Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Townie Refurb

My Mid-80's Schwinn High Sierra townie.
 The longer term readers here will maybe remember this bike. It's literally been years since I've posted anything about this bike though, so if you are not familiar with this, let me introduce you to my townie. It is a 1986 Schwinn High Sierra mountain bike. 

This bike came to me not long after I'd gotten back into the bicycle business again in 2002. I'd guess it was probably around 2003 or so when I still was working some night shifts at the shop. One particular evening, a gentleman came in and asked if we could dispose of a couple of old bikes he did not want anymore. My boss affirmed him that we could do this. The man then wheeled the first bike in, and it was this bike I am showing today, only it did not look like this then! 

It had about three coats of spray-bomb paint jobs on it back then but otherwise it was a straight, as sold component-wise bike. The tires were flat and the cables were a mess. My boss looked at it and suggested that I take it home if I wanted as it looked like it would fit me. So, I did that, and I got to stripping it down to the bare frame. Then I scraped off most of the paint with a paint scraper and sent it to a local business that did powder coating via a mutual cyclist and then customer of the shop. He was told by me to just use whatever was in the machine for the day, and so I got this 'army green', matte finish which I happened to like a lot. 

Anyway, I set it up 1 X 5, (way ahead of anything being 1X), and started off by putting an old rack on it so I could use my ancient Jandd Mountaineering panniers. The very same panniers I used for both of my self-supported tours which I have documented here. I ended up using the original wheels off the old Mongoose 26"er touring bike from those days which are nutted axle, high flanged, and the rims have cut-outs, much like a fat bike rim would have. (That was a 'thing' on early BMX bikes, and Mongoose being from BMX did this on their early MTB's) 

Looking livelier than it had been when it was an ashen grey color!
The saddle I got in a trade, but I cannot recall how or for what. It's been years ago now! Anyway, the old Brooks Pro seemed comfy enough, so it stayed on this bike. Then I put it to use as my errand bike. It was always in the garage, ready to go get milk, diapers, butter, or beers. Then life changed and the garage roof started leaking and the next thing ya know I have a nearly destroyed Brooks Pro and a big mess to clean up in regards to the bike. 

The ol' Brooks took a hit, but a liberal application of Proofide has seemed to liven it up again. I may have to apply a bit more here and there, but I think it is going to survive. Anyway, this ol' Schwinn is pretty much bullet proof, but for a small issue with the roller cam brake in the front. I think the brake bosses need to be reamed true and round again. There was a tool back in ancient bike times that was made to do this job, but as you probably know, roller cam brakes are pretty much rare antiquities and tools to work on them are rarer yet. So, I just get by with a bit of a funky front brake for now. 

The bike rides really well. It is heavy, but it is nimble! I recall reading somewhere that Charlie Kelly, the Marin mountain biking pioneer, said that if you wanted to know what a first generation, purpose-built mountain bike rode like from the late 70's, well then just buy any Schwinn MTB made up until the late 80's as they pretty much mirror the same geometry and steel tubing sizes. If that is true, then those bikes must be a hoot to ride. It is a totally different vibe than MTB is now. Laid back, touring, ripping corners, hopping up and over stuff, and generally just crawling along anywhere, this old Schwinn seems to not be bothered with much of anything I throw at it. I suppose that with a knobby set of tires swapped in for the Continental Winter Contacts, it would become quite a fun trail bike. But that ain't a gonna happen 'round here! Nope! Maybe I'd do a gravel ride or tour with it if I swapped out the drive train to a triple 3 X 7. 

But enough of that. It's a townie now, and that is good.

1 comment:

tntmoriv said...

I used to have a Peugeot Canyon Express from about the same year with those roller cam brakes. Heavy but I liked them in the dry, and I love the look. Real mud collectors, though! Thanks for keeping the old ones alive.