Friday, May 29, 2009

Schwinn Tire Sizing

Left: Original Schwinn S-5  Right: Kenda Replacement

A commenter recently asked about where to find tires to fit a Schwinn Racer. This is a common enough question, so I thought I'd do a post about it. I should point out that I don't really know anything about tire sizes on other models of Schwinn, just the 3-speeds that supposedly take a 26 x 1 3/8" tire.

The thing is, a 26 x 1 3/8" English-size tire (or tyre, if you will) is not the same as a Schwinn-size 26 x 1 3/8" tire. I know, I know. Schwinn had a different rim/tire sizing system where rims were sized S-5, S-6, S-7 and so on. My 1961 Schwinn Racer, and other Schwinn three-speeds of similar vintage, came with either an S-5 or S-6 rim, which are the same size and will take the same tire/tube (the shape of the rim is slightly different, but does not affect the size).

The only tires that I could find on the market today in this size are made by Kenda, and they're not at all expensive.  Harris Cyclery sells them online here. By the way, the I.S.O. (International Organization for Standarization) number for these is 37-597, which may help if you can get your local bike shop to order them for you. Cosmetically, they're a good match for the original tires (see above).

Clear as mud? For more on Schwinn tire sizing, see a lively discussion here. And, of course, Sheldon Brown weighed in on the topic here. Anyone with other (better) info should post it in the comments below. I just hope Kenda keeps making those tires.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Gallery of Old Bicycling Images


The Chicago Tribune has put up a sweet little gallery of bicycles and bicycling from its archives.

What she's really saying: "Son of a bitch, this thing weighs a ton!"

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Good Kind of Traffic

Folks, I'm very happy that the OBB is getting more readers than ever, and I'm always glad to receive reader emails and comments. Back when I was only getting a few at a time, I tried to respond to every comment and write back to every email. I'd still like to do that, but as traffic here picks up, so does the work going on in other parts of my life, so I'm going to post a standing apology to anyone who was expecting a reply to a comment, or who hasn't received an email back from me yet. Sometimes they fall through the cracks, sometimes I miss them entirely, and sometimes I just don't get around to responding for a while. Best to keep bugging me, and eventually I'll respond.

I also mentioned a few posts ago that blogging in general is slowing down for me right now, which is still holding true, so posts here are going to be less frequent than they were for a while. But I'm still here, so while you wait for a new post, go back and read through the archives, there's a ton of good stuff there. Or, better yet, go for a bike ride!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Bayshore Bikeway

I frequently encounter the perception that old bikes are only good for short runs to the grocery store or the park, and that they're too fragile or slow or clunky to take on longer rides. This couldn't be farther from the truth, and especially so with old 3-speeds, many of which were built to be touring bikes, not just city bikes or leisure bikes.  I proved this point today (without really specifically intending to) by taking my 1971 Columbia Sports III on its longest ride yet, about 30 miles round trip.

My route was primarily the Bayshore Bikeway, which you can find detailed with a map here. I packed a picnic, the camera, and lots of water (I sweat a lot) into the rear baskets and set out. There is something so normal, and yet so special about making a trip like this by bicycle. In the car, it would be a chore, but on the bike, it's an adventure.

First, I had to get downtown, which is where the route begins. The best way from my 'hood is to take Park Boulevard down to Broadway. It's mostly downhill and fairly wide. I turned west on Broadway and followed it all the way to the Broadway pier, where the trail starts beside Harbor Drive in a lovely bayfront park. Except for a few taxis whose turn signals apparently didn't work (grrrr), it was an uneventful ride through downtown.

Most of the route down Harbor Drive has a bike lane, if you could call it that. I might as well have been off-road. Just terrible. The photo below shows one of the better stretches.
 
