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How to restore a 1970s bike

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 Moacs 09 May 2022

I'd like to restore my mum's old bike for my daughter.

It's a Dawes Ladybird from c.1975/80.  I think I can manage the general bits and pieces, although my bike maintenance knowledge is rathe rout of date now.  Is there likely to be a compatibility problem if I replace parts like gears etc?

A bigger worry is that the frame has rust spots through the paint.  I think it's structurally sound and the spotting is just cosmetic.  What's the best approach?  Should I seek somewhere to do a professional respray?  I doubt I'd ever match the colour.

Any other advice?  I know it may be more "sensible" just to ditch it and get a new touring bike (daughter wants a tourer), but it's been in the family a long time!

It's similar to item 284661153496 on the bay

Thanks for your time in advance

Post edited at 13:24
 Jon Greengrass 09 May 2022
In reply to Moacs:

If your daughter wants a touring bike, does she need the usual features like

a triple chainset for super low gears to get you uphill with baggage, looks like the frame has a standard bottom bracket so you should be able to fit one and a front derraileur.

Drop bars for a range of comfortable hand positions, this is an easy swap but you'll need to know what size bar clamp, old bikes have 25.4 or 26mm, modern bikes use 31.8mm.

Frame fitments for a heavy duty on the back and mount points on the front fork as well.

If your ladybird is like the one in the ebay listing its a shopping bike, albeit a very smart looking one.

If you are set on restoring it.

A professional respray will be over £150, more than the bike is worth. On an old bike like that I would rub down the rust spots with some wet and dry or wire wool and treat them with a bit of Kurust and just redo if and when the rust comes back.

It doesn't look like the frame has a derailleur mount so you will be stuck with 5/6 speed axle mounted ones. So unless the old one is broken its not worth replacing.

It likely has 28" wheels, if the tyres are more than 5yrs old the rubber will start to perish and they must be replaced.  You can still get tyres but a modern bike will have 700c wheels which are much more widely available and have a greater choice of tread patterns and widths.

Those old fashioned caliper brakes are terrifying compared to a modern set of discs

OP Moacs 09 May 2022
In reply to Jon Greengrass:

Thanks Jon - that's really helpful

 JLS 09 May 2022
In reply to Moacs:

I'd expect you'd really just need to take it apart clean everything thoroughly, re-grease and re-assemble.

The tires and inner tubes (maybe rim tapes) will need replaced and you might as well replace the chain and rear cogs and brake cables.

Kurust to treat the rust on the frame.

wd40 and fine wirewool will clean up the paintwork and most everything else.

Aluminium foil and water to clean up any chrome.

Autosol also good for polishing up metal parts.

You will need specialist tools to remove the cranks and bottom bracket. Also a tool to remove the rear cogs and maybe cone spanners to service the hubs.  A bit of an over head but very likely still cheaper than having a bike shop do it.

Tools and the replacement bits'n'bobs can generally be found at Decathlon or Halfords.

You should still be able to find compatible parts for that bike though the wheels size is now very antiquated. You could potentially swap to 700c size though you'd need to watch the brake caliper reach.

Post edited at 16:02
In reply to Moacs:

You'd likely be better looking to source NOS or second hand parts rather than get in the weeds with upgrading to modern parts. Most 'standards' have changed a few evolutions, some things are easy, some things are hard. 

I can't see the bike on eBay but the drop out widths are different on modern bikes so you can't just bung in a modern wheelset. 

Sounds like a steel frame if you mention surface rust. You may be able to spring the frame apart one size, from say 120mm to 126mm (I forget the progression). Is it currently 5 speed?

I think I may have some decent 27" 5-speed wheels in the shed I acquired for a project that never got going. Certainly too nice to chuck, if you were interested? Delivery and/or beer money only.

You could go crazy and restore and throw money at it, but it sounds like a budgety runaround - home carpaint respray and maybe look for some stickers to go full posh?

 Timmd 09 May 2022
In reply to Moacs:

There's a range of modern dual pivot brakes of different reaches now manufactured, which could be fitted to your frame to be able to work with 700c wheels.

