Friday, February 22, 2008

My English 3-speed hits the road and it's jolly good

In 1963. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have A Dream” speech, “Lawrence of Arabia” won the Oscar for best picture and Beatlemania was starting to sweep the UK.

Also in that year, my newly refurbish English 3-speed was built. It’s a Montgomery Ward Hawthorne, which was built by Hercules. By 1963, Hercules was owned by Raleigh, which means my bicycle probably rolled off the Raleigh assembly line in Nottingham, England.

Something about old English 3-speeds intrigues me, so in January I advertised for one on our local Within hours, I got an e-mail from a fellow in Fieldbrook.

Here’s what he had to offer. He sold it to me for $40. That seemed like a fair price for both of us. I got it home, took it apart, sanded it down, painted it and put it all back together.


Here's the finished product. It's basic black with white pinstripes. I outfitted it with a leather bag (an old camera bag from the 1960s) to give it a classic look.


This is what's called the "trigger." You wankers might be tempted to call it a gear shifter, but that would be incorrect. My other bikes have tires, but not this one. It has "tyres." I kept all the old, funky cables that came with it. This bike has all sorts of what some people might call blemishes. I call it character.


Here's a little pully for the cable that runs from the trigger to the 3-speed rear hub.


It even has the original handlebar grips. I added the Mickey Mouse bell, which is probably about the same age as this bike.


It has cottered cranks. I figured that after 45 years the bottom bracket probably needed to be greased. I removed the cotters with a hammer and ruined them in the process. I called around to the local bike shops to get new ones. Some of the clerks didn't know what I was talking about. Then I called Will at Henderson Center Bicycles. He had cotters for $1 each, plus other old 3-speed parts if I needed them! He also sold me some Phil Wood Tenacious Oil and instructed me to place ten drops in the rear hub. Clearly, Will has been in the bike business for a long time.

Front medal

This plate on the front is all banged up. But that's OK. It's a 45-year-old bike. What do you expect? The first order of business after fixing it up was to take it out and get it covered in road grime. It's a sweet ride.


Blogger Paddyo said...


10:23 PM  
Blogger Gordon Inkeles said...

Way cool, Jack!

I had a very similar English 3 speed when I was a kid. And I always felt it would last forever...

Alas, my Mom tossed it with my comic book collection (if I still had those comics, I could retire next week!)

9:18 AM  
Blogger OrangeElmo said...

I also had a 3 speed very similar to Jack's when I was in maybe 7th grade. Bought it myself for $50 I earned mowing lawns and babysitting.

And if I had the comic books my mom threw out, I too would be sitting pretty. I was a huge fan of 'Unca Scrooge' and Little Lulu. I loved Witch Hazel.

Gordon, what were your favorite comics?

12:10 PM  

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