Monday, March 12, 2012

Sears "Free-Spirit " Korean lugged frame salvaged for yet another Fixed Gear project

Hello bicycle lovers and welcome.
Why another fixed gear project already? Two reasons really. Reason One. This very inexpensive bike has about the cheapest components you will find anywhere. The best thing about this bike is the lugged frame. To make a decent road bike would require I replace pretty much everything else. Not very fiscally responsible. I would not even come close to breaking even. Reason Two. I already have a single crankset left over from the Thrasher Fixie project. So basically I will need about 1/4 the components I would need to build a multi speed road bike. I think the bike was 25.00 and they reduced the price because it has a very small dent "more of a ding really" in the top tube. Then it turns out it was half off day. So the frame was almost free. How could I not make this bike a single speed or fixed gear bike?

Also I have a set of handlebar grips I purchased cheap that I did not use on the Thruster single speed bike . Not to mention the handlebars and a brand new set of pedals. And some other bits that may be useful as well. And I just watched this cool video about painting rims! And I am dying to try that out as well. (if it is warm enough)
Above: Here I did a quick mock up to see if the single crankset "take off" from the Thruster would fit this frame. It seems to fit ok. So I stripped it down to the frame and cleaned it up and moved the project inside where it is warmer. You would never know it now. But my friends and myself laid brick all winter for years. I can`t believe what a wimp I have become since retiring. Maybe it is just old age.
Above: I am going to back track for a minute. You would not believe how much trouble I had removing the original crank from the Free-Spirit. The funny part is, the cotter keys or pins came out easily. Same with the left side arm. I should also mention, I did use WD40 on the pins after removing the retainer nuts. Well the crank slid off about 1/3 and it Froze Up "tighter than a gnats behind ". I warmed up the crank arm with a torch thinking that might help. Then I destroyed this cheap puller (twice) trying to remove the crank.
Eventually I gave up and was able to cut the bottom bracket spindle behind the crank using a cutting disk on my high speed DeWalt drill. Then I opened the bench vise up just wide enough to slip the crank into position. Then with a bolt and a ball pein hammer I was able to punch the remaining piece out the back with one good hit. And I don`t want any comments from anyone who "claims" that they Never had a problem removing one of these! Because... I don`t care! Why? Because that's not skill brother, that,s just good luck.
Above: Here the bottom bracket shell has been cleaned out with the drive side cup cleaned in place. I have cleaned and re packed the bearings with grease. Before installing the bracket axle or spline I will reach in there and smear a little grease on the inside of the drive side cup. Now I am ready to slide the bracket axle into place with the exposed part of the bearings facing outward or into the drive side cup.
Above: Here with the frame re positioned on the stand I am sliding the lightly greased bracket spline or axle into place. Notice the exposed part of the well greased bearings is facing outward towards me or into the left side cup. I will spin it by hand to make sure the drive bearings are seated properly into the drive side cup as well.
Above: First I lightly greased the inside of the left side cup and threaded it into the bracket, just far enough to hold it in place. Now I am wrapping the cup threads (counter clock wise) with Teflon tape. This way the tape will not get messed up as I screw the cup in clock wise. The tape makes a good seal and should prevent any creaking sound caused by poor threading. Now you are seeing why I leave the drive side cup in place if possible. And it is not as tough as you might think to clean the drive side cup while it is in place. Actually it is easier in a way. (With the frame top side up) I spray the inside of the bracket shell then wad some paper towel or rag. Then stuff it in the left side real good. Then I insert my needle nose pliers and push them in and twist the rag while applying pressure. Unless it is a disaster in there you should be able to get it very clean and shiny. Of course you will want to check for scoring or scratches. You can do this with your finger.
Above: You will probably need a spanner to thread the cup in all the way. When you feel the bearings grind stop and back off the cup till it feels free but not loose. As I like to say "No Grind / No Play". Now I am ready to screw the lock ring into place.