 Siward 09 May 2022
In reply to Moacs:

https://road.cc/content/review/spraybike-paint-228960

I haven't tried this but found it when doing a little research recently. Looks promising... 

 Hardonicus 09 May 2022
In reply to Moacs:

As others have said you can probably get long reach calipers and swap to 700c wheels. I did this with a steel frame from the early 70s, but the braking was absolutely shite. Another tip is that with a old steel frame you can 'spread' i.e. Force apart the rear triangle and fit a 7 speed modern splined freehub. This will allow much more options for updated gearing systems, you can also get an adaptor if you don't have a brazed on dropout fixing for the rear mech. I stuck with old school friction shifting which saves a lot of potential problems around indexing and provides extra retro points.

The late great Sheldon Brown covers lots of this stuff on his website. A must read for this type of project.

Post edited at 19:20
 LastBoyScout 10 May 2022
In reply to Moacs:

To see that listing, you now have to select "sold items" in the filters.

Very similar to my sister's old bikes and I've done a bit of work on rebuilding a couple like that in the past.

If it was me, I'd spend a bit of time stripping it down, re-grease the hubs, BB and headset and put new balls in - you'll need spanners for the headset and relevant tools for the BB (which will be cup and cone - might be left-handed thread one side, I can't remember) and a tool to get the gear block off (won't be a cassette on that bike). Probably cheaper to get local bike shop to remove it for you, rather than buy the tool - pedalling will tighten it when you put it back on.

Your main problem will be if the bearing surfaces are corroded/pitted - you can get replacement cones, but not the cups.

Having done all that, I'd give it to your daughter as a local shopper bike and buy her a proper touring bike separately.

 hang_about 10 May 2022
In reply to Moacs:

Buy her a copy of this at the same time

The Cyclist Who Went Out in the Cold: Adventures Along the Iron Curtain Trail, Tim Moore

In reply to liamlucas:

> I'm looking for a sports bike which can go up to the speed 160 quickly. Sorry for my bad english

This is now my favourite 'suspiciously recently registered account' post.  I look forward to somebody hitting 160 (mph or kph?) on a Dawes Ladybird.

In reply to Sam W:

Maybe it needs a peace train...

 Pina 20 May 2022
In reply to Moacs:

Bit late to the party but;

As others have pointed out the braking on old biked can be terrifying. And easy upgrade is to install some modern brake levers and replace the cables. To take it a step further would be to replace the wheels (if they’re steel) with aluminium ones. You can often find replacement aluminium rims for the old imperial sizes. To switch to a 700c would mean changing the callipers (a worthwhile upgrade if you’re planning to use the bike a lot due to availability of tyres) but that means changing a lot. Equally, beware that it may change your gear ratios.

For a repaint, I’ve had previous success using plasti-dip in spray paint format. Completely strip the bike, remove and clean off decals, give it a very good clean removing any rust then slowly apply thin layers of paint. Plasti-dip gives the option of peeling the paint off if you decide to go back to the original. I was worried about durability but having used the bike as a commuter for a few years was generally impressed. Alternatively if the rust isn’t too bad, clean it off, apply a layer of lubricant to the frame (ie gt85) then give it a lacquer coat to protect it.

In reply to Moacs:

It will be 5 speed for which you can still buy the parts. The wheels will be 27” x 1 1/4”, you can still get tyres and tubes that size, try Panaracer Pasela for the tyres.

Post edited at 22:13
 top cat 24 May 2022
In reply to Moacs:

The real question is whether or not you want to encourage your daughter's cycling or put her off.

If she wanted some modern rock boots, would you give her tricouni shod old leather boots?

But her a modern touring bike.  For her.

Do the renovation project.  For you.

 Swig 24 May 2022
In reply to Moacs:

On the paint thing, I got an old touring frame blasted clean and powder coated for £70. But that might be a cheap northern price (Glossop, so could fit with a trip to the Peak). 

In reply to Moacs:

Make sure you have AF spanners, while many sizes are similar-ish metric spanners may chomp the edges off your nuts (oooh err). 

Note to pedants: I know metric spanners are also measured Across Flats and technically... but I won't entertain that debate 😡


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