Simpson Sears, or Sears, Eatons, Canadian Tire and a host of other, country and even area specific, department store Velo offerings, appeared over the years.  In both Canada and the USA Simpson Sears was a common name, with millions of consumers flocking to the stores year after year after year.

Most department store bikes, painted and decaled differently, started out as Raleighs, or Motobecanes, or Peugeots, or Chiordas, or Torpados, or.., only to be released bearing the name of some department store chain or other.  This lovely old Austrian made Sears Five Speed roadster is one such bicycle and, apparently, has no name attached to it other than Sears.

Needless to say, the quality of the bicycle is questionable, at least.  Do not look for smoothly and thinly filed lug work.  Forged drops, cleanly blended into chain and seat stays - not a chance.  Pay no attention to the tubing decal, because the is none.  Do not think that any entry level department store offering, be it five or ten speed, will be light and fast and competitive.

But do prepare yourself for a bicycle, reeking of vintage appeal, that will offer a nice enough ride and present a durable foundation intended to outlast the life of the bicycle. Can't say that about many department store bicycles offered in present day America or Canada or Japan, for that matter.

Finding the Austrian Sears was about as easy as saying how much?  The bicycle was donated, to the Bicycles for Humanity- Thunder Bay endeavour, and paid for with volunteer hours by one of the B4H volunteers, through the Earn A Bike Program hosted by the organization.

Though of roadster design, the Sears Austria could well pass for a Ten Speed, even though it sports only five gear choices.  Why Ten Speed,?  Simple - it has the looks of a Ten Speed, even though it sports only five gears and an absence of drop bars.

The frame is set-up for 27" wheels, used primarily on the older road bikes which had earned the generic name, Ten Speed.  Best guess would suggest that an identical frame set could easily be fitted with front and rear derailleurs couple with a set of drop bars, instantly turning the old bike into a pseudo racing model.

Because the term "Ten Speed" is generic in nature.  It describes most of those external derailleur fitted road bicycles, made available during the late sixties and early seventies.  The light overall weight and ten gear choices, were the features most commonly found on the Ten Speed bike. The words ten speed were repeated so often that people began calling the bicycles Ten Speeds and the name has stuck even into today's bicycle world.

The Sears roadster features the five gear choices supplied through an external derailleur.  The stem mounted single shift lever is easy to operate though not as user friendly as it could be.  None the less, the Simplex transmission was no more difficult to use than its competitors of the day.

A number of features suggest that the bicycle might be extremely similar to the Italian Chiorda.  The reflectors on the fork set, the bottom bracket design and just the quality of workmanship suggests this to be a possibility.  The question might take years to answer, and perhaps one will never know exactly who built the frame set.  But one thing is for sure - it is entry level at the very best.

Of course, one needs some form of power transmission, and the steel single ring, fitted to cottered cranks set, does that job more than adequately.  The medium wide range five speed cog set completes the power transmission requirements.  Five gears and reasonably wide range makes going reasonably easy.  However, going in not nearly as important as stopping!

Front and back, the Sears is fitted with a lovely little used set of Aultenberger Synchron brake callipers.  The callipers are activated with simple roadster style brake levers.  Though the antiquated side pull brakes worked well enough, their stopping ability was improved/compromised with the patterned braking surfaces on the chrome plated steel wheel rims.  Every time the brakes are applied, an annoying buzz is created.  Hardly a feature designed to endear the rider to the bike.

The wheels, as mentioned, are 27" units with chrome plated steel hoops featuring the also referred to patterned brake surfaces.  The hubs, three piece steel units also and of low flange design are laced to the rims with cadmium plated spokes, all of which were still in pretty decent condition and not yet frozen to there partnered nipples.  And easy to true vintage wheel set, if there ever was one.

The handlebar grips, hard plastic items, add to the antiquated appearance of the bicycle but do little to help with grip or comfort.  None the less, they are indeed vintage, add to the vintage nature of the bicycle and look pretty good doing it.

The handlebars set is quite unusual for a bike like the Sears roadster.  The bars are very wide, offering far more leverage than one would need to comfortably control the bicycle.  The bars would be better suited on the dramatically heavier and larger 28" wheeled roadsters from the fifties and earlier.

Those unnecessarily wide bars, coupled with the very short reach steering stem, caused the bike to have a twitchy feel.  Additionally, the bars, if mounted to low, had a tendency to interfere with one's knees while pedaling.

The saddle, as one might expect for the time period and style of the bicycle, was the ubiquitous mattress design and not necessarily of the best possible quality.  Two toned, a common cosmetic ploy, plastic covered and poorly made are about the fairest descriptions possible.  As for comfort...

On short hops, the saddle will do nicely.  Short hops being from here to there around town trips to pick up this or that.  For a long ride, the power robbing, plastic and steel component would prove to be less that the perfect place to place one's butt.  Additionally, the spring mounted butt perch would tend to rob pedal power with every revolution of the crank set.

The springs in the saddle actually do offer some rider comfort, taking just the tiniest bit of bump out of the road.  The springs will almost disguise the feel of riding over a crack in the side walk, and little more.  However, with every pedal stroke, the seat and the rider go up, displacing some of the force applied to the pedal.  The result - lost power!

 A steel pipe and saddle clamp make up the saddle support system.  The seat post lug, unlike most bicycles of the Sear's day, did not sport a seat post clamp opportunity.  Rather, the clamp proved to be an add on thing, similar to some Italian machines of the day but miserably less sophisticated.  And, it worked just about as poorly as all of the other steel post, saddle clamp assemblies available at the time.

In other words, the assembly is difficult to assemble, adjust and keep in adjustment.  The clamp tends to allow the saddle to swivel on the post and even tip forward or backward, from time to time.  Not exactly confidence inspiring.

So, that about sums up the quality, nature and feel of this nice enough old bicycle from Austria.  Never intended to be cutting edge state of the art anything, the bicycle without a name targeted the average person who just wanted to get around, or pretend to.