Saturday, April 27, 2013

Secret Project Revealed!

For the past week and a half Husband and I have been working on a secret project. Today is his mom's birthday and we wanted to do something special for her.
Whenever I would talk about my rides on Lucy she would comment on how she wished her old bike was ride able. It's a 1961 Schwinn Debutante that her father had given her.
Several years ago she asked her husband to have the bike fixed so she could ride it. Instead he came home with a new bike for her. It was a nice surprise, but not what she wanted and she barely rode it, then she left it behind the carport.

It doesn't look too bad, does it?
Her husband was going to put her old bike out with the bulk pick-up to be taken out with the trash because she now had a nice new bike to ride. So Husband and I took it to our house for safe keeping.
It was left behind our shed for several years, but at least it was safe. I had all but forgotten about it. Getting fenders was just the reminder I needed. I had always told her I was going to steal hers.

Not comfortable to sit on I'd bet.
Since I've been riding again my interest in fixing bikes has also been awakened and I said "Let's fix your mom's bike up for her."  Husband agreed and we pulled it inside.The road to hell and all that.
I figured it would only cost $100 and a couple of days work to get it into rideable shape. A new chain, seat, tires and a pot of grease should be all it would take. He He He. I'm so silly sometimes.
What should have been a lovely weekend project turned into a full on battle that took a week.
At first everything was going great, we spent a bit more at the shop than planned because I wanted her to have a nice seat. When we got home we started disassembly.

Nice fenders though.

These had to be replaced!

Everything was going along great until we tried to remove the handlebars and stem to grease the head set. It wouldn't budge at all. It was well and truly stuck. We let spray grease soak in over night and it wouldn't move. We tapped and pounded it with a leather mallet to break up the rust in there and it wouldn't move. We heated it carefully with a torch to expand the metal and it wouldn't move. We twisted and pulled until we were exhausted but they were fused together from years of neglect.
Finally we cut the top off the stem so we could free the fork from the rest of the frame and then we got freaky on it. We added more spray grease and let that soak in overnight. Then we heated it up until greasy rust started to bubble out of the faint gap, once that happened we dunked it in ice to cool it as fast as we could. We had to do it a couple of times before there was even hope.

The poor decapitated and mangled stem.

Finally we got out the biggest wrench we had and I stood full on the poor fork while Husband twisted for all he was worth. The force needed lifted me up and I had to hold on to the table for balance. Slowly it loosened up, and with a pop the darn thing came free. The fork was fine, they don't make them like that any more. It took us five days to get the darn stem out!

This is supposed to be three pieces, not one.

Now we were over budget already and had to find a new stem and grips that matched fast. We took the remains of the old on and the fork with us to make sure it would fit. It had to look as original as possible or she might hate it. We ended up at Bicas, my new favorite place for old bike parts. They had exactly the stem we needed and it was super cheap. All we had to do was dig through crates of them to find the one that would work. That was a Ton of fun and I found dynamos I'm going back for later. Sadly they didn't have grips though. We had to make do with some black ones we got at Ordinary Bikes.
 We hurried home to put it together and couldn't get the old rubber grips off.  I really wanted to save them if we could because I didn't like the new ones, but they wouldn't budge.They were probably glued or something. I ended up cutting them off with my Dremel, hot melting rubber burns through your shirt. I don't suggest this method at all, but it was fast.
The tires we got were the right size, but they refused to seat on the rims properly at the suggested air pressure. We tried pulling and pushing and nothing worked. Finally we took them in to Ajo Bikes and the nice man there struggled with them for an hour while we watched.  After using a huge pair of pliers to try to force them to seat he soaped the rims and over inflated them. The rubber had needed stretching because the tires are made for new style rims and not these ancient ones. It was fun to watch him work though.

It's alive!

Finally on Thursday we had the bike fully greased and put together. It looked much better than when we started, then I spun the wheels. The tires were out of true and we were out of money. I got to true the tires myself. It took awhile, but was the best part of the whole redo.

A nice straight wheel.

A comfy seat to invite her on board.

Every bike needs a bell.

It's fully functional and if she rides it we'll be happy to pretty it up. We could even redo the paint for her. We tried to keep it as original as possible so she can tell it's her bike and not a replica.
This was a great experience and a lot of frustrating fun. I want to do it again!
I got a new skill and Husband's mom got a functional bike. 
She was happy to be reunited with her bike and says she'll ride it. Yay!


  1. Wonderful post. I know she will enjoy it!

  2. That is a wonderful thing to do. What a nice surprise!

  3. Great post. You and your husband make a great mechanical team.

  4. Thanks! It was a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to finding a less beat up bike to try it again on.

  5. Fantastic!

    My mum rides a really old bike, rather like this. We keep expecting it to fall to pieces but it just keeps on rolling. I am sure it will still be going when I have killed 3 or 4 more new bikes...

    1. Those old bikes are like tanks! It literally took a beating and almost kicked my butt. I wish they made them like this still. It will out live me probably.