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Old 07-14-11, 08:43 PM   #1
undoot
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Sears 3-Speed - Austrian Made?

Hi Bike Forums community!

This is my first post, so I'll start with a quick introduction (I know this should be in the introductions page). I live in Chicago and ride my bike to work most days. I had been riding a '97 Raleigh M-40, but years of neglect and abuse have taken their toll on that bike. Plus, the seat post can't extend any more.

My other bike is a '93 RB-1 that my wife was given by an ex boyfriend. I didn't really know what it was until I was riding one day and a guy next to me said "Is that an RB-1? I've never seen one in person before!" I went home and looked it up. Cool thing to inherit.

Anyway, I started looking for a new bike for every day commuting. I wanted one with fenders (so I can commute in/after rain) and one with a bike rack so I can take a briefcase and not wear a backpack. After looking through the selection at Working Bikes (a bicycle cooperative), I figured I'd try my luck on Craigslist. I saw a posting for a 1968 Austrian made Sears Bicycle. I liked the look of it (from the not great craigslist photos) and kept coming back to look at the posting for a few days. I started researching 3-speeds and became enamored.

I ended up picking it up. $40. I put some air in the tires and took it for a spin. Despite sitting on the most uncomfortable seat I've ever sat on, I liked it. The gears worked and the brakes worked to a point. So, although I probably paid too much, I'm not complaining.

Now to my question: I've read a lot about the Puch made sears bicycles with hubs stamped sears. Mine has a Shimano 333 and the frame is not stamped "Made in Austria" anywhere. The head badge is not the stylized "SR" or the all caps "SEARS". The head badge says "Sears" with "Sears and Roebuck" going around it in the circle. So, how can I know this bike is made in Austria? It is a black frame, with the red and white accents I have seen on photos of other Sears bicycles made in Austria.

I know photos will help, but I haven't taken any yet. I'll try to get some tomorrow. My next task is to fix it up. I'm sure I'll have a lot of questions for this group as I start that process.
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Old 07-14-11, 09:19 PM   #2
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Take a look at the rear brake bridge, I'm fairly sure mine had "Made in Austria" stamped there. If it was made in Austria, then I'd say $40 is a great deal, and even if it isn't, $40 still isn't bad.

And yes, the saddle on these absolutely sucks, it was the first thing to go on mine.
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Old 07-14-11, 09:42 PM   #3
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Is the crank cottered (three piece) or is it one piece? If it is cottered it is likely Austrian, if it is a one piece, it is likely made by Huffy or Murray. With the Japanese 3 speed hub, the odds are in favor of it not being Austrian.
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Old 07-14-11, 09:42 PM   #4
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You'd better post a pic.
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Old 07-14-11, 09:43 PM   #5
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Thanks for the response... My brake bridge has "Made in West Germany" stamped on it. I'll check for the manufacturer tomorrow.

What did you replace the saddle with? I've heard a lot of people using Brooks saddles on this type of bicycle. Are they really that great?
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Old 07-14-11, 10:06 PM   #6
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Is the crank cottered (three piece) or is it one piece? If it is cottered it is likely Austrian, if it is a one piece, it is likely made by Huffy or Murray. With the Japanese 3 speed hub, the odds are in favor of it not being Austrian.
The crank is cottered. Pics to follow tomorrow.
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Old 07-14-11, 10:23 PM   #7
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I'd definitely like to see pics. I built up a bike for my then GF (now wife) years ago that was a West German 3-speed I eventually traced to being a Sears bike.. It's kind of gone into disrepair....
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Old 07-15-11, 06:06 AM   #8
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The Sears hub was made in Styria Austria and is a Sturmey-Archer product. The only thing Sears about it is the label engraved on the outside of the hub shell. The rest of the bike you have is basically a licensed copy of the Nottingham Raleighs and related brands -much like the Huffy' Sportsmans that basically were rebranded Nottingham bikes.

If you need any work on that bike undoot, I specialize on English 3-speeds and their variants and am in town (Logan Square.) My website Blackheronbikes isn't quite up to speed right now but feel free to PM me if you need anything. Hopefully I'll get an email up and going at my website.

