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Old 09-03-10, 11:25 PM   #1
silverwolf
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Found It Free...

Found this today at the thrift store. They were clearing out the "outdoor" stuff and were about to throw away everything that didn't sell, so I picked it out right before it went in the bin and dragged it home.

It's one of the Sears "free spirits", a stepthrough frame, full fenders, chainguard, north road bars, 26" 1 3/8 american wheels, a shimano three-speed hub, and sprung seat/grips.

I'm looking to build it up into a nice vintage style single speed. Suprisingly, it weighed 34 lbs right after I brought it home, and at least 6 of that is in the crank (i have a lighter one-piece lying around that'll replace it).

My plans:

Keep frame, fenders, seat and grips as is, (cleaned and refurbished)

New pedals, clips or straps preferably

Small headlight, and round front and rear reflectors (to replace the ridiculous-looking triangle and wheel reflectors currently on the bike)

Flip the bars and buy one of those cheap vintage-looking "bike bags" they have at walmart, just for looks

Single-speed it somehow, partly because I want to but also because the 3 speed shifter cable is ruined. Since the hub defaults to the highest gear (direct drive + 33%) when no cable is installed, I need a smaller chainring. I could dig one up, but will the hub be able to withstand typical singlespeed abuse (ie, pushing it on climbs, spinning fast of descent, and lots or torque from a standstill).

Haven't really got my thoughts on this one together yet, if anyone has some cheap ideas for singlespeed (or advice on the method I'm already thinking of) it would be great.

Don't go after the bike though, it's heavier than most but not really a tank. It's surprisingly not bad to ride, even when it was rusty and had very little lubrication in the bearings.
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Old 09-04-10, 07:58 PM   #2
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No responses?

Anyway, I have a few more questions before the project continues.

First, I know that English 3-speeds are ridden by quite a few people on here, and despite the difference in quality, my freespirit weighs, feels, and has the geometry of a stepthrough 3-speed.

I'd like to know difficult it is to cruise at about 15 mph, ride in poor weather conditions, and how bad it is with light off-roading (ie, bike paths, getting it up on kerbs, etc).

I'd also like some advice on how to adjust to the north-road type bars from the flats I have on my main bike, and what are the best hand and handlebar positions for speed, endurance, torqueing the pedals, etc.

Thanks.
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Old 09-04-10, 08:18 PM   #3
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the problem with poor weather is that chrome steel rims don't work well with caliper brakes when wet. You just have to let the wheel go around a few times to dry off the rim before you feel much braking at all, then it's not quite halfway what it is when dry.

15 sounds maybe a tad optimistic for an upright full fendered bike with a 3 speed unless you're pretty strong.

3-speeds seem to be able to handle mild trail use in my experience.

afaik northroads are designed for just one hand position.
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Old 09-04-10, 08:38 PM   #4
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I would service it and pass it on to someone who can use it for it's intended purpose; putting around town with a basket. Keep your eye out for something more suited if you plan on touring.
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Old 09-04-10, 09:01 PM   #5
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+1
Pass it on to some lucky girl after you clean it up. I did the same thing a few years back with a girls CCM 3 speed and my sister-in-law was very happy.
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Old 09-04-10, 09:50 PM   #6
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+3 Pass it on.
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Old 09-04-10, 10:35 PM   #7
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I might end up passing it on, but I'm somewhat attached to the fenders, grips and seat (that is, I like the way they look). Most of the road and mountain bikes being thrown around on craigslist/goodwill don't have mudguards or my kind of saddle (sprung); is there any other way to get these parts than scavenging them off of old bikes? I'm not sure the thing will sell easily if I keep those parts (replacing the seat and grips of course).

Also, I have an old Diamondback mountain bike; would the fenders possibly work on it if I replaced the tires with 1.50s?
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Old 09-04-10, 11:15 PM   #8
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OK...so get a road bike, buy fenders, and buy a sprung Brooks saddle. YOu'll have a better bike, and the parts you want. If you want a chainguard as well, build up a rear wheel with an IGH and make sure you have space in the dropouts to tension the rear wheel.
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Old 09-05-10, 12:40 AM   #9
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I have to agree with the others. I've flipped some of these. They are nice for a sedate ride around the neighborhood, or commuting around campus. Not for the purpose you want.
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Old 09-05-10, 07:28 AM   #10
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Sprung saddles are definitely available on new bikes or aftermarket.

If you like utility bikes, why not research them a bit? Schwinn (coffee), Electra (Amsterdam), and probably others make vintage-style new ones, Flying Pigeon and Eastman make copies of old Raleighs, and a variety of old ones are available. Ebay "flying pigeon".

3-speed cables are available. You don't want to run it in 3rd and use a smaller ring because engaging the gears causes about a 10% loss in efficiency. Second gear is a 1:1 drive which means the sprocket does the same RPMs as the wheel. You want it in Second. If it's a Sturmey-Archer you could pull the shift chain out until it is in second then pin it in place somehow, but I don't know if those things deserve their reputation for slipping out of gear. If it's a Shimano, you could find an acorn nut (a nut with an enclosed cap) and use it and the locknut which is now holding the bellcrank to hold the shift rod in 2nd gear after replacing the bellcrank with the acorn nut. If it's in 3rd I think it's a Shimano.
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Old 09-05-10, 07:54 AM   #11
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From what I can tell, "Free Spirit" doesn't count for much in the resale department, so be careful doing any work on it if you're hoping to get your time and money back in a sale.

I had a 3-speed Free Spirit men's frame. I bought it for $15 (after it had been on CL several days unsold) and sold it later for $25, after I had put new brake pads ($10) and tires/tubes ($20-$25) on it. (My daughter used it at school for a semester, so it wasn't a total loss).

On my bike, the frame wasn't lugged, and I'm not sure how it was actually built. If you expect to put a lot of time and money into it, you might want to start with a higher quality bike to begin with.

I can ride my Worksman single-speed cruiser at 15 mph, although comfortable cruising speed is around 12-13 due to gearing. It shouldn't be too hard to ride that thing at 15 if you and it are working good.

I don't ever jump bikes on curbs, and wouldn't necessarily expect a bike to hold up for that. In poor weather, the fenders don't necessarily protect your feet, and can spray water onto your feet.
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Old 09-05-10, 08:06 AM   #12
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If you like the parts, take the parts off and put them on a better frame.
I picked a pair of steel wheels for a flip off an AMF I found. The frame had snapped in two at the poorly brazed seams.
I'd suspect the Free Spirit would be on par.
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Old 09-05-10, 07:08 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StephenH View Post
On my bike, the frame wasn't lugged, and I'm not sure how it was actually built.
They are brazed together. Sometimes there is an internal lug brazed into the end of the tube, but I think I have seen frames where the tubes were just mitered to fit together, and the abutting end was brazed on without any effort to build up a fillet.

I didn't want to categorically bad-mouth lugless, filletless frames because that's how most early bikes were built, although those had the aforementioned internal lugs, but I have broken a lugless department-store 3-speed frame myself. Maybe it wasn't just a freak, defective one! I didn't do anything that crazy with it, either.
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