Tuesday, March 24, 2009

1962 Schwinn Racer

a.k.a. "The Mystery Bike"

Now they know where I live, apparently. This rather beat-up looking Schwinn appeared on the sidewalk in front of my house about three weeks ago. My neighbor (with whom we share a front gate and courtyard), discovered it about 10 o'clock one night, and let it stay there, assuming it would be gone by morning. When it was still there the next day, he brought it up to the courtyard. We've been letting it sit in the courtyard since then, wondering if someone would come by to claim it, and no one has. So this weekend, I started working on it.

It's obvious that this has not been a working bike for some time, so I don't think it was stolen or left by someone who intended to come back for it.  The tires are flat and cracked, the front brakes are missing, the shifter cable is messed up in numerous ways, and the chain is completely rusted (and has a cracked link). I'm thinking that someone in the neighborhood was cleaning out a garage or shed, must have seen me working on my other old bikes in my garage, and figuring they would never get any money for it, just left it for me to find.

My plan is to do a mechanical overhaul, replace the tires, tubes, pedals, chain, and brakes, put a rear rack and basket on, and have it be a grocery bike or errand bike for us and the neighbors to share. There are a few eccentricities, as is usual with a bike that has been around. Both the pedals and brake levers are mismatched, the oil cap and some of the axle hardware is missing from the Sturmey-Archer hub, and the cable stop on the shifter cable clip has been replaced (ineffectively) with a 5mm socket wrench attachment.
As you can see in the last photo, the paint is in very poor condition, but it has already cleaned up pretty well with a combination of a light rubdown with penetrating oil, followed by Simple Green foaming bike cleaner (more on that later), followed by rubbing compound, followed by two coats of Turtle Wax. While I finish the Huffeigh, I'll do a few posts about this one, which I expect will go very quickly.

By the way, if by some chance this is your bike, you didn't mean to leave it on my sidewalk, and you happen to read this blog, it's not too late. Just give me the serial number, and you can have it back. The bearings are already greased, no charge.


  1. I am really interested to see what you do with the paint. My Columbia is quite pitted from being left out, but I am not sure stripping it down and starting over is the way to go. I have removed all the rust I can without further damaging the paint, but there is still a ways to go.

  2. Is that the bike from Sunday? I guess that means you bought it? Can it *please* be a Reader Project? Click my profile and send me an email with pics, por favor.

  3. Hello Thom!


    I've been a bicycle nut for ages. I was even manager of a Schwinn dealership, once upon a time. I was always deeply into road-racing bicycles, and "vintage-lightweights", and fancy custom frames.

    My latest thing has become 1950s Schwinn Travelers and 1950s Schwinn Continentals.

    (By the way, a 1950s Schwinn Continental is a 3-Speed with a frame that was made in a COMPLETELY different way... from a 1970s Schwinn Continental 10-Speed... NO relation!)

    Your 1962 Schwinn Racer is right in there. The "Racers" and the "Travelers" shared a great deal of DNA.

    I think you are doing all the right things with that paint. You may be amazed when the top layer of oxidized paint is gone. It'll soak up a whole lot of wax, and may look pretty good.

    Throw the chain away. A new chain with keep the teeth on the other parts healthy!

    The TIRES are an ISSUE!!!

    Schwinn made a big error, when they tried to call this size... 26 by 1 and 3/8 inch.

    This is a DIFFERENT size!

    Technically, these wheels are what the English called 26 x 1 and 1/4.

    The traditional "English 3-Speed", such as Raleigh, Rudge, BSA, etc... all used the 26 x 1 and 3/8 size... the REAL 26 x 1 and 3/8.

    It gets more strange.

    Let's call them "Raleigh size" and "Schwinn size".

    The sizes were NOT invented by those companies. But let's call them that.

    Raleigh size... 26 x 1 3/8

    Schwinn size... 26 x 1 1/4

    The Raleigh size is smaller.


    Yes, the Raleigh size is both smaller in diameter AND narrower as well!!!

    You CAN force Raleigh tires onto larger Schwinn rims. It's a bad thing to do. But you CAN do it.

    The other way around, larger Schwinn tires on Raleigh rims, will blow right off!


    For your new Schwinn?

    Tire choices are EASY!

    There is a very basic, but still quite good, all-black tire, made by Kenda. It's an inexpensive tire.

    That's the list of choices!

    Only one, but it's a good one.

