The bike on this page started life as a 1946 COMPAX SPORTS TRAVELER, Lightweight Model.
It has serial number K151296 and is just 24 bikes from another COMPAX I have shown on the COMPAX page. That means they were
possibly made the very same day.
This bike however was found in a dumpster and was in very poor condition. This
can be seen in the "before" pictures shown here.
As can be seen, it was missing the rear fender and chaingaurd along with the original seat.
The pedals and front wheel were incorrect replacements as well.
Overall, the bike was badly rusted
with deep pits. It took days of soaking in penetrating oil to even get the frame joint and handlebars apart.
the question was, what to do with it? It was not worth doing a correct restoration. Even so, I hated to let the bike die.
It deserved a second chance.
This is when I decided to go as basic as possible. After all, it is supposed
to be a take apart bike for easy disassembly and storage. Without a chain guard or fenders it would be that much easier to
stash away and take along.
But why stop there? If I'm getting rid of the sheet metal why not get
rid of the paint as well. This was the reasoning behind sandblasting everything including the frame, fork, handle bars, crank
and sprocket. Even the hub shells and rims were sandblasted. After that everything got clear coat.
After the clear coat a few vintage Columbia decals that were new old stock from the factory were
applied and then more clear coat over them.
With the paint color gone the true construction of the frame can be seen. Most Columbia bike frames
were constructed by brazing, not welding. Brazing includes assembling the frame parts and "pinning" them together.
Then a high temperature flame is used to melt brass into the joints making them very strong. The brass from the brazing
process can be seen at the joints.
The other decision I had to make was what to do about the wheels. Although this was a lightweight
model that took 26" x 1 3/8" tires I wanted to go wider.
The rims that were on it were
useless anyway. I had a rusted pair of double drop center balloon tire rims and gave those the sandblast and clear coat treatment
as well. The original New Departure rear hub was disassembled and the shell and brake arm also were blasted clean of rust
and plating. A rusty period Westfield one piece front hub was added to the project and got the naked treatment.
The now devoid of rust and chrome the rims and hubs were laced up with new stainless steel
spokes. The hubs were re-built internally to like new working order.
Now the tire choice. What I chose
was 26" x 1.75" middleweight tires. Without the fenders these wider tires fit perfectly and were designed to go
on the wider balloon tire rims. A middleweight Compax was never made by the factory. It rides great but is lighter that
the balloon tire models.
All the mechanical parts of the bike were rebuilt to make the bike safe and rideable. This included
new bearings and in some cases new bearing races. I was able to use the original chain even though it was rusted seemingly solid.
It was soaked for several weeks in gasoline to remove all the grease and dirt that bonds together to form a hard crust
like substance. Then it was soaked for several more weeks in penetrating oil. After that each link had to be worked back and
forth by hand and with pliers and then more penetrating oil. This was repeated several times until the chain was freely articulating.
Afterwards it was soaked in oil.
A word of caution when using gasoline. Never use it indoors or
near an ignition source like a flame that may be in a water heater or furnace. The vapors can travel some distance
and explode if they do encounter such a source. Evan an electric motor such as in a fan could ignite the fumes.
1970's vintage non-reflector rat trap pedals were used to complement the minimalist look of the bike. The
original head badge was cleaned up and re-used. Columbia script grips and a recovered 1930's long spring saddle completed
Overall, I spent less than $100 on this project including gas to go to Rhode Island to
pick up the bike. Part of this was possible because I had parts lying around that I could use but it does show what can
be done with very little money and some imagination.
Thanks for looking.