Thursday, April 28, 2011


I have a lovely old bicycle from 1948 that I use around The Towns. Single speed, fillet-brazed, perfect geometry, maybe a little heavy by today's standards. I've added some marvelously cheap wire baskets on the rear rack. For use in civilization they make more sense than panniers. They're not worth stealing so I don't have to take them with me when I go inside, and I can just dump my grocery bags in them without bothering with straps and buckles. Together they also create a wide platform for carrying lager parcels that would be hard to balance on just a rack.

I bought a front rack to make the bicycle perfect but, and this is how things like this must be, the rack didn't fit.

For some reason I had imagined that the rack could be fastened on the front wheel axle. But the holes in the tangs (those strips at the bottom) were too small, and I couldn't make them larger without breaking the tangs. And if I had managed to pull it off, the rack would tilt forwards instead of being parallell to the bicycle's top tube.

If I had read the documentation properly, I would have known that the lower parts of the rack were supposed to be fastened to the fork's braze-ons. But a lot of bicycles don't have them. Newer bicycles often lack them due to some misguided idea about sacrificing usefulness for the sake of shaving off pennies and ounces. And other bicycles, like mine, were made in a time when stuff was fastened to the frame and fork using other methods.

So I had to make my own faux "braze-ons".

I found a truss mending plate I had lying around, and drilled appropriately large holes to fit on each side of front axle. The small holes that were there to start with were perfectly braze-on-sized.

I then used a hack saw to make the shapes sort of as I wanted them. I'm still amazed that one can actually saw metal with just a little bit of elbow grease. And a nice tool.

The pieces were really horribly sharp around the edges. Accident wating to happen.

Then I clamped them together and filed them around the edges to make them vaguely uniform in appearance.

Then I fitted them around the axle, together with the fender stays. The bolts now don't go all the way in. There are all kinds of chemical thread-fastening substances people use to keep their nuts and bolts in place, I've usually used hair spray but I don't have any lying around at the moment. Using safety wire is another option, but nothing helps if there's insufficient contact between the threads of the nut and bolt. Maybe slimming down the fender stays would help.

But to be honest, I feel my fake braze-ons look sort of professional. Satisfied with self.

I the fitted the rack to it all. This involved som drilling into the fender and fastening it to the rack to avoid rattling etc.

I like front racks better than handle bar bags, as my handle bar bags always end up rattling and rolling around, being fastened only to one point and always overloaded. However, this rack doesn't really do anything except look good until I get some useful straps, a bag or a box.

Also, I have to stop looking at it while bicycling. Should pay attention to the traffic instead.

Update: This post got a mention on the VeloOrange blog, a site with plenty of interest for owners of classic bicycles.


Oldfool said...

That is how I made the rear rack fit the front of my homemade cargo bike. I worried at first that the adapter would turn under load but it has not and it has been throughly tested. You might try fitting the fender stay to where the rack is attached but that might pull the fender into the wheel. You would need some unsightly washers however.
I have read that the first two threads carry the tension on a nut and the rest don't count. I have a number of half nuts and not one has every given me trouble.
As for locktight I have used nail polish, silicone and spray glue (the kind used to fix a sanding pad to a disk) with acceptable results. Usually I don't bother with anything because when I get through with my torque wrench it is not going anywhere.
Nice bracket. It's way better looking than mine.

Northmark said...

Argh! Now that you mention it, I should have had a small hole on either side of the big one, one to accomodate the fender. Improving on a job tolerably well done, however, is not my strongest point.

Thanka for that part about threads and tension. I found myself wondering a lot about that but not everybody seems interested in discussing this.

coastkid said...

Great wee idea there, that bike looks ace

Reidar said...

I suggest this as your next upgrade:

Anonymous said...

That's a great idea which I'll now steal and keep in reserve until someone comes into the shop wanting us to fit a luggage rack on their supermarket special mountain bike. I anticipate more people doing this as oil prices rise and people need bikes to transport stuff.

Or maybe we're all so used to having solutions dropped on us they won't know how to imagine such an idea.

Thanks for showing us your Towns Bike: it's a handsome machine. It looks like you fixed the problem with the hub brake cable. Is this the case?

Northmark said...

Workbike Andy, very observant! Yes, the one place I know of that normally stocks that little thingamajig to fasten the wire finally got a new shipment!

And yes, it will be interesting to see when racks come back in style. You know somethings's wrong when you hear about people who don't buy groceries on their way home from work "because I bicycle to work today".

Gunnar Berg said...


Eileen A. Brodie said...

I like that orange Bahco fine metal cutting saw. Keep one in portable tool box always. Not as hefty as my bench sized hacksaw but very effective. It is great to see other mechanical people using their wits and simple means to solve a practical problem. The older I get the more I appreciate basic constructs made from what is on hand. A "lost wax-jewelry-grade" masterpiece isn't needed for many of the things we work on. We'd have to polish everything with Simichrome if we did that. Won't take issue with your axle nuts having incomplete purchase on the axle, since you aren't warranteeing it for anyone else to rely on.