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Old 01-02-10, 12:34 AM   #1
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Buying a vintage commuter this weekend...Help?

Hi all,

Been lurking on here for the past couple months as I research what kind of bike/gear I'll be purchasing in the future for a car-light lifestyle and weekend rides. However, as my current money supply is pretty low but my need for a second vehicle between my fiancee and I is fairly immediate, I'm buying something cheaper off Craigslist now and saving to buy something nice and new later. My ride for work is about 3-4 miles each way and relatively flat, until I get something nicer or if this bike is actually better than I'm thinking it is, I'll hold off on using it for too much more than that.

Anyway, I found a pretty great deal on one that seems right up my alley (including already having a rack and fenders and what looks like some sort of headlight/tail light arrangement so I wouldn't have to immediately spend money on those things as I'll need to carry some stuff, most of my rides home will be at night and/or in rough weather, and it's been really wet around here lately so fenders would help a lot with splashing) and was wondering if anyone has a better history or anything to look for with this bike. Here's what the ad says:

26" Ted Williams Free Spirit bike

The Free Spirit is in good condition, needs the chain oiled, and air in the tires. I believe it's a vintage 1974, and it'll make for a smooth ride.

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Old 01-02-10, 12:52 AM   #2
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Looks like it will be well suited to the job. Good luck, and let us know how it works out.
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Old 01-02-10, 12:55 AM   #3
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Not sure what kind of history you are looking for. It is a dept store bike that was pretty unremarkable when it was brand new. Nothing much has changed about that in the 40 years it has been in someone's garage.

If it fits, and if it suits you, then ride the hell out of it. But its not worth anything.

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Old 01-02-10, 12:58 AM   #4
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Sears sold several different "Ted Williams" bikes, some of OK quality, some not so much. Just a couple of cautions. If you're planning on riding this in wet weather makes sure the rims aren't steel. You will have a very hard time stopping if they are. Steel rims were very common on lower end bikes built in the 70's. If you decide to go look at the bike, take a magnet with you. If it sticks to the rim, don't buy the bike.

Also the front fender doesn't come down low enough to prevent your feet from getting splashed by the tire, you'll have to add a mud flap of some sort.
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Old 01-02-10, 02:42 AM   #5
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The 26" wheels might sound like they'll be easy to get tires for, but look closely. If they're 26x1-3/8" (which I'm guessing they are), that is not the same size as the 26" wheels that are commonly found on mountain bikes, so modern 26" tires won't fit.

That said, if you look around there are a few decent and very cheap tires available in that size.
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Old 01-02-10, 11:09 AM   #6
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I'll be blunt. Brick that doesn't stop in the wet.

Will it get you there...probably.

Typical department store bike. "Looks" like a higher end bike like a Raleigh of simular vintage but it weights twice as much because it is made with materials a 1/4 of the quality.

I'd look for a 80's bike boom bike preferably Japanese. Something with Suntour parts and alloy rims. Fenders are $30 and rack is $30.

Where are you? There are several of us that flip bikes that frequent the C&V forum. Might watch the "catch of the day thread" once you figure out who the flippers are and if you see something you like from somebody local o you drop a PM and ask if it is for sale.

Most of us on here that flip take the time to go through the bike and get them back in shape before we sell. Something that would cost you $100-200 at a local bike store depending on what it needs. I like finding cool bikes and fixing them up, ride them for a while and when something else comes along something has to go. Most of us on here do the same and are into this for the love of riding and hate to see a good bike go to waste. It is more of a hobby. The little coin we make just makes for more bikes we can save. When you figure in that most bikes you find on CL need that done you find that the asking price is quite reasonable if you are not up to doing a full service.
Be very careful on CL. There are Flippers that buy yard sale bikes badly in need of service pretty them up and sell them still needing a good service. 50 miles down the road the bearings are destroyed because of dried out grease and it ends up costing you 2-3 times what it would have if you had hauled it to the LBS to be checked when you first got it.
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Old 01-02-10, 11:12 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Andy_K View Post
The 26" wheels might sound like they'll be easy to get tires for, but look closely. If they're 26x1-3/8" (which I'm guessing they are), that is not the same size as the 26" wheels that are commonly found on mountain bikes, so modern 26" tires won't fit.

