Admittedly, I’m not the best at dating bikes. I can usually come close, but tend to forget individual bikes’ specific ages. If I’m within a couple years either way that’s usually good enough for me.
I love this old Crawford-badged Columbia, not only because it’s pretty as heck, but also because it has its date right on it. I haul it out for local rides or bike events just because of this. A couple of cocktails might try to wipe my memory clean, but that Anniversary decal is always there to help me out.
Which brings me to the topic of the anniversary itself. It’s hard to fathom that Columbia bicycles celebrated their 60th anniversary in 1937. That’s 80 years ago by my math, which (also by my math) was a long time ago, and 60 years before that was a really long time ago. Collecting bikes from 1930’s forward like I do, I forget just how far the industry goes back.
A final note: Modern bike computers might be able to tell you a hundred different things, but can they measure your effective wind speed like that old anemometer mounted on the handlebar? I think not.
I love them all, of course: old racing and touring bikes, 3-speeds, folders, track bikes, early wood wheel jobs… But the ones that really get my heart pounding are balloon-tire bikes. They’re just so over the top. Tanks, lights, springs, chainguards, horns… all of which could have been pared down weight-wise, or at times, left off completely. My fondness for these beasts obviously has little to do with how they ride, something akin to pedals mounted to a Buick Roadmaster.
So, it’s always a joy and pleasure to bring one back from the dead. Take a gander at the “before” photos and you’ll see a bike that was d.o.a. or at very least, flatlining. What’s worse, it arrived in pieces which always makes things more difficult. Thankfully the bike was more or less original and the owner had been very diligent to keep everything together. He was also infinitely patient throughout the whole restoration process that involved multiple false starts and what seemed like ions waiting for replacement parts, chroming and the like. Hopefully it’s all worth it to him. God knows I’m panting, and not just from test riding it.
We all take breaks from riding. And when we do our trusty steeds sit there patiently gathering dust. If it sits long enough the bike will start to collect grime. We humans tend to like oil in everything from lawn mowers to shrimp scampis and some of that invariably becomes airborne, eventually to alite on “Ol’ Paint”. It can takes years, or you can throw one good Bagna Cauda party and the deed will be done in one evening.
Once everything is good and tacky, simply add pet hair, your hair, lint, another helping of dust in the form of bunnies, etc. and you’ll have what is known in Buzz Bomb nomenclature as a “Fuzzy Kitten”.
As “Kittens” go, this Della Santa is about as good an example as one could hope to find. Note the uniform coating of oily felt on all bits, the wisps of fluff draped from the spokes. It’s nothing short of feline art. Part of me wants to hose it down with Simple Green, while another part wants to hide it away and let it continue on its current path. In another couple decades it could be the bike equivalent of a purple bottle, aged into unexpected beauty. Since the bike has to be prepped for sale it will almost certainly get the hosing treatment, but you get my point.
By the by, the stamping on the bottom of this DS is “GL”, but no, I don’t think Greg LeMond ever owned a Fuzzy Kitten, let alone a 61cm.
(Thanks to G. Lanstyak for allowing me to poke fun of his bike and my apologies if didn’t want me to.)
It’s good news when a bike doesn’t fit. To be clear, it’s good news only when it doesn’t fit you, but it does fit me, and obviously, at that point it’s only good news for me. Such is the case with this candy apple red Croll. My friend Noah originally bought it on CL for his girlfriend as the height (52cm) was just about right. At nearly 57cm, turns out the bike was more akin to a top-fuel dragster in the length department, not even close to right. For me, however, it was pretty much a custom fit, so here it sits. Hopefully I’ll even swing a leg over it from time to time (If only my riding habits matched the energy expended in such acquisitions).
From what I’ve gleaned, later Crolls were decent enough quality, but the early ones were fantastic as they were handbuilt by Walter himself. The Croll name was eventually sold, and as so often happens, when the namesake isn’t involved the product suffers.
I’m guessing this bike was commissioned in the early 1990’s based on the Shimano tri-color component group if nothing else. Also, the paint is as brilliant a red as I’ve ever seen and Walter’s bikes were known for their paint jobs. When you get this bike out under the sun it looks like it is plugged into an outlet. The old saying that the photos don’t do it justice is more than applicable here.
