Garrett Fuller

Huffy Superia

HuffyI have had horrible luck with modern bikes. My 1981 Free Spirit Pinnacle, which is mostly original, was purchased from a garage sale for $20. Besides rim problems and brakes, which are general issues encountered with ownership of an older road bike, the bike is in near-immaculate condition and runs great. However, out of all of the modern bikes I've owned - all store brands (Huffy, Roadmaster, etc.) - none have survived.

I "shelved" the Pinnacle project temporarily in 2012, after I had already wasted enough money on inner tubes. Each time I rode it, a tube would need to be replaced in the rear tire. $5 tubes add up over times, and at that time I was riding a bike almost daily. The tire required 90 PSI, and every time I inflated the tire to 90 PSI, the tire would blow off the rim. Inflating the tire to 70 PSI, which was a safe level (the pressure recommended and used by the original Golden Boy tires from 1981 was 75 PSI), also had issues. I kept getting snakebite punctures. As it turned out, the rim on my bike was a steel rim made before the hook bead was introduced. Thus, the tires kept blowing out at 90 PSI, as the high pressures blew the tire off the rim, as there was no hook for the bead to secure onto.

Later that summer, my uncle offered me his Huffy Superia mountain bike. He rarely rode the bike, and said he rode it only a couple times since buying it. They had sat in their car port for a couple years, long enough for the tires to be completely flat.

"Let's Blow It Up!" (The tires, not the bike)

The original tires on the bike were either too small or had been defective. They were extremely loose on the rim, and I could actually change the tube without any tools as I could fit my hand up inside of the tire and unmount it.

The next day was adventorous. We took the bike down to my grandfathers basement, where he pulled out his air compressor. I've always been hesitant to stick around when he inflates a tire with the air compressor, including bigger tires like lawn mower and the tires on his hand truck. This came from the fact that he blew up a tire on a kid's bike tire when I was only 5 years old. While I was too young to remember the exact details, I later found the tire casing that he blew the tube out of. It had a large hole in it, which revealed that he may have simply put too much air in and the tube burst through the hole. Anyways, it isn't recommended to inflate ANY bike tire, let alone a 16" bike tire, with an air compressor. He smelled like talcum powder for the rest of the day, and I had a ringing in my ear for that weekend.

That day, though, I trusted him. He had previously inflated the tires on my 1981 Free Spirit Pinnacle with no problem, but they required 70 PSI, so overinflation wasn't as much of an immediate threat. I tried inflating the tire on the mountain bike with a traditional tire pump he had sitting in his basement. This tire pump was actually one made without a ball valve, and therefore made pumping up difficult. Since the chuck screwed onto the valve, almost all the air was lost before you could successfully unscrew the chuck from the valve stem. How nice.

Finally, I let him use his air compressor. I was hesitant at first, knowing that the air compressor wasn't the tool of choice, especially for a tire that was loose on the rim. He first inflated the front tire successfully.

Then came the rear tire. I stood outside for him inflating both, just in case. I went back in once he finished inflating the tire. I noticed that the one side of the bead of the tire was sitting on the rim, which meant that it would need to be deflated and reinflated before I could ride it. The tire was extremely rock hard. Then I saw it. Almost any bicyclist's nightmare - the big bulging black snake of doom. The other side of the bead had come clean off the rim, allowing the tube to bulge out. I screamed "Let the air out!" at him before running up a hill and to the sidewalk to seek refuge from the loud noise that would soon happen. Then, after about two or three seconds of waiting once reaching the top of the hill, I heard a loud "BANG!" I then ran back down to see if everything was okay.

At that moment, I knew what went wrong. He had EXTREMELY overinflated the tire. The tire was rated for 50 PSI maximum, and I still guess to this day that he had a solid 90 PSI in that tire. I'm surprised it didn't burst any sooner. We drove to Walmart, and picked up a Hutchison tube for it. We installed it and inflated it much more carefully. He still had the ruined tube, a light-duty Kenda tube, in his basement until I threw it away around six months ago.

The Hutchison tube worked fine at first. However, I noticed there was one problem with the Hutchison tubes. While the Hutchison tubes were of fairly high quality when compared to the CST (Cheng Shin Rubber, marketed usually under the "Bell" brand) tubes. The Hutchison tubes had a uniform sidewall thickness, and they typically featured a mounting guide (a uniform white or blue line running down a side of the tube, to let you know that it was installed straight.) However, the issue which showed up with the Hutchison tubes is that their valve stems were usually a weak area. The valve stems would break off extremely easily, even when ran at the proper pressures.

I also experimented with Bell tubes, but found they had their issues. I used Hutchison tubes for the most part. I also had replaced both tires, one which had developed a hole in the casing, and the other which had its bead destroyed during my "experimentation" (overinflation), with Bell Kevlar tires. The Bell tire casings were of good quality, and lasted up until I scrapped the bike.

The bike eventually started having gear issues. The gears would often skip, and the second gear never worked properly. I had to skip 2nd gear and do to either 1st or 3rd gear. The right pedal fell apart, soon a single plastic piece, then the whole pedal fell apart. I typically rode the bike without a pedal, which often had disastorous results on the soles of my shoes, and often hurt over time. I started riding the bike much less.

In the summer of 2015, I found a suitable replacement for the original pedals. However, installing the pedals was a tremoundous pain. They would not fit, and the instructions were written poorly. We finally, after a few hours, got them on.

However, the pedals did not last long. This time, it took the entire right pedal assembly - including the crankarm assembly, broke loose. A neighbor who knows plenty about bicycles told me that it was an issue that wasn't worth investing in to fix.

He let me borrow his mountain bike for some time before he was able to fix the rear tire on the 1981 Free Spirit Pinnacle. Soon after, the Huffy Superia was parted out, as I salvaged any usable parts I could fix. Sadly, due to the cheap nature of many of the parts, I was only limited to the rims, and the new tires and tubes I had placed on it. The seat was also salvaged and placed onto the Free Spirit Pinnacle. The rest was sat out by the curb and scrapped.

I sold one of the rim/tire/tube assemblies for around $10, but later found from the buyer that the rim was warped, something I did not know prior as it seemed fairly straight. I still have the rear rim/tire/tube assembly, which I had replaced the tube on a couple months before parting the bike out. I may scrap the rim, as it is probably warped as well, and try to sell or give the tire and tube away. The tire, a Bell Kevlar tire, has around 80% of the original tread left, and is in good condition. The tube, which is a Continental (turned out to be an overglorified, rebranded CST tube in desguise) tube with a threaded Schrader valve, still holds air well. Since both are in good condition, I'd rather find someone who can use them rather than throw them away. At the very least I will keep the tube and find a use for it without ruining it, and keep the tire. Who knows? Maybe it'll come in handy some day.

That was the end of the Huffy Mountain Bike. Sadly, the uncle who gave it to me passed away about a year after giving me the bike, due to heart problems. He is, to this day, missed by me. He was a Vietnam veteran, and an awesome uncle with a huge heart of gold.


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