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.

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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…








Postwar Shelby Flyer

This Shelby Flyer had been on the “to-do” list for a couple of years and finally got into the workstand a week ago. Whenever possible we prefer to refurbish rather than restore which means dealing with the limitations of the original paint, parts and such. The Shelby is an excellent example of a bike that’s rough but still has much of its character intact. In other words, a bike worth preserving.

The Flyer received a complete tear down/overhaul and throughout the process every effort was made to get it looking as good as possible. What you see is the end-result after more than 12 hours invested in the bike. There may not be a dramatic difference from what it looked like when it arrived here, but that’s how it goes at times. You work with what’s left and smile when it’s done.

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Diamond Valley Spin

This ride has always been a favorite, in no small part because the halfway point is a great stop. Snowshoe Thompson built his home against a little stream which burbles through Diamond Valley near Woodfords, Ca. There are three (count ‘em, three) monuments to ol’ Snowshoe on the site, just so nobody ever forgets where he lived. 

Fluff and I made the loop a couple weeks ago, riding a 30th Anniversary Della Santa and 1984 Fuji Touring III, respectively. It was an unfair match-up from the get-go, as the “3″ had 15 pounds on the DS. 





Prewar Rollfast on the road again

This Rollfast, which until recently lived in Pennsylvania is fresh of the Buzz Bomb workstand. Apart from crusty tires and a little rust, the bike was in wonderful condition. After some buffing and shining the paint is as good as we’ve run across and the Troxel saddle looks virtually new.

Our favorite part of this streamlined beauty is the transition between the tank and the rear carrier. It’s about as seamless and slippery as any bike we’ve ever seen. We’re also quite fond of the twin headlights. …And the Persons reflectors. …And the tank itself. Lots of shiny metal to look at here.

The bike runs like a champ, which isn’t always the case with these old balloon-tire bikes. With all the mass and extra sheet metal they often creak, groan and rattle. Not this one, though; it’s quiet as a mouse.

A couple of acknowledgements: Thanks to Mark from Bike Line of Lancaster for such an amazing packing job. Also a thank you to Addison, Casey, Dan and Greg of the Reno Ramblers for escorting the Rollfast on its maiden voyage. Only, next time can we avoid the hills? 60+ pounds of bike climbs under much protest.













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