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Old 07-12-14, 04:30 PM   #1
jnewkirk77
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Huffy Bay Pointe: Why do cheap bikes of yesteryear still get a bad rap?

Last weekend, I bought my first vintage bike, a Huffy Bay Pointe built in July 1986.

I've been looking for a 1950s-70s 3-speed Schwinn Racer or Speedster -- and still intend to own one when I find a decent example near me -- but this one just happened to be available for a decent price when we were camping over the holiday, so I cut a deal and brought it home.

During my off time this week, I've cleaned it up and got everything lubed and adjusted. It rides well despite needing new tires (I'm ordering Michelin World Tour 26x1-3/8s) and the Shimano 3S shifts nicely. Stops well, too. That's always a plus!

I put a little shine on it, but I've no plans at this point to do any painting on it. They're only original once, after all, and even with a shine it has a nice "someone got their money's worth" patina that I like.

My question is: Why do these bikes have a bad reputation? I think if they survive 28 years like this one has, cheap or not, we should honor that. Just my 2 cents.

Here's "B.P." with "Blue," my 2011 Magna.

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Old 07-12-14, 05:11 PM   #2
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3 Speeds tend to be decent bikes. I sold my '86 Free Spirit this week, and miss it. After trashing the awful brakes and kickstand, it became my grab-n-go bike of choice.
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Old 07-12-14, 05:29 PM   #3
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It's because of their 'department store' pedigree. Interesting thing is, some of these older 3 speeds were actually equipped quite nicely. As long as the bike wasn't trashed, they clean up well.

I just tuned an old All Pro ladies 3 speed from the early 70's; made for K-Mart by Huffy. BMA/6 sticker on the seat tube, patina just like the OP described. The bike has Araya steel rims, Shimano 3 speed hub, and Dia Compe sidepulls!

New tires/ tubes, cables, brake shoes, cable and linkage for the Shimano hub, and a new saddle... this bike rides so smooth! Shifts like a dream, stops like a bicycle should, and she's got character.

The Owner did quite well, for a dumpster find!
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Old 07-12-14, 05:37 PM   #4
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That All Pro sounds like the one my mother had when I was very young. It was a hand-me-down from my grandmother, and Mom still speaks of it fondly. My two brothers and I each had our turn getting shuttled around in a baby seat on that one until we were grown enough to ride our own bikes. Wish we still had it.
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Old 07-12-14, 05:46 PM   #5
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Even though at the time they were cheap, back then cheap meant more unrefined and heavy, plebian and less exclusive than better brands. But for the most part they were not all that bad(I am still kicking myself for making a tall bike out of a free spirit three speed that in retrospect was a nice solid bike).

There were really cheap bikes, Vistas that suffered frame failure due to really bad welding, shimano 333 hubs that took everything good about a three speed and crapped on it, all that.

But we never really experienced cheap until walmart started lowering the bar to the point that my old childhood Kmart murray was a fine machine by comparison. At least the nuts and bolts didn't strip out at a touch.
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Old 07-12-14, 05:58 PM   #6
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The same reason cheap basic cars of yesteryear get a bad rap. they were cheap and crappy then and they a old cheap and crappy today.

I do agree I have seen a few decent Huffy 3 speeders.
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Old 07-12-14, 06:06 PM   #7
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The best Huffy 3 speed would be the re-badged Raleigh models they sold in the 60's.
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Old 07-12-14, 07:13 PM   #8
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I have one of the exact same color as yours, OP. I like it very much. I actually prefer it to the three other English three speed bikes I have. Mine has the Positron style three speed hub. I completely restored it and converted it to drop bar and mounted the shifter near the center of the bar. I enjoy it just as much as other bikes that cost more than ten times.


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Old 07-12-14, 07:22 PM   #9
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But we never really experienced cheap until walmart started lowering the bar to the point that my old childhood Kmart murray was a fine machine by comparison. At least the nuts and bolts didn't strip out at a touch.
Preach it ... As I mentioned earlier, I lubed everything there is to lube on the Huffy earlier this week. Ditto the Magna. The difference in the quality of things even as simple as the bearings is just disheartening. The Huffy has Hartford bearings in the headset and bottom bracket, and even after 28 years, they are like new. The Magna will likely need its bottom bearings replaced next year, if not before. That is just one example.
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Old 07-12-14, 07:25 PM   #10
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I have one of the exact same color as yours, OP. I like it very much. I actually prefer it to the three other English three speed bikes I have. Mine has the Positron style three speed hub. I completely restored it and converted it to drop bar and mounted the shifter near the center of the bar. I enjoy it just as much as other bikes that cost more than ten times.


