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Free Spirit Sovereign 12 speed road bike, what have I got?

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Free Spirit Sovereign 12 speed road bike, what have I got?

Old 10-17-11, 06:42 PM
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borobike
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Free Spirit Sovereign 12 speed road bike, what have I got?

Found this on the side of the road today. It's scratched and scuffed, but near functional. Just needs new cables and shifters to pedal away right now from what I can tell. Actually, I think with air in the tires it could pedal off right now, it just wouldn't be able to shift.

But I'd like to do this bike up more than that. I'm aware that this isn't a particularly valuable bike (Sears bike from the 70s?) but I'd like to fix it up and make it into a nice vintage-style bike. Clean things off, buff the rusty bits, oil the moving parts and maybe throw some new cables at it, and give it a good repaint (I'm thinking light blue or green) and then finish it off with brown leather handlebar tape. This will hopefully make a nice backup or counterpart to my Denali.

Here's the pics!

















The derailleurs both say Falcon. The rear one seems to move okay, the front one is seized. I may just replace it since FD's are cheap.

I do have questions! As I said, I know that this was a relatively inexpensive Sears bike, but can anyone tell me of it's overall quality in components? Maybe when it was sold? Also, are the wheels that are on this bike likely to be 27" or 700c? Is the Falcon RD worth saving or should I consider replacing it too? Anything else I should be aware of as I go about restoring this? Thanks for your input!

EDIT: Nevermind, I answered one of my own questions. I looked at one of the tires and they are 27 x 1 1/4 in size, so 27" wheels.
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Last edited by borobike; 10-17-11 at 06:45 PM.
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Old 10-17-11, 06:46 PM
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fix the shifting and just ride it as is - i love old and crusty - but its a free spirit - wheels might even be 26 x 1 3/8

edit - i'm also thinking 80s more likely
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Old 10-17-11, 06:51 PM
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What is it that you like about this bike? That it was free? That you saved it from the junkyard?
You can certainly make it rideable with a little work, but you'll put in a pound of sweat and frustration for every gram of enjoyment you get out of it.
There must be another bike with your name on it waiting for you out there.
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Old 10-17-11, 06:51 PM
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It's a bike boom bike. You should be able to get it rideable. They should be 27" wheels. Make sure the bottom bracket and head set are adjusted. Seems like every one I look at are loose. The Falcon derailleur will work fine. It's friction shift anyway, so it's a lot more forgiving with the gears. For the price you paid, how can you complain? lol..
Get some tires/tubes and some decent brake pads and ride the heck out of it.
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Old 10-17-11, 06:58 PM
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I might put new cables on it, a set of tires and new grease and bearings, but that is the extent that I would go. It could be a fun old bike to ride, but don't let it become a money hole. I also know that there is something special about finding a bike for free and getting it back on the road.
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Old 10-17-11, 07:02 PM
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Originally Posted by DiabloScott View Post
What is it that you like about this bike? That it was free? That you saved it from the junkyard?
You can certainly make it rideable with a little work, but you'll put in a pound of sweat and frustration for every gram of enjoyment you get out of it.
There must be another bike with your name on it waiting for you out there.
Mostly that it's free, and fixable.

This is the first bike I've found in the sixth months that I've been looking, lol! I'm certainly not going to turn it down. I'll keep my other bike for riding fast, but I bet this bike will make a nice cruiser for the slower group rides.

Thanks for the info so far guys, I appreciate it!

Any tips on easy ways to remove rust? So far I've heard of using vinegar and Coca-Cola. Anything available at say, Wal-Mart that might do the job easier and faster?
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Old 10-17-11, 07:42 PM
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aluminum foil and water
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Old 10-17-11, 07:43 PM
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Originally Posted by sonatageek View Post
I also know that there is something special about finding a bike for free and getting it back on the road.
yep yep +1
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Old 10-17-11, 08:39 PM
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It's lugged, so there's a fairly good chance this was made by Puch: Look for "Made in Austria" on it. These frames are somewhat better than the run-of-the-mill gas pipe bikes you'd think you'd find at Sears.

