Ebay and the 1963 Schwinn Traveler
As I began to ride my Electrabike and grow more interested in bicycles in general, I began to spend more time online reading about and obsessing about bicycles. Growing up in Dallas, at least when I was a kid, everyone wanted a Schwinn, and thus my interest naturally leaned in that direction. Schwinn also dominated the American bicycling market for many, many years. As a result, there are not only a heckuva lot of Schwinns out there, but many Schwinn collectors, and many web-sites devoted to Schwinns.
I wanted a Schwinn! So I did something in mid 2008 that I wouldn’t do now: I bought a bicycle on ebay. A 1963 Schwinn Traveler, black, with a Sturmey Archer 3 speed rear hub. Why did I buy a 1963 Schwinn? Because it is the year that I was born. The manufacture of Schwinn bicycles for many years was very accurately chronicled, and it isn’t any problem to discover the year, and sometimes the actual day, of your bike’s manufacture. I love that!
This bike, for example, was manufactured on April 11, 1963.
There are a couple of reasons that I wouldn’t buy a bicycle on ebay now, unless it was for local pickup. The main reason is the shipping. It really just costs too much, especially with the amount of money that I’m going to spend on a vintage bike, which is only going to be a couple of hundred dollars. Shipping can easily be $60-100, so unless you’re buying something really rare and expensive, in my opinion it just isn’t worth it.
The other down-side is: reassembly. When I bought the ’63 Traveler, and they said that it was going to be disassembled. I thought maybe they would take the handlebars off. Wrong! The bike was completely disassembled down to little bags of nuts and bolts. I freaked out when it was shipped to my house. I had never put together a bicycle in my life, although I’m fairly handy and was willing to try. The issue of handiness, and mechanical ability, brings me to another issue that I love about bicycles: bicycle repair is not beyond my skill level.
Now, if I open the hood of my car to contemplate a repair, I say, “To hell with it” in about five minutes. But not bikes……and so it began.
This is my original bike stand: a rope tied to my bike from a big pulley on the ceiling of my garage. It works ok, but the bike tends to want to spin around to an annoying degree.
Thank goodness, the seller had marked the parts pretty well, and the assembly wasn’t as hard as I thought.
The bike needed new tires and tubes, so once I got it assembled, I took it to my local bike shop (hereinafter, LBS). Since I live by White Rock Lake, my LBS is the Richardson Bike Mart (hereinafter, RBM) on Garland Rd. I know some of their mechanics, and I like the shop. I believe that it is very important to develop a good relationship with your LBS if you are going to maintain an active interest in bicycles.
So RBM put the tubes and tires on this baby and gave the bike a once-over. The head-badge on the bike, seen below, was falling off when I unpacked the bike, and it didn’t look like any Schwinn head-badge that I had ever seen. Plus it was made of plastic….I literally almost tossed it out. Luckily, I got on www.schwinn.com and asked a question about its’ provenance. Thank goodness I did, because I discovered that they are very rare badges, and worth almost as much as the bike! It’s called a “sunburst head-badge” and was only used for a few years in the early to mid 1960’s. It makes sense when you think about……a “space-age” material, with this sort of rocket-ship aesthetic during the early days of the USA’s infatuation with the NASA program.
So I stuck that badge back on there with some stuff that will never let go again. Ultimately, I removed the very collectible Miller dynamo powered front head-light (no, I didn’t throw it away!) because I hate all of that rattly stuff on a bike. I switched the nasty yellowed original “white'” grips with some vintage black “chubby” grips (stripped from a Schwinn parts bike) and added a rear rack. I demand practicality and function from a bike (which to me means carrying capacity), so I usually have either a rack or a basket. I’m pretty happy about this bike, and I keep it in my Lakewood office in case I need to run some errands or go downtown to where I have a part-time job and another office.
Two last things: I have the original receipt for this bike ($67.95!). And it is unusual for a Schwinn because it has stainless steel fenders, rather than chromed fenders that are prone to rust. They’re beautiful fenders, with a distinctive pinched front. This Schwinn is forty-six years old and running like a champ, just like me.
Michael W. Hubbard
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