Monday, September 2, 2013

Hen's Teeth & Four-Leafed Clovers

Saturday we loaded up the boys, Daisy and the Iver Johnson for a quick trip to Philadelphia. I have some parts waiting there for me, and needed to deliver the bike for some fairly odd cable routing. It was the first big road trip for the boys, who did great even in the Jersey Shore holiday traffic.

Our destination? Probably the greatest bike shop in the world for a vintage bike fan, Via Bicycles. This place is full of old bikes and parts! The only problem is that access to the 'good stuff' on the second and third floors requires a bit of an introduction or recommendation. Luckily, I had both. I first stumbled upon these Joel and Curtis while building up my first old bike, the Legnano. Joel quickly found the parts I was in need of.

This time, I had a couple of crazy requests. Basically, I emailed and asked for what amounted to a pair of limited edition hen's teeth, in original packaging, uniquely hand-painted and signed by their creator. Oh, and do you also have a four leafed clover, also 'New Old Stock' in original packaging? Their answer was a quick and resounding 'yes'!

I was in search of a set of old brakes to morph the Iver from a path racer to a road bike. I know, old American vintage doesn't really scream 'road bike' but I can't see doing a 150-mile ride with a coaster brake and nowhere to rest my hands! Joel found a set of Philco's that pre-date Campagnolo Delta brakes by about seventy years! They weigh a ton and require a double-headed brake cable (with the proper length housing, naturally). Talk about hen's teeth! A lot of the collectors on the message boards I troll don't know much about Philco's, and they know EVERYTHING - just ask 'em!

Part of my crazy l'Eroica replacement ride involves a stop in Torrington, CT. Of course, I was looking for Torrington spokes for my Lobdell rims and a pair of Torrington Star road pedals. Once again, Via came through for me. Four-leafed clover... found! Not only do they have Torrington spokes, but they have a couple dozen boxes of them in any length you need! These things haven't been made for decades, yet here is their selection as if they were DT butted spokes.

And finally the kicker - Iver Johnson hubs. I won't go into detail on this one other than saying that to call a shop and ask for a pair of 36 hole IJ hubs borders on the insane.

My box of hen's teeth and four leaf clovers. Hard to believe all that rust is worth hundreds of dollars!

My trip up to the third floor was what made my day, however. Imagine the show Hoarders, but in a good way - you know, filled with bicycle parts! The third floor was packed to the gills with turn of the century bikes, wood rimmed wheels, and everything else you would need to restore that old rust. In the workshop were a handful of Gormully & Jefferey bicycles - rare enough to mock my hen's teeth, and yet there they were, with a couple of G&J 'parts bikes'. Columbia's, Hartford's, you name it. Anywhere else and we'd be in a museum setting.

Evidently, some movie production team had called and requested the G&J's for a film they're planning. The only issue is that they wanted a matching set... painted BLUE! Oh, the horror! In these circles, you barely touch bikes that old, let alone repaint them! For those not familiar with G&J, here is a link to the Copake Auction we went to, where this G&J sold for $16,000!

So that was Philly. In a couple of weeks, the Iver will be ready to ride. Of course, it'll be heavier due to those brakes and my wallet will be lighter. But, it will finally be rideable and ready for my US vintage epic ride that I'm planning. Now if I could only remember what riding a bike is like...


  1. ".. my US vintage epic ride that I'm planning."
    We can't make it to l'Eroica this year either (may not happen until Larry's 60 and doesn't have to worry about missing out on registering?) but have our "bici d'Epoca" ready to share more on this..the when, the where.....

  2. I'm working on it. It'll be me, 5:00am on Oct. 6th (hopefully) riding 150 miles from Hartford to Fitchburg stopping at 4 old old historic bike factories.

  3. Larry says - oh, sorry. I thought you might be creating something on the order of l'Eroica in the US of A. I know this "gravel racing" stuff has started up, but I'm wondering when/if some enterprising folks will try to recreate an Italian-style bici d'epoca event? We may be able to get ours over to Italy this year and be ready for some events there as they are springing up like the weeds in our front lawn!

  4. Hi Sir,

    I am from the Philippines and very crazy about vitnage road bikes 80's, I saw one of your blogs about a box with hen's teeth and four leaf clovers.

    I noticed a huge caliper brakes? I have not seen this before? are these for road bikes? What are they called. I remember seeing a road bike frame with a flat rear brake mount with 3 holes.

    Would this be the brakes for that kind of mount?


    Eduardo Fernandez