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  1. #1
    Senior Member North Coast Joe's Avatar
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    Stripping and modifying a vintage bike ethical question

    So, I've seen all these fixies that are works of art; absolutely minimalist statements of function with speed written all over their headbadge. Gotta have something like it!!

    So I figure I'll look for an old three speed to hack-up 'cause it'll be easier for my 60+ year old body. Oops, found one (that was easy). It's a vintage 60's-70's Sears 3 speed (I'll know more when I pick it up this afternoon; maybe a Puch, maybe not).

    How much of a sin is it to start ripping off fenders, saddle, bars, repaint and so on, from a perfectly good looking vintage bicycle that's survived 5+ decades without too much abuse or disfigurement?? I mean the thing is pretty cool looking as it sits, if you're into vintage, that is. I can see it rubbed out, polished up with a new wicker basket, too. Is this going to put the bike karma gods on edge? It IS a Sears bike, after all. Thoughts and reactions, if you have a moment.

  2. #2
    Senior Member TampaRaleigh's Avatar
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    The bike Gods are Italian. If you bring a hacksaw and file near an Italian frame, you can expect to be struck down immediately.

    Sears? Have at it.

  3. #3
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    Puch made Sears====>Have at it, not like it is particularly rare or valuable
    50 year old Raleigh====>Probably not, especially if it is a clean survivor
    Classic DeRosa, Cinelli, Bianchi or the like====>What are you even thinking

    Not sure an old three speed it going to make a good fixie though. Part of the fun is snappy geometry, from a steep headtube angle and short wheelbase.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Flying Merkel's Avatar
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    You can buy fixies at Walmart that would be better for less $.
    Pronounced "Murkle"

  5. #5
    Senior Member squirtdad's Avatar
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    How minimalist are you talking? Pure fixie....no brakes? YMMV but my knees are not happy with fixed gear (even with a front brake)

    My suggestion is that you at minimum get a flip flop hub so that you can do fixie/single speed based on what your knees tell you.

    more to point...depends on the frame. I have no problems with taking parts off and doing fixie, the can always go back on. My personal take is that grinding derailler hangers should not be done as there is no going back.....but that could depend on the frame.

    as noted a 3 speed may not be a good fixie base...especially if you want to get the cool looking deep v wheels which are 700c, as you will probably have fit problems.

    better option (but still not track geometry) would be a decent 80 japanese frame. pretty easy to move from 27 to 700 (and doing a front brake is easy as long as you get a long reach brake)
    '82 Nishiski commuter/utility
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    '78 Univega gran turismo (son's Fixie/SS)
    06 Haro x3 (son's bmx)
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    looking for: De Rosa 58cm ELOS frame and fork internal cable routing

  6. #6
    Senior Member North Coast Joe's Avatar
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    Thanks folks!

    No, not a real fixie...Lord knows I'm too busted up for one of those! I'd like to have a wanna-be that I could actually ride. Yeah, at least a rear brake, probably both. Not taking off the hub, either....I've noticed getting anywhere is uphill when you live on a Lake!

    After stripping & repaint, bearing check & new lube all around, tires, saddle, bars, tape. Might relocate the shift lever, might not. I've got a very nice utilitarian daily ride. This is for me to ride the mile or so to the ice cream stand with my old lady (oops, make that "lovely wife") sitting on my grocery getter in the afternoon of a sunny Summer day.

    Picked it up earlier today, along with a freebee "Hercules" ladies 3 speed. Looks like a great Winter project is about to get underway......right after doing my taxes (according to my "lovely wife").

  7. #7
    el padre
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    Glad to hear you are going to have fun and then have fun riding it...

  8. #8
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    Keep in mind for many decades car collectors lavished over European models and sneered at Japanese cars. It's only in recent years that collecting vintage Japanese cars really took off.

    On the other hand, department store bikes were probably manufactured in the hundreds of thousands. Take an hacksaw to it.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Monster Pete's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by North Coast Joe View Post
    No, not a real fixie...Lord knows I'm too busted up for one of those! I'd like to have a wanna-be that I could actually ride. Yeah, at least a rear brake, probably both. Not taking off the hub, either....I've noticed getting anywhere is uphill when you live on a Lake!

    After stripping & repaint, bearing check & new lube all around, tires, saddle, bars, tape. Might relocate the shift lever, might not. I've got a very nice utilitarian daily ride. This is for me to ride the mile or so to the ice cream stand with my old lady (oops, make that "lovely wife") sitting on my grocery getter in the afternoon of a sunny Summer day.

    Picked it up earlier today, along with a freebee "Hercules" ladies 3 speed. Looks like a great Winter project is about to get underway......right after doing my taxes (according to my "lovely wife").
    That sounds like a good plan. Essentially nothing more than a repaint followed by a thorough service job. One thing I will point out is that you should always fit a front brake, and use it. I personally wouldn't ride a bike without one, and you'll wish you had it the first time you need to stop quickly.

    As others have said, weigh up customization jobs against the bike in question. If it's a rare item, you might want to hold back with the hacksaw. If, however, it's something that was mass-produced by the thousand, go for it. I know a guy with two 1970s vw beetles. One of them looks pretty much original, but is hiding uprated brakes, a concealed modern radio and electronic ignition. The other is now a full-on baja bug. The same sort of thing applies to modifying old bikes.
    I've got a bike, you can ride if you like it's got a basket, a bell that rings and things to make it look good- Pink Floyd, 1967

  10. #10
    Senior Member North Coast Joe's Avatar
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    Thanks for all of the thoughtful input, folks! A hacksaw it is!

