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April 16, 2005

It's not Lance!

But it is an Armstrong!
Last night I started working on my new 1960ís Armstrong 3-Speed bicycle made in England. I discovered that the front wheel was wobbling around and grinding so I decided to take it apart, clean it up and repack it. Iíll tell you more about the rehabilitation of this bike as I go along. It has to be done before May 20th for the group ride down by Lake Pepin. So far Iíve spent 2 hours scrubbing just the front wheel with steel wool to clean off all the rust. I also took out the axel and degreased the whole wheel. This is going to take a lot of work, but it will be a very nice British-made 3 Speed bike
When I pulled the axel out of the wheel, I was being very careful to not lose any bearings. But by the time I finished cleaning the bearings and the wheel there were only 19 ball bearings. Either one was already missing or I did lose one in spite of my careful process. Today at lunch-time I went down to the Sibley Bike Depot to find another bearing. Dave told me, ďNo, donít ever put old bearings back in. Put in new ones to prevent further wear on the (racers or whatever they are called).Ē He pointed to the things that the bearings ride against. I said ďOk.Ē Iím a newbie when it comes to bike restoration and repair. He found a gauge for me to measure the size of my bearings. Then I found out they didnít have any that size. I rummaged through some boxes and found a junk box that had multiple bearings of different sizes and happened to see just one the right size. So I took it and plan to use the old bearings, pack them with fresh grease, put it back together and move on to the rest of the bike. Iíll put new bearings in after the ride. Itís really a quick job so not a big deal. In my opinion two days of riding with freshly packed bearings, even if they are old will not damage the wheel any more than it is now. They didnít have any rust on them so it should be non-detrimental and spin better than it was when I got it.
This wheel looks pretty good now on the outside, but I still have about an hourís worth of work to get all the rust off on the inside. 3 hours on one wheel? Wow. Thatís a major project in itself, and I havenít even gotten to the Sturmey-Archer 3-Speed hub yet!!! I am keeping track of how long this is taking and my newly gained knowledge about it for future reference.
From a spiritual viewpoint, there is something very satisfying about taking something that someone else abandoned and neglected and restore it to near-new condition. Take my neighbor for instance. When he saw me working on my bike out in the driveway, he got all excited and brought his bike out of the basement to show me. He said it was all rusty when he got it and he totally cleaned it and fixed the broken parts. He was really happy with his bike that he had paid ten dollars for that rides and looks like a brand new bike. And he enjoys riding it. He told me, ďIíd much rather be riding a bike like this than one of those new ones.Ē Old bike restoration involves some tedious, painstaking work and the owner is investing time and heart into it. Itís really like transforming old junk into beautiful artwork. Others may not appreciate it when they look at the end product, but the process of restoration seems to be very healing and enjoyable and those that go through this understand that the true joy is in doing it. The end result is icing on the cake.
The latest step in the project was last night when I won a bid for 26x1-3/8 inch white-wall tires on eBay. This time I set my max bid at 20 dollars and I won it at 15.51. I think the other bidder set his or her limit at 15 dollars. Still, even with shipping, I am only paying 26 dollars for two brand new tires with white walls. 13 dollars each is not a bad price I think. Now I have tires on the way.
I found out that Armstrong bikes at some point was taken over by Raleigh. Armstrong was also located in Nottingham, England. The first owner of this bike registered it in 1966, so Iím thinking it is probably a 1965 or 1966 bike and was a low-end Raleigh. Iíve seen other high-end Armstrong bicycles online that are older than these dates. One 1953 Armstrong chainring had the name ďArmstrongĒ cut out of the disk, and another bike from 1969 came with a Brooks saddle. So I think there were some Ďbetter gradeí Armstrong bikes than this one.
More later as I progress...

Posted by carl1236 at April 16, 2005 1:07 AM | Bicycle Restoration


Another British maker, later absorbed by Raleigh, was Phillips. A friend has offered to give me an old Phillips, interestingly with the name cut in the chainring, too, and I'm going to take him up on it. It has some visible bending in the top and down tubes, indicating a crash I suppose, but otherwise, it seems fine. It's going to be my grocery getter - I found some grocery panniers to buy over at Carlson Cyclery on Minnehaha in Mpls.

I'm glad to hear you're going to do that Lake Pepin ride. I really wanted to, but my baby might be born at any time now, so I don't want to be away on a bike ride until she gets a little older. I'll have to live vicariously through you.

Posted by: Jim at April 16, 2005 6:07 AM

Haha, you gave me the idea for this one Jim! I just needed a bike to do it on. Originally I had a bike race scheduled that weekend in northern Wisconsin, but the logistics of doing both just were too much, and my curiosity about this group of English-Style Tourers won out. I'm really looking forward to meeting them and going on a ride where they "Make as many stops as possible."
Hey, go for it with that phillips! They have one in almost mint condition at the Sibley Bike Depot and it looks like a really nice bike! They have parts for the Sturmey-Archer hubs at Freewheel I've heard, and at Sibley Bike Depot. Really, I don't want to become a bike collector though, so I am going to donate one of my bikes after I get this one done. But I might just like this one enough to keep it after putting so much work into it, haha. Restoration is a huge job I'm finding.

Actually all of this sounds like fun, but I remember going through what you are with the baby and I wouldn't trade that for anything. You can fix up that Phillips and ride with me next year at Lake Pepin. I'm sure you are getting even more excited as it gets closer to delivery time. We're going to have to get you a baby carrier for the bike pretty soon! haha. I'm getting excited for you just waiting to hear the news!

