Friday, July 1, 2011

Department Store Bicycles / Parliament Update

Hello and Welcome,
I have just recently found-out that, The vintage Brake Levers I ordered for the "Custom Built - Parliament- Made in England" are not going to arrive till sometime after the Holiday. I had been thinking about doing a post about "Department Store" or "Cheaper" Bikes anyway. So I guess this is "as good a time as any". Below: A Huffy Le-Grande. Built I am guessing mid to late 1980`s
What makes this Huffy a good purchase as far as restorable Old Huffys go? First, overall condition. Notice the lack of rust on the Crank and Chain-Ring guard. Notice the wheels have only very light surface rust. Also a Huge Plus "It has newer tires". The tires appear to have 75% + of the original tread. And the tires (side-walls) are not "cracking" or "dried out" and ready to start cracking. And the Paint is in pretty fair condition and should clean-up very nicely.
Above: The derailleurs although dirty are in working order and don`t show any signs of damage. And the bike is complete. All the major stuff is there and working fairly well. And the wheels spin fairly straight and the brakes work. Although the shoes are all hard, glazed and squeaking.
Above: A good shot of the rear wheel and brake caliper. There are some things that I will replace. Like the calipers, brake levers and pedals. I will use salvaged parts. If this was not possible, I would probably take a pass on this bike.The things I will be paying for, like all the cables and housings, brake shoes and handlebar tape, are all fairly inexpensive. If I replace the saddle I will try to use a salvaged one.
Now the most important factor "The Price" of the bike. Believe it or not the Thrift-Store had a $54.00 US price-tag on the bike. Instead of walking away, I decided to ask to speak to a manager about a price. When the manager arrived I took him over to the bike and calmly explained. "This is a Huffy" and on "a really good day" might be worth 19.99". I went on to explain that these are cheaper road bikes and just don`t command that kind of price. He came back with a counter of 24.99. I told him I was being honest when I said that the bike is only worth 19.99 Tops. And a similar one would sell at any garage sale for 10.00 or less. He came back with 19.99. I agreed and purchased the bike.
So why bother restoring this "bottom feeder" of a Ten Speed bike? Well two reasons really. First "it`s fun." Second, I get a lot of emails from people who just can`t afford to pay much for a bike. Usually students who are on a tight budget. So I try to keep a few "more affordable" bikes around. If I make any money on this bike, it won`t be much. After expenses are figured in, I might break-even, "If I`m lucky". But, It`s not always about the money. It just feels good to make something useful out of something that is on the brink of becoming scrap metal. And it feels good to help someone who might otherwise end up with some piece of junk that some s.o.b. dusted-off and pumped up the tires then sold as "All Original". But that my friends will be another post in itself. I think I will call it "All Original,and What That Really Means!".
Before I sign-off. Here are a few other "cheaper bikes" I have Cleaned-Up AND Repaired lately.
ABOVE: A NEXT "Clutch" Free-Style replica bike that basically needed to be re-assembled and lubed and cleaned.
ABOVE: Two tyke bikes that basically needed the same thing. The Trek got a new rear tire and bar-end plugs and the remnants of a fender removed. The Kent got a flat tire repaired and was re-assembled, cleaned and lubed. Poor assembly is a common problem with these department store bikes. The Kent also had the front fork mounted backwards.
ABOVE: This Ladies Huffy needed a front spoke replaced and front wheel trued. I also replaced the front inner-tube. And cleaned and lubed and adjusted the derailleurs. The rear derailleur cable just needed the slack taken out, then it was fine. The bike was also cleaned-up. Those wheels are alloy 700`s (made in the USA) with a front quick release skewer. Not too shabby for a Huffy. It also has the "Life Time Warranty" frame sticker on the seat-tube.
ABOVE: This petite ladies or girls NEXT Mountain bike needed lots of adjustments but very few parts. After it was all cleaned-up and lubed, the twist or grip shift to the rear derailleur seized-up. I have replaced it with a salvaged one that is only slightly better. Now I either have to order a new grip shift with cable, or change it to a index or paddle shifter. I am not a big fan of grip-shifters.
ABOVE: I do not consider this "Raleigh Rowdy" a Department Store Bike. The spring on the rear left cantilever was not connected which caused the rear brake to rub badly. Also poor cable routing compounded the same problem. I guess it should have gone back to the bike shop for free repairs. It must have drove the kid nuts to try to ride this thing. Also it would not shift onto the smallest (7) rear gear. The rear derailleur guard was bent inward just enough to stop the derailleur short of reaching the 7th gear. Also the grips were damaged on the ends
and the saddle was scuffed badly. No doubt the kid threw the bike down in frustration. I think I might have done the same thing as a boy. I can`t help but wonder, why didn`t they take it back to the shop? Or maybe they did and got no help. Either way it is a shame. I have corrected the problems and replaced the saddle and bar-ends. This is now a fine little bike. I could have had a BLAST on this bike 45 years ago :)
ABOVE: The Pletscher Classic Rack mounted on the Parliament. I had no idea they still made these! This is not N.O.S. This is a New Classic Pletscher Rack. I found it at bikemania for $29.95 The load capacity is 55 lbs. I don`t know if it is "exactly" the same as the original. But it looks original to me. I will not be showing any more pics of the Parliament till it is finished.
Till Next Time, RIDE SAFE and Remember to always RESCUE, RESTORE & RECYCLE
Cheers, Hugh


  1. That rack looks just like its 1972 vintage cousin that is on my wife's bike. My own rack is similar but attaches to the seat stays a bit differently. I would be reluctant to try to carry 55 lb on either rack.

