I’ve had a few people ask me about my other winter commuting bike, the Simpsons Sears Road bike. I rescued this bike from the dumpster at the end of summer. Old bikes have a funny habit of following me home. What first caught me was the hunter green metallic frame sparkling from the edge of the garbage bin. Why would anybody toss a perfectly good bike into the trash? Sure the tires may have been flat, the rims a little rusty, but hey, with a little TLC someone would be able to ride this steel frame around town again.

Well, it turns out that someone was me. After a change in job sites, I no longer had a secure place to park my Norco Charger whilst at work, and there was no way I was going to leave it on the street all day long in this part of town. So I decided to fix up the Simpsons Sears road bike. I wouldn’t be too heartbroken if this bike got jacked. Easy come easy go right?

The fist thing I changed was the handle bars. The were drops bars originally, but way to narrow for me. I figured the earth tone bar tape would go nice with the green frame. New brake pads, cables and housings were next on the list. The original “cherry” brake pads were rock hard, and did little to stop the bike. If your a commuter like me you’ll find that brakes are probably more important that round wheels in traffic.

The frame is a little small for me, so I swapped in a longer adjustable Zoom stem, and setback seat post that I had laying around. This gave me the extra cockpit room I needed to make the bike comfortable enough to ride. Bike fitters please hold your tongue!

Of course what commuter would be complete with out a rack for panniers and fenders? I salvaged an Axiom bike rack from another donor bike and screwed on 5 pattern LED tail light. Right now the bike is sporting the most uncomfortable saddle known to man, an OEM Norco special, where the outside plastic ridges ensure that you stand up and pedal more than you sit. It’s the next thing to go when a suitable replacement floats my way.

Amazingly enough, the Simpsons Sears bike is loaded with a vintage Shimano groupset. The venerable Shimano Eagle rear derailleur probably still shifts as smoothly as the day it was made. I love the solid steel bash guard on this derailleur, and it will probably take it’s share of knocks as I’m locking the bike up or laying it down. You don’t see that kind of thoughtfulness on the new Dura Ace stuff, that’s for sure.

There is something so satisfying about downtube shifters. I don’t know what it is, the clunk you hear when you drop a gear, the less than practical positioning, or maybe it’s just the retro styling. Either way, no shifter adjustment has been necessary so far. I should probably change out the cables, but it shifts so smooth and accurately now, I just don’t want to change a thing.

The Shimano Thunderbird front derailleur still works like a charm to change between the double chainrings. I’ve had to replace one of the cotter pins on the cranks however. I think the threads were stripped on the nut end, and the crank would soon loosen up on the ride to work, even after giving the pin a good whack with a hammer. The 165mm cranks are taking some getting used to compare to the 175mm on my other bikes. It doesn’t sound like much of a difference, but is seems harder to get on top of the gear, as you can’t get the same torque to the drive train.

The week spot of this bike is the side pull caliper brakes. When the rims are wet or I’m riding through snow, there is very little stopping power regardless of how hard you squeeze the levers. It seems as thought the brake arms are flexing when you grab the levers. I’m going to have to look for something a little more sturdy. We are really spoiled with disc and cantilever brakes these days.

For winter commuting, I replaced the original slick tires with some 27″x 1 1/4″ Tioga Bloodhounds. I wish I could afford two pairs of studded tires, but we do with what we have right? These tires give pretty good traction on the winter roads as the rubber compound seems to be a little softer, even in subzero temperatures.

Everyone needs a spare hobby bike to play with. You never know when they will come in handy, whether it’s a run to the grocery store, or you just want to go for ride with a friend who doesn’t own a bike. So if you ever see a bike in disrepair in the dumpster, why not save a bike and make a new friend? No bike should ever be laid to rest in the landfill.