Anyway, you take Harbor all the way down to National City, then you get on the Sweetwater Bike Path, a separated path with some pretty cool bike infrastructure running under I-5. I wish I'd taken a photo. From there, it's pretty much all seperated bike path down through Chula Vista and Imperial Beach and around the southern tip of San Diego Bay. The highlight for me was the desalination plant with evaporating ponds and giant mounds of salt.

Then, up the Silver Strand on another seperated bike path all the way into the city of Coronado. The path along here is separated from the beach by the roadway and a fence, but in the Silver Strand State Park, there are several tunnels that will take you under to the ocean/beach side.

In the city of Coronado itself, wonder of wonders, is a bike boulevard, with a fully separated, landscaped, and perfectly maintained two-way bikeway. There were so many cyclists on it that I couldn't stop to take a photo (and my panda skills are zilch). I was almost able to imagine what it must be like in Amsterdam or Copenhagen. I wish I had reason to ride this way more often, because it's really wonderful.

Finally, I caught the ferry from Coronado back to the Broadway pier, fought my way east on Broadway (it wasn't that bad, really, but traffic was pretty heavy), then back up Park, which was way less fun going up than down. Total cost for the five and half-hour outing: $3.25 for the ferry, and no worries about filling up the tank, finding parking, finding the right exit off the freeway, etc.

I got passed by a lot of spandex-clad speedsters on very expensive bikes, but it was very clear that they were on a different sort of outing than I was. They were on a "bike ride," while I was just using my bike to get to a new place I hadn't been yet. I saw a few like me, but not many, so while it was cool to see such amazing bicycle infrastructure being well-used, it was a little disheartening to see that the bikeway as transportation idea still has a long way to go around here. Probably it had a lot to do with when I went, and I bet I'd see some commuters if I was there on a weekday morning. All in all, a very excellent day. 

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Reader Project: Adrienne's 1962 Columbia Roadster

Well, her daughter Úna's, actually. Adrienne is one of the principals at the new blog Change Your Life, Ride a Bike! She found this 1962 Columbia Roadster on Craigslist and overhauled it for her daughter to use. Check out the full photo set on Flickr. Says Adrienne:
"Blue is a 1960's Columbia Roadster.  I bought her for $40 from a man named August after deciding it was time to learn how to take care of my own bike.  There are 5 cyclists in my family, and with kids growing out of or breaking bikes on a daily basis, my husband is kept quite busy being the family pit crew.  So, while James built up our Xtracycle, I took the bike stand next to him and learned how to take apart and rebuild Blue.

The bike Gods looked kindly upon me for this project.  I have old and quite serious neck injuries that leave me with less than optimal hand strength.  Every time I approached a bolt I did so with trepidation- would this be the frozen one?  When I picked Blue up, she had been outside for a while and was very rusty and dirty, so I figured there would be a lot of frozen bolts.  There was not a single one!  At some point she had been completely serviced and put back together by a bike shop, so everything was done right, she had just been neglected.

The biggest job, by far, was dealing with the rust.  The paint was very solid in some places, and pitted and corroded in others.  I had originally thought I would repaint her, but there was no way to match the glorious blue, and after using some copper wool and penetrating oil on the whole frame, I found that the anomalies in the paint were beautiful in and of themselves.  They gave Blue a patina that spoke of her past.  A bike with history is a great bike, and after finding the original owner's name engraved on the underside of the bottom bracket (Caroline) by I assume her father, I decided to keep her as is.  I smoothed her out and gave her 8 coats of polish.  It was the right decision, she is lovely!

Blue now belongs to my daughter, Úna.  She loves her new bike!  Now I need to find one for me!"

Green Clean in Action

Inspired by Yours Truly to restore an old bike, fellow San Diego bike blogger Beany has tried the environmentally-friendly cleaning techniques featured once upon a time in Shelly's guest post, and I wanted to share the dramatic results. BTW, I really hope Shelly and I can get another set of guest posts up sometime soon on each others' blogs. Life has a way of getting busy, and before you know it, it's five months later. Urgh. Sorry about that. In the meantime...

