1974 Kettler Kett-Rad
Vintage german chopper/youth bike converted into a BMX moto-bike during winter 2010. "Rad" is german short for "Bike", not the movie "Rad". :)
For $33 i would say this was a pretty good find even though i wasn't able to use most of the parts it came with. The bike came from Sauerland, Germany and was in bad condition with a strange mix of components. I remember looking at the seller's photo of the bike thinking, 'well.. that thing does have some POTENTIAL but is it REALLY worth the effort to ship it all the way from germany?" ..I think in the end - it was.
First thing i noticed the frame seemed unusually tall and after some internet research turned out it's originally been one of those early to mid 70's chopper bikes with stickshifter, mirrors, kickstand, speedometer, the whole set. Also turned out these euro choppers were sold under various brand names but the actual manufacturing was done by just a handful of companies. After even more research mine turned out to be Kettler brand, made in germany. The only stamping i could find were "ESGE / Pletscher" which is better known (even still today) for their line of kickstands and other bicycle components. Pletscher still exists and so does Kettler.
In germany bikes like these are/were known and described as 'bonanzarad', that would translate to something like a rodeo bike in english, similiar to Raleigh Chopper and the like. And for those thinking 'Rad' is short for 'radical' sorry to disappoint you but it's not :) It's short for 'fahrrad' - a bike, a bicycle. Bonanza - well that's trickier but i guess because these bikes had typically long banana style seats and high rise bars they were associated with rodeo. Rodeo = bonanza, bring out Ben, Adam, Little Joe, and Hoss! I loved Bonanza tv-series. When i was kid we would go to friends' after school and watch. Those were the days.
Enough of terminology and childhood memories, let's talk a bit more about the bike and how it looked when i got it. You will notice there are "shocks" on the fork. Don't tell anyone ...but they're fake. That's just two decorative springs on the triple forks for showing off, they don't do nothing but sit there. The fork was bent as usual, and on the top there was a broken BMX stem and steel v-bars with yellow grips. The frame was very dirty, covered with dust and pine tree resin (!) which was very difficult to remove. It was also decorated with white electrical tape by previous owner which i kinda liked though. The seat was a normal plastic seat on a 1" seatpost.
Wheels were mismatch and very bad shape aswell. Front had a 36-spoke 2.125 steel rim with dry rotted red snakebelly tire. The rim turned ok after intensive cleaning though. Rear wheel was 28-spoke steel rim with Sachs/Torpedo Duomatic (2-speed) coaster brake hub which seem to be in demand these days by the fixie crowd. The concept of the 2-speed hub is pretty cool, gentle back pedal will switch gears, a good back pedal will obviously activate the coaster brake causing the bike to stop.
The carcass of the bike arrived in big box with the loose parts floating freely inside. Bearings and nuts, they were all there loose waiting to get lost in transit. Honestly, when i opened the box i thought to myself "man, WHAT have i bought, will this EVER be a bike again?" It was really that depressing sight.
On the cranks department there was bent cotter pin steel cranks with steel sprocket and 40mm size Thompson bottom bracket. Thrashed rubber pedals, seized rusty chain, loose headset and a metal rear fender, also covered in pine tree resin. I have come to the conclusion the bike had either sat outdoors under a pine or, in a shack with pine plank roof with the resin dripping allover. I don't know, but this was the first case with such super sticky stuff all over the bike.
The triple forks on these chopper bikes use two struts as handlebars. You would slide them into the fork tubes and set them to desired height and sweep position and clamp them in place. Sort of like you would tighten a seatpost into a frame. These clamps were missing ofcourse, and the fork tubes were just stuffed with cork. Now if you think about it, you will realize there wasn't anything holding the triple fork top plate in place other than just the headset nut. Sounds pretty dangerous to me.
The frame is made of some type of mild steel. It has the 40mm Thompson bottom bracket, 1-inch seat tube and a french headset. The downtube and the seat tube is made of a single tube which makes a bend at the bottom bracket. There is chainguard mounts on the seat tube and chainstays and another pair of mounting brackets on the looptail for sissybar. Like i said, the frame is tall. Not low and sleek like most typical BMX frames. Not MooseGoose-tall but much taller than your average BMX frame. Therefore it is ideal for a loaf seat and a sissybar. Black seems to be is its original colour, i think. However someone has been spray painting it with matt-black here and there which kinda makes no sense. However, i decided to leave the paint as is, because it's fairly difficult to notice the difference unless you look up close. The current non-glossy appearance also gives more of that rough "motocross" feel to it, and it is good enough for me. Before anything, the frame was carefully washed and 'boy what all came out of the tubes! There was about 35 years worth of loose rust and dirt inside, it seemed like it would never end. One thing i can't stand is those dried up spider skeletons inside the tubes of most old bikes.
