The Gumtree Blog

How to Fix Up a Vintage Bike

Wednesday 23 July 2014, by

Have you noticed how vintage bikes are right back in fashion? And has the Tour de France put you in the mood for stylishly traversing the countryside on a beautiful two-wheeler?

Well, with loads of unloved vintage bicycles for sale at car boot sales, or posted on Gumtree, here’s your chance to take on a project and turn it back into a gem! Spending time and energy tuning up a vintage bike not only teaches you handy skills, but it will also save you money compared to buying a new bike.

The first thing you’ll want to do is get some basic tools,

  • Adjustable Spanner
  • Multi-purpose Bike Wrench
  • Allen Keys


You will also need:

  • Tooth brush (grab an old one or buy one specifically for the job)
  • Washing up brush
  • Baby wipes
  • Bike Lube (not WD40)
  • Access to YouTube!


Cleaning the gears

If you want your gears to change smoothly, you’ll need to give the chain and the cogs on the back wheel a good clean. The first step is to take the back wheel off and carefully unhook the chain. Wet the toothbrush and scrub the chain until you’ve got all the visible dirt from it. Next give the cogs a scrub on the back wheel using the washing up brush and the tooth brush. Once you’ve removed what you can with the brushes go round the cogs with a few baby wipes (I find the two man saw method is the most effective) and give them a thorough clean.

Putting the back wheel on can seem daunting to a beginner, you need to have the bike upside down and you’ll need to get the chain in to the correct position. Which is easier said than done if it’s your first time. However, help is at hand, if at any point you feel something is not going the way it should, have a look on YouTube, there will be a video to talk you through the situation no matter what the problem is.

Once the wheel is back on it’s a good idea to get some lube on the chain, to do this keep the bike upside down and slowly turn the pedals with your hand whilst applying a thin line of lube. Stop once you have been round the chain once.


Adjusting the handle bars

To get the handle bars in the correct position you’ll need to us an allen key, select the right size and unscrew the handle bars (righty tighty, lefty loosey!) Unscrew the base after you have loosened the top screw with the allen key (you may need to use an adjustable spanner for this).

The handlebars should now be loose enough to adjust. Whilst sitting on the bike find the perfect position, tighten the base and the top screw slowly and make sure you maintain the correct handle bar position. And make sure you tighten both as much as you can!


Adjusting the saddle

To get the best out of your bike you need to get the saddle to an optimum height. You’re aiming to get a 25 degree angle on the knee whilst your foot is on the pedal and whilst the pedal is nearest the ground.

The thing to remember is the perfect saddle height won’t necessarily be the most comfortable at first. You will need to get used to the position (which can take a week or two).

To adjust the saddle you first need to loosen it using the adjustable spanner or the bike wrench. Once it’s loose you can lower or raise it to the right height.


Making sure the brakes work

Check the brakes for wear and tear, if they look worn down they may need replacing. It’s a good idea to take the old blocks into the shop so you can compare, as vintage bikes take different brakes to modern bikes and it’s easy to pick up the wrong ones.

Test the brakes thoroughly before you take the bike out for its maiden voyage. Squeeze the brake lever, you need it to stop well before it touches the handle bars. If this is not the case and there is too much give you will need to adjust them again.


Happy riding!

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