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Last year on October 30th, 2021, I purchased this 1952 Schwinn Hornet for $40. I had always wanted to build a custom Schwinn straight bar, and this was a prime candidate for such a build. The frame was nice and straight with no damage or rust holes, the chain guard was in decent shape apart from a few small dings on the backside, and the rest of the parts, aside from the fenders, looked to be in good shape as well.
DSC_8237.jpg


Just one small problem though: I was torn about modifying a bike with such nice original paint and patina. On one hand, I liked the patina, but on the other hand, I was not a fan of the color. I wanted to paint this bike a different color, but I was hesitant to strip away the original paint job with the scallops still intact. So, to hopefully dodge a tough decision, I decided to try trading this Schwinn straight bar for one I would not feel so guilty about modifying at the 2022 Springfield, Missouri bicycle swap meet. Unfortunately, I didn't have too many people ask about the Schwinn, nor did I see any other Schwinn straight bars out at the swap meet. Between that and all the folks on ratrodbikes.com and thecabe.com suggesting I build this bike the way I wanted, I chose to keep the bike and build it whatever way I saw fit.

Well, just last week I was stuck trying to come up with some ideas for illustrations. I figured if I started with a "safe zone" (like sketching custom bicycles,) then it might lead to more ideas for commercial illustrations. So, I decided to play around with some ideas my 1952 Schwinn Hornet. I dug through loads of bicycle and custom car photos I had saved to my computer, looking for any inspiration I could find. Ironically, what really got the ball rolling wasn't the dozens of photos I picked out after spending a day or two browsing around on my computer; it was a couple Hot Wheels cars I had sitting on the radio receiver 6 feet behind me!
DSC09696_webp.jpg
DSC09699_webp.jpg

Specifically, it was the slate blue-and-gold Mod Rod and Erikenstein Rod I had that gave me the whole vibe I wanted to shoot for: a classic hot rod wrapped in modern race-spec fabrication! These 2 little toy cars, along with this sick 1937 Dodge truck I found on Speedhunters.com and this wild Model A Ford I saw on Hoonigan, all gave me the inspiration I needed to decide on the direction for this Schwinn.
Seganti-37-Chrysler-19.jpg



Here's the first sketch I came up with. Granted, not everything is to scale, but the general gist of what I want to do has been established. I want to stretch the wheelbase out a few inches in both directions using dropout extensions in the rear and a modernized take on the classic flipped Schwinn springer fork up front. On the springer fork itself, I want it to look like it was build by a race car fabricator, with tightly curved tube bends and aluminum filler panels with dimple-died holes. Instead of the classic chrome spring, I want to use a spring and shock absorber from a mountain bike, to help emphasize the modern race appeal. A pair of modern LED lights will illuminate the way forward during night rides. The dimple-died holey aluminum panels continue on the tank and chain guard as well. For the tank, I decided to "draw outside the lines" by having the tank flow over the front of the straight bar, sort of like the tanks on some deluxe JC Higgins bikes from the 50s. The chain guard would receive an aluminum filler panel as well, riveted to the existing chain guard. I'd use a modern BMX chainring and some BMX or mountain bike pedals to help continue the "modern hot rod" flair. At the rear would be a bobbed Monark deep dish fender. The bike will ride on either a pair of 24" or 26" x 3" tires, with either Mooneyes wheel disks or a custom set of painted disks to hide the spokes. I'd also use a pair of number plates or hub caps to hide the drop out extensions. As for paint, I'm thinking metallic gold strips on flat or stain slate blue. Odds are as I build the bike, I'll have to redesign elements to fit the actual bike, but this is the whole vibe I'm shooting for.
Screen Shot 2022-10-13 at 7.59.28 PM.png


That said, I did come across this green and black version of the Mod Rod Hot Wheels car, and I may choose to go a similar route when painting this bike.
HCW65-LOOSE_webp.jpg
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Now that you know how I want to build my Schwinn, I now have to tell you how I'm actually going to build my Schwinn, at least for now.

See, thing is, I'm currently what you may call "financially-impaired." I don't have the funds to build such a wild custom bike right now. That said, I do still have a little loose change left to spend on my bike projects. Better than that, I've got a decent inventory of bike parts stashed away that could help get at least one or two of my bikes back to riding condition. So, what better way to utilize those parts than to use them to get a bike or two rideable once again?

