I was not particularly looking for a bicycle when scrolling through a list of "vintage" items on the Erie area craigslist.org website, but when I saw both a men's and a woman's early 1980s era 3-speed bicycles pop up, I had to call. The guy who had them listed said he bought them both at the local K-Mart sometime around 1980 for his wife and him. As with many new endeavors that begin enthusiastically and then die out quickly, neither of them thought the experience was enough to make a lasting pastime. After only a few rides, the bikes were parked in the garage, never to be ridden again. The guy decided at some point that spraying WD−40 all over them would provide a good layer of protection against temperature and humidity changes, so when we went to look at them, they were indeed still covered in a thin film of dust-filled WD−40. Underneath were a couple of rustless, well preserved bicycles. We gladly paid his asking price of $60 each, then after a rather long conversation (with us doing the majority of the listening) the bikes were loaded into the Jeep and taken home.
Melanie's bike is a 1980 or 1981 Columbia Commuter III, 3-speed model. The guy we bought them from still had the original owner's manuals, so that confirmed the manufacturing era. Mine is a Huffy 3 Timberline of the same vintage. I decided that both bikes were in such good condition under all the oil and dust that they should be completely disassembled and cleaned, then oiled, greased, waxed, and reassembled. A gallon of Krud Kutter was poured into a pan to use for soaking everything that would fit - it did an amazing job of removing every trace of oil and grease. Large parts (frame, wheels, handlebars, etc.) were wiped with Krud Kutter. After a thorough rinse with the hose, everything was cleaned with 409 spray. Gears and bearings were soaked in an oil bath until time to be packed with grease and reassembled. Chrome and painted parts were waxed. The tubes and tires were replaced with new versions because the originals were somewhat degraded and we don't want to risk a flat just for the sake of having totally original equipment.
The Before and After photos below speak for themselves, so I won't bore you with lengthy description. It is worth mentioning that all of the original ball bearing and gear grease on both bicycles was hard and would have provided no protection from wear had I not cleaned off and replaced it all. Lots of photos were taken during disassembly to make sure I could get it all back together later.
Posted November 25, 2017