Bike Saviours Build-A-Bike: Day 1 – Bike Saviours – Tempe, AZ – 11.11.2015

I am a big fan of Bike Saviours. I seem to be there quite a bit, every time I peek in I see some of my friends so I usually end up hanging for a while. I’ve also attended some of their Art Nights, and done very simple work on bikes I own. However, I’ve never built a bike.

First, a little about Bike Saviours and the Build-a-Bike program:

Bike Saviours is a bicycle collective founded by Allison Karow in 2006. What is a bicycle collective? An organization that promotes bicycling. Provides bicycles and tools, and offers educational programs for the community. It’s YOUR BIKE SHOP. A place where you can get a working bicycle for cheap, or work-for-trade. Where you get your bike up and running again with your own hands. A place that survives on volunteers. Bike Saviours is a wonderful and thriving co-op and we are so fortunate to have it here in Tempe!

The Build-a-Bike program is where you pick out one of the heavily used frames available on site and use Bike Saviour’s tools and instruction to pull it apart and rebuild it. The cost of building a bike is only $60, plus the cost of any “fancy parts” you end up buying, if you choose to do that. I know lots of people who were able to rebuild the bike with parts available in the shop and walk out with a fully functional $60 bike.

So the whole thing is that for $60 you have a bike; but the truly amazing part is that through the process you learn the ins-and-outs of a bicycle, how it works, how to fix one, etc. Your mind grows man.

The reasons I haven’t done this already are the following:

  • I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THE MECHANICS OF A BICYCLE – I don’t do my own tune ups, or fix up my own broken things… I go to shop. Shop gives me bike. I ride away happy.
  • I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT TOOLS – not even the names of tools. How will I get through this when I don’t know the names of simple things and how they work? Unless I can do everything with a screwdriver and a hammer… I don’t see how this is going to work.
  • MAJOR ANXIETY – Left and right, clockwise and counterclockwise, approximations, measurements… all these things make me nervous af when someone is looking at me, waiting… The stress is real people.

But even with all those limitations, I finally decided I would do it. I have to learn more about bikes in general, it’s embarrassing that I don’t already. Also I’ve been wanting a vintage Schwinn bad. But mainly, I know I can do this!

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So yesterday was Day 1. Here it goes.

Time: 3 hours 31 minutes

Was helped by: Patrick, Brandon, Nicole and Josh. (and unofficially Lance who was not volunteering but still helped me out a bunch… and smashed my fingers in the first minute of bike-building but that’s another story. 🙂 )

Worked on: Inspection, bottom bracket and headset.

First things first. Time to pick out a frame from the "boneyard of donated bikes." Which one will be mine. Many are already tagged, which means someone else is already working on it. I see all these old Schwins tagged. I'm getting nervous. And then... all the way in the back... could it be??

First things first. Time to pick out a frame from the “boneyard of donated bikes.” Which one will be mine? Many are already tagged, which means someone else is already working on it. I see all these old Schwinns tagged. I’m getting nervous. And then… all the way in the back… could it be??

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And this is the bike. At this point saying my bike sounds very odd. It doesn’t feel like my bike. It’s just a big scary mess of work that belonged to someone else. On a positive note: It’s an old Schwinn. Just what I wanted! The green is a plus. I was picturing red or blue, not lovely green! Most of the original stencil-work is gone (bummer), so we don’t know what model it is, or how old it is. It’s pretty rad, and it’s got a good vibe. At first we think it’s late 60s or early 70s, but Patrick notices something about the brakes, I forgot what it was… cable brakes maybe? Anyway, because of these brakes he knows it can’t be anything before the mid 70s. He just knows that… out of his head! Hoping it’s from the 70s… no 80s please! Nothing against the 80s, I just want this bike to be old.

Although I am bummed about the original stencil-work being gone, there are quite a few things I am stoked about: The Schwinn badge is in mint condish. Check out those shifters with the spiffy "S" on them. The stenciling on the fork is in pretty good shape! The seat is also the original seat and I think I might be able to keep it. Forgot to take a picture of that, but I will next week!

Although I am bummed about the original stencil-work being gone, there are quite a few things I am stoked about: The Schwinn badge is in mint condish. Check out those shifters with the spiffy “S” on them. The stenciling on the fork is looking mighty fine and the seat is original.

After you pick your bike you get a Bike Worksheet. This is your map, plan, directions... master checklist. This is everything you have to do in order to have a finished bike. As soon as I saw it I knew I was screwed. I don't know any of the things. What are grease cups? I don't think my bike has any of those! Lol! I know know that meant to grease the cups! But anyway, as soon as I stood in front of my bike with the clipboard Brandon came up to me right away and started helping me. Without even having to ask! Whew! I guess my face said it all...

After you pick your bike you get a Bike Worksheet. This is your map, plan, directions… master checklist. This is everything you have to do in order to have a finished bike. What are grease cups? I don’t think my bike has any of those! Now I know that meant to grease the cups! That was embarrassing. But anyway, I stood in front of my bike staring at it and holding the clipboard, Brandon came up to me and started helping me. Without even having to ask! Whew!

This bike is heavy! Part of the reason why is due to Chicago Schwinn's "Electro forged" technology. Basically it makes the head tube one piece (green) instead of the three-piece stem tube of the same period (yellow). If you want to learn more about "Electro-forged" technology check out this site.

This bike is heavy! Part of the reason why is due to Schwinn’s “Electro forged” technology. Basically it makes the stem one piece (green) instead of the three-piece stem tube of the same period (yellow). If you want to learn more about “Electro-forged” technology check out this site. Of course, I only know this because Patrick.

