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1973 Schwinn Suburban rides again!

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1973 Schwinn Suburban rides again!

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Old 10-16-05, 05:07 PM
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1973 Schwinn Suburban rides again!

I got this bike almost two months ago. It was whole and complete, just old and filthy and badly needing going over. Thanks to advice from cruentus and a little TLC, this old bike is once more operational.



This is how it sat late-August. Original trim in every way, including--I fear--the tires. I took the bike entirely apart...I had it torn down to just the frame, packed the bearings, ran new cable housings, strung new cables, stuck everything back on it that I'd taken off (except, at the moment, for the dynamo and lights, which will go back on after my next paycheck, and I can get some new bulbs (and possibly a whole new taillight, since the lens was broken off long before I ever got the bike).

I got some rubber under it today, fooled around with the brakes for about two hours (I wish I were kidding) and finally launched the old beast on her born-again-virgin maiden voyage.

I bugged Todd into photographically documenting the monumentous occasion.
Click for a larger version.

I look pretty awkward in this picture because I was still launching my butt up onto the bike's egregiously large "comfort" seat, but it's the clearest picture of the bike. Also, you can see from my cheese-eating grin, that I've been having a damn good time tinkering and riding.



My hair matches the bike's paint job. Isn't that silly?

This old bike is a pretty good ride, I must say. I need to get a different seat on it, because this one is really wide and makes me pedal kind of bow-legged. I would not want to do long distances on it, though it will get me downtown and back just fine. The seat is really noisy, too. Those springs creak and squeak, which is terribly annoying. Otherwise, the bike is quiet. Once you get it into whatever gear you want, there's no chain nor derailleur noise, and the freewheel is not particularly loud when you are just coasting. I had to tighten up the reflector on the back fender, as it had been rattling and clanking something fierce, but now that that's taken care of, nothing else is making noise.

It's a little noisy shifting from gear to gear, as is customary with these old bikes where you just shove on the shifter lever until something happens. It actually works pretty well, though. A nudge from my right thumb is all it needs to shift from one gear to the next, and it doesn't take an undue amount of tweaking to get it aligned so that the derailleur isn't rubbing on the chain in any given gear. It will hit all five without problems, and is as quiet and smooth in the highest gear as it is in the lowest.

It's a good bike for being a 31-year-old cheap bike. The Suburban was in the lower-mid range of quality for Schwinn bikes, a sibling to the Varsity/Continental line. You can find Varsinentals with exactly the same frame, just different components.

I'm planning to trick this bike out with a rack and baskets in back and a wire handlebar basket in front. It will be a fine around-towner crap-hauler.

Another time I will mess around with the dynamo, headlight, and taillight for the old rig.
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Old 10-16-05, 05:47 PM
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I am bidding on a 1979 Suburban and if I win, my plans sound similar to wat you did.

Any specific advice? This will be the first time working on a bike from the 70's since the 70's. I saw a web site that suggests brass scrubbers for removing surface rust, so that was my thought on the cosmetic work.

I picked this bike to bid on for a couple of reasons, first it looks fairly stock and in OK condition. Also, it is local so the shipping doesn't send the price to unreasonable levels (I hope to pick it up for under $20 but I am willing to pay a little more).

I think it is a fun way to start my exploration of vintage cycling.

I am toying with the thought of putting drop bars on mine... to make it more like its siblings. But, I will wait until I see how I like the ride stock before trying anything unique.

In my case, I usually ride a 23" frame, but the 79 Suburban only came in 22 and 24, so I am hoping the 22 works out for me. I think I may need to put a longish stem on it if I do drop bars.

I also expect to put my Brooks saddle on it.
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Old 10-16-05, 06:02 PM
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Congrats, looks nice!

I got a cheap gel seat from Wally World for my Varsity -- very comfy. The seat is made by Velo and its the same one that Nashbar sells under it's house brand for $29. Wally sells it for $19.95 but I got it on sale for $9.95.

After you ride this bike for a while, you may find that you like it better than your Burley for commuting. If that becomes the case, replace the steel rims with alloy -- it'll make a big difference in ride quality and braking.

I'll PM you the secret to an ultra-shiny pie-plate.

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Old 10-16-05, 06:04 PM
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Mine didn't really have any rust problems. The crank bearing cone was kind of stuck and required a little brute force to get it worked out, but otherwise it was a fairly hassle-free teardown.

In the case of my bike, the cables were corroded into the original cable housings, so I had to actually just cut them off with wire-cutters. This bike sat in a woodshed for 20+ years and so it had a major coat of dirt, pigeon crap, and spider-webs that had to be hosed off before I could start anything whatsoever. It was mega-filthy, but not very rusty.
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Old 10-16-05, 06:19 PM
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Well, you did a good job on yours, and are an inspiration for me.

I hope when I tear mine down that there is nothing terribly wrong with the bearings, cones or races.

