nevertheless, there one was, sitting in the corner of the Reno Bike Project.
Now, it goes without saying that it takes a certain person to get fired up about a folding bike like a Bickerton. I freely and openly admit that I’m one of them. Folding bikes have always intrigued me. They are unique unto and even amongst themselves: more or less equal parts Rubic’s Cube, nightmare and magic. At the very least they fit in the trunk of the car and have frequently delivered me home from the auto shop so they serve some purpose beyond being unique.
Calling the Bickerton “unique” is a monumental understatement, though. Design-wise, the bike is flat out wacky, like something a NASA employee might whip out his briefcase to run lunchtime errands on. There are things that just don’t jibe with how a bike is normally built (I’d point some of the more obvious ones, but honestly, just look at the photos and you’ll see them in much greater detail).
Maybe I need to tighten any/all of the seven (count ‘em, seven) quick releases because the bike feels like it might revert back to its folded status at any moment. The main hinge in the frame is especially worrisome; what’s with the extra thinwall tube arching into the frame? I honestly can’t tell if it even does anything. Based on how the tube , which looks like it came off a piece of lawn furniture, loosely slip-mounts to a stud on the frame makes me believe its there less for structural than moral support. The fork trail also makes for a less than predictable path at anything above walking speed. I nearly gathered up the trunk of our elm tree on the maiden voyage.
…Which is all fine me because I don’t plan on touring cross country on it. I love it for all that it is and all that it isn’t (both of which are in plentiful supply). Heck, the Bickerton even came complete with its original tote case that supposedly folds/compresses into a smaller handlebar bag. Once I figure that out I’m sure I’ll love it even more, though I wouldn’t count on seeing it on the road anytime soon.
This is a Welby, A Japanese-made single speed. It looks like it was made in the 1960’s.
And in case you didn’t see the headbadge (where it says Welby twice), it also says Welby about 36 other places. There are Welby badges, Welby decals and other Welby markings literally everywhere on the bike. Welby, Welby, Welby…
We don’t know much about the bike, but we’re pretty sure we know what kind it is.
The Buzz Bomb front yard bike sale is tomorrow, and as such, we’re burning the midnight oil to get as many bikes ready as possible. Ballooners, Brit 3-speeds, handmade lugged road frames and other assorted weirdness is the standard fare.
Roughly 50 bikes will hit the grass at 8am. We’ll see how many are still around at 3pm…
Just last week I was saying to myself, “It sure would be nice to have more two-speed hub parts around.” Occasionally a Bendix red, yellow or blue band hub comes through needing an overhaul, and as you would expect, parts for these 45+ year old hubs aren’t that easy to come by.
…And then yesterday, very much out of the blue, this haul of Bendix goodness gets unearthed out of a small mobile home no more than 15 minutes from the shop.
Based on how well this worked out, I plan on talking to myself more often. “Boy, it sure would be nice to have a Chris-Craft barrel-back runabout around.”
(Thanks to Matt and his brother for passing along their dad’s precious stash of Bendix parts.)
Ok, we’ve been collecting long enough to know that prewar bikes aren’t found in Nevada, at least not in any real numbers. There just weren’t enough people here. In 1940 Nevada’s total population was roughly that of one of Chicago’s suburbs. You can’t have bikes without bicycle owners, so vintage finds here have been understandably few and far between.
So when our friend Jake showed up with this gem in the back of his truck our collective jaws dropped. Old bikes are hard to find, and finding a true prewar beauty like this Schwinn Motorbike is something just short of unbelievable. These deluxe Schwinns came with everything; New Departure front braking hubs, key-locking spring forks, crossbar handlebars, built-in fender lights, motorbike tanks with battery compartments and horns…
Amazingly, the bicycle was found in an old hunting cabin near Stillwater, NV. If native Nevada bikes are rare, finding a great old Schwinn in Stillwater is like finding a needle in a hayfield.
The bicycle, originally sold under the name Mead, is remarkably intact. Alkali dust and any moisture Stillwater received over the past 74 years has obviously taken a toll, but the desert has also been relatively kind to the bicycle. The metal is still very much solid and savable, and the fact that the bike was stored in such a remote location no-doubt contributed to it not ever being molested.
