Thursday, December 27, 2007

Q&A: Singer British Highwheel

Q: Jim,
Greetings from Ireland! I enjoyed looking through your site. I have a Singer
British Challenge bike that I am about to restore. The bike is rusted but
sound. One of the lugs for the small wheel is broken off and I am thinking
of getting it welded back on - I approached an experienced welder but he is
afraid to do the job as he doesn't know what might happen. I have new spokes
and tires.

Any advice for me? The nickel-plated finish looks really good but my frame
is all pitted and I am not sure how to get it back smooth again. If I sand
it would I be weakening the structure?

Many thanks,

A: Nice to hear from you, Brian, and to hear about your Singer. As your
Singer is a piece of history I would recommend proceeding cautiously so you
restore it correctly and don't harm the bicycle. Here's how my restoration
came out:

The chances are pretty good that if you contact the Veteran-Cycle Club, that
you could connect with someone who knows about your Singer and how best to
go about restoring it. The VCC's website is and the email address I found on their
site to contact them is

Sometimes it's hard to get hold of someone through a website so if the VCC
doesn't respond, you might contact the shop that sponsors their site, which
is Harwood Cycles, email or call 01296 712219

Another good source of information on restoring highwheels is G. Donald
Adams' book Collecting and Restoring Antique Bicycles, which you can see

An antique bicycles is like an antique car in many ways so you just need to
find experts who can correctly repair the issues the bike has. You mentioned
that a "lug" was broken off on the small wheel, but I'm not sure what you
mean so I don't know what to suggest. The wheel is made of steel, though, so
a good welder should be able to reattach it with care. You also mentioned
that the nickel plated finish looks really good but that the frame is all
pitted. That's confusing because if the nickel finish is in good shape, it
should have protected the frame from rusting. Usually the rust begins after
the nickel is worn away. Is it possible that someone re-plated the bike with
nickel after it had rusted and gotten pitted? If so, the pitting may be the
best that could be done when they cleaned the bike for replating?

I'm just guessing here, but these are the types of questions to ask before
doing any work on an antique bicycle like your Singer. If you can get Adams'
book or get together with one of the experienced collectors from the VCC I
think you'll learn a lot about your bike and find out the best way to
proceed to get it running again.

Oh, another resource is I didn't mention this first
because it's based here in the United States. But, you might find useful
information on their website.

I hope this helps,

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