ORBO Step-Thru Klunker

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Last April, I was at a bicycle swap meet in Haysville, Kansas. While there, I learned they had a "free pile" where anyone could dump the stuff they didn't want or need for someone else to take home, assuming it didn't go the the scrap yard after the swap meet ended. Needless to say, once I found that free pile, I was all over it like a buzzard on roadkill! Everything pictured below, I got out of that pile. Well, everything except for the BMX bike; someone just gave me that.
BftD_ff_4-23-23_7.jpg


While I got most of the frames I pulled from that pile for their tubing bends, I couldn't help but admire the original blue and white paint on this old 26" girl's Schwinn (pictured bottom right.)
BftD_ff_4-23-23_10.jpg


I originally had no plans to build it at all, but during a recent "Mockup Mash," I decided to play around with it and see if I could turn it into something I liked. After trying a few different parts and ideas, I came up with this rough mockup.
BftD_mockup_mash_19.jpg


While it didn't look the part at the moment, I thought it might make a decent entry-level klunker, with some refinement. Imagine my surprise when just a few days later I saw a girls' Schwinn klunker in a documentary on klunkers back in the '70s!
Girl's Schwinn Klunker 1.PNG
Girl's Schwinn Klunker 2.PNG

(Timestamps for both photos are 3:03 and 6:41.)


After seeing proof that even girls' Schwinns were being used as klunkers, I figured it only made sense to take this old step-thru Schwinn and build it up for some off-road riding. Now, I'm no hardcore off-roader; in fact, I have next to no experience riding off-road at all. But I'm ready to dip my toes into the shallow end of the pool that is off-road cycling, and I figure this old Schwinn is all I really need to help me get used to riding on loose and uneven terrain. I'm not racing this bike downhill or jumping it or whatever; I just plan to casually ride it on fairly-level dirt and gravel trails around town. Once I get comfortable riding on loose, rough terrain with a single-speed cruiser, then I can start getting into the more advanced stuff.
 
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I did some more mockups of the Schwinn earlier today, and I think I've figured out the general appearance of it.
BftD_Senderella_mockups12024_1.jpg
BftD_Senderella_mockups12024_2.jpg
BftD_Senderella_mockups12024_3.jpg


I had this idea to run a set of truss rods through the middle of some BMX handlebars for a while now, and I think this is the right bike to use that idea. Unfortunately, one of the axle tabs has broken off the truss rods, but I bet that could be an easy fix. I got these bars for free last year along with some other stuff, and while the camera says otherwise, they're a shade of blue similar to what's on the frame and even the mismatched fork. I mounted them low, mostly for the look, but also because I don't need them up so high, especially when I prefer to ride with the seat as low as it'll go.
BftD_Senderella_mockups12024_5.jpg


Since the handlebars are about the same shade of blue as the frame, I figured I should add some grips that match the white scallops as closely as possible. I started with these white grips I got for another project, but I think they're too white.
BftD_Senderella_mockups12024_6.jpg
BftD_Senderella_mockups12024_7.jpg


Next I tried these yellowed grips I pulled from my first klunker build. I like these much better, but I'm not sure how they'll look with a black seat and black pedals. Details for later...
BftD_Senderella_mockups12024_8.jpg
BftD_Senderella_mockups12024_9.jpg


I don't have a ton of good mountain bike tires in stock, but luckily I had 2 that were good enough for this project.
BftD_Senderella_mockups12024_10.jpg
BftD_Senderella_mockups12024_11.jpg


I'll still need to dig through my parts stash to see if I have a decent set of pedals I can use for this bike, but I did spot this pair of off-white pedals in my workstation that might do the trick. They spin freely, but they're very wobbly, which might disqualify them from getting used. I can test them out later.
BftD_Senderella_mockups12024_12.jpg


Another idea I might play with later: right now the Schwinn has a standard 46-tooth Schwinn chainring installed, but I should have enough room to fit this 52-tooth Monark chainring onto the bike if I want. Once I decide on the rear gear and calculate the gear ratios, I'll have a better idea of which one to use.
BftD_Senderella_mockups12024_13.jpg

