21st Annual Bike Sale

The Buzz Bomb front yard bike sale is tomorrow, and as such, we’re burning the midnight oil to get as many bikes ready as possible. Ballooners, Brit 3-speeds, handmade lugged road frames and other assorted weirdness is the standard fare.

Roughly 50 bikes will hit the grass at 8am. We’ll see how many are still around at 3pm…

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Red, Yellow, Blue… Bendix out of the blue

Just last week I was saying to myself, “It sure would be nice to have more two-speed hub parts around.” Occasionally a Bendix red, yellow or blue band hub comes through needing an overhaul, and as you would expect, parts for these 45+ year old hubs aren’t that easy to come by.

…And then yesterday, very much out of the blue, this haul of Bendix goodness gets unearthed out of a small mobile home no more than 15 minutes from the shop.

Based on how well this worked out, I plan on talking to myself more often. “Boy, it sure would be nice to have a Chris-Craft barrel-back runabout around.”

(Thanks to Matt and his brother for passing along their dad’s precious stash of Bendix parts.)

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A prewar Schwinn Motorbike fresh from the desert

Ok, we’ve been collecting long enough to know that prewar bikes aren’t found in Nevada, at least not in any real numbers. There just weren’t enough people here. In 1940 Nevada’s total population was roughly that of one of Chicago’s suburbs. You can’t have bikes without bicycle owners, so vintage finds here have been understandably few and far between.

So when our friend Jake showed up with this gem in the back of his truck our collective jaws dropped. Old bikes are hard to find, and finding a true prewar beauty like this Schwinn Motorbike is something just short of unbelievable. These deluxe Schwinns came with everything; New Departure front braking hubs, key-locking spring forks, crossbar handlebars, built-in fender lights, motorbike tanks with battery compartments and horns…

Amazingly, the bicycle was found in an old hunting cabin near Stillwater, NV. If native Nevada bikes are rare, finding a great old Schwinn in Stillwater is like finding a needle in a hayfield.

The bicycle, originally sold under the name Mead, is remarkably intact. Alkali dust and any moisture Stillwater received over the past 74 years has obviously taken a toll, but the desert has also been relatively kind to the bicycle. The metal is still very much solid and savable, and the fact that the bike was stored in such a remote location no-doubt contributed to it not ever being molested.

Jake is currently debating what to do with his new find, but its rarity has been duly impressed upon him. A score like that just doesn’t happen; not around here.

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The Schwinn of Norway

We often wonder how some bikes end up here in the U.S. Though DBS is reputedly huge in Norway this is the first one we’ve seen here. Maybe it was brought across the Atlantic by its original owner or possibly some entrepreneurial soul decided to import the bikes. Regardless, here it is, looking all bright and chipper.

The bike utilizes a Sachs 3-speed drivetrain, but everything else looks proprietary to DBS. Most notable are the drum brake front hub, stainless steel fenders and integrated tail light. Tire size is an odd 650b x 42mm.

Thumb’s up to the Norwegians for building a great all-purpose rider. The bike is fairly efficient yet docile in tight city traffic. A bonus is that it’s unique to all the Raleigh and Schwinn 3-speeds running around. Not that we’re against a nice “Superbe” or “Traveler”, but the DBS does offer a unique perspective on the 3-speed.

(Thanks to Kevin for offering us this wonderful bike.)

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A rare Della Santa Touring bike

Roland Della Santa is known for his racing bikes; always has been. As most folks already know, he was Greg LeMond’s first sponsor. He also built racing frames for many other prominent racers from the 1970’s forward. Roland’s frames are beautifully made and ride like nothing else; spirited climbers and demons on the decent. Short of a few bikes that have come equipped with eyelets or a slightly longer wheelbases, most everything he’s ever built has been racing oriented, however, and that’s very much on purpose. So even with an inside line, talking him into a touring bike wasn’t going to be easy.

I’ve been helping Roland thin down his collection of vintage bike gear for years. Rather than take a cut, I’ve traditionally taken frames in trade. I don’t race nor have I ever raced, but I do enjoy riding a good racing bike. Ok, so mainly I enjoy looking at them as they hang majestically from their hooks, but on rare occasions I will ride one.

To be fair, I don’t tour either, but when I go out for a ride of any distance I enjoy riding a comfortable bike that’s also functional and pretty. …And there isn’t much prettier than a well-outfitted tourer.