The Falcon derailleur is a Tourney knock-off and definitely not original. It will be better shifting than the Lark that was probably on there.

If you don't want to go the Coke route, get some Bar Keeper's Friend. It comes as a creme or in a can like Comet. The brake pads will take care of the sides of the rims after a couple rides.
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Old 10-17-11, 11:50 PM
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Originally Posted by marley mission View Post
aluminum foil and water
Wow, thanks...that worked so much better than the naval jelly I bought. Never would have thought that.

I'll probably still give it a proper going over with the jelly later (perhaps tomorrow) but the aluminum gets rid of it FAST...

Originally Posted by sillygolem View Post
It's lugged, so there's a fairly good chance this was made by Puch: Look for "Made in Austria" on it. These frames are somewhat better than the run-of-the-mill gas pipe bikes you'd think you'd find at Sears.

The Falcon derailleur is a Tourney knock-off and definitely not original. It will be better shifting than the Lark that was probably on there.

If you don't want to go the Coke route, get some Bar Keeper's Friend. It comes as a creme or in a can like Comet. The brake pads will take care of the sides of the rims after a couple rides.
Thanks for the extra information. The Falcon appears to be functional, so I'm definitely planning on keeping it. Where would I look to see if the bike was made in Austria?

Well, I've been stripping and cleaning the bike for a while now and am still very pleased with my find. A few more observations:

Both wheels are perfectly in true. Big plus.

Both tires hold air perfectly as well. Also a plus.

Rear hub rolls smoothly but makes noise when turned. Definitely in need of service.

BB smooth and quiet but will get service anyway. Same with front hub.

Headset creaks a little bit at center, so it will need service as well.

Chain and freewheel are very dry but completely rust-free. Probably will just clean, oil, and re-use.

I managed to knock the FD loose, so maybe I can use it too. Will be getting all new cables and housings all around, including the brakes, though they work fine as-is.

Not sure what to do about replacement shifters. I'd like to replace them with either stem, downtube, or bar-end shifters. Cost is a concern, so probably either stem or clamp-on downtube. Thoughts?

The rust is coming off the wheels nicely but unfortunately it's leaving visible pits behind. Still looks better than rust, and they'll add character. Crank arms have a few small pits as well.

Here's a progress pic, hopefully this shows up:



Non-refurbished/refurbished

I definitely know what you guys mean though, about getting an old bike back on the road. I'm excited for this! More later.
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Last edited by borobike; 10-18-11 at 12:03 AM.
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Old 10-18-11, 12:06 AM
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it is the alloy bike,right?it looks old. before you ride it,pls check it carefully.
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Old 10-18-11, 07:28 AM
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Originally Posted by vivan chen View Post
it is the alloy bike,right?it looks old. before you ride it,pls check it carefully.
No, I don't think it's one of the Austrian 531 Free Spirits, this one looks like one of the more recent hi-ten steel bikes.

I agree that it can be fun to bring an old clunker back from the dead, but I'd be careful to keep the expenditure low on this one.
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Old 10-18-11, 07:36 AM
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Oh, I get it. F. S. stands for Free Spirit? I see where it says F. S. on it, but I hadn't realized that stands for Free Spirit. At any rate, I've seen a lot of these, it's not a Puch made bike. Made in Taiwan or similar, 1980's.
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Old 10-18-11, 06:06 PM
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Yup, you guys are right. This one's Asian, I found "Made in China" stamped on it during disassembly. Although, the componentry is all Falcon and made in Taiwan.

Curious though, it appears to have the same lugged frame and 3 piece crank as the 531 units. Maybe it will also ride as nicely. How does yours ride seedsbelize?

I take back what I said earlier about naval jelly, that stuff WORKS when you use it right. Spent the afternoon de-rusting until I ran out of light. Only have a few small bits left to do.