BUILDING IT UP
From the beginning of this project it was obvious the bike needs real motorcycle bars instead of narrow v-bars, this was something i would not compromise, so i began looking for the right kind. I ended up purchasing used set of black motorcycle bars off a Kawasaki KE-100 with enough rise and perfect 30" width. However they turned out to be slightly too low so i soon switched to Honda CY-50 bars. There was no going back to the regular BMX stem either, it would have to be double clamp of some sort, so i had a chance of making something i hadn't done before. As the fork tube inside diameter is 22mm so i went down to local bicycle recycling workshop and got a pair of identical old commuter bike stems which would now act as dual stems with the motorcycle bars. The stems are designed to work with 1-inch bars so i made required shims by chopping and slicing an old 1" seatpost. With the dual stems i have more reach and can adjust the bars to perfect height and have the motocross dual clamp appearance.
For securing the triple fork top plate i simply bought an identical pair of old steel seat clamps from the same place. They provide clamping support for the stem set up aswell. The Winner's Circle grips are what was left useless from the earlier Elswick build and they are fine. Number plate is completely homemade yellow plastic lid they use for capping the ends of underground sewer / electrical pipes. I found the lid from the nearby construction site long time ago, cut it oval shape and drilled the air holes. Finally i found some use for it. The numbers are hand cut out of big sticker sheet.
The bent-in forks were bent back in line, simple. It seems some people have the tendency to crash their bike onto a wall. The fake shocks were rusty and i really wasn't up to polishing them up to "chrome" so i just cleaned all the excess rust off and installed a piece of inner tube on each and secured them in place with zip-ties. Now they look like real professional moto shocks with rubber boot and nobody knows until now, that they are fake. Headset components were polished and the bearings and the fork crown bearing race were replaced. The fork tube was plugged to keep water and spiders outside in the future.
The wheels were something i ended up putting in a lot of effort and they were built from scratch, more or less. The rims are german Schürmann 20 x 2.125 chrome plated steel rims with dimpled spoke holes. They were rusty but the chrome plating underneath was fine. Front hub is large flange 36H Union road/commuter type and rear has 36H Shimano D-type coaster brake. Both hubs were ofcourse completely disassembled, cleaned, polished, lubed and adjusted. The spokes are 2.5mm thick heavy duty and they were completely restored from a set of dark gray mess to chrome shine by manually polishing each one by one. Sand paper, steel wool and metal polish. Repeat this pattern 72 times and you get about 8-9 hours of sweating and sore hands. The nipples however were bare brass and had formed a nice blackened patina which was more than perfect.
The no-name 170mm three piece steel cranks with 44T one piece "star" sprocket cost me about $20. They were dead stock from germany, apparently from the DDR era. The cotter pin spindle was replaced with used square taper spindle and Thun brand 40mm Thompson type bottom bracket, both were found basicly free at the recycling workshop, once again cleaned up and polished. It was pure luck i found the right size bb cup, bearing & spindle set on the pile of all those used ones. The drive side of the BB was missing the dust cap so i replaced it with yet another rubber tube innovation to keep dirt out and locked it in place with a zip-tie. The rubber pedals were switched to rat-traps because i prefer non-slip, especially when going fast. Chain is your basic KMC 410 single speed bought at lbs.
Tires.. my favorite subject. Those monster dirt diggers are vintage 20 x 2.125 Nokia Speed-Hakkapeliitta made for mopeds. When inflated the actual outer diameter however is closer to 20.5" than 20". There is inner tubes that have Dunlop valves because i am bored of the usual Schrader (auto) valves. It also gives a nice vintage feel. I recently purchased a small pile of these vintage 20" Speed-Hakkapeliitta tires so i can ride them for the rest of my life. I also have ones that are studded for icy roads. I might use those next winter and hit the frozen waters.