I can do anything from minor repairs, tune-ups, wheel and/or hub rebuilds, alloy rim upgrades, and anything else up to full-on heavy rebuilds & restorations. There are a few LBS's in Chicago that do well with the old 3-speeds too.
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Old 07-15-11, 06:11 AM   #9
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Also, there is a Tweed Ride this Sunday with the British Bicycle Club of Chicago. It will be a fun time, drop by if you want to hook up with us.
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Old 07-15-11, 06:20 AM   #10
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I'm sorry, I misread your post the first time. If you have a Shimano hub on the bike odds are it was made in the Far East (Taiwan probably) -that doesn't mean it is a bad bike at all. For $40 you got a good deal. A running vintage 3-speed in this city isn't going to get any cheaper than that.

If anything, the Taiwan-made frames were of higher quality than the Nottingham-made bikes of the 70's. Is the frame lugged or welded?
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Old 07-15-11, 06:43 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Amesja View Post
The Sears hub was made in Styria Austria and is a Sturmey-Archer product.
The Styria hub was not a Sturmey-Archer product. It was a reverse engineered knock-off of Sturmey's design manufactured by a completely different company.

Several companies made AW knock-offs after the patents expired in the 1950s.
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Old 07-15-11, 06:49 AM   #12
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I was under the impression that the Styria plant was licensed by Sturmey-Archer and the parts were made to S/A specs off of original blueprints -not "reverse engineered."

Having worked on them side-by-side the parts (other than the shell) are virtually indistinguishable -much less completely interchangeable down the smallest part.
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Old 07-15-11, 06:51 AM   #13
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Mine has a Shimano 333...
There are reports on the web of riders getting 40 years good service out of 333 hubs, but in general it's not a well thought of piece of gear. Even Shimano seems to want to distance themselves from this product, claiming in a recent advertisement they'd built internal hub gears for "25 years" (in reality, since 1957!)
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Old 07-15-11, 07:11 AM   #14
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I've rebuilt the 333 and S3 hubs. The S3 has a slightly better reputation as far as durability goes but they are nearly identical inside.

IMHO the Shimano hubs are OK on the lightweight bikes they came standard on when used in normal operation. I had one as a kid on my 3-speed banana-seat 20-incher and abused the hell out of it using it as a BMX bike and it never once gave me any issues over the 10 years or so I rode it with absolutely zero maintenance. I recently rebuilt an S3 one one of the bikes I refurbished and sold. The new owner absolutely loves it. I think the shifting on the S3 is slicker than the S-A 3-speeds and the sealed grease lubrication makes it quieter and seem to run tighter. Adjusting the shift cable is much easier and a no-brainer. There is no issue with the neutral like on the sturmey hubs.

But I wouldn't put one into a heavy hauler or cargo bike -especially in hilly terrain or if the gearing had been changed to a super low gear of 20 gear inches or so. that's just begging for the pawls to shatter under heavy load. that's the weak spot I have heard although I've never actually had one fail on me. Rebuilding isn't that difficult and is similar to, but not exactly the same as, a Sturmey 3-speed. It's not necessary to use expensive specified grease. I've had good luck with ordinary lithium wheel-bearing grease (SGLI-2 wt.)

If the hub does eventually fail 3-speed wheels are not difficult to source very cheap. Another Shimano wheel would be the easiest to fit but a Sturmey-Archer 3-speed would only require the trigger to be swapped out and those are pretty easy to find used too.

I wouldn't worry about that hub in the least. Of the issues on that bike the hub barely registers on the radar. The #1 issue would be the cottered cranks and the BB. You should probably have the BB repacked with fresh grease and balls and the cotters attended to. If they get loose the bike will ride very poorly and damage could result. Many home bike mechanics are reluctant to tackle the cottered cranks for good reason. Without a cotter press they can be a major PITA.
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Old 07-15-11, 07:17 AM   #15
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Without photos &c we are speculating.

Sturmey Archer had a long history of licensing their hub design to other companies, including Sears as early as 1914. The Styria made "SEARS" hub is such a close copy of the SA version that it must be authorized; every little internal part is interchangeable with the real thing, they even use the same funky axle thread.

I have worked on a number Styria-made Sears bikes. Some were badged J C Higgins, others Sears; and on these, the word STYRIA was stamped just about everywhere where there was room for it. The rubber pedal blocks, the frame fittings, the handlebar stem, and so on. Pretty unmistakable. But then again I also worked on one Sears bike that had no such markings, and I don't know where it was made. Cottered crank and all Japanese components, though; I believe it was made in Japan. And I have a strong suspicion that's what you, undoot, have. But I speculate.

