I don't know how much you plan to do yourself, but Pro- Strength Goof off works really well at taking off paint that hasn't been applied correctly. There may be a good amount of original nickel plating and paint left. That may help determine which way to go forward with the project. Nice bike, good luck with it.
My current intent is to restore the bike. It was purchased by my girlfriends grandfather in Bay City and her father always wanted to restore it, but was unable to locate parts for it. What I am looking for is help in finding missing parts and information on what it looked like when it was new. I'm not sure about how extensive a restoration I am capable of, but I would like to restore the original wheels. Any help would be appreciated. Any idea what it's worth in case I get overwhelmed in the process?
If you can repair the frame (or have it done) this will be a cool project. It appears that the black saddle in the background has the seatpost collet still on the seatpost (in case you weren't aware) You'll need nipple washers and 1" long nipples to rebuild the wheels. Oh, and just because that tire is probably crusty and uninflateable, don't throw it away, someone on The CABE will want it if you decide you do not.
Please turn the bike around and take a good photograph of the sprocket so that I can narrow down the year range for you. Either post the photo on this thread or send it to me in a private message with photo. After seeing the photo I should be able to give you an idea of year for the bike.
As others have pointed out, you have a badly bent frame. Local to you, Assenmacher Cycles, 8053 Miller Rd, Swartz Creek, MI is an excellent place to take it for frame repair if you chose to have the frame repaired. Ask for Matt Assenmacher, he does beautiful frame repair work. I have had several projects worked on by him, everything from Safety bikes to Penny Farthings.
I'm not sure how valuable your bike really is, possibly more sentimental value than actual dollar value. If you are trying to determine if you may be getting in over your head financially to "restore" this bike you possibly are. Current condition as-is the bike and related parts is maybe $300.
This bike cannot be any earlier than 1899 because that was the first year the new seat binder was introduced which is what this bike has. However if we are to assume 1899 then we have another problem because the seat (on the table) and handlebar stem in the bike were not introduced on Nationals until 1913. So possibly it's an 1899 with later accessories (seat and handlebar stem) as happens with many bikes of all eras, accessories changed later in life. Seeing the other side of the crank sprocket may help me with narrowing the year range for this bike which at the moment could be anywhere between 1899-1916
Going by my ads and my catalogue, by 1899 they got out that style chainring and started with this chainring as seen
in this 1899 ad. Its the same chainring my National has so I'm guessing his bike is 1898. ( just a guess - and mine about 1900 or '01 )
The bar and stem was obviously added later but I never date a bike by something like those pieces. Usually the cranks
are original and these appear to be. I haven't seen that ring style after 1898 in any ad. I could be wrong but just going by my info.
I'll look through more of my info this weekend. Here's an 1899 ad when they changed to the new style chain ring from the old style he
has. I only see his style chain ring on the 1898 or earlier ads.
The National catalogs show the spoked chain ring continuing on into 1899 and possibly beyond though not pictured in the catalogs beyond 1900. Possibly the spoked chain ring continued longer as old stock was used up on certain models.
Though there is one glaring problem with this bike being that early. It has NO frame lugging. I will need to consult my catalogs again for each year of production this evening to see when it appears that frame lugging was discontinued, but at the moment 1910-1916 era for this particular bike frame makes much more sense based on the frame construction.
I really appreciate the comments and info from everyone. Unfortunately I did not bring the bike home with me from Bay City. I will post a picture of the sprocket side next time I get down there. There is definitely blue paint under the red. My first step will be looking into repairing the frame. I think it's possible. A couple people have recommended Assenmachers as a resource for frame repair in Mi. Guess I will start there.
I spent about 2 hours last evening reading through all the catalogs and ran out of time to post anything. Possibly this weekend if I have time I will scan a couple interesting catalog pages for posting to this thread. National Blue paint as DonC3 mentioned is on this bike was National's trade mark color used in all time periods. Once DonC3 posts a good photo of the sprocket side of the bike specifically of the sprocket/crank arm assembly. That may help me somewhat in being more sure of the production year. If DonC3 can determine what the serial number is that would certainly help as well.
