Sunday, December 30, 2012

70's Sears Free Spirit Step through 10 speed (August 2011)

Make: Sears

Model: Free Spirit

Year:  1970s

Obtained: Fathers Day 2011

Found: Good Will Outlet

Paid: $9.95

What was I thinking?  I found a bike so crappy it wasn't even good enough for regular Goodwill it was banished to the Goodwill outlet!  When your (then) wife says here's $20 go have a nice father's day and you decided "hmm maybe I can find a bike for this amount"  then Goodwill outlet is a place to look.

So how does a bike qualify as not good enough for Goodwill?  how does it get to the point that it has be sent down to the thrift store minor leagues?
  • "Gas pipe"  steel tubing
  • Hideous baby poo brown color
  • Rakish handlebar angle
  • Widespread rust
  • One Piece Astuluba type crankset

The rust on the chain was so bad that it was seized into one sold piece.  When I went to push it toward the cash registers the rear wheel didn't turn it just skidded along the floor.  It was actually a miracle this thing didn't have a stuck stem or seat post.  This bike reminded me of a rule that I started out with looking at old bikes "buy something you would enjoy owning when your done with it", I definitely broke that rule with this bike.  After I got done moaning about department store 10 speeds I took stock;  its a Sears bike and probably 10 times the quality of the current crop of bikes from Wally world, it had a (mostly) decent set of components, the bar tape was surprisingly in mint condition and I had enough bulk parts and items floating around in the parts bin that I could rehab this on the cheap and sell it at a likewise "priced to move" amount.  I was also reminded by the wise Hugh that I was keeping a bike out of the waste stream and making it useable again.
In after stripping the bike down I realized I had the following issues to address:
  1. The rear derailleur was rusty, crusty and broken, fortunately I had a brand new Shimano Tourney RD that I got on sale to replace it with.  I think I paid as much for it as did for this whole bike LOL
  2. The rear cassette it was rusted solid so I dropped the pie plate and went with a six speed FW I had in the parts bin.  An upgrade to 12 speeds! 
  3. Even after a thorough wash and wax the rear chain stays were very scratched up so that needs to be addressed.  There's patina and then there's crappy looking- nuff said.
  4. The tires were dry rot city and normally I would just replace them with new ones on a rebuild but to save money I used some lightly used specialized tires I had salvaged off another bike.
This project reinforced the value of salvaging parts that are in decent condition, they might be useful later.  In addition to the salvaged items mentioned above I also used a chain with very little wear to replace the rope of rust this thing came with.
I am usually in the "clean up the paint as much as possible but leave it original"  camp but A) this is a Sears Free Spirit and not exactly a collectable and B) as mentioned above parts of the bike were scratched to heck and hideous.  So in this case I didn't hesitate to whip out my old friend Mr. Rustoleum and use it on the chainstays and seat-post "lug". With a new RD, new Freewheel and some paint it looked quite a bit better (relatively speaking that is).
In conclusion I broke alot of the guidelines I have for refurbishing old bikes with this project but in a way it was kind of fun to work within the constraints of finding a bike on the cheap and fixing it up with parts I had on hand and at least breaking even after the sale.  And to top it off the young man who came and bought it for his girlfriend seemed genuinely pleased with his find.
That said I don't seen another Free Spirit in my future ;-).  In the words of the venerable Linda Richman  "the Free Spirit is neither Free nor particularly spirited...discuss ".


Friday, December 28, 2012

1975 Takara (July 2011)

Make: Takara

Model: Unknown

Year:  1975ish

Obtained: May 2011

Found: Community Garage Sale

Paid: $25
Every year in late May West Seattle does a neighborhood garage sale, so on one Saturday you can hit a ton of sales in one go.  I had already scored a great Miyata 912 at a garage sale the month previous (more on that in another post) and was eager to find more hidden gems.

Well after looking for most of the morning I had found exactly zero 10 speeds and had decided to give up and drive home.  As I drove slowly down a side street my peripheral vision caught a bike shaped object in a garage and I braked, parked and went to investigate.  Sure enough it was dusty "all original" Takara 10 speed.  The owner indicated it was his college bike and based on the cobwebs in the spokes and the dust covering the bike he had hung up soon after graduation in, I am guessing, the early 80's.  He agreed to part ways with it for $25 and I had my 10 speed find for the day.
It was musty and dusty and dirty and had a funky handlebar bag attached, about what you would expect from a bike stored in a Garage since the first Reagan Administration. Mostly SunTour components with stem shifters and "safety brake levers all speak to this being an entry level steed, the perfect campus cruiser for a student in the late 70s.  The frame is made in Japan and in pretty much all phases this bike is a step up from the Schwinn Varisty and probably weighs 10 pounds less easy.

It was also to be my first, but not the last, experience with the cottered crank.   My suggestion to beginner road bike restorers- avoid cottered cranks, but more on that later when I talk about the 70s Raleigh Gran Prix.