I'm listening about keeping the costs down. So far the only new parts I've bought it have been cables and housings, shifters (I went with downtube), bar tape (brown-colored, not leather for cost concerns), and pedals. The old pedals were usable but they were pretty shabby looking and seized onto the crank arms. I had them removed at the bike shop and bought a cheap metal set to replace them. The only other thing I'd like to do which will add further cost to this project is to paint it. It seems like such a shame to put all these shiny (and they are VERY shiny) parts on this bike without doing anything for the shabby paint on the frame. I can spray paint well enough but it's more the removal of the old paint I'm worried about. Thoughts?

I'd like for it to have a Brooks saddle too but that's for another day with more coin in the bank.

Anyway, here's today's progress.



Parts. Everywhere.



Falcon rear derailleur. This was already in decent operable shape to begin with, but now it looks absolutely brand new.



Falcon front derailleur. This was a rusty, seized mess. It's now neither rusty nor seized. I plan on putting it back on the bike. You can also see the front brake bracket, which was a rusty mess. Compare it side by side to the rear one which has yet to be de-rusted:





Probably the biggest difference of all. This 3 piece crank was a rusty mess, looks like it just left the factory now.



I like the gearing on this bike. 52/40 chainrings, 14-28t 6 speed freewheel. It'll be just a tiny bit slower than my other bike (52-13) but it'll be easier to get up the hills, too (lowest gear on other bike 42-26).

Lastly, here's the handlebar and brake levers reassembled. They were already in pretty good shape to begin with but the levers were a bit rusty.



All that's left to de-rust is the rear caliper, seatpost, and a retaining nut for the headset. Tomorrow I plan to either do that or start working on cleaning and regreasing hub, BB, and headset bearings.

As I said earlier, I decided to go with downtube shifters just to see what that's all about.

More later.
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Last edited by borobike; 10-18-11 at 06:12 PM.
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Old 10-18-11, 06:48 PM
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Looks like you're doing a great job on it, I know how good it feels to bring one back from near death
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Old 10-19-11, 06:27 AM
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Are you going to paint it yourself?

It's funny that your vintage bike and your modern bike are both "department store" bikes.

Good on ya. You've done a great job
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Old 10-19-11, 07:27 AM
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Heh. I picked up the ladies version of this exact bike a couple weeks ago. Was looking for a cheap beater my long-distance lady-friend could ride when she visits. Mine wasn't as cheap as yours, but in NYC getting a rideable bike for $35 is almost the same as free.

For what it's worth, mine also has Falcon derailleurs so I do believe those were stock.
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Old 10-19-11, 08:56 AM
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i recently sold a Sears Free Spirit FS12 with Falcon derailleurs for the princely sum of $45 to a very eager and enthusiastic young man of twelve years or so. I also rescued this one off the curb; and in fact, I all but took it away from the scrapper who arrived the same moment I did. Fortunately for me, he first reached for some heavier scrap metal rods instead of the bike.

I used Barkeeper's Friend to remove a lot of rust from the components, and chiseled a lot of solidified grease from the pulleys, lubed all the moving parts, and dang, that bike rolled smooth! It is the only geared bike I've ridden that did not make that tic-tic-tic sound while coasting. Perhaps someone could say why it didn't make that sound?
Anyway, here it is:

1987 Sears Free Spirit FS12, before:


After:

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Old 10-19-11, 10:26 AM
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I didn't put together until the end of the thread that you were the fellow behind the Denali thread as well.

Go ahead and buy a Brooks saddle -- as long as you're not welding it to the Free Spirit, it's an asset that can be moved from bike to bike, not an expense.

- Scott
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Old 10-19-11, 02:37 PM
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Thanks for the nice comments everyone!

Originally Posted by custermustache View Post
Are you going to paint it yourself?

It's funny that your vintage bike and your modern bike are both "department store" bikes.

