I think I’ve developed an obsession for bicycles. Not just any bicycles, old bicycles. It started when I began wondering what to do with my old 1972 Schwinn Varsity. It had just been hanging in my garage taking up space but it was a bicycle I bought that was barely used from Joey Debeer back in 1972 while I was in high school and used it as basic transportation while in college. I had ridden this bicycle everywhere and couldn’t bare to get rid of it easily.
Then I met a couple of folks that had gotten bitten by the vintage bicycle bug and were talking fondly of their old bikes. I talked to one of them about an interest he might have in my Schwinn Varsity and he said he wanted to look at it. I loaded it up in my truck and took it for him to see. Before I got there I had decided I didn’t want to get rid of it. He understood and encouraged me to do something with it.
What I did was clean the thing up and put a couple of new tires on it and tried to ride it, just to assess what else might be needed on it to make it dependable. What I discovered was that the back rim was not going to let a tire be seated on it. I also discovered that the galvanized spokes were very likely to break if I tried to true the wheel. I bought a new rim and it is now sitting in my family room in a 1977 Raleigh Sprite Mixte frame that I picked up from the local bike co-op with me working on truing the wheel.
Raleigh Sprite Mixte? Oh, that leads me to another part of this story. When I say I’ve been bitten by the vintage bike bug I mean that I have not only looked at restoring the Varsity but I’ve picked up more bikes. I ran across a guy with a 1974 Raleigh Grand Prix while I was working in Chattanooga this past summer. It wasn’t in all that bad of shape and the price wasn’t too awfully much so I bought it.
The bike needs some work on the drive train and it needs to be recabled but it rides very comfortably and the gearing is such that it works well on rolling terrain. Even though the Grand Prix was one of Raleighs lower priced offerings it isn’t a very heavy bike for a steel framed bike and it is fully lugged and brazed, not welded. I thought about repainting it but I think I’ll just clean it up and use a little rubbing compound and wax on the frame. The aluminum parts will need some work but I think they will all polish up nicely. I may replace the rims and spokes on this bike also.
After picking up the Grand Prix I couldn’t leave Gerri without a vintage bike. While she loves the GT Arette she has she still loves the old bikes and probably has for longer than I have. So I started looking around and discovered a 1977 Raleigh Sprite Mixte on Craig’s List being offered from the local co-op cheap. All the parts had been stripped off but all the parts were there in a baggie. This bike as the Suntour Cyclone GT rear dérailleur so I’m really expecting it to shift much better than the Grand Prix. This is the drive train I expect to upgrade the Grand Prix to.
All this has me looking at my 200 GT Arette. I bought a black man’s Arette and a yellow woman’s Arette back in 2000 for Gerri and I to start riding again. These aren’t expensive bikes but they are a cut above anything you are going to buy at a department store. The bike is also a very comfortable bike to just get on and ride. And the profile of them is very classic.
What I’m thinking about is adding fenders and racks to this bike to actually make it a functional commuter. I would really love to put a Brooks saddle on it but I can’t justify spending as much on the saddle as the bike is worth…. or can I? But putting fenders and racks on this would give it the appearance of some of those classic English three-speeds. The practical aspect of this is that I actually could, and would, ride this bicycle to the grocery store and run other errands around the house with. A ten mile ride on this bike is a breeze and the gearing is low enough that loading it up is not going to keep me from riding it up the hills around the house.
See, I’ve got an obsession. I’m even contemplating looking for lower paying jobs that are within bicycle commuting range just to give me more chances to ride. And I’ve found out that if you ride a bicycle with helmet and gloves people see you as a cyclist rather than someone who lost their license over a DUI.