One thing I absolutely love about older bikes is the head badges and the Takara's looked like it was inspired by English heraldry and when you are a company in Tulsa, OK importing Japanese bikes why not an English family crest for your head badge?
The rebuild was pretty standard for this bike, wash it, strip it down, wax it and reassemble with the usual new stuff; tires, tubes, cables, housing, bar tape, chain etc.  And of course lots of new grease in the main bearings.  I was fortunate, especially considering the cottered crank, not to run into any issues with this bike.  I liked it and could ride it but as a 25 inch (63 cm) frame it was a bit unwieldy for me as a 23 1/2 is just about perfect for my height.  I ended up selling it to a nice tall young lady who was looking to get a geared bike after riding fixie.   I really liked the blue after it got cleaned up and waxed.

And interestingly the first two bikes I sold in the summer of 2011 were to ladies and they weren't "step thru" ladies frames. Cool.

Ride. Smile. Repeat.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Mid 70's Schwinn Varisty (June 2011)

Make: Schwinn

Model: Varsity

Year:  1975ish

Obtained: Late 2009

Found: Via Craigslist

Paid: $25

The first bike boom Ten Speed I rebuilt was, appropriately enough, a mid 70's Chicago built Schwinn Varsity in "Sky Blue".  My best guess is that it's a 1977 model based on the color choice.  As I recall I bought this bike in 2009 for about $25 off Craigslist and it came with a dissembled rear brake and no tires or tubes.  Unfortunately I don't have any "before" pictures but the frame decals were in such bad shape that they were unreadable so I used a plastic scraper to take them off the frame. 

This bike basically sat around for two years which in retrospect was a good idea because in the meantime I built a single speed out of a neglected Azuki 10 speed and also built up a newer Schwinn Fastback frame-set with a modern Campagnolo Veloce 10 speed gruppo, and both projects taught me a lot.  Its been awhile since I did this rebuild and I don't recall the full process I put it through but here is what I remember.

Schwinn is the only bike boom era company I know of that used the one piece "Ashtabula" crank-set on an adult bike.  Usually this technology is only found on kids bikes and it contributes to the hefty 36+ pound weight of the Varsity. Its actually pretty easy to work on and really only requires a steady hand, a hammer and a large slotted screw driver.  If I were to work on another Varsity I would follow the lead of my friend Hugh over at Hugh's bike blog and convert this boat anchor of a crank to a more traditional  three piece set up.

In the case of any rebuild I replace as a matter of course; tires, tubes, rim strips, chain, cables/housing, brake pads, bar tape and all grease.  And then anything else as needed.

The biggest issues, beyond the standard replacements, I had with this particular rebuild were:
A) the rear brake supplied with the bike didn't have a long enough threaded stud to work with the brake bridge, odd but true.
B) the rear derailleur was kaput
C) a worn out saddle clamp meant any test ride as an adventure and
D) the rear freewheel was worn-out and sounded like a dryer with shot bearings when you got it spinning.

I was able to replace A and B with period correct parts from a local shop, Recycled Cycles, that sells both new and used parts and took care of  C and D new via Amazon.  I wish I had done a better job at the time of taking pictures of the problem parts but here is a shot of the new cassette and rear derailleur.
It's always amazing to me how much new handle bar tape spruces up an old bike.  Here is a shot of the updated cockpit of the Varsity:
Having been through a number of builds since doing this one I am not sure I would be totally satisfied with the final product today but at the time I thought it turned out all right.

The thrill I got from doing this rebuild was the lady who bought the bike was probably in her early 40s and after test riding she came back with a big grin on her face and said "that was like being 13 again!".  That was all the incentive I needed to keep looking for old 10 speeds to resurrect.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

And your little Dog Too!

Its December 26th, boxing day, and after gorging myself yesterday I feel the need to pedal away some gluttony.  At the start of the Alki bike path I pass a nice older lady on a Kona Africa 3 and say something like "good morning".
As I continue to pedal along the path breathing the fresh air and feeling good about myself for doing something healthy I sense that someone is riding behind me.  More to the point, someone is drafting me like I'm an underpaid domestique, which is kind of amusing as I can't be going fast enough to be providing much advantage, but hey if they want to use my slow Clydesdale ass to shelter from the wind that's ok.

As we hit the point and the trail changes headings from NE to NW my unknown team leader decides I am no longer proving useful and passes me and's the nice older lady on the Africa 3 and this is where my split bike personality comes out.  My first response, thankfully from my chilled out steel riding just-happy-to-be-on-the-bike self, it to chuckle and think "dude you just got dusted by grandma on a 3 speed grocery getter"  no worries I am just out here to ride.  My other self, the inner Road-Raging Roadie, is a bit more scary in his reaction(s) and I had to quickly quell the following desires:
  • Click to a harder gear and blow her doors off
  • Catch up to her to so I can explain that this is just a recovery ride and I am not "trying my hardest"
  • Shout "And your little dog too! you old crone!"
Wow.  I thought I had left all that behind.
You see not so long ago I was a Fred (e.g somebody with higher quality and more expensive cycling equipment than his or her talent and commitment would warrant) and aspired to carbon fiber and going faster as my highest cycling ideals.  And there is nothing wrong with being a Fred, nor with riding a rusty beach cruiser in flip-flops so long as you are on a bike and having fun.  And a lack of fun is what got me to drop my "go fast" Roadie aspirations and sell;  my uber Polar cycling watch,  my aero bars and wheels and my beloved Cannondale R800 road bike which only took me 8 years to realize was too small for me.

