Almost 10 years ago, I began collecting antique bicycles. It made no sense that I rode around on a modern Huffy when most of my cars were built during the Johnson administration. As is my usual MO, I’ve taken things a bit far, and now my collection usually numbers about a dozen, give or take. Selling a few dust collectors this summer has freed up some space for new favorites, one of which I picked up at the Ann Arbor Bicycle Swap Meet this past spring.
Photo courtesy of www.trfindley.com
“Lightweight” Schwinns and Raleighs are my two-wheeled weak spots: I love them, especially in green. I already have a green ’71 Racer and a green ’72 Raleigh Sports (which is my perfect bicycle), so my different-to-me Speedster stood out, even though Schwinn also produced them in Campus Green.
Notice that Schwinn offered Speedsters in four frame sizes, ranging from 17″ (measured from the bottom bracket to the bottom of the seat post) to 24″. My Speedster is a 24″, which is pretty uncommon. Luckily, at six feet tall, I’m just big enough to ride it, although I’d prefer a 22″.
Another curious thing about my Speedster is that it has a single-speed Bendix hub. Most of my lightweights rock the Sturmey-Archer AW three-speed hub (or the neat coaster-brake Sachs hub on my Austrian Sears). So we have an original owner who was tall and lived on flat ground. If the dealer sticker on the frame is correct, it was sold in Livonia, MI, which is as flat as a board to my knowledge.
My bicycle addiction has escalated to the point where even my exercise bike is a ’68 Schwinn Exerciser. Next year, I’ll try to sell another bike or two when I go down to Ann Arbor, but the scary thing is that I may come home with one or two more.
My first bike (around 1964) was a late ’50s Raleigh 24″ girls model three-speed. At that time I was smart, not cool, so the girl’s frame didn’t bother me. Easier to get on. Everything about that bike was JUST RIGHT. My legs and feet still remember the ideal gear ratios, the neat feel of preselecting an upshift, and the slow click of the overdrive third.
Later in hippie times I got stupid and cool, and bought a couple of expensive 10-speed Peugeots. Bad bikes. None of the gear ratios were right, the shifters and brakes were ergonomically wrong, and riding hunched over was hard on the bones and muscles. But it was cooooooool.
Takes me back…
Dad bought me a Schwinn Speedster around 1973. Burgundy 3-speed and I think it had a coaster brake.
There weren’t any Schwinn dealers near our little town, so we had to drive a ways to get it. I’m thinking Akron or New Philadelphia Ohio. After the purchase, it fit into the trunk of his ’69 Impala Custom with room to spare!
Thanks for the memories, Aaron!
I want an Apple Krate in the worst way
I remember my old CCM bicycle with the banana seat like this one at http://www.vintageccm.com/content/new-guy-need-help-ccm-mustang except for the color, I had a blue one.
Ah, CCM’s :). It seemed like they were the only bike brand in Canada in the 1950’s. I had 2 growing up (the first one had trainer wheels) before I graduated to a Raleigh 3-speed, and then to a series of French & German 10 speeds (Mercier, Schauff, Peugeot).
But that first bike that gives you the freedom to expand and explore your world is never forgotten.
I still have my ’75 Atala 10 spd! 🙂
Sweet. I have three bicycles, one a Trek mountain bike but the other two both Schwinn Collegiates. One is a 1980s Taiwan Schwinn, blue, with a 3-speed hub. The other was given to me by none other then JPCavanaugh, an early-70s 5-speed Collegiate in brown.
I paid to have them both mechanically restored. Cosmetically, all I did to them was clean them up really well. So they look like old bikes but ride like new. They’re both great fun to ride. And unlike the Trek, I can sit in the cushy, spring-loaded saddles all day. That Trek’s hard seat is awful.
Here’s the 80s Collegiate, before its restoration. It rocks all-black tires now — gumwalls are apparently very hard to come by. I don’t have a photo of the other bike.
The brown Collegiate must look nice too…I just sold a Sky Blue late-’68 Collegiate. I prefer the enclosed hub stuff over derailleurs.
Here’s a picture of it on the day I sold it…
Mmmmmm, chrome fenders.
I’ve been a 3-speed rider most of my life, but when JPC gave me a chance at his 5-speed Collegiate I didn’t hesitate. 3-speeds are pretty reliable, but when they do go bad they are murder to fix. Derailleurs seem to break more often, but I can fix them by the roadside and keep going.
Those two extra gears are nice to have.
Wow, that’s the spitting image of my second bike, which I inherited from an older brother when he got a motorcycle. It was much too big for me at age 10, as I could not straddle the cross bar. Mounting and dismounting was an adventure, but I rode it anyway, because it made me the only kid in my grade with a five-speed. Sadly, a jealous kid in my class stole it and threw it off a bridge, and I went back to my less glamorous single-speed Schwinn.
