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Posts Tagged ‘old department store bikes’

In another life not so long ago, an unemployed recyclist would have been in bicycle heaven. Now with a full time workload and a choc-a-bloc shed, he has become much more selective…

another one bites the dust …

Thus, on a recent morning exercise ride I passed by this unloved Huffy almost without blinking an eye. Once it would have been straight back with the van to collect another stray …

One thing about riding though, it gets my thought train rolling – why else was this bike now so seemingly undesirable ?

don’t get me wrong, they’re not entirely useless !

Well, it’s a department store bike and new ones can be had for relatively little money. And yet, so was my road king bike once, and I was quite happy to make a respectable commuter out of that old Woolworths 10 speeder – and still would.

maybe it’s a fashion thing – ’70s and ’80s 10-speeds are “in” … ?

Secondly, these cheap suspension bikes are unnecessarily complicated and unpleasantly heavy with their uncomfortable flat bars and rigid seats. The sprung forks, rear shock and (possibly) disc brakes all have the potential to wear out and leak fluid, and replacement units would probably be a waste of money.

They are obviously targeted to consumers who may be convinced they will have almost everything for almost nothing.

The surface finishes on many areas of these cheap bikes will oxidise almost while you watch them, rapidly giving an end appearance of cheap and neglected “ugly-tech”. The low price and rustability means that they are approaching throwaway status so why not just buy another one using a high $AUD and cheap overseas labour ?

If this Huffy had been a simple, more  timelessly styled and designed bike with rigid frame and forks and perhaps a sprung saddle, how much more appealing would it have been to keep, sell or restore it, even if it wasn’t top quality in the first place, or was a little more expensive to begin with ?

timeless ?

But would people buy it ?

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as it was - abandoned

 

Having just added some new MKS Sylvan touring pedals and a new brass bell to the Road King, I may have to agree that it’s becoming somewhat like Ted Bullpit’s Holden Kingswood (as suggested by Steven Fleming of Cycle-Space recently). For those unfamiliar with the old Australian TV sitcom “Kingswood Country”, it featured a very basic model Aussie car that was polished, accessorised, and worshipped to an obsessive level as a suburban icon.

 

smoooth! --- mks sylvan

 

It’s true that the Road King began life as a humdrum ten speed Woolworths bike, made in Taiwan in 1984. Yet when I look at it now I think of it as a practical long distance semi-upright occasional commuter (c.25kms one way for me) that is relatively fast, non-lycra and fun, yet can carry a reasonable amount of luggage and still stump up as a kind of off-beat classic with clean, straight lines.

 

after the rain

 

Excluding my own labour and the expensive Li-ion headlight (that I can use on other bikes as well), this bike has cost me less than $AUD400 to get to this stage – about the price of a cheaply made entry level bike shop “broken-backed” looking hybrid beginning with “G”, that doesn’t even have proper mudguards let alone a Brooks saddle…

 

not the road king !! - i just polished the brass bell ... teehee

 

A young skater on Fernleigh Track  recently commented “Nice bike – is it new?”

 

in passing..

 

1984 wasn’t the end of the world … and I haven’t finished yet!

 

at swansea yesterday

and yes, the birds are real !

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Well, it’s getting there – my 1984 Road King bike pre its saddle upgrade, at Belmont 16 footers this week.

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in the court of the crimson king

And so it was, dear readers, on one of those humid summer days when sweat and sunscreen sting in your eyes, that the Recycling Jester and the Crimson Road King set off on a grand journey via the highways and byways of Lake Land carrying only a song, water, and a basket of tools…

highway underpass, swansea

I am glad that I left the gearing as it was because this bike is a breeze to pedal in higher gears, unlike some of my other rides. It likes to accelerate and travel quickly on the flat and I found myself using the upper gears frequently. The saddle is not as uncomfortable as I thought, and will be OK while I save for a Brooks B17 (or maybe sprung Flyer) in honey colour. Well I never, is that blasphemy for a bike that has “Wool worths” stamped into the rear drop out? I found some faux-cork grips for it – and they’re not bad either.

The gear train is a little clunky and I had to pull up a few times to adjust the FD stop screw as the chain kept getting caught between the large ring and the chrome guard – yuk! more greasy fingers … and still getting used to these stem shifters.

The good side is that the bike’s responsiveness means that gears don’t need much changing. The steel rims mean that braking is on the casual side, but no worse than the roller brakes on my Gazelle – in the dry at least. It’s manoeuverable at low speed and balances well with a slight leaning forward ride position that’s a good compromise between crouched (ouched?) and upright.

the king...

I think it looks rather nice without mudguards, but I know if I don’t get them I’ll be sorry when it rains and I’m riding with a wet bum on the Fernleigh Track!

OK that’s the first test ride, and I do think this one’s a keeper if you haven’t guessed already …

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road king bike ...

Why waste time on this ? OK, it’s not exactly high end or even middle of the road, and I have now read heaps of insults on chat forums while researching the brand – not that I normally go there to listen to anonymous know-it-all avatars!

I suppose its “modern” equivalent would be the Huffy suspension MTBs  that Big W sell now… yet this seems much more interesting and unusual – thanks perhaps to the passing of time…

Clean paint and shiny pie-plate...

I’m guessing it’s late 70’s to early 80’s given the almost comical 70’s style “king’s head” decal. It’s in great condition for its age, with very little use, almost perfect paintwork, minor surface rust on the chrome (easily removed), the wheels are straight, tyres inflated (???!) and it should really only need relatively little of my time  (and hardly any money) to become a useful ride.

comical "playing card" style head decal

It’s probably one of those 10 speeders that gave 10 speeders a bad name, but I’m not bothered about that. I think it’s really a heavyweight roadster half pretending to be a racer, and looked at that way doesn’t seem quite so disappointing!

ooh, doesn't fool me !

I reckon it could be made into something tolerable, if correctly serviced, and I don’t want to play racer on it – also, most of my other bikes are at least as heavy. So what to do with it?

rat traps and cotter pins ...

The Good Points :

It was free.

Lots of shiny bits – hardly anything made now is chromed and I miss that.

27″  Taiwan steel rims – well, i like steel rims.

I don’t have to worry if I want to alter or improve things – it’s not a valuable classic.

Nice looking (if heavy) lugged frame and forks.

Or, useful for parts if things don’t work out.

old world lugs ...

The Bad Points :

I like to ride upright and this isn’t.

Nasty looking period vinyl saddle and bar tape – but easily changed if i want to.

Loose and cottered cranks – I’m not a fan of cotter pins.

No mudguards – a bike needs mudguards to be a proper bike, and they’re not cheap.

Pretty ordinary  side pull brakes.

Not sure how easy or reliable the stem mounted friction shifters will be to use…

hmm....

…..so there are a few things to ponder on!

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