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1978 Free Spirit Re-refresh

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1978 Free Spirit Re-refresh

Old 01-02-24, 02:55 PM
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1978 Free Spirit Re-refresh

I recently repainted the Free Spirit that I've had since my wife bought it for my first birthday after we tied the knot. (Mount St. Helens blew on my birthday a year after that, but I'm reasonably sure my wife had nothing to do with it.) I also replaced the seat, bar tape, pedals, crankset, and tires for this go-round. Its current form is a long way from how it arrived under a birthday bow, which was as a silver 10-speed with orange graphics, stem-mounted friction shifters, dual-action brake levers, and 27" steel wheels. The only things still original besides the frame and fork are the cable stop for the rear caliper and the center-pull calipers, although I've powder-coated them black and added a booster to the rear caliper.





I put an Exage 400LX Biopace crankset with oval chainrings on it this time with a matching front derailleur. It improves the chain line to the 8-speed cassette that I added on a previous upgrade after spreading the rear dropouts to 130mm and putting 700c wheels on it.



The color scheme was inspired by one of my guitars. In fact, the previous paint job used the same paint I used on the guitar because I had it on hand at the time and liked the color. But pro tip: Nitrocellulose musical instrument lacquer does not hold up well on a bicycle. So this time around I used automotive paint for the black and for the clear coat, and Rustoleum Gloss Golden Sunset for the yellow base coat. The graphics are recreated from the originals on water-slide decal stock and are applied beneath the clear coat.



Here's a close approximation to how it originally looked. In this photo from 2017, I had recently put a drop bar back on it after several years as a flat-bar dad bike, complete with a child seat on the rear. I did not mind the original graphics and paint, but they were not salvageable after years of being crammed onto a bike carrier with three other bikes and years after that of bouncing around my son's college town with a massive U lock slung over the frame. Although it's not one of the better frames that Sears sourced during that era, it fits me well, has comfortable geometry, and has been part of the family for a long time.

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Old 01-02-24, 03:37 PM
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I have to admit, before I read your post, my initial reaction to the title was something along the lines of "Oh, no. Why is this person sinking time into a Free Spirit?" Then I read your post and the history you have with this bike justifies what you've done with it and more!

What you've done looks great!

Would you mind sharing more details of the build story? Any problems pairing this frame with modern components?

(Full disclosure, about 15 years ago I pulled a Free Spirit from a neighbor's curbside recycling and only gave up on it when i couldn't even get the stem out with a hacksaw. Like a few others on this forum, I have a soft spot for lost causes.)
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Old 01-02-24, 06:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Andy_K
I have to admit, before I read your post, my initial reaction to the title was something along the lines of "Oh, no. Why is this person sinking time into a Free Spirit?" Then I read your post and the history you have with this bike justifies what you've done with it and more!

What you've done looks great!

Would you mind sharing more details of the build story? Any problems pairing this frame with modern components?

(Full disclosure, about 15 years ago I pulled a Free Spirit from a neighbor's curbside recycling and only gave up on it when i couldn't even get the stem out with a hacksaw. Like a few others on this forum, I have a soft spot for lost causes.)
​​
Thanks! I think it's fair to wonder if I lost my mind. The bike is part of the family now and you don't always think rationally about family. It was also my entry point for restomodding bikes, and I started down that path without any frame of reference at the time for whether a bike was worth it or not. I did the same thing with guitars, so maybe it's a character flaw.

I haven't encountered a lot of problems putting modern components on it. It has a standard bottom bracket housing so I'm running a Shimano BB-UN55 sealed unit in it. I did have to spread the rear dropouts from their original 126mm and I think I spread the front ones, too, because they were 90mm. The replacement headset worked fine except that there isn't a shoulder at the bottom of the 1" head tube where the bottom race usually presses into place. I had to make a shim to sit between the inner surface of the race and the head tube. The inner diameter of the head tube requires a 21.1mm quill, which isn't super common but I found one on eBay. It had no bottle bosses or rack mounting bosses so I added those with rivnuts.

The frame was unfortunately built by Murray, I think, according to what I've read about associating the serial number with the frame supplier. It is not elegantly built, and it's not the lightest at about 7 lbs (even though one of the decals says "Lite Weight Lug Frame." I took some time to file off bits of brazing material that had been dribbled near the welds and used some Bondo to smooth out the crude attachment points for the rear dropouts. But the lugs on it are fairly nice looking and I do like a lugged frame. There is pretty good clearance for tires. I've got 35mm on it now and it looks like there would be room for 38.
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Old 01-02-24, 11:16 PM
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The crimped-stay, stamped-dropout crew remains strong.





