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I have an amazing find here and need help understanding it's history. I am currently ordering all the bits and bobs to run it again, but wanted to learn more about it if I can. I think it was a work bike, as shown with the sign on the back. Also has double pitted tires, a sign someone was maintaining it at some point. I think it is a Helkama, but it seems someone tried spraying "Nishiki" on the side. What the heck. It was found in Oulu Finland.

Full View of the bike The interesting Sign on the back The badge on the front The frame type. Seems to be a steel frame.

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    What are "double pitted tires" ? Even google links back to this question. Are you referring to the tread knobbly bits ? – Criggie Mar 23 at 8:26
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    By the way now that I remember these bikes, that stem clamp around steerer tube is a huge security risk. I'm updating the answer. – ojs Mar 23 at 12:58
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From googling about, Helkama is a Finnish maker of bicycles, originating in Vyborg in 1905 from a chap named Heikki J. Hellman They are known in Sweden and Finland for bicycles, (and in Russia for refrigerators)

As for your bike, I'd guess its is an "AVIC" model, though I can't find that anywhere on the web.

Looking at the rake of the front fork, it feels like an 80s bike. You have an Ashtabula one-piece crank, which was not a high-end design, but is relatively robust and forgiving of problems. Your frame won't take a modern cartridge, so you're stuck with that style of crank.

Its hard to see in the photo, but it looks like the head tube angle is a lot steeper than the seat tube. That implies a less slack bike so more "twitchy" I bet its hard/impossible to ride hands-free.

The fork has a solid-looking light mount, identical to your background bike. Suggests they're of similar origin, in Finland.

The rear chainstay has something where a canti brake boss would be - could be a rear light mount, or a brake mount.

The bike lacks a front brake, and seems to only have a rear coaster brake. The rims look like polished/chromed steel, not aluminium.

Obviously the tyres have been replaced at some point - they are a wear item.

All the daubs of white paint on the back will be to increase visibility at night, so this bike was used at night enough for safety to be improved.


Things that need doing:

  • Rear wheel seems to have multiple curvy spokes, not good.
  • Carrier's flappy bit seems to be broken loose
  • See if you can fit a front brake, for safety
  • Clean and lubricate everything!

Looks like a nice bike.

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    The thing on seat stay is remains of a frame lock welded to the frame. The rest of lock has been broken off, which implies that the bike was stolen at some point. – ojs Mar 23 at 9:08
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    Thanks fro the feedback! You are right, this bike will never ride hands free. But with brand new front and back wheels, its super-duper smooth. This ended up being an "Oiva". A classic heavy-duty model. The plate on the back has been identified as the local paper pulp mill and was most likely used on the factory floor. Very oddly, someone trying painting Nishiki on the side, another brand of bike. The crank is single piece but cheap to replace and runs for a long time. Not in it for the heavy ride, but feels great when you ride it. – Jason Brower Jun 12 at 10:10
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Helkama Oiva is more or less a civilian version of the bikes used by the Finnish army. They are known for being very heavy but quite fragile for their weight. The rear rack is very sturdy and perfect for carrying M85 backpack with shoulder straps wrapped around seat stay and support strut. The lock, chain guard and dynamo mount are additions for civilians.

The unique stem clamp where instead of usual expander cone or wedge, the steerer tube clamps around the stem, is a major security hazard. The steerer tube has normal threads and a cutout to allow deforming the tube. The threads provide a great starting point for cracks. The stem should be replaced with one with wedge immediately, or at least at the first time you notice that the handlebar feels loose. I had one of these bikes (non-military style) that I loaned to a friend and it failed at traffic lights. Fortunately it failed when he was starting, not when riding. No photos, because this was before digital cameras.

The steering geometry is unusual by modern road bike standards, but common with old work and touring bikes. The low trail reduces wheel flop, and wide low pressure tires provide the stability. These bikes are meant for heavy loads, slow riding and gravel roads.

The bike is very probably from 90s, even though the one piece crank was already obsolete at the time. I recall Helkama using that logo at the time, and the Rautaruukki sticker is a response to to "Tange Hi-Ten" stickers that were appearing on MTBs at the time. Rautaruukki is a steel foundry most known most for building supplies. They have specialized in high strength steels in 2000s, but those are not marketed for bicycles.

The white paint on rear mudguard was required in Finland at some point. I don't know the exact history, but I think the rule was removed in the 70s. This one looks like hit has been painted afterwards.

I do not recognize the logo on register plate. My guess would be that it has belonged to a saw mill or pulp mill. The old logo for Forest Administration that you can still see in national parks is a bit similar, but not the same. The broken frame lock and spray paint imply it was stolen at some point.

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  • Great point on the steering column. I will get it replaced when I see issues. – Jason Brower Jun 12 at 10:14

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