i thought it would be cool to build my son his first bike. his 2nd birthday was coming up and i wanted to get him a balance bike. i originally wanted to build the bike (and frame) from scratch, but due to the time frame it made more sense to rescue an old one.
note: this project is totally over the top :) the cost of the project was the same (if not a bit more) than actually buying a brand new balance bike (although no way near as rewarding) ... not to mention the time and effort invested
Step 1: The Selected Bike of Choice
after a lot of research, i narrowed my choice down to a few balance bikes, and finally went for the Islabike Rothan:
i went with this bike as 1) its British 2) it has great reviews and 3) i really like the extra detail that has gone into the design of this bike, e.g. the smaller (diameter) handle bars for little hands etc
... so the hunt began .... and after a lot of searching I won this bike in an ebay auction
the bike is complete although broken and v-untidy. from what the seller told me, at least 2 children have grown up using this bike so although in need of some serious TLC, it has done its job !
you cant really see from the pictures but the paint is shot and bubbling in many areas. looking at the general condition of the bike i think its lived outside for quite some time. there are a lot of scratches and chips that the weather has gotten into and rust has developed. additionally the wheels and steering bearings are all notchy and grinding, however this is what I wanted (and expected) - a nice little project bike.
TIP: if you want to restore a balance bike, make sure that you are able to get all parts before you start. measure all diameters and sizes as they are smaller than standard and is therefore difficult to find parts.
if you do manage to find parts you will soon realize that most standard parts used by balance bike manufacturers come from taiwan or china and can only be bought in bulk (e.g. from alibaba.com).... also contact the manufacturer of the bike and make sure that they can supply you with parts (this was not possible in my case, causing some headaches)
Step 2: Breakdown
the handle bars are all scratched and rusty, the grips have no grip and the brake lever and bracket is broken :( so far most of the front end will be restored/renewed
the seat is solid but old and worn. it will also need replacing or recovering (depending on costs)
... after removing the stem cap things started to look less pretty and was clear that the headset would need replacing (at least the bearings)
the main stem bolt thread has gone along with bottom handle bar mount (also threaded), therefore the stem will either have to be replaced or the threads re-threaded (shame)
the nice thing about balance bikes is that they are easy :) the whole bike was broken down in 30 minutes :)
Step 3: Headset
attacking the headset and bearings - bearings will be removed and replaced !
Step 4: Wheels
I found it almost impossible to find replacement 12" wheels, so time to take the wheels apart for fixing up (i will later regret this)
after checking the bearings, although the front is better than the back, all need replacing
the rims are scratched but generally both very good and straight !
Step 5: Ready for Blasting
here are selected parts ready for sand blasting including the frame, forks, rims, seat post and handlebars.
as parts for such bikes are usually v-cheap (compared with time required for blasting and painting etc) it sometimes make more sense to simply replace them. i wanted to replace the handlebars with new ones, but I could not find replacement bars with a 20mm grip diameter and a 22.2mm stem mount diameter :( therefore I will blast and paint coat them accordingly - this is the same story for the seat-post and rims...
Step 6: Sand Blasting
... after sand blasting and ready for paint
all parts came out really well. all rust has been removed and only slight signs of damage is visible which I will fix/fill before painting
Step 7: Paint or Powder Coating ?
after some thought, i finally decided to get the parts powder-coated as I anyway need parts for another project powder coating and wanted to try out a local powder-coating company
i will go with 2 colors: the frame will be light blue and all other components black :)
Step 8: Color :)
back from the powder coaters and i'm really please with how it turned out
you cant really see from the photos but the frame and forks are a really nice sky/light blue and other components are a mix of matt/gloss black :)
Step 9: Ready for Re-assembly
Step 10: Reassembly: Wheels (spokes)
i could not get replacement spokes for 12" wheels. i thought about shortening and re-threading longer spokes, but due to costs and the fact that the original spokes are all straight, I decided to clean them up, re-paint them and see how they turn out
i sanded each spoke (40 in total) down to bare metal, cleaned and degreased them all and then primed and painted them in the same black that the wheels were coated in - they came out like new !
Step 11: Reassembly: Wheels (hubs)
re-building the hubs and wheels: new hub bearings in place - I probably went a bit OTT with the grease, but once back together the hubs feel like new - no notching or grinding whatsoever - very smooth.