BftD_Senderella_mockups12024_14.jpg


Here are some other ideas I mocked up today. I may revisit the white seat, but it might not be the best option for a klunker bike that's bound to get dirty.
BftD_Senderella_mockups12024_15.jpg
BftD_Senderella_mockups12024_16.jpg
BftD_Senderella_mockups12024_17.jpg


I also mocked up a set of Wal-Mart whitewalls I had laying around. While they look alright with the white scallops, seat and grips, I felt they were better suited for street use than off-road use.
BftD_Senderella_mockups12024_18.jpg
BftD_Senderella_mockups12024_19.jpg
BftD_Senderella_mockups12024_20.jpg


I've got to say, I'm pretty happy with how this Schwinn's shaping up. It has the spirit of those original klunkers, especially in that it was built using mostly parts I got for free or dirt cheap. I even managed to throw some parts on it that I've had laying around for years now! I'm admittedly not the biggest fan of Schwinn's cruiser frames, especially the step-through frames, but with the right parts, even a stickler like me can appreciate them for what they are!

I'm still thinking of a better name for this bike, but for now I'll just call it what it is: a Step-Thru Klunker.
 
Here in Poland, especially in the countryside, bikes were just bikes, and those frames considered girls' or womens' bikes elsewhere were very practical once you got them loaded up with a tool with a long handle or just baskets front and rear full of things to take to or bring back from the market.

Both these bikes were owned and ridden into the ground by men in my village:

ABLVV85-aBKqf1CDLdbD1yrBjczKz2lXZgpbn3EQUvdmP4O3Bz36MFAADTmAgPz-Bl5XLoqxnrn3gCr176UhOYH3FtAh5CsIszI9kb2lDHWw5goMUWDIiQp4XtbxVEVSDlPH_BF39iDrX2PqTZx-o1kATvSk=w1271-h953-s-no-gm


ABLVV87BxwTr-8NqGPyK-wyxiBh5KY1GXyhTUD67UAprYB_PaFzZJ4OqbmID-fIJvgdxt9_A5OzqzVNWssCGBK3dnIKZU4BY4UThrs_QLQKOr6p9ec8SRTiVeNfSU6kac3F7JuoOCZiGWBgcwy774whaiJSS=w1551-h953-s-no-gm


It is like having a male or female horse - they both get to pull the wagon or the plough.

So yeah, build those step-thru frames into different things, because they are step-thru rather than women's bikes.
 
Here in Poland, especially in the countryside, bikes were just bikes, and those frames considered girls' or womens' bikes elsewhere were very practical once you got them loaded up with a tool with a long handle or just baskets front and rear full of things to take to or bring back from the market.

Both these bikes were owned and ridden into the ground by men in my village:

ABLVV85-aBKqf1CDLdbD1yrBjczKz2lXZgpbn3EQUvdmP4O3Bz36MFAADTmAgPz-Bl5XLoqxnrn3gCr176UhOYH3FtAh5CsIszI9kb2lDHWw5goMUWDIiQp4XtbxVEVSDlPH_BF39iDrX2PqTZx-o1kATvSk=w1271-h953-s-no-gm


ABLVV87BxwTr-8NqGPyK-wyxiBh5KY1GXyhTUD67UAprYB_PaFzZJ4OqbmID-fIJvgdxt9_A5OzqzVNWssCGBK3dnIKZU4BY4UThrs_QLQKOr6p9ec8SRTiVeNfSU6kac3F7JuoOCZiGWBgcwy774whaiJSS=w1551-h953-s-no-gm


It is like having a male or female horse - they both get to pull the wagon or the plough.

So yeah, build those step-thru frames into different things, because they are step-thru rather than women's bikes.
And since a brain infection I have a ‘lazy ‘ left side. So I cannot imagine trusting the leg that drags a foot to do that typical swing up and over the seat landing on the pedal bit. So step throughs have really proved their value. It is funny when you think how much ‘auto’ does for us. Like holding a grip without focusing on it etc.
I am very grateful so much has returned. Imagine a slow motion stroke that goes 9 days between starting and most stuff back to normal. The human body really is amazing when it works.
 
It is like having a male or female horse - they both get to pull the wagon or the plough.
Haha that's an excellent analogy, I've always said that bikes have no gender. The step through design actually has benefits too, it's easier to throw a leg over (as Kroozerdave mentioned above), easier to escape in an event, and precious cargo is safe from being crushed on the top bar. The drawback is a frame that flexes a lot more, but if the riding isn't too extreme, it should work.
 
