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Finished! (mostly)

I've had a very busy couple of weeks, so I haven't had much bike time. But I finally got the fenders sorted out on my bike last night! The bike is basically finished now. I still need to round up some tiny screws for the headbadge, but that's really all that's left to do now. So, here she is!

I took her for a spin last night to make sure the fenders didn't rattle or rub, and everything seems to be a-okay. I'm ready for some bicycling adventures now! :)

Iron Ranch Vintage Bike Swap Meet

I dragged my family to the wilds of Ridgefield, Washington this past Saturday to check out the Iron Ranch Vintage Bike Swap Meet. It was pretty awesome! Lots of neat old bikes and random parts for sale. Not a lot in the way of truly antique, but there was one vendor who offered some (very expensive) antique cabinet cards and lanterns. Strangely, I didn't see any Rollfasts at all! Not a one. Here are some photos of interesting bikes (and a motorcycle) for your viewing pleasure:

These were my personal favorites, the black and green Olson and the green mystery bike.

I'm not sure what this rusty old critter was, but I can imagine it was a stunner back in the day!

This ghostly pale Harley was a show stopper, just beautiful.

Another mystery bike, it looked very old to me.

A gaggle of Schwinns, check out that red Phantom!

It was really a fun event, I will definitely go back next year. I only had a $20.00 budget this time, but even then I was able to get some wide cruiser handlebars and a retro rear-view mirror and still have money left over. Most of the vendors' prices seemed reasonable, except for the guy who was asking $10.00 for a rusty Schwinn headbadge screw. Bless his heart.

Old goth lady on a glowing bike!

My husband snapped this while I bumbled around our street after a little ride this evening.

During our ride, we discovered an incredibly tiny woodsy park in our neighborhood that we'd never really noticed before! I will have to ride my bike to the tiny park and have a tiny picnic! :)


It's time for a big update! First, my bike is up and running, but cosmetically not quite ready for a public introduction. I will give you this sneak preview for the time being:

For those of you who aren't familiar with my artwork, the little critter on the chainguard is a "womberscootch", which is a sort of small dog-demon-monster, my little art mascot.

Next, let me regale you with the sad tale of the springer fork. The story goes like this: the steerer tube was too short, I was very sad, and came incredibly close to giving up on this project. Not only was my bike still forkless, but I was out a pretty penny and my funds were dwindling. I decided to try the Recyclery one last time, but they didn't have anything new. I was starting to wonder if all my options had truly dried up. On my way home from The Recyclery, I remembered there was one eastside bike shop I had never visited. It was a little shop on SE Belmont. I walked in, tired and disappointed, and asked the fellow behind the counter if they had any forks for sale. He told me that they only had a few and invited me to the work area to look at their selection. Indeed, there were only a few forks hanging from a beam. The usual too-narrow middleweight vintage forks, a couple of mountain bike forks with big shocks attached, and...one vintage style chrome balloon tire cruiser fork. It was perfect. The steerer tube was plenty long, it was brand new, and it was a nice style. The guy told me it had been sitting there for at least five years. And the price was right! $15.00. I took it home and lo and behold, it worked perfectly! What a huge relief. I felt like I had given birth to a baby elephant.

So now my bike is complete and I have ridden it several times this week! I'm still in need of a better seat and fenders, but otherwise it's together and quite pretty and very fun to ride. It turns like a herd of buffalo and is definitely a workout to haul up hills, but I love it! Once I get the little cosmetic things sorted out, I'll post some full length photos.

I hate to say it, but I think that fixing up old bikes might be addictive - I'm already wondering what crazy project I might undertake next. I learned so much from this experience, and I want to keep learning more! Besides, I have fenders and a springer fork that still need to be used.

So, that's where I'm at for now. I leave you with these groovy jerseys from Team Estrogen

P.S. I nearly forgot! I was browsing Rollfast stuff on ebay, and found a vintage magazine ad for Rollfast's 1959 bike assortment. And there was my bike. A 1959 Rollfast middleweight, Model 766. It originally had 1.75" tires. Oh, how I wish I would have seen this ad a few weeks ago! But it's okay, I really dig the giant white balloon tires, I'd be sad to see them go.