Excellent work, friend.
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Old 01-03-24, 12:03 AM
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That's quite stunning!

Absolutely fantastic that you made it such a looker and that you enjoy it!!!
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Old 01-03-24, 01:37 AM
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It looks like you added braze-ons for a rack near the top of the seat stays, and did something to smooth out the stays at the rear dropout. That came out looking good.

Here's the Free Spirit that I failed to rehabilitate (pictured in "as found" condition). Flickr tells me it was in 2009.



This one had 26x1-3/8" wheels, an Ashtabula bottom bracket, a seat post nearly as skinny as the stem, and no lugs. Yours is clearly the deluxe model by comparison.
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Old 01-03-24, 06:35 AM
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Great paint work!!
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Old 01-03-24, 09:27 AM
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Nice paint work! The bright paint and black components make the bike look 20 years newer.

Growing up in a small town, the Sears catalog was like Amazon is now. Every fall, when the Christmas catalog came out, we would drool over the new bikes, but I never owned one until last summer. I found this in a Goodwill store near me. It was Sears best ten-speed for 1974.

as found Sears Ted Williams Free Spirit 531, made in Austria


1974 Sears Free Spirit 531 after cleaning up.
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Old 01-03-24, 09:36 AM
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I like the sentimental value placed on this bike and the effort/love you put into it. It only has to make sense to you, and I totally get it. Well done.
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Old 01-03-24, 10:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Andy_K
It looks like you added braze-ons for a rack near the top of the seat stays, and did something to smooth out the stays at the rear dropout. That came out looking good.

Here's the Free Spirit that I failed to rehabilitate (pictured in "as found" condition). Flickr tells me it was in 2009.



This one had 26x1-3/8" wheels, an Ashtabula bottom bracket, a seat post nearly as skinny as the stem, and no lugs. Yours is clearly the deluxe model by comparison.
My thought exactly. I had a yellow version of yours -- terrible bike, but I kept it at my workplace for noontime errands. I was not overly upset when it got stolen. It looks like ours were Murray/Huffy boat anchors, and the OP's was perhaps a (vastly superior) Steyr-Daimler-Puch offering. (Yeah -- I admittedly have a thing for Austrian bikes, with three Capos.)
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Old 01-03-24, 01:42 PM
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Did Murray produce any other bikes having the OP's bike's particular joinery features? I too mistook it for some sort of Steyr-built product.

I can remember the Sears catalogs, when "Sear's Best" was aspirational.

I had one Murray-built, drop-bar Free-spirit bike, but having 26x1-3/8" tires. I gave up on getting that bike sold.
For a while I had someone inquiring about buying it to use on a Hollywood movie set, but which unfortunately fell through.
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Old 01-03-24, 03:54 PM
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Originally Posted by dddd
Did Murray produce any other bikes having the OP's bike's particular joinery features? I too mistook it for some sort of Steyr-built product.

I can remember the Sears catalogs, when "Sear's Best" was aspirational.

I had one Murray-built, drop-bar Free-spirit bike, but having 26x1-3/8" tires. I gave up on getting that bike sold.
For a while I had someone inquiring about buying it to use on a Hollywood movie set, but which unfortunately fell through.
Until I did cosmetic surgery on them, the original joints at the rear dropouts on mine were like you see on the other Murray frames in this thread. You can also see their original state in the last picture in my original post, where the bike is still in its factory colors. Kind of perplexing that they wouldn't bother to braze on dropouts in the normal way if they took the effort to otherwise braze together a lugged frame. The dropout attachments seem sturdy enough, given that they haven't come loose or cracked in 45 years of riding, but they didn't look great. So I did what I could with that while I had it stripped down to metal.

I know what you mean about Sears and it's association with quality back in the day. To a broad swath of the public, anything with the Sears name on it meant quality. Clearly with the bicycles it was a mixed bag, and it seems like they sourced frames and components in much more variety than it appeared in their catalogs. I've found a catalog online for the time frame of my bike and I don't see anything in it spec'd like mine. I guess it could be that they carried more variety in the retail stores than they made available in catalogs.

I also used to eagerly await the Sears and Wards catalogs when I was a kid to see the new guitar amplifiers they had each year. I even had a Wards amp for a while in the junior high phase of my rock and roll career. It didn't have enough power to be heard over the drums but it had a groovy wavy pattern on the grill cloth. But I digress. There's probably a better thread/forum for that . . .
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Old 01-04-24, 02:25 PM
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banana yellow
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Old 01-04-24, 04:46 PM
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A lot of "give a $h1t" went into that build and it really shows. The paint scheme, pinstriping, everything; just super.
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