The tale (or tail?) of the Fish Bike

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The Fish Bike
In the old days, you know, the days before the Internet, a vintage bike was a cherished find. It took a great deal of luck and more than a little skill to find and preserve bikes in those now foreign times. Bike enthusiasts scoured the local papers looking for “old bike for sale” ads and cruised city streets for yard sales every weekend in search of something special. Personally, I would wake well before dawn and go up and down the isles at the auto swap meets, flea markets and thrift stores looking for bikes and parts.
The Fish Bike was one of the lucky finds.
Twenty years ago, I was a counterman at an auto parts store. At the time, I was interested in and supplemented my income by buying and selling hard to find VW parts at local shows and swaps. It was and still is cool to have an old cruiser to poke down the aisles in search of treasures and I wanted one but couldn’t afford much. One day a grizzled old man rode up to my work and came in looking for a particular part to fix his car. I must have acted like I couldn’t care less about his part needs because all I remember is I was transfixed on his ride, an old Schwinn skip tooth girls bike. The bike was cool with its AS springer fork, tank, rusty front basket and tattered seat but the killer was the god-awful green paint.
I had to ask him about the bike.
“I have had it forever. It was my bike a long time ago for putterin’ around the neighborhood with my kids. Then when my kids went to college in the ‘70s, they needed a bike to ride around the campus so I painted it with a spray can so it would be too ugly to steal. The only color I had in the garage was gold so I painted everything but it looked really bad. I decided that I had better fix it so I went to the store and bought a can of green paint and tried to cover everything, forks, wheels, everything. It was real ugly but it was never stolen,” he said.
I asked him if he wanted to sell it and he said no, that he liked running errands on it and it held certain memories for him. I understood but never forgot about the bike and asked him if he wanted to sell it every time he came to the store. Then after a year or so of badgering, he agreed to sell it to me.
I was very proud of that bike despite its looks. It was my first foray into the vintage bike world and I thought I had something complete and all original. Yeah, it had crappy greenish gold paint that shimmered in the sun like a fish. The fenders were a little beat up and missing the Delta light and reflector, the chain guard was missing, the seat was nothing more than a rusty metal pan on springs and it had a miss-matched pair of rims. I didn’t care. It was a hard to find, rare, semi-original bike that took me years to find.
At first, I used the bike a lot when I worked the swap meets but when I stopped doing the VW events, the bike sat. I started going to the beach and riding the bike paths but the seat was uncomfortable and the single speed was a challenge to my knees. I decided then that I needed a lighter, more modern bike with multiple gears to cover the many miles of bike paths and retired the old cruiser to the rafters on display. I thought about parting out the old bike or selling it off but it just didn’t feel right and it would be a hard sell.
Then came the Internet and things changed. Type in “girls tank bike” or “balloon bike” on the web and you will get flooded with thousands of responses from all over the world. Auction sites have changed the way seekers find what they are looking for to such a point that swap meets have taken a distant back seat to the Internet. If you are willing to pay for shipping, anything can now be found in any flavor imaginable and it is as if nothing is really rare.
The old bike never was worth what I thought it was and it isn’t worth what it was back in the day but it is important to me so it stays. But I definitely don’t need it on display in the garage.
Recently, again thanks to the Internet, I found a couple of groups of vintage bike enthusiasts that love to ride and show off their bikes and I got recharged about my old hobby. I would like to personally thank Mark at the Orange County Schwinn Collectors Group, The Cyclone Coasters out of Long Beach, CA. and of course, Rat Rod Bikes.com.
So the Fish Bike comes out of the rafters for the first time in many years. Something that was once rare has been made commonplace by electronic communication. If I wanted to, I could find another bike in better shape, truly all original for a reasonable price (especially a girl’s bike) and be done with it. There are hundreds out there on any given day but that just doesn’t seem right. Instead, the Fish Bike is going to be resurrected and transformed into a Chik Rod…stay tuned and remember, ride old steel because the feel is real.
Thanks, David
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ACD

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Thanks for sharing that. I like the fish bike as is.
 
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love the bike love the back story even more ... i would leave just a bit of the green gold paint on there, maybe the bit on the springer ... bit of a keepsake.. good luck with the build
 

Rat Rod

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The wear on that bike is incredible....perfect in my opinion.

I'd ride it just like it sits....the white walls look great on it.
 
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gravediggerjason said:
love the bike love the back story even more ... i would leave just a bit of the green gold paint on there, maybe the bit on the springer ... bit of a keepsake.. good luck with the build

There are parts of the bike where taking the green off would cause more damage than good so it stays as is...thanks for the kind words.
As to what is to come for the bike, I will probably change the seat a few times, put a different sprocket and chain on it, maybe some pinstriping on the big old fenders-maybe not. It is a work in progress, like me, and as such is something that will never be "done. "
 
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