My fork is ready to be picked up today! Which means I can assemble the rest of my bike this weekend and ride it! It won't be absolutely finished - I still need to find appropriate fenders and my chainguard isn't quite ready. I changed my mind on the design on the chainguard and repainted it, only to be thwarted by rainy weather this week. I haven't been able to clear coat it yet. I'll be able to do that today or tomorrow, but then it will have cure for a week or so before I can attach it to the bike.

One step closer...

Mystery solved! Sort of....

Hey, guess what! I was just browsing Rollfast stuff on ebay and came across this bike. This is what my bike probably looked like (more or less) once upon a time. And you know what? My fork IS the original Rollfast fork! Here's where I went seriously wrong: because the bike had 26" wheels on it when I bought it, I assumed that was the proper size. Actually, it should have 24" wheels. It all makes sense now! I'm working with a stripped down version of what was once a fancy girl's bike, rather than a woman's.

Regardless, my bike will be pretty darned pretty when I'm done, and I will ride it with pride! It will probably look more like a Schwinn than a Rollfast with the spring fork, but it's a crazy custom job, right? And I need the 26" wheels so the bike will be big enough for my height. It's all going to work out in the end.

Now I know what to look for in a vintage girl's bike frame, size-wise. Never trust the wheel size alone! Live and learn! Please disregard all my past theories. :)

Case closed.

PS I should add that trying to research anything about vintage cruisers is a crapshoot at best. If I seem to be floundering, it's because there really aren't many books about vintage bikes other than picture books. I can't even find a book about basic bicycle repair that touches on one-speeds! It's too bad I'm not into multi-speed bikes, there seems to be a ton of information on those.


Despite a thrilling tour of the east side bike shops of Portland, I was not able to find a decent fork for my bike. It was a learning experience, though. I learned a few things about my bike and the fork - I'm probably right in thinking the frame is a 50's balloon tire frame, but several folks who looked at the fork told me it was a modern mountain bike fork. Hmmmm. What happened to the original fork? And why were all the vintage forks I found too narrow for a balloon tire? I don't know, but I finally settled on something that I could order and would be appropriate for a vintage style.

This weird chrome fork with the bulbous spring thing on the front is a spring or springer fork, invented by Schwinn back in the 1930's. It was created to give bicycles a more motorcycle-esque look. They were also created specifically for balloon tire bikes. You'll note if you scroll down to my post about the Schwinn Starlet, that the glamour shot of the bike features a spring fork. They were used on many bikes by Schwinn, including the famous Phantom and later the groovy Krate bikes with the banana seats. I've got one on order. Hopefully, it will do the trick. Here's a lovely old Schwinn with a spring fork.

My tour of the bike shops also taught me that there are insufferable snobs to be found within every hobby. 90 percent of the people I dealt with were awesome, but that other 10 percent? Apparently, there are some people who find vintage cruisers gauche, and these folks have no patience for newbies interested in them. Eh, whatever. I love to learn new things, and I know it will take a while before my knowledge is up to snuff. I really don't understand people who are impatient with newbies, especially if the newbie is really keen to learn. I totally get that there are a lot of newbies who act like they know everything, but I promise you I am not one of those people. I learned early on that there's no shame in not knowing something, especially if you're open and happy to learn. So, please be patient, I'm working on it.

I leave you with this ad.

Wow, that kid is REALLY excited!
Okay, I guess it's time for a Big Update! I haven't had much time to work on the bike this week, so I spent some quality time with it yesterday. Good way to occupy a hot, boring Saturday, right? I decided to go ahead and re-assemble as much as I could, since I now have all the parts rounded up, cleaned, painted, and/or restored. Or do I?

I assembled the handlebars and attached the fork. Not much problem there. Greased up the bearings really well and everything seemed to go together without a hitch. Moved on to the crank. Here's where things got mysterious. I took lots of detailed pictures of the bike before and as I took it apart, so I'd know just how all the bits and bobs went back together again. My picture of the disassembled crank didn't match what I had laid out on my towel, parts-wise. Something was missing, Something important that would be MIGHTY hard to replace: the notched washer that goes into the center of the dust cap before the last nut screws on. Yikes. I searched everywhere, couldn't find it. I couldn't figure out how on earth I could have lost it, especially when I'd been so careful to take pictures of everything and put all the little parts in baggies with labels.