That said, if you look around there are a few decent and very cheap tires available in that size.
I, too, doubt that they are modern 26" (559mm ISO) tires. More likely they are 26 x 1 3/8 (E.A.3) (590 mm ISO) tires. Lickton Bikes (and others) have these.

This bike has other problems that should be serious considered, however. In all likelihood, the wheels are steel (do a magnet test, killingkindness, before you buy). Steel isn't a good rim material for brakes, especially with bad brakes (the stock ones weren't any good to begin with) and wet weather. You might as well make them of teflon.

Keep looking, killingkindness, you can do better.
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Old 01-02-10, 08:10 PM   #8
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A Raleigh is not going to be much better, since it also uses a different size 26" tire, and is all loaded with non-standard parts, which can't be easily replaced. (Raleighs also have steel wheels, they were trying to convince the world that STEEL WAS BETTER! (Raleigh: The ALL STEEL Bicycle! So, why did they use that little plastic roller fulcrum in the shift mechanismthat always crumbles after a few years?)

I'd go ahead with the Sears bike, and start collecting money for Wheels and tires as a first upgrade. I'd look up a YUBA Mundo Dealer, and buy a set of wheels for the 2010 Yuba Mundo, but thats because I weigh a FAIR amount, and YUBA wheels will last basically forever. Or see if craigslist will steer you to a Mountain bike Tandem (yes, there are MTB tandems, Virgina!) The Raleigh wheels can be rebuilt, using the original hubs and donor rims, and you do get more spokes than cheap sears bikes. The 2009 Yuba replacement wheels are about $100, keep that in mind, and, they now can be used with optional disc brakes at extra cost, in which the rim is not part of the brakes. If you want to upgrade the Sears wheels to disks, you will probably need to rebuild the wheels anyway. as well as buy the brakes. No help there.

Wal-Mart can be a good cheap source of tires but make sure you know what to buy, since they will not help you buy appropriate tires, and there are about 6 different sizes of 26" bike tires still made for 70s bikes. I bough my Raleigh some new shoes at the local Wal-Mart, cheap - under $8 /wheel for tires and tubes.

Just be sure you get both a front wheel and rear wheel, whatever you do, and tires to fit. TUBES are also a problem in that are two major types of tubes: Standard/Schraeder and the smaller Presta openings (yes there are others, antique "English"/Dunlop, you'll see those about as often as Whitworth threaded bolts.)

Last edited by Fat Tire; 01-02-10 at 08:31 PM.
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Old 01-03-10, 08:37 AM   #9
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go test ride it - and while you're at it you should be test riding a bunch of other bikes. you can't make a decision like this based on an ad a tiny picture. (whether it's this bike or another) good luck and have fun becoming a bike commuter!

when you tst ride a bike take your time. don't rush and don't let the seller distract you by gabbing on and on about other things. check the brakes, shifting and any accessories to see that they are working and or what maintencnacne they require. squeeze the tires, they shold be hard and free of dry rot type cracks. pick up the front and rear wheels one at a time and spin them and watch how the rim passes by the brake pad to see if it wobbles or if it spins true

you sound like a novice beginner (which is fine) but it may mean that you should buy a bike thats been checked by a pro. because old used bikes usually require service of some kind. sometimes lots of service. btw; you can ride a bike with steel rims, even in the rain, just be aware that their performance isn't the same as more modern alloy wheels, but they still work, you just have to plan longer stopping distances but I dont think youll be going to fast am I right?

canvas your area for shops selling used bikes. you can put fenders on anything. btw: I'm a huge fan of old style steel 10-speed bikes and there's a ton of them out there, don't rush your purchase. right now you have to be an expert in reserach
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