There's nothing more special than your first new bicycle. I had many bikes as a kid. It seemed my dad was bringing a different one home every week from the dump. To this day I love riding bicycles and have a passion for anything cool looking and unique. I also love trying out different models and I appreciate the depth of experience that two wheels can bring.
My first real love was my 1983 Sears Constrictor BMX. Everything was red on it and I rode the hell out of that thing. My parents bought it for me brand new from sears for $99. They gave me the choice of opting out of a family trip to Australia. I was five. I took the bike.... a decision I never regretted.
I remember taking trips to Canadian tire and dreaming about all the accessories I could add, if I only had the money.
I remember the painfully sad day of grade one when all the other kids on the playground brought to my attention the fact that someone had stolen my red v-bar crash pad.
I remember loaning my ride to Lisa for two full excruciatingly long days in exchange for a pocket knife that was promptly confiscated by my baby-sitter.
What I don't remember..... is what ever happened to that bike? I have often wished that I could walk into a store and buy that bike all over again. I have way more disposable income now and it would be easy. Unfortunately for me, my childhood bike is a fairly obscure model which no one would recognize let alone reproduce. So 30 years later, I had my work cut out for me. This is my story....
Step 1: Pound the Pavement
Where to find your old BMX?? The obvious place to start is online. I scoured Kijiji and Craiglist for years. There are tons of old bmx bikes kicking around but nothing like the one I had. Ebay turned up nothing and I was never lucky enough to stumble upon a mint one at a yard sale.
About six years ago I found a similar bike at Value Village for $35. I almost didn't buy it because it just wasn't the same. It was a no-name Skyline, which I guess is an amalgamation of the more popular Skyway and Redline brands of 80's bmx bikes. I found no info on it and so it sat.
Recently however, my passion to find my bicycle was re-ignited. I started scouring Kijiji again and found a Sears Constrictor for $65. It wasn't in great shape and it wasn't the exact model. But it was a start.
When I started looking at both bikes together in my garage, I realized that the Skyline bicycle actually had the exact frame as my original Constrictor. The bike I picked up on Kijiji was an excellent resource for duplicating decals as my online searches turned up very few usable pictures. I was on the road to childhood bicycle recovery.
Step 2: Break It Down
The nice thing about a lot of older bikes, particularly BMX bikes is that they don't require any special tools for dismantling. The chrome frame was actually in spectacular shape. It seemed a shame to paint it. I found a guy locally so I decided to have it powder coated. I peeled back the original decals on the constrictor frame so that we could get an idea of the exact colour. Candy Apple Red it is!!! While I waited for the frame to be painted, I got to work on Ebay finding the following key parts.
A lot of old bmx parts are quite easy to find on Ebay and the hunt is all part of the fun!
While I waited for the frame to be painted and the parts to arrive, I got working on the decals.
Step 3: Decals
The most time consuming part of the process is re-creating the artwork for the decals. If your childhood bicycle was a popular model like a Schwinn Krate or a common BMX brand name, you'll probably be able to find your decals on Ebay or elsewhere on-line. I had to draw mine from scratch using Adobe Illustrator.
I spent a lot of time on-line looking for a reputable company that would print my decals. I just got frustrated and starting looking at local graphics shops. I found a guy locally at Tryst Customs that did all my decals for $15 and the quality is awesome. I'm seriously paying him more for his time on my next project.
The hardest task was drawing the constrictor. I imported the picture I took of the decal and created a new layer to basically draw right over the original. A lot of control points and a lot of patience is required for this step.
The other decals were pretty straight forward, but rather than draw the letters individually I try to find out the correct font. The easiest way to do this rather than cycle through hundreds of fonts is to go to a site called Myfonts.com
It lets you paste a sample of your font and then compares that sample to thousands of fonts and gives you a list of possible results.
I was able to find the exact font for the Constrictor portion of my decal!
Step 4: Put It Together
When I finally got the frame back from painting, I was so excited to put it all together. I decided to assemble first and apply decals second. There are a few things to consider:
- Be careful if you've had your frame powder coated. If any of the powder coat has gone inside the head tube, bottom bracket, or seat tube, you may have some difficulty installing your bearing cups and seat post. This can be unnerving as you smash away at your powder coat with a block of wood and a hammer
Get in there with a piece of sand paper, or make sure that your painter puts rubber stops in those openings. My guy did this, but some still got through.
I mentioned earlier that you won't need any special tools for dismantling. It is handy if you have a chain break though. Some chains won't have a master link and will be difficult to remove or install. If you're going to buy one, make sure it says Park Tools on it. A cheap one will break before your chain does. I learned this the hard way years ago.
I'm not going to go into great detail at this point. If you were able to tear your bike apart, you'll have no problem putting it back together. One of the best ways to learn about bikes is to get in there and get your hands greasy. Oh, make sure you have some grease on hand to lube up all those bearings. I cleaned mine with some wd-40 first and they were all in decent shape for such an old bike.
Step 5: Enjoy
I gotta say, I got quite emotional when I rolled this out of the garage and sat on it for the first time. This is as close to my original bike as I'll ever get. It's not exactly the same but it is pretty darn close. I love it and this is instantly my favourite bike in my collection. All that's left to do is get a picture with me on it. My mom wants me to find the same outfit that I was wearing as a five year old and recreate the original picture. That's pretty unoriginal, but it would be pretty funny. I'll keep you posted.