The American- Austrian Three Speed

Before I start this post I would like to take a moment and thank Velouria of the blog Lovely Bicycle!.  I had read her most recent post about a test ride she did on a Humber bicycle, and I posted in the comments about the fact that the wife and I make necklaces that feature that particular chainring design which we sell on Etsy.  Not only did she allow my comment, but also commented on it with a better link (see look I can do it do too with a dashboard….), as well as a tweet.  The response has been excellent, and this is the best way that I know of to say thanks.  Thanks for allowing the post, as well as thanks for the excellent blog and the hours of entertainment that you given me over the years.

For those that aren’t familiar with it, definately check it out.   And I have been wanting to write up an article on “why you should consider a three speed” for new riders but Velouria set the bar pretty high with this post.  I have sent numerous people asking “why” to this particular page for quite awhile.

I’d also like to thank Shawn of Urban Adventure League and the Society of Three Speeds for hosting a great SOTS ride last Saturday despite the wet weather.  I promise in the future to post more about your great rides in the future.  They’re always a great time and always fun to get to together with old friends and making new ones.

And on a general note, I’m going to soon start playing with the format and perhaps how I do some of these posts in the near future,  and likewise I suspect that there will soon be the start of my posts on maintenance and repair of these bikes.

PLEASE NOTE:  I Admit it, I was wrong.  This bike was made in Austria by Puch.  For some reason (and I should have caught it because I called it a Sears Sportsman) I was confusing it in my mind with the Huffy Sportman which was made by Raleigh.  It most likely Sachs internal hub, parts are not interchangeable with the Sturmey Archer parts.  Bottom Bracket is most likely english threaded rather than the Raleigh thread.    This doesn’t really change my general opinion of the bike. Though if the hub does start to have problems it might be a little more difficult to find replacement parts for it.  But a visit to Community Cycling Center or City Bikes here in Portland  and you’ll probably be able to find  it (especially City Bikes on 19th and Ankeny).  If not there, there is always Ebay.

Also I have kept all my mistakes in the original post and simply drew a line through them. And added some information more relevant to the bike posted.   This is because I want to remind myself not to get to carried away before I post.  I’ve always felt a little taste of humble pie has got to taste better than a foot in the mouth.  Pass the mouth wash please.

And thanks Shawn for point it out.

Now on with the bikes.

Todays’ review is going to be a bit different,  Because I’m going to be breaking one of my rules.  I’m actually going to recommend that someone should purchase this one.  So if you’re looking for an old three speed this one despite a kind of crappy ad, looks be one that I’d get for daily riding…if I didn’t already have a couple to choose from.

First here is a link to the actual ad.

Here are the pics from the ad that I downloaded.


The AD reads:

“Stunning Sears 3-Speed for sale.
$150 or best offer!
Super comfy seat! Great for rides in the rain or shine!”

Yes that’s right,  It’s an old mail order/department store bike.  I know…I know!  Everyone in the bike world says if you want a quality bike don’t buy a department store bike.   But first, I don’t always agree with things “everyone” says.  And second this isn’t your typical department store bike.

You see much like today, most the bicycles made are manufactured by a fairly small number of factories.  As you’ve noticed in my last couple posts many companies made many different brands of bikes for pretty much anyone that would buy them – even other bicycle companies.  However, mail order companies would contract out to manufactures for bikes all the time and slap their names on them.  And some years those bikes were really great bikes, but with a store brand.  J.C Higgins, Free Spirt, Hiawatha among others are department store bikes brands in which the manufactures varied sometimes year by year.

In this particular case (or at least I’m 95% certain since the ad information is vague at best) is a Raleigh Sports Puch made specifically for Sears.  This would put it’s date of manufacture somewhere in the mid 60’s to early 70’s.  And looking at the pictures it appears to be in great condition.