People like Amesja and myself, who like to tear these hubs apart and put them together again and change parts just to see if they fit and all that kind of thing, we tend to avoid Shimano 333 hubs. There's no reason a rider should fear them, though. They're easy to adjust, shift reliably, and last pretty much for ever. $40 for a functional bike is a good deal. Ride it in the rain and don't worry about it. And continue to look for a made-in-Austria one!
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Old 07-15-11, 07:30 AM   #16
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I'll buy that bike sight-unseen for the $40 you have in it if you have buyer's remorse. I'll come pick it up any time anywhere in the city or near suburbs...

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Old 07-15-11, 10:34 AM   #17
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Sturmey Archer had a long history of licensing their hub design to other companies...
...and as Sturmey themselves documents, an equally long history of companies producing unauthorized knock-offs of their hubs and parts, sometimes in violation of patents and sometimes after patent rights expired.

Falcon in Taiwan manufactures knock-offs of Shimano 3-speed hubs, but that doesn't make them authorized or "Shimano products".
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Old 07-15-11, 06:00 PM   #18
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Thanks for all the information!

First the bad news: not a cottered crank... and not lugged frame.

Now, the photos.











So, I think it is a Murray or Huffy made bicycle, but I'm still happy with it. The bike was originally posted on CL for $70, so I'm glad I didn't pay that much. I did, however, drive out to Elgin (far suburbs, Amesja) to get it.

My plan of attack:
1. Replace brake pads and adjust brakes.
2. True the wheel
3. Replace the seat
4. Replace grease in the bearings
5. Add a rack to the back.

Thoughts? Am I missing a crucial step?

Last edited by undoot; 07-15-11 at 06:09 PM.
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Old 07-15-11, 07:21 PM   #19
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Make sure you can source some original vintage air for those tires...

And peeing that gods-awful BMA sticker off that thing would be the first thing I'd do.

You didn't do too bad. Pity about the OPC crank though.
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Old 07-15-11, 07:42 PM   #20
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I have one like yours. Keep it at the folks house down on the coast. Love it for my coffee getter and easy group rides. There is nothing special about the Shimano 333 models but I can say that it is reliable, classy in black and don't cost much.

If you like it, it's right. But look for one of the Ted Williams Austrian models, they rule !
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Old 07-15-11, 08:48 PM   #21
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Decent bike, nice condition. I just refurbished (no new parts) and sold a Rollfast 5-speed on Craigslist for $50.00. Definitely set your brakes up carefully. Those Altenbergers aren't quite as good a stoppers as the stuff that came on higher priced bikes. Working on them on the Rollfast (first time in over 30 years since I've touched a set) reminded me that they are a little down in stopping power. Admittedly, the one I did had drop bars, so the levers weren't the greatest. I have a feeling you'll do better with the upright bar levers.

Take care of it, and you'll certainly get your money back when you decide to upgrade. And my experience with the Shimano 3-speed hubs was always very good. It'll probably be trouble free for you.
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Old 07-16-11, 11:47 AM   #22
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I recently swapped a Sear from Austria, along with four other very good condition bikes, including an old Favorit, for a Torpado Super Racing. Anyway, the Sears from Austria was almost mint and kinda neat...
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Old 07-16-11, 11:58 AM   #23
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This is the Austrian-built Sears bike I had for five years when I was in jr. high and high school. It said "Made In Austria" on the head badge, BUT it did have a Shimano derailleur, and an "automatic" shifting feature in the rear hub, which made it easier to start rolling, then upshifted internally without the derailleur moving the chain. A good quality bike, fully lugged frame, and comparable in every way to a Raleigh Sports. The only aluminum on it was the Weinmann sidepull brakes and brake levers.

My bike was from 1970-71, and the green bike above was from 1971-72 or possibly from 72-73 (I'm sure I've seen SOME of the green ones with lugged frames too). After then, most of Sears bikes were from Murray Ohio or Huffy, with one-piece cranks and no longer had lugged frames.
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Old 07-17-11, 12:32 PM   #24
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Went to a bike store yesterday and saw an old Murray that looked exactly like my Sears. I think the mystery is solved, but still not sure about the year. It's after Sears stopped selling the Austrian made ones and before they rebranded the bicycles "Free Spirit". Does mid 70's sound right?
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Old 07-17-11, 05:13 PM   #25
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Check some of the old Sears cat online and you might zero in on the year. If it really is important to you. Right now, your quess sounds good ..... enough.
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