I don’t know exactly when my Dad acquired this bike, but in 1965 he would have been in his mid-thirties. At this time, I would have paid little attention to any bike that didn’t have at least 3 speeds and even less attention to anything my parents were doing. But, I actually think he acquired this machine sometime in the 1970’s. He wasn’t too much of a cyclist back then, but later in life he would ride around on the flat country roads near his home, mainly to please his physician.
It is a 1965 Schwinn American with a 2 speed kick back Bendix hub, chrome fenders, and is all original as far as I can tell. When he gave it to me about 10 years ago, he was about to haul it away to Goodwill, but I managed to intervene. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any “before” photos, but the bike was heavily rusted and the rear hub would barely turn. I had no idea what I was getting into.
Back then, I had never attempted to rebuild an internal hub, and had never worked on a bike with a coaster brake. Since both were new to me, I studied specs and repair manuals, which fortunately are easy to find. After two weeks, and lot of lost brain cells, I managed to get the hub rebuilt and reassembled, with no mysterious leftover parts. After that, I started in on the cleaning of the frame, rims, and other chrome parts, which went surprisingly well.
Riding the bike is really odd for anyone not used to a coaster brake. But the kick-back shifter on the hub was a lot of fun. After a few minutes, I started practicing burn-outs – a perfect way to master coaster brake technique. The bike is nicely brazed, and shows little wear. It was built to be bomb-proof, and it has really held up well. It’s not a bike that is suited to Portland riding, but would be a perfect machine in a slow-paced and relatively flat area. I’ve been threatening to ride it some year on a Worst Day of the Year Ride, but have always been lured by a different and speedier machine. Maybe this year, I’ll go for it!