How do I know it’s a Raleigh built bike  (I obviously don’t).  Well there are a number of clues.  First it looks to be a Sturmey Archer AW hub.  It is most likely a Sach’s hub, though not as common in the US as the Sturmey Archer hub they are second oldest IGH manufacturing company – second only to Sturmey Archer.  It too is a very dependable IGH, though the parts are a little more scarce in the US than the vintage Sturmy- Archer parts. Though it’s hard to tell for sure it doesn’t appear to be the Shimano 333 IGH (which I don’t recommend ever since they aren’t really repairable). It has a pretty big arm that comes off the hub which usually stands out pretty good even in bad pictures.

Also the bike has cottered cranks, you can see cotters in both pictures if you look hard enough.  Most the bikes that Sears offered with three speeds in the 60’s had ashtabula cranks (or one piece).  Ashtabula cranks are a pretty solid clue that the bike was American made, especially with single speeds and three speeds.

The front fender narrows towards the forward, another subtle Raleigh feature, and likewise the front brake looks to be the same that was the Sports in that time period.  Apparently not a Raleigh exclusive.

The paint and stickers appears to be in great condition.  And the price is slightly lower than many of the three speed listings on CL right now (in the Portland market), and they’re willing to negotiate.

The listing doesn’t include a seat tube length, but it appears to probably be 21″ which should fit most people between 5′-6″ ish to about 5′-10″ish.   So if you’re looking definately check this one out.

The only problem I see is that they say it works great in the rain, and best I can tell it’s original steel rims and likely original pads too.  It will stop in the rain, but even I wouldn’t say it stops “Great” in the rain.


How not to post an ad on – line

Well todays post has been somewhat interrupted by a very busy couple weeks at work.  Dawn to dusk / six days a week doesn’t leave much time or energy for much else, once all your chores are done.  So I gotta admit that todays ad is a bit of a quicky.

This evening, knowing I was falling behind  I was intrigued by another bike listed and I did some research and decided it was too similar to the last bike to post it again.  Though I will provide a link, becuase it is a nice Phillips made bike that is badged by the H.P. Snyder Manufacturing Company who is best known as the maker of Rollfast bikes.   That bike is here for those that may be interested but you will see a number of similarities to this one and the last one I posted.

The Royal Lion


It looks to be in great shape, and it is definitely unique.  But really these re branded bikes aren’t really that rare, they often only differ from each other only in decals and headbadges.

Now on to the main thrust of this post.  Todays focus is the a pair of Raleighs for sale


These bikes, although not mint, have plenty of style. They are bomber green with many of the gorgeous Raleigh details that make them eye-catching bikes. I simply do not have room to keep. They are 19″ 3 speeds. They have lugs for attaching items and fenders for catching rain.
The seats are aged Brooks. I spent too much on them and am asking what is a fair price.

Ok so we have a pair of 19″ 3 Speed Raleighs.  One picture, of one of the bikes headbadge, and part of the wheel of (what I can presume to be) the other Raleigh.

First, where are the pictures?  Most people can’t tell much from a head badge picture.  I can tell it’s likely built in the late 60’s/early 70’s.   Those who enjoy bicycle trivia know that the adjusting nut on the caliper brake arms were introduced in that time period and likewise the pedals seem to be from that time frame as well.

But honestly that’s all I can tell.  19″ is for a shorter person roughly 5-2″ to 5-6″ish.  The picture has been taken at an angle in which you can’t  tell if it’s a diamond frame (men’s) or a step through (womans – I personally don’t like the mens/womans descriptions).  I suspect that it’s a diamond frame from the cable routing, but you never know.

As for condition it’s hard to tell as well.  There is some rust on the light bracket, though it would most likely come clean with a little WD-40/Aluminium foil.   However, what might be an issue is that if you look closely, there looks to be a big warty lump of rust (or is it a welded repair?) on the head tube located just to the upper right of the Huron.  If that is rust or a welding bead, don’t buy it.  That much rust in one spot is bad news, and so are welds in unusual spots.

So if you’re trying to sell something on-line – take plenty of good pictures.  The more the better.  And honestly, the headbadge isn’t one that you should take specifically unless it’s something really cool.  And though I like the Raleigh headbadge, most bike people know it.  It’s not an unusual one,  like the one on the Royal Lion mentioned at the beginning of this post .  The headbadge for the Roya Lion, is perhaps one of the only distingishing pieces of the bike.

And second, give us some information.  Granted this persons at least given us the seat tube height (better than some listings on CL).  That is really about all ther is – other than they’ve cost him/her a lot of money.

If you’re going to say something like that in ad, at least tell us what you’re spending it on.  Does it (or they) have new Brooks seats (nope – comes with aged ones)? Tires?  Or are you implying that they are a broken down money pit.

Really it’s too bad, the price isn’t too out of line for a Raleigh Sports (with all parts and in good working order).  But the ad leaves open too many questions for me to go across town to potentially be very disappointed.

Some common pitfalls with Craiglist Ads – Review #1

Before I start let say that though I am going to point out problems with the ads and the bikes, I do not (except in obvious examples) blame the sellers.  The history of bicycles is vast,  and often not very well documented.  This is especially true of utilitarian style bicycle like our beloved three speed.  They were never ment to be collected, they were built with the intent to ride into the ground, or ride till you’re in the ground–which ever came first.

And this is why I have chosen this bike as my first installment.  Old bike history is tough, especially if you’re not “into” bikes.  And I got to admit that I might also be completely wrong with my assessment.

And lastly it’s a great example of the history/mystery that bikes can provide to our lives.  If for no other reason than to climb down a rabbit hole on a cool rainy night.

So without further ado, here is my first CL listing review.

This is a bike that desperately needs some love.  It’s old, and has obviously sat for a long time.  On the surface it looks like it has some real potential. and hey, it might be a pre war bike as well.

First let’s get into the text of the ad and it read as follows:

“PRICE REDUCED $200 The Rolfe vintage 3-speed bicycle was made in Smethwick, Birmingham England. With this bike there is an extra pair of handle bars, 3-speed controller, cables, brake levers all from the same years. Not sure of the exact year but on the back hub it says 1950 but the bike I have been told was made in the 1930’s. Plz pay special attention to the two badges and the baskets and the original lock on the back wheel. I am sorry that one of the pedaling cranks are gone, and the front tire and tube are not there either. This could be the perfect gift for the collector in your life!”

The first thing you should take note of with ads like this is that the price has been reduced.  This is a common problem with sellers that think that just because something is old, vintage, or antique that it is immediately valuable and they over shoot their asking price thinking they might have stumbled upon some rusty gold.

The good news is that once “Price Reduced” hit the ad, it’s a sure sign that they’re getting sick of looking at it, or are more willing to negotiate (which nearly always happens on CL sales anyway).

Next, I will tell you to forget the “model” of the bike.  It generally doesn’t tell you much, especially with this bike (as you’ll soon see).  But instead focus on the city in which it was made, in this case is Smethwick, Birmingham England.

Now Smethwick does have a couple of noticeable things going for it in the world of bicycles and especially 3 speeds.  First and foremost, it’s the home of Brooks Leather, the Holy Grail of 3 speed thrones.  Just attend any Tweed ride and you’ll see what I mean.

Also in this town notable three speed maker Phillips, bought the Credenda Works in 1909 from a steel tube manufacturer which was located on or near Rolfe Street.  Which employed up to 2000 people in the manufacture of bicycles and bike parts until 1971.  In 1949 Phillips was acquired by Tube Investments LTD.  which was a very large bicycle conglomerate, which about a decade later even swallowed Raleigh.

Now with that in mind lets look at some of the pictures.

Drive side full size

Here it is in full splendor.  Before we start talking about the repairs that need to be done, lets continue with its history.  It is after all worth looking into especially since it might be a prewar bike, which are rare and thus more valuable since most bikes were recycled into bullets and tanks in WWII.