 In my pursuit of being faster on the bike my rides all became workouts and had to have a specific purpose and keeping an eye on the average speed indicator on the Polar was more important than noticing an eagle catching a thermal or the Olympic range peaking out above the clouds.  In short it wasn't fun anymore and the whole reason I enjoyed rediscovering cycling as an adult was that it was FUN! Gliding along under my own power, wind in my face, seeing and smelling things I would have never noticed in a car and feeling like I was 12 years old and tooling around the neighborhood again.  So I decided to focus on having fun on the bike, got myself a steel all rounder frame-set and built it up with no pretense as a "race bike" and haven't looked back.  Much.  Apparently there is still a bit of over competitive/under confident immature Raging Roadie living in my psyche but I can take some comfort that my first impulse was to laugh  at getting dusted by Grandma.  You go Girl.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Phat Tires on Gravel

After taking the Handsome Devil for a test ride with the new Phat Rubber - Continental Town and Country 700x47c's- the next test was to see how they would do on gravel.  Actually I was sure they would do fine I just wanted to ride them on gravel.

I am fortunate to live near Lincoln park which has great views of Puget Sound and environs and nice network of gravel paths.  So off to the park I rolled with my new Phat tired steed.
I will take my sunlight dappled thank you very much
Based on today's forecast I was only expecting a lack of rain, if I was lucky, however I got a nice little early Christmas present in the form of sun breaks and patches of blue skies.  In Seattle in December that is a little slice of heaven.
Puget sound near the Fauntleroy Ferry terminal
I doubled my mileage from yesterday, which considering I only went 4 miles Friday, wasn't too hard.  I knew my 1x9 set up combined with my distinct lack of shape was no match for some of West Seattle's hills but I was fine walking.  It was just nice to be out breathing the rain washed fresh air and getting some sun.  And I even got a nice view as a reward for huffing and puffing up the hills.
looking west toward the Olympic Peninsula

I'm not sure why but it seems every few years I go for a period of not riding for months on end and then when I get back on the bike I remember why I love it so much.  Rediscovering the joy of spinning along on two wheels taking in the sights, sounds and smells at the speed of life and unencumbered by a steel cage.  At that point I wonder why I have been such a dolt as to be off the bike for so long!

I have a number of bike projects in the queue that I intend to document on this blog, and quite a few that I completed this year, and last, that I plan to write up retroactively.  For anyone reading this I hope you have happy holidays and get a chance to unwind as 2012 comes to a close.


Friday, December 21, 2012

Fat tires on Winter Solstice

I bought a Handsome Devil frame-set back in 2008, and it was the first bike I ever built up for myself.  I did everything except install the headset and build the wheel-set.  Over the years this bike has had a multiple personalities; triple crank-set traveler, stripped down go fast road bike, and most recently 1x9 fender-ed town bike.  That is what I love about this bike, its flexibility, and ever since I read on the Handsome site that this bike would take up to 700x47c tires I have wanted to try it out with maxed rubber.  So about a month ago I purchased some Continental town and country tires  in size 700x47c to see how it would work.

Now what kind of Seattle cyclist removes fenders in December?  Well one who wants to fit the fattest possible tires on their bike that's who!  And to be honest it wasn't like having a bike with fenders was making me ride in the rain anyway, I was spoiled by the incredibly sun drenched summer/fall we had here in the NW. 

And I don't recall the last time I pedaled a bike in anger, or joy or indifference... its been months.  So one thing this little experiment will help with is getting my fat rear end back in the saddle.  So to work!  A little side by side by side look at the before and after tires.

Here is what the existing Panaracer Pasela's 700x35c's look like with the calipers
And after upgrading to the Phat rubber it looks like this which doesn't appear to be exactly 47c but is significantly fatter than the Paselas .....
After some fiddling with brake pads and such I am ready to roll before the sun sets on this shortest (last?) day of the year.  Finally I am ready to throw a leg over the top tube for the first time in a while.
Yes I think I maxed out the tires size, might be able to squeeze a 700x50c in there but it would be tight.
So what did it feel like?  Well the bike was definitely heavier but it rode like a cloud,  floating along above the fray of crumbling asphalt and expansion joints, curbs? no worries rolled right over them, cracked and heaved sidewalks-HA take my 47c's!  It was fun and even on a piddling 4 mile ride made me smile.  Was it wrong to stop for a beer and fish and chips after such a short ride?  C'mon according to the Mayans that could have been my last supper.  Well now that I have dusted off the tool box there are many more bike projects to contemplate this winter.



The intention of this blog is to talk about bikes, mostly older steel bikes but I will probably wander off topic occasionally.  Just saying.  2012 has not been my most favorite of years; I lost my Dad, my job, finalized losing my Marriage and I seem to have lost my way.  Wah, cry me a river, right?  I am certain there are people in Sandy Hook, may they find peace,  who would gladly change places with me so enough whining lets talk about bikes.