The Short Story
I've purchased a used 1976 Schwinn Le Tour II as a restoration project, and to try out road cycling.
The Long Story
(At this point you can close your browser or click off to Break or The Onion)
Several weeks ago I came really close to ordering a 2009 Trek Soho. It's got a really cool belt drive and seven speed internally geared hub and disc brakes. It's a really nifty bike. The only trouble is that they haven't shipped yet for 2009. The best estimate I heard from the local Trek shop was May. Lucky me... had it been in the shop, I probably would have bought it.
Another problem I had was justifying acquiring a second commuter bike. I could better justify to myself if I wanted the second bike to be something different, like a road bike or a mountain bike. The Soho, as cool as it is, wouldn't be used for anything different than my daily commuter riding.
Fast forward to yesterday. I saw an ad on my company's bulletin board for a Schwinn Le Tour II for $75. I viewed the bike this morning and the seller and I came to agree upon $65. I think this is a great deal, especially considering the bike is mostly ready to ride. The large frame seems like it will be a good fit for my height. The combination of condition, size, brand, and fair price was too good to pass up.
My plan is to clean up the bike, and possibly upgrade some components. I suppose I need to decide upon the objective of the restoration.
Do I want to:
- Restore the bike to its original 1976 condition, with all original parts, paint, decals, etc?
- Restore the bike using whatever's handy, ending up with a cool looking retro styled bike, but without original parts and branding?
Determining the Date of Manufacture
A restoration project is supposed to be fun, and so far, it has been, though all I've done is a bit of research. Using "teh Internets," I was able to track down lots of information about the manufacturing process and history of Schwinn bicycles.
Based on the serial number stamped on the left rear axle hanger, and a date code stamped on the Schwinn shield, I was able to determine that the date of manufacture December of a year ending in the number six.
The number stamped on the shield is "3496", which means the 349th day of a year ending in 6.
The serial number starts with "L6", where L = 12th month and the 6 is the year.
One is left to ponder if it's 1976 or 1986, using decals and components as clues. However, there are two other items that cinch this. There's a number stamped on the crank which reads "76.11" and the other crank reads "76.12". I'm almost certain this is another date code.
Finally, on the down tube there's a state licensing sticker from Minnesota. It's validity dates are from 1983 - 1985, totally ruling out the possibility that this Le Tour II was manufactured in 1986. Plus, I think the 1986 versions of this bike had a different style of serial number and were possibly made as 12 speeds.
So there it is; a 33 year old bike made in Japan but "Schwinn Approved." I would have been seven at the time this bike was manufactured. Very likely I drooled over this impossibly large "big boy bike" when I saw something like it in the store selling for $169.95.
What's Wrong With It
As I said, the bike is ready to ride, but there are some things that need attention.
- The original tires are cracked and splitting in places. Remember, this bike is 33 year old!
- The cabling should be replaced. The rear brake cable is very sticky.
- The brake pads aren't as grippy as they should be, and should be replaced.
- The chain needs to be conditioned, or replaced. It's very dry, but doesn't have any overtly visible flaws.
- Rust spots on the rims. I'm not sure if these can be cleaned off, or if I should replace the rims.
- The front wheel is either warped, or needs to be trued. This is really the most serious problem, as the wobble is quite visible, even rubbing against the brake pads.
- Lots of scratches in the paint and decals, however, no visible dents, cracks or rust.
Shopping for a bike on a bike can be troublesome if you make a deal. How do you take the new purchase home?
Fortunately, I work downtown, where I picked up the bike. To get it home, I walked both of my bikes to the bus stop on the corner. I grabbed the first of two buses that pass within either a half mile or a quarter mile of my home. I boarded the first, since there's no way to know if the next bus (the one that gets me closer) will be equipped with a rack.
After disembarking, I walked the two bikes the final half mile home.
I'm sure I looked like a bike thief leaving the racks at the office with two bikes.
The Riding Experience
I took the bike on a short spin this afternoon. It seems light and fast, but completely different from my hybrid experience. Rather than sitting mostly upright, I am mostly hunched over. My belly feels cramped if I lean all the way over into the dropped bars. Perhaps if I take the seatpost down a bit it would be a little more comfortable. I know a lot of this will simply be getting used to the new style of bike.
This is going to be fun, and hopefully, not too expensive. Watch for updates to the blog. Watch for the bike on the racks and streets of Omaha.