Here's the plan: there's this lowrider/cruiser bike ride that supposedly happens every last Sunday of the month here in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The last Sunday of this month is on the 30th of October. I bought this bike on the 30th of October last year. I want to fix this bike up in time to ride it around Tulsa with this lowrider/cruiser bike group a year after the day I brought it home! Only one problem: I have never built a bike this fast before. At best, I've rebuilt a bike in 4 months. Now I'm about to try building one in a literal week to 10 days!

That said, I feel a lot more comfortable building bikes after my last project, and I should have enough useable parts to get this bike rideable in 10 days. I already disassembled most of the bike, so I know that the bearing cups and races are good enough to use, and the bearings appear to be salvageable, if my ultrasonic cleaner can remove all the crud off of them. I'm either going to ditch both fenders, or just use a bobbed rear fender. I've got a set of used 26" x2.35" cream-colored tires on some late-model Huffy wheels that I think will go with the bike's original paint and patina well enough. I've got a few handlebars and stems that would look good enough on this bike, and I have plenty of 1/2" pitch chainrings to choose from to replace the original skiptooth chainring. I've got at least 3 options for seats to choose from, so I can still ride in comfort. The only part that I may need to buy at this time is the chain, which I can get for less than $10 at Wal-Mart. I can't really use the original fork at this time (still got handlebar stem bits stuck inside,) but I've got a few springer forks to choose from: one classic Schwinn springer, one reproduction Schwinn springer, and one Murray rat trap springer. If I use the classic Schwinn springer fork, I won't have it raked forward like I have it in the photos below, as I need a 90-degree springer fork ring for the fork to fit properly. If I use the Murray rat rap springer fork though, I could rake the bike forward. I'll just have to see what I like best.

Here's one of the bottom bracket bearing cups before a quick wire brush cleaning:
BftD_52_hornet_new_mockups_3.jpg


Here's the same cup after cleaning it with a wire brush:
BftD_52_hornet_new_mockups_4.jpg


Here's the issue with the flipped Schwinn springer fork I mentioned earlier:
BftD_52_hornet_new_mockups_5.jpg
BftD_52_hornet_new_mockups_6.jpg


Here's a couple photos of some mockups I did after coming up with my ideas for this bike. First with some plywood dropout extensions:
BftD_52_hornet_new_mockups_1.jpg


And finally, a mockup closer to my current plans:
BftD_52_hornet_new_mockups_2.jpg


So, what's my plan for later today? (It's already 1am at the time of typing this.) Well, I'm going to dig through my stash of bike parts I have stored out-of-town for more bearings and bearing cups. I'll also look at some other handlebars I have stored away to give myself a few more options. I'll also try to mock up both the unflipped Schwinn springer fork and the flipped Murray rat trap springer fork to see which one I like best. I'll also try to clean up the bearing races/crowns, and maybe remove the paint from the fork(s) using a few tools at my dad's shop. I might knock out a few other things if all goes well, but we'll see.

So, without further ado, let the mayhem commence as I attempt to build The Ratical Rustin' Hornet in 10 days or less! This is going to get wild!
 
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Captain Awesome

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That Hoonigan Coyote has been in my screensaver rotation for awhile 🤘

Oh the horrible things I would do.......
 
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That Hoonigan Coyote has been in my screensaver rotation for awhile 🤘

Oh the horrible things I would do.......
I've rewatched that video I don't know how many times...

I'd be too scared to drive it on the streets of Tulsa (too many pot holes and patches for a car with race suspension and low ground clearance,) but I'd love to take this bad boy out to the track at Hallett and see just what it can do! Of course, burnouts and donuts are always fun... 😉
 

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Great concept, I love the bike. The mock-ups look good so far, it's already getting that low mean look you're after. Good luck with the build, really looking forward to seeing the results!
 
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Great concept, I love the bike. The mock-ups look good so far, it's already getting that low mean look you're after. Good luck with the build, really looking forward to seeing the results!
Thanks Pondo! I'd love to keep the low mean look one way or the other, but for now, that depends on what I can do with the springer forks I have.
 
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Hey, just had a thought last night about how I could rake the old Schwinn springer: if I heat up the ring that the spring bolts to, could I safely angle it back to about 90 degrees so I could properly mount the fork in its flipped configuration? Or would heating that piece just make it more likely to break while riding?
 

