Sunday, August 2, 2015

Schwinn Twins

I have finished updating my 1972 Schwinn 3-speed for now.  First things first, the bottom bracket had to be cleaned out after being ridden through the flood.

It hadn't occurred to me until after the fact, but one-piece cranks are very poorly sealed compared to the 3-piece kinds.  The outer "plate" is the actual bearing race so water (whether clean or dirty) enters very easily.  When the bike had a chance to dry out after the flood, there was sand inside the bottom bracket making all sorts of grinding noises.  To make matters worse, the bolts for the chain guard were rusted on so I couldn't completely remove the crank.  The best I could do was pressure-wash the balls with WD-40, blast it with compressed air, and put it back together ... and then I poured oil down the seat tube to wash the sand outward as the crank was turned.  Crude, I know, but that was the only way I could think of. The grinding noises did disappear.

Well, here it is in all of its town-bike goodness.  Planet Bike Comfort Classic saddle, Continental City Ride II tires, KMC gold chain, 20-tooth rear cog, new front fender, and lights.

These photos are more than a month old and already out of date.  Since the basket sort of wanted to kink the brake cables, I just disconnected them and routed them through the basket.  I did the same for the shifter cable a couple weeks ago.  They are positioned such that if I ever had to carry something as big as the basket, the cables will get pushed safely aside and not be kinked.  I have also mounted front and rear lights.  I drilled holes in the back of each light and mounted them to reflector brackets on the brake. As for the reflector on the front of the basket, I actually scored a huge box full of NOS reflectors for cheap so I thought it wouldn't hurt to throw one on this bike. The acorn nut is so nothing gets caught on the screw. Not pictured here is the bottle cage I attached inside the basket close to the front brake cable.

The Continental City Ride II tires are well-suited for a town bike, as expected.  First impressions were that they were heavier and more sluggish than the Schwalbe Delta Cruisers on my Raleighs.  Part of it could be because the Schwinn already felt slower than the Raleigh but I think these tires exacerbated it.  I keep them around 60-70 psi but they certainly don't feel like it, which is both good and bad. They are very comfortable and soak up the holes in the road very well.  On the other hand, as I said, they feel slow as if they're under-inflated.  Overall, I'm still pretty satisfied with them and they are super tough and beefy just like the bike itself.

Also, these tires are quite wide.  I ordered the 26 x 1-3/8 size (37 x 590 mm) but they're closer to maybe 42 mm wide.  They fit the Schwinn but they are definitely too wide for a classic Raleigh.  The width is good for extra pothole cushioning, but it's also a shame because old Raleigh 3-speeds are probably the most popular bikes with the outdated 37 x 590 wheel size that are being retrofitted into dependable commuters.

The 20-tooth cog arrived and I was sort of surprised that it was black this time rather than silver.  Not that it mattered at all.  46/20 is now my go-to gear ratio because it makes hills easier but still allows me to keep up with city traffic in 3rd gear.  One catch, though, is the sluggishness of this bike.  I still don't get why that is.  This bike weighs 40 pounds, as opposed to my Raleigh Sports' 45 the way it's outfitted yet it is so much slower.  With this in consideration, a 21t cog might be a better option with this bike since I seldom reach traffic speeds on it.  While it's usually recommended that a rider buys or outfits a bike to suit their existing riding style, I sort of need to learn how to take it easy anyway.  I also added a piece of protective packaging on the left side that hooks onto the rear axle.  I'm not sure why I decided to leave it there, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

The one modification that took the most work was the front fender.  Since the stock front fender did not go low enough to prevent my legs from being splashed and I found another Schwinn in need of a front fender (more on that next), I took a scrap rear fender and cut it down to size, and then bought another fender stay from the shop downtown.  My battery-powered rotary tool was not very powerful and it took the draining of the whole battery to make one full cut, meaning it took a few days to make my fender the correct size.  Because the stay was a bit long, I bent it outward as is shown in the photo to bring the top of the fender away from the tire.  It was hard to get it lined up so that it wouldn't rub.

For brake pads, I bought Origin8 Sport road pads.  They are very soft and provide powerful, smooth stopping in dry weather but they're not too bad in the rain, either. It may take a few revolutions to push the water off the rim but the pads are not completely useless when wet.  I thought the softness would mean they'd wear down quickly, but they haven't.  These pads are inexpensive and I'm quite happy with them.

The Schwinn has been good on rainy days because of the coaster brake and extended fender. I have been riding it fairly often but somehow the odometer says I have only racked up 99 miles on it in the past month and a half.  I average 10-15 miles each day just commuting between home, school, and work so maybe it's just that the analog odometer isn't working properly.  Oh well.

As luck would have it, I came across another green '72 Schwinn 3-speed that had been tossed out.  My younger sister had never really been into cycling but we thought it would be cool to have matching bikes and she was open to the idea of trying it out to see if she liked it.  It just so happened that this bike was missing its front fender so I put my old one on.  The patina actually matches that on the rear fender so it looks like it's the original one, save for the fender stay.

I found that the previous owner had kept the Sturmey-Archer AW hub in 2nd gear and never shifted or oiled it.  The outside and inside were covered in a thick layer of black goo. I disassembled the hub, cleaned out the sludge the best I could, and gave it a healthy serving of oil.  The clutch is pretty worn, probably from being ridden out of adjustment so finally adjusting the shifter tension was a bit tricky.  I might end up replacing the clutch because I have a bunch of spare parts now.  Also, the original plastic oil cap snapped off so I took the new metal one off the '62 hub I salvaged from the Rollfast and stuck it on this one.  I made it a point to park it with the oil cap facing up after the first ride but I forgot, so I found the bike sitting in a puddle of oil when I got back to it.

My bike, made in March '72 (CH) and my sister's made in May (EH).

I gave her a KMC Z410 gold chain and a black rear sprocket to match with mine, except hers is a 22-tooth because I know she is not a speed demon like me and would appreciate hills being a little easier.  She came over to try it out and to my surprise, got a hang of it a lot quicker than it took to get used to the department store mountain bike we have at home.  She liked it so much that she decided to bring it back! I'm glad my sister will have a dependable bike to take to college next year.  I joked that as the sister of a bike mechanic, she would not be allowed to ride a "Magna" at school.  She may not be into bikes now but who knows, maybe this bike will be the one to get her to enjoy cycling a bit more just as my Raleigh Sports did for me.  I won't get my hopes up, though.

A note about the title: I purposely did not say "Twinn" because that is an actual bike. The Schwinn Twinn is a tandem made during the same era in which they made these bikes.  I would like to have one some day, but only after I find somebody to enjoy it with.