Step 12: Reassembly: Wheels (building & Balancing)
i then started the process of re-building the wheels, which was a v-long process from which I learned a lot !
all spokes are now in place, now time to true the wheels
I spent hours truing the wheels, soon learning that it is a process that comes down (more so) to feel over logic ... in the end the wheels were running very smooth, very strong and very straight !
once complete I finished the wheels with rim tape before putting on a pair of new tires
Step 13: Reassembly: Headset
due to the condition of the headset, I decided to replace the complete unit. as I required an integrated headset for a 1" frame, the choice was very limited, with the obvious option being a lovely little ritchey headset
the only way i managed to get the headset in correctly was using a press]
Step 14: Reassembly: Stem
it also proved v-difficult to get a stem that fitted. I needed a stem with a 40mm (approx) reach, a 22mm handlebar clamp diameter and a 1" fork steerer tube diameter - not easy ....
the only (relevant) stems I could find for a 22mm bar clamp diameter were BMX stems, but none of which had a 1" fork steerer tube diameter, they all had a 1,1/8" (standard) size diameter. not great but something i could work with using a shime and spacer
i decided to go with the odessy v3 bmx stem as the price was ok, the reviews were great, the build quality is v-good, its v-light (lighter than the original), v-strong (not that this matters so much for a balance bike) and it looks brilliant :) ... but mainly because of the way it is designed - it's made up of individual internal components allowing just one bolt to hold it altogether (tightening both the handlebar and fork tube clamps)
completely unnecessary but cool :)
last image: stem and bars installed - due to the stem design you cannot install the stem without the bars :)
Step 15: Reassembly: Seatpost
i bought this seat post clamp for my mountain bike a while back, but it was too small. i never sent it back thinking i may need it for another bike in the future, and now it has a home - its the exact size required for this bike.
the quick release actually turned out to be v-useful when using the bike !
i decided to shorten the seat-post as at the start the seat pretty low and I don't like the look of the post hanging out the bottom of the frame.
Step 16: Reassembly: Brake Lever
the original brake lever was broken and the lever mount had seen better days. islabike (like many other balance bike manufacturers) use a tektro brake. tektro seem to be one of the few companies that offer a child friendly brake lever (for small hands). not wanting to do anything special with the brakes, just have a system that works, i decided to simply replace the brake with the same tektro system that was originally fitted
i had managed to get hold of the required lever (tektro mini) from ebay and it was delivered the next day. what i did not pay attention to was the handlebar diameter. the lever is for a 22mm handlebar so is too big :( i had real problems trying to find the lever for a 20mm handlebar diameter. i believe that tektro made the 20mm lever specifically for the rothan and I was not able to order it directly and they could not supply a replacement :(
i played (unsuccessfully) with some ideas using a shim/spacer (20-22mm) until i came across a company in germany (kaniabikes) that are also supplied a smaller diameter brake lever bracket (also form tektro) and were willing to sell me one:
i now had 2 brake levers, one too big (with a black lever) and one the correct size (with a silver lever) ... the black lever would look better on the bike so I swapped the levers and brakets resulting in a fully black lever with the correct handlebar diameter
Step 17: Reassembly: V-brake
the original v-brake was a tektro mini system. i could not get exact v-brake as (i think) tektro no longer produces it. i could however get a tektro rx-5 bmx system (also mini series) with similar dimensions ... i just hoped that it would fit as expected
preparing the frame: note the powdercoat makes the mounting brackets that little bit too thick to fit the v-brakes onto, therefore this will have to be removed
the frame has 3 rebound levels/adjusters for the the brake arms so I played around to get the best position
I spent a while playing around with a selection of settings (re the arms and pads) with the rim in place to get the best position and spacing etc
Step 18: Reassembly: Brake Cabling
time to complete the brake !
I got some new brake cable, bungs and hoses from the local bike shop that I cut to size and fitted
before finalizing the brake adjustment, i quickly added some loctite the the v-brake mounting bolts
Step 19: Bike Complete
the last thing I needed were grips (again a nightmare).
the grips were also a pain to get hold of for the small diameter bars. in the end i managed to get a really long foam grip with the correct diameter (i think for a pram) which i later cut up and made some nice looking custom grips out of. this grip also (and conveniently) came with fitting bar end plugs which slotted in perfectly.
i also got hold of fitted some nice looking 12" schwalbe tires which (i think) really finish the wheels !!!
completed bike - im really happy with how it turned out !
Step 20: Custom Badge
although complete, i felt it was missing something so decided to make a custom badge to put on the front of the frame. i spent an evening playing with ideas in photoshop and came up with this design which i laser cut (CNC'd) out of 1.5mm sheet of aluminium.
the design is an "F" which is in the initial of my little boys first name.
the badge looks great cut out of metal, but i now had to bend it to fit onto frame. there is a special press in the workshop at work which did not work :( therefore i ended up doing it manually with a hammer and a custom press which i made from two pieces of tube and a vice which actually worked very effectively !
once bent perfectly, the badge had some nasty scratches and marks form hammering etc so i blasted it and re-sanded it form scratch.
the finished badge came out really well !