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The Huffy Project

July 16, 2010

This is my husband’s Huffy SE road bike. He got it back in 1987 when he was in Elementary School and not even big enough to ride it. The story goes that T’s older brother got a new bike from a store that was going out of business and so T. had to get a new bike as well. It sat in his parents’ garage until he was big enough that his feet could touch the pedals. The Huffy then had an interval of active service, after which it was once more relegated to storage in the garage. Until I found it, fell in love with it, and persuaded T. that it would make for a fun ‘newlyweds project’ for us to restore it. (He’s not so sure, but willing to give it a shot).

I think I mainly love the Huffy for its very perfect size and fit for me. It has a shorter top tube than all of the other road bikes I’ve tried in the past, and, since I have a short torso, this makes a big difference in my riding comfort. And I can’t lie; I also love it very much for its aesthetic appeal. The vibrant yellow and blue combo is bold and cheery and it’s what drew T. to the bike when he was a wee one picking out his new ride to show off to his friends.

The Huffy is the first road bike I’ve actually enjoyed riding and that’s saying a lot for this bike, since it actually doesn’t ride all that well (again, I think it’s a matter of fit that’s really propelling this bike high up on my favorability chart). I realize that when people discuss restoring beautiful vintage bikes, they’re not really thinking of a Huffy. The owner of a bike shop we recently visited motioned to his used Huffies and called them ‘cheap department store bikes’. But this particular Huffy just looks so good and comes with such a beautiful back story (to me) that I want to give it a second life.

And my recent ride on it just sealed the deal; This week, I was having a less than great day, and so I decided to go for a longer bike ride to defuse the funk I was in. I took the Huffy and ventured on my first ever solo road bike adventure. I love the long days of summer and how you can still head out at 8 pm, watching the sun set, and catching a bit of a reprise from the hot weather. There is also something about riding a road bike – that forward leaning posture, the momentum, that rush of speed – that makes you feel like you’re going places. While I love my easy-going cruiser for my daily commutes, that more aggressive riding style of the road bike was just what I needed to work out some of my frustration at the end of a long day. I wish I could ride the Huffy on our upcoming RAGBRAI ride, but it’s nowhere near in shape for that kind of undertaking.

As we see it, the Huffy needs new brakes (it just kind of gyrates and sputters when I press down on them now); a new crank (the current one is bent making for a somewhat uneven pedaling motion); a casette; new tires; a general tune-up; and maybe more. So basically, it needs pretty much everything replaced. But I’m really intent on making this our project and learning how to do bike maintanence while restoring this little guy with my husband.

What do you think? Have you ever undertaken something like this with a partner? Any tips or words of advice? Any sites or resources you’ve found useful for this kind of thing?  I’d love to hear anything that might help us with this undertaking, which I plan to post about as it progresses. Thank you!


7 Comments leave one →
  1. July 16, 2010 15:45

    I’ve done a couple projects like this – never with a partner, though – always solo. The bike shop owner is right – it’s a cheap department store bike made with cheap components. You should know ahead of time that there’s really no such thing as working on one of these old bikes to bring it up to par with modern frames. Know that no matter how much money or effort you put into the bike, it’s never going to ride as well as a new bike. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do the project, just make sure you have realistic expectations.

    The biggest problem I fall into when working on lower-end bikes like this is that I see a lot of parts that could be replaced with newer & nicer parts, but don’t necessarily need to be. The perfectionist in me wants to replace them anyway, the pragmatist in me doesn’t want to.

    It’s easy to start a project like this thinking it will be a really cheap way to build a great bike, but then I start falling down the rabbit hole of replacing parts and I’m always surprised at how quickly the cost of parts adds up. I’ll start a project thinking maybe I’ll put $50 into it. In the end, I’ll have put $200 or $300 into it and I still have a bike that I could probably only sell for $150 on craigslist.

    Also, sometimes it can be hard to find replacement parts that are both affordable and sturdy, and that respect the style of the bike. For example, are you sure you’ll be able to find a new one-piece crank for it? Will that also require replacing the bottom bracket bearings? What about the chainrings?

    In the end, it’s only a good idea to start a project like this if you’re really in love with the bike and are more interested in gaining the experience of rebuilding a bike than in actually having a great bike when you’re done.

