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Old Sears bicycle, lots of mountain biking, LBS woes

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

We had a very full and fun holiday weekend. I didn’t even touch the road bike, but I did a lot of mountain biking.

Mountain Biking Brown County Saturday Morning

I decided to forgo riding with the Bloomington Bicycle Club on Saturday morning in favor of mountain biking with some of my riding buddies from work. Chris forgot his shoes and ended up riding in sandals.

Chris riding in the parking lot before the ride — in his sandals.

Chris: Do I win a Guinness award or something for mountain biking in sandals?
Me: Hmm, maybe a Darwin Award … (yes, I speak in hyperlinks)

We rode the North Tower Loop together, and they headed back while I rode the Aynes Loop. It was a great ride, Chris did better than I would’ve expected in his sandals, and I rode pretty well.

Sears Roebuck Bicycle

Saturday afternoon, Sarah and I went to this flea market we went to before so I could see if the guy had put a chain on one bicycle I wanted to ride. He hadn’t, and we were about to leave when another old bicycle really caught my attention. It was a real beauty, red with chrome fenders and a chrome rack on the back, even a light on the front. It had ridiculous bright orange makeshift mud flaps and a bright bicycle caution sign on the back. I took it for a test ride, and it worked surprisingly well.

Side view

The sign in the back

“I have a story to tell you about this bicycle,” the guy told me. “It used to belong to Johnny Bunch. Johnny was a messenger for Western Union. He put that sign on there to warn folks he was moving slow, and he went about his business. Johnny rode this bike all over making deliveries from 1965 all the way up through 1980 — And there it stands. Johnny passed away about three months ago. He used to live in my apartment complex, and I ended up with his bicycle.”

He sold it to me for $30.

Look at that designer chainring!

Another character came up and started admiring the bike, claiming the pedals alone must be worth three times what I paid for the bike. Yeah, right. He looked at the head badge on the bike, which reads “Sears Roebuck and Co.” and exclaimed, “Sears Roebuck, huh? That’s great! Although Sears really went to hell after Roebuck left.” I couldn’t argue with that point.

Sarah and I also stopped by the Bloomington Community Bicycle Project — what a cool place! There were probably 10 people out front working on bicycles. It took a few minutes to find a volunteer to tell me how things work there. You can take your bike there to work on it, they sell some bicycles, and have an attic full of bikes in various states of disrepair. If you fix one, it’s yours. Volunteers help keep things running and help people fix their bikes. I’ll probably take my new/old Sears bike over there soon to see if I can make some improvements. I haven’t been able to figure out what model or year this bike is, I e-mailed the National Bicycle History Archive of America to see if they can help me identify it.

Nebo Ridge ride on Sunday

Sunday morning, Dave and I went mountain biking at Nebo Ridge. Neither of us had ridden there since about October. It’s about an hour away, so we don’t get out there very often, but it’s always worth the trip. We met in Nashville, put my stuff in his truck and he drove the rest of the way. We stopped at Crouch’s Market to get some trail passes and saw some pretty crazy-looking characters outside. They seriously looked like civil war veterans, old and wrinkled with long grey beards and messed up teeth. We went inside and went to the counter and the old lady there asked us, “You fellas need bike trail passes?” We asked how she knew that, and she said that when a couple of handsome men come in there that’s usually what they’re looking for. I felt like she was pulling my leg, but then I remembered the characters outside and the fact that she knew exactly why we were there. We got annual passes, and Dave reassured her that we weren’t doing that so we wouldn’t have to stop at her shop in the future; we’d still stop there, just for other supplies. She felt reassured.

We continued on our way to Nebo Ridge, and saw a wild turkey and a dead snake in the road on our way there. Nebo Ridge starts with a difficult climb, but that really went quite well. However, I forgot how difficult it can be. The first half basically consists of 7 big descents and climbs. The descents are fun, but it still adds up to a lot of climbing. I made it up some steep and rocky climbs I had to walk in the past. There were trees down in a few places, and I jumped them pretty smoothly.

Once you get past all those climbs, things really get fun. It’s a really fast trail, but also windy, and there are a lot of roots and rocks to deal with, but you can really keep your speed up. There’s a part that goes through a pine forest, and then the last two miles or so are downhill. We rode to the end of the trail and took a break. Well, we didn’t do the last 1/4 mile of trail or so which simply goes down a huge hill, because we knew we’d just have to turn around and go back. You can go back on the trail or take some roads that reconnect with the trail later on. In the past, we’ve usually taken roads back, but we decided to take the trail back instead this time.

