A bike restoration project is one of those happy undertakings in which those involved frequently wish they’d never started, yet secretly hope will never end. In this regard we have some good news, and also some bad news reaching us this morning from Hamburg, Germany, where Nico Thomas and his two sons have recently applied the final revitalizing touches to a machine first ridden over 80 years ago.
“When I saw this frame the first time, it was in very bad condition. Rusty, full of scratches and painted blue in the 70ies. But the shape was great and the number on the frame helps to identify the manufacturer.” But the rust which permeated a sloppy-looking blue repaint wasn’t enough cause for him to walk away from a frame and fork set whose overall shape had caught and held his interest.
He decided at first sighting to take on the job.
“In the past, all motorcycles and bicycles had thin lines, painted by hand! If you have shivering hands, just drink two Gin Tonic´s, then it works…….”
Sanding past layers of paint to the steel and finding a frame number, he was able to establish that he was working with an Opel Flitzer from 1929. Opel, of course, between its inception as a manufacturer of sewing machines and current status as giant of the car industry, spent a great deal of the early Twentieth Century as one of the world’s leading producers of bicycles.
Herr Adam Opel, a close contemporary of our own Mister Brooks, had five sons, who, when not building and selling bikes, spent a lot of their spare time riding and winning races on the Continent. Perhaps with an English saddle on top?
“We grind the frame by hand, fully covered with blue dust. The fine thread of the fork was damaged, and i cant get any spare part´s for it. Fortunately, i found a professionel framebuilder, who was very enthusiastic to repair this old frame.”
The big challenge with this project, of course, was Nico’s desire to reassemble the bike halfways faithfully. That is, to get the frame back on the road with 1920′s componentry, or find people capable of repairing what he already had.
This was a large part of his task, but visual details also required his attention. To this end, “now it was time to start with the paint, a few original pictures helps me to find the right color. And by chance it was possible to get a template of the original Opel-Logo, that was like christmas for me.”
Meticulously hand painting the frame details in an unheated workshop is nerve-jangling, teeth-chattering work. Based on his own experience Nico recommends a pair of gin-and-tonics to steady the hand and warm the belly. The results speak for themselves, but we feel we might be getting closer to the real reason this took him almost a year to complete.
Finally Nico would like to add:
Special Thanks to Ulli for dicovering so many old parts.
Thank´s to Rudi the master of frame-brazing.
Thank´s to my two boy´s for helping daddy.
Kalle, thank´s to help me with the spoke´s
And thank´s to Peter, the best bicycle-photographer in Hamburg!