“You say you want a restoration…” (apologies to Lennon and McCartney) well, you should have a clear understanding of what you mean. “Restoration” to some people is any kind of work done to an older bike that makes it even semi-presentable. To others it is a complete renewal that leaves the bicycle looking as though it was just unpacked from the factory’s shipping box and assembled. Purists think it means a careful cleaning and repair/preservation of the bike as it is now after decades of service. A different group considers restoration to be a cosmetic and a functional process that enhances the functionality in a subtle and sensitive manner leaving the bike improved but visually unchanged in its essentials. The final category of restoration really isn’t restoration. Taking a bicycle and radically revising it from the factory or artisan original and making it “new” is really customization and not restoration at all.
Inevitably, you will choose one of these categories whether it is a deliberate, conscious choice or just bumbling along through circumstances. One of the key things to remember before you start is that, unless you are immortal, you are the temporary custodian of the bike not the owner. Down the road, it will pass into someone else’s care as an example of the life and technology of a particular period.
A major factor, beyond your own mortality, influencing your choice of restoration is the type of bike and its history. Eddy Merckx’s hour record track bike would be a really poor choice to spray paint matt black and turn into a fixe with dayglo green pedals. Do the same thing to one of the millions of Peugeot UO 8s and it’s no big issue. The rarity and historical importance of the bicycle should and will affect your choice of “restoration” type. Whether it is a full-on back to original restoration, a stabilizing conservation of the bike as it is, a restification (restoration/modification) which upgrades functionality or a flat out I’m-doing -it-my-way customization, your choices will drop you in one of these categories.
You can read more about the specifics of different types of restoration. Period correct restoration is covered here on Classic Rendezvous in an article written by the American frame builder Richard Sachs. It also has a page with links for basic techniques if you are a novice at the whole restoration process. I would recommend reading the page by The Retrogrouch on the topic as well. Try becoming a member at Bike Forums. Look especially at the Classic & Vintage section as well as the Bicycle Mechanics one. Use the Search feature in the upper right corner. For example, a sample search for Bicycle Restoration produced 795 hits. Tim Dawson, an exponent of the preservationist approach to old bikes, can be found at Vintage Bicycle. No matter which approach you take, have a clear focus and intention before you begin your process. The next post will attempt to do exactly this for my “new” 1970s Bertin C 37.