Restoring a 1965 Sears Puch 3 Speed

Today was the perfect day to finish the restoration of this 1965 Sears/Puch 3 speed. It was cold, rainy, windy, and the streets were strewn with wet leaves.  In other words, a typical Autumn day in Portland and one that shows off the practical gear on this 56 year old bicycle – fenders, internal gears, chainguard, and flat pedals.

I enjoyed my first spin on this bike so much, that I quickly rode back to my shop and installed a kickstand (a replacement from the original – slightly shorter to allow a better angle when parked) and a rear saddlebag so I could go on a longer jaunt if needed.

On the initial test ride, I found that the single bolt handlebar/stem adjustment was not sufficiently tight, and also found myself freewheeling when trying to shift from 3rd to 2nd gear – a sign that the shifter cable needed a little more tension. Those were easy fixes, but the restoration itself was a little more involved.

The headset turned out to be a 3 notch model, and one for which I needed a special tool.  That meant purchasing this nifty Hozan which has a bottom bracket lock ring remover on one end, and a properly sized tool for removing this type of headset on the other end.

I wasn’t able to get a proper bottom bracket adjustment with the existing cups, so I replaced them with a British model, and then also need to use its special tool – a Park HCW-11 which fortunately I already had on hand.  That did the trick, and the bottom bracket adjustment came out beautifully.

Although built in Austria by Puch, the bike was equipped with an interesting array of OEM parts from various countries, including a Raleigh spindle and cottered crankset, which was easily removed and reinstalled using Bikesmith’s cotter pin press.

The bike also had a mismatched wheelset, with the rear rim being a British Dunlop, and the front a Japanese Araya.  Likewise, the brake levers were also a mismatch with an older Swiss Weinmann on the left and a newer Japanese Dia-Comp on the right.  Probably, the Japanese parts were installed after a mishap, likely back in the 70’s judging by the style of the components.

Added to the mix were the brake calipers – the front being a “Schwinn-approved” and the rear a Weinmann.  Schwinn didn’t make calipers at this point in history so I believe this one was also made by Weinmann, but probably dates to the 1970’s and was a replacement part.  I like keeping a bike’s history intact so I left everything as it was.  All of these components are very nice and are working perfectly.

Setting up the Sturmey Archer 3 speed system took as much time as much of the other mechanical work.  While the hub cleaned up beautifully and was in great condition after lubrication, it took a few passes to get the cable tension just right so that shifting was spot on. It’s been awhile since I have worked on a Sturmey Archer set-up and had forgotten about using this all important clamp to help with the initial cable tension.  It has a special ferrule with shoulders that fit over the clamp.  Once the the cable is installed in the shifter, this clamp can be loosened and repositioned to get the first pass at cable tension after the indicator spindle has been connected.

I also spent a lot of time cleaning and waxing the paint, and doing a little touch up painting on the more egregious areas of paint loss.  While the quality of the paint and frame tubing is not up to Raleigh standards, the bike looks attractive and offers a similar ride to my 1950 Raleigh Sports Tourist.  By lowering the gearing with a new SA 22 tooth cog, this bike cruises along at just the right cadence on level roads, and can get up the hills so much easier in first gear.  The new gear inch range is 40 – 73, a significant improvement over the 50 -88 range with the original 18 tooth cog.  That’s going to be perfect for my plans for this bike – an office errand machine for noon time jaunts and lunch outings.  I’m looking forward to putting it into service, and it will be easy to enjoy this bike in all types of weather, even today’s.

12 thoughts on “Restoring a 1965 Sears Puch 3 Speed

  1. I love working on survivors like your bike. I’ve worked on many survivors with two different brand brakes, or maybe an aftermarket front fork. The death of a lot of cheaper bikes is the wheelset wears out and the owners can’t find a cheap enough replacement set. I’m glad you are so happy with this rebuild. 3 speed IGH bicycles are such nice around town machines. This bike will live on productively for many more years.

  2. Nice job on your bike. The spanner wrench looks great , I have a spanner with a hinged arm to allow for different size collars that i use in my grind shop and have used on some bike projects as the only “bike” spanner I have is a Sugino BB tool that is for the locking ring .

  3. The Sears Puch was a wonderful bike. Good to see this one alive.

    One thing I have never known and have always been curious about was who did bicycles at Sears, Roebuck. In the early 50’s they had a variety of wonderful Automotos before switching to Puch. Then in early 60s they had the original Moulton, the ones that Alex Moulton made in the front room of his country house. Then an assortment of Campy equipped Italians. All this was not an accident, someone who loved bikes left us a legacy. Thank you to that unknown person, and thank you, Nola.

    • Hi John,
      Thanks for the comments. I am not aware that Sears-branded bikes were ever built by Moulton. Do you have info on that? Yes, there were some really nice Sears branded models over the years. The Ted Williams Sport Racer comes to mind as one, also built by Puch I believe – Campy equipped with a Reynolds 531 frame.

      • Not Sears branded. Sold as Moultons. They even had the SpeedSix race model. Walking into the Oak Brook store you had to walk through the bike display, right next to Craftsman tools. I salivated a lot right there.

        I am here in Chicago where everyone has some sort of personal history with Sears. Have never met anyone who knew the product manager for bikes at Sears.

  4. I just started restoring a 1961 J.C. Higgins branded sears 3 speed. Ours look very similar but I got the bonus lettered crank, which I am very excited about! I just broke free the cotter pins today and found badly scored cups and spindle. You mentioned replacing yours. Could you point me in the right direction for replacements? Thanks for your Blog. I’ve been following for a couple of year and couldn’t resist posting when I saw we had synchronized projects.

    • Hi Scott. Fun project! As long as the BB threads are standard British ISO threading you could use any cups with that threading but you still might want to make sure the cup depth is similar in size. I’d search eBay for replacements.

  5. Another good report. Glad to see you included fact you changed to 22 tooth rear sprocket to reduce gear ratios. I recently renovated an early 70s Ashtabula crank 3 speed step-thru bike for a woman. To give her lower ratios, I changed the chainwheel from a 46 tooth to a double 48-38 combo running on the 38, about same ratio as 46-22 and the chainguard still worked with no chain rub. Also changed rusty steel brake levers to longer cable pull Weimann alloy levers. Owner much appreciates the work, which is why I do it.

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