Fresh Find: 1980 Cook Brothers Three Bar Cruiser

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sworley

Wore out three sets of tires already!
Color me as the type that gets a friendly tinge of jealousy when others post about their fresh find Krates, early rays and Fastbacks. Even if they paid a decent amount, they still had the opportunity to return some fresh bikes into the fold that for some reason just don't seem to exist around here.

Well, this past week I think my find of a lifetime occurred and it kind of makes all those common Schwinns look inconsequential. Here's how it unfolded: About two weeks ago I was in the bike shop downtown getting some advice on lacing up wheels and buying some bearings. While there, the owner casually mentions that a Cook Bros. might be donated to a local housing charity shop. His wife volunteers there and heard one of the other volunteers had some bikes to donate soon. I low-key flipped out inside.

So, the next few days I stalked that donation center pretty hard. I was their first customer when they opened, visited over my lunch break, biked over around closing time, left notes with the employees to call if a "men's bike" appeared, etc. This went on only about a day or two before I got a text from a friend who also works at the bike shop, he presumably learned from the owner's wife - the bike had come in already the week prior and sold within hours of being on the floor. I was crestfallen but at least I could sleep now, haha. It was a bummer I missed out but after hearing that the bike sold for good money, at least it wasn't going to be a college kid's beater on campus. At $2k it had hopefully found a loving home to someone who knew what it was.

A day or two later I couldn't give up on it. I had the long-shot idea that maybe the new owner would want to sell to me. I went in to see if they'd even consider giving me the name of another customer or if that was way out of left-field. It must've been a slow day cause all the volunteers were just hanging out around the register. They were conducive to my story and as one guy looked in his cell phone for the contact, another volunteer piped up and said "I donated that bike. It was a good bike but I think I may have short cycled the battery or something." A bit taken back, I replied that I wasn’t after an e-bike, it was my understanding that the bike donated was a Cook Bros cruiser. She laughed and said that she wouldn't have donated her Cook Bros, she was more interested in selling it outright and that she still had it.

At that point, she and I had a sidebar conversation about the bike, her history with it, and some initial talks about price. It was her pride and joy and she was willing to sell but still a bit reluctant. Unfortunately, it was getting to a point where she could no longer ride it as the top tube was too tall. She also mentioned her house needed some costly repairs. I learned she bought the bike used at Lee's Schwinn shop in Ft. Collins in 1982 cause she liked the colors. Fair enough. The bike was built by a shop employee who was always building bikes and then it was onto the next thing. Mountain bikes were in and cruisers were old-hat. In the following years, this bike would follow her to CA (where kids on the strand complimented her on the cool Cooks Bros. cruiser), TX (where the wool seat cover and handlebar bag were stolen but nothing else), WY (bike reg stickers from Cheyenne still adorn the headtube) and finally Iowa (picture from RAGBRAI below). It was fun to listen to these stories of how much the bike meant to her and the connection it had. Hell, the oldest bike I have had is about 11 years old now and we don't have these memorable stories!

So throughout the week we texted a lot and made arrangements to make a transaction. She finally sent over photos one night and I was stoked to see a very original bike and one well-lived at that. We arranged a meeting point for the next time she'd be in town and did the deal. The price was one I would call mutually beneficial. She will get her home repaired and I got a really cool bike at a price I could afford. It was a four-figure sum, undoubtedly crazy to the uninitiated (like my wife) but it always feels great helping good people. Since then we've kept in touch and I've enjoyed our conversations! I do not have any intentions to sell anytime soon, I, of course, intend to keep things original and period but change out some items to my liking, saving all the original bits. I've also enjoyed meeting all the CA Cook Bros experts who I've consulted with before and after the purchase. Thanks for reading!

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I love this picture from RAGBRAI '89!
 
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sworley

Wore out three sets of tires already!
Tear down went well today. It always makes me nervous pulling hard on the crank puller with old alloy crank arms. Thankfully the threads held!

This bike would occasionally come into the shop for service but beats me what for. Everything is dirty as hell and out of adjustment.

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cyclingday

Riding a '38 Autocycle Deluxe
I used to read about RAGBRAI in Bicycling magazine back in the 80’s, but you’ll have to refresh my memory on what the acronym stands for?
I know it’s a long distance ride in Iowa, but that’s about it.
 
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sworley

Wore out three sets of tires already!
I used to read about RAGBRAI in Bicycling magazine back in the 80’s, but you’ll have to refresh my memory on what the acronym stands for?
I know it’s a long distance ride in Iowa, but that’s about it.
It stands for the Registers Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa. Essentially a week-long party bike ride across the state of Iowa. I did my first one in 2002 at the tender age of 16. Fast times that week...
 
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cyclingday

Riding a '38 Autocycle Deluxe
Thanks, for the explanation.
We had a few similar rides like that out here in the 80’s.
They were all in Baja California, in three different lengths.
A 50 mile, Rosarita to Ensenada. 75, mile, Tecate to Ensenada. 100 mile. Mexicali to San Felipe.
They were all a race if you were anywhere near the front, and a total beer fest party if you were in the back.
Typically they would attract about 10,000 cyclists, so the party at the finish line was always a blast.
We’d make a three day weekend of it, and those were some of the best times I ever had on a bike.
My favorite of the three rides was Tecate to Ensenada.
There’s a brewery in Tecate, so the party atmosphere the night before the ride was classic 1980’s Mexico.
Then the party at Hussongs Cantina in Ensenada the night after the ride was extremely festive to say the least.
That was kind of the height of the bicycle boom, just before the Mountain Bike boom hit.
Then it was all about the Fat Tire Festivals.
But that’s another story.😎
 
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