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Hey, just had a thought last night about how I could rake the old Schwinn springer: if I heat up the ring that the spring bolts to, could I safely angle it back to about 90 degrees so I could properly mount the fork in its flipped configuration? Or would heating that piece just make it more likely to break while riding?
You sure can. You can also take the spring out completely and run a rubber bushing or direct bolt it if you don't want any spring action at all. I did that on my 20" springer a few build-offs ago

IMG_20200901_185141700~2.jpg
 
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You sure can. You can also take the spring out completely and run a rubber bushing or direct bolt it if you don't want any spring action at all. I did that on my 20" springer a few build-offs ago

View attachment 213744
Okay, cool! Is that how most everyone else does it? I've seen more than a few photos of this setup, but I wasn't sure how they achieved it. I'll probably test it on the older ring first, as I don't want to mess up the perfectly good reproduction piece in case I want to retain the stock rake. I haven't had the opportunity to ride a bike with a springer fork, so I'll want to see how I like it before I choose to rigidize it.

Also, sweet bike! Love the lime green and black paint scheme! I also dig the lime green stripes on the front wheel. Very cool!
 

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Okay, cool! Is that how most everyone else does it? I've seen more than a few photos of this setup, but I wasn't sure how they achieved it. I'll probably test it on the older ring first, as I don't want to mess up the perfectly good reproduction piece in case I want to retain the stock rake. I haven't had the opportunity to ride a bike with a springer fork, so I'll want to see how I like it before I choose to rigidize it.

Also, sweet bike! Love the lime green and black paint scheme! I also dig the lime green stripes on the front wheel. Very cool!
I didn't really care because mine was a repop springer anyhow from a bratz bike. But all I did was change the angle of the bend on the spring Mount that goes around the steer tube, remove the spring and replace the bolt, as well as recut the rubber bushing that goes on the front of the bracket to match the new angle
 

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I didn't really care because mine was a repop springer anyhow from a bratz bike. But all I did was change the angle of the bend on the spring Mount that goes around the steer tube, remove the spring and replace the bolt, as well as recut the rubber bushing that goes on the front of the bracket to match the new angle

Looks great! I'm planning to do this in the future on a fun muscle build.
 
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I didn't really care because mine was a repop springer anyhow from a bratz bike. But all I did was change the angle of the bend on the spring Mount that goes around the steer tube, remove the spring and replace the bolt, as well as recut the rubber bushing that goes on the front of the bracket to match the new angle
Nice! What would you recommend I use to heat up the rind to bend it? I don't know if a portable propane torch would be enough, would it?
 

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Nice! What would you recommend I use to heat up the rind to bend it? I don't know if a portable propane torch would be enough, would it?
That's exactly how I did mine. Clamped it in a vice, heated the bend with a propane torch and used a giant crescent wrench to apply pressure and then let it air cool


Edit...... Technically I used two propane torches. One on each side facing the material
 

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Haha, getting it done with the regular deadline isn't challenging enough now, you gotta up the ante and try for ten days?! That's ambitious! Good luck man. You know that I dig the budget builds, I'm trying to keep it pretty low with mine again too. Mainly by using someone else's stuff
 
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Haha, getting it done with the regular deadline isn't challenging enough now, you gotta up the ante and try for ten days?! That's ambitious! Good luck man. You know that I dig the budget builds, I'm trying to keep it pretty low with mine again too. Mainly by using someone else's stuff
🤣
Yeah, and here I was like 2 days ago expressing my concerns about shortening the Build Off deadlines to 3 months! I may have darn well lost my mind! In all fairness though, as crazy as this is for me, I don't feel like it's much of a stretch. Unlike my last bike Shoestring, I have no plans to do anything crazier than a fork swap and maybe a bobbed rear fender, at least right now. That's not to say I won't try something absolutely ridiculous in the process, but this bike build's going to be a lot more reserved compared to my last projects. Time will tell.

Thanks! I'm really shooting for spending no more than $10 on top of the initial $40 I paid for this bike, so this is even more of a budget build than what I'm used to! It's honestly kind of fun working with budget constraints; it's a real exercise in creativity to try and build something cool without spending a ton of money to make it happen. I'll have to check out what you've got cooking; sounds like a blast!
 

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