    Well, after a careful exam of the status quo, this Sears bike is not rare; as well, it's certainly not well made! There are no reinforcing abuttments anywhere on the frame, the tubes are welded directly together. The welds all seem solid, though. The drop-outs aren't even welded in! It appears they are just stamped drop outs that are drop hammered into the ends of the tubes.

    I've finished stripping everything off the frame and am fairly surprized at how light it is. I removed a couple of metal tabs that held the chain guard on the frame leaving some gouges from where they were tack welded to the tubes (don't see a chain guard in this bike's future). I stripped the paint off of those areas, as well as the rear drop-outs and took the frame to a local fellow who welds nicely and is quite reasonable considering how well his beads look. After a quick consultation with him, he said he'd braze the gouges in the frame, as well as a few holes in the front fork that supported a couple of reflectors. He also said he'd weld the drop-outs to the tubes just for the rider's peace of mind and it'll look better under the future coats of paint. The frame's out of my hands for a while, so might as well start polishing the piles of rusty chrome parts that came off of it.

    I've made good headway into all of the polishing, though the chrome has pitted badly on the rims, cranks, chainring and brake calipers. After hours of polishing and two coats of auto wax, that's the way they're going to stay. They all still sparkle, just not like a new mirror surfaced bike part. I'll just call it "patina"
    when folks bring it to my attention.

    The wheel bearing were filled with hardened prehistoric grease, but some kerosene cut right through that and revealed cones and cups that look to be in good stead! New lithium white inserted and re-assembled, both rims spin freely...halliluyah! While doing the back wheel bearings, the 3 speed hub came open, and really looked rust and fairly gum free inside. Can't belive I got all those sping loaded fingers to go back inside! Still have to get the bottom bracket bearings cleaned up, but no hurry as it'd be nice to put them directly into a freshly painted frame.

    I wouldn't think many folks are interested in a noobies' cheap bike chop job , but I'll post a few pics of the project tomorrow for a personal record, if nothing else.

  11. #11
    Senior Member North Coast Joe's Avatar
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    It appears there are no new ideas...just re-hashing old ones. While poking around on Sheldon Brown's pages, I found a description of the bike I envision...to cut and paste his remarks regarding three speed "racers":

    "Club bicycles were the elite, high-performance machines of their time and place. They were named for the fact that they were the style of bicycle popular with members of the many active cycling clubs. The poorer, less performance-oriented club members would ride sports bicycles, but the more hard-core "clubmen" would have true club machines.
    A club bicycle would typically have
    Reynolds 531 frame tubing, a narrow, unsprung leather saddle, reversed North Road handlebars (or drop bars), steel "rat trap" pedals with toe clips and 597 mm (26 x 1 1/4) or 630 mm (27 x 1 1/4) wheels. Even fairly high-end models used steel rims, which, at the time, were widely believed to be superior to aluminum. The steel Dunlop Special Lightweight rims used on the better club bicycles could give the aluminum rims of the day a run for their money.
    Club bicycles would be likely to have a more exotic Sturmey-Archer hub, perhaps a medium- or close-ratio model, 3 or 4 speed. A very few even were equipped with the rare ASC 3-speed fixed-gear hub.
    Many club bicycles were single-speed machines, usually with a reversible hub: single-speed freewheel on one side, fixed-gear on the other. Starting in the late '50's, derailers began to be used on this type of bicycle as well.
    Although primarily intended for fast group rides with clubmates, club bicycles were also commonly used for serious touring, and also for time-trialing."

    That's me....a "poorer, less performance oriented" rider ;>)

  12. #12
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    Interesting thread. I'm planning a similarly motivated project, aimed to keeping a 1980 Panasonic alive by shrinking it down from 64cm to 59cm so's I can keep riding it into old age.

    It's encouraging to see this level of eccentricity get turned into two-wheel progress.

    BTW: what happened to posting pics ?

  13. #13
    Senior Member North Coast Joe's Avatar
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    Thanks, samg07094, I never did look for this thread to post results...did here in "Alt Bikes" in another thread, and to say thanks over in the bike mechanics forum. At any rate, here it is again. I've ridden it extensively since the Winter and am as pleased as could be. I have a set of four back cogs for the hub, from 18 teeth through 13 teeth. The 13 will make it fly....clocked at 28 mph on a windless day on a (long) flat road. Fun!016rsz.jpg018rsz.jpg

  14. #14
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    Thank you !

    K.I.S.S. Machine.

    The closed hub option is a temptation with the Panasonic, too, if the deraileur system fails. First step in my project is throwing out a quarter-ton of junk from the garage, then doing up some more shelves. Second step is a Honey-Do project, fixing up a Hurricane Sandy flooded Electrolux vacuum for a friend.

    Third step is freedom. Strip the old bike then un-paste the lug braisings and make the geometry fit to a 59cm seat tube length. After 33 years she's original in the metal parts apart from control wires. Even the chain after ~15,000 miles. (Maybe/possibly I'll break down and replace the cogs to get new cassette bearings.)

    Love your bike! If you caught the bug for building things, take a look at Sidewalk Astronomers. A Dobson/Newton telescope with a bought mirror in the 6"/8" class takes about as much work as you put in with this bike. Dirt cheap.

  15. #15
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    Personally I would say it depends on brand, model, and components. A lot of the time components cane be sought after for restoration of a similar bike, so try and find a home for them, instead of tossing them out. I did this with a old Jeunet, it wasn't a high end model, but the parts were appreciated down at the local used bike shop, and helped pay for some of the things I needed. Also at least the bike will finally get some use. If a bike has been sitting for 30 years, to me that is more of a shame than repurposing it with some modern upgrades. You will also with some bikes get performance perks that you can't get with modern frames. Take my Jeunet for instance, it's fork is made to flex while riding for asmoother ride, and it felt great, such a fun bike.

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