Oh, Canada! Addendum

Elaine sent me these photos of her beautiful 1966 CCM Galaxie after seeing my earlier posts about Canadian bikes, so I'm posting them in the interest of getting more information (or photos, at least) on the interwebs about CCMs. Just look at all that chrome!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Bad Blogging, Grocery Shopping

Urg, I've been (and will continue to be) busy lately, so the blogging is slowing down, even as the riding is picking up. That, and I'm trying to spend less time in front of the computer. I wanted to check in, though, and post about the first real grocery run on the Columbia. I packed a picnic into the rear baskets a couple of weeks ago, but this was the first genuine trip to the grocery store. Smooth as silk, no worries at all.

My typical grocery day involves two stores, and the car. This is a weekly trip. Today, I did the first store in the car, which is kind of necessary (okay, well, at least very convenient), and the second on the bike. Even though it's not much, it feels great to have eliminated at least part of the driving. And now you know what brand of toilet paper we buy. Too much information? Nah.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Change Your Life, Read This Blog!

First, I'm way behind on blogging this week. I've got an article manuscript revision due tomorrow that I've been trying to finish, so most of my attention has been on that. I'm also behind on responding to emails, so if you've emailed me this week, I'll get back to you soon.

Second, friends of the OBB, Adrienne Johnson and meligrosa (of Bikes & The City) have teamed up to start a new blog called Change Your Life, Ride a Bike! Their new endeavor will feature reader-submitted stories and photos about how riding a bicycle has changed people's lives. My own submission is here. There's also a Flickr group, which will serve as a photo pool for the blog.

I'm very happy to help promote CYLRAB!  Here's their call for submissions:
We look forward to sharing our stories, and even more, to hearing yours! Please, please, please send us your bike of change and life stories! Why do you ride? Where has riding taken you? How do you tackle the challenges of where you live to keep riding? Did you meet your spouse on a bike? Did you use one to get away after sneaking out of the house at night? Share your adventure with the rest of us.
I know some of my readers have stories to share, so visit Change Your Life, Ride a Bike! and give others the benefit of your experience.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mid-City Bike Blast Ride, May 9

I wish I could make it to this, it looks like a, well, a blast. I'm sooo glad to see more stuff like this happening around San Diego. We might just get a bike culture yet.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Shape Up!

I've been riding more in the last two months than I have for about two years. Since I work at home, I don't ride to commute, and errands to the store or post office are usually short and not at all physically demanding. However, for the last couple of months, I've been making a regular four mile mini-commute once a week to volunteer at my local historical society, and I've been trying to do a Sunday ride even if I don't get on the Down Townies morning rides. Being in San Diego, all of this involves a certain proportion of hills, or at least inclines.

Now (indulge me a moment), I've been wanting to get myself in better shape ahead of a rather significant birthday milestone, but riding my bike hasn't necessarily been a part of that, it's just been my way of getting around. However, I made the happy discovery the other day that I've lost seven pounds. I've never needed to lose weight, really, and I think seven pounds is about all I would like to lose (in fact, I'd like to gain a couple back), but I attribute it all to my riding, even just the relatively small amount I do each week.

The point (which isn't just pure narcissism, I swear), is that the health benefits of riding a bicycle accrue even if you're only huffing around on an old three-speed bike a few miles a week. Indeed, pedaling forty pounds of British steel (or American, Canadian, etc.) around is a sure way to firm up those thighs. So, don't let anyone tell you that you need a fancy new bike to get the exercise benefits of riding a bicycle, or that you have to launch yourself on epic treks in stretchy shorts. Any amount of riding, on any bicycle, in any clothing will make you healthier. Ride more, feel better, get healthy, ride more. It's a sweet cycle.