    It sounds like, though, you already know this. In that case, it sounds like a lot of fun. And not to sound like too much of a downer – even cheap bikes like this one have a lot of miles left in them.

    • July 16, 2010 16:26

      Reuben – all really great points! Did my husband pay you to write this? ;) You’re echoing a lot of his concerns with this; that we’ll put more money into this than the bike will be worth and that it still won’t run as well as a new road bike.

      But you’re also right in guessing that I am in it for the learning experience for the most part. I love the history of the bike and so sentimental value plays a role, but I also feel like a big part of my drive is wanting to learn how to restore a bike and having a perfect template to work with here.

      One thought we had was to use bikes off Craigslist for parts to cut down on cost (rather than getting new parts). Most of our purchases (in general, not just bike related) are second hand and off Craigslist, so we have a hard time going to a bike shop and getting something new. I don’t know how realistic it is, but I would try to look for bikes on Craigslist that we can purchase for little money and use them for their parts. T. was also thinking that one of those bikes used for parts could possibly be then turned into a fixed gear after its been stripped. Again, just another idea…not sure how feasible.

      But we have time (there’s no deadline by when this needs to be done) and enthusiasm on our side, so we’ll see what happens :)


  2. July 16, 2010 20:16

    I think it sounds like a great learning experience! I was thinking of trying the same thing recently with a vintage bike, but then realized that all of them that I could find for sale already seemed to be overpriced, so set that idea aside for the moment! Someone in my area recently wanted $75 for a bike that they actually described as being a good “garden ornament” – haha!

    Good luck with the project and I’ll look forward to seeing your updates – maybe it will motivate me to try it sometime!

  3. lemony permalink
    July 18, 2010 12:51

    I’m glad to know that you’re undertaking maintenance of your bike(s) .
    I (30yrs ‘ young :( – am a private trader on the stock-exchanges of several countries )
    I first became interested in fixing bikes when I met my bf. (just a ‘boy’ friend) we both studied at the same U/College)
    I’ve spent many ‘happy hours’ tinkling with bikes and have saved much which would have otherwise gone to pay for bike ‘repairs’. You see I own ‘a fleet’ of ‘old'(some regard them as ‘vintage’ ) bikes acquisced from my equally ‘old’ relatives.
    Presently all these bikes are used by my friends who call upon me fortnightly during weekends (most would stay overnight on Saturday – a few would arrive onFriday evenings -probably to ‘escape’ their ‘nagging’ parents :D haahaaa ).
    When they are at my place they have to use my bikes and leave their ‘precious and prestigious’ cars in the compound of my home when we go gallivanting in town – shopping,window-shopping and for meals. They can’t complain over this forI too have a ‘prestigious’ car ,a gift from my father which I use rarely -only when it’s necessary to do so.
    This is my small way of introducing the ‘transport’ use of bicycles to pampered- pompous-spoilt – rich – ‘overeducated ‘brats’ :P :D … of my generation. :D haahaaa.

    Owing to ‘heavy’work schedules ,I hope I could drop by here at least once a month.

    My best regards to you and your beau.
    Smile :-))

  4. lem permalink
    July 18, 2010 13:26

    Ooops … my ‘typo’ error – ‘acquisced’ should read ‘acquisitioned’ … my mind-finger disco-ordination :D

  5. Jim permalink
    May 16, 2011 11:59

    Ah I know the feeling of restoring an old bike like that. I recently was given a vintage Panasonic sport 1000 Lady’s frame for nothing and I am working on getting her back in shape. She’s pretty good over all just your basic tune up and such. But it is great fun for sure working on the old bikes like that. To be honest what some may say bout the old Huffy me I’m an odd ball and would take an old bike like that just to leave some scratching their head LOL Good luck with the restore hope it turned out good for ya

  6. James Branyon permalink
    October 12, 2013 17:51

    I have an old Huffy SE exactly like the one pictured. Bought it new back in the 80’s and it was driven probably 1 mile then hung up on a nail in the garage. Well, after all this time, I decided to restore it since it was MADE IN THE USA. Just finished up with it, got the parts needed from E-Bay and the bike looks great, rides good, stops good. Most of the replacement parts interchange with early Schwin road bikes, and many new Japan made up-to-date parts interchange also. Was worth it, the bike paint is the original and the bike stands out in a crowd and it will FLY! Jim B

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