At that point, the garage was about 100 degrees and I was starting to get really frustrated, so I moved on to something I thought would be easy and would give me a good idea of what the bike would look like finished: I tried to attach the front wheel.

But the posts were too big for the slots on the fork.

And the tire was entirely too large for the width of the fork. It was impossible to jam up into the fork, regardless of the posts.

Perplexed, I slipped the rear wheel on the frame and it fit perfectly, plenty of tire clearance on either side between the tire and frame, the post wasn't too big.

Again, more mysteries. First of all, I don't know enough about old bikes to know whether or not the difference in post size between the front wheel and back is a common thing. I've never come across it before with the various bikes I've had throughout the years. The thing that really confounds me, though, is the tire not fitting into the fork. The original wheel and tire on the bike were the same size, a 26" wheel with a balloon cruiser tire. Granted, I noticed that the tire was jammed into the fender, but I blamed a bent fender on that. And again, I don't know enough to be sure, but shouldn't the width of the fork be similar to the width of the frame in the back so that one can use matching wheels and tires?

I suspect Dr. Frankenstein put this bike together. Doing a little more research, I believe this is what I'm working with here: a 1950's Rollfast frame, a 1960's or 70's Schwinn fork, a 1960's Rollfast chainguard, and mystery fenders (which I'm not using because they're too rusted through and bent after all). I think that fork is probably meant for 24" tires or thinner 26" tires and that someone just jammed that fatter tire in there and called it good. I'm amazed the previous owner rode the bike around like that. This is all just a guess on my part, of course. The reason I think the fork is a 70's Schwinn is because I went back and looked at pictures of a little 70's Schwinn 24" I fixed up last year and the style of fork and especially the chrome bits are exactly the same.

Anyway, after ranting and raving and having a small cow, I realised that the only way to fix this is to either go with smaller or thinner wheels and tires or get a new fork. I am choosing to look for a new/old fork because I WANT MY BEAUTIFUL GIANT WHITE TIRES, DAGNABBIT! (Not to mention that I can't afford to invest in another set of wheels and tires). It's actually for the best, though, because I discovered that the fork is a tiny bit bent and doesn't align perfectly when it's in the headtube, something I couldn't really see just eyeballing it. Randy noticed this problem before I did. I'm pretty sure I was delirious from the heat.

As for the missing washer, Randy found it in my coffee can of solvent where I'd been soaking small greasy bits. It's a good thing, too, because I think I would have totally flipped out and given up on this bike if I hadn't been able to find that part.

The good news is that the bike is really going to be beautiful. The white tires with the white frame and green and black accents are very striking. I also have some beautiful sparkly silver handgrips and flowing white streamers. And the orca whale squeaker horn, of course.

I'll be visiting the Recyclery this week, in search of a proper fork. This pushes back having an assembled bike a week or so yet again, but I still think I should have it all done by September.

Why do I have such a propensity for difficult projects? They seem to seek me out. Please wish me luck!!

Delays delays!

Well, my big box of bike parts arrived last night. Unfortunately, I don't think I'll be able to use the fenders I bought. Also, the company forgot to include the fender braces, so I'd have to wait on that anyway. Oh, these delays are killing me! I think I'm just going to go ahead and try to fix up the original fenders. They look pretty rough, but so did the chain guard before I refinished it. I guess a few more days doesn't really make much difference, especially since the weather is supposed hit nearly 100 degrees this weekend. I wouldn't go walking in that heat, much less riding a bike. I'll be happy if my bike is up and running by September. I'm especially looking forward to autumn, that will be an amazing time to go bike riding!

On the upside, my new wheels and white tires are gorgeous. I am in love with the white tires!

Etsy find

I've been collecting antique photos for ages, but this is my first bicycle-related antique photo! A cabinet card found in the vintage category of etsy.

They're all dressed the same, which makes me think they were a bicycling team or club. The fella with the 'stache is certainly a handsome devil!

Edit to add: I have been informed by a reader who knows more about these things than I, the following - these fellows may have belonged to a club, but chances are they are dressed the same because that was the custom of those days. Specific activities had specific costumes and to deviate from that just wasn't done.