Ahh, my first bike, a second-hand 20″ single-speed with a rattle-can red paint job and dented fenders. It was nothing to look at, but I loved it nevertheless. I rode it everywhere, or at least everywhere a 5-year old could. Pretending it was a top-fuel dragster, I’d purposely high-center the rear wheel between its training wheels and pedal with all my might, executing the dirt equivalent of a burnout. I’d use more or less the same method but creep slowly forward, digging long trenches in our driveway, much more efficient than using my Tonka backhoe.
I understand why folks have a strong connection to their first bikes. Like the beat-up little Schwinn-built B.F. Goodrich girl’s bike that showed up here one day 7 months ago. It wasn’t rare, it wasn’t collectible per se… Heck, it wasn’t even a full-size bike, but rather a diminutive 24″ wheel model. The fact that the customer had kept it for 69 years was no accident, though. …And any attempts to talk her out of a full restoration fell on deaf ears: Sometimes a bike is restored not because it’s rare or valuable, it’s love, pure and simple.
The B.F. Goodrich went into the shop queue and soon enough was underway. I discovered there’s something liberating about restoration without worrying about the cost vs. subsequent value. It’s a good thing because the Goodrich threw the scales off almost immediately and never looked back.
So here it is, all shiny and running like a champ. No garage queen, the owner says the bike still fits her so she’s gonna ride it. Maybe I’ll teach her how to do a burnout when she picks it up.
I recently pulled this prewar Schwinn New World from storage to have the paint matched for another restoration here at the shop. While it was out I thought I’d photograph it and give it a little air time.
Bike folk don’t seem to pay much attention to prewar American lightweights. They just don’t attract the attention of their balloon-tire siblings, mere moths amongst the pretty butterflies that were all around them back then.
In an era where beauty trumped everything, lightweights stood out as bikes you could actually ride, though. I’m a huge fan of the balloon-tire era; one glance around the shop and you’ll see that, but you won’t find me riding more than 10 miles on one. As I said, I’m just a fan of the aesthetic, not a slave to it.
There are a few other 80+ year old lightweights of one make or another hanging around here. I’ll try to post them as they either go out on rides or are getting work done.
A final note: I’ve seen many a bike with their registration plate still attached to it, but I’ve never seen one with this low a number.
I’m usually not very excited when the average 1970’s French bike rolls in the door. Plastic Simplex components, heavy frames, hard plastic saddles, narrow steel bars… And French threading. Yechh.
This Mercier caught my attention though, not because it was any great shakes quality-wise, but Lord, those decals. It was also pretty much new and very intact, but that alone wouldn’t have been enough. A couple of pretty Peugeots and a fine little Gitane Tourister came in about the same time and none of them joined the ranks of the Buzz Bomb collection. Lord, those decals.
Yep, not one but three of these cherished beauties just arrived (when does that ever happen?) The burgundy racing bike was acquired second-hand, but the same owner bought the two touring versions brand new. What a lucky dog!
All three are Campy-equipped, with the Gran-Turismos employing Nuovo Record triple cranksets and Rally rear derailleurs. I’ve always had a thing for Campagnolo triples, probably because they don’t turn up very often. …And those Rally derailleurs. Who couldn’t fall in love with them.
Medicis are cool not only because they are desirable and their production was relatively low, but also because the bikes are linked to the storied Masi franchise. Rather than re-hash the history of the Medici and how it morphed from Masi USA, I’ll simply post a link that give a ton of background, and at times heated debate over the origin of the brand.
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.)