Tuesday, September 20, 2016

1972 Schwinn Speedster - Another Year, Another Makeover

I got this bike a year ago, really haven't written much else about it, and have only ridden it a grand total of less than 260 miles according to the odometer. Why is that?


Well, mostly because as it was, despite it weighing "only" 40 pounds, it was much slower and energy intensive to ride than my comparable Raleigh 3-speeds which weigh more with the usual rack and bags attached. It had a small front basket which came in handy sometimes but in the end was not entirely suitable for the kind of things I was used to carrying around.


So I suppose we'll jump right in to the changes. I removed the 26x1-3/8" wheels from 1988 with the Sturmey-Archer AWC hub that came to me with the bike, and installed a pair of 700c deep V rims that contained a newer AWC II hub. And I knew that 700c tires could fit under the original Schwinn fenders because I'd seen it done, but since these were 37 mm wide, it took quite a bit of massaging to eliminate the rubbing. It didn't help that the wheels were kind of out of true and most of the spoke nipples were stuck.

If you think the chain looks loose, you would be correct. That's as far back as I could move the wheel before it touched the fender. Also, the amount of rust on the year-old chain is a bit deceiving - it's still good and hasn't stretched; it just looks like that because I rode it a few times in the winter. It might not last as long but I'll keep it for now.


Next, I took off the modified front fender I had and replaced it with one from a parted-out 1963 Schwinn Racer. I just loved the Raleigh-like ridge on the '63-and-earlier bikes and this fender was actually in great shape. Especially surprising when you see the condition of the bike from which it came. I had to polish up the rear fender a little bit to make it match better. In the photo, you'll notice that the fender mounting bolt is not visible on the fork - I didn't have any that were long enough to go through the whole thing so I used a short bolt on the back side and just stuck an allen wrench through the remaining hole to tighten it. It ended up looking cleaner this way, so I'm happy,


To streamline the look even more, I eliminated the hand brakes. I don't usually like depending on only a coaster brake, especially since I'm kind of crazy and could end up overheating it on a regular commute, but I thought since this bike was going to be non-practical anyway, I might as well do what I can to make it look cool. I used the front top tube braze-on for the rear brake cable to take the place of the fulcrum clip for the shifter cable and replaced the cracked, original cable housing. I also thought the handlebars were too high, so I had to find a stem from a Schwinn Varsity with the skinny 21.15 mm diameter to fit into the steerer. Lastly, I had a pair of aluminum low-rise Linus North Road handlebars that I really loved. Having the bars just a couple inches lower improves the handling and appearance by miles. Linus handlebars are about as pricey as the nicer Velo Orange bars. I was delighted when my friend had me replace the handlebars on her Linus (story to come) because that meant I had a pair of my own. The curves are visually pleasing and place my wrists at a similar angle as that of my beloved classic Raleigh handlebars.

For the seat, I moved the previous Planet Bike Comfort Classic saddle (which, by the way, is very good) onto the '69 Raleigh restomod and replaced it with a black vinyl Schwinn Approved mattress. I may have mentioned it before but in case I haven't, I still think they are the most underrated saddles ever. I've been trying to hoard them and I happened to find one with a skinny Schwinn-diameter clamp so I was able to flip the seat post back over.


So after essentially replacing everything except for the frame and crank, it (thankfully) rides completely differently, and so much better. Whether it's the weight or size of the wheels, these ones take much less energy to get going. It's still slower than a Raleigh, but not as much anymore. With the basket gone, the feel of the bike has tightened up a bunch. The lower, wider handlebars are at just the right level to make it easier to put down power, as well as squat down when there's a head wind. The 46/22-tooth gear ratio is perfect with 700c wheels on this bike. It's still more of a slow cruiser than my Raleighs, but it's fine to have some variety.


I nearly forgot about this, but after my sister brought her own green Schwinn home, it ended up being such a good fit that for the first time in her life, she actually enjoyed riding. She brought it back with her to start off her freshman year in college so we'll probably be riding together every once in a while. I'll probably be riding this bike with her not only because they match, but also as a mechanical limitation so I don't go too fast!