Bike restoration project a father-daughter labour of love

by Greg Basky

For Saskatoon teen Layne Heuchert, a routine errand with her dad this spring led to a pandemic project that has brought the two of them closer together — and a vintage bicycle back to life.

“I went to the metal scrap yard (BN Steel and Metals) with dad one day on a recycling trip, and I couldn’t leave it (the bike) there!” recalls Layne, 12, who attends Ecole St. Mother Teresa School. The bike, aFirestone Pilot from the mid 1940s, was actually in pretty decent shape, considering it was close to 80 years old. While the frame was rusty and in need of some TLC, the old girl was still mechanically sound. “I actually took a a spin on it before we dismantled it,” says Layne.

She and her dad Kevin brought the bike home and got to work on their restoration project in early April. They put in an hour here, two hours there, whenever they had some free time.

For father Kevin, the restoration project was a great opportunity to spend quality time together with Layne during the pandemic. “I rebuilt an SGI salvage car with my son last winter, and we enjoyed the learning and teaching aspects that it involved,” says Kevin, shop manager at Demers Ambulance. “I wanted a similar experience with my daughter.”

Layne says the sanding was the longest and hardest part of the project; she guesstimates the pair spent a couple of months on this stage. “The paint was likely lead paint, so we had to wear respirators during the process.” For Kevin, bringing the badly rusted chrome back to its original shiny life was challenging. “We did the best we could, considering the condition it was in.”

Dad turned to Google when he needed to look things up — such as the history of the bike, what type of lubricant to use on the hubs, or images to ensure their restoration was faithful to the original look of the bike. Locally, he relied on the mechanics at Bruce’s Cycle Works in Sutherland for advice and various oils and greases. “They were quite helpful and had what I needed.”

Kevin guesstimates that, by the time they were done in late August, he and Layne had invested at least 50 hours of actual work on the bike itself, with many more hours spent on research. He’s particularly pleased that they were able to keep nearly all of the original parts, except for the seat and the headlight.

Layne enjoyed the one-on-one time with her dad. “It was nice to spend time with him in the garage,” she says. “I liked it because it was a project that we both took an interest in.”

She’s named the bike, Tena, after her great grandmother. That gorgeous colour? It’s called Ocean Mist. Layne says she’s going going to reserve the Firestone Pilot for cruising around the neighbourhood — not for running errands or going to school: “I don’t want to get Tena stolen or scratched.”

For dad, the best part was seeing the smile on Layne’s face when she rode Tena for the first time. “Seeing her so proud of her bike was very rewarding.”

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