What I can say for sure after reading 20 years worth of catalogs is once National decided they had perfected something they did not make many changes. I agree National had a well designed machine (I own a few myself) but that dedication to a single design makes Nationals very difficult to date accurately because they changed so very little between 1899-1916 aside from the components attached to the bike. The earlier models pre-1898 are actually much easier to determine the year of manufacture because something was being changed almost every year during that time period.
As I mentioned previously, this bike has no visible frame lugging as their earlier models did. The disappearance of frame lugging seems to have coincided with when National introduced the collet seat binder in 1899. This makes sense because if you are redesigning the frame to include a new feature, why not make all the changes at once. They even elude in one of the catalogs to their smooth seamless frame (presumably meaning no frame lugs).
Another reason National possibly didn't make many changes beyond 1899 is because as a whole, the bicycle industry by that point was on a downward trend and in the scheme of things National was not a large manufacturer so they probably didn't have the financial capitol to innovate much with new ideas. Stay the course and try to survive is what they appeared to do until finally being bought out by Davis Cycle in late 1916.
So back to this specific bike. The frame is clearly 1899 or later according to the catalogs. Spoked sprocket last appeared in catalog illustrations in 1900 but may have been used beyond that point or possibly it was replaced with a used sprocket at some point due to damage. Only reason I don't wish to date this bike 1899-1900 solely based on frame and sprocket is because all the componentry on this bicycle (handle bars, stem, seat, pedals) are all correct for National bicycles 1913-1916. Even the frame looks correct for 1913-1916 only the sprocket is questionable for that year.
If the components (handle bars, stem, seat, pedals) were all over the place coming from various sources and time periods and not featured in the 1913-1916 National catalogs, than I would be more certain that this bike is 1899-1900 and components were questionable being replaced at some point.
I suppose another possibility does exist though. Since this bicycle is in Bay City MI and has presumably spent its entire life in Bay City where Nationals were produced, possible the original owner of this particular bicycle worked at the National factory or went to a National bicycle dealer to obtain all National correct components of different time periods. In that case I would be more inclined to believe the original 1899-1900 time period for the frame and sprocket with all the components (handle bars, stem, seat, pedals) being added/replaced with later 1913-1916 National correct components.
In the end I suppose we may never know for sure when this bike was manufactured unless the owner can determine the serial number. That would most certainly help point us toward either the earlier 1899-1900 or later 1913-1916 time period.
I'm also curious that maybe the crank might help as well. didn't they go to a two piece crank in 1899 or around there from
a one piece. Maybe if he could pull the crank arm(s) out then that might help as well.
Great info Rambler! You mention that you have several. I only have one but does yours have all that fancy lining at each lug?
This evening while looking back over the catalogs and comparing them to my Nationals and the photos of DonC3's National I believe I finally see the piece that convinces me that DonC3's National is 1899-1900 time period. The lock nut on the left side is of the spanner type rather than the later hex type. I completely agree with Corbettclassics that the crank assembly is probably original to the bike because I too highly doubt that someone would have swapped out the entire crank assembly on a 1913-1916 National for an 1899-1900 crank, just seems very unlikely.
The original reason I was hoping to see the other side of the crank (sprocket side) was to see if it might have a detachable right crank arm. However there too "according to the catalogs" National no longer had a detachable right crank arm by 1899-1900 time period. I am convinced if DonC3 posts a photo of the sprocket side we will see that the right crank arm is not detachable.
How 1913-1916 National correct components (handle bars, stem, seat, pedals) all ended up on this bike is still a bit of a mystery to me. I suspect my original assumption may be correct, that either the original owner of this particular bicycle worked at the National factory or frequented his National bicycle dealer to obtain all National correct components. DonC3 can rest assured that his bike is "all National Cycle", albeit from different time periods.
Corbettclassics, Are you referring to paint striping around the lugs? My earliest National 1896 does have striping on each frame tube which runs up to each lug, but not on the lug itself. The later Nationals had fancy decals near the frame joints rather than striping.