14 February 2010

An olympic Deelite, & more Canadian bicycle history

Look what we found for Audrey in the yard at Edmonton Bicycle Commuters yesterday:

Cute, isn't it? Even if it has a hilariously inefficient rear mudguard. Audrey can ride it right now (or will be able to when she no longer relies on training wheels). You can't tell from these photos, but there's gold pinstriping on the frame. The flower-power banana seat is identical to NOS ones sold by Schwinnstore/Bicycle Heaven on eBay.

Growing up in Nova Scotia, I'd never seen one of these headbadges, but apparently they were really common in Western Canada. Turns out that  Deelites were imported by Fred Deeley Cycles Ltd., a historic Vancouver company best known now as Canada's Harley-Davidson distributors and the predecessor to today's Trev Deeley Motorcycles. Readers in BC may be able to fill in some blanks here, but I gather from various cycling forums that Fred Deeley Cycles imported Apollos (manufactured by Kuwahara in Osaka, Japan - who also made the BMX bike rode by Elliott in the movie E.T.) and possibly other Japanese bicycles, and Raleigh and Phillips bicycles, until the 70s or 80s. I couldn't find any indication that the bicycle business is still open.

Here's Fred Deeley Sr.'s obit, from The History of Metropolitan Vancouver website:
"Fred Deeley Sr. Motorcycle dealer b. 1881,Bromsgrove, Eng.; d. May 9, 1970, Vancouver. After 10 years in business in England, he first visited B.C. in 1913, representing the Birmingham Small Arms, manufacturer of BSA motorcycles. Bought out BSA and opened Fred Deeley Ltd. (1914) in a 12'-wide store at 1075 Granville. In 1916 acquired Harley-Davidson franchise, becoming its second oldest dealership. By 1925 he owned a motorcycle shop, bicycle shop, and one of Canada's larger car dealerships. Company included son Fred Jr. and grandson Trev (b. 1920) of Trev Deeley Motorcycles. Biography: Motorcycle Millionaire, by Trev Deeley."
So, we have a lot of candidates for the manufacturer of this bicycle. Here are the clues we have:

"MADE IN JAPAN" sticker on the frame's lower tube, and the remnants of a triangular decal on the front forks.

The coaster brake, with hub marked NANKAI (logo) NO. 75 COASTER (photo coming soon) and this stamp on the arm: N(logo)K MADE IN JAPAN. A quick search shows that the NK-75 was a commonly used coaster brake, made by Nankai Tekko Company, Ltd. of Osaka, Japan. [15 March Update: a history in PDF form from the Techno Nankai website indicates that they started exporting the NK-75 in 1970. So we now know it's probably a post-1970 bike!]

The tire rims are marked ARAYA 16 x 1.75 MADE IN JAPAN.

Cottered cranks and pedals with replaceable rubber pads (that look like they've never been replaced).

I wonder what this hole near the headset was for?
The front fender isn't true and will need to be fixed.

The Vancouver connection and the fact that we found it the day after the opening ceremonies has us thinking that this bike needs an Olympic name and some multicoloured Olympic-coloured accessories... any suggestions?

Here's the only other Fred Deeley headbadge or decal image I was able to find on the net, from a 1984 Kuwahara Club Sport bike (with a stamped serial number that started 84). I'm reproducing it here since images seem to disappear from these forums all the time:
So, do you have any idea if this is, in fact, a Kuwahara-manufactured bike, or what era it's from (70s or 80s)? Anything you can fill in about the history of the Deelite or Fred Deeley Cycles?


  1. Hello bike enthusiats... i just recently bought a vintage dee-lite bike and was wondering if anyone could tell me something about it.. I have no idea about this company and where I would find parts.. and if this is a female frame or if there was a male frame that was or may be slightly different.. i cant find too much on the internet and any help would be more than greatly appreciated!! thanks kindly! and i dont know what year this bike is..thanks again!

    please email at djbmetaldesigns@hotmail.com


  2. Hey Dottie! It *is* cute, isn't it? The plan is to fix the wheels & front fender, and add a chromed chainguard (probably a NOS one from Wald), a basket & some streamers to girl it up a bit for my 6-six-old.

    Deeee: it's hard to say, without a description, what sort of Dee-Lite you have. It seems that they rebadged bikes imported from several different manufacturers over the years. The bike itself will have a lot to tell you: look for serial numbers and makers' stamps in the metal, the shape of the chainwheel and any decals. If you've taken photos you can send, I might be able to help... =)


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