Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

The bikes in my basement

Posted by on December 18th, 2008 at 1:03 pm

Last month I cleaned out the bikes from my basement. As I took them down from their hooks and carried them to their new home (a shed in the backyard), I heard voices in my head recounting the memories and stories behind each one.

There’s my Co-Motion Ristretto road bike:

I bought this in about 2003 (when I still lived in California), long after my prime racing days had passed — but still with hope that I might train and race again. It’s a lightweight, high-performance machine. Full aluminum with a carbon fork and all the high-end bits. It was built by my friends in Eugene and it’s the first (and only) custom bike I own.

Then there’s this old Schwinn Collegiate 3-speed:

I have a major soft spot for old Schwinns. My stepdad bought this one off Craigslist so he’d have something to ride when he came to town. I liked it so much though, that it was my main bike for a while (notice the decorations on the front wheel from a bike parade a few summers ago). But, like two other bikes in my basement, the 3-speed is kaput and I haven’t fixed it.

Speaking of old Schwinns with broken 3-speeds, here’s my other one:

This is also a Collegiate in very good condition that I scored from a thrift store in Grants Pass Oregon while visiting my dad. I love the stylish fenders and the pinstriping on the chain guard. It rode like a dream until the Sturmey-Archer shifter died (I’ve also stripped one of the pedal threads).

And here’s my nifty Gary Fisher city bike:

I bought this used from Veloshop downtown when I first moved to Portland. It was a good deal for a fully-equipped city bike and with the small frame and long seatpost, it actually sort of fits both Juli and I (even though she’s a foot shorter than I am).

Another race machine, my Kona Major Jake cyclocross bike:

This beauty from Sellwood Cycle Repair (thanks Erik!) served me well in the 2007 ‘cross season. I raced several Crusades with it (even managed to win one of them). Unfortunately it sat unused for the 2008 season but it’s still ready to race at a moment’s notice.

And from my other friends in Eugene, my Bike Friday Tikit:

This foldable rig has been through everything from security checkpoints on Capitol Hill to being stuffed into a locker at a museum. I’ve taken it on several airplane trips, assembling it James Bond style in the airport as curious onlookers stare.

And last but not least is the Puch:

A friend of mine (thanks Greg) let me take ownership of this after he couldn’t resist the price on Craigslist. It’s a classic Puch city bike straight from Austria. I rode it out to Sauvie Island once for a ‘cross race. But eventually (you know what’s coming), the 3-speed broke and I haven’t fixed it.

So, I imagine you’ve learned a bit about me from these bikes (for one, I am mechanically inept). Now, I would love to hear about the bikes in your basement. Feel free to share photos and stories in the comments below.

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  • chuck December 18, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    oh god, emily and I have like 12 bikes in our basement right now. and they all have crazy history.

    I may need to pull out the digital camera and do the same now.

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  • April December 18, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    One of the people at A Better Cycle is excellent with three-speeds. I took my ’61 Raleigh there because it had a rear flat and because the shifting was having issues, and he overhauled the hub gear–opened it up, cleaned it, oiled it, put it back together, adjusted it. I’m pretty sure he’s the only guy in Portland who opens them up! It cost $40 almost a year ago.

    The Raleigh isn’t my main bike anymore–but when I ride it, it shifts *perfectly*.

    I’ve heard that Clever Cycles is good with hub gears too, which makes sense since they sell them. But I don’t know how good they are with, um, antiques.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) December 18, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    do it Chuck! I would love to see and share the bikes you and emily have.

    let me know if you need help getting the images online.

    and April,

    thanks for the tips about A Better Cycle. I should really get those three bikes in order so their spirits can live once again.

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  • michael downes December 18, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    I’m a dab hand at fixing Sturmey Archer 3 speed hubs. If you like I can fix it for you. Gratis

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  • a.O December 18, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    Joe Kurmanskie is going to be so pissed when he hears about this.