Above: As I tighten the lock ring with the lock ring tool, I am careful to hold the cup in place with the spanner. If I do not do this the lock ring can turn the cup and make it all too tight. If this happens, just loosen it up and try again.
Above: Now I remove the frame from the stand and turn it around so I can install the crank side first. I like to do the crank side first because the adjustment is done from the left side. So after spinning it a while, if I need to adjust the crank I don`t have the left pedal arm in the way. The crank should slide into place but not all the way. Tightening the retainer bolt will pull the crank onto the spline tightly. You might want to use a little blue thread lock on the retainer bolt threads. You also want to put "just a touch" of grease on the spline before installing the crank. I bet that someone neglected to do that on the original crank.
Above: In this case I did feel a tiny bit of play. So before I installed the left pedal arm I backed off the lock ring a little and tightened the cup a wee bit. Then I checked it and re tightened the lock ring. Good to go!
Above: Just like the crank, when rebuilding the threaded headset the first step is to clean up the cups and bearings. Since I am in the house I had these pretty clean before I brought the frame inside. I did smear a little Permatex Hand Cleaner in the cup and the outer surface as well and let it sit a minute. That actually worked really good. But these were not in bad shape to start. Also being indoors
I soaked the bearings in Park citrus chain cleaner. I moved it into the shop while I went for coffee break. I knew the cat would get into it if I did no move it out side. It froze over while I was gone.
Above: Here are the bearings (headset and crank) after soaking and ready to be wiped off. While they certainly look ok. They are not as bright as the White lightning "Clean Streak" would have gotten them. But there is no way on "God's green earth" I`m spraying that stuff in the house.

Above: The Crown race" sits a top the fork crown. (hence the name) It is important to clean this up as well. The lower headset bearing sits on this race with the exposed part of the bearings facing upward into the cup. I lightly sanded this one with some very fine automotive grade sand paper to remove the scratches. The bearings actually roll in the cup. The crown race pretty much just holds the bearings in position. Had the cup been in this condition I would have probably replaced it.
Above: Here I have the top headset bearing cartridge greased and in place. Again with the exposed side of the bearings sitting in the cup. The race for the top headset bearings is threaded. The race along with the headset washers and cap nut hold the front end of the bike together. The threaded post on top of the fork crown is called the Steerer or Steerer Tube.
Above: Here the lower headset bearing cartridge is greased and in place with the exposed part of the bearing cartridge facing upwards. Notice I have the threaded race in my hand at the ready. After you have inserted the Steerer Tube is no time to go looking for the race.
Above: Now I carefully insert the Steerer Tube into the head tube. Being careful as the tube comes out the top so that it does not get hung up on the bearings.

Above: Once it is all the way in you can turn it before you thread the top race down to make sure it feels smooth. Of course you have to hold it in position until you have screwed the race down to the bearing cup.
Above: Now that the top race has been threaded down into position (no grind / no play) I slide the two headset washers onto the steerer Tube they will rest on the race/cap. Note: The headset washers have a nub that fits into a groove on the Steerer Tube. After the washers the cap nut goes on. This particular cap nut requires a lock ring tool, most do not. A lock ring tool and spanner are "must have" tools for a bicycle mechanic or hobbyist.
Above: Now I have the basics, a functioning crank and headset. This sweet little lugged frame is "I think" The perfect candidate for a fixed or single speed project.
Above: I was looking at a set of metric track wheels w tubes and tires on the net. I am trying to figure out if I could make them work on the "spec. 27inch wheel frame". The front hub width is nearly the same, mine measures 98mm the new metric is 100mm. The gap between the top of the wheel to the brake mount hole concerns me though.
Above: Using a 700 metric wheel of a future project bike to check the fit, this looks really bad to me. I`ll have to grab the bin of salvaged brake calipers and see if this is even workable.
Above: Here I am checking the width on the rear drop outs using a caliper measuring tool. Good thing I am wearing socks with no holes!
Above: I think the tool spread out a tiny bit after I removed it. I am going to call it 120mm. The new metric wheel hub width is listed as 110 mm. I know I can use spacers to make it fit. But what I don`t know is the over all length of the metric wheels axle. Is there enough extra that I will still be able to secure my axle nuts properly? I`ll see if the seller has a tech info line I can call.
My info request to RetroSpec:
I am looking at the 700mm All Star fixed wheel set. I have measured my drop-outs and have found my rear drop out to be 120mm. My front is a perfect match at 100mm. If I use spacers to make up most of the 10 mm difference in the rear drop out width, will I have enough threaded axle left for my axle nuts? Or can you just tell me the over all length of the rear axle? Thanks Hugh