I am pleased to see that the all the tools on the the tool board, there is one by each workplace, are labeled and have hints as to which job they are for. I forgot to the a picture of the workspace and the tool board this week, can't believe I did that since it's such a crucial part of the build-a-bike experience, but I will definitely take a picture of all that next week.

Every workspace area has its own tool board. And I am pleased to see that the all the tools are labeled and have hints as to which job they are for. I forgot to take a picture of the workspace and the tool board. I can’t believe I did that since it’s such a crucial part of the build-a-bike experience, but I will definitely take a picture of all that next week.

Brandon showing me a good way to loosen up very, very tight bolts.

Brandon showing me a good way to loosen up very, very tight bolts.

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OG pedals off! I did it!

Because my bike is so old, the regular crank wrench won't work. I'll have to take off all those pieces individually. And they are on pretty good. At this point I started worrying, maybe going for an old bike was not such a good idea after all. Luckily it was not too hard to get it all off. And who am I kidding? I love vintage everything. No way I would take anything else.

Because the bike is so old, the regular crank wrench won’t work. I’ll have to take off all those pieces individually. And they are on pretty good. At this point I started worrying. Maybe going for an old bike was not such a good idea after all. Luckily it was not too hard to get it all off.

Finally got the crank off. Now I have to clean all that grime.

Finally got the crank off. Now I have to clean all that grime in there.

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Nothing fancy here. Just an old rag, Simple Green and lots of elbow grease.

There were lots of rusted and greasy little pieces to scrub, wipe and clean. But behind the years of dirt and grease were shiny little parts all forever marked with the word "Schwinn". It was like digging a little treasure every time. I think at this point was where I really started bonding with my new bike. It felt like I was doing something awesome. Bringing something back to life. It was also amazing to see that it wasn't damaged. Just dirty. I thought we would need all new parts, but that was not the case at all.

There were lots of rusted and greasy little pieces to scrub, wipe and clean. Underneath the years of dirt and grease were shiny little parts all forever marked with the word “Schwinn”. It was like digging a little treasure every time. This task felt pretty incredible. Bringing something back to life. It was also nice to see that they were not damaged. Just dirty. I thought we would need to replace all these little pieces, but that was not the case at all. It’s possible that this discarded bike is actually a beautiful, badass machine just waiting for a little love.

My bike is local! Came from Landis Cyclery. Apparently that's extremely rare. So it's green, vintage and local. This bike was definitely waiting for me to rescue it.

My bike is local! Came from Landis Cyclery on W Indian School Rd, Phoenix. Apparently that’s extremely rare. It’s green, old and local. This bike was definitely meant to be mine.

With the help of several in the shop we were able to do some investigating. We found the serial number and used this great site: http://schwinncruisers.com/serial-number.html

With the help of several in the shop we were able to do some investigating. We found the serial number and used this site: http://schwinncruisers.com/serial-number.html to gather some clues to this bike’s past.

Check it out! 1979 made in Chicago! The Real McCoy, as they say. Wish it was early 70s, but honestly I am so excited that it is from the 70s and American-made, I could care less!

Check it out! 1979 made in Chicago! From the 70s and American-made! I’m stoked! No info on model though…

Brandon took this photo while Patrick was giving me directions. Patrick helped me out a bunch and, although I was nervous at first, I soon got over it. It was almost as if he had done this before with other clueless individuals... I wonder...

Patrick giving me directions. He helped me out a bunch and, although I was nervous at first, I soon felt completely comfortable and focused on the task at hand. It was almost as if he had done this before with other clueless individuals… I wonder…

And right when I thought I was getting the hang of it... I realized I didn't know how to open the cable cutter. I tried and tried but couldn't figure it out. Turns out there's a little lock right there. See it?

And right when I thought I was getting the hang of it… I realized I didn’t know how to open the cable cutter. I tried and tried but couldn’t figure it out. Turns out there’s a little lock right there. See it?

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That would be Brandon. Stop making me laugh! I’m trying to do something very serious!

Some of the pieces were hella grimey. I innocently mentioned that the grease just wouldn't come off... you'd think I had said Christmas was coming early. Ultrasonic Cleaner time! Bike nerd alert!

Some of the pieces were hella grimey. I shyly mentioned that the grease just wouldn’t come off… I was not expecting the smiles on their faces. “Ultrasonic Cleaner!” Apparently, this is kind of a big deal. After the Ultrasonic Cleaner soak (about 30 minutes) the grime came right off.

And then I was ready to call it a day. Can't believe I spent over three hours in there! It really didn't feel like it. That's all I did on Day 1.

And after putting the headset back together, I was ready to call it a day. Can’t believe I spent over three hours in there! It really didn’t feel like it. This is all I did on Day 1. I did all those things!

Today I woke up thinking about my new bike. I did some Interneting and I think I found the model!

See it? 38 pounds with a forged steel stem. Assembled and fitted, ready to ride $149.95. Got this from the Schwinn 1979 Catalog.

See it? Schwinn Varsity Sport. Thirty-eight pounds with a forged steel stem. Assembled and fitted, ready to ride $149.95. Got this from the Schwinn 1979 Catalog.

Maybe I’ll try to find some decals to put on my bike. We’ll see…

Come back next Thursday for Day 2.

Thanks to Brandon Imhoff and Lance Turner for taking pictures of me while I worked on my “new” bike.