Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sears Free Spirit "Brittany" deja vu in blue

Hello and Welcome, Last August I restored a blue step through Brittany. Eleven months latter here I am restoring the exact same model bike in the exact same color. Minus the rear rack.
Above: The blue step through lugged frame Brittany that I restored in August 2011.
Above: This ladies bike showed up here when I was knee deep in some other work. I do not have any pics of the entire bike before the restoration. This pic shows the rear wheel, tire and fender struts with the original front tire in the background. I show you this pic to give you an idea of what the front end looked like before I worked on it.
Above: Front wheel after light rust removal and polishing. The struts had some more substantial surface rust. I used a copper scrub pad and med. 420 grit automotive wet sand paper on the struts and a few of the spokes as well. The wheel required very little truing as this bike was put away when it was virtually brand new. One of the indicators that it was stored when still new is the underside of the fenders or mudguards. Absolutely no rust what so ever. They cleaned up like new with a few "Armor All Cleaning Wipes". There were other indicators of the unused condition of this bike I will get to Latter.
Above: I removed the side pull caliper brakes for rust removal and polishing. The cables were replaced although I could have easily justified leaving them alone. But for a couple of bucks I would rather just replace them. Old cables regardless of how they look have a tendency to snap even after being lubricated. The brake shoes were replaced because they had hardened. Again not a big expense, especially if you purchase them in bulk. I like the Jag Wire X Caliper brake shoes (vintage style) that come on a card of 40 or 20 sets.
Above: The original brake shoes are hard as rock, but show no visible wear. Another indicator the bike was put away when it was virtually brand new. Also the gum wall tires, while the side walls are brittle the tread appears to be all there. I discovered a few things that I think probably contributed to the bike being packed away so early in it`s life. I`ll get to that a little latter as well.
Above: While the saddle's cover does not show even the slightest scuff mark, the underside is rusted pretty badly. If only they had found a dryer place to store it. These rusty coil springs did lead to me to coming up with a new rust removal technique.
NOTE: Unfortunately I do not have a "before pic" of the underside of the saddle. I am using this pic only to show the parts that were removed for cleaning / rust removal. Above:First I took the underside of the saddle apart (rails, springs, spreader etc..) Then I removed the rust from the outer surfaces using a fine brass wheel brush on the (low speed) 18 volt rechargeable drill. (safety glasses)
Above: I crammed this copper scrub pad into the inner part of the coil spring. For this part you might want to wear mechanics gloves, a little rough on the skin. I inserted a power screw driver tip into the copper pad. (slotted works best) And while holding the spring by the outer surface only I turned on the driver rotating the pad inside the coil spring. As you can see, it pushes the pad to one end. So you will need to do this from the opposite end of the spring as well. It was much quicker than the sand paper method I used last time around.
Above: Although some of the rust was too deep to remove leaving a shiny surface, it is still about 98% better than it was. I think this bicycle cruiser sprung saddle has many good useful years left in it.
Above: To remove the handlebar grips first I tilt the stand so the soapy water will flow down into the grip. I used a small slotted screwdriver to "Carefully" pry open a spot to add the mixture of dish soap and water. (mostly dish soap) If you do this very carefully, you can remove the grips without damaging them. I just dip my fingers in a bowl and let the mixture run off my hand. I guess you could use a turkey baster or syringe if need be. I had planned from the beginning to use cork handlebar grips which I install with hardening gasket sealer smeared inside the grips before sliding them onto the bars.(this will hold them firmly in place) I then coated the cork twice with amber Shellack using a small paint brush (about 2" wide). I use a small piece of cardboard held in my other hand to catch any drippings.
Above: The surface rust on the touring brake levers was removed easily using the fine brass wheel brush on the 18 volt rechargeable drill/driver. (safety glasses) One of the cork grips was slightly split. The hardening gasket sealer took care of that just fine. I kept the small split facing downward just in case it was noticeable. (it was not) Then the two coats of Shellack sealed it up from the outside as well.
Above: The rear derailleur was an easy clean up. First a quick spray and brush using the White Lightning Clean Streak. Then after wiping it off, a little brass brushing on the chrome. Then a little polish on the chrome parts and she is good as new. The rear wheel only required some Turtle Wax "Chrome Polish and Rust Remover" then a little touch up with the brass brush. The spokes got cleaned with Armor All wipes and a few were lightly sanded as well. The free wheel only required a little spray and cleaning between the gears with a rag "shoe shine" style. I also added a little oil to the free wheel holding the wheel flat and spinning the free wheel by hand. And adding a few drops of oil to the seam where the free wheel spins on it`s axis. If you have the freewheel facing upwards the oil should work its way in no problem. You should be able to feel the freewheel spinning easier as the oil works it's way in. Then just wipe off the excess.