  2. Nice post, Hugh. The problem I have always seen with department store bikes isn't necessarily their 7-day quality: it's their 90- and 120-day quality. You can get them fixed up and tuned in fairly decently, but they don't stay that way for long. Wheels come out of true quicker, derailleurs need frequent adjustments, brakes start rubbing after a few good squeezes.

    For someone that only rides once every few weeks or months, this is probably just fine. For someone that is using it to commute though, it will be a major headache. Probably the best thing you could do with them is to install a decent front brake and turn them into single speeds; fewer moving parts to break or get out of tune.

  3. Hugh too funny you mention "all original" I just saw such an ad on Craigslist for what appeared to be a 70's something Peugeot U0-8. All original included; an 90's mountain bike saddle, plastic fenders, no big ring on the crank or Front Derailleur and a late model plastic lock mount -looked like a kryptonite mount. Anyway the wording made me chuckle and then I read your post! Nice thoughts on big box bikes by the way. Your note inspired me to sand down and paint the bb shell and chain stays on the Sears Free Spirit step thru. Those areas were more like scratches with some paint than the other way around. Anyway looking forward to seeing your finished Parliament. Happy 4th

  4. Hey Steve,
    About the attachment hardware that comes with the rack. That was the one thing I thought could have been better. But over all I am quite pleased. I was thinking the same thing about the load capacity. The rack sure does not look like it would carry 55 lbs. And I`m not gonna be the guy who tests it :)
    Happy Fourth of July

  5. Thanks Everett,
    You make a good point. I serviced a Moad-Raster (I don`t wanna get sued) not too long ago, And that`s exactly how it went. In fact, they seem to be the worst of the lot. I think there are a few things you can do that help with "some" of the cheaper bikes. You mentioned the first one "better brakes". Also replace "grip shifters" with paddle or index shifters. And replace the crappy cables with something better like Jag-Wire. I think (know) "cable stretch" is more common and happens much faster with the cheap cables.
    I also think the older cheap bikes were built better than most of the junk they are pushing now. So you really have to be careful when looking at one. I was amazed with the wheel-set on the Huffy comfort zone. Not that they are all that great. But for a Department Store Bike they are really good quality.
    And as you mentioned with the really crappy bikes, single speed conversion is a great alternative to constantly re-tuning and repairing.
    Thanks for your comments. Have a Great 4th of July. Cheers

  6. Hey Ryan,
    Thanks for leaving the comments. Yeah that whole "all original" thing on Craigs-list really gets me going. I always ask people questions like, Do you really want to be rolling on 20 year old gum-walls? I usually follow this with "Your buying a bike not opening a museum" what the %&#@ do want all original for! Anyway I`ll stop now and save the rest for the Good to hear your restoration is going well. I have a couple of very nice old cheap ten-speeds coming up soon.
    I think you will like the Ross. It looks like it was ridden a couple times and stored.
    I hope to have the vintage levers here by this coming Friday. So I can finally finish the parliament. Have a Great 4th of July

  7. Hey Hugh!

    I am new to this, and I stumbled upon your blog when looking for resources on an old Schwinn World Tourist I was restoring. I have been an avid reader of this b log ever since! Thanks for posting interesting things so regularly - keep up the writing (and riding)!



  8. Hey Andy,
    Thanks! I hope you found some useful information and tips. For quite a while I was not sure if anyone was reading this thing. Then
    I discovered the "stats" section. I was very surprised to find out how many people view this blog. It really gave me a lift when I needed one. Thanks Again and Ride-On!

  9. Hi,
    I ran across your blog while looking for information on an old garage sale huffy I picked up for a ten-spot. It's a dead ringer for one you did in April 2010. I've learned a lot just from reading about your process in cleaning and repairing bikes, but I had one question if you don't mind. Which type or "system" of brake/shifter cables did you use? I've read that you typically like Jagwire, but they seem to make several types and I don't know how to distinguish which cables match which system, especially on an older bike with unknown components. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your time, and all the helpful tips on your blog.

  10. Hey Nicholas,
    On a typical "bike-boom" ten-speed I would use "Jag-Wire Basics". The derailleur and brake cables will come with two different ends. Just make sure you cut-off the end that does not match yours.
    With an exotic or expensive road bike, you will want to make sure that the cable you order is compatible with the derailleur you are using. If it is not shown in the description, Just contact the supplier. A good supplier will have techs that can help you make the correct purchase. Good-Luck with your project.

  11. Hugh, I recently purchased a black custom built 3 speed bike made in England that says Parliament on the front it is all original and in mint condition. I paid $30.00 for it at a thrift store. Can you tell me what it is worth? Lorna

  12. Hey Anonymous,
    The problem with pricing the "Custom Built Parliament Made in England" Is there is really no information about them out there. I have heard (read) a few people speculate about the origin and value. But honestly, there is no "real" information about them available (so far anyway).
    Steve at "rebrit dot com" told me that in the late 1960`s Raleigh did build some hand made /custom bikes off-site. He suspects "As I do" that the Parliament might be one of these bikes. So for now, I`m hanging on to mine. At least until I find something comparable out there (in the hands of someone knowledgeable) to compare it to.
    Sorry I can`t tell you more. If you can, you might want to hang on to it for a while.


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