Monark, CWC, Murray and Schwinns all in that pile. No market for the women's frames but there should be.
Some women's bikes are downright beautiful in my opinion. Murray's women's frames, particularly their twin-tube frames, are a personal favorite of mine. I would have totally built that CWC frame as well, but it's bent where the top tube joins the seat tube. I do have a similarly-shaped AMF frame I've thought about building though.

Here in Poland, especially in the countryside, bikes were just bikes, and those frames considered girls' or womens' bikes elsewhere were very practical once you got them loaded up with a tool with a long handle or just baskets front and rear full of things to take to or bring back from the market.

Both these bikes were owned and ridden into the ground by men in my village:

ABLVV85-aBKqf1CDLdbD1yrBjczKz2lXZgpbn3EQUvdmP4O3Bz36MFAADTmAgPz-Bl5XLoqxnrn3gCr176UhOYH3FtAh5CsIszI9kb2lDHWw5goMUWDIiQp4XtbxVEVSDlPH_BF39iDrX2PqTZx-o1kATvSk=w1271-h953-s-no-gm


ABLVV87BxwTr-8NqGPyK-wyxiBh5KY1GXyhTUD67UAprYB_PaFzZJ4OqbmID-fIJvgdxt9_A5OzqzVNWssCGBK3dnIKZU4BY4UThrs_QLQKOr6p9ec8SRTiVeNfSU6kac3F7JuoOCZiGWBgcwy774whaiJSS=w1551-h953-s-no-gm


It is like having a male or female horse - they both get to pull the wagon or the plough.

So yeah, build those step-thru frames into different things, because they are step-thru rather than women's bikes.
Well said. I tend to flip between calling them women's bikes and step-thru bikes, mostly because I never heard the term "step-thru" until after I joined the forums a few years ago.

I guess we still call them "women's bikes" here in the U.S. because that's who they were originally designed for, and who still usually ride them. They are indeed very practical, but I don't think that's why most folks buy step-thru cruisers here in the States. From what I understand, most folks over in Europe use bikes as a regular means of transportation, while here in the States, bikes are used more for exercise and recreation. It's usually the guys who are either bicycle collectors or too old to straddle a men's bike that ride step-thru bikes where I live.

But yeah, it's kind of like Rosie the Riveter's slogan, "We can do it [too]!" Why not make a klunker out of a step-thru frame?

Haha that's an excellent analogy, I've always said that bikes have no gender. The step through design actually has benefits too, it's easier to throw a leg over (as Kroozerdave mentioned above), easier to escape in an event, and precious cargo is safe from being crushed on the top bar.
All good points for sure!
The drawback is a frame that flexes a lot more, but if the riding isn't too extreme, it should work.
I'm pretty sure the main reason I don't see as many step-thru klunkers is because of how the frames bend if you push them too hard. Usually I see these frames fold right where the top tube joins the seat tube. The men's frames can usually take more of a beating because they're more "triangulated" than the step-thru frames.
 
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Small update for today.
First, I found out how old this Blue Schwinn is. Turns out it's almost 74 years old!
BftD_Senderella_mockups12124_1.jpg
BftD_Senderella_mockups12124_2.jpg


I had an idea to use up some clear plexiglass/acrylic sheet I have to make a clear number plate insert like I've seen on BMX bikes. I made a rough cardboard template and threw it on, and honestly, I'm not sure whether I like it or not. It'd be a good place to put my logo and maybe the name of the bike, but I feel like it'd busy up the design too much. There's already a lot going on up front, and this might just be too much.
BftD_Senderella_mockups12124_3.jpg
BftD_Senderella_mockups12124_4.jpg


I also mocked up a few other parts today. I wanted to figure out a way for me to carry a small toolbox/bag and a few water bottles for lengthier rides, but nothing I tried seemed to work. It either didn't have enough clearance for the tires, or it just looked too cluttered. Something about this bike is telling me "less is more."
BftD_Senderella_mockups12124_5.jpg
BftD_Senderella_mockups12124_6.jpg
BftD_Senderella_mockups12124_7.jpg