How do you mount a seat without seatguts? Simple. Just set your loaf seat as low as possible and slide a seatgut bolt thru the seat clamp. With such tall frame like this any other seat height than as-low-as-possible would have looked dorky. This isn't a comfort bike for old people like you and me, this bike's built for dirt so i made a custom modification in order to mount the seat as low as it goes. So there is no seatpost at all, the seat mounts directly to the frame's seat clamp section so i could have it all the way down to twin top tubes. The mounting brackets that attach the seat to the sissybar are home made. I used aluminum plate which was hand cut, bent, drilled and polished and no, they don't slide down the sissybar tube. Actualy i am surprised how well they grab. The seat is italian Selle Royal with steel frame. I bought one of these a while ago NOS but got three instead as the seller just wanted to get rid of the rest. Would you believe if i told you it took me a day to choose the "right" kind of sissybar mounting nuts & bolts? I am pretty specific sometimes.
SO, HOW DOES IT RIDE?
This bike rides great, it is definitely heavy but once you get the momentum going it keeps on rolling almost by itself. There is plenty of room to sit comfortably and pedal, and with the previous switch of stems there is now plenty of room to stand up and pedal, too. During the first ride everything came loose, as usual but when those were fixed i haven't had any problems since. This bike feels big because of the tall frame and wide bars. It is also one of the fastest because of it weight, like i said, once you get the momentum going. You really get a good pull on the bars while pedaling and you feel like a king sitting down on the seat holding the bars with the open street or dirt road in front of you. As with every bike, each has a distinctive feel to it, not two are the same. And.. that's exactly what makes this hobby so addictive.
- Frame: 1974-ish Kettler Kett-Rad chopper. These style frames were also known as a "Rodeo bikes" in europe.
- Fork: Kettler triple tree mild steel "motofork" with 1-inch threaded steerer tube and fake shock absorbers (for the looks you know). Zero drop out rake.
- Serial number/markings: none except for the stamping "ESGE - Lizenz Pletscher - Made in Germany" on the chainstay bridge.
- Frame Material: mild steel.
- Headset: Italian thread 1".
- Stems: Custom set with dual commuter bike stems with 22m quill, 24.5mm clamp with home made shims/reducers to accept the 22mm dia. handlebars.
- Handlebars: Honda motorcycle bars off a Honda CY 50 with hand cut and drilled number plate on it.
- Grips: Winner's Circle.
- Seat: Selle Royal "loaf" seat from the late 70's with steel body and "motocross" print on the sides. New Old Stock, made in Italy.
- Sissybar: Unbranded, black with homemade alloy seat attachment brackets.
- Seatpost: -none- ...as the seat guts mount directly on to the frame.
- Seatpost clamp: steel, modified for dual purpose to serve as clamp & guts.
- Cranks: unbranded new old stock 170mm steel three piece, square taper crank set.
- Sprocket: 44T one piece steel sprocket integrated with the cranks.
- Bottom Bracket: Thun 40mm Thompson -type bottom bracket with square taper hardened steel spindle and caged bearings.
- Chain: KMC 410 standard single speed chain, size ½ x 1/8".
- Pedals: SFE model TH-10 rat traps (similiar to KKT's) with standard 9/16" british threads.
- Rims: Schürmann 20 x 2.125 chrome plated single wall 36H steel rims with dimpled nipple holes.
- Rim Strips: home made rubber strips out of 14" tube sliced in half and fitted on to the rims.
- Front Hub: Union 36H low flange, loose ball bearings, 7.5mm axle.
- Rear Hub: Shimano D-Type 36H coaster brake w/16T clip-on cog, 3/8" axle.
- Spokes & Nipples: Union spokes 185mm x 2.5mm rear, 189mm x 2.5mm front w/brass nipples.
- Tires: Nokia Speed-Hakkapeliitta (Nokia, which was formerly known as S.G.T.O.Y. which stood for Suomen Gummi Tehdas Oy) size: ETRTO/ISO 57-406 or 20x2.125-2.5 These tires simply don't exist outside scandinavia, so they are rare with rare size too. These were available with ice studs aswell. Designed for a moped sometime in the 60's.
- Tubes: Semperit 20 x 2.125 front, Cheng Shin 20 x 2.125 rear, both with standard Dunlop valves.
Submitted by 2FreshDiscuss this bike
- Company: Kettler
- Material: Other
- Toptube length: 19"
- Headtube size: 1"