Thursday, September 20, 2007
Q&A: Old Tricycle?
Help! I found you online and you seem like the expert I need. I bought this rather unique tricycle at a flea market, and am planning to restore it for my daughters (3 and 5 years old.) First off I'd love to identify it, it has what seems like Russian lettering but the decal is flaked off - it says "T. Mo...." The woman who sold it to me told me she thought it was from Hungary, but who knows...
Anyway, the bigger problem is the rims are all warped and they're steel so it might be hard to straighten them. Any ideas on where I can get replacements to fit? They are roughly 15" (38cm) high, and the front one, which sits in the fork, has an axle of about 2-3/8" (6cm). The rear ones are traversed by a single axle.
I'm in L.A., and my local bike shop (Helen's, usually very good) says they can neither replace nor repair them, so at the moment I'm stuck...
Any help would be greatly appreciated - many thanks
Thanks for the pictures, Jim. I'm afraid I have no idea where the trike was made, but I think Hungary is as good a guess as any and might be correct. It's a rather simple trike and appears to have held up decently for awhile, though it's now a little tired. It could be an illusion, but this appears to be an awfully large trike for your daughters. If they're 3 to 5 years old, you don't want them perched up high on a seat like that. And you can see in the photos that even though the seat is all the way down, it's quite a reach from the seat to the pedals at the bottom of the stroke. I suspect that this trike was built for kids 10 years old and older. Again, photos can distort things, but a typical trike for a 3 to 5 year old will have quite small wheels. This lets the kids get on and off safely and lets them sit low so they're close to the ground and won't fall far - and also feel confident. A lower center of gravity is safer for them just like it is in any vehicle.
You ought to be able to find a new trike like this with a cool paint job and components your daughters will love for about $75, so that might be one way to go.
If I'm wrong and this trike you have fits the kids and you're determined to fix it up, I would recommend first checking it over carefully to make sure it's safe and sound. It's seen some use for sure. If the chain and sprockets are worn out you probably won't be able to find replacements unless you want to make your own, so that could be a deal breaker right there. Ditto for the bearing surfaces. If the crank or wheels are spinning on worn out or damaged bushings/bearings, there would be no point in trying to fix the bike up unless there's an easy way to put things right. Be sure to check the drivetrain carefully as the one on this bike is anything but standard so if it's slipping or clicking, crunching, etc. it might be the reason the bike was retired by the previous owners.
But, let's assume that all is well except for the bent wheels. That might be something you can fix. It depends on a few things. I think there are spokes with nipples in the wheels. If so, if you can turn the nipples, that would be a good start. If not, you could try liquid wrench on them for awhile until they become free and you can turn them. Then, since the rims are steel, you ought to be able to loosen all the spokes and then carefully check the rims to find the bends in them. You can then bend the rims back into shape, maybe with your hands, bending over your knee, maybe with a fixture you build out of wood on a workbench to slip the bent portion of the rim under so you can flex the rest of the wheel to straighten out the bent section, or what have you. Once the rims are reasonably round and straight again, you can retension the spokes and the wheels, though they won't be perfectly straight, should be at least reasonably round and true and tensioned, and capable of holding up for your kids to enjoy.
But, the first and most important part of all this is to make certain that this trike is the right size before going any farther. You don't want to risk your kids' safety and this looks like a trike made for big kids to me.
Hope this helps,