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  • Pfeif December 18, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    Between the wife and I, we have fourteen bikes in “the Man Cave” (garage) which got updated and modernized to accomdate all our bikes. Like chuck almost all have an interesting story behind them. Can I email pic’s to you to upload?

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  • Adams Carroll December 18, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    thank god for knobby tires!

    this is my main ride, a fmsacycle (weird taiwanese import) of indeterminate age. I bought it off of craigslist for something like seventy bucks about a year after I moved to Portland. It had everything you don’t want to see on a bike- cottered cranks, steel weels, cracked tires, moldy bar tape, rust (thankfully just on the surface), bad cables, grindy derailleurs and so on. Nowadays it rides like a new bike, although it basically might as well be a new bike, considering that most of the original parts have been replaced. Since then I’ve built a cargo bike out of an old wreck from the citybikes free pile. I’ll try to put up pictures later on today.

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  • Dave December 18, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    Jonathan – are all the hubs on those three-speeds dead, or just the shifters? That Puch looks fantastic – it even has a front dynamo headlight it looks like?

    I ride an Electra Amsterdam:

    So does my wife:

    We also have a yellow Schwinn Breeze with, guess what… a broken 3 speed rear hub 🙂

    Might have to take it over to A Better Cycle and see if they can fix it, it’s a great bike, and is in quite good shape otherwise.

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  • Dennis December 18, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    I’ve got my little Peugeot Folder. It was loads of fun trying to find 550-A tires for it, but courtesy of Clever Cycles, it’s now fully outfitted. It’s also got a child seat now that’s not pictured.


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  • joel December 18, 2008 at 3:03 pm


    in my experience, almost 9 times out of 10, a “broken” s-a aw (probably the hubs on your bikes, being as theyre the most common model) turns out not to be. have someone who knows them look it over, and tinker with it if needed. theyre really not that hard to service once youve figured them out, and one thats been rebuilt properly and kept well-oiled (NOT just any oil, either) should basically be maintenance-free. believe me, i used one as the rear hub on my primary messenger bike for 8 years/165k miles, plus a paris-brest-paris and a rough-stuff tour of alpine switzerland 🙂

    the hubs probably pissed about being stuck in schwinns, and will likely work fine once you get them in a raleigh 🙂 (i, on the other hand, do NOT have a soft spot for old schwinns 🙂 )

    oh, and cause im a dork, i already have a list of whats in my basement:


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  • tbird December 18, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    I’ll buy the Puch if you need to unload…

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  • mark ginsberg December 18, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    Fix your 3 speed hubs:
    The first thing to do to fix 3speed hubs it to drip some oil into the oil hole thing in the center of the rear hub. This is the easiest fix for 3speeds. Most shops do this as soon as you leave, then let it sit for a day or two to soak into the mechanism before they try to get it running. this fixes the majority of 3speed shifting problems. I use phil wood tenacious oil for my 3 speed hubs, a 1968 stearny archer, which runs fine!

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  • Bent Bloke December 18, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    I only have one bike now, but this brought me fond memories of my old Mizutani Super Seraph that I rode for many years. It was unfortunately stolen when my girlfriend did a poor job of locking it up (I had loaned it to her after buying a MTB).

    My first bike was a 3-speed Raleigh. That was a great bike! I rode it to grade school, back in the day where you could let kids roam the neighborhood without worrying. Ah, the freedom of your first bike!

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  • Brian Johnson December 18, 2008 at 3:59 pm


    My wife keep trying to get me to move my bikes into some sort of third-rate, spider-infested, “outbuilding” accommodations like they’re some sort of lawn equipment or something.

    I’m not going for it. No sir.

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  • R-diddly December 18, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Jonathan buddy… you have a problem: hypervelophilia. Readers, we may need to stage an intervention.

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  • Icarus falling December 18, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    I have too many bikes to shoot and share:

    But, I think there is a new delivery service in Vancouver.

    This guy showed up today on a sweet old, 1989 Fat Chance Single Speed MT. Bike, and said he had a delivery.