I love it! I'm not big on drop bars, but with that longer stem they look right on the Bay Pointe! I might have to try that someday ...
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Old 07-12-14, 08:19 PM   #11
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I'd also suggest that in the case of three-speeds, the differences in quality/weight/etc will always be less apparent than in 10- or 12-speed road bikes. Huffy never set out to be anything more than an everyman's machine -- sturdy and economical -- and an all-purpose three-speed requires fewer compromises to achieve that goal.

And I'll agree that our box-store-based, 21st century race to the bottom -- trashing anything resembling quality in the name of immediate profits and utter disposability -- makes these machines look top-notch by comparison.

[edit] Huffy or not, those are decent-looking bikes.
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Old 07-13-14, 12:16 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by jnewkirk77 View Post

My question is: Why do these bikes have a bad reputation? I think if they survive 28 years like this one has, cheap or not, we should honor that. Just my 2 cents.
In my experience, having bought and sold well over 500 vintage bikes, survival has NOTHING to do with quality. Some of the highest, top of the line vintage bikes I have found (think Italian brands) were in terrible condition. Survival has a lot more to do with how the bike was stored, rather than its quality.

A Chevy Vega was a total POS. If you found one that somehow survived, it would still be a POS. And today, if someone took a Walmart Magna or similar, stuck it in a basement, and pulled it out 30 years later, it would be a survivor for sure, but it would still be a POS. Realize bikes are all built to meet a price point. As this price level gets lower and lower, a lot of corners have to be cut to get the cost low enough. That is true today and it was true in the past.

Reputations are earned. Now it is true some of the bad brands had an occasional nice bike here and there, but they ruined the brand's reputation by pumping out millions of crappy bikes. So there definitely is the occasional gem (think Serotta built Huffy!!). And decent 3 speeds were made/sold by several brands, including the department store ones (I have had a few Free Spirit 3 speeds that were made In Austria, and pretty nice).
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Old 07-13-14, 12:31 PM   #13
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In my experience, having bought and sold well over 500 vintage bikes, survival has NOTHING to do with quality. Some of the highest, top of the line vintage bikes I have found (think Italian brands) were in terrible condition. Survival has a lot more to do with how the bike was stored, rather than its quality.

A Chevy Vega was a total POS. If you found one that somehow survived, it would still be a POS. And today, if someone took a Walmart Magna or similar, stuck it in a basement, and pulled it out 30 years later, it would be a survivor for sure, but it would still be a POS. Realize bikes are all built to meet a price point. As this price level gets lower and lower, a lot of corners have to be cut to get the cost low enough. That is true today and it was true in the past.

Reputations are earned. Now it is true some of the bad brands had an occasional nice bike here and there, but they ruined the brand's reputation by pumping out millions of crappy bikes. So there definitely is the occasional gem (think Serotta built Huffy!!). And decent 3 speeds were made/sold by several brands, including the department store ones (I have had a few Free Spirit 3 speeds that were made In Austria, and pretty nice).
+1 - they have the reputation they deserve. It's not classicism, it's just simple quality (or lack thereof). I also believe they're poor value, particularly used, when you can get a fairly nice bike from an LBS with much nicer parts so inexpensively.
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Old 07-13-14, 12:35 PM   #14
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I think there's a difference in saying "I appreciate cheap, old bikes" and "cheap, old bikes are not ****ty."
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Old 07-13-14, 12:39 PM   #15
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In my experience, having bought and sold well over 500 vintage bikes, survival has NOTHING to do with quality. Some of the highest, top of the line vintage bikes I have found (think Italian brands) were in terrible condition. Survival has a lot more to do with how the bike was stored, rather than its quality.

A Chevy Vega was a total POS. If you found one that somehow survived, it would still be a POS. And today, if someone took a Walmart Magna or similar, stuck it in a basement, and pulled it out 30 years later, it would be a survivor for sure, but it would still be a POS. Realize bikes are all built to meet a price point. As this price level gets lower and lower, a lot of corners have to be cut to get the cost low enough. That is true today and it was true in the past.

