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  1. #1
    Senior Member dnslater's Avatar
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    Old Huffy and Sears bike fix-up questions

    I am fixing up some old bikes that have been in my parent's barn for 30 + years and have a few questions. I have never posted in the Vintage forum, so be gentle if I am asking questions that have been asked many times before.......

    My Father has an old Huffy 3-speed cruiser from the early 1970's and my Mother has a late 60's single speed Sears cruiser. I am assuming that the Sears bike was made by Schwinn, or another company. My folks are in there mid 50's and looking to start riding again for fitness. Both bikes have the usual rusted chrome, cracked tires, rusty cables, so I am looking to fix them up so they can be usable again.

    The Huffy probably needs less work. The old caliper brakes need lubed and pads replaced, and probably new cables. The old 3 speed internal Hub seems too work fine, I will probably squirt some oil in it, and maybe replace cables. Otherwise the bike needs new tires and tubes, otherwise I will try to clean it up, and maybe use some fine steel wool and oil on the chromed parts. Probably new bar grips and a new seat. Anything else that I am missing? Can I use 26 x 1.25" tubes on these rims? I realize that the old 26" rims are actually closer to 27", so I found the correct Kenda K35 tires.

    The Sears cruiser is a single speed with a coaster brake. I am concerned with safety with the coaster brake, although my Mom will not go too fast. I also would like to add a 3 speed gearing system, so I thought about finding an old wheel with a 3-speed wheel to upgrade it. I think I can retrofit caliper brakes. Am I better off ditching it and finding an old 3 speed cruiser on Craigslist to fix up for her? Anyone have thoughts?
    Last edited by dnslater; 07-25-10 at 11:20 AM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member BigPolishJimmy's Avatar
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    Check the front fork of the cruiser, you may find that there is already a mounting hole for a caliper brake in there. If so you can just mount a brake on giving the cruiser the coaster brake and a front brake. The rear will likely not have a mount hole that is usable, or such has been my experience thus far.

    I've found innertubes to be pretty forgiving in that if you've got near to the right size you should be ok. Of course a 26" tube won't work on a 27" wheel and vice versa/etc.

    One way to source parts is to try putting a 'wanted' ad on your local freecycle www.freecycle.org ask for junk bikes for parts and hopefully you'll get some. People were very generous with me when I did that and I got a lot of bkes to learn on. It's nice to have some extra wheels to learn how to true them and other stuff to work on that you won't care if you make a mistake. This is what the old dept. store bikes are best for. Who knows, you might get lucky and turn up an old 3-speed hub w/coaster brake.

    If you don't turn up a brake caliper and lever, then shoot me a pm, I've probably got one I can send you for the price of shipping. I know I've got extra calipers, it's the lever I'm unsure about right now.

  3. #3
    Bike Junkie roccobike's Avatar
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    This may be seen as incorrect in this forum, but I'd encourage your folks to buy one new bike from an LBS to replace the cruiser. It will be lighter and faster. I'd get the 3 speed working for the other ride, for now. The objective is to get them to ride. Once they are hooked, then you can bring over the vintage steel road bikes to get them really moving.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member dnslater's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by roccobike View Post
    This may be seen as incorrect in this forum, but I'd encourage your folks to buy one new bike from an LBS to replace the cruiser. It will be lighter and faster. I'd get the 3 speed working for the other ride, for now. The objective is to get them to ride. Once they are hooked, then you can bring over the vintage steel road bikes to get them really moving.
    I discussed this with them. I wouldn't want them to get a cheap big box bike, I would prefer that they buy a hybrid fitness type bike from an LBS, but they start at around $300+ each (600-700 total) and they are not looking at spending nearly this much yet given the economy. I think I can do most of the work that they need for less than $150 total (new saddles, grips, tires, tubes, cables, front brake for the Sears, ) I may be able to score another cruiser with a 3 speed to either use or source for parts so that my Mother has gears.

