New life for old bicycles

Nishiki Sport final touches

Final cockpit, with basket.

I had two goals in mind for the Nishiki. First of all, be a comfortable city bike and grocery getter. I wasn't going for fast, or trail-ready. Just be comfortable, carry things, and have an upright riding position so I can keep an eye on drivers while they keep an eye on their phones.

Second -- and kind of an extension of the first -- I wanted to experiment with a sort of ratty Rivendell vibe. Obviously, it's no Rivendell, and I wouldn't presume to imply it's a fraction of the bike a Rivendell is. But my question was whether or not I could capture a bit of the same vibe. Whether I did or not I'll leave up to you.

To help satisfy the first goal, I picked up a Wald 137 front basket, which is a lovely and well made vintage-style basket. I'm pondering customizing it with some wood strips in the bottom, but all by itself it's a really nice little basket.

I also wanted to experiment with shellacked and twine-finished grips. Others have covered how to do it far better than I could, but I can add this: if you're thinking of doing it, just go for it. It's surprisingly easy. Rivendell has a helpful video, too.

For the grips themselves, I used white Cinelli cork tape I had left over from the Bianchi. After riding around a bit I kind of wish I'd added a second layer, but one layer is perfectly adequate. You want an absorbent tape, so use cotton or cork. The faux-leather stuff won't work. Honestly, does it work for anything?

For the twine, you definitely need to get the right stuff. It can't be polyester and it can't be waxed, or it won't absorb the shellac properly. You can use the rough help twine commonly sold in the gardening department, but it will be a more.... rustic look.

What you really want is pure cotton twine, and you'll want to pay attention to the thickness. I like it pretty thin myself, but you may prefer the look of thicker twine.

Commonly available Zinnser shellac works just fine, and is probably available at your nearest hardware store. I used amber, which gave a nice honey look. I may try clear in the future just for a different look.

Use the cheapest brush you can find and tape off anything you don't want shellac on. And once the shellac starts to dry, leave it alone! If you touch it you'll get splotches -- you can see where I did on the left grip.

For the bar ends, I wanted to use wine corks to finish out the vintage style -- and because the Velo Orange bars have a relatively small 17mm internal diameter that's too small for most bar ends. This required a bit of crafting, which I'll write about in another post.

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See all the Nishiki Sport posts.

Tags: nishiki