Reputations are earned. Now it is true some of the bad brands had an occasional nice bike here and there, but they ruined the brand's reputation by pumping out millions of crappy bikes. So there definitely is the occasional gem (think Serotta built Huffy!!). And decent 3 speeds were made/sold by several brands, including the department store ones (I have had a few Free Spirit 3 speeds that were made In Austria, and pretty nice).
I understand where you're coming from, but it seems to me that the good ones like the Bay Pointe are getting tarred with the same broad brush as the lesser Huffys. Now, it is true that they built (and now, coming from China, are building more) cruddy bikes, but I tend to judge a bike on its individual merits. I've done that with cars, too, and have proudly owned some that others might never admit they had (a Dodge Aspen and a couple of Ford Escorts, for example). Just weird like that, I guess.
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Old 07-13-14, 12:58 PM   #16
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A volume retailer 3 speed bike from the past will often benefit that key parts, such as the multispeed hub and brakes may be found equal to what came on a Raleigh, so mechanical function is near the same.
Where these brands fall short is when they marketed a derailleur equipped bike, some really poor choices to make the price point. 26" wheels, mis-aligned frames, other results that make working on them more work and less rewarding for the effort.
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Old 07-13-14, 01:04 PM   #17
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I think the above post speaks more to the poor quality of supposed quality 3 spd like Raleighs than it does to the high quality of the huffy. I read the above as saying:

Almost all 3 spds of the period came with heavy parts of questionable utility. They aren't even much nicer than a Huffy.
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Old 07-13-14, 01:48 PM   #18
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it seems to me that the good ones like the Bay Pointe are getting tarred with the same broad brush as the lesser Huffys.
What makes they Bay Pointe better than the lesser Huffys?
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Old 07-13-14, 02:01 PM   #19
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The short answer is that it's extremely difficult to mess up a 3 speed.

As a good general rule with department store bikes, the simpler they are, the better.
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Old 07-13-14, 02:25 PM   #20
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What makes they Bay Pointe better than the lesser Huffys?
I'm going to say Pat has it right. There's very little to go wrong. Plus, at least to my eyes, it's one of the more attractively designed Huffys I've owned or have seen.
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Old 07-13-14, 03:18 PM   #21
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I'm going to say Pat has it right. There's very little to go wrong. Plus, at least to my eyes, it's one of the more attractively designed Huffys I've owned or have seen.
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Old 07-13-14, 04:05 PM   #22
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I think the above post speaks more to the poor quality of supposed quality 3 spd like Raleighs than it does to the high quality of the huffy. I read the above as saying:

Almost all 3 spds of the period came with heavy parts of questionable utility. They aren't even much nicer than a Huffy.
Or, those parts leveled the playing field. The Schwinn Racer probably was a step ahead as it had Weinmann brakes, Sturmey-Archer gearing and killer quality chrome plating for example. If you were looking for utility as these bikes were designed to provide.
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Old 07-13-14, 06:21 PM   #23
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I only remember my Free Spirit as being fast. I couldn't tell you what components were on it. A guy brought me an All-Pro from the landfill, and it was very similar to that Free Spirit. I turned it into a 1x5 and gave it to a member of the DWI crowd. Worked for him.

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Old 07-14-14, 04:52 AM   #24
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Which bike would you rather own?

Compare / contrast:

Vista Espada - early '80s (MSRP ~~$250-275 USD); 12-speed
- forged aluminum center-pull brakes
- aluminum brake levers
- forged stem
- extruded steel bars (SR; high-tensile) with cotton bar tape
- Araya rims with stainless spokes
- Suntour aluminum derailleurs, hubs, ratcheting friction shifters
- IRC gumwall tires in 27" OD
- lugged frame (with appropriate braze-ons for cables) and box-crown fork; Hi-Tensile steel; available in Mixte and in different sizes for different riders
- proto ergonomic saddle (sorta comfortable)
Weight - about 29 lbs.

Huffy Santa Fe, early '80s (MSRP - ~$150 USD; usually they went for about $120 at a discount store); 10-speed
- stamped steel side-pull brakes
- stamped steel brake levers and turkey handles
- stamped steel stem
- mild-steel handlebars (generic) with perforated plastic slide-on grips (which left divot impressions on your hands)
- generic rims; galvanized spokes
- Shimano stamped steel derailleurs, hubs, non-ratcheting / all-plastic friction shifters
- generic / mystery brand gumwall tires (26 1 1/4")
- brazed and MIG-welded mild steel frame, with stamped-crown fork; step-through and 23" frame size were the only options.
- plastic tie-wraps to hold the cables in place (sometimes they worked).
- stamped steel saddle with leatherette cover (horrendously uncomfortable)
Weight - 38 lbs.
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Old 07-14-14, 05:32 AM   #25
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Or, those parts leveled the playing field. The Schwinn Racer probably was a step ahead as it had Weinmann brakes, Sturmey-Archer gearing and killer quality chrome plating for example. If you were looking for utility as these bikes were designed to provide.

Here is a pic of my 69 Deluxe Racer I think it has less than a mile on it. All original with original white wall tires with no wear on them.
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