Thursday, September 20, 2007

Q&A: Old Tricycle?

mystery tricycle

QUESTION:
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

Jim

ANSWER:
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,
Jim

8 comments:

Jax Rhapsody said...

I also just got a trike myself I dont know if it's old or not or anything about it really. I'm about to post a blog about it. should be able to click on my name and go to it since this is blogger and all.

Jim Langley said...

I can't find that pic by clicking on your name Jax. If you want to send me a digital photo I'll take a look. I'm at jim @ jimlangley.net

Anonymous said...

hi jim,i would like a favor....can u send me many pics of the design so i can make a tricycle from a common bike?
here in greece they sold them toooo much expensive...
my email to reply or to send me is

starakias2@yahoo.gr

Jim Langley said...

Hi starakias2, what you should check out are what are called "tricycle conversion kits." You can find them on eBay.com. You just remove the rear wheel of the two-wheeler, bolt on the conversion kit and it turns your bicycle in a trike. That would be the easiest way to do it.

Hope this helps!
Jim

Razvan Bordei said...

I have the same tricycle but in a worst shape than this one. It is definitely Russian made. I have started restoring it to its original shape. Still heaving some troubles with the saddle, the trike sat in the rain for 2 years until i saw it and you can imagine the state it's in. But i have the feeling i can make it look exactly like back in the day. Now the only problems i have with it are the wheels, the rubber. It had solid rubber tires and one is 2 times more warned than the rest. Can you please tell me where can i buy some or where can i order some custom made ones? Thanks!

Jim Langley said...

Sounds like a fun project Razvan. On the worn out tires, since they're solid rubber, what you can do is reach out to an antique bicycle organization, like http://www.thewheelmen.org and or http://www.v-cc.org.uk/ and find people making replacement rubber for antique highwheel bicycles. This person will be able to sell you the tiring material and wire that is used to put new tires on wheels like yours. There's also a special tool needed that they can help you with, too. You may need to send your wheels to the person to do the re-tiring for you. That's often the best option. Hope this helps! Jim

Razvan Bordei said...

Thanks Jim. The problem is that i'm in Europe and shipping the tires to the US and back would cost more that the trike worths. I have repainted everything, learned how to tune the rims with those nipples, a nightmare, mounted everything back again and my kid won't get off it ! :)) Still having some problems with the saddle but today i'm taking the metal out to saw it and i think that's it. The rubber tyres will do for now, cleaned them with gasoline and they look pretty good.Untill the worn out i'll leave them on. I'll send some pictures when i'm done. Now the trike is russian so everything comes really tight and neat on it, greased it and it has no loose parts.Not even the bushings or axex. I came up with an idea though, when we first tried it in the park everybody turned their heads after it, kicking each other, congratulating me for the nice work, the truth is that this trike really stand out from the rest, but out here nobody really uses anything old, all this things end up scrap metal.So i'm thinking of doing some more of them for sale since i find great pleasure in doing this. Could you tell me if it's a market for this kind of things and what do you think they would worth? The guys in Moscow have some for sale and i can go over there to pick them up since i'm close to them. They want around 200-250 dollars for one.

Jim Langley said...

From what you're saying about the way people react, it's quite possible that you could sell restored tricycles like yours, Razvan, but having to pay 200 to 250 dollars for used tricycles like this would be considered very expensive here in the USA and it would be hard to make money selling them restored at that kind of purchase price. Still, if people are willing to pay enough for a restored one, you never know. It might be a good little business for you. But, it would be good to test the concept before spending any money - maybe by seeing what your newly restored trike would sell for - if you're willing to part with it, that is.

Good luck,
Jim