Restoring A Vintage Schwinn Airdyne Exercise Bike

Every one of us had a Grandma with an old exercise bike sitting in the corner of her sewing room. If your Grandma was like my grandma, you never were allowed on it, but you’d still try to mess with it when she wasn’t looking.

Now, as the years catch up with you, you are wondering where you can find a cheap, well-built exercise bike and you start checking craigslist. Sure enough, there is one of those tanks available for $40. It’s as strong and sturdy as the day Grandma had it (turned out they liked to buy exercise equipment that they never use — just like us!)

We also see a resurgence of popularity for these machines among the Crossfit community. Unlike your standard spin bike, these also offer an upper body workout through the handles.

The neat thing about these machines is that they are chain driven and made from mostly metal parts. You can often find replacement parts online, so even if something happens to wear out, you can replace it. However, the all-metal construction makes them durable against decades of abuse.

These are going to be noisy machines. Not that you care, you are here to do battle with the flesh and its desire for donuts. But the wind resistance from the blade means that you won’t be able to hear your thoughts. So you might have to take up a meditative practice as well.

These older machines were built under the Schwinn name before they went bankrupt and sold their brand to the lowest bidder (who then, resold it, I believe). Schwinn stuff tended to weigh more since they were going for durability and longevity at a low price. The good news is, it’ll hold its own in a tornado and if you put one on each corner, it could probably secure a single-wide mobile home.

If you get one, the first thing you want to do is take it apart and check the chain. It could probably use a good degreasing and a light regreasing with some lightweight sewing machine type oil.

The cables that control the tension often get cracked and corroded and can be replaced for about $2 a foot if you measure how much you need and stop by your local bike shop. Pay attention tot he “knob” shape on the end of the cable as that matters when replacing it.

The downside is that it may be impossible to replace the speedometer system. So, if that goes, you probably will just want to strip it off. That doesn’t change the workout quality of the bike — you can always wear a stopwatch — but it does interfere with your ability to track workout distance.

While these older Airdynes look much like the newer ones, I believe that you are purchasing a better quality bike than you can get today (unless you spend close to $1,000).

So next time you are at a garage sale, don’t turn up your nose at the vintage gold color. Dust that suckers off and drags it to your home gym!

The key thing is to not over lube the chain. Use some WD-40 or brake cleaner and a toothbrush to get all of the old grease off, and then use a wax-based lube to relube it (after thoroughly drying off the old cleaning solution.




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