I had the same identical bike! It was my last one, It was either just before or just after my 14th birthday, I traded a candy apple red 3 speed Speedster for it at the bike shop near our house. I had a lot of trouble with the derailleur popping chains off. The repair guy at the bike shop replaced the whole back wheel assembly, and it solved the problems and it was trouble free until I sold it after I started driving to a friend’s little brother, so was barely able to ride it at that point.
I have this same bike. Love it! Mine has baskets on the back and is great for hauling stuff around town, though it’s a bit heavy.
Are there people in North America, say in and around towns and in the more urban areas, who actually use bicyles on a daily base ? For distances between 0 and circa 5 miles. To go to school or work, to visit relatives and friends, to bring their children to school, to get some groceries etc.
These bicycles all look like typical fun-weekend-bikes to me. Light-weight and fragile. And no “cargo-rack” above the rear wheel. To haul stuff. Or your girl friend.
Or am I speaking from another planet to you and should I have my mental condition examined ASAP ?
I live in Michigan, the one-time (and to some extent, still) auto capital of North America, so you aren’t going to see many bicycle commuters here.
Still, I would ride mine to work if I worked closer to home.
My parents recently visited Amsterdam, and I can tell you that there is no place in America like that as far as bicycling is concerned. 🙂
Yes. Amsterdam has probably more bicycles than inhabitants….
I live in a more rural area. Still, for short distances you take the bike, not the car. At highschool I had classmates who travelled about 10 miles (single distance) from home to school and back by bike; every day, every season. These boys and girls had an excellent physical condition, I can tell you that !
Cyclists often have their own “freeway”, both in urban and rural areas. Like you can see here; the pavement is mostly red:
Almost everyone in your pic is wearing dark-colored clothing. Is this true of Europe as a whole? Here in the US you’ll see polyester or other synthetic jackets and coats in all sorts of garish, unnatural colors.
Typical autumn~winter coats. Plastic / PVC rain suits come in more psychedelic colors. Very bright yellow, blue or green. Standard equipment if you ride a bicycle on a daily base.
Johannes, I find your picture very interesting and completely outside my experience. To an extent I will echo Jim Grey, but will give some perspective from a different state.
There are a limited number of bike facilities around, but nothing as nice as what you have pictured. There is a university town of just over 100,000 about 35 miles north of me. The bike lanes there are not physically separated from automobile traffic as is shown in your picture. Rather, it is an area on the far right that has been striped for bicycles. The challenge is there are areas where a right turn lane exists at signalized intersections; the bike lane continues straight. Thus, the bicyclist needs to compete for the space with an automobile.
Bicycles are allowed on the roadway but there are many locations that just seem to be suicidal. A couple of years ago I was stopped at a signal and needed to turn right just beyond the intersection. There was a bicyclist hanging out just behind the right rear of my vehicle. Despite signaling my intent to turn, he continued to go straight. Had I not seen him there, he could have easily been hit by 5,500 pounds of vehicle. The question I have always had about that situation is who had the right-of-way.
Taking the bicycle question a bit further, there are many locations around my state where pedestrian facilities don’t even exist – but the number is dwindling. There was a major project here in the state capital less than two years ago to build sidewalks along the main business corridor here. Previously, anyone walking had to walk in the driving lane. Our infrastructure simply wasn’t designed for bicycles or pedestrians and we are having to retrofit them. Some locations it simply isn’t feasible or conducive for a retrofit.
Yes, we tend to drive most places. My drive to work is six miles, with five of it being on a four-lane highway with a 65 mph speed limit. I’m not about to ride a bicycle in such conditions! 🙂
Jason, here’s an example of a bicycle path in a rural area. The path is not always completely separated from the cars (in the picture below it clearly is). And on narrow back roads there’s no bicycle path at all. You’ll have to find your own (safe) way between the cars, trucks and farm equipment.
Johannes, you reminded me of something I meant to mention in my last reply. There is a state park just north of here. It has the distinction of being about 60′ wide and 265 miles long. It’s an old railroad bed that goes almost the width of the state.
Here’s a link to information. It’s the best biking facility around, although biking facilities vary widely by location around the U.S.
I’m in Indiana, and bicycle commuting is considered “alternative” here.
I worked with a fellow who did it, rain/snow/shine, but he was able to ride 80% of the way to work on an old rail bed converted to a trail — out of traffic.
I would consider riding to work if the way were more bike-friendly. In Indianapolis, where I live, the current mayor made a serious push toward bike friendliness. There are dedicated bike lanