Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Very Wonderful Note

I want to share this wonderful note, which was recently left in the comments of an old post. I didn't want folks to miss this fellow's story, and didn't figure too many people would see it languishing in a post from a few months back, so I've decided to give it the attention it deserves. This, everyone, is why I started this blog, and why I love it so much.

Here's the note, in its entirety:
In the tradition of the old bike blog, I'm responding to an old post. I used to mountain bike exclusively, this was mainly because CHP ( in NYC was two minutes from my apartment. Now I live in Tacoma, WA and the nearest mtn. biking requires a car ride. Due to this I've sort of re-discovered my love of bicycling and bicycles in general. 

Concurrently I saw a 1936 Rollfast at a garage sale this summer for $25. It was beautiful and I had to have it, so I coughed up the cash and brought it home. Searching on the Internet I began to learn about vintage bicycles, antique bicycles, balloon-tire pre-war bicycles, etc. etc. My search led me to blogs such as this and exploded a new interest/hobby/obsession within me. 

I also discovered that to totally restore it to it's original state (won't even discuss the paint job - it appears new) will cost me several hundred if not thousands of of dollars for parts on e-bay. I bought this bike because it looked beautiful, and would love to see it restored to its original condition, but not at that price! I have lovingly taken the whole thing apart, cleaned rust, grime, and dirt off of metal parts, re-lubed many parts, purchased ball bearings, bearing grease, cleaning agents, rust removal agents, copper wool, wire brushes. Halfway through this process I discovered a new hobby/obsession, but also new that I don't have the cash to restore the bike all the way. Nor do I want to. I want to learn from it and ride it (actually make it a b-day present for my wife to ride.) I don't have the cash to re-chrome fender braces, trusses, chain-rings , and the handlebars which somebody painted black; I can't justify the $75 for a tank that's currently on e-bay, or the cost of a NOS light and generator. And on and on... So I'm compromising.

I'm going to clean and fix the best I can. New white walls, tubes, rim tape. Going to purchase (gasp) white spokes (one extra expense) because they will look cool with the red/white paint scheme, gonna teach myself how to true a wheel and then re-build the wheel with the newly cleaned New Departure Hub and white spokes. I got a cheap rack off of e-bay, which I will put on even though it's not an original 8-hole style rack. I got a set of non-painted black handlebars really cheap too, going to add those. 

So in the end the Rollfast will be a present to my wife. It will have given me hours of enjoyment learning how older bikes were built, it will have the feel and look of a fat-tire vintage bicycle, some new parts, some non-accurate parts, some old cleaned parts, and some rusty, not shiny, not beautiful parts. For an original investment of $25 I'd say that's a bargain. 

Wow, that's a lot. The point is I don't believe historically accurate restoration is for me. I don't have the patience or the money for it. I want to ride, ride, ride. Not collect, restore, and display. I'll leave that to others better equipped for it.

I'll send you some pics of the Rollfast, along with the 1975 Schwinn Suburban (rootbeer color, $15 at a garage sale), 1968 Women's Columbia Rambler ($35, still has sparkly purple-pink paint), Centrix Cruiser ($20 have no idea what this is or where it's from) and all the other bikes I pick up along the way.

Thanks Thom for an excellent and informative blog!!!
Aw, shucks. That really made my day, I must say.


  1. I most likely wouldn't have found this letter,being new to your blog (and blogging in general),thanks for digging it out and sharing.

    I can relate to the author,as I have a few semi-vintage bikesI would eventually get around to refurbishing a bit,but couldn't budget the full restorations. LOL,I guess I have to survive the winter before I can really do anything to em (not much asphalt to haul when it's below feezing,snowing or frozen raining =P).

  2. So I'm not sure what the best way to do this is. Thom's praise has persuaded me to organize and catalog some of the photos I've taken of my projects. I've started an album here:
    for my first bicycle. The 1936 Women's Rollfast. Feel free Thom to post these or use these in any way you wish. I don't think I'll be finishing this one 'til the Spring, so it may take a while for updates.

  3. @ ianchowmiller, that web album address didn't come through for some reason--can you email it to me? Also, I'm so glad to have persuaded you to post these, I will poach/post them as soon as I get the link.

  4. @ Xavier--here's the post with the bike, and link to the Picasa album:

    You can also find it by clicking on the 1936 Rollfast link under "Labels."