Sunday, December 27, 2015


The past month has been a surprising whirlwind of activity regarding my stable of bikes. Despite having almost no time to do anything non-school or work related during the last semester, I managed to squeeze a surprising amount of thinking into the mere hours I had.

Surprise! Yes, this is the bike from my Mr. and Mrs. Schwinn post. Shortly after I overhauled his 1964 Racer 3-speed, my friend's dad found a green '72 Speedster with a larger frame that he liked even more. Pretty much a twin of mine, or at least what mine was originally. It was much nicer with a nice original seat and shiny chrome. Anyway, Mr. Schwinn told me that if by chance I ever decided that I wanted the red one, I could get first dibs. I pushed it off for months, thinking that it would be unwise for me to buy another bike. In the meantime, Mr. Schwinn did not find a buyer. 

The sudden decision to purchase this one occurred when another friend at the architecture school showed interest in the Rollfast, He was the second person this year to try out my Raleigh Sports, fall in love, and commission a 3-speed build. The Rollfast had been serving as the loaner bike so he had already spent some time riding that one as well. In a sudden fit of action, I bought the Schwinn, put it on loaner duty, brought the Rollfast back in, and turned it back into a 3-speed at the end of the semester. 

When I went to get the Schwinn, I found that my friend's dad had given Mrs. Schwinn some nice white walls, moved the previous tires onto this bike, and waxed the paint. Nice. All I did when I brought it back was give it new brake pads, a seat, a 22-tooth rear sprocket, and therefore a few extra links of chain. It rode like a charm. I did a serial number search and found that the frame was made on February 29th, making it a leap year bike. When buying a used vehicle, it's nice to know exactly what you're getting. I was thankful this one needed no work to hit the road since I had already done it over the summer. 

I still felt kind of bad leaving such a nice bike to do the dirty job so I made a top tube protector out of a piece of inner tube and that was that. 

Next, I found myself a 1966 Schwinn Varsity in the trash. After building up a Varsity for someone else a year ago, I thought it might not be too bad to have one myself but didn't feel the immediate desire since I didn't have enough space or a good reason to get one. Well, when I saw this one lying there, I just couldn't say no. 

This is an earlier Varsity with a nice alloy "Sprint" stem and downtube shifters but not early enough to be an 8-speed. The original saddle is still in great shape, too. The frame was a bit on the small side which explains the insane saddle height. I have since replaced the aluminum stem with a forged steel unit from a parted-out Racer with a higher rise and shorter run. 

The paint, or what was left of the paint, showed a beautifully deep shade of sky blue after I cleaned off the grime. The drivetrain itself wasn't in bad shape either and to get it running as a 10-speed again would have been a piece of cake but didn't immediately cross my mind for some reason. I added the single speed coaster wheel that came off the Rollfast, a spare 26" front wheel I had lying around, the old tires from my Sports, and tore everything else off. The coaster brake wheel thankfully came with a 3/32" cog so all I had to do was cut the existing chain short (it still hadn't stretched much at all). 

I have been unintentionally using this bike as somewhat of a "trainer" both for using the top of the drop bar and for patience. First, the 39/18 gear ratio is relatively low which limits my top speed on flat ground but makes hills bearable. It's actually surprisingly comfortable rolling down the park path and stop/go traffic in the city is less brutal than with a 46/18 ratio. I seldom reach speeds between stoplights that max out this gear ratio, anyway.  Second, it's funny - most people start out by using the top of the drop bar on their first road bike, but I've always found the actual drops to be more comfortable and easier to handle. Holding the top puts my hands much closer together, making it hard to steer. It also moves my weight off the front wheel, making steering even less stable. However, with these bars being so low relative to the saddle, it just isn't comfortable having to crane my neck up so far. As a result, I have now become much more proficient with the tops of the super-narrow drop bar of this bike. 

About ten months ago, if anyone can recall, I got tired of getting so many flats on my Sports so I bought a set of kevlar-reinforced Schwalbe Delta Cruisers for it. I made a last-minute decision to not throw the first tires away and I guess that was a good choice. I dug them back out and managed to find the sharp pebble still embedded in the tire where it had given me my last flat. The crack is still visible on the outside but I put some gaffer tape over the inside of the hole and I'm hoping it'll hold alright. I then took out the old long-reach brake caliper that I used temporarily on my Ross and threw it on the front. Bingo! 

Rather than properly reducing the dropout spacing, I just put the wheel on and cranked down the axle nuts which resulted in one stay bending more than the other. Not that it really matters this time!

I've realized that there is a cycle (HAHA) here. Both this winter and last winter, I have had cobbled-together, barely-functioning death trap road bikes along side an expensive project. Last time the beater was my Ross, which has since evolved into a decent, reliable commuter bike (still a beater) and the project was the '79 Raleigh Superbe 5-speed. This year, the frankenbike is the Schwinn and the project is the mixte that I may have mentioned once or twice previously. More on that later. 

Here's where it gets crazy. Due to certain projects coming to me earlier than expected, or maybe a change in brain chemistry due to extreme lack of sleep, this coming winter and spring will see a major rearrangement in my stable. Currently, I have Raleigh Sports, Superbe, Tourist, Ross, Schwinn Speedster, Racer, Varsity. Three Raleighs, three Schwinns, one other. When the dust settles, I will hopefully have Sports, Sprite, Ross, Speedster, Varsity, Mixte. Two Raleighs, two Schwinns, two others. Wait, what? 

Yes, I am getting ready to tear down the Superbe as it reaches the 1000 mile/1 year mark, return it to the original setup, and sell it. It was another sudden decision that I still think is a good idea. I realized I wasn't enjoying the Superbe as much as I thought I would and despite having poured my blood, sweat, and tears into it and despite its lovely ride and drop-dead gorgeous looks, I have learned a bit more about my cycling preferences and figured it just wouldn't be wise to keep this one. It isn't different enough from the old Sports to justify me sitting on so much cash. Also, yes, the lovely Raleigh DL-1 Tourist might have to go. I live in hilly Ann Arbor right now and will be for another few years so as much as I love the Tourist, right now is simply not the right time. I didn't expect to be able to try out a DL-1 so soon either but I found a deal over the summer and jumped on it. For reasons stated in the last paragraph in that last link, I don't think it would be wise to keep it around, although I won't be angry if it doesn't sell. I do not regret any of this - I am happy that I was able to build up and try out a DL-1 so soon but in the end, I was looking for an older model, one with a full chain case as well. I am also happy that I was able to build up the Superbe, realize what sounds good might not actually be that good, and that wheel building is not something I enjoy. We'll see what happens. As for the Raleigh Sprite, it was a frame, now bare, that I bought for spare parts. In a sudden fit of creativity, a new bike idea materialized out of my pile of parts so stay tuned for that. The Sprite may take up some of the loaner duty so the Racer has to go. Lastly, the mixte is also something that came to me sooner than expected. That project is already underway so it should be done around the time the Superbe leaves.