Sunday, May 4, 2008

March of the $5.88 Schwinns


These beauties come to us courtesy of Alf Fickensher of Davenport, Iowa. Ignore the Image numbers and look at the bikes clockwise. You'll figure it out.

Alf restores and sells these classics. And while some of the prices my run a bit more than his $5.88 "minimum," they are a hell of a lot cheaper than an imported Dutch bike.

IMG 8520a:
is a 1978 Sky Blue SPEEDSTER just sold this week.

Caddy Bike No 1:
is a 1980 Chestnut SUBURBAN, a bike I keep as a personal rider because it is so nice. A 5-spd with an old Shimano FrontFreewheel system and a POSITRON II derailer. Gimmicky stuff that dates the bike but for a city bike, the stuff makes for a nice rider.

Eliza Doolittle 01:
is a 1977 Flamingo SUBURBAN sold a month ago. Her story can be read at
<< >>

is a 1967 bike sold by Holiday Stores gas stations across the northern tier of States as a Christmas promotional. It is a Sturmey Archer 3-spd and I categorize it as a copy-cat of the English imports of the period. I am keeping it as a personal rider because being a gas station bike, it is pretty unique. And besides, it does ride nice, kinda like a Raleigh.

IMG 7496a:
is a 1974 Lime Green VARSITY which, just for the heck of it, I fitted out with Shimano ULTEGRA deraillers and crankset jewelry. I rode it a bit last summer but don't really care for it. It could be for sale but seriously, the Shimano jewelry is worth more individually than the complete bike as a package. Guess I'm just not a derailler guy, comfortized-bike or not.

IMG 7889:
is a pic of a satisfied customer and her 1980 Cardinal Red COLLEGIATE SPORT-10 which she bought from me last September. Just a month ago after she test rode Eliza Doolittle, the lady liked the FF system and POSITRON II derail so much that she had me convert this 10-speed to a 5-speed with those two old Shimano gimmicky items. The lady is an academic and does her daily 5-mile each-way commute on this bike.

IMG 8455:
is a 1980 Sky Blue COLLEGIATE-3 which sold two weeks ago. Sturmey Archer 3-speed AW hub which I installed in place of the Sturmey Archer 3-spd coaster brake hub original to the bike. The S/A coasters aren't the most reliable and I didn't want to place a piece of touchy machinery into the care of a yuppy single woman with no sense of things mechanical. Better to give her a bomb proof AW hub. I had to also install the rear caliper brake and right lever after removing the coaster brake.

Here's Alf on what it all means:

Dear Gordon,
Just found your blog tonight and within the first few minutes reading I encounter yet another Ode-to-the-Dutch-Bike (Apr 3, "SENSIBLE BIKES". Seems like every one of the bike-fashion / fashion-on-bikes / chic / etc blogs are doing it.
OK, Dutch bikes're maybe nice and certainly it's maybe neat to buy something new (here) and trendy.
I submit though that old Schwinns are a much better fit for the American commuting and city-bike scene.
1) They're ubiquitous and cheap. Every thrift store in every metro gets maybe 50 of them per year. Here in the Iowa/Illinois Quad Cities' 7 thrift stores they are priced between $5.38 (don't ask me - that 38-cents thing is unique to Goodwill nationwide apparently) and on up to, but never higher than, around $25.
2) With a disassembly, cleanup, lubing, and new rubber/cabling/chain, they'll likely be good for another 28-44 years. Those are the ages of the youngest and the oldest of the twenty-some Schwinns that I refurbed this past year.
3) They are city-riding-comfortable. Fenders, upright handlebars, and really comfy old mattress seats are on every Schwinn I put out, even the ones that originally came set up as roadies. I mostly prefer the 3-spd internal Sturmey Archer hub bikes altho I have put out a few 5-spd derailler bikes, two 10-spds, and converted four 10-spds to different gearing/drive set ups.
4) They can be _very_ chic. Please look at <> and scroll backward to April 4th "Flamingo Floozie" or <> to see some photos and a narrative about one such Schwinn I recently finished.
So anyway, it's my opinion that the ideal bikes for putting Americans back onto bikes for urban riding are here, right under our noses and we're perhaps too snobbish to see them.
Thank you Sir,
Alf, in Davenport, Iowa