I just registered here, not sure if this is the right forum, but I'll try. I don't know much about bikes but I want to learn more, and I have a crappy old bike to work with.
I recently moved with an old Schwinn road bike that I bought for $25 at a salvation army. It was in pretty good shape for a while, but it isn't anymore and I need a reliable bike, so I'm trying to figure out my options. I don't really mind buying another bike, whether its a decent new one, or a used one in good condition from craigslist. I want to avoid that if possible, however, by repairing this old Schwinn as best I can. I believe it is a "world tourist" - it looks a lot like this: http://www.bikecollectors.com/files/...ld_tourist.jpg except the frame is the normal size, not taller like that. I've been told by several friends and bike shop employees that the freewheel mechanism is really strange, both on the rear wheel and the pedals. I don't have anything to compare mine with, so I'm not sure what makes it strange, but the gears on the rear wheel are fixed, relative to the wheel itself, and theres an inner axle that spins freely. I'm not entirely sure whats weird about the pedals.
There are a few things that need to be fixed on the bike - I was out riding it today and I blew an inner tube, and I think it gave out because the tire is starting to fall apart - I just noticed the rubber is separating from the bead in a 3-4 inch area, and the hole in the tube is in the same place as that. So I was riding on bad tubes and tires, and it doesn't help that the wheels themselves are completely bent out of shape (front and back). These are the parts I want to replace first, and I think replacing these will make the biggest difference in how smoothly and reliably the bike rides. The problem is, because of that strange freewheeling mechanism, I'm afraid to just buy a random set of wheels online. I went to a bike shop today and they didn't even have the size I need, because I guess the 27x1 1/4 wheels aren't sold anymore?
So I guess my first question is, does anybody know about this freewheeling mechanism that I'm talking about, and if it has a name (mainly so I can search online for replacement wheels)? If not, does anyone know if I should be able to buy a "normal" 27x1 1/4 wheel and use that? Would I then have to buy new gears, derailleur, pedals? Does anyone know of a good place online to buy specific parts for older bikes? I'll do my best to answer any questions anyone might have, and I can post photos (or videos) if necessary.
If that whole operation ends up being unreasonably expensive or just impossible, can I get some recommendations for a new bike, or even a particular brand or model to look out for on craigslist? The biker friends I have aren't too into buying new bikes, they just collect old ones and repair them, but I don't really have the same time and resources they do - if I can fix my old broken bike in a reasonable amount of time for a reasonable amount of money, I'll do that, but if not, I just want a new one that's in good working condition. If I'm getting a new bike, I think I'd like to keep the cost around $400 for the bike itself.
I really appreciate any help I can get.