Above: A shot of the rear wheel and derailleur and free-wheel all cleaned up. The rear fender struts also had some surface rust which I removed using the copper scrub pad along with a little sanding and brass brushing. And as always on this style bike I installed a new set of Kenda 26 x 1 - 3/8 HP Gum Walls I also replaced the inner tubes(schrader valve) with fresh Kenda's as well.
Above: The front derailleur was the same story as the rear. Just a quick spray and brush with the White Lightning. Then a quick wipe down and a little brass brushing. And finally a wee bit of Turtle Wax Chrome Polish & Rust Remover. They should all be this easy!
Above: A pic of the cotter pin crank set. Unfortunately those rusty bolt heads are fake, they are actually rivets. But fortunately the crank set was not "all that bad" and cleaned up fine without breaking down the chain rings. Had they been bad I would have had to break out the Q Tips. (which I have been known to do)
Above: The road crank set finished. A few more other good indicators of this bike being put away new are the following, the block pedals. After cleaning the metal parts with Turtle Wax Chrome Polish I scrubbed the blocks with hand soap using a fingernail brush. The rubber blocks look new and show no wear at all. Everything looks sharp and not rounded off at all. Also the individual sprocket and chain ring teeth show no wear what so ever. Not rounded off in the least, still sharp like new. There was no need to degrease the bearings and cups. They were wiped off clean with a rag, then re greased and put right back in place. As I mentioned before, They should all be this easy.
Above: The threaded head set was the same story. Break it down, wipe it off then re grease and re assemble. I really deserved an easy one after the Rusty Raleigh Sprite and the Raleigh Teton Mountain Tour projects. The Trek 330 I am doing now is almost as easy as this one was too! But that is another day.
Above: The stem and touring handlebars cleaned up beautifully with just the slightest amount of pitting on the handlebars. For this I mostly used the copper scrub pads and the Turtle Wax chrome Polish and Rust Remover. I did use the wheel brush on the stem bolt and the wedge nut. And maybe a little on the handlebars and stem as well. The head set parts got a little brushing as well.
Above: This pic really shows just how pristine the inner bicycle fenders are. All I did was wipe the inner fender off with a couple of Armor All Cleaning Wipes. The only problem I found was the mount screw that holds the top of the fender in place at the cross brace was loose. This caused the fender to rub the rear tire. This along with the front and rear axle cones being set much too tight is why I think this bike was "parked" in the first place. I thought to myself, "This bike must have been a nightmare to ride". It really annoys me to think that, the improper assembly of this bike might have turned this person off to cycling altogether. I mean this might have been their first exposure to cycling. And what a lousy first impression that must have been.
Above: I found this old Pletscher kickstand on the shop floor, it looked pretty nasty. I decided to try and clean it up with the wheel brush. I did this because this bike had one of those old dime store kickstands. The crappy ones that you really did have to kick! (hence the name) As I was cleaning up this old Pletscher stand I found on the side of the bottom mount plate these words "Made in West Germany". Now that is what I call an upgrade! And to think this crappy looking old stand almost got tossed in the wheelie bin. Ok! That is about everything I was able to photograph. Here are some pics of the finished project.
Above: A shot of the drive side and my wife's flowerbed. No worries, the flowers did eventually get watered.
Above: A close up of the twice shellacked cork handlebar grips
Above: A pic from high in the front
Above: A close up of the stem mount shifters (New Jag Wire shift cables as well)
Above: A little closer from the front right
Above: A really cool shot of the rear brake. Well this is the part where I realize I do not have any pics taken from the left side of the bike. LTMS.... Maybe they will send me one via e mail, as I do not know how to download pics from my phone.
Above: Coming Soon! TREK 330 Restoration AND Hugh (me) enters the 21st Century!!! Until next time Please RIDE SAFE and Remember to always RESCUE, RESTORE & RECYCLE Cheers, Hugh
A sincere Thank You to those of you who have been using or just checking out "Hugh's Online Bike Shop". It is pretty well stocked now and it is getting a little more organized every day. If you have not visited it yet and would like to. The link is in the top right column just below the Followers. Also I have been adding "word links" to most of the products and components mentioned in the blog posts. This will make it even easier to shop while visiting the blog. Just like "Hugh's Online Bike Shop" the word links are powered by Thanks for your continued support. Cheers, Hugh


