Sunday, February 15, 2015

1985 Schwinn Ladies Mesa Runner -Reborn

Make: Schwinn
Model: Mesa Runner
Year:  1985
Obtained: Aug 2009
Found: Someones Yard
Paid: The sign said FREE....

This is a throw back post.  I was going through some photos and came across a bike Project that I had not yet posted.  A number of years ago when I was; A) still a speed play using-lycra wearing-Aluminum frame riding-roadie and B) still married, I was out for a nice summer ride when I broke my chain.  I didn't have the right tools for a fix so I was clip clopping home in my roadie shoes when I came across an 80's vintage mountain bike in someones front yard with a free sign on it.
Free - "as is"
And I think to myself appears rideable and since its free I could ride it home and ghost ride the road bike...and with home only about a mile away I figure I can pull it off.  I take off my roadie shoes and use their velcro straps to tie them onto the rear rack and then set off pedaling in my stocking feet.  I could see the chain and freewheel  were pretty rusty so I expected the gravelly sound they made but I hadn't anticipated the ghost shifting which made life interesting on the short slightly uphill ride home.
El Rusto Primo
After getting safely home I did a bit of research and realized I had a 1985 Schwinn Mesa Runner, I knew it was an '85 as that was the only year of the two year run where they made a ladies version.  It had a few issues, the chain and FW as mentioned were rusty, and the shifters weren't exactly show quality.
seen better days

Some of the chrome wasn't in the best nick either.

And it also had cantilever brakes which I have never been the best at adjusting.

I realized my wife (now Ex) had a milestone birthday coming up and this might be a nice present, with a bit of TLC that is.  This project was unique in a lot of ways, its the only ladies mountain bike I have rebuilt and its the only the second bike where I have ever repainted the frame (the first was an old Azuki).  At this point in time I hadn't done much refurbing of bikes so I didn't really have a parts bin, nor was I as well acquainted with bike parts on the internet as I am now.  I did, however, have a Motiv Mt. bike (Costco purchase) laying around not getting any use that I could cannibalize.
not really motiv-ating
I bought the Motiv in late 1999 when I was just getting back into biking and didn't really know any better.  The irony is that at the time my (then) father in law offered an old Hybrid he had mouldering away in his basement.  Unfortunately  I lacked the; knowledge, skills and interest then to tackle a rebuilding project so I bought a cheap Costco bike instead.  Face palm.  Anyway it ended up being a great source of parts for bringing the Mesa Runner back to life.  The first thing I replaced was the rear derailleur.

I also took the combo brake and shift levers to go with V-Brakes which I also stole from the Motiv.

And as you can see I also though slick tires would be a good choice for some reason, well they were more practical for city riding than the knobbies at any rate. And I did splurge on some new parts like some swanky new pedals, a major improvement over the POS "resin" pedals it had before.

And what I discovered later was my most important purchase, a wicker front basket.

It was with this rebuild that I discovered that Ladies love the basket, when I presented the bike to her the very first thing she said was "oh I love the basket", not "Wow you did a lot of work", or "is that even the same bike!".... LOL.  So now when I build a ladies bike I always try to put a basket on it.

My paint philosophy with the 10 speeds I refurbish is to leave it original and use a 3 step wax process to get it in the best shape possible.  If the purchaser wants new paint I leave that to them but once you replace the original paint job you can't go back.  With this bike I decided on painting the frame because A) the paint wasn't in very good shape B) the bike is not a "collectable" and C) I had a vision for this project of a blue frame.  I was fortunate that on the day I was at the hardware store to get the spray paint for this project I had my, then 6 year old, daughter along as my advisor.  I had a steel blue in mind but when I picked it up my little fashionista piped up with "no daddy, not that one" so I asked her what blue she thought mom would like and that is what went on the bike, and of course her mom loved it.

Although the marriage didn't last things are good,  I live 3 blocks away, we get along better now than when married and she still has the bike and takes it  for rides with our daughter so I think this project ended up being worthwhile.  You may have noticed that in addition to cleaning up nicely I was able to the rear rack leveled (OCD) I think it makes things look much nicer.

Until next time. Ride.Smile.Repeat.


  1. I enjoyed this redo because mid-80s bikes are right up my alley and I'm fond of women's frames or -ahem- "step through" as most folks are calling them these days to give the style a face lift. The only down side to step through frames of that vintage: sizing was limited. It's wonderful to see the bicycle is still on the road - the real testament to all your hard work I love baskets also!

    1. Thank you Annie, I am glad you enjoyed it. I'll admit it makes me smile when I hear the bike and basket got you used on a trip to the local farmers market (its a QR basket) or on a ride with the girl. After doing bikes for both my sister in law and my Niece I really enjoy taking a not particularly useful mixte 10 speed with drop bars and making it an effective useful city bike.

  2. I forgot to mention that unleveled racks are also a peeve of mine.

    1. Yeah its kind of an obsession with me. I don't quite use a bubble level but I think its very distracting to have one that isn't level. LOL

  3. Level racks are a must and if it takes a bubble level so be it!!!........that's not OCD is it???

    1. If that's what it takes Jim go for it!

    2. Very nice and very reminiscent of Gypsy By Trade's High Sierra.

      The Wald rack I put on Little Miss isn't level. I was pretending not to care until I read the comments. Now I'll have to break out the Dremel and level the rack and repaint the bracket. Sigh. It never ends.

      I started reassembly last month with little success. I can't get the friction shifters working and the front derailleur won't derail and the original brake levers look forlorn and shabby up there on the shiny new black handlebars (Origin 8 Gary One) everything is painted in a new black metalflake and I have decided to go with the Tourney STI shifters and some new Tektro brakes. That gives her an all Tourney drive train which I suppose makes her into a Schwinn Super LeTourney.

      Amazing things are happening around my section of the Swamp. Really extensive bike trails are popping up everywhere and there is one that goes all the way 'cross Florida. I am slowly accumulating camping gear and there will be a Wald basket or two on the bicycle. Right now the trails are yet to be completed, but soon. Very soon. Until then the TPC will remain dormant. But summer is coming, man. Good Ol' Summer.


    3. We will expect a post of the work TJ, I am glad to see you still progressing on this spinning blue ball

    4. Tim Joe my long lost Velo Brother- so good to hear from you! I can relate to your frustration with the LMD project, my Nieces college bike was like that. I know you can conquer those issues, I found it helpful to catalog the issues and then tackle them one by one with lots of walking away if need be, when the urge to reach for a hammer came over me. Like Jim I hope to see a post about it and I am curious to see what those gary bars look like on LMD, and the all Tourney drive train sounds cool. Your network of nascent bike paths sound intriguing and LMD will be just the bike to tackle them when you are done.

      Your friend Roadie Ryan

  4. This is a great story and you did a great job turning a Schwinn ugly duckling into a cool bike ride!