  5. #5
    Senior Member cycleheimer's Avatar
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    Check out Nashbar.com today. They have a bike called the Caldi for $219 (48%) discount plus an additional 15% if you order today. It has fenders and a coffee cup and holder. It's their Christmas in July sale, and you get an additional 15% off, but today is your last day to order... if you snooze you loose. If you want to fix up the other bikes, your best prices for stuff (tires, tubes, cables, pads, etc.) will be at Niagara Cycle Works. Go ahead, surprise them with a new bike or two from Nashbar!!!
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  6. #6
    DRF aka Thrifty Bill wrk101's Avatar
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    I never heard of Schwinn making bikes for Sears. Sears used a variety of bottom end contract manufacturers, most of their bikes would be similar in quality to the Huffy. I would dump that bike (sell it on C/L or whatever), fix up the Huffy 3 speed since it is close to road worthy.

    I routinely find good LBS branded hybrids USED for around $100. There are many good options that don't involve buying a new bike for $300+ each. You can also find worthy rigid frame MTBs LBS branded for around $100.

  7. #7
    Senior Member cycleheimer's Avatar
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    Mongoose Kaldi, not Caldi...


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  8. #8
    NiP
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    Some Of The Early 70s Huffy Bikes Were Made By Raleigh, For Huffy. Sturmey Archer hub Will Have the Mfg. Date on It. Handlebar Grips Will Say Made In England,& Will Have a English Style Seat. This Bike Is A Keeper! There are Woman's 70's Huffy 3 speed Bikes on ebay For $50. Cheaper Than A Transformation on the Coaster Bike! in Good Working Order, These Bikes Are Worth $100 To $150 Depending On Condition And Accessories.
    Last edited by NiP; 07-25-10 at 08:17 PM.

  9. #9
    Senior Member dnslater's Avatar
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    I like the Nashbar idea, I found several budget options there. Too bad that I already spent $100 on parts online (cables, brake pads, tires, tubes, seats, etc....) Perhaps I will continue to fix up their bikes, and they can start with them to see if they are serious about cycling for exercise. I could look at maybe saving to get them the Nashbar cruisers next year. I will also keep an eye on Craigslist to see if I can find an old multispeed cruiser to swap out with my Mothers. I could transfer the new parts if I find a replacement. I could always sell their old cruisers on Craigslist if I decide to upgraid them.

    As far as ebay goes, nothing much there for less than $100 + shipping (expensive). Not sure where you are seeing the $50 cruisers. I also have never seen anything close to $100 at the LBS's that I go to. Things seem to start at $250 or more.

    I spent several hours working on the Sears bike last night, I used fine steel wool and vinegar on the rusted chromed bits, and I was amazed at how easily they shined up. I also repacked the bearings, etc..... Bike is in great functioning order now, just needs tires and a new seat. I've never worked on older bikes, I am amazed at the simplicity.

  10. #10
    Senior Member BigPolishJimmy's Avatar
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    Careful, you might just find a new hobby, that's how it happened to me. Where are you located btw?

  11. #11
    DRF aka Thrifty Bill wrk101's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dnslater View Post

    As far as ebay goes, nothing much there for less than $100 + shipping (expensive). Not sure where you are seeing the $50 cruisers. I also have never seen anything close to $100 at the LBS's that I go to. Things seem to start at $250 or more.
    The budget deals are rarely found on ebay or at bike shops. As you pointed out, unless the ebay bike is local, the shipping alone will kill the deal. I did pick up a really nice Centurion last week on ebay for $60, local pickup. But that is rare. Bike shops can't afford to sell bikes for anything close to $100. The local deals are on Craigs List (if you move fast), garage sales and thrift stores. I bought five nice road bikes off C/L this weekend, the most I paid for any one of them was $40.

