Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The (Enormous, Super-'70s) Schwinn Le Tour III

I've mentioned it in passing, but I felt the Schwinn Le Tour III I've had laying around for the last while deserved it's own post, as I'm honestly not sure what to do with it.  For one thing....it's gigantic.  The roadbike of a Viking.  No getting around that.  It's from the 1970s, and weighs a ton.  But on the other hand, it's a steel, Japanese frame roadbike that hasn't seen a lot of obvious wear and tear, and has been stored inside for it's entire existence.  It also has all-original parts.  So, without further ado, here it is, The Schwinn:

The first thing you're saying, I'm sure is "GODDAMN that's a bigass bike!"  At least, that's the first thing I said.  The second thing is "But...it seems to be in pieces."  I admit it.  I've never put this bike together and ridden it, not only because I'm not sure if I know anyone tall enough to ride it.  So I have no idea if the bottom bracket squeaks, if it shifts or stops...also it doesn't have a back tire.

Front Derailleur

Rear Derailleur
 One truly unique thing about this bike (and this could possibly just be a feature of major brands from this era) is that all the components are branded with either Schwinn or Le Tour, meaning I have no idea who made them.  Given the bike's origin in Japan, I'd be willing to bet it's Shimano, but there is remarkably little information on this bike available on the internet.

 This bike is rocking a quill stem and stem-mounted shifters, and show no rust.  I did absolutely zero cleanup on this bike before taking these pictures, and it's been sitting in my garage for several months at this point - still shiny!

The crankset (another Schwinn/Le Tour branded component) has a double chainring, in the classic "ten speed" way.  It also has a dented pedal.

The frame is fully lugged (a bit point in this bike's favor), and the fork crown is blingin' shiny chrome.

More Schwinn-branded components in the cockpit.  Of particular interest to me are the handlebars on this bike - the slight rise in the flats, leading to a long ramp and a nice curved drop all strike me as very reminiscient of the Nitto Noodles.  

For the uninitiated, these are "centerpull" brakes.  They're an older brake style to the modern, more popular sidepull brakes, but some would argue are equally as effective, if not superior to the sidepull.  An interesting feature to this type of brake is that it apparently widens above the pivots as it compresses, avoiding pinching fenders (which, admittedly, this bike does not have).

The bike still has the sticker from the original bike shop it was purchased at, West End Cycle Co, of Galveston, TX.  I've tried giving them a call, but no one has answered - I have no idea if this shop still exists. The bike is proudly labeled as "Made in Japan" which does make me wonder what company was contracted for the manufacture of this bike - maybe Panasonic?

While I have no idea as to it's trueness, even the wheels seem to be free of rust, though the cassette could certainly use a trip through some degreaser to see what lies beneath.

So there you have it.  The (free, gigantic, late-1970s) Schwinn I've been trying to decide the fate of.  I'm having trouble figuring out what I have on my hands here.  Is this a beautiful, lugged Japanese frame worthy of restoration, or an old crappy ten speed I pulled out of a pile of bikes destined to be scrapped out for parts.  Does ANYONE have more information on these particular bikes, and would they be willing to share?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Fairdale Flyer Stepthrough

I recently had the TARDIS in for some work at the South Lamar location of Bicycle Sport Shop, one of the (in my humble opinion) better shops in the area.  While I was there I had the opportunity to test ride the Fairdale Flyer Stepthrough, locally designed in Austin by Fairdale Bikes.  This bike got a lot of reactions out of me, not least, "THAT LOOKS TOTALLY BADASS!  Can I ride it?!"

Priced at an extraordinarily humble $439.99, this bike is a steel mixte with 26" wheels, but oh so much more than that.  Fairdale is run by three guys in south Austin, Seth Holton, Taj Mihelich, and Sandy Carson.  Their background is decidedly heavy on BMX, and that comes through in this bike like gangbusters.  The entire bike rides like you could jump it off a ramp while wearing a frilly sundress.  It's a tank.

The frame is made of TIG welded Cromoly, designed in Austin and built in Taiwan.  As for the components, words like "Simple" and "Bombproof" come to mind, even though there are beautiful little details everywhere.

The drivetrain is singlespeed, and geared for cruising, not flying (despite the name).  It comes with 26x1.9 tires, and when I ran it over potholes, I barely felt a thing.  The riding position is decidedly upright, but aggressive enough to feel like the gearing could be a tad higher.  There are a lot of weird little touches to this bike beyond the obvious - for instance, the brakes are a fairly unique looking, but a very simple design that minimizes moving parts. Despite their simplicity, I brought the bike to a screeching, skidding halt when I gave them a solid pull.

The dropouts are BMX-style, and fairly offset from the actual connection to the hub.

The connection of the twin stays is hard to describe, but "blocky" is my best word for it.

One thing that is worth mentioning is the bike comes as pictured, and has absolutely zero in the way of actual commuter accessories - no fenders, rack, clothing protection, or integrated lighting system is included (though I do recognize the inclusion of these accessories would drive up the price point).  The distinctive looks of the bike make me despair to think of it with a Topeak aluminum rack crookedly bolted to the back end of it, but with a bike like this, it's made to move things.  Here in the ATX there's not always a huge call for fenders, but the inclusion of a rack would be really nice.

Given the details, including the fatty tires, the orange pedals, chunky-ish contruction and BMX inspired everything, "elegant" isn't the word I'd choose for this bike, which makes the bike unique in itself!  Mixtes usually go for the refined aesthetic, while this bike is pure Austin.  It's funky, groovy, and a little bit weird.  It rides like a total tank, and will totally get you where you're going.  There are several other Fairdale models which are a bit better equipped in terms of accessories - one of them comes with a skateboard!  But for a groovy ride that gets you there for an INCREDIBLY reasonable cost for a bike of this build quality, this is a totally kickass bike.  Check out their website for local dealers, or if you're in Austin, it's on display at Bicycle Sport Shop.

Summer in the City

It's an obvious title, but it's true!  My bike has been out of commission for a few weeks, as it stopped shifting, and then was in the shop for it's annual tune-up.  Now that it's back, me, the boyfriend, and anyone we can recruit have been tooling about town.

This weekend was an excursion through downtown to the park for beer, and then to the pub to watch the Olympics and....well, more beer.

Gene's bike!

The boyfriend regards Town Lake

I told Gene to look thoughtful

The TARDIS is such a great beer-travelin' bike!

The pub