Convert-O-Bike Project

It’s shop season again. Spent the summer moving to a new house and trying to squeeze in as many rides as possible. Now that things are cooling off, my mind is turning to interesting shop projects.

I found this tricycle for my two year old son Emmett about a month ago. He could not take his eyes off it. Once he climbed aboard, it was a real bear pulling him off. A week later I went back alone and bought it for him. I intend to rebuild it (it was pretty beat) for his upcoming second birthday in November. The shop wanted over $100 for it. I pointed out to him that almost every part of it was damaged beyond being functional. Every bearing was seized or rough, the head tube and fork had an inch of play as the bearings had long ago disappeared. The metal in metal areas was severely beat up and distorted. So I made the case that I am about the only customer that exists for this bike with both the desire and ability to fix it up and put it back into use. He could not argue with that logic and I ended up getting it for $70. After pricing bearings yesterday. . . I still overpaid. I don’t care, though.

The trike is an Anthony Brothers Convert-O-Bike. A little researched showed that they have been making them for over 50 years now. From a sticker on the underside of this one, it appears to be made in 1980, despite the ’50s design cues. If you look at the way the rear wheels attach, you’ll notice a forked connection on the main frame. This allows the rear axle to be replaced by a single wheel, converting the bike to a two-wheeler. Cool! The frame, wheels and most other parts are cast aluminum. Only the handlebars and seat post are steel. The grips are the only plastic on the whole bike. When I’m done with it, this bike will last for a hundred years and maybe my great grandkids will ride it.

I got down to the shop yesterday afternoon after going for a nice Fall motorcycle ride. It was a little tougher to get apart than I expected and damaged far more than I originally realized. It’s entirely disassembled, cleaned and inspected now. I have the various bearings on order. I still need to figure out how to bush/bearing the steering tube as the dimensions do not support the use of conventional ball bearings and I am unaware of how it was originally constructed. I think I’m going to make up some bronze bushings with thrust washers. We’ll see.

Pics of the break-down follow.

I can’t wait to see Emmett’s face when I give it to him.

Happy Fall,

Jason

On the lift before dis-assembly.

Front end parts. The cranks were screwed on and welded. They needed to be cut to be removed. I was careful to leave enough metal on the spindle and cranks for reuse.

Close-up of front axle and cranks. The cranks are significantly bent and twisted. I’ll likely weld the ends to the edge of welding table and bend back straight.

Cranks after being cut off.

The fork stem is worn almost entirely through from having been run without a bearing for so long. I’ll have to weld this up and reshape. Also considering just making a new stem and pressing into fork casting if necessary.

The rear pivot bolt was really stuck in place. Repeated hits with a big sledge hammer yielded no movement.

So I had to cut this apart carefully.

I tried drilling out the bolt with no success. The bolt was too hard. So I broke out the torch.

After heating with the torch, the bolt was much more compliant to gentle persuasion from the sledge hammer. All fixed.

It’s not a proper project if I can’t throw at least some of it in the lathe. The fork crown was deformed from not having a bearing.

Squaring off the bearing seat.

Fork crown looks like new. The lower part of the stem will also need to be welded in and reshaped to fill wear.

The pile ready for building. That frame is a beautiful shape.

Every part of this bike has excellent USA-made craftsmanship. Bronze bushings precision honed to fit the pedal shafts. This is the only area of the bike that needs no work.

The head tube with worn-through steel caps removed. Upper fork stem cleaned up too.

Next installment . . .

26 thoughts on “Convert-O-Bike Project

  1. That is going to be a beautiful trike man. Great style and shape to the parts. It will be the smoothest running tricycle around. your boy will be the king of the sidewalk. Hope all is well man. Worked in Greenpoint a good part of the summer, building sets for NBC studio. Good $, crazy commute. Sounds like your summer was busy for sure. See you in the not to distant future.
    Ken

  2. Fucking price of bearings will put ya in da powr house!!
    Lidl E gonna remember this b-day.This project will bring a smile to your face EVERY time you work or ponder on it. Gonna polish it up ?