  12. #12
    Senior Member dnslater's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigPolishJimmy View Post
    Careful, you might just find a new hobby, that's how it happened to me. Where are you located btw?
    I'm located in Indianapolis. I own three other bikes (commuter, road bike and mtn bike) all "modern". I enjoyed working on the vintage. I also enjoyed the test ride. There is definitely something about the smooth ride of the old steel frame and sprung saddle. I have a 2008 Trek 7.5 FX that I use for casual rides with the kids on a child seat. I'm actually suddenly toying with the idea of selling it and replacing it with an old steel cruiser. I could use the funds to also help with the project Cruisers for my folks. Hmmmmm.....

  13. #13
    Senior Member dnslater's Avatar
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    Update:

    My Father's Huffy:
    I am almost complete with my repairs the Open Road. A little more information.......... The bike has a Shimano 333 3-speed hub. As I understand it, these hubs were not known for dependability. I adjusted the cable tension and it shifts beautifully. I also removed the bearings in the front hub and crankset and cleaned/greased everything. The wheels and crank turn very smoothly. I replace the brake pads and the entire front caliper brake, along with all cables. Replaced seat, bar grips and tires (Kenda K-35). The chrome still shines and it has little rust, so I think it will make a dependable fitness bike until they can upgrade to more modern hybrids in a year or two. Total investment: around $50. I'm guessing the saving grace is that the bike has only a few hundred miles on it over the past 40 years.

    My Mother's Sears cruiser.
    As I mentioned previously, this bike is a single speed and is a bit older than the Huffy. It had a lot more rust on the chrome bits and the paint is in bad shape. I am amazed at how nicely the chrome polishes up with vinegar and steel wool, but it still looks very rough. I repacked all bearings, greased everything, and put new tires on it, along with a new seat and hand grips. It functions perfectly, but she would like a few gears.

    I found a mid 80's Free Spirit Brittany 10 speed city bike on craigslist last night and picked it up for $40 over my lunch break today. The gentleman that sold it to me had just replaced the cables and brake pads, and it looks nearly new and has probably barely been ridden over the years. Definitely a much better fit for my mother's needs. Amazing what you can find for $40.

  14. #14
    perpetually frazzled mickey85's Avatar
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    The half-devil Shimano hub has a bad reputation, but I personally like the Shimano 3's. It'll be a good, solid bike for him. Free Spirits aren't known for their quality, but I had a 3 speed that was very good to me (and is still good to the girl that I sold it to - she was an ex student of mine, and we keep in contact). They're not high quality, they're not especially light, they're definitely not fast, but as dependable, fun to ride bikes? Certainly.
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  15. #15
    Senior Member dnslater's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mickey85 View Post
    The half-devil Shimano hub has a bad reputation, but I personally like the Shimano 3's. It'll be a good, solid bike for him. Free Spirits aren't known for their quality, but I had a 3 speed that was very good to me (and is still good to the girl that I sold it to - she was an ex student of mine, and we keep in contact). They're not high quality, they're not especially light, they're definitely not fast, but as dependable, fun to ride bikes? Certainly.
    I appreciate the input from a fellow Hoosier. I researched the Shimano 333 hubs here and others had similar thoughts. Shift ok so far though. I will warn him that if the hub breaks, we will either need to convert to a single speed with a new hub/wheel, or it will be time to upgrade.

    The Free Spirit seems to have a decent lugged steel frame. Welds look ok and it shifts and brakes fine. They will ride it a few miles now and then for fitness and are both near 60, so speed shouldn't be an issue.

    I read a few threads about how much folks here seem to dislike vintage department store bikes such as the Huffy's and Free Spirits of yesterday. Seems like they are better built than what I see at Walmart today. They seem just fine for cruising about town, as long as you aren't planning to do a century or anything. Not too concerned about weight for these purposes. I have a $2,000 aluminum/carbon fiber 17 pound road bike, and when I get on these old, cheap, smooth riding cruisers it brings a smile to my face. Fun in a different way.

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