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 ".



  1. This took a lot of perseverance to take this on. Nice job, and nice satisfaction to know that the guy that bought it for his girlfriend got her a cheapie but still better than a wally world bike. Plus you kept a buck out of the Walton family fortune!
    Your last comment made me laugh. My wife has a friend that had a horse named "Free Spirit" That nag would not move very fast when spured or kicked...I always thought its first name should have been "broken"

    1. Thanks Jim I am hoping she is having fun with it

  2. Hey, Ryan! It would break your heart to see some of the chains on the bicycles here at the Park. I used to go around with some oil and lube things up a little, but then I realized these bike live outdoors year round and some sit for a month at a time locked to a tree with sap and bird doo and it got to me. Then a guy got mad because I was trying to explain that riding around with your chain in the little ring in front and the little ring in back was a bad idea. He said that was the way he always done it and it worked just fine. So now, as the constant turnover of kooky residents takes place, I keep my mouth shut about bicycles and these days pretty much everyone has forgotten that I am the bicycle guy.

    That free spirit survived to tell the tale. That is one of my favorite things about bicycles: they are ultimately saveable and worth the effort. It takes money, but compared to what? Ever had to replace the transmission in a Ford F150? I have.

    If I soon seem scarce it ain't because I have lit out for the territories...the internet at the trailer is getting cut off due to my current financial straits and my computer is dwindling rapidly. So I may be doing my thing at the Library and the Blonde's Condo for awhile. If I get a new job, which I expect to do, the fate of the TPC will become uncertain...but it will still be around. I just gotta get off my ass and hustle a few bucks for a truck and I really want one of those badass Mac Air 13's.

    Your Booger is going great! Keep the Flame Alive!


    1. Thanks Velo Brother thanks for the support and good luck in the job search and technology acquisition. I have had to suppress the urge many times while on a bike path to pull someone with a chain that sounded like gravel in a blender over and lube it for them.......

  3. Hey Ryan,
    Nice job bringing that old ten speed back from the brink. Was it worth it? I guess that depends on how you look at it. If all it (the restoration) did was provide someone with a bike who otherwise would not have been able to afford one. Or even worse yet, they might have had to purchased some p.o.s. from Mal-Wart! Then "in my humble opinion" that alone made it well worth the effort. Not all Free Spirits were created equally, as they are more of a re-brand than a brand name. So don`t be to quick to write them off. Some Free Spirit bikes were actually pretty fair quality. Notice I said pretty "fair quality" :) Keep fighting the good fight! And Happy New Year!

    1. Yeah Hugh it was worth it and it was a learning experience. I am glad I made a bike that was literally at the gates of the Dump useful again and hopefully some nice young lady is getting joy out of it. I also learned that working on a lovely lugged steel bike fills my soul in a way "gas-pipe" bikes just don't.

  4. Hey! I just realized that you found that bike when you were "Good Will Hunting"

    har har har har I gotta million of 'em...

  5. Hey awesome blog, im currently in the process of trying to refurbish this style bike and i cannot figure out how to remove the bike chain, any help would be greatly appreciated! !!!


  6. Hi Kay, thanks for the question and good luck with your project. To remove the chain you need a chain tool like this and there is a great article on chains on Sheldon Brown's site here -Hope that helps.

  7. Hey awesome blog, im currently in the process of trying to refurbish this style bike and i cannot figure out how to remove the bike chain, any help would be greatly appreciated! !!!


  8. Nice job!

    I just found the same exact bike. Got it for $5. All parts were in pretty good shape under the dust and dirt the paint was almost perfect. (As much as it could be with that color).

    Just re greased all bearings and removed some surface rust.

    For what it is it rides pretty well!

    My son took to college as a beater. Hope it comes home in spring! He does not care its a step through at all. Just that it was free!
    For $5 and elbow grease it was a good find!

    1. The perfect College bike Bill good Job!