  3. Funny you should bring up kids bikes,a friend of mine just gave me a springer front end from an schwinn apple crate. just as I’m taking apart a girder front end for chroming,I saw that and told him I’m throwing it in w/the girder. My kids eyes were HUGE when they saw that. “DADDY IT LOOKS JUST LIKE YOURS. CAN YOU MAKE OURS A CHOPPER !?! So when it comes back I’m gonna see if a friend can rake my older ones bike and use a smaller front tire from his old one. The springer still has it’s bearings ,crown nut, and looks as if it’s the same length neck (when I held them up tgo each other. the only problem is the re-paint,oh wait, I have extra large metalflake and paint left over from my sportster!

    ain’t bein’ a dad the best!

    Tim

  4. Pingback: Convert-O-Bike Project (step 2) | GreasyGringo

    • Gonna leave it like it is. No real interest in changing the cosmetics. Polishing would look pretty slick, but I can’t fathom the amount of work that’d take. Quality, no doubt. He’ll love it.

  5. I bought 6 Converto trikes for my 6 kids children (17 of them). Two of them have bearings gone on the pedal shaft attached to the forks. In looking at your site, I see that I have to cut the weld off to turn the pedal rods of the shaft. All of them have a wobble where the forks and the handle bars meet (I think it is called the yoke). You talk about a brass bearing of sleeve that you used on yours. Was there suppose to be a ball bearing bearing suppose to be there like most bicycles? If not, where did you get the brass sleeve? Secondly, where did you get the bearings for the pedal shaft?

    Thank you,

    Ed…

    • Ah yes, the common handlebar wobble. the original design was to have two metal bearing caps pressed on the steerer tube (one top, one bottom) then also two plastic bushings on the steering tube to take up the slack. Also a thin washer goes on the top and bottom, on top of the caps, to act as a bushing of sorts. You’re gonna have to fabricate parts for now, as the company – Anthony bros. has shuttered the factory, and no one else has taken up the manufacturing. Maybe get a kickstarter…..

  6. just bought a concerto bike for my wife…her mother gave her original bike away when she was a kid…the bike I bought is in excellent shape except for left side crank and pedal were broken apart…can you tell me where to get the missing crank and pedal??? For years she has wished she still had her bike…her father new the owner of the original maker…he was a machinist at mobil oil in Torrance CA

    Thank you sincerely

    • Looking for a pedal crank & pedal for one I dug out of recycling center.

      If anyone knows where I can get them please contact me & leave message.

      Thanks
      Ron
      951-269-0032

  7. The company is out of business now, which totally sucks because I’m in charge of keeping a fleet of these things going at my kid’s preschool. I’ve been doing it for about 8 years now. I don’t know what we’re gonna do when the parts start wearing out. I can’t find replacements anywhere. And I’ve looked a ton. I guess the nest step is to get in touch with some metal fabricators.
    Nice project Jason

  8. Small world. Just met you this weekend at NJMP where I bought a Convert-O-Bike from my buddy. Found your site while searching for the one part I need, a rear wheel. I’m the guy that was at the end of the row in the little ’66 canned ham camper. Any leads on a nice wheel?
    -Thom

    • I moved to California just days after meeting you. NJMP was cool, first and last time I’ve been there. Hanging out with my riding buddy Dan before skipping town. No idea on parts. I just found this one and fixed it up. Don’t really know much else about them.

  9. Love this site….learned a bunch about these trikes.

    For those who are interested we just came across a number of Convert-O tricycles and bicycles as well as parts that we are going to offer up on eBay. We just have to double check to see if there are date stamps on these but we believe they are pre-1984 models. Used by an elementary school that had a disabled children program. California Education code requires that the items be auctioned off so we cannot accept BIN offers before or during the auction. Just trying to figure out if we will do it piece by piece or one pallet lot,.( I’m leaning towards the pallet lot). 4 bicycles, 3 tricycles, 3 tricycle step plates with wheels attached, 3 tricycle step plates without wheels. So be on the lookout in the next week or so .
    -Dan

    • Just a follow up : Most , but not all, are letter stamped. Estimated dating in 1/4″ letter between 1986 – early 1996..before the letter switched over to 1/8″ size.

  10. Great write-up Jason! I just scored a Lo-Boy that’s in decent condition but it is worn in all of the areas that you mentioned in your article. Thinking it would be fun to outfit the entire thing with quality sealed bearings and fresh bronze bushings!

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