Best of 2020 – Bicycle Classic: 1976 Schwinn Bicentennial Sting-Ray – It Takes An Independent Man to Ride An Independence Day Themed Child’s Bike

Although I was born in 1977, I’m occasionally nostalgic about Bicentennial America, a time that is probably more fun in retrospect than it was for those who lived it.  Regardless, I’ve written about it before, and that article and its comments affected me in ways that would come to fruition some four years later.

Brochure image courtesy of http://www.trfindley.com/pg_schwinn_cats.htm

That article’s comments turned into a list of Bicentennial-themed consumer goods, covering everything from semi trucks to Lawn Boy mowers.  I immediately set out to find the most attainable and easily stored item mentioned, the Bicentennial Schwinn Sting-Ray.  The prior summer, I had bought a ’77 Sting-Ray for only $65, a screaming deal by anyone’s standards.  I planned to flip it, but I discovered it was built nine days after I was born and I fell in love with it.  So I had Sting-Rays on the brain anyway.

Here’s my ’77 with my ’73 Speedster.  Sting-Rays from the early-’70s onward aren’t as collectible as the Krates and Fastbacks of the ’60s, but they’re still collectible.  Even considering their collectability, Bicentennial Sting-Rays are not that easy to find.  As you can see in the brochure above, 1976 Sting-Rays came in several colors, and the Bicentennial colors were only offered for one year.  Therefore, I didn’t see any at the Ann Arbor Bicycle Swap Meet for three years after I started looking.  The few I found online were prohibitively expensive, like nearly a thousand dollars, which is, in my opinion, insane.

Finally, at 2018’s Ann Arbor meet, I found one.  It was rougher than I’d like and more expensive than I’d like, but it was nowhere near a thousand dollars.  OK, I’ll tell you.  I paid $300 for it.  That’s a lot, but like I said, there aren’t that many out there and life is short.

Schwinn paint from the ’60s and ’70s is like iron, most of the time.  My original paint Schwinns mostly still look great, outside of the usual nicks here and there.  Unfortunately, the white paint Schwinn used was apparently not as tough as most of their paint jobs.  Plus, being white, it’s easy to see the paint rash from which a child’s bike will invariably suffer.  There was, however, no way I was going to repaint this bike and lose the decals, which are the reason I love the bike so much.

Therefore, I took the advice of a few members of the CABE (Classic and Antique Bicycle Exchange) and headed to my local Menards to see the good people in the paint department.  I took the chainguard with me, and within a half hour, an employee had matched the paint color in outdoor oil paint, which I proceeded to dab into the nicks using a Q-Tip.  Sure, it’s obvious if you have your nose up next to the bike, but it looks surprisingly good from a normal distance, and I have a bike I’ve wanted for a while in decent condition, which is all I ever ask for anyway.

And thus, I wish you a happy Independence Day with a short tale of a bike I didn’t really know I wanted until I wrote an article for this website.

Yeah, some people dream bigger than I do, but they don’t have a Bicentennial Sting-Ray, now do they?