Sunday, October 25, 2009

What to do with a rusty old bike?

I've had a few minutes to look over the Columbia Speedliner my sister brought up to me from the auction of the family homestead. In the daylight, I mean. It's very complete, and with the exception of the front wheel (which has a different rim and tire on it than the rear), looks completely original.

Unfortunately, as you can see, it's also almost entirely rusty. The paint (which may once have been cream) is mostly gone, replaced by a light coating of rust over the whole frame and all bodywork and accessories. The chrome is all pretty much gone, too, from the handlebars, stem, cranks, rims and crash rail on the saddle. The whole thing looks as though it was ridden for a little while, crashed into something, fixed, and then put away for a very long time in a place offering protection from rain, but from not other forms of seasonal moisture. Too bad, really. The frame design has the same features I thought were cool on my Columbia -- the U-shaped seatstays and chainstay, the wishbone connectors to the bottom bracket and seat tube, and the integral kickstand.

But the question is what to do with it. On the one hand, it's pretty much complete. So for someone looking for a bike to dip in an acid tank and fully restore, this might be a decent choice. Except it's a Columbia, not a Schwinn. And it's a ladies' frame, not a men's. So I doubt seriously that it has any collector interest, given its condition.

I've had a few thoughts. First, throw it up on Craig's List and see if anything pops up. And second, cannibalize it for parts for my own Columbia, then FreeCycle it. It has a few parts of interest, after all.

For one, it has that two-speed Bendix rear hub with the handlebar cable shifter. I need to have a set of wheels built up for my own Columbia, and though I have a set of Suntour hubs ready and waiting, there's nothing that says I couldn't also get this coaster-brake 2-speed hub working again and built into my rear wheel. The shift linkage and shifter are frozen up, but the hub turns, and I'm sure I could rebuild it. And if I took that path, I wouldn't have to worry about setting up the Columbia's frame for a rear brake. And I wouldn't have a single speed, but rather a pair of gears to choose from. On the other hand, I'd probably have to work just as hard up hills as with a single speed, given the drag introduced by a coaster brake.

Then there's the kickstand. I haven't seen any others like the one I need for my Columbia, and here one presents itself. Even though this one is pretty rusty, it could be sanded, primed and then painted or even just twined and shellacked to present an interesting detail. There's a chance it wouldn't work in my bike's mount, but I should be able to check that out without too much difficulty.

The fork would also more authentically replace the fork my bike is currently in need of. Ditto the headset. Ditto the bottom bracket. But I want a front brake, and this fork wouldn't provide a solution for that. Plus it would still need to be sanded, primed and painted. Ditto the fenders. Ditto the chain guard. Ditto the mousetrap rear rack.

Cannibalize, restore or sell. What to do with a rusty old bike? If you have any opinions, I'm all ears. But I'm leaning towards cannibalization.

All for now,



Garrett said...

I say use it for parts. The frame is not worth the time or money to restore.

John said...

Thanks, Garrett. Yeah, I'm inclined to agree. Current candidates are the rear rack, the crankset, the bottom bracket, the rear hub and shifter, and most importantly, the kickstand assembly.

Is this you?

Nice job on this rack!