Happy cycling!
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Old 10-16-05, 06:28 PM
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Congratulations! I get the warm fuzzies every time I see someone bring back a Varsity, Continental, or Suburban. They're cheap to buy and make wonderful projects. After you've finished, you have a virtually indestructable bike that'll last decades of abuse, and many more decades with a little TLC.

Good for you!
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Old 10-16-05, 10:22 PM
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Bikes: ' 96 Trek 830 Mountain Track,'74 Schwinn Suburban, '74-ish Fuji Dynamic 10, '73 Schwinn Varsity,'73 Schwinn Breeze, '94 Schwinn Sidewinder. First Schwinn was a '74 Schwinn 24 inch Varsity in Lime Green, and previously owned a '74 Schwinn Breeze

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Gorgeous bike! I have an opaque blue '74 Suburban that I'm going to restore or have restored, one day. I'm not a bike mechanic, so while I've got it looking great, it needs a lot of mechanical work. I can make 'em look pretty....just don't know how to do the mechanics of it. Regardless, they are great bikes, and I, like Scooper, love to see people restore them, instead of trashing them or parting them out!

BTW: Go KC Chiefs! I'm a native Kansas Citian! :-)
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Old 10-16-05, 11:14 PM
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Originally Posted by As You Like It
This bike sat in a woodshed for 20+ years and so it had a major coat of dirt, pigeon crap, and spider-webs that had to be hosed off before I could start anything whatsoever. It was mega-filthy, but not very rusty.
The filth is probably why it cleaned up so well - it acted like a barrier to the rust.

I actively look for filthy vintage bikes, as it has been my experience that the grimier they are the better they clean up. Especially chains and freewheels. If they are caked with old grease and grime, chances are very good you won't find any (or at least minimal) rust underneath.

One question though - you DID put a shiny new dork disk on, didn't you? All your hard work doesn't mean a thing if you ain't got the bling!!

Oh - and BTW, that sofa is very very cool.
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Old 10-16-05, 11:39 PM
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This '70 I sold last summer came in at 42 pounds. Damn, I'm sorry I got rid of it.

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Old 10-18-05, 08:38 PM
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I took the old Schwinn out for a proper ride today. I rode it to work, then after work, I went for a ride through Cliff Drive, as I wanted to see how the old beast really was on a hill or two.

That old bike is a surprisingly good climber! It's not a patch on my new road bike which clocks in at probably half the weight of the Schwinn, but it definitely takes a grade with more grace than does my 9-year-old mountain bike. I worked it up this switchback hill that a lot of local cyclists like to climb repeatedly for training, and I didn't even have to crank it into the lowest gear (I was in second-lowest). This tells me that I could probably flog it up any hill in town if I wanted or needed to. I was standing on the pedals and pulling on the bars good and hard, but it came up the hill pretty respectably. I was satisfied with the experience.

The old bike doesn't corner half bad, either. Cliff Drive is a winding circuit of S-curves up and down hill, and you can hug a curve tight, coasting with the inside foot up, or take the curve wide and pedal all the way through and either way, it feels steady.

I'm sure I looked plenty goofy hot-rodding this old granny bike around--like some fool lead-footing a 1973 Buick Skylark, but it was a very fun ride. Plus, I ran into one of my old riding buddies, who was all impressed, firstly by the condition of my bike, and secondly, that I did all the work on it myself
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Old 10-18-05, 09:18 PM
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I'm not surprised by your experience. There's a reason why Schwinn sold over a million E-F frame bikes.

I wouldn't be surprised if you decided to use this bike as your primary commuter. You really should consider replacing the steel rims. Steel rims, hand brakes and water aren't on speaking terms.

Nashbar has 27" alloy rims on sale for $9.95. These are the same rims I used on my Varsity.

http://www.nashbar.com/profile.cfm?c...eid=&pagename=

New spokes, nipples and a truing stand, and you're all set.
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Old 10-18-05, 09:41 PM
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I'd love to, but right now....I'm broke!. I'll probably ride my mountain bike this winter and sort out the minor refinements to the Schwinn sometime before spring.

The Suburban is a fine ride, however, and I have every intention of helping catch it up for all the years of riding it missed whilst stored in a woodshed.
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Old 10-18-05, 09:49 PM
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Originally Posted by As You Like It
I'd love to, but right now....I'm broke!. I'll probably ride my mountain bike this winter and sort out the minor refinements to the Schwinn sometime before spring.

The Suburban is a fine ride, however, and I have every intention of helping catch it up for all the years of riding it missed whilst stored in a woodshed.
If you are going to ride this bike regularly, don't ride in wet weather if you plan on stopping in a reasonable distance. When steel rims are wet, you need the grip of a gorilla to get the bike stopped.

When I was a teenage, I thought that was funny. When I was a teenager, I thought Benny Hill was funny. There's nothing funny about either of them.
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Old 10-18-05, 09:58 PM
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*nods* Fair enough. Fact is, I can't afford a truing stand, spoke wrenches, spokes, nipples, and rims right now. Sometime after the New Year, maybe. So on days when the weather is definitely foul, I'll probably sally forth on my old mountain bike, which will definitely stop RIGHT NOW!
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