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Restoring a Long John cargo bike

In 1993 I bought a new Long John cargo bike made by SCO. About a year later the bike was damaged when transported by train. The rear wheel was twisted, the rear mudguard completely crumpled and the frame had a lot of scratches and marks. As I got neither a new rim nor a new mudguard from the local dealers the bike remained in the basement for several years.

In summer 2005 I decided to reanimate the cargo bike. As far as I needed spare parts I wanted them to fit in the somehow archaic style of the vehicle. This task seemed to be easy but became a long lasting project with a couple of mispurchases and setbacks. Finally I discovered the small company Velo Classic which was able to deliver almost all needed parts in good quality. They also sandblasted and revarnished the frame.

A wreck in the basement (click on pictures to enlarge)

Front and rear rims are moped parts of the sizes 20x2 and 23x2. After removing the spokes I found the rear rim in better condition than expected; it was still usable. However, the zinced spokes were corroded and had to be replaced. The new chrome-plated spokes have a diameter of about 3mm which is thicker than the original ones. The old tyres from Hutchinson had cracks and tears so they had to be replaced by two Continental moped tyres.

The rear hub (Sachs Torpedo, 3 gears) was a little bit rusty but still in good condition. Nevertheless it didnīt work accurate so I had to disassemble and clean it. The gear cable needed to be replaced because it was too short.

The Sachs drum brake in the front had always been too weak. Main reason was the long and winding bowden wire. So I mounted a modern Jagwire cable with longitudinal reinforcement which improved the brake performance. An even better solution seems to be a Sachs Hydro Pull brake like it has been used on later Long John bikes. Unfortunately the required conversion kits are no longer available.

Almost all chrome-plated and zinced parts were more or less rusty. I derusted and polished all of them. The zinced surface of the mudguard bars had perished which made it necessary to coat them with a clear varnish. Most other parts were still in good condition.

One of the most difficult tasks was to get a new mudguard for the 23" rear wheel. It took several weeks of research until I got one from Velo Classic. The new mudguard is slightly too large, but it fits and is stiffer than the old one.

All parts of the frame including the cargo platform and the steel rims have been revarnished. Of course this resulted in a loss of the logotypes on the frame and the load limit information ("L:100kg H:120cm") on the cargo platform. I scanned them and took photos of the labels for a later reproduction.

A new handle bar and stem were also hard to get. To compensate the short top tube length I set some value on a stem with long reach. These stems are usually designed in some science fiction mountainbike style which does not fit in an old fashioned Long John. It took long until I got the right stem at a local dealer. Handle bars availble at bike stores are almost all made of aluminium. It was quite diffcult to find a suitable bar in heavy chrome-plated quality.

After restoration (click on pictures to enlarge)

Several parts of the bike have been replaced or added for particular reasons:

  • A plywood panel on the cargo area prevents smaller packages from falling down.
  • The lower ends of the stand carry plastic caps to avoid direct contact between metal and tarmac.
  • The original brake lever was made of plastic. The new one is made of aluminium, looks better and doesnīt bend as easy as the old one.
  • Bar ends made of leather instead of plastic are better for eyes and hands.
  • The rear light with metal casing also replaces a plastic model.
  • The original saddle was a brick-like monster. Years ago it had to give way to a fine leather saddle made by Brooks.
  • The rear carrier is unmounted. Itīs a massive steel rack with a weight of almost 2.5kg and a load limit of 30kg.

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