Weather Forecast

Click for Grant, Nebraska Forecast

Midwest Musings PDF Print E-mail

At least it isn’t a 1959 Bel-Air

By Timothy Linscott
Managing Editor
Walking down the street the other day I thought I saw a mirage.
I came across Lisa Jones and Monica Poppe standing by a group of old bicycles, circa 1940s.
“Someone just dropped these off, can you believe it?” Monica said.
I had the same excitement when I saw them. I restore bikes and have quite the collection.        
We all three had an interesting conversation about bikes, their styles, history and restoration.
It goes back a time-span as to why I have these bicycles.
As a youth I had a very nice Schwinn bike from the 1970s, handed down to me from my older brother. It was orange with a tiger stripe seat. I rode that thing until it fell apart and then had a BMX-style bike from the age of 13 until about 18. I was way too big for the bike but took care of it like it was an old hot rod car.
I washed and took care of it, detailing it with stickers, different pedals and foam pads. The pads went over the cross bar on the handlebars and on the main frame. The pads were reversible and had different designs.
During the summer I would spend time with my sister in California and would see the low-rider style bicycles in the neighborhood.
I never did build a low-rider as a kid, no matter how much I wanted to but still dreamt.
As a teen I came across another dilemma: I wasn’t very mechanically inclined.
My friend Blake found a 1959 Chevy Bel-Air in a field. She was in fantastic shape and he paid little to nothing for her and hauled her home. I say ‘her’ because most cars are like women for him, they need a lot of attention and he has spent a lifetime learning how they work, only to figure out that he’ll never really know all there is to know.
My friend Scott had a 1974 Nova and my friend Chris a 1972 Cutlass.
Our weekends were spent tinkering, fixing and detailing these vehicles.
All of my friends were very proficient in mechanics. Scott actually owns his own drag racing team now and works on cars just for fun. Incidentally, on a side note, drag racing is his hobby. He sits in front of a rocket engine and speeds at 200 mph down a track in just a few seconds where a quarter of an inch wrong turn of a steering wheel may mean death... and that is what he does for fun.
When I got out on my own after high school, finding a hot rod to fix up was difficult due to funds and a place to keep it.
My father had a 1968 Chevy Malibu that he loved dearly. I always had it in my mind that I would someday inherit it and fix it up. Alas, it was not to be as the engine didn’t make it and it was sold to a guy to fix up.
Marriage meant a little more financial stability for me and I began looking at a car to fix up. However, my wife and I started planning out our family and putting up to $20,000 into a vehicle wasn’t feasible at that point.
The next best thing: a bicycle.
I found a 1966 Schwinn Swinger bicycle at my mom and dad’s house and someone found a 1964 Montgomery Ward beach cruiser bike in the basement of a house that was being torn down and put it on my front porch.
Having friends that were a mechanical engineer, a ‘car guy’ that can bench press a car and an autobody guy helped in one of the projects.
We bought metal tubing and made a custom bike using the Swinger as a base frame. I put together the beach cruiser myself with a Lady Luck theme (above). Less than $1,000 for two bikes seemed like a plausible thing for my wife. Much cheaper than a hot rod car.
Then I built a low-rider bike...then another...and then another.
Today, I try to be very selective of my projects, giving them away or selling them because of space issues. I have two projects laid out for this year, which should be plenty for me to handle.
If you see me riding around on a bike one day and the next there is a completely different style of bike I am riding, take solace in knowing I am doing one of my favorite hobbies and please don’t tell my wife.