Posted by: John at April 16, 2005 8:12 AM

Armstrong bicycles were made in Birmingham GB I have a 1948 one for sale all its parts are original , {I do not think they were ever part of Raleigh}. 3speed S A hub Connolly rims Airlite front hub all in all a rare bike

Posted by: p bagshw at June 8, 2005 12:29 PM

Armstrong bicycles were made in Birmingham GB I have a 1948 one for sale all its parts are original , {I do not think they were ever part of Raleigh}. 3speed S A hub Connolly rims Airlite front hub all in all a rare bike.

Posted by: p bagshw at June 8, 2005 12:32 PM

Hello, I just found this website, obviously because my intent is to restore my bike. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find much info on the topic. So I want to start by getting the paint off the frame. I got the bike from my bike project at school and they painted over the original color. Keeping the original color isnt important, but getting the frame in a re-paintable condition is important. Any suggestions for paint removal?

Posted by: Emily at September 9, 2005 10:15 AM

yes, take it in to a body shop or a place that does sand blasting. They'll do a great job of removing the paint. If you are painting it yourself, which can produce fairly decent results with patience, you can clean it, remove decals with a hair dryer, sand it so new paint will adhere, then start coating it with spraypaint, sanding out the rough spots and runs on each successive coat. I'd put on a few coats and then you can even buy clear-coat and put a few coats of that on for a great shine. I have never tried painting a bike myself but others I know have used this method and it looks very good. I am going to do this with my fixed gear conversion bike. I call it de-branding though, haha, not restoration.

The place I use for sandblasting other frames here in the Twin Cities does a good job and the cost is not too high. It's a company that makes/engraves tombstones. Other people might have other places they prefer.

Good luck with your project! and thanks for posting a comment here Emily! Let me know how it turns out. I'd love to see a picture of it when you are done.

Posted by: John at September 9, 2005 4:34 PM

Hubby & I have a pair m/f armstrong bikes found in our old house 25yrs. ago,just recently broke them out again and still working. Would like to find out just how old they are but don't know how to tell, any advise? original decals etc.. still visible and such. don't want to ruin a classic..so who knows out there??

Posted by: sarah at September 11, 2005 8:15 PM

Sarah, very cool. It's nice to see these bikes get put to use. Look for a two digit date on the Sturmy Archer 3-Speed hub. It'll have a number stamped into it like 64. You'll have to clean off the oil and dirt from the hub with a rag to find it. As far as I know that's the way to tell the year of these British bikes because the hub manufacturing date was the same as the bike it went into.

It would be cool to see a picture of your bikes.

Posted by: John at September 11, 2005 9:32 PM

I purchased a used Armstrong 3 speed ladies bike in the early 1970's; was told at the time that it was about 25 years old. How do I identify the age? I believe all parts except tires are original. How do I find out how much it might be worth as I have been unable to ride for many years?

Posted by: mckel at September 25, 2005 2:34 PM

I'm not an expert on pricing but you could check eBay to see how much british made bikes of that vintage are going for. In fair to poor condition I'd say no more than 50 to 100 dollars.
As far as finding the year, most british 3 speeds had Sturmey Archer hubs installed at the time of manufacture. There should be a two digit date stamped into the hub. ie, my bike is a 1964 and the number 64 is stamped into the hub close to the Sturmey Archer logo.
I'm really enjoying my old new bike and just took it to someone to have a white leather seat and matching hand grips made. Then this winter I plan on rebuilding the Sturmey Archer hub.

Posted by: John at September 25, 2005 4:34 PM

hello, I was just wondering if anyone knows of any good places to get decals for my armstrong racer? I'm pretty new to this whole "doing up old bikes thing"

Posted by: toby Norris at January 13, 2006 10:54 AM

Kate left this message on one of my other posts about restoring my bike:
"Actually, you can buy transfers for vintage english threespeeds online from H Lloyd cycles.

heres the URL:

I hope this helps with your decals... I haven't tried it. But may need it in the future. If you try this service, let me know.

Posted by: John at January 13, 2006 9:20 PM

i have found an old armstrong bike in my garden it was all rusty and grown over, and now am restoring it. it has no gears (just one speed) and armstrong is writen on the bit where the chain goes around all original break pads tires pedals etc was wondering what year this bike would be?

Posted by: adam at April 15, 2006 10:48 PM

I don't know for sure on that particular bike and I'm probably not a good source, but maybe Sheldon Brown's site has more info. However if it's a Sturmey Archer hub, I'd look on the hub itself for a two-digit number representing the year. I just love those old chainrings with the names cut into them! That was style! Very cool find! Please send me a picture when you get a chance, I'd love to see it.

Posted by: John at April 16, 2006 10:40 PM

Hi Congradulations on your beautiful Armstrong restoration. I have a 1950's Armstrong Racing bike that was given to me by my Father and I have been looking for information on Armstrong Bicycles on the internet for a long time but find very very little. Do you know anywhere I can get more information about the company and bike models? I know that I used to see Armstrong bikes still available at some rental companies as recently as the early 80's. Occasionally I see them at tag sales still. But they are always 3 speeds. The bike I have is a 1950's Armstrong 10 speed racing bike with original curled handlebars. It is the only one of this type made by Armstrong that I have ever seen.

Posted by: Eric Stevens at July 18, 2006 11:04 AM

Enjoying hearing about yout restoration of the "Armstrong". I have a Schwinn Speedster S-A AW 3 speed hub. How did you de-rust the chrome fenders on your Armstrong? The Schwinn which i just got (yard sale) has very rusty fenders.

See pictures of my bikes on my web site.


Posted by: Larry at September 10, 2006 9:59 AM