Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Fillet-Brazed ... Cruiser?

Just like how I wasn't actively looking for a mixte or another 3-speed, I knew of how nice the old fillet-brazed Schwinns were but I wasn't looking for one at the moment.  Interestingly, all three of these things found their way into my hands within a month.

This 1972 Schwinn Super Sport was a lucky find.  It is on the lowest tier of the fillet-brazed Schwinns of back then.  It has a hand-brazed 4130 chrome moly frame but it went down the same paint line with the cheaper electro-forged frames.  It also has a heavy one-piece crank.  To the untrained eye, they are visually similar to the electro-forged frames.  As Sheldon Brown says, perhaps this is the reason why Schwinn didn't sell too many of them.  This is the nicest and most technologically-advanced frame I have; the rest of them are lugged hi-ten steel, not that there's anything to complain about.  I don't have any before photos, but imagine the bike with wider cruiser bars, gumwall Kenda K40 tires, no fenders, and no rack, and that's pretty much how it was like when I got it.

Immediately after I got the bike, I decided that I would keep it around to lend to friends.  It was too nice to just fix and flip but it wasn't exactly something I'd ride daily like my old Raleighs.

The original alloy wheels were so out of true that I sent them to the shop to be worked on.  The shop was pretty swamped and the two guys there couldn't really keep up with the summer traffic, so it took them two weeks to get to my wheels.  I already saw this coming, but they confirmed that the rear wheel was ridden with such loose spokes that the rim was beyond repair.  I fished out the steel wheel left over from my friend's '76 Varsity project and used that since it was still pretty round.  I want to move the freewheel and pie plate over from the alloy wheel some day. Something I noticed in comparison to the newer '74 and '76 Schwinns I've worked on is that the older bikes have blocky lettering on the shifters and the newer ones have a more swoopy "S." It is rare, but this is one of the instances where a styling element was changed for the better in my opinion.

I stuck on the chrome Wald fenders I took from the '74 Schwinn I had already sold.  They were meant for 26 inch wheels so I had to trim down some bolts that would have otherwise touched the tires.  They do sit very close to the tires though, giving a very nice, clean look.  For tires, I bought Schwalbe HS 159 27 inch tires with the kevlar puncture protection.  The Kendas it had earlier were still good so I'll be putting those onto something else.  Also, the brake levers here are actually from the Rollfast.  I decided to take the Schwinn's alloy single-bolt clamp levers and tuck them away for use on my mixte in the future.  Lastly, if the rack looks familiar, that's because it's the Sunlite one I removed from my '79 Raleigh Superbe since it couldn't carry my weekly grocery load. They're tied on at the bottom with old spokes for now because I have to wait until tomorrow to buy new bolts.

I'm not sure whether or not this bike came from the factory with the huge cruiser handlebar because when I search "Schwinn Super Sport" on the internet, all I see are road bikes.  I do know that Schwinn made "tourist" and "sport" versions of some of its bikes but I'm not sure if this was the case with the fillet-brazed ones as well.  I stuck a Wald 8095 north road bar (also previously on my Superbe) onto the Super Sport to make it a little more nimble and practical.  I know that my grocery getter treatment of the bike would probably suit an electro-forged Collegiate or Varsity better, but the Super Sport was already set up to be an upright bike so I felt like rolling with it for now.  If or when I decide to part with it, I'll have to choose whether or not to convert it to a road bike but I'll just cross that bridge when get to it.  For now, I'm happy with how it is and I'm surprised how pretty it turned out. To be honest, I wasn't even thinking about the appearance when I was gathering parts.

I took the Super Sport to dinner with me for a test ride and it does ride as nicely as I expected it to.  The Schwalbe tires are a little stiffer and heavier than the Kenda tires because of the puncture protection, but that's a very small price to pay.  They probably have lower rolling resistance, anyway.  The only issue with this bike is that the fat cruiser seat seems to encourage the rider to set the seat too low; I have it set to the correct height where I get optimal leg extension and it's sort of too wide for that.  Anyway, I'm pleased with how this bike ended up and I think I'll be keeping it for a while.

EDIT 5-11-15: I realized the rack wouldn't be used and it looked dumb so I removed it and rode this bike to work.  To my surprise, the Super Sport surpasses my Raleigh 3-speed as my quickest-accelerating and most-eager-to-go bike.  I can get a quick start even in a moderately-high gear even though it still weighs 34 pounds (one more than my road bike) and even though the fat seat somewhat obstructs my leg from straightening all the way.  It's like the bike is motor-assisted or something.  The steering is light and nimble, but not squirrely.  The shifting is also super smooth despite the fact that I tacked on a short cage derailleur in place of its tired medium cage one.  I need to find a source for cheap medium cage derailleurs; it seems like all of my externally-geared bikes would benefit from the switch.  The only complaint I have for this bike is the center-pull brake arrangement for the back.  On all of the ladies' frames I have previously ridden, the rear brake cable would simply follow the "top" tube and then swoop upwards to meet the side-pull brake from underneath.  This allows for a large, smooth bend and less friction in the line.  For the center-pull one, the cable needs to make a sharp bend from the top tube to follow the seat tube upwards, then make another sharp bend down from the top to meet the brake calipers.  This pathway is also longer, meaning the cable will stretch more when brakes are applied.  Schwinn tried to reduce the friction by adding braze-ons, therefore reducing the length of cable housing needed, but it doesn't completely solve the problem.  Even after filling the housings with WD-40, this line still has more friction and is so stretchy that it outweighs the benefit of a center-pull brake.