Look closely at the chain ring.  Now for those that know, it’s a fairly generic cottered crank.  And again for those that are in the know, Phillips had a very specific chainring which featured their name cast into it.  This is a Phillips that chain ring.


Now look at the shifter.  definitely a Sturmey Archer three speed shifter, and to the best of my knowledge, a 1950s ish style.  (I’m working on a cataloging all the shifter styles I can–but not done yet).  The thirties and forties shifter had a different graphic on them.

Now granted the seller admits that the components are 1950’s, and for a good reason.  The bike most likely is a 1950’s model and not a 1930’s.   My best guess (and I’ll admit that I might be wrong) is that the bike is branded model from the Phillips plant while under TI.

Quite frankly, the bike wasn’t built to the same quality standard as one that would have been branded as a Phillips, though short of some bells and whistles, it is a Phillips bike.  And they made great bikes.  But most likely this bike was built with slightly lesser components for catalog or department store sales.  I’m nearly positive it’s not a 1930’s bike at all.

Now I don’t blame the sellers for this.  If you Google search Rolfe bikes there is one that comes up, and it’s a beautiful 1930’s Rolfe –  and then there isn’t much else.  Likely they saw that one and were hopeful, but how much research do you expect someone that’s cleaning out grandpa shed to do?

Another nice thing about this photo is that you can see the quality of the chrome handle bars.  That rust is pretty easy to remove.  Though the bell probably isn’t salvageable (though it’s hard to tell) but generally if the steel of any bike part looks like it was galvanized, it probably won’t shine up real well.

rear shot

As for the baskets, they may or may not be age appropriate.  If they came home from the store on the bike when bought new, they were bought at the same time.  But note that they are held on with a zip tie, and it appears to lack noticeable mounts to the bike frame at the top.  Add to that they’re pretty generic, and could have bought at nearly any time before or after the bike was made, like most wire baskets.

You can also see the frame lock behind it.  But here is a closer look at that.


I’m the first to admit that I love frame locks, better than u locks in that if they are installed properly a thief would need to cut either the frame or the wheel to ride the bike away – but they couldn’t ride away they just cut the frame or the wheel.  But without a key, it does you no good.  you will be looking at hiring a locksmith to make a key.  But I’m not sure finding one that can would be an easy task, if it’s even possible.  So most likely it would be a conversation piece.

But lets not stop there.  I see at least two mechanical issues with this bike as well.  First the fender isn’t mounted to the frame.  Usually not much of a problem, untill you look at the hole it should be mounted to.  The hole appears to be filled, which could make mounting the fender difficult, depending on what it is filled with.

interestingly enough that is the same hole that the rear brakes should be mounted to, which also seem to be missing.

Now on top of that the ad mentions that it’s missing the left side pedal and crank arm. and in the first photo you’ll  notice some pretty badly bent spokes in the rear wheel, lets not forget the missing tire and tube, though in all honestly even if they were there both would need to be replaced.

There is some interesting stuff as well

Head tube

It pains me to say, that I have absolutely no idea what that headbadge looking thing is on the handle bar stem.  It’s too bad the seller didn’t put in a better shot of it and the headbadge.  They did try to take some shots of the headbadge, but the pictures are blurry and as such they don’t help much in researching the bike, or in selling the bike.  (Hint- selling anything online pictures are the key, both in turn over rate and selling price).

So all in all I would say it’s a cool 50’s bike, but pretty beat up and at best a second tier model from the premium bike manufacturer Phillips.  It could use some love, but honestly, it’ll likely cost more to get into rideable shape than the sellers asking price.

A New Year and a direction.

So I got to admit that doing this whole blog is a bit daunting.  Part of the problem is that the world of 3 speed bikes just doesn’t move anymore.  And though that is part of the appeal of such bikes, it doesn’t make for very interesting reading.  My intent when starting this blog (aside from shameless self promotion) was to make a guide for people that are starting to bike to explain the virtues of the trusty old three speed.  To guide them through the purshasing process and the tools and knowledge to do the upkeep themselves, making the 3 speed even more attractive.