Yes it will fit with spacers. We've faced that many times. RetroSpec Team

Me again:
Well it appears that if I can workout the brake caliper length issue I will
be able to order this wheel-set, if I decide to go that way. At first I thought it was a little too expensive. But they include both wheels, both cogs, a lock ring, tires and inner tubes.(Presta valve) It works out about the same, if not cheaper.

Above: This stem looks bloody awful with these bars. Maybe if I use a different stem and paint the bars black or red I could use them. But I think this looks terrible. Eddie does not look impressed either. Look closely and you can see the stem is set-up for a center-pull brake. And with these handlebars there is no way I will be using a center pull brake. Maybe if I re-paint the stem and go with flop and chop bars? Then I could go with a center-pull brake. That might look really cool. Or even do the same with (racing) drop bars.
Above: I was considering using these pedals. But now that I see them on the bike, I just can not do it! They look like the belong on a kids tricycle!
Above: I`m on a roll now! This is turning into a "Visual Assault". Both the saddle and post look horrible. A black track saddle and a micro adjust post is the way to go. I could probably live with the post if I had too.
Above: I checked this stem with the steerer tube and it is a perfect fit. I also checked the yellow handlebars, and they fit this stem perfectly. So at least I have a good stem. But I still don`t want yellow handlebars. I`m thinking about glossy black or antique glossy red.
Above: After cleaning and polishing up the stem with "Mothers Mag and Aluminum Polish" I sanded down the handlebars out doors. I think it will be warm enough to primer the handlebars tomorrow. And we have some incredible weather on the way, I should be able to paint them Wednesday.
Above: Today the weather was absolutely beautiful. Because of this I was able to spray the primer and get one side of the bars painted as well. There is a slight chance I will be able to paint tomorrow. But Tuesday and Wednesday are looking really good. I was going to hang the bars from a wire and get them finished toady. But there was no time to dig out the stand for this.
Well friends, I think that brings us up to date. Until next time Please RIDE SAFE and Remember to Always RESCUE, RESTORE & RECYCLE!


  1. Hugh I have never seen a Free Spirit that was lugged all the ones I have come across are akin to the Varsity frames with smooth welds. Great score for $12.50! I am looking forward to post on how the wheels/chainline/etc all come together using a standard 10 speed meant for 27 inch wheels. Speaking of wheels you might want to check out - no red but they have fixed/Free wheelsets including tubes and tires in black, white, gold and silver at a good price and Free shipping. I have used this seller and had good experiences and they are "Local" to you being in the Badger state. Look forward to the continued evolution of the Free Spirit

    1. Hey Ryan,
      Thanks for the lead, I`ll check them out when I get a chance. One thing I have noticed about the e bay suppliers or stores I have dealt with. Is that they ship really fast. I think they are all worried about loosing their rating with the E Bay. Afraid they will be banished to Craig's list I guess. LTMS
      Badger? I saw a Badger once. Poor little thing got eaten by a Wolverine.
      Badger State my @$$! LTMS
      Seriously though, years ago before "everybody and his brother" moved out here. I was out back one night and there were some Racoons and Skunks and other critters feeding under the bird feeders. And we heard a Badger coming through the brush. They make a very strange kind of gurgling / growling noise. And everything (including me and my son) got the heck out of there quick. We never heard or saw it again after that summer. But it was really cool while it lasted.
      Cheers, Hugh

      And contrary to what you might have heard or read, There really are Wolverines in Michigan's upper Peninsula. My uncle saw one years ago. And since then they have been spotted and photographed.

