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Elgin, JC Higgins, J.C. Higgins, They're All Sears bikes, and all freaking awesome!!  I love that the Firestone bikes are all the same frames too... It's too bad there isn't more information out there about these bikes as they totally kick ass.  Yes, they're not quite as good quality as a Schwinn, but they're absolutely serviceable and personally I find they fit taller riders a bit better.  One really could ask why AREN'T these bikes ruling the world about now?!?

Rat Rod Rolling - 2.0 Style!

by Bryn — last modified Feb 27, 2009 12:21 AM
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My original Rat Rod did me well, but all good things must come to an end (or at least give up their parts for a new bike!!) After yet another seat post failure I decided to get a new bike rolling...

Wow, my original Rat Rod saw a lot of miles.  I don't think I rode another bike more than 3 or 4 times after I got it together - I can EASILY say I did 1000 km on that bike.  Actually just sitting here now thinking of all the rides everywhere I did on that bike is making me kind of misty!! ;)

Well, one thing I had countless problems with was the seatpost on that Higgins.  Rat Rod 1.0 was a late '50's/early '60's JC Higgins with a tubular style seat post.  Unfortunately it was some weird-ass diameter that really wasn't the same as anything.  Every seat post I used on that bike only got in there with some "persuading" with a big hammer.  The record for longest serving was the red anodized aluminum one that seriously got in there purely because it was the only thing that fit.  Well last ride I was out on someone says "Hey, your seat post sure looks bent!"  Damn..

Rat Rod 2.0 Coming TogetherSure enough, it was on its way out.  And as we all know aluminum doesn't like that so much - once it's starting to give you can pretty much expect it's going to snap any time now. I don't know about you but I'm not in to sharp broken hollow tubes rushing towards my groin.  After realizing I couldn't get the now-bent one OUT again, and looking at the perfectly good Higgins frame I had sitting in the corner I figured it was time to get cracking!

Well here she is post paint.  What's that, you don't see any paint?  Well, it's actually got about 6 coats of high-gloss clear coat on it!  The bike basically looks "wet" - I'm REALLY stoked with how it came out.  The front fork is a BMX-style fork like my old one - I grabbed this one from Chain Gang Lowrider in Calgary, although I can get these from my wholesaler too if anyone wants them.  Sometimes you just want things quick...

The front struts are actually from Rat Rod 1.0 - they're the original JC Higgins struts that came with the bike.  I gave them a good wipe down with Brasso to get rid of some paint that was slathered on here and there along with most of the rust.  The brackets and things all came out good too... Originally these would have been attached to the front axle but they bolt on to the BMX fork quite nicely! 

Cranks are Haro BMX cranks - I've been REALLY happy with this crank set.  Make sure you put some grease on the axle when you put them together, and don't forget the spacer that goes in the middle.  Otherwise you end up with lots of creaks which will drive you nuts...

Wheels HelpOK, wheels are a good thing!

This wheel set has been through 3 different bikes now - it started out on my Manhattan (the bike that the site logo is designed after).  It then went on to Rat Rod 1.0 and now here it is on Rat Rod 2.0.  The rear wheel is a Sturmey Archer SRC3, a new school Sturmey coaster 3-speed.  I discovered that the "3 shoe" style brake can be swapped for the band-type brake that this particular hub came with - I've seen SRC3's with both brake styles.  The band-style brake is safer in that it won't fail if you let your hub get really sloppy, but the shoe-style brake stops WAY better.  Like I said I figure I'd put at least 1000 km on Rat Rod 1.0 so it was DEFINITELY time for some service on this hub!  I found the usual Sturmey wear - needed 3 of the 4 pinion pins replaced, one second/third drive pawl had a good chunk missing from the tip and the other had a nice gouge but was still mostly there.  New pins, new pawls and lots of fresh grease and the hub should be good for another 1000 km!

Front wheel is a SRAM VT-5000 drum brake.  I've had this brake for a while now - after trying out the other brakes out there I don't think I'd buy one again.  Aparently SRAM agrees - they stopped producing these after 2007.  Next time I'll go for one of the Sturmey Archer front drums.  A few of my fellow Heavy Pedal riders have them and they seriously kick butt over the SRAM.

She Lives!Here she is all together with the required accessories!  The chain guard is also "correct" JC Higgins.  Maybe it's silly but I really would prefer to use as many of the original parts as possible, except where they just won't hold up to serious riding.  The original forks on these bikes are seriously weak, one piece cranks aren't so great and the factory stems are pretty bad too.  If I didn't already have this wheel set built up I'd be running my original rims too, but maybe those will come around on "Bryn's Favorite Wheelset 2.0"...

The factory seat post on these is a 5/8" solid steel bar, but only about 10" long!  That's no good... I picked up a 48" piece of round stock at Rona today and cut it in half.  I'm 6' 2" so I need my seat a bit higher up than the stock post would have allowed!  It's much nicer knowing you've got a good 10" of seat post in the frame of the bike too, although it does add a little weight.  Still, these JC Higgins frames are pretty light for what they are.  It's amazing how much more rigid the new ride feels with the solid seat post compared to the old one with a tubular post...

The seat is my Brooks B73 - I definitely like this seat, it's not as comfortable as my B32 on my Kustom Kruiser but it's certainly a lot better than some stupid plastic thing.  Seems to be holding up great too!

Shifter CloseupHere's a close up of my shifter - it's a Sun Tour shifter I got on eBay.  I actually managed to grab two of these in their original packages.  Well, value be damned, I bought these to use!  The first one is on Amber's Cheetah (AKA Cop Dodger) and this one came out of its package for Rat Rod 1.0.  You can KIND of see the finish on here, it doesn't show up so well in photos but trust me, it's glossy.  6 coats of clear coat and a coat of wax are pretty noticeable when you see it!

Finish CloseupAnother quick shot - I should have put it in to lower gear so the cable curved over they pully nicely, oh well...  I love the clear coat on bare metal look, I was hoping it would turn out but really had no idea till I started doing it.  I'm in LOVE, the bike will stay nice and shiny and won't rust or anything but still has that awesome bare metal look.

Her maiden voyage took me over the top of Vancouver to Maple Grove Park before rolling back down around here - of course there was a few little things that needed some attention, but I'm happy with her so far!  Definitely looks a heck of a lot better than Rat Rod 1.0!

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Rat Rod

Avatar Posted by David Walker at Feb 27, 2009 07:22 AM
Love it, it's a looker!... can't wait to see it in the flesh.