Clara’s Bike

Ever since she briefly rode a friend’s road bike on vacation last year, Clara has been wanting a road bike of her own. There are kid-sized road bikes available, but they run $700 and up! So I scoured Craigslist, and eventually came upon a 1977 (I think) Fuji Junior, which is a kid-sized road bike, built on 24″ wheels. Nice. Picked it up for $60. Seemed like it had been garaged for a long time — grease was very dry, but the bike and its parts didn’t seem beat-up or anything. So, Clara and I took the bike completely apart with the intention of getting the frame painted nicely and generally overhauling all the moving parts.

Brought the frame in to the powder coater just before we left for two weeks of vacation, and picked it up shortly after we returned. It looked awesome! It cost more than I expected or hoped, but it was beautiful. Clara picked out a nice teal, which doesn’t seem to be rendered quite accurately in the photos below. We’ve been working together over the past couple of weeks to clean and re-grease all the components and re-install them on the frame. It’s come along very nicely.

The biggest headache, somewhat surprisingly, has been the wheels. The new standard in wheel measurement is from the E.T.R.T.O. and is now an ISO standard. Wheels labelled 24″ may be one of (at least) 4 different sizes: 507, 520, 540, or 547. These numbers represent the “bead seat diameter” in millimeters. Turns out, the version of 24″ on this bike is the 547, which is by far the least common. It seems to also be known as “S-5” a proprietary Schwinn size. After much searching, I came upon one tire that would fit, and ordered a pair plus tubes, even though they are bigger (wider) than I’d like. They are more like “comfort” tires than “road” tires. They are listed as 1 3/8″ where the old, cracked ones on the bike were labelled 1 1/8″.

On the plus side, the tires do fit on the rim properly. On the down side, they are so much bigger, that the rear tire rubs against the brake hardware. I’m currently searching for a better option. Over the long term, I’d hope to upgrade from these heavy, chromed steel rims. Not only are they heavy, but chrome rims are notorious for bad braking performance. Seems that the best option for wheels that offer a better selection of road tires are the 520mm variety. The rear wheel wouldn’t be much trouble — everything is fairly standard on the back, most importantly the hub spacing is 126mm, for which hubs are still available without *too* much trouble. On the front, however, the hub spacing is an odd size — 91mm, which shows up in references as a “low end” hub. No hope of replacement there, which means to replace the front wheel, I’d have to re-lace the current front hub to a new rim. But even putting together all these parts leaves the issue of whether the new wheels would be too small — brake reach is the key issue here, because I’d be losing 13.5mm in radius, thus requiring brakes with 13.5mm more reach, which I suspect will also be tough to find.

So for now, the bike is going back together with all the original hardware, with wear-and-tear items replaced: tires, tubes, brake shoes, cables, housing, handlebar tape, and ball bearings. Probably didn’t have to replace the bearings, but wanted to do a good/complete job. But it’s honestly been a bit hard putting all these old (& often heavy) parts back onto this new-looking frame. I hope, over time, to replace a lot of the components with new, improved, lighter ones. But almost certainly by then, I’ll have spent as much as (if not more than) a new bike would have cost, and Clara will have outgrown it. But perhaps it can be sold at a premium on Craigslist as a small but nice bike for a small woman, or a generous parent…