Tuesday, April 7, 2009

This Bike's a pain in the

So I've had my grandmother's bike for a long time now. Longer than is really necessary, but what with everything that's been going on in my life, it's somewhat understandable that I haven't fixed the Schwinn Breeze just yet.

When I first decided to fix it, I figured the most important thing it needed was rust removal and a new paint job.  But just to be sure, I dismantled the entire thing and found rust all in the rims, the ball bearings were completely shot, the fork was frozen, the actual Sturmey Archer shifting lever was about to fall apart, and the 3 speed hub drained something that looked like tar, and the spokes were about as stiff as you'd expect cooked linguini to be.

In short, I screwed myself over saying I could fix it.

If the amount of problems with the bike wasn't large enough, I'm also coupled with the Schwinn problem.  They made some interesting sized components on their bikes, with the ultimate result that you could only use parts designed solely for Schwinns.  This obviously wasn't a problem when Chicago based Schwinn was top dog bicycle manufacturer in the 50's and 60's. But they went bankrupt and reorganized, and they're not the same company anymore (which means they produce different bikes that have universal components).

I supposed I could replace all the parts, but that presents a problem in itself.  The tires on the Breeze are 26x1 3/8 and are designed for an S6 rim. I was able to locate the tire size through an obscure online bike parts dealer, and found out that although the size was correct, the tire would not fit an S6 rim. And as of right now, I haven't been able to find anyone who carries tires exclusively for the S6 rim.  The crank is one piece and it just sort of "fits" into the bottom bracket shell, which is the hole that the crank arms come out of.  I took it apart and everything looked good, so I packed the cup and cone containing the ball bearings with grease.  And I tried rotating the crank arms expecting them to go whizzing in glorious circles with no evidence of friction.  They made about a half revolution before I heard a crunching sound, and the entire thing started grinding metal on metal.  I opened it up and looked at the ball bearings and noticed that they didn't really seem to roll at all.  They just sort of pushed up against the inside of the cup and froze.  I'm deathly afraid that the bottom bracket shell is some insanely weird size and that no one makes the cup and cone ball bearings anymore.

The wheels are a pain too.  The ISO rim size is 597mm which is absolutely obscure and with the way the frame is designed, if I replaced the original wheels with a bigger size, there might not be enough clearance, and the front wheel would rub against the weird down tube.  But the original wheels are scary enough. There's extensive pitting on the inner rim, and I'm afraid that they'll soon buckle.

And then there's the internal hub.  It's a Sturmey Archer 3 speed, and it was possibly great at one time.  Now it seems to have trapped all the world's evils and dust in its inner cogs.  I took it apart and tried to blast out the old, thick grease with air and WD-40.  Black gobs of sand flew almost everywhere, but they seemed to mostly land on my face.  Apart from the crud, and all hyperbole aside, all it needs is some sort of motor oil to function adequately.  I don't expect the bike to be ridden much, so I'm betting the cog teeth won't catastrophically fail.

I mentioned all of this to my parents.  "Well, just buy what you need, and we'll reimburse you," they said.  I can only imagine what a bike mechanic would say when I tell him, "I need two wheels with an S6 rim."  Possibly, they might say, "We don't carry those, and they're not made any more," or they could be feeling generous and say, "We might be able to scavenge wheels that are in good shape for you," but the most likely response would be, "We'll have to custom make those wheels. It'll be very expensive. It might come to $400 total."

The point is the bike's not worth enough to try and repair it.  A Schwinn Breeze in good condition would probably cost $10-15 just because they were very common, they were mass produced during a long time span, and they're bicycles that are built with the main purpose of getting you from point A to point B with no regards for speed.

Right now I'm just tempted to scavenge a track frame and fork, put some drop handle bars, buy decent wheels with a track hub, put a scavenged drivetrain on there, and a brake, and just give it to my grandmother and say, "Ta da! I got you a new bike!"

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