Good on ya. You've done a great job
Thanks! I'd like to paint it myself, but I'm concerned about it's long term durability. As it turns out, I'm not sure I'm going to paint it right now anyway. I'd definitely like to paint it at some point though. I'm thinking about a forest green color. With the brown bar tape and my future Brooks it would look really nice.

It is interesting about the department store part. I'm interested to see how it rides in comparison to my Denali. I'm betting the Denali will be faster, but this bike will be more comfortable. Kind of planning my future uses for both around that.

Originally Posted by DavidW56 View Post
i recently sold a Sears Free Spirit FS12 with Falcon derailleurs for the princely sum of $45 to a very eager and enthusiastic young man of twelve years or so. I also rescued this one off the curb; and in fact, I all but took it away from the scrapper who arrived the same moment I did. Fortunately for me, he first reached for some heavier scrap metal rods instead of the bike.

I used Barkeeper's Friend to remove a lot of rust from the components, and chiseled a lot of solidified grease from the pulleys, lubed all the moving parts, and dang, that bike rolled smooth! It is the only geared bike I've ridden that did not make that tic-tic-tic sound while coasting. Perhaps someone could say why it didn't make that sound?
Nice work on the bike! My guess regarding the noise is that it may be worn or have lots of grease inside the freewheel to where the 'ratcheting' mech inside is silent. It's weird that it doesn't make that noise though, mine does. I haven't had a chance to ride it yet, but from what I can tell, I agree about the smoothness. Even ungreased it really felt smooth just pushing it along, even more so after!

Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
I didn't put together until the end of the thread that you were the fellow behind the Denali thread as well.

Go ahead and buy a Brooks saddle -- as long as you're not welding it to the Free Spirit, it's an asset that can be moved from bike to bike, not an expense.

- Scott
One and the same! I really want a Brooks for this bike, unfortunately the budget just won't allow it yet. Maybe I'll ask for a new paint job and a Brooks for Christmas?

More progress! I had an urge to get things moving last night so I serviced everything on the bike and started re-assembly. It's really weird, with all the shiny, clean stuff put back on the bike the paint doesn't look nearly as bad as it did before. Don't get me wrong, there are still plently of scuffs and scratches (no dents though!) but they just don't seem to be as noticeable.

Anyway, so I started servicing stuff. Cleaned off the freewheel and chain by soaking it in degreaser. Came out sparkling clean. The freewheel has almost no wear at all, I'm not sure how much this bike was ridden. Neither do the chain or chainrings for that matter. Chain is a blue KMC, freewheel is a Falcon. Found a link on the chain that binds a bit, I tried soaking it in WD-40 overnight so we'll see if it's loosened up. If not I'll just remove the link.

Front hub was filled with grease and didn't really need servicing, but I did it anyway.

Headset was absolutely bone dry, almost as if it had never had grease inside. Cleaned and repacked, so now it's good to go.

BB was okay, but the grease was old and black. Cleaned and re-installed, very smooth.

Rear hub was okay on one side and completely dry on the other. Cleaned and repacked, rolls smooth.

Here it is today almost completely reassembled.



I need to get it outside to show off the shiny bits. As you can see I changed the saddle, the one in the picture is the stock saddle from my Denali that I threw in my parts bin. The one that came with the bike made rude noises when I sat or moved on it.

Today I'm going to finish de-rusting the rear caliper, then hook brake cables up. After that I'll attend to the chain with the somewhat stuck link, then oil it...after that I'm just waiting for the shifters and bar tape.

Can't wait for the first ride! More later.
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Old 10-19-11, 07:00 PM
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Originally Posted by borobike
Nice work on the bike! My guess regarding the noise is that it may be worn or have lots of grease inside the freewheel to where the 'ratcheting' mech inside is silent. It's weird that it doesn't make that noise though, mine does. I haven't had a chance to ride it yet, but from what I can tell, I agree about the smoothness. Even ungreased it really felt smooth just pushing it along, even more so after!
I take back what I said, after reassembly and regreasing mine doesn't click either! Weird.