  1. Hugh, that bike has some nice features.

    I've always used WD40 for the handgrips myself. The little nozzle is the perfect size and you can get the stuff pretty far inside. I'm just not sure what the stuff does to the grips over time though. Have you heard anything about it?

    It's nice that the bike has a kickstand plate. I would lose the top of the kickstand mount bracket, use a shorter bolt, and just tuck a washer and nut in between the chain stays on top of the plate. It will give the bike a much cleaner look.

    Nice work as always. Love that shellacked cork.

  2. Hey Everett,
    I learned somewhere, and I really do not remember where. That when lubricating components that have plastic parts "a silicone based lubricant should be used". Tri-Flo is one and another is called CRC Silicone. But I really hate the smell of the stuff. So I will keep using Dish Soap + H20 when ever I can.
    For installing rubber grips spit works really good. I don`t think I would mention that to a customer though. Works good inside a diving mask to prevent fogging too.
    About the kickstand, your right but the bike has already gone home. And thanks, I like the cork too on that style bike.
    Good hearing from you, seems like it has been a while. I hope all is well with you and yours.
    Cheers Hugh

    1. Oh, I've still been reading every one! Lots of nice projects. I just have been pretty busy and lurking instead of commenting. The good news is that the wife's Tourist resto/mod is done and beautiful. I'll send pics.

      Good to know about the WD40! I always suspected in the back of my mind that it wasn't the best.

  3. Yes, that's a pretty bike. I rather like the old style stem and down tube levers myself. It makes me feel like I'm re-using an old friend. I really like what you do on this blog. There are so many perfectly good, but old bikes out there that will give someone years of outdoor fun.

    1. Hey Annie,
      First, Thank You for the kind words. I agree 100%. The garages and basements of America our full of undiscovered velocipede treasures.

  4. Another beauty Hugh and yes you did deserve a break after that Raleigh! Really think the Cork grips take it to another level- very sharp. This one will be admired on coffee shop rides and trips to the market. Looking forward to seeing what you did with the Trek as i have a slight old road bike bias ;-)

    1. Thanks Ryan,
      I am afraid this break is only temporary. As I will soon be starting restoration on the 1964 Raleigh Sports. And I feel the same way about the old "road racer" bikes. They always have been and always will be my favorite bikes. But there is something "very cool" about a vintage English gentleman's bike as well.
      Cheers, Hugh

  5. Thank you for posting this. I rode an old Sear "men's" as part of a Girl Scout bike tour from Santa Barbara to San Diego (about 230 miles total) when I was 13. I picked up the bike from a garage sale for about $12 as I had no bike the. All the other gals had shiny new 26 speeds. My bike was the odd duck, but she grew on me and turned out to be a real trooper, as she was the ONLY bike that did not suffer any road problems other than me not being able to ride it up N. Torrey Pines Road.

    Sadly, this bike was stolen a few years after that ride and I've never ridden a bike as well built as that one. It was a Sears 3 speed and I remember the shifters not being in the usual place. She was blue and white and had chrome fenders, a rack, a head lamp (which sorta worked) and the most comfortable ride EVAR!

    Anywho, thank you for posting this. It brings back memories and it has convinced me to search out a similarly built (German or English) older bike and get it going again. I had a Specialized Hardrock for some years during college, but nothing rode as nice at my old Sears 3-speed.

  6. Thanks Milly for sharing your story. Those bikes are still out there at the Thrift stores and garage sales. I hope one day you can find another. By the way, that's an awesome ride for anyone, but quite remarkable for a thirteen year old. Cheers to you! I hope you find the bike you are looking for.
    Cheers, Hugh

  7. A friend has handed me a Brittany Free Spirit that was given to him. He wants me to tune it up. not much wrong with it but the back tyre has perished, {it's crumbling}. when i took it off to replace I found that the 1 3/8 rim has no lip or shoulder to catch the bead. what tyre would you recommend?


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