Saturday, October 7, 2017


No, that's not the sound of a post dropping on a blog that's been dormant for... sheesh, 10 months? Let's just pretend that hiatus never happened and move on, shall we?

Instead, that titular onomatopoeia (yeah, somebody got an English degree or two) is an homage to klunkers, the original mountain bikes. If you've hung around here through my many ramblings and random disappearances, you know that I'm nigh on obsessed with early mountain bikes and the vintage cruiser bikes that provided their DNA. A search of this blog for the word Phantoms will show you my futile attempt to render that obsession in a serious, writerly pursuit (an effort one of my grad school cohorts half-jokingly suggested should be titled "Bicycles: A Love Story").

That lengthy airport-circling introduction is just my way of saying I have a new toy, snared from the local  List of Craig for the princely sum of fifty bucks:

(Not my saddle height.)

You can't tell much from a rainy-day garage photo (especially when the photographer sucks), so I'll do my best to provide the thousand words that picture should be worth. What you're looking at is a 1995 Schwinn Suburban, from Schwinn's 100th anniversary year. The Suburbans I remember from my 1970s youth were upright-barred, fender-equipped 10-speeds, probably categorized in marketing-speak as "lightweights" even though they weighed a small ton. My mom had one in copper, which teenage me did my best to wreck with limited success. Schwinn took that lifetime warranty seriously and built 'em to last.

This Suburban, however, is cruiser/klunker/heavyweight all the way, though. It appears to be based on their Heavy Duti (sic) "industrial-grade" cruiser, a massive camelback-framed, double-top-tubed beast of a thing designed to be bashed around factories and warehouses. The more-refined Suburban version takes the Heavy Duti frame and gentrifies it slightly with a three-speed coaster brake rear wheel. It also gets some surprisingly modern frame features, most notably a standard threaded bottom bracket shell rather than the Ashtabula/one-piece style of most cruisers, and even a full host of brazeons for racks, fenders, and two (two!) water bottle cages. Go figure. Oh, and of course it features one of the most iconic headbadges in the business:

I've ridden this around town a bit in its stock configuration, and it's a hoot. Stately, upright, yet ready to bash into things when necessary. As a die-hard derailleur guy, I can't say I'm entirely sold on the 3-speed/coaster brake setup, even though it was fun to relive my wayward childhood and lay down a couple wicked coaster-brake skids. I've since replaced the small couch masquerading as a saddle and chunk of rebar masquerading as a seatpost with slightly lighter, more modern counterparts and dumped the disintegrating foam grips.

It would be fun to go full-klunker on this one:
  • Strip the fenders and chainguard.
  • Replace the 3-speed rear wheel with a freewheel equivalent.
  • Add a thumbshifter, claw-mount rear derailleur, and full cable run zip-tied on.
  • Add a BMX rear brake, big four-finger brake levers, and BMX bars.

Can't really justify the expense for a whim purchase, though, so it will likely stay close to stock and serve as a beater/backup/snow bike for the time being. But man, if Tweed Rides ever introduce a "Repack" category (complete with jeans, flannel shirts, and work boots), I'll be ready.


Pondero said...

Nice acquire! It seems to be unique and have plenty of features. I applaud your vision here. The customization potential is huge, and I hope you post mods as they occur.

I just bought a 1993 Bridgestone MB-5 that I hope to slowly "personalize" as funds and time allow.

Jason T. Nunemaker said...

Thanks, P. My challenge with this one (as with most of my builds) is to avoid creating a copy of a bike I already have. There's a certain base feature set of common-sense utility (fenders, fat tires, ability to carry luggage) that I find myself repeating over and over, until I have several iterations of the same bike. Since this one is already most of the way to a 70s/80s mountain bike, that design brief might spare me the overlap.

I'll be curious to see what you do with the MB-5. Mountain bikes from that era can go so many different directions and do so many things well.