We started heading back, and of course in this direction, what was a 2-mile descent before turns into a 2-mile climb. In fact, there was a whole lot of climbing overall. But once we got past the halfway point, the part that was really hard on the way in became an absolute roller coaster with great downhill runs, banked turns, and still some difficult climbs, but we carried momentum through most of them.

It was the best ride I’ve done in a long time. It was pretty hard, and it was hot outside, but it was a blast. Dave and I were both riding really well, and we didn’t have any major mechanical problems. I did have to adjust my rear derailleur and saddle a bit, but that was no big deal.

LBS Woes

I do have a gripe with one LBS (Local Bike Shop), Revolution Bike & Bean. I went in there in search of a new saddle for my mountain bike after bending the one that came with the bike. I was interested in the WTB Saddle Trial program, where you can borrow a saddle for a while and test ride it on the trail. However, one of the guys there talked me into getting a Specialized Rival saddle instead. Specialized has no trial program, so I really can’t return it. He basically told me WTB is trying to copy the Specialized design, and the Specialized saddle is better. That may be true, but everybody’s butt is different, and this saddle just isn’t that comfortable to me. I do like that it’s smaller than my old one and gives me more maneuverability, but it isn’t comfortable.

I shouldn’t have let him talk me into the Specialized saddle, but I did. But now I’m dissatisfied and feel ripped off. Not only that, it seems either defective or poorly-assembled. The saddle is loose in the rails. I tried tightening the screws on the bottom of the saddle, but it didn’t seem to help. I hope I can get them to take it back even though he said they wouldn’t. He asked me to trust him and I did, but now I feel ripped off. And they might not be able to sell it as new now, but I think it’s defective anyway, and if they don’t screw with me, they’ll probably get a lot of business from me in the future. I hope they’ll make it right.

Hanging out with Sarah and riding the Sears bicycle

Anyway, Sarah and I took it easy Sunday afternoon and most of Monday. I did do a little work on the Sears bike on Monday, taking off the mud flaps and that caution sign and fixing a couple of other things. I took it for a ride around the neighborhood, and I had a lot of fun riding it. The bottom bracket (I think) needs some work, as it’s pretty noisy and inefficient. I’m sure most of its parts need lubrication. But I had a blast riding it.

Me riding the Sears bike (yes, I was too lazy to put actual shoes on)

We had a cookout with my family last night that was a lot of fun. We had bratwurst, beer, salad, jello … and later, ice cream. Sarah and I pretty much ignored our diet this weekend, and it was wonderful. She and I didn’t actually do much this weekend, but we did spend most of it together, and sometimes, that’s enough.

9 Responses to “Old Sears bicycle, lots of mountain biking, LBS woes”

  1. Pete Says:

    Nice find, and only $30! If you spend a little time fixing it up that should be a fun around town bike.

  2. Sarah Says:

    You look awesome on your bike. Johnny Bunch would be proud.

    I mean it, by the way — if you start saying LBS, I’m going to start saying LSS for local scrapbooking store!

  3. Marty Says:

    Sounds like a good weekend – and a Sears bike, huh? That’s truly going old school – and in sandals to boot. You’re a wild man.

  4. furiousball Says:

    That bike is awesome. I also appreciate that you wore sandals for your ride too. I want caution signs like that for my bike. But it has to have the message “caution, this guy may come flying off the bike at any moment!”

  5. John Says:

    You removed a lot of the bike character. The mudflap, reflector etc. You also forgot to mention if you went into any stores over the weekend. I’ll recite the star trek creed while you tell of the store. Ready?
    “Where no man had gone before”

  6. Apertome Says:

    The mudflaps rubbed the tires … not something I really wanted to put up with. Not to mention the ugly factor. The sign may or may not go back on there, I’m undecided. Regardless, I’m keeping all the parts so I can always put things back later. I suspect the bike will get fairly stripped down and rebuilt, if I can figure out how to do that.

  7. MRMacrum Says:

    Your negative experience at the LBS bothers me. While I am not responsible for what others in my field do, I hate to hear of sleazy sales techniques. It reflects badly on all of us. His comment about WTB copying Specialized is dependent on who you talk to.

    A bit of history here. Back about 15 years ago, Specialized sold WTB saddles with their logo on them. I have several still and actually still ride them. WTB has been in the forefront of saddle design for quite awhile. Specialized certainly made the split saddle popular. But they hardly invented it. Split saddles have been around for years. And you should take the saddle back if it seems defective. If the store refuses, contact Specialized. When I was a dealer, they paid attention to consumers. Maybe they still do.

  8. Nicolas Says:

    Do you have any information at all on that old Sears bike? I just picked up one that looks identical, and I’d love to know more about it!

  9. felipe martinez Says:

    you look lovely

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