    You are looking for...

    Schwinn S-6 tires.

    26 x 1 1/4 x 1 3/8.

    And about the Sturmey Archer small parts...

    You do shop at Harris Cyclery, don't you?


    They have all of the small parts, at very reasonable prices.

    They sell tires too.


  4. Hey Thom,

    You had me going when you said the front brake was missing. But it's right there. It's just that the front brake is missing the little pads and shoes. No bid deal. You are looking for the most basic, and most common, brake pads and shoes.

    The "shoes" are the little aluminum holders. The "pads" are the rubbery things that actually rub on the rims.

    Your brakes were made by Weinmann, in Switzerland, for Schwinn.

    The next generation, throughout the 1970s, was exactly the same brake, made by DiaCompe, in Japan (Nippon), for Schwinn.

    You are looking for new pads and shoes for regular Weinmann / DiaCompe brakes.

    Replace at least the pads in the rear, at the same time.

    In the good old days you could buy new pads, and re-use the aluminum shoes.

    Today, you will almost certainly have to buy 2 new shoes-with-pads for each end of you machine.

    Your Schwinn came with redish-orangish pads, just about like the color they sell today!

    If you want the very best stopping power, the name to ask for is "Kool Stop". Kool Stop is famous for their "Salmon Pads", named for the color. And yes, they still make the cute ones, that look like little tiny sneaker-shoes.


    You need new ones for your fine Made-by-Raleigh-sold-by-Huffy bicycle too!

    The same type and size will work for the black Raleigh-Huffy too.

    Although, a very few people might point out that the Raleigh came originally with black pads, in steel shoes...


  5. @R-leigh: Thanks for all the info!

  6. Aww, a foundling bike. I once had an old bike I needed to get rid of and if I'd known someone then who did up bikes I would have left it outside their front door too. Although it properly should have come with a 'please look after this bike' label, and maybe wrapped up in a blanket...

  7. Hi!

    I just found a 1963 Speedster but it doesn't have a chain. Do you happen to know what size I need?


  8. @ Hoan: Assuming it's a single or 3-speed, you'll need a 1/8" chain. I find that the nickel-plated SRAM chain is a good choice. The chain will be too long when you buy it, so you'll have to use a chain breaker tool to get it the right length. If you had the old one, you could use the number of links on that one as a guide, but without it, you'll have to run the chain through and estimate where you need to shorten it. Might take a little trial and error.

  9. Thom.

    Thanks a bunch. I will get this thing cleaned up and running. I will be sure to send you a pic. :)

  10. I just bought the same bike today. I was wondering what you did with the paint? What worked best? Also, what type of tires did you get for this?

  11. @ Anonymous: I didn't do anything with the paint, just cleaned with rubbing compound (not the decals, though) and then applied some auto polish. The paint is in really terrible shape but it's not worth it right now to get it professionally done. See my post here, for tire sizing:


  12. I have the same problem. I would have cleaned it up with steel wool like i have others, but this rust has formed pits. I believe I have a single speed, would you know what chain it would need?

  13. A 1/8" chain is what you'll need. Anything with a single rear cog (single-speed, fixed gear, or internal gear rear hub) will take a 1/8" chain. I've put the SRAM nickel-plated chain on all my single- and three-speeds; it's a low-cost, good-quality chain, never given me any problems.

  14. Thom,
    Good luck on your restoration project. I bought a Schwinn Racer in 1984 and is in great shape but this past summer my shifter chain broke right where it goes into the hub. Would you happen to know the size of this chain and how I can repair it? I saw other comments about the 1/8" chain which I believe is the main drive chain. Thanks in advance for any info.

  15. @Ray: You'll need to replace the entire piece, which is called either an indicator spindle or indicator chain. Harris Cyclery has them here:


    And tips on adjustment are here:


  16. This same bike had been sitting in my grandparents' garage for years and I just pulled it out the other day. I am new to restoring bikes and I was wondering if you can offer any tips and advice. The paint is in wonderful condition aside from some spots of rust. The tires are cracked and brittle, the chain and rims are rusted, and the chrome is dotted with rust

  17. Hey, I am a nut looking for a early 50's Schwinn Continental or World, but no luck to date. About two years into the search at this point, and have written to quite a few folks in hope that someone may have or know of one. I had one, as I traded in my Varsity for it and some more money, as it was an upgrade bike. Any and all help very much appreciated. Ron