Which brings me to a winter day in 2012 when I was visiting Roland in the shop. Between stories (Roland has great stories) he mentioned that it was probably time for me to start thinking about my new frame. “What do you want this time?” he asked.

Picture Ralphie in the movie”A Christmas Story” when his mom asks him what he wants. Rather than blurting out “a Red Ryder BB gun!” I heard myself say, “I really want a touring bike!”

“Touring bikes aren’t any fun to ride and they’re a pain to build,” was his quick and dismissive response. “They’re also heavy and slow.”

“I guess I just want a custom-fitted bike that’s more all-encompassing… Something that has cantilever brakes and a triple crankset. I want a Della Santa that has triple water bottle mounts and eyelets for fenders.”

His bushy eyebrows raised a little. “Are you going to ride in the rain?”

“Uhh, no. I don’t think so,” I said sheepishly.

“Then why do you want fenders?” This wasn’t starting off very well.

Truth be told, I’ve talked Roland into other unique bikes in the past: One was a relatively new frameset built exactly like a DS of the mid-1980’s, complete with Reynolds 531 tubing and Prugnant lugs; another was a Columbus “Star” tubing Ossubuco chainstay nightmare that took twice the normal time to construct (it’s featured here in an earlier blog).

He’d always shake his head in wonderment, but in the end, he’d build it. I think that was because, at their essence, they were racing bikes. Strange iterations, perhaps, but racing bikes nonetheless.

I ran the idea of a touring bike up the flagpole on two subsequent occasions with roughly the same results as the first. At one point during one of my pitches he turned from filing a lug and asked, “Who’s name are you going to put on this thing?” I hadn’t thought about that. He was obviously apprehensive about building a touring bike with his name on it. The last thing he wanted was for folks to see it and come asking for one of their own.

I’d like to say that Roland eventually warmed to the idea of a Della Santa touring bike, but the most that can be said is that, in the end, he grudgingly agreed to give it a go. Beyond everything else, Roland really is a sweet guy. I know he didn’t enjoy building it, but he built it anyhow. …And I could be wrong, but I even think I saw a glimmer of pride when he first pulled it out of the box, fresh from the painter. “There’s your touring bike.” he said. “It sure is heavy.”

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Le bébé Gitane

The French have always taken their cycling seriously, proved by the existence of this diminutive Gitane (if it doesn’t look small, see the last photo which, for reference, has a 700c wheel behind it). With a seat tube of 38cm it fits riders as early as 6 years old but still came outfitted with many of the same features  its larger brethren had (drop bars, downtube shifting, narrow, high-pressure tires, etc.)

Ok, so it also has a chainguard, but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s a poser. Some of the younger Callahan brood gave it a spin around the block, only to come back looking rather wide-eyed and concerned. “Something’s wrong with it. It acted all crazy” was the overall review, which boiled down could be translated as “way more quick and efficient than anything else Dad has ever made us ride.”

Coot even took it for a spin himself and confirmed that it was indeed a snappy ride, perfect for young Tour de France trainees. Sadly, no photos of the test ride exist. Picture one of those circus bears riding a tricycle and you’ve got the gist, though.

(Thanks to Randy at College Cyclery for providing us with a pair of 500mm Hutchinson tires for the bike.)

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“Ice Cycle”- (or, “give me a ‘Burban on the rocks”)

If you’ve read this blog even a little you pretty much know what goes on around here. Restoration, refurbishing, hours and hours of polishing and shining…Generally, things that make two-wheelers better than they were. Call it “Bike Love” if you want.

So, the opposite of that would be, what? Bike degeneration? Bike destruction? Bike hate? Though we cringe at such terms, things have been known to slip through the cracks and mistakes happen.

Such would be the case with this early 1970’s Schwinn Suburban-cum-popsicle. The short story is that storms moved into the eastern Sierra last week. Snow and general cruddiness ensued. No worries, though; everything was tucked safely away. …Or at least that’s what we thought until we walked around the side of the shop today and found this poor Suburban sitting under an eave.

A small part of us likes the whole wintery feel of it. You have to admit it would make a great Christmas card. That is, if you can get past the  fact that there’s a bike there somewhere. A really decent little town bike that was ostensibly purchased so that it could be cared for and put into better shape.

“The best laid plans”, and all that…

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