I still plan on doing this, but I’m going to take a slightly different approch.  Rather than yet another dull post that explains the XYZ of these bikes.  I’ve decided to do it a bit differently.   Instead, I’m going to scan Craigslist and other sites and give the bikes and the ads a crituque.

I already spend alot of time on these lists looking for good bikes that I can either potentially add to my rather small collection or to fix and clean up to resell them.  I also find these sites are great places to find out the history of bicycling as well.  Each one has some sort of history.  And that is one of the most satisfying parts of riding these old bikes.

In each crituque I will try (where possible) talk about the virtues or downfalls of that particuliar bike and get into some brief history of the maker and model, any issues good and bad that are apparent through the listing and photos.

I will not give specific price information.  The ad by themselves aren’t enough to truely judge what the price should be, however I will rate each bike on a three speed scale.  High gear, neutral gear, low gear.  High gear of course would mean that I suspect that the price is too high, and low gear of course would mean that if you’re looking for a bike like this you should probably call and pick it up.

Since I do flip bikes, I will not post refrences oto any of my bikes for sale on this part of the blog.  My bikes will appear in the vintage parts/bikes section of this blog. My interest in doing this project isn’t to sell my bikes by compairing the two against each other.

On a last note, the bikes that will be reviewed will only be bikes that listed in the areas around Portland Oregon.  But I hope than many out side of the Portland area will find it interesting.  Not just because it’s about cool old bikes, but also because I hope they might learn something about how to look at these ads and how to gather as much information as possible from what little is often given.

I still plan on doing some tutorials on bike repair, but I’m going to simply do them as they come up in my everyday life.  Most of what I’m going to do is available elsewhere on the internet, so really if you have the interest or the need you’re not going to be missing much from my lack of posting a tutorial about it here.  Sheldon Brown, Bike forums, and Utube are great places to find what need if you need the information faster than I’m providing it.  And honestly, that’s where I get 90% of the information I need when I don’t know.

Happy New Year and Keep on Riding

Tweed Ride Portland Oregon 4/7/2013

Yesterday was a great day for a great ride.  Roughly 75+ of us took off dressed in our vintage (and not so vintage) Sunday Best.  Definitely seemed like there was many more of us than last year, who despite a pretty good down pour just before the ride started hung in there and was rewarded with a beautiful ride for the rest of the afternoon.  Though it was just wet enough for us to make our presence known by out squealing breaks as we rode down Mt Tabor and then later down the Sandy Ridge on the way to the Velocult.

Here are the few pictures that I took.



Before the ride at Mt. Tabor

Crossing SE Stark at about 63rd

IMG_0578 IMG_0579

Regrouping somewhere in Alemeda


Wilshire Park


I tend to get more into socializing than snapping pictures, so I gotta be a little more diligent about taking photos of bikes.  Despite the fact that I don’t mind my picture being taken or my bikes, I do feel a little uncomfortable asking others for a picture of them or there bikes.  But it’s difficult, because other than when I wan’t to be an artist, I’ve never been much of a photographer to begin with.

My pictures didn’t turn out to good so I’d recommend checking out the flickr pics from W.D.Vanlue (his blog the prudent cyclist).  Or this video by Russ Roca from the Pathless Pedaled.

or the KGW news spot.

Bystanders for the most really got a kick out of us.  A wave and a chorus of bells greeted most of them as we passed.  Even the at the car which laid on its horn at us as we blocked the 60th and Glisan intersection.

I do gotta admit that the ride was a great route, and I’m a bit embarrassed to say that I don’t ride in that part of town very often (though that will likely change now) since it really isn’t too far from my house.

Like others I would like to thank everyone that was a part of putting on this great ride.  And I can hardly wait for the next one.

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