SOURCE: old Sturmey-Archer advert here.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Oh, Canada! Part II: CCM Bicycles


The same reader who sent in the info on Canadian-built Raleighs also has this lovely 1973 CCM Elite (Canada Cycle & Motor Company). I particularly like the chainring. What is it about artful chainrings that's just so appealing?

Also, I wanted to share this awesome 1918 CCM catalog.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Oh, Canada! Part I

A reader recently sent some photos and info about Canadian-built Raleighs after realizing that his 1975 Raleigh Superbe was actually built in Canada. Since the provenance of overseas Raleigh makes has been of interest to readers in the past, I thought this might be useful to post.
"I was surprised to discover, after buying the bike with the Nottingham England badge, that in fact, it had been manufactured here in Canada. The serial number bears this out, as does a small decal I had overlooked. Many of the parts were made in England. My understanding is that the Raleigh factory was opened in Quebec in about 1972 (this bike is a 1975).  Ironically, the factory in Quebec is still building Raleighs, with a work force of about 300, and is supposed to be the largest bike factory left in North America.

The serial number of this bike starts with RG5. This excellent site gives the info for Raleigh serial numbers: 
http://www.jaysmarine.com/TH_raleigh_serials.html

The 'R' being Canada . 'G' being May , and '5' being  1975.
"

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Just Another Sunday

Some weeks you want just one day that you don't have to set an alarm to wake up. As a consequence, I didn't do the Down Townies ride this morning. After lunch, my wife and I rode down to the park and spent the afternoon just relaxing in the sun. I took the Schwinn for its first ride with weight in the crate, and it did just fine. Then we ran a quick errand to the pharmacy and went home. Wonderful!

I Like My Bike

That's all. Just sayin'.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Express Mail

Running to the post office is one of my favorite bike errands. For me, it's everything an urban bike errand should be: simple, short, and easy. My local post office is about a half-mile from our house, making for a whopping 1 mile round-trip. I couldn't morally justify driving that distance, anyway, and riding a bike is a whole lot faster (and more fun) than walking. This sort of errand is also perfect for folks who might be a bit reluctant to take their old bikes on longer hauls (although there's no reason not to). If you'd rather go easy on an old bike, short trips like this make up a surprising amount of life's little errands, and an old bike is a perfect way to accomplish them.

About the Old Bike Blog

I'm not a meticulous observer of my StatCounter stats, but a recent increase in the volume of reader emails suggests that more folks are finding the Old Bike Blog, and the ranks of my mindless zombie army, uh, "Followers" are incrementally growing ever-closer to the 50 mark (maniacal laugh, wrings hands in arch-villain, mad scientist style).

So, I thought it might be time again to explain for new readers just what this blog is all about. I started it in July 2007 when I decided, with no experience whatsoever, to completely take apart, overhaul, paint, and reassemble my 1971 Columbia Sports III. This bike had been my daily rider for about a year, ever since the mountain bike I'd had since high school was stolen. I decided that since I was relying on this bike to get me around, I really should know everything about how it worked.

You can follow my naive progress on the Columbia by clicking on the appropriate label tabs at right. The point is, I did it. In the process, I learned quite a lot, and acquired a bit of an addiction for old bikes. The point I wanted to make with the blog, aside from chronicling my progress, was that if I can do it with no experience, anyone can resurrect an old bike themselves. The cost can be fairly minimal, or it can be extensive, depending on how much work you want to put into it. It takes time, effort, and a willingness to learn (and fail), but restoring an old bike to full functionality, and then using it,  is one of the most rewarding things I've ever done.

Although I have occasionally offered "how to" advice, my main goal is to show that old bikes, and bikes in general, are accessible, serviceable, and enjoyable to folks who don't consider themselves "bike people." I believe that old bicycles, and the skills that keep them running, have the potential to vastly democratize the bicycle culture, get more people on bikes, and increase our general competence level as a society. I believe that everyone should know how to service and maintain the bicycle they ride on a daily basis. For me, this means an old bike, and I hope it does for you, too.