Last update until the last two pieces of this Sears puzzle get here.

Finished de-rusting the brake caliper. This was the rusty caliper pictured a few posts ago alongside the front one.



Dug into the parts bin again and used the pads that originally came with my dual pivot Tektro brakes that I added to the Denali. They looked like decent pads, but probably not as good as my Kool-Stops. They'll serve well here. I think the pads that were on it are original to the bike. I'm not sure this bike got ridden much despite the paint scuffs, there was no visible wear on the freewheel, chain, or chainrings.

Speaking of the chain, I ended up having to remove that stuck link, which is okay because I think it was a bit long anyway. Oiled the chain and it glides along smoothly and quietly.

I also attached the cables and housings (all new) for the brakes. They both work well. A little slippery still from the WD-40, but it will burn off.

Also added some accessories that I'll be needing. Used the existing holes drilled into the frame to add a water bottle cage, a small seat bag, and a tail light. Also got it a computer but I'll wait for the bar tape before I put it on.

These pictures aren't doing it justice, so I hope you'll take my word that the bike is looking really nice all put together and shiny again. I'll get some actual pics of it with my real camera outside once everything is here and installed. But, for now, here it is:



More later. Not much else to do now except wait for my parts, and then I can take it for a test ride. Looking forward to that, just from what I can tell pushing it around and such, I bet it will be a nice ride.
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Old 10-19-11, 07:53 PM
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I can see some shine, but I'm eager for the outside pics. Perhaps the OG paint will be good enough after cleaning.

FWIW, I don't know if a new Brooks would be appropriate for this bike. You ought to be able to score a used one with plenty of life left in it for less than the cost of a new one. Just sayin'.

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Old 10-20-11, 07:17 PM
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Thanks, I'm hoping so too!

I'd love a good brown leather Brooks, used or otherwise. Unfortunately even used they still command a fairly high price unless they look as though they've been through Armageddon. I am seriously thinking of asking one for Christmas though after tonight's test ride (well, more like test roll).

Minor update on that note, tonight I just couldn't wait any longer and took it for a test ride up and down the street. Not much I can do with it stuck in top gear for now but there were some hills I could keep my speed up on. What a nice ride! Very smooth and forgiving on bumps. Feels like riding on vintage air. Brakes with the Tektro pads are seriously impressive for single pivots. They've got some sharp initial bite and can really lay the chomp down when asked to do so. I'm glad for that, seeing as how this is an older bike I don't really want to retrofit it with dual pivots but I'd still like decent braking power. These have it.

Other than that, everything was quiet and rolled nicely. Tracked straight, cornered well, and did everything else I could ask of it.

There were a few negatives, though!

I discovered on my first test roll that my left crank arm was twisted, not bent, but actually twisted along the length of it. I honestly can't see how something like that could happen, there is no visible damage anywhere. I did notice though, that on the backside of the arm there were some marks that look like it may have been in a vise at one point, either trying to correct the problem or causing it.

A new cottered crank is only 8 bucks on ebay, but I took a stab at fixing it. Just gave it some arm with a huge adjustable wrench and un-twisted it. I'll be keeping my eye on it, but on subsequent test rolls the very unusual feeling of a twisted crank in the pedal was gone.

The only other negative is that the bike seems a bit small for me. The seat is all the way back, but that dimension is fine. It's the height I'm more worried about, seems a bit on the short side, probably due somewhat to the 165mm cranks, while I am used to the 175mm cranks on my other bike. The seatpost is at the max line, is there much danger in exceeding it slightly?

More on Saturday, that's when everything is supposed to get here.
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Old 10-21-11, 01:45 PM
  #24  
nfmisso
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Originally Posted by borobike View Post
...... The seatpost is at the max line, is there much danger in exceeding it slightly?.....
Yes; great danger. Get a new longer seat post, not expensive.
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Old 10-21-11, 01:54 PM
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DavidW56
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I'd still like to know why these bikes don't make the ticking sound while coasting. Anyone?
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