I have one more idea though, but it'll have to wait until the weather clears up later this week. I have a set of rear baskets that I'd like to mock up on the bike, but they're on my '65 Hollywood that I'm storing elsewhere.
BftD_hollywood_frisco_highland_trail_ride.jpg


On that note, this picture is part of my plan for this bike. Back in October 2022, I rode my Nana's old Schwinn on the Frisco Highline Trail that runs from Springfield, Missouri to Bolivar, Missouri. It's a 35-mile long trail that used to be a railroad line, hence the name. When I rode the trail back in 2022, I rode about 10 miles round-trip on the paved section of the trail. Thing is, the trail is paved for only about 8.5 miles out of the total 35; the rest is gravel.

I'd like to take this blue Schwinn and ride it as far as I can from Bolivar or Willard on gravel. The paved section was a beautiful and fun trip in the fall, so I'd imagine the gravel path might be even more so! Thing is, the furthest I've travelled on any of my bikes in a single trip (that I've recorded) is 13 miles. If I'm going to ride this old Schwinn for such a long distance on gravel, I'm going to need plenty of water, and at least a small tool pouch for any quick fixes I need to make along the way. I may not plan to ride this 1950 Schwinn "hard and fast," but I do plan to put some actual miles on it!
 
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@Bike from the Dead , as you mentioned above, I too am a big believer in the "less is more" philosophy in many instances. That is why I am building GIGI and keeping the "bells and whistles" to a minimum: IG rear hub (so no F/R derailleurs), donor F/R brakes (and maybe an old donor suspension fork). I got my inspiration from a @One-eyed Sailor Build Dona Regina.
To address the potential of frame flex/bending, I am going to get a 1" piece of decent steel tubing (not drain pipe) and drive it down into the the seat post tube beyond the top tube and down tube. This may/should stiffen it up and hopefully prevent frame bending/damage.
Kool build.......

To All, I am not sure where I messed up. Please disregard my measurements in frame #8 of this thread (this frame). It looks like the seat post dia. is in the order of 13/16" NOT 1"which seems more reasonable. Tomorrow when I return from physical therapy, I will measure the top of the seat tube versus near the bottom of the seat tube to see if there is any difference. My initial thought is I didn't zero out my calipers completely prior to taking measurements!! Sorry.......:mad:
 
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Some women's bikes are downright beautiful in my opinion. Murray's women's frames, particularly their twin-tube frames, are a personal favorite of mine. I would have totally built that CWC frame as well, but it's bent where the top tube joins the seat tube. I do have an similarly-shaped AMF frame I've thought about building though.
I totally agree on that. My wife is unfortunately very happy with her current bicycle, my hands are itching to build or restore a beautiful 20's to 50's frame bicycle with twin tubes. Like this one for example:

BikesToRemember Roadmaster 1940

Love your junk pile a few posts back. Junk piles make me incredibly happy and seeing your pile with your ambitions and style... I'm still happy :grin:

A ladies klunker bike looks awesome, would be a great choice in my opinion. But I do enjoy your last mockup with the carriers too :thumbsup:
 
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Great job on this Schwinn step-thru.
Here's another voice from Poland. Just as my fellow citizen has said before, the usual bikes from 50s to late 80s were mostly produced by Romet , the largest bike manufacturer in former eastern bloc in Europe. And they were usually used for decades, used heavily. Step-thru bikes are as common, or even more than men's frames, but even more popular were the folding bikes, both with 20' and 24' wheels. As these, due to their design, fall into step-thru category, I'd say these were far more popular than the classic frames.
Now, as I live in Warsaw, and do ride daily and commute quite often with a bike (we do have great infrastructure here, I ride 19 km to work and only 300-400 m of it with no bike lane) I intentionally chose old German step-thru as it is robust, well-made and what's funny- cheaper because it's a step-thru. As mentioned above, my -family jewels- are well protected in case of sudden drop from the saddle and I do not need to get off the bike when pushing it above a fallen tree in one of our neighbouring forest tracks. Furthermore, I recently heard an opinion that they make a favourable winter bike choice, because of lower weight center...
So, here are a few photos.
Below is a black frame I am currently working on.

