The Roadmaster Skyrider Deluxe has all of the gee-golly bells and whistles that would make me want to work on it at home and ride it around town, and all of the attached weirdness that makes me shudder when I think of working on it at the shop. First off, it comes from the era of bicycles that looked like spaceships which automatically takes it up a notch on the coolness scale. This bike comes from the late-1960s and has all of the attendant NASA/moonlanding/Apollo mission styling going on. It also falls into the tradition of "gas tank" bikes, where the builders added a stylized gas tank to the top tube. You can put all kinds of neat things into a fake gas tank and this frame comes complete with a battery powered headlight. I'm partial to the electronic horn/buzzer that sounds like an irritated duck, but the light is pretty cool.
This bike was not totally awful. It worked fine, though it looked a little rough, and with a moderate amount of elbow grease and steel wool it could have been made to shine again. It had the creaks and squeaks that are typical of a bike that's over 50 years old, but that's to be expected. The only particularly odd thing about this frame was the tire sizing, which is pretty typical for frames from this era. The Roadmaster Skyrider Deluxe uses the Schwinn standard 26 x1-3/8 tire. This is always confusing for customers because there are multiple tire sizes that are called 26 x1-3/8 and they are most definitely different tire sizes. Speaking very generally Schwinn used tires that have an ISO diameter of 597 millimeters. Again speaking very generally Raleigh used 26 x 1-3/8 tires that have an ISO diameter of 590 millimeters. Why? Because they could, and because these two companies hated bike mechanics with a passion. The other fun part of this equation is that 26 inch mountain bike tires are not even close to the same size. Standard 26 inch mountain bike tires have an ISO diameter of 559 millimeters which means that, yes, you could stretch it to fit, but it's probably a bad idea.
If you come across this situation in your personal life, and I'm sure you will any day now, there are two tricks to remember...
- Check if the tire size is expressed as a decimal or a fraction. Tires that use decimals (ie, 26 x 1.5) are standard, modern mountain bike tires. Tire sizes that are expressed as a fraction (ie, 26 x 1-3/8) are old and weird.
- I'm a big fan of mnemonic devices. Schwinn tires were sized to fit on their "S" series rims (S-5, S-7, etc). Repeat after me: "'S' rims needs 7's", meaning of course ISO-597 tires. Raleigh used what they called E.A.3 rims which were designed for use with ISO-590 tires. Generally you'll see these on old English 3-speed town bikes, so when you see one of these beasts in the wild just put on your best bad British accent and use this acronym:
- 3 speed