    2. My alma mater has the vicious and feared aquatic rodent... the Beaver for a mascot. Watch out for those sharp pointy teeth.

      I will be curious to see how the track wheels work with a standard old 10 speed (27" wheel) road frames and what adjustments, if any need to be made for chainline etc.

    3. Hey Ryan,
      Beavers are cool, very close relative to the Woodchuck, which we have here. We were feeding one last year. But we think one of the neighbors trapped it.
      Man`s insane need to try to control his environment.
      I`m not 100% sold on the 700`s. I might go ahead and order a 27" track wheel set. Then I can try the wheel painting thing.
      I think I will order a 1/8th cog and a 3/32. That way if do I have to make a crank change, it won`t hold me up waiting for delivery. I am more concerned about the brake caliper reach than I am the chain line.
      Anyway I won`t place the order until Friday. I sold the Thrasher yesterday and only lost 19 dollars on the deal. And I think I sold an old step-through Schwinn Suburban. I should make up the 19 dollars on the Schwinn. Then I will place the order. I`m not concerned about making a profit on the bike thing.
      But it does have to support itself.
      Go Beavers! Cheers, Hugh

  2. The cat, you, and I all seem to have similar taste...

    1. Hey Steve,
      Good point! LTMS

  3. Hugh,
    Im kind of new to the world of bikes and love your blog. Great job.

    Im really interested in a project of my own to learn more about bike repair etc. Any advice for finding a cheap project such as your fixie. I would love to tear-down a bike and rebuild it with some custom paint, etc. Any advice is appreciated.


    1. Hey Scott,
      First, glad to hear you enjoy the blog. About locating a project bike. I would suggest Thrift shops, Garage sales, Local Craig's List, and a "Metal Recycling Center" if you have one near you.
      The best advice I can think of is.. Use the internet. There is a ton of information out there about how to do anything you can imagine. And "Take your time." One more thing, make or buy a work stand. I can`t think of anything that is "more important" than a work stand. Except maybe a computer. Keep in touch and let us know how it`s going. Good Luck with your project.
      Cheers, Hugh

    2. Hugh, I have bought a free spirit and an working on it as well. I really need hell with the removing THe crank. I dont know If I have the right tools please email me

    3. Hey Danillo Moura,
      Please go to the "Search this Blog" section at the top right of this page and type in "crank rebuild". Several posts should come up. If it is a cotter crank (wedge pins used mount the arms to the crank) You may need some help. Also check the links list for a crank rebuild.
      There should be a "slide show" I did years ago. I still do them the same way. Only I use a much bigger and stronger C-Clamp these days. They do make a cotter removal tool. But you will have to search one out online. They are fairly expensive though.
      Sorry for the delayed response I have been very busy lately. Good Luck with your project. Cheers, Hugh

  4. The price of those RestroSpec wheels is absolutely ridiculous - especially considering they come with tubes and rubber! If you wind up with a pair of these, please give us a little review of build quality. I've got a couple frames that I've considered flipping as fixies, but couldn't justify it due to the money I'd inevitably lose. But this wheelset would drastically cut the cost of such a project.

    1. Hey Cody,
      I agree, But I won`t be purchasing those Retro-Spec track wheels any time soon. I have decided to strip the Tall Schwinn fixed gear bike for parts. The bloody crank off the Thrasher is garbage. It is warped beyond anything I want to attempt to straighten. So I`m taking the crank, pedals and wheel-set off the Schwinn. I will use some of the other take-offs on the lugged Cycle Pro frame I just cleaned up. Which by way I will be starting to work on real soon.
      Then I gotta get off this "fixed gear kick" I seem to be on lately.
      I would like to read some more reviews on the Retro Spec track wheels. As they say, When something seems too good to be true 'It probably is". But if I do hear good things I will likely order a set in the future.
      Cheers, Hugh

  5. Is the bottom bracket English or Italian threaded?

    1. It has a 68mm or English bottom bracket shell. Which by far is the most common (in my experience anyway)

  6. hey man,

    I just scored the same frame, and want to get a new seat post and quill stem, but don't know what size to get.



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