1899 Columbia Chainless


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Velocipedist Co.

Wore out three sets of tires already!
May 18, 2010
932
3,367
Monrovia, CA
#1
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I've owned this bicycle for some time now and it has been primarily a display bike. An older restoration by the previous owner rendered the bike in decent shape cosmetically but the mechanics of the machine were always quite sloppy. Excessive backlash, poorly functioning brakes, wobbley rims and unglued display tires really made it impossible to take cross country tours any further that about 120 feet.

Here is how it was displayed behind the counter of theVelocipedist Co. bicycle shop.

I'll be correcting these issues and servicing the gear mechanism over the next few posts.
 
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Velocipedist Co.

Wore out three sets of tires already!
May 18, 2010
932
3,367
Monrovia, CA
#2
The internals were always a mystery to me. I understood the basic drive and pinion design but the details of the construction such as the bottom bracket assembly, bearing races and couplings at each end of the drive shaft, adjusters, lock nuts, crank construction, etc. were not clear. Most of these assemblies also require special tools that may have been included with the bike but were misplaced sometime over the past 118 years.

Jesse McCauley was able to locate a copy of the original service manual for this bike. Very helpful but the illustrations had me guessing as to which parts were being referenced.
 
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Velocipedist Co.

Wore out three sets of tires already!
May 18, 2010
932
3,367
Monrovia, CA
#4
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Fortunately, the existing spokes were the exact length needed at 4 cross lacing. I just needed to hand bend each spoke to remove the traditional "J" end for the needed straight pull spokes. Also took the opportunity to service bearings, true up the wood rim (as close as possible), and glue on some white RD's.
 

Velocipedist Co.

Wore out three sets of tires already!
May 18, 2010
932
3,367
Monrovia, CA
#6
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So here it is, all apart and ready to assemble/adjust. Hopefully the next few steps will prove helpful to anyone attempting to service a chainless Columbia of their own.

On the left are rear axle and relative hardware.

To the right is the 2 pc crank assembly with conical lock nut, threaded cover plate (i think later covers snap in), oiler cap and brass pin, bottom bracket/drive gear assembly, two retaining bolts for bottom bracket, bottom bracket lock ring.
 

Velocipedist Co.

Wore out three sets of tires already!
May 18, 2010
932
3,367
Monrovia, CA
#8
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The next step was to eliminate front to back end-play of the drive shaft by adjusting the rear bearing cup. The silver ring toward the front functions as the lock nut. Loosen this by rotating clockwise, viewing from the rear end of bicycle. Next adjust the bearing cup (the adjacent black ring at rear). Clockwise from rear of bike loosens the assembly while counter clockwise tightens the cup against the rear pinion bearings. Rotate the shaft by hand to test for either binding or end play. Tighten counterclockwise the silver ring against the black bearing cup.

The assumption is that one would first service the bearings before performing this adjustment.
 
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Velocipedist Co.

Wore out three sets of tires already!
May 18, 2010
932
3,367
Monrovia, CA
#9
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Next step is to reinstall the bottom bracket assembly. I did not take this assembly apart as the bearings looked clean with new grease, likely serviced by the previous owner. To install the bottom bracket, slide the assembly into the shell from the right side of the bicycle. It is intended for the assembly to move in or out of the shell to adjust for gear backlash. The two bottom retaining bolts are used to tighten against the bottom bracket assembly from the bottom once the backlash has been set. Make certain to line these two holes up with the holes on the bottom bracket shell. Installed but don't tighten the two bottom bracket bolts. The Columbia instruction pamphlet recommends turning the crank arm at 90° Intervals, testing for excessive backlash or binding at each point. Tap the bottom bracket assembly in or out as necessary. Secure the two bottom bolts, then install the lock ring at the left of the bike which is threaded standard righty tighty.
 
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Velocipedist Co.

Wore out three sets of tires already!
May 18, 2010
932
3,367
Monrovia, CA
#10
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It is also possible to adjust the driveshaft forward or rearward in order to align the bevel gears. To do this, you'll need to loosen the rear pinion bearing races before turning the forward bearing race, accessible from the oil cap near the front of the right chain stay. Once The bevel gears are aligned at the bottom bracket, you'll need to readjust and tighten the rear bearing race and lock ring.
Keep in mind that this adjustment will directly affect how the rear bevel gears align.
In this photo of the bottom bracket assembly, it looks like the driveshaft could move slightly forward to better align with the drive gear but this is where it needed to be in order to maintain correct alignment at the rear.
 

Velocipedist Co.

Wore out three sets of tires already!
May 18, 2010
932
3,367
Monrovia, CA
#14
image.jpg
The rear backlash is adjusted by loosening the large hex nut. Then turning in or out the center shaft/bushing assembly. Tighten hex nut. Make this adjustment while the covers are off, of course.
Once the adjustment is locked in, you'll need to remove the simply once more to reinstall the covers. You will not need to loosen the locknut to do this. Once the adjustment is locked in, you'll need to remove the assembly w frame component (two flathead screws) once more to reinstall the covers. You will not need to loosen the locknut to do this
 
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Velocipedist Co.

Wore out three sets of tires already!
May 18, 2010
932
3,367
Monrovia, CA
#15
The assembly tested well by hand. I am not an expert but this method seems to have worked well for me. I basically greased bearings and used oil/bath for the gears. I'm sure the oil will get into the grease after some riding but I was afraid that the bearings would run dry with oil alone. Please post if you have more advice or if I got something horribly wrong.
 

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