I’ve owned my Schwinn Heavy Duti since October of 2014. At almost four years in my possession, it’s the second in longevity in my stable, behind the Raleigh Crested Butte. Unlike the Crested Butte, which has gone through numerous changes in the almost six years in my possession, the Heavy Duti remained pretty static. This was mostly due to it being a “fun” or bar bike. But then it became the bike I used the least, going through some pretty long stretches of disuse. Most of this was because of it lacking a front brake. I just didn’t feel safe riding a bike that had only a coaster brake.
I had made noises about adding a front brake for years, but didn’t do anything about it. This was mostly because it was such a daunting task no matter which way I sliced it: The front fork was a replica of a Schwinn blade fork, having no way to mount a sidepull brake, and too thin to put cantilever bosses.* I could put a drum brake wheel on there, ** but they were not easy to find, or cheap.*** The other solution would be to install a different fork, one that brakes can be mounted. The big problem here was the funky old American size stem (21.1) made the search difficult, especially if I wanted to have something with canti bosses.**** I would make some vague and vain attempts to search for either solution, get discouraged, and give up.
And of course, the deeper question was: Was it even worth it to go down the rabbit hole? Did I like this bike enough to go through the trouble? I only paid $80 for the bike and spent way less than $200 in the years since I got it on maintenance and parts. Cheap.
I started to ride the bike more over the past winter. And I decided that yes, I like this bike and it was worth it to plunk down some more money on it. But the question remained: How to go about it all?
Thankfully, somebody heard me whining about the bike over the years, and decided to do something about it! Spencer out in Upstate New York dug through his parts stash and found a fork off an 80’s mountain bike, one that had that funky 21.1 size.***** The steerer tube was longer than what I had on the Heavy Duti, but steerer tubes can be cut. So he shipped it out to me.
And thankfully, I had someone willing to work on such a silly project. I had been talking to Jeremiah about the Heavy Duti when he was working at Velo Cult last year. He moved over to River City, so I went there to get the work done.******
And at the end of May, I picked up Heavy Duti 2.0!
So, what are all the changes to make this an improved bike?
- Well, there’s that front fork! An old mountain bike fork works well. The black goes good with overall color scheme of the bike.
- Attached to those canti posts is a front brake! It’s a generic Shimano, with a scavenged Dia Compe lever.
- Also attached to the canti post is a bottle dynamo! It’s a Nordlicht, a German model considered the “best of the best”******* when it comes to these. Alas, they stopped making Nordlichts a few years back for some reason, so the AXA HR (which is what I have on the Crested Butte) is now tops I guess…
- And I have an old basic Busch und Muller LED headlamp connected to dynamo, mounted to front basket strut (a Wald, of course!)
- For the rear: The old single speed coaster brake was fine, but I’d been thinking for a bit about putting more gears on this thing. I thought about finding a three speed wheel (pre-built 26 inch coaster brake versions are out there), but wanted to keep it simple and go different. So…how about a two speed kickback? I found a generic (KT) branded one built into a rear wheel on eBay over the winter for a good price. Now it’s on the bike!
- My old “Back Roads” black rear rack with rat trap is now in use again on the bike.
- And attached to the rack is a nice rear LED tail light. It’s a Spanninga version. No, it’s battery (using two AAs) since I didn’t feel like getting a dynamo version for now. I find that these German hard-mounted battery powered lights work quite well and last very long.
So…how does the bike feel?
Great! It’s a fun bike to ride around, and now much more practical (and safe). Having a good front brake is useful and puts my mind at ease. Dynamo lighting means (mostly) not having to worry about batteries and charging. A rear rack means more cargo capacity.
The thing that I’m still getting used to is the two speed kickback. Yes, you shift the gears by backpedaling (aka “kicking back”), in the same way you’d brake with the coaster brake. You start in low, then kick back to get to high. Most kickbacks work in such that you kick it back slightly to get to high, then full kickback to brake and then you are in low. This one seems to shift gear when you kickback. So if you are in low, then brake, you will be in high when you start pedaling. It’s a bit weird, but since I have a front brake, it’s not as big a deal as if I didn’t. The gearing on a two speed works as 100% (direct) in low, 133% in high, so it’s like a three speed hub with the top two gears. (On a Sturmey-Archer AW hub, the ratio is 75%-100%-133%) Good for around town and small hills, but not really for anything big!********
I’ve been riding it around a bunch. It’s a great summer fun bike. I can even throw a studded tire on the front and use it as a snow/ice commuter in winter.
Here’s to more bike fun!
*This blade fork was a bit of anomaly, since the bike is from the mid-90s. The Heavy Dutis made after this had a typical unicrown fork, where one could mount a brake.
**It would be fun to have a drum brake, if not just for the simple pleasure of having all the available braking systems possible on my bikes: Side/centerpull brakes (three speeds), V-brakes (Crested Butte), and disc (Bantam). Well, a coaster brake is a hub brake so there’s that…
***Or light. All of the pre-built drum brake wheels in 26″ I could find had steel rims. Going with an aluminum rim would mean paying even more money for a build.
****It’s true that I could have redone the headset to make it compatible with a common fork/stem, but the Bullmoose handlebars I was using was sized for the funky 21.1, and I wanted to keep those bars. Yes, I make things difficult.
*****The early era of MTB’s had funky things like this, since they borrowed heavily from old American balloon tire cruisers. By the later 80’s things got more standardized and moved away from all that.
******I don’t think I ever had any of my bikes worked on at River City, despite the shop being in town longer than I have!
*******There’s not a lot of competition in the bottle dynamo market, though.
********Hey Norm! You still out there?