I'm lazy. But it's the lazy people who invented the wheel and the bicycle because they didn't like walking or carrying things. The bicycle is a fascinating object. Far more than just a tool to get around, it is an intersection of sport, transportation, politics, environmentalism, art, style, and craft. Old school…I never had the nicer road bikes of my day, but I rode the hell out of my Murray with a banana seat and my trusty brown Schwinn Varsity “English Racer.” All day jaunts around the town and down county roads where I spent hours soaking up the solitude and the joy of the breeze across my face. Sometimes you have to just try something that may sound like it will never work. Like riding off the path and into the ditch. So with that in mind, I wanted to try and build a bike over the winter. I wanted a solid chromoly frame that fit me well. It needed to be a frame that would allow me to modify and hang the type of components I wanted. I also would need someone who would be able to guide me down this path, someone who had the experience and knowledge to tell me how far I could go with this build. Fortunately both were easy finds: the place to go was in Kettering called Bikes for All (https://www.facebook.com/BicyclesForAll/about/).
This is a charitable organization accepts all types of bikes in all types of conditions. Usually those bikes that have sat in a garage for years as children grew up, learned to drive and moved off to college or more importantly, out of their parents’ home. The second piece of my build, and without a doubt the most important, it was having someone who could advise and guide me through the process of putting it all back together. That someone was my new bike friend, Peter Guarde. A master mechanic, he was as excited about the idea of building a not so typical road bike as I was. And so it began, I rolled out a 1977 scarlet Schwinn LeTour II from amongst three hundred or so bikes. I had researched and found some bikes to serve as my inspiration, one in particular was a beautiful rusty ride with wide, white wheels and a leather seat. It sat in my garage for a few days until I finally got the confidence to put it on the rack and begin taking it apart. I had researched this bike and learned it was built during the beginning of the decline of the Schwinn empire. It was built and assembled in Japan. I found online, the catalog from 1977 which listed all of the specifications. Finally, down to a frame, I started the paint stripping. Surprisingly, there was a lot of paint and primer on this chromoly frame. I documented my steps along the way, knowing I would need to show Pete what I did if he would need to fix something. I bagged every piece I took off the bike because I knew I might need some of those pieces to put it back together, even with the weathered patina of rust. This was exciting and I began showing off my rusted frame to anyone who would give me two minutes. The parts box begins to fill up. The big, deep v-cut white wheels arrive and I can begin to see the bike look taking shape. I start to mock up pieces, wondering if our choices were going to be the right ones. We meet on a Saturday afternoon to begin hanging parts on the frame. The priceless derailleur hanger shows up in a huge box, wrapped in a basketball sized piece of bubble wrap. We begin with that … it goes on and the derailleur attaches to it. We are rolling now! I had some trouble with the seat stem diameter and had to order it a few times more before it could slide into the frame and attach my beautiful Brooks B-17 saddle. Classic retro is the look now. The gold KMC chain wraps around the single ring and through the derailleur and cassette. I’m in love with this bike now. Peter is excited about the build and how it is going. I’m taking pics of it and sharing with friends as I try to contain my excitement. I order a front rack and my daughter offers to build a cool wooden plank with my name inlaid. More cool touches to add to the finish. Brake housing and gear cables are added before the bike can take its first ride. It is a glorious rebirth of the bike. It glides around the room effortlessly and to my surprise, it’s got some speed for a heavy frame. Peter takes over and does some fancy wheelies and bunny hops to make sure it holds together. We both have huge grins across our faces. There are some adjustments to be made as the bike begins to settle in to the new components hanging on it. My daughter, Elle also contributed to a beautifully Koa wood inlay plank she made to put on the front rack that is the perfect accent, with my pseudonym “el Jefe”. We now bask in the initial success and begin tweaking parts to make it a worthy, reliable ride. Thanks to my wife for her great patiencel, support and tolerance of this project. Very proud and grateful for all the input, advice and help to make this a truly rewarding experience.