Schwinns could be badged and sold under a host of different names. Everyone from big department stores to little bike shops could contract with Schwinn to put their name on the bikes. One of my favorites is Haack’s, a little shop out of Madison, Wi. Their badge had a top-hatted little character named, “Mr. Bicycle” prominently positioned on the head badge. To make it clear who he’s working for, his body spells out the shop name. Fantastic.
From what I’ve seen, other Haack’s badges don’t feature him, which is why I like this particular one so much. …And with a name like “Mr. Bicycle”, you can bet he knew his stuff, even if it looked like he hadn’t been on a bike in a while.
This particular Schwinn also has the “Hat in the Ring” graphics on the seat tube. Not sure if this was a nod to Eddie Rickenbacker’s Flying Circus or not; nevertheless, I put a little Schylling monoplane on the handlebars in case any Pfalzs or Fokkers cross my path.
I recently went to Carson City to pick up an old British Dayton 3-speed. My attention quickly switched to this Faggin, which accompanied the Dayton in the storage unit. The current owner had bought it to turn over. The Faggin thus joined the Dayton for a trip back to the shop. It hadn’t seen the road in some time and was a bit roughed up. It was also missing some of its original bits, but I suspected it would come around well enough. It did, too: Heck, even the Cateye computer fired back up.
The biggest problem with some older Italian framesets like Faggins is that their decals aren’t placed and then clear-coated over. The decals, more like stickers, can also be put on crooked, or barely at all. I briefly considered a repaint since that would have solved the decal issue, but it would have created the “what’s this bike going to have to sell for now?” issue. So, it stayed as-is. Call it being cautious, or if you’re feeling more generous, sticking with originality. I do tend to get up on that soapbox at times, so go with that.
That other shop…
The frame sticker on the lower downtube states that the Faggin was originally built up and sold by Stewart-Hunt Cycles here in Reno. Back in the 1980’s the shop was a direct competitor to College Cyclery which is where I worked/lived. Among the bevy of competitors, S-H owner Jim Patterson was considered more kindred spirit than adversary, though. Stewart-Hunt was actually the first shop I frequented upon moving to Reno and I often think I might have ended up working there if College hadn’t picked me up.
Stewart-Hunt is long since gone, but I’m hear to tell you that the cycling community still misses Jim terribly. A Tuesday night race will never be the same without Jim’s happy demeanor and heavily mustached smile, drops of Moosehead beer hanging from the latter. The cycling community garners more than its share of one-of-a-kinds. Amongst them, Jim was the One-est.
This Brit two-wheeler arrived from Minnesota a few years ago and was promptly tucked away. Having a dizzying amount of projects can mean that good bikes sometimes don’t see daylight for awhile. A couple weeks ago I decided it was high time Robin Hood was let out of the box, so out it came.
My quandary was what to with the drivetrain. The bike was only a single speed, likely sold as an entry-level bike in 1966. After debating the merits of changing it over to a three speed I ended up leaving it as it was. It might not be as capable to handle hilly Reno, but after a glance down the row of balloon-tire bicycles-cum-boat anchors, I remembered that practicality had never been a strong suit of the collection from the beginning. A single speed it would be, then.
This particular Robin Hood will never be anything beyond a foothill bike; no Mt. Rose Highway or Geiger Grade for this bike. Nevertheless, it’s a dandy ride around the neighborhood, or “The Shire” as my friend Brennan calls it. Speaking of which, the coincidence of Robin Hood” and “The Shire” only clicked a day or so ago. At times I can be a little slow on the take.
As you probably are aware, Raleigh built bikes under various names. Roland Della Santa told me they did this so they could expand their market: one shop would be an exclusive Raleigh dealer, another would sell Triumphs, while a third was carrying Robin Hoods. Roland said the shop he worked at sold Triumphs for a number of years, directly competing with the Raleigh distributor in town. Both shops effectively sold the same product, the only difference was the head badge. …And of all the badges, I like Robin Hoods the best. Rudges are a close second, but nothing has the character of the Prince of Thieves. With his longbow and tights, he certainly cuts a dashing figure.