Rise from the splashes – A Dawes Kingpin refurb

In Articles, Blog post by wheelsofkarma1 Comment

The Kingpin.

Have you ever seen a shoe by the side of the road and wondered how it got there? Ever wondered how the person who lost that shoe, had fled the vicinity? Hopping, limping? I wonder about these things a lot, like how come a pair of shoes is worth £50 but just one shoe is worthless? But that is beside the point, I wondered how a beautiful 1983 Dawes folding bike had come to rest underneath two of the cities hire bikes. All under two feet of water.

The last time I rode a folding bike it was the property of no-one and looked like it had survived a war, but strangely, I enjoyed riding it. I feel a pang of nostalgia for my days as a Halfords shop guy, riding the crappy shopper to buy the team some donuts. Let’s hope the Kingpin is the same.

The folding rat-bike refurbish of yesteryear.

war-torn shopper for the daily lunch run.

The rescue

I was tipped off that there were some bikes thrown in a Bristol river by a friendly store owner. He was appalled at how the youths in the area could ruin the beautiful scenery and poison the small waterway. Somehow they have no idea that they are destroying their own living area, I mean, even a rat knows how to defecate in a corner so that it doesn’t have to sit in poop.

Having been given a lengthy and mostly useless set of instructions on where to find these bikes I checked google maps and took a walk down a winding autumnal path toward the site of a weir where the bikes were supposedly trapped, abandoned for dead. As bad as the directions were, the information was correct. Two of Bristol’s hire bikes and something shiny beneath.

3 bikes and 1 wheel in the river

Bikes underwater

Seeing the mess of tangled metal it was clear that my foresight of bringing a rope and hook was a good idea as the bikes lay 10 meters below a bridge at the end of a weir. Getting them out was going to be a cold and wet experience.

Swinging the rope like a cowboy from a cheap western movie, all I managed to hook was the foliage surrounding the bikes. Multiple attempts ended in nothing but very cold and wet hands. The only other way to access the bikes would be a treacherously steep, muddy bank which would undoubtedly end in a boot full of ice cold water. With the rope attached and another pair of hands helping out, we managed to hook one of the hire bikes and drag it free of the water. I balanced, half in and half out of the water whilst the bike was winched up the bank to safety. The other bikes followed in exactly the same manner and finally, was winched up the bank, slipping all the way, barely able to use my pink, stinging, ice-cold fingers.

As you would expect of a bike dumped in a river, there was some not-inconsiderable damage to the bike. Listed below is what was immediately visible.

  1. Both tires were badly rotten
  2. The rear rim was severely broken
  3. The front rim was buckled
  4. One brake lever was completely missing
  5. The handlebars were bent
  6. The long quill stem was bent
  7. The entire bike was full of water
  8. All of the cables were hideously frayed and bent
  9. One pedal was missing and the other had been attacked by a shark.
  10. it was in a river, so water damage, obviously!
Twisted metal Kingpin

the Kingpin was in bad condition

The parts

Knowing bike parts and shops quite well, I decided that this wasn’t a lost cause and began the list of parts necessary to make this lowly underdog street worthy again. Thankfully, eBay produced a new-old-school rim for just £9.99 and a new stem for £5. Rutland cycling had Kenda tires reduced from £14.99 to £4.90 so a pair of those went straight in the post. A pair of (very old) flat handlebars were obtained from the Mud-dock bike jumble for just 50 pence, got to love a bargain and this jumble is always good for small parts. A new pair of grips and a new Sturmey Archer cable from Amazon mean that I have everything I need to begin the work.

New Kingpin stem, tires and rim

Cheap choices from the internet

Failing to read the Sheldon Brown tire size chart completely was my first mistake. As it turns out, 20 1-3/8 is the common name for a few different sizes of the wheel. Namely, a metric 451mm diameter of which I now had a beautiful pair, and the more difficult to find and almost solely used on the Dawes Kingpin 440mm which I now needed to find!

eBay came to the rescue with a 440mm tire for just £7.49 but unfortunately, the person who picked the item for shipping was having an off day and sent me yet another 451 Tyre!! Now the proud owner of three useless rubber rings, I managed to secure a tire from a local shop in their old stock for free and decided that one of the waterlogged originals was good enough. At least good enough to stop the stress of trying to find another one.

The assembly

Recipe for waterlogged seating equipment. Step one, notice the Brooks saddle is full of water. step two, drill small holes in the underside of the saddle to allow the water to flow out. Step three, leave in a vertical position for a few days for the water to drop and gather. Step four, squeeze into a bowl and leave to dry.

A final splash of water (on a rag this time) and the paintwork/ aluminium parts began to shine in their former glory. Wheels stripped, hubs cleaned and reassembled with fresh bearings and grease. New oil for the 1983 Sturmey Archer hub. New Parts fitted, tinkering tinkered, fresh cables neatly routed inside the folding frame. And, voila, my foldenstein monster, my flat tracker, my Kingpimp is ready for the road.

I have no idea when I’m going to use it or for what purpose. But that really isn’t the point. For less than £50 I have re-cycled a lost cause, and I would do it all again.

On a separate note, the two hire bikes were refurbished and are now back on the streets of Bristol along with the Dawes. Hopefully, they will pass each other one day.

Read more posts here.


Having no actual use for the kingpin since I never travel by train nor drive anywhere that necessitates having a tiny bike in the boot. I decided to sell the kingpin to someone who would love it and use it. As the site is called wheels of karma, the bike was listed at just £50 to recoup the costs of the repair. As I was only concerned with saving the bike from an early grave, and not with making money, this seemed like a great way to end her story. However, the original owner contacted me having seen the bike online ! She immediately admitted to neglecting the bike and told me that it badly needed a service before it had been stolen from outside her workplace. She was happy to pay the £50 as a charge for the service (as this would have been more like £150 in a shop) but was concerned that the new low position would not suit her need for an upright position. I frantically searched for ways to return the high position so that the story could come full circle and the little kingpin could meet its former owner. Unfortunately this was not to be as the modern replacements were not compatible with the old style handlebars that she had loved so much. Try as I might, I couldn’t find a cost effective way to return the height. The owner accepted this with a smile and asked me to find a good home for the bike, a truly nice gesture of her.

Today the bike found that home with a person known only as gumtree Joe. And I hope it gets the use it deserves.




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