Saga Of The Hipster Hot Rod: Assembly, Completion
After fifteenish labor hours (and days and days waiting for parts/doing other stuff) the 1976 Schwinn cruiser I picked up at a yard sale is finally “complete”. Below I’ve broken down the construction process into bullet points, so I can get to the hilarious antics about how I’ve already almost died trying to ride it.
Phase 1: Disassemble
• Unbolted, unscrewed, detached everything that could be. A lot of PB blaster and a breaker bar were the stars of this show.
Phase 2: Paint & Chrome
• Stripped factory paint using a deadly combination of abrasives. Chemical stripper, an orbital sander, and a good ol’ fashion 60 grit sand sponge banished most of the red paint. Gave areas I couldn’t reach the Lebowski treatment (“fuck it”) and chalked it up to looking more hipstery
• Sprayed the whole damn thing in clear coat, to avoid rusting
• Cleaned chrome with ultrafine steel wool and Marvel Mystery Oil, as recommended by Bill Curr of Beverly Cycles
Phase 3: Reassembly, Hot Rod Style
• Re-installed handlebars upside-down, to give the bike a “café racer” look
• Neglected to install hand-brakes because cables are ugly
• Converted to single-speed for the same reason… ordered a set of cruiser wheels and coaster brake so I’d be able to travel around with some semblance of safety.
• Discarded chrome fenders because racecar
• Installed vintage Red Line BMX pedals, supplied by Scott of Beacon Cycles
• Installed 3″ rear tire designed for use on a horse-drawn racing chariot because badass
• Had to pack spacers into the hubs and run ridiculously low pressure in said tire (front as well) to minimize rubbing. It was never completely eliminated.
• Since the bike wasn’t originally a single-speed, the front crank was on the big side and required a chain length no chain had ever been. Luckily, I was able to enlist the help of Scott at Beacon Cycles to pull on the rear wheel as hard as he could while his assistant force the chain over the hub to make the thing workable.
• Removed the seat post because it was stupid. The bike was already very tall and the seat would never need to be raised. Unless, like, a tall person were to ride the bike. But they’re outta luck. I attached the seat by direct-bolting it into the collar that’s meant to squeeze the post and lock it into place. Looks way sleeker this way.
• Over-greased the hell out of the steering stem and crank bearings. Didn’t replace them because meh.
Final Build Roll Call
Frame Schwinn Collegiate “Tourist”, stripped and clearcoated
Handlebars Schwinn Chicago
Saddle Schwinn Approved
Wheels Huntington Beach Bicycle Company Black 26″ SS Wheelset
Tires Chubby’s Cruisers Premium Smooth 26×2.125 (Front), Jerald Sulky (horse cart) Square Tread 26×2.125 (Rear)
Crank Schwinn Mag
Chain Z410 SS Rustbuster
Pedals Red Line vintage BMX 1/2″
Labor Hours ~15