IMG_20230816_181101156.jpg
IMG_20240120_120408366_HDR.jpg
IMG_20240120_120455409_HDR.jpg
 
@Bike from the Dead , as you mentioned above, I too am a big believer in the "less is more" philosophy in many instances. That is why I am building GIGI and keeping the "bells and whistles" to a minimum: IG rear hub (so no F/R derailleurs), donor F/R brakes (and maybe an old donor suspension fork). I got my inspiration from a @One-eyed Sailor Build Dona Regina.
To address the potential of frame flex/bending, I am going to get a 1" piece of decent steel tubing (not drain pipe) and drive it down into the the seat post tube beyond the top tube and down tube. This may/should stiffen it up and hopefully prevent frame bending/damage.
Kool build.......
Yeah, as much as I like adding stuff to my bikes, sometimes minimalism is the best option. I've said it before and I'll say it again; the bike will usually tell you what it wants to be. If certain parts don't flow with the design, it'll let you know.

Will a 1" tube fit? I could've sworn the seat tubes on those old Schwinns themselves had a 1" outer diameter. Either way, that is making me wonder if I should do something similar for my Schwinn. I don't plan to ride it too hard, but maybe it'd be a good idea to do that just in case the trails I plan to ride are rougher than what that old Schwinn can take.

Thanks!
 
I totally agree on that. My wife is unfortunately very happy with her current bicycle, my hands are itching to build or restore a beautiful 20's to 50's frame bicycle with twin tubes. Like this one for example:

BikesToRemember Roadmaster 1940

Love your junk pile a few posts back. Junk piles make me incredibly happy and seeing your pile with your ambitions and style... I'm still happy :grin:

A ladies klunker bike looks awesome, would be a great choice in my opinion. But I do enjoy your last mockup with the carriers too :thumbsup:
Haha, I understand that itch to build a specific bike I don't have all too well! Hopefully you'll be able to scratch that itch soon.

Thanks! It's always fun to build something out of nothing, and I got a whole lot of nothing that time! Plus there's just something super satisfying about taking a "junk" bike and breathing new life into it. This old Schwinn would have possibly gone to the scrap yard had I not picked it up. It was essentially left for dead, and I'm about to bring it back to life. That's basically why my username's "Bike from the Dead." I like taking junk bikes and bringing them back from the dead!

Thank you! Yeah, I want to like the racks and basket I tried on there yesterday, but they didn't flow with the look of the bike, and they weren't as practical as I hoped. I'll figure something out though!
 
Great job on this Schwinn step-thru.
Here's another voice from Poland. Just as my fellow citizen has said before, the usual bikes from 50s to late 80s were mostly produced by Romet , the largest bike manufacturer in former eastern bloc in Europe. And they were usually used for decades, used heavily. Step-thru bikes are as common, or even more than men's frames, but even more popular were the folding bikes, both with 20' and 24' wheels. As these, due to their design, fall into step-thru category, I'd say these were far more popular than the classic frames.

Now, as I live in Warsaw, and do ride daily and commute quite often with a bike (we do have great infrastructure here, I ride 19 km to work and only 300-400 m of it with no bike lane) I intentionally chose old German step-thru as it is robust, well-made and what's funny- cheaper because it's a step-thru. As mentioned above, my -family jewels- are well protected in case of sudden drop from the saddle and I do not need to get off the bike when pushing it above a fallen tree in one of our neighbouring forest tracks. Furthermore, I recently heard an opinion that they make a favourable winter bike choice, because of lower weight center...
So, here are a few photos.
Below is a black frame I am currently working on.

View attachment 257288View attachment 257289View attachment 257290

Thanks!
Always fun to learn more about bike history and culture from around the world! Those 2 German bikes you have are nice, especially the one where the top tube transitions into the dropouts. Given where you live and the fact you ride your bikes daily, it makes total sense to have a bike that's sturdy, comfortable, reliable, and overall practical for everyday use. It's sort of like cars here in the U.S.; if you plan to use it on a daily basis, it needs to be something you can use on a daily basis. Chevy Camaros and Ford F-150s are cool and all, but they're not the most practical vehicles for everyday use.

Not going to lie, between @GeePig's, @MattiThundrrr's and your replies, I'm genuinely worried I might have unintentionally rubbed some folks the wrong way just for calling step-thru bikes "girls'/women's" bikes. I don't call them that because I think that only women should ride step-thrus, I only call them that because they're literally sold as "girls'/women's" bikes, and that's what most folks around here call them anyways, whether they're into bikes or not. Heck, I just looked at step-thru bikes on Wal-Mart's website, and they're all labeled as "girls'/women's bikes." Like I said earlier, I only learned about the term "step-thru" after joining the bike forums a few years ago, so I'm still not quite used to calling them that.
 
I'm genuinely worried I might have unintentionally rubbed some folks the wrong way just for calling step-thru bikes "girls'/women's" bikes
Nope, you're doing fine. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. I want to build one out of the Husky Industrial Step through frame, but they're never actually available. I don't think they actually make them
347-517.jpg

Make it so burly, it'd be a "who you callin' lady?!" sort of thing
 
Nope, you're doing fine. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. I want to build one out of the Husky Industrial Step through frame, but they're never actually available. I don't think they actually make them
View attachment 257307
Make it so burly, it'd be a "who you callin' lady?!" sort of thing
That is a very rugged-looking step-thru frame for sure! Makes me think of a Tonka truck!
 
Some women's bikes are downright beautiful in my opinion. Murray's women's frames, particularly their twin-tube frames, are a personal favorite of mine. I would have totally built that CWC frame as well, but it's bent where the top tube joins the seat tube. I do have a similarly-shaped AMF frame I've thought about building though.


Well said. I tend to flip between calling them women's bikes and step-thru bikes, mostly because I never heard the term "step-thru" until after I joined the forums a few years ago.

I guess we still call them "women's bikes" here in the U.S. because that's who they were originally designed for, and who still usually ride them. They are indeed very practical, but I don't think that's why most folks buy step-thru cruisers here in the States. From what I understand, most folks over in Europe use bikes as a regular means of transportation, while here in the States, bikes are used more for exercise and recreation. It's usually the guys who are either bicycle collectors or too old to straddle a men's bike that ride step-thru bikes where I live.

But yeah, it's kind of like Rosie the Riveter's slogan, "We can do it [too]!" Why not make a klunker out of a step-thru frame?


All good points for sure!

I'm pretty sure the main reason I don't see as many step-thru klunkers is because of how the frames bend if you push them too hard. Usually I see these frames fold right where the top tube joins the seat tube. The men's frames can usually take more of a beating because they're more "triangulated" than the step-thru frames.
If you could add braces from that point on the seat tube back to the dropouts that problem would go away. Like a Mixte but the step thru would be lower where it's needed.

s-l1600.jpg
 
Yeah, as much as I like adding stuff to my bikes, sometimes minimalism is the best option. I've said it before and I'll say it again; the bike will usually tell you what it wants to be. If certain parts don't flow with the design, it'll let you know.

Will a 1" tube fit? I could've sworn the seat tubes on those old Schwinns themselves had a 1" outer diameter. Either way, that is making me wonder if I should do something similar for my Schwinn. I don't plan to ride it too hard, but maybe it'd be a good idea to do that just in case the trails I plan to ride are rougher than what that old Schwinn can take.

Thanks!
The reason I said 1" is after obtaining some ID and OD measurements. My early 80s canti frame looks to use about a 25.4mm (or 25.2mm not sure) seat post (it didn't come with one) while my Varsity takes something in the 7/8" - 13/16" variety. I feel that Schwinn produced different lines (Typhoon, Collegiate, etc) with different seat post diameters. Remember.....
Measure once, cut twice, throw it away. Repeat until bank account is empty......😅
 
If you could add braces from that point on the seat tube back to the dropouts that problem would go away. Like a Mixte but the step thru would be lower where it's needed.

View attachment 257311
Good idea, but I'm not going to go that far with this one, at least for now. I can't weld worth a darn, and I don't know if or when I'll be able to meet up with anyone I know who can anytime soon. I'm just going to keep it simple this time around.
 
IMG_0619.jpeg
Be careful with those forks, I built a klunker out of a 53 scwhinn women’s bike (we added a top tube tho) in the same color for my son. These bent fairly easily and he’s 140lbs.
 
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