Jake is currently debating what to do with his new find, but its rarity has been duly impressed upon him. A score like that just doesn’t happen; not around here.
We often wonder how some bikes end up here in the U.S. Though DBS is reputedly huge in Norway this is the first one we’ve seen here. Maybe it was brought across the Atlantic by its original owner or possibly some entrepreneurial soul decided to import the bikes. Regardless, here it is, looking all bright and chipper.
The bike utilizes a Sachs 3-speed drivetrain, but everything else looks proprietary to DBS. Most notable are the drum brake front hub, stainless steel fenders and integrated tail light. Tire size is an odd 650b x 42mm.
Thumb’s up to the Norwegians for building a great all-purpose rider. The bike is fairly efficient yet docile in tight city traffic. A bonus is that it’s unique to all the Raleigh and Schwinn 3-speeds running around. Not that we’re against a nice “Superbe” or “Traveler”, but the DBS does offer a unique perspective on the 3-speed.
(Thanks to Kevin for offering us this wonderful bike.)
Roland Della Santa is known for his racing bikes; always has been. As most folks already know, he was Greg LeMond’s first sponsor. He also built racing frames for many other prominent racers from the 1970’s forward. Roland’s frames are beautifully made and ride like nothing else; spirited climbers and demons on the decent. Short of a few bikes that have come equipped with eyelets or a slightly longer wheelbases, most everything he’s ever built has been racing oriented, however, and that’s very much on purpose. So even with an inside line, talking him into a touring bike wasn’t going to be easy.
I’ve been helping Roland thin down his collection of vintage bike gear for years. Rather than take a cut, I’ve traditionally taken frames in trade. I don’t race nor have I ever raced, but I do enjoy riding a good racing bike. Ok, so mainly I enjoy looking at them as they hang majestically from their hooks, but on rare occasions I will ride one.
To be fair, I don’t tour either, but when I go out for a ride of any distance I enjoy riding a comfortable bike that’s also functional and pretty. …And there isn’t much prettier than a well-outfitted tourer.
Which brings me to a winter day in 2012 when I was visiting Roland in the shop. Between stories (Roland has great stories) he mentioned that it was probably time for me to start thinking about my new frame. “What do you want this time?” he asked.
Picture Ralphie in the movie”A Christmas Story” when his mom asks him what he wants. Rather than blurting out “a Red Ryder BB gun!” I heard myself say, “I really want a touring bike!”
“Touring bikes aren’t any fun to ride and they’re a pain to build,” was his quick and dismissive response. “They’re also heavy and slow.”
“I guess I just want a custom-fitted bike that’s more all-encompassing… Something that has cantilever brakes and a triple crankset. I want a Della Santa that has triple water bottle mounts and eyelets for fenders.”
His bushy eyebrows raised a little. “Are you going to ride in the rain?”
“Uhh, no. I don’t think so,” I said sheepishly.
“Then why do you want fenders?” This wasn’t starting off very well.
Truth be told, I’ve talked Roland into other unique bikes in the past: One was a relatively new frameset built exactly like a DS of the mid-1980’s, complete with Reynolds 531 tubing and Prugnant lugs; another was a Columbus “Star” tubing Ossubuco chainstay nightmare that took twice the normal time to construct (it’s featured here in an earlier blog).
He’d always shake his head in wonderment, but in the end, he’d build it. I think that was because, at their essence, they were racing bikes. Strange iterations, perhaps, but racing bikes nonetheless.
I ran the idea of a touring bike up the flagpole on two subsequent occasions with roughly the same results as the first. At one point during one of my pitches he turned from filing a lug and asked, “Who’s name are you going to put on this thing?” I hadn’t thought about that. He was obviously apprehensive about building a touring bike with his name on it. The last thing he wanted was for folks to see it and come asking for one of their own.
I’d like to say that Roland eventually warmed to the idea of a Della Santa touring bike, but the most that can be said is that, in the end, he grudgingly agreed to give it a go. Beyond everything else, Roland really is a sweet guy. I know he didn’t enjoy building it, but he built it anyhow. …And I could be wrong, but I even think I saw a glimmer of pride when he first pulled it out of the box, fresh from the painter. “There’s your touring bike.” he said. “It sure is heavy.”