“I made this!”

This is the phrase my daughter is now in the habit of saying as she colors, sculpts play-dough, etc.  She always looks and sounds so proud. I’m appropriating it for this post, because I’m feeling pretty good about a small project I just completed.

1968-schwinn-project-1-1208About three weeks ago, I found an ad on the local craigslist looking for someone to restore an old bicycle. The guy had found a 1968 Schwinn Hollywood. His 14-year-old daughter fell madly in love with it, and asked him to fix it up for her so she could ride it. After a handful of email exchanges, I was able to convince him to let me do the job.

As the “before” picture illustrates, the bike needed some work. (I love that he brought it to me with the vines still tangled up in the rear hub!) The paint was in surprisingly good shape, but there was lots of rust (fairly thick in areas), and all its internal organs were gummed up, dried out, and in some cases also rusted.

I disassembled the bike and cleaned the frame. He didn’t want it repainted, which I think was a good call. I then proceeded to overhaul everything as I reassembled the bicycle. I cleaned, re-greased, reassembled, and properly adjusted the headset, the front and rear wheel hubs, and the crank and bottom bracket. I installed a new chain and added some reflectors. Along the way, I used a wire brush, steel wool, and an assortment of polishes to shine up everything as best as I possibly could (within reason).



The guy picked it up yesterday and seemed very pleased. The last time he had come by to take a look, he brought his daughter with him. She was grinning ear to ear the entire time she was here. Apparently, he hadn’t told her that he’d hired someone to fix it up.

I made $100 off the job, plus got to keep what was left of the supplies I purchased (i.e., degreaser, grease, lube). I could, and should, have charged a little more. I likely will if/when I do something like this again. (I could really see myself doing this sort of thing on a regular basis for a little income on the side.) But aside from the extra cash, there is just something so unbelievably fulfilling about working on these old bikes.

I totally dig so many of the new, retro-fashioned bicycles that are becoming increasingly available, particularly the utility- and city-bikes  finding their way here from Europe and elsewhere. These are gorgeous, stylish bikes with fantastic “modern bike” components and upgrades; no doubt about it. I love them, and would be very keen on owning something along these lines myself someday. Meanwhile, however, 70s- and 80s-era Schwinns and the like can be found and put back on the road for next to nothing. And in doing so, the rider takes her or his commitment to sustainability one step further.

I stumbled onto the following via a post on letsgorideabike:

At the core of Halcyon Bike are recycled and restored custom used bikes. Every year, Americans throw away perfectly good bicycles and spend thousands of dollars on new bicycles. At Halcyon Bike, we find these thrown out bikes, restore and customize them, and sell them to you at a fraction of the price of most new bikes.

Bully for the crew at Halcyon. What a terrific idea. I realize there are other shops like this that have been doing this sort of thing for a while, but it’s exciting to see more folks giving it a go.

I have a 1973 Schwinn Suburban I picked up for $40 last fall together with a Jandd handlebar bag. (That means the bike itself probably cost $10 or $15.)  I’ve been wrenching on it now and then for months. I got so fired up after finishing the Hollywood and flipping through the pictures on Halcyon’s website that I spent all afternoon in the basement working on it so it would be finished and ready to ride. All that’s left is to paint and install the fenders and chain guard. Stay tuned for some shots of that project in the very near future.


3 responses to ““I made this!”

  1. Beautiful bike! You should definitely be proud of the job you did bringing that bike back to life. I’m looking forward to seeing what you do with the Suburban.

  2. That is awesome – I would totally ride that blue beauty around! How nice to be a part of something so sweet. Can’t wait to see the pictures of your next project.

  3. the village scribe

    Thanks for the kinds remarks, friends. Indeed, one of the best parts of fixing this up was taking it for a spin up and down my street when it was finished. I felt like I was 10-years-old again.