    If you ask me, the ride out to the compound looks like it turned out to be too much for him.

    I invited him to come sit by the wood stove, but for some reason he turned me down….

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  • Icarus falling December 18, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    <img src=”http://jpg”>

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  • Icarus falling December 18, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    My image won’t insert……….. way too bad, but do yourself a favor and check it out here:http://bowelsofjohn.blogspot.com/

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  • Natty December 18, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    Bikes in the basement!!

    That’s where most of mine are now 🙁

    After spending its first two years decorating the hutch in the dining room – plainly visable from the front entrance and living room – my Cérvelo R3SL was told to move to the basement this summer. It’s now hanging out with my old Giant and MTB.

    It’s not all banishment and gloom; my winter bike recently managed to sneak back upstairs and into the front foyer – other than someone hanging we running gear on it the other day – it’s not been mistreated or asked to leave 🙂

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  • SkidMark December 18, 2008 at 8:25 pm

    Mr. Sheldon Brown recommends filling 3-speed hubs with kerosene to unstick the mechanisms, and then draining that and the old oil out. Then both he and Sturmey Archer recommend using SAE 30 weight Motor Oil (NOT a multigrade like 10/30, it won’t work) in the hub.

    Jonathan, if your are missing the 13/16″ seatpost on that Schwinn I have one I can give to you.

    I have those kind of stories about the individual parts on my bikes, I could go on for pages.

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  • mark December 18, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    I too like old Schwinns, and have this ’66 Collegiate, and a matching girls Breeze that I got as a matching set from my friend Tyler who works at Clever Cycles. (his girlfriend still hasn’t forgiven him for selling them both) I also have an old Peugeot mountain bike, a 1980 Ciocc road bike and a Raleigh Super Course.

    the peug’

    and the Schwinn with my friend’s old Raleigh:

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  • mark December 18, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    you’re quick jon! thanks for fixing that. 🙂

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  • Rick December 18, 2008 at 9:31 pm

    My garage tells similar stories. Racing bike, rain bike, fixed bike, tandems(pl), triplet, mountain bike, city bike, kid’s bikes, balance bike, trike, and every possible attachment to carry a kid. Every time I tell my wife I found something she gives me a hard time until I get it home, then she goes on about how much she likes it. We recently started finishing our basement and somehow I snuck a bike shop into the plans. It’s sounding real nice after a week of frozen hands working on bikes in the garage.

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  • beth h December 18, 2008 at 11:35 pm

    How many bikes is “too many”? The answer lies in part in how much storage space you have, and in part how much your spouse is willing to put up with.

    In my case, it’s now four. As long as we live in a house with neither basement nor garage I think I’m doing pretty darned well to have the four. (Especially since I managed to sneak the last one home a couple of weeks ago.)

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  • Joe Bike December 19, 2008 at 12:23 am

    I’m going to echo what someone said up top and recommend A Better Cycle for Sturmey 3-speed work. Joe Bike (my shop) also works with Sturmey 3- and 8-speed hubs every day. And Jonathan, we have shifters.

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  • jim December 19, 2008 at 8:17 am

    Guess what? Jim has 2 bikes. I cant get rid of my peugeot that I have had since 1973, I also have a 1953 engish raliegh ( Sturmey Archer) that wants to shift itself up out of 1st gear unless you keep a hand on the shifter. Internal gear hubs seam like such a logical thing, I think there should be a higher demand for them.
    Thanks for the 3 spd tips

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  • Kevin December 19, 2008 at 11:51 am

    I feel like I’m maxed out at 5 right now! I’ve got a Santa Cruz Heckler, Kona Explosif, Bianchi Volpe, Gary Fisher x-caliber xtracycled, and a Raleigh(?) Fixed conversion. Combine that with my GF’s 3 bikes, I feel like I spend more time working on them than riding them!

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  • Red Hippie December 19, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    When I first dated my wife she had 4 bikes to my 3, thus part of the attraction. Now the count stands at my 8 to her 5, and the race continues as she has been eyeing a GF Simple City for Christmas.

    I laid out mine on a Flickr set for simplicity sake: http://www.flickr.com/photos/54774933@N00/sets/72157607443769405/


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  • jv December 19, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    Right now the fleet is stored both in the garage and the basement – sort of rotated out depending on the season. And of course every bike has a story:

    • Daily rider is my NYCBikes Camelsback – with the CETMA rack it is the perfect city bike. I got it when I lived in Seattle after I had my GT stolen from my garage. The best part is that my former employer paid for all of it – as we had an annual benefit of up to $500 for “green and healthy” purchases. I ordered online – and it arrived (to my work) on the same day that I gave my notice that I was leaving to move to PDX. When I was in New York last year I visited the NYCBikes shop in person and they were great. I wish there was a local shop like NYCBikes here in PDX – they put together affordable, quality bikes built to order with custom paint and are willing to swap out anything.

    • Second most-used is my Schwinn fillet-brazed ladies frame with basket up front– I got this bike at the Handmade Bike show earlier this year from the maker of King Cage components. Basically he had brought it just as a mule to mount his awesome titanium fenders and water bottle holder onto. I got there towards the very end of the show, and he had sign on it that read “ $200 with fenders & bottle holder – $20 without”. I couldn’t pass it up, and it is a beautiful bike – it had brand new tires, aluminum old-school Mavic wheels and perfect paint. I rode home with both bikes…

    • Cannondale RS-600 Criterion from early 90’s – I saw this bike in Hood River at Second Wind when I just moved there. It had a matching, smaller version of the bike (the wife’s bike?) and had a little bit of oxidation on the aluminum cranks, but otherwise perfect. It was too cheap to pass up – my only regret is that I only bought the larger frame, as it would be cool to have a matching pair of bikes. These early aluminum Cannondales are kind of weird though. Big tubes and funny welds.

    • Haro V3 – full suspension – basically a low-budget Santa Cruz – same geometry and suspension design & hydraulic disk brakes. I got this from a friend who had wrecked pretty hard and didn’t want to look at it anymore. It is tons of fun on the trail – and I still wreck it frequently.

    • Kona Blast – re-building to give to friend. This bike has been ridden from Walla Walla to Montana (with mountain tires!) and is in sorry shape. This bike was not meant to have panniers and a bunch of weight piled on it.

    • I have to admit that I also have 5 motorized vehicles – 3 VW’s, an International Scout, and a Peugeot 505D. I try to keep a balance between the number of bikes and cars that I own, but I seem to ride my bikes much more than I drive these days…do I have a problem?

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  • April December 19, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    Re: Jim

    That’s the issue my hub gear was having until I took it to A Better Cycle. It wouldn’t stay in first if I was putting any effort into it at all–it would just jump to second unless I held down the shifter. Very irritating when I lived on a steep(ish) hill on SE Harrison.

    And mine did that for *months* of daily riding before I took it in. So it’s definitely not too late to get it repaired.

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  • duncan December 19, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    Wow, thanks for sharing Jonathan!

    I too, have a fleet (seems there may be quite a few basements like ours in this town!). I would to post pics, but can’t right now being at work. Also, I’m embarassed to post them in pieces, but will share when they are assembled and in full splendor!

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  • Christopher December 19, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    Bring those three speeds to bike farm on Sunday (12-4). I’ve got a book on repairing three speeds if you want to tackle it. Covers Sturmey, Bendix, Shimano, JC Higgins, etc.

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  • Coyote December 20, 2008 at 9:32 am

    This is my main ride. I have had the bike in one form or another since 1978. I think it was originally a Centurion. It spent about 15 years in a bush in the backyard. I rehabbed it about 5 years ago. And no it is not a fixie, bikes coast too well to hamper it in that way.

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  • Adams Carroll December 20, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    here is my other bike- half beach cruiser, half shopping cart. her name is paula n. she loves the snow!

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