One of the most frequent questions I get regarding the 1981 Free Spirit Pinnacle is: “why not just buy a new bike?” Some have asked and criticized why keep such an old, “low-end” bike.
I thought I’d tackle that question here and let people refer to it.
The 1981 Free Spirit Pinnacle currently needs some work before it can be restored to road-worthy use. The main issue is the brakes. I tackled (or tried to) this problem in my last update on the Pinnacle project, but I purchased the wrong brakes. Turns out that the brake assemblies are both out of adjustment, so I am going to need to take the bike to a local bike shop to get it re-adjusted.
The second problem is tires. This bike uses the dreaded “steel rims” that lack the hook bead that is common on modern rims. Modern tires almost always take advantage of the hook bead by securing itself into the hook when the tire is inflated. This allows the tire to be inflated to higher pressures. The sad thing is that without the hook, the tire will eventually break loose from the rim, causing a blowout. I ruined many tubes before I discovered this fact, and it is still a problem today. The tires I bought in the last update stated specifically that they were not for use with rims lacking the hook – although I’m not sure if running at lower pressures will harm it or not. The new tire produced a strange and ominous gap between the tire bead and rim – even when inflated to 20 PSI – that persuaded me to stop.
With the problem with brakes and a rim that is no longer supported by modern tires, why even bother? There are many bikes out there for fairly cheap – some as low as $70 – and they don’t have the problems.
1. Build Quality
The Free Spirit Pinnacle was originally sold in Sears-Roebuck stores back in the 1970s and 1980s. According to my research, Huffy made the bike for Sears.
While this bike was originally sold by a department store, compared to many bikes sold today at Wal-Mart and other department stores this thing is built like a tank. Unlike modern bikes, it has a steel frame – no aluminum frames. Most parts on this bike were built to last.
You’d be hard pressed to find a modern bike at a department store (or even a sub-$500 bike at a bike shop or online) that will last 40 years with regular use.
2. Repair or Replace? Cost…
Whenever something has issues, you ask yourself “is it cheaper to repair or replace the item?” You take many things into consideration, from the age to the overall condition to how much a replacement would cost.
In the case of the Pinnacle, most of the mechanical parts are in excellent shape. The frame is, too. In the grand scheme of things, the things that have been replaced on this bike are minor things (tires, inner tubes, brakes, etc.)
A new decent bike will set you back at least $500, but you can spend well over $1000. It’s just cheaper to replace the $25 or $50 parts on the Pinnacle. When taking this into consideration, many newer bikes are made using cheaper components that are prone to failure, as well as made overall cheaper.
While another vintage road bike would be suitable, why go through the hassle of finding a replacement if unnecessary?
3. The Personal “Attachment”
While just a bike, any object can develop a personal “attachment” to its owner. For many this can be their first car, our first computer, and so on.
The Pinnacle was my first bike after moving into town. It was how I got from place to place. I rode the Pinnacle to friends houses, around town, and even (although on rare circumstances) to and from school.
The bike was decommissioned in 2012 after I had near-continuous problems with the tires (due to the lack of a hook bead on the rims.) At that time I had a modern Huffy mountain bike that got me from point A to point B, but the Huffy mountain bike didn’t last long. It, too, suffered from issue after issue. The pedals starting to go, then slowly the gear shifter, and so on. In 2015 the Huffy was recycled – leaving the Pinnacle as my sole bike again.
4. The “Cool Factor”
While not a major deal breaker/maker either, I thought I’d mention the “coolness” of owning an older road bike.
Much like owning an older car or computer, there is sort of a mystique of owning an older item that has survived all of these years through widespread use.
While most are riding new bikes with nice, sleek paint – it would be cool and different to ride around on a road bike painted a beautiful electric blue paint with chrome accents (something a lot of modern bikes lack) and gum-wall tires.