A tale a two bicycles—Vintage Schwinn 5-speed comparison with possible E-bike conversion—Part 5—Condition & Maintenance

The shiny chrome I love so much

Introduction to the condition and maintenance chapter

          This will be a fun article.   Talking about bikes is always fun.   I will get to convey the way my bikes got to their present state, and what you can do to your own bikes to make them the way you want.   There is nothing like the mechanics of things to get a person on the edge of their seats.   So follow along and see how interesting the nuts and bolts of bikes can be.

I was fortunate to receive both of these in very good shape.   They aren’t perfect, but all and all, complete and not rusted or damaged.   Even a new bike will have a scratch or minor problem that will need to be worked out.   These are things that most people can take care of themselves.   Some of you might not be willing to do it yourselves.   I say that you should consider trying to do the adjustments and minor tasks on your own.   If it’s not your idea to work on it, then by all means, take it to a top-notch mechanic for the service it needs.   There are many good books on fixing bikes available.   Try the library or your local bike shop to find one (or more) that will guide you.   Like anything, some of those books are not helpful, and can be confusing or outright useless.   Choose carefully before you trust the information presented.

Minor repairs and installing accessories can be very easy and fun.   The pride of doing it on your own is a special thing.   Don’t let this opportunity get away from you.   Saving money is another aspect of fixing your own bike.   Also, the knowledge that is done right and everything is tight and solid can give you a keen sense of confidence when you hit the road or trail on your bike.   This is something that can seldom be bought.   And you can give it to yourself with a little time and effort.   Just do it.


          The Collegiate was given to me about 20 years ago.   It had not been used or cared for in a long time.   It had been stored inside, so the weather had not taken its toll on the appearance or inner workings too bad.   I changed one tube and lubed a few spots, and I was off riding.   This was good for about 4 years untill I knew I liked the bike and was planning on keeping it for the long haul.   The way I lubed the bike is not a way I recommend to you.   I squirted some spray lube into the wheel and pedal bearings.   This is a temporary way to do it.   It is better than nothing, but not really the correct way to do it.   The bearings in these spots should be fully cleaned and then lubed with grease, not spray oil.   This does require disassembly and a few special tools.   Doing it right is the only way to prevent damage to the smooth surfaces of the bearings and races.

          I also wiped it down to clean off the dust and miscellaneous dirt that was on it.   That was better, but I could tell that a deep cleaning and polish was going to make it look so much better.   Once again, a major disassembly would be required to fulfill that desire.   But I rode and enjoyed it untill the time was right for a complete facelift.  

          When the day came, I fully, almost 100 %, took the entire bike apart.   I made some drawings and notes of some of the ways important parts were assembled.   I boxed the large parts and bagged the small ones to make sure everything was in one spot when the time came to put it all back together.   I cleaned and polished each part without any fear of getting the cleaner or polish in some place it shouldn’t be.   It was starting to really shine.   The chrome was gleaming.   The paint has chips, but the wax protects them from getting worse.   At this point, a full repaint was an option, but not one I was willing to take.   The original paint is almost impossible to reproduce.   Plus, this is a bike I was planning to ride, not put into a museum, (not that a bike like this belongs in one anyway).   

          If you want to repaint the whole bike, there are shops that can an exceptional job.   I would take that route, unless quality paint jobs are your thing.   Replacement stickers are generally available, and an exact look is fully possible.   Or you can paint it ugly to keep the thief’s away.   I just wanted it to look as good as possible, without going overboard.   You have got to remember that painting is an art, and a lousy paint job is impossible to hide.   So make your own decision and live with it.   A really nice wax job was good enough for me. 

          I purchased new tires, new thorn-resistant tubes, new brake and shifter cables, new red brake pads, and a used Schwinn rear rack.   I also got a few accessories that I will discuss later.   I started re-assembling the bike with a careful hand and eye.   I used a bike specific grease for the bearings.   (I recently found a new type I like better.   It is a clear synthetic grease that works very well.   Next time I re-grease all the bearings, I will use that).   I carefully adjusted the wheel and other bearings to the correct feel I like.   With the wheels bearings freshly greased, I trued the rims and made sure all the spokes were tightened correctly.   I took my time to make sure it was coming together the way I liked.   There was no need to rush.   Little by little it became a bike again.   The results have been worth all the effort.   I have ridden many miles since, and gotten a lot of complements on it.   And as time goes by, just minor maintenance and adjustments have been needed.   Total success.

              The World Tourist came to me in a similar state.   It had just been tuned and was fully ride able.   There were a few things I did to make it a little better, but overall, nothing has been changed since I got it about four years ago.   I do hope to do a complete tear-down and grease all the bearings.   Also, it could use a complete polish with the teardown.   Things like the sprocket and frame could shine much better with that time and effort.   I have cleaned it, but it not the same as when it is torn down into individual pieces.   The day will come.  

          I have added a couple of accessories and just enjoyed the bike without a lot of fuss.   


          There are things that should be checked every time you ride.   You don’t need to do more than be aware of these things.   Pinch the tires with your fingers and check them with your weight on the bike.   If they are low, it will be easy to tell.   Pull on the brake levers a couple of times to feel that they are ok.   Look the bike over to make sure nothing has changed since the last ride.   If you keep your bike inside and secure, (like I do), then it should be in the same shape as the last ride.   If you are forced to leave it out in public, then things could have been changed or damaged while you aren’t around.   Make sure to give it a good one-over and pay attention to it as you start to ride.   If something feels wrong, check it right now.

          Don’t forget the chain.   Depending on how much you ride and where your bike is stored, the intervals of chain lubrication will vary.   Between two and six months is a good time to service it.   You can clean it with cleaner before the lube, but a good wipe with a clean cloth is good most of the time.   Lube with a waxy fluid (a dry lube), like White Lighting.   Don’t use oil, it will attract dirt to the chain.   In the 60’s I used motor oil, (shame on me, I didn’t know any better back then).   

          As the miles go by, things like the cables can stretch.   The cables can also fray and become damaged.   Minor adjustments or repairs will be needed.   (I really wanted to go into the adjustments of the brake pieces and the shifting, but I think an entire article should be devoted to it.   Keep an eye out for that up-coming story).   Feel for slop or play in the bearings of the wheels, fork, and pedals.   Any looseness should be addressed.   The seat and handlebars should not move on their own.   Checking all the nuts and bolts for tightness is a good thing to do every now and then.   Just remember to pay attention to what your bike is telling you and you will know if it needs any thing from you.

          This is a where a good book on bike maintenance will come in handy.   I can’t cover every part of bike repair in this blog.   It is up to you to decide if the bike needs help and what to do about it.   Bikes are fairly simple, but they must be treated right to stay safe and dependable.

          Consideration for E-bike conversion

          Yes, good maintenance and performance are the key to a safe and dependable E-bike.   The Collegiate is ready for the conversion.   I would probably go through and re-grease all the bearings first.   The World Tourist would require the complete re-work before the conversion was attempted.   Either way, if you are going to make an E-bike of your bicycle, go through and make sure you are happy with all aspects of the maintenance before you dive into putting the conversion kit on.   That way, you will be totally happy with the power and convenience an E-bike will give you.

          Thanks, Happy Riding, Turbo Bob.

                      “The world lies right beyond the handlebars of any bicycle”—-Daniel Behrman,   The Man Who Loved Bicycles.

                                                E-bike kit?   See http://www.nycewheels.com


About Turbo Bob's Bicycle Blog

E-bike Enthusiast Vintage Bike Enthusiast
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