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  1. #1
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    Sears bike frame: made in Austria?

    I found a frame in an alley the other day - no wheels or components. Decent lugged steel frame, cottered crankset, and looks like it was a 3-speed judging from the cable guides. The nameplate on the head tube says it's a Sears, and I can just make out "made in Austria". Is this for real? Did Sears buy bikes made in Austria? Can anyone give me a date of manufacture - even a ballpark would help.

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    biked well well biked's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikemeister
    I found a frame in an alley the other day - no wheels or components. Decent lugged steel frame, cottered crankset, and looks like it was a 3-speed judging from the cable guides. The nameplate on the head tube says it's a Sears, and I can just make out "made in Austria". Is this for real? Did Sears buy bikes made in Austria? Can anyone give me a date of manufacture - even a ballpark would help.
    Yes, they were made by Puch, I believe.

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    Quote Originally Posted by well biked
    Yes, they were made by Puch, I believe.
    Are they any good? Would it be worth refinishing for sale? The tubes seem in fair shape - they have a definite ring to them when I tap 'em.

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    Senior Member grolby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikemeister
    I found a frame in an alley the other day - no wheels or components. Decent lugged steel frame, cottered crankset, and looks like it was a 3-speed judging from the cable guides. The nameplate on the head tube says it's a Sears, and I can just make out "made in Austria". Is this for real? Did Sears buy bikes made in Austria? Can anyone give me a date of manufacture - even a ballpark would help.
    I'm no expert, but I think I've heard that Sears sold bikes built in Austria from a period stretching from at least the early 50's into the late 60's or early 70's. The earlier bikes were branded J.C. Higgins, later they simply sold them under the Sears name. The three-speeds they sold were pretty reasonable, probably not too far off from Raleigh three-speeds in quality. The hubs, which were Sturmey-Archer AWs built under license (slightly different shell, stamped with either "J.C. Higgins" or "Sears") may have actually been somewhat better than contemporary genuine Sturmey-Archer hubs, from at least the mid 60's on.

    That's all I know. There are a few three-speed experts on these boards. Another good person to ask is Sheldon Brown, though I don't know how much time he spends in the Classic & Vintage forum. I see him post mostly in Bicycle Mechanics.

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    Senior Member grolby's Avatar
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    EDIT: They were nice bikes, but if you want to build it up and refurbish it, you're probably best advised to do so for your own use. You would be able to use some much nicer components, especially for the wheels and brakes (those single-pivot sidepulls are pretty bad), but I don't know if anyone would be willing to pay much for the result. Give it a shot - if you can shop around, you might be able to put it together for nothing much. The frame is perfectly good, with some decent parts hung on it, it would make a fine cruiser or short-distance commuter/shopping bike.

    REAL EDIT: And by "EDIT" I mean, "new post that I meant to edit into my previous post." Ah well, I said what I meant to say...

  6. #6
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    I salvaged an early to mid 60's Puch (Sears) tourer last year. It really is quite a nice bike- surprisingly light for a tourer. The Puch has since been converted to an old 2spd Schwinn hub.

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    Puchs made bikes for Sears till the pressure from Japan made it no longer profitable. In the mid seventies they switched production to Japan and were made by Iowha or something like that...remembered it started with a "i" lol. You can spot these easily because they have really long serial numbers running down the fork tube next to the Sears badge, and they used Shimano 3spd hubs. Oh yeah !!! they were like twice as heavy as the Puchs !! kinda like a Sumo wrestler v/s a irish boxer !!!!

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    Now that would be an interesting fight. could they both be drunk, on sake and guiness? Geez, we could sell tickets to that one. The Irish guy KO's the sumo, the sumo falls on the Irish guy...no winners, a draw! We need a picture of this puch.

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    Vello Kombi, baby Poguemahone's Avatar
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    Jamey's, more like. And the Irishman would win easily, we're much meaner. Better looking, too.
    "It's always darkest right before it goes completely black"

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    Chrome Freak Rabid Koala's Avatar
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    I recall that sometime in the sixties, Sears actually sold a bike with Reynolds tubing. I think it was the early sixties.

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    Quote Originally Posted by well biked
    Yes, they were made by Puch, I believe.
    Yup. Reasonably well made bikes, but they don't have much collector value unless they are 95%+ original condition. If you want to build it up, do so for your own enjoyment, you won't get your investment back if you try to sell it.

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    Vello Kombi, baby Poguemahone's Avatar
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    "I recall that sometime in the sixties, Sears actually sold a bike with Reynolds tubing. I think it was the early sixties."

    Correct. I've seen one of these wonders, not common, but out there. The example I saw was later, early seventies I would guess.
    "It's always darkest right before it goes completely black"

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    aspiring Old Wart Sluggo's Avatar
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    Most (including the 3 speeds) were plain old carbon steel tubing, similar to millions of other low-end bikes. Lighter than a varsinental, higher quality than other department stores bikes, but not worth sinking a lot of money into fancy upgrades, even for your own use.

    I rode one of the reynolds sears bikes once. It handled very oddly, like it had way too much trail -- you had to fight it to make it turn a corner.

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    The Sears bikes that I've seen were made from the fifties to the early 80's. In that era, Sears was a big step up from K-Mart, and so it sold bikes that were sturdy and well-made, although often heavy. Some of their better 10 speed models were sold under the "Ted Williams" or "Free Spirit" names. After the "Ted Williams" name was introduced in 1961, Sears began phasing out the "J.C. Higgins" brand.

    I've seen some Sear's 10 speeds from Austria that were well made. They appeared to be a better bike than the Schwinn Continental, which was about the price range they sold in. Around 1970, if a teen-ager lived in a small town in Michigan, Iowa, or Indiana, a Schwinn Continental or a Ted Williams were the best ten speed bikes in town. By 1975, Japanese 10 speeds, such as the LeTour and Fuji's gave "small town" cyclists more choices.

    The only Sears bike I ever owned was a three speed I bought around 1984. It had been made in Austria. It was a sturdy bike, but I never rode it much, and I sold it to a neighbor around 1990.

    In 1995, I bought it back. It needed new tires, but I could not get the old tires off...waay too tight on the rim. I took it to a neighborhood bike shop. The young tech sneered, and told me he could get the tires off with just his hands...no tools needed. After an hour of sweating and swearing, and using every tool he could think of, he got one tire off. It turned out that the tires were too small a diameter for the rims. The correct size tires was an odd European size that no shop in my area kept in stock...so I gave to bike to Goodwill.

    I was at that same Sears store the other day. They no longer carry bikes. Sears was trying to sell bikes that were better quality than K-Mart/Wal-Mart bikes, and sell them for less than the cheapest LBS bikes. A tough market to make a profit in.
    Last edited by alanbikehouston; 03-25-06 at 07:54 AM.

  15. #15
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    Austrian bike frames do seem to last a long time.
    "Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise." -- George Stahlman
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    While Sears did sell some decent bikes that were likely made by Puch in Austria, the vast majority of the Sears bikes sold during the '70s and '80s bike boom were those trashy US made bikes that were then the staple US discount stores. Looks like they were made by Murray, Huffy, Columbia or someone of that ilk: seamed welded tubes, crimped dropouts, Asthtabula-style cranks, crappy wheels, low end Shimano/Suntour shifters, etc.

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    jcm
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    Interesting and timely comments. Tomorrow I'm going to look at an old Sears 5 speed for blowing around town. Can any of you folks give me a wise-up on what to look for besides the Made in Austria tag ( I'm hoping it is Austrian)?

    Specifically, how can I tell if the frame is better quality for the type? Unfortunately, I have almost no info except a very poor scan at a distance. The seller has little knowledge either - like me. She just says it's been in storage forever. It's a complete bike and is fully equipped.

    Thanks,
    John in Everett, WA

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    Quote Originally Posted by jcm
    Interesting and timely comments. Tomorrow I'm going to look at an old Sears 5 speed for blowing around town. Can any of you folks give me a wise-up on what to look for besides the Made in Austria tag ( I'm hoping it is Austrian)?

    Specifically, how can I tell if the frame is better quality for the type? Unfortunately, I have almost no info except a very poor scan at a distance. The seller has little knowledge either - like me. She just says it's been in storage forever. It's a complete bike and is fully equipped.

    Thanks,
    John in Everett, WA

    You might look at the cranks: if they are chrome plated steel and appear to be all one piece then the bike is likely to be one of the lesser quality US made bikes. Most euro or asian bikes will have 3-piece cranks.

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    Senior Member broomhandle's Avatar
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    actually i think Puch is under Steyr. i have 2 Steyr's and the are great. i think the company only makes guns now. i have a 55 Steyr and a mid 60's and they are the exact same. 1/2 the weight as any 70-80 and even now schwinns.

  20. #20
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by broomhandlde
    actually i think Puch is under Steyr. i have 2 Steyr's and the are great. i think the company only makes guns now. i have a 55 Steyr and a mid 60's and they are the exact same. 1/2 the weight as any 70-80 and even now schwinns.
    Steyr-Daimler-Puch, Graz, Austria, has made guns and car parts for a long time. Unlike Capo, they no longer make bicycles.
    "Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise." -- George Stahlman
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    jcm
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    Quote Originally Posted by jemoryl
    You might look at the cranks: if they are chrome plated steel and appear to be all one piece then the bike is likely to be one of the lesser quality US made bikes. Most euro or asian bikes will have 3-piece cranks.
    Thanks, the bike was gone before I got there.

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    I would like to thank y'all for your comments and advice. The bike needs serious sanding and painting ( the brown metallicy looking paint is awful!), and a wheelset - maybe I'll come across some in an alley or something. Might not have to put too much time in it, and then I'll have a cruiser to ride on when the wife and I ride take a spin. If all else fails I will sell it to a local college kid - they always seem to need transportation.

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    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    After the S/D/P Austrian bikes they switched to Japanese C. Itoh brand.
    And yes, they did sell some 531 frames from Austria.

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    Sears Puch 1965/ Ted Williams

    Thought some of you might appreciate more information on the Sears/Puch connection. I purchased in July 1965 what was probably the best road bike Sears ever sold. I had spotted the bike in the Sears catalog initially, but purchased it a the Sears store then located in Landmark shopping center in Virginia (D.C. suburbs). I had to save for a year and a half to afford the thing and my parents were appalled I was spending almost $100 on a bicycle! I was only a freshman in high school with no cycling buddies so even I didn't know just how good a bike it was. Ok, enough background. The bike came with a Campagnolo Record (bronze/chrome) front/rear derailleurs. The frame itself was Reynolds tubing which I believe to be type 531. The frame was painted dark gold, white pinstripes, with partially chromed front fork and rear chainstays, leather Ideale (France) seat and toolkit, aluminum front and rear fenders (nice but they got the boot immediately), aluminum Weinmann rims/Normandy hubs with chrome quick releases, chromed steel handlebars, Ava stem, Nervar cottered crank, Lyotard pedals, odometer, internal (top tube) routed brake cable (really nice touch!) and Weinmann 999 brakes with unique gold painted brake levers. It also came with Ted Williams decals (not "Easy Spirit"). Somehow I can stomach Ted Williams on a bicycle better than the lame "Easy Spirit" term but neither seem appropriate on a high quality bicycle. I sold mine in 1987. I purchased another circa 1965 Sears "Sport Racer" in excellent condition this year, 2006, on Ebay but it was sadly already stripped of the original wheels/brakes and Campy derailleurs, Ideale seat, and converted to a fixed gear. I'm keeping it a fixed gear but already replaced the brakes with NOS 1960's style Weinman 999 brakes. Nice that they didn't get rid of the orginal handlebar/stem/crank/seat post and the frame is near perfect with only some decal flaking here and there. The chrome and deep luster paint has really stood up well. Nice to have a Sears "sport racer" again. I now ride sub 18 lb road bikes with carbon fiber and all the modern gimmicks, but many of the old steel frames will be around long after the modern bikes are gone. I'm glad we have the old and the new. Note: At the same time as I purchased my bike Sears offered a cheaper "blue" bike with Simplex gears and a "red" even cheaper bike. I may go over the stats on those if anyone is interested as I have the 60's advertisement for them too. Cheers, Vintbike

  25. #25
    Senior Member divineAndbright's Avatar
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    I bought a girls 3speed austria sears bike this past summer cheap from the recycle center at the dump, weird find being in Canada, someone obviously brought it back from the US. The bikes sears sold here were usually english made ones (raleigh factory?).

    Its black, very light weight, a 2 piece crank, the serial number is on the side of the head tube and it has a shimano hub which works really swell I might add, much better than any SA hub ive ever had.

    Mmmm, the bike is no longer in use however, being an american market bike I found the seat post was sized correctly for my old 40s balloon tired american made rollfast - I had been using a handlebar stem as a seat post (dont laugh.. the seat post size on Canadian bikes are wider, it was my only option!!)

    I found the handlebars were nice and wide too, so I put them on my 1945 ccm.

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