Monday, April 30, 2012

Past Projects: Raleigh/Abley Colt

Since I've been working on my project for Tinkernation, mechanical and restoration-themed posts have been pretty scant.  So instead of leaving the blog barren of such material, I thought I'd put down some notes on past projects that I've undertaken - projects that were completed before this blog was launched.  I haven't always done a great job of photographically documenting my work, so images may be lacking for some of my Past Projects posts.  Also, some of these bikes were sold or given away long ago and I may not be able to remember some of the details of the projects.  But I'm hoping that this will be a fun, and certainly reminiscent, series of posts covering a bit of the bicycle restoration work that I've done in the past.

For my first Past Projects installment, I'd like to introduce you to the bicycle that I somewhat lovingly referred to as 'Frankenstein.'  This was the first vintage bike that I ever owned (unless you count an early-90s BMX bike that I worked on for a while and subsequently gave up on).  I bought this bike sometime around 2006-ish from University of Missouri surplus property auction for about 40 bones.  It was made up of a mish-mash of parts from an old Raleigh Colt and an Abley Cycle Works Colt-knockoff (from what I've read, Abley was an Indian company that produced cheap versions of popular British bicycles).  While the bike lacked pedigree, it was definitely pretty cool.  It was a single-speed with rod brakes, and the brake system is what really set this bike apart.  It didn't take much work to make the old bike truly road-worthy.  I trued up the wheels, tightened the brake rod connections, replaced the rusted chain, and overhauled the bottom bracket.  This was, by the way, my first encounter with cotter cranks and I've grown no fonder of them over the years.

I rode Frankenstein around campus for a couple years, until I developed a keenness for vintage road bikes and the old machine spent too much time hanging in the garage and not enough time on the road.  I ended up selling it to an excited college student from Truman State for a very meager profit.  Though I'm glad I owned Frankenstein for a short while, and it was a lot of fun to pedal around campus on, I rarely wish I still had it.  That machine taught me that I prefer geared bicycles.  And the cotter cranks, rod brakes, and other obsolete parts occasionally turned even minor repairs into major challenges.  I learned a lot, though, and that's gotta count for something.


  1. Hello, I think I purchased your old Abley today. I bought it from a Truman State graduate.It is in pretty rough shape and it has a Schwinn gel-type seat on it now. I noticed that it has 28" Ganga tires on it. Do you have any idea what year this unit was made? I would really like to know more of the details on this bike during your ownership. This would help me determine if this is indeed your old "Frankenstein". I hope to here from you shortly. Thanks, Kirksville BikeNut

    1. Kirksville BikeNut - First off, it's awesome that you ended up with my old bike (maybe) and got in contact with me. Unfortunately, I was never able to find any way to date this bike (information on Abley cycles is hard to come by). The rod brake system likely narrows its date of manufacture to the late 60s or very early 70s. I'm also sorry to hear that the machine is in poor shape and that the original saddle is gone.

      As far as determining if it's my old bike, I'm not sure what to tell interesting thing about it was that the headtube had the Abley badge, while the chain guard had a Raleigh Colt decal. Other than that, I'm can't think of any notable things about this bike that would tip you off that it was indeed mine.