Titanic kids bike - a tale of infatuation
About two years ago, my wife and I happened upon a kid's bike, "Bicycli
Titanic" in a distant antique shop. I'm guessing it's Italian, perhaps
late 1950s or early '60s. Mixte style twin top tubes, hand brakes with
the levers brazed onto the wide, graceful handlebars, single speed
freewheel, classy and nearly totally enclosed chainguard, full fenders,
and very light at 17 pounds. (Kids bikes always seem amazingly heavy to me.)
We've got grandkids who would someday ride such a thing, but it had
totally ruined 18" tires on narrow 19-400 aluminum rims. With my bad
data connection at the time, I couldn't find any source of compatible
tires. Later, Andrew let me know that he could get tires, but by that
time we were back home and three hours drive from the bike.
Fast forward a year. We passed back through that town, and the antique
shop was going out of business. There was the bike, still for sale, with
new tires mounted! I snapped it up, probably paying too much.
(Unfortunately, the new tires are 1" wide. 1.5" would be much more
Here we are, near a kid's birthday (or perhaps Christmas) and I've been
puttering away contentedly. The cottered crankset responded well to
cleaning and greasing. All the bearings seem good. The pedals (9/16"
thread) are actually rebuildable, with screw-on caps. The dust and most
of the rust of ages is coming off. The rattle can respray was not worth
bragging about, but still, it's _such_ a pretty bike! And 17 pounds! I
admit, I'm infatuated!
Here' the angst issue: The other kid's bike here in the house is a 20"
Schwinn that we bought for our kid maybe 30 years ago. Back then, I was
able to locate a 3 speed Sturmey-Archer coaster brake hub and build it
into the back wheel. I do think a very young kid is better off with a
coaster brake, perhaps in addition to hand brakes. And a 3 speed seems
to give the right ratio of complexity to performance for a mechanically
smart tyke. That Schwinn's ready to go, and it could be the gift. But it
weighs 32 pounds, nearly double the Titanic's weight!
I thought about cramming either that S-A hub or a similar Shimano 3
speed coaster brake hub into the Titanic. But the Schwinn's 20" wheel
won't clear the brake bridge, so I'd have to pull off some tricky spoke
patterns (like, 36 hole hub to 24 hole rim). And hmm, spreading those
dropouts from 94mm to 120mm ... and the chainline might be off by about
5mm or more, over the span of 12.5" chainstays.
All in all, a pleasant little puzzle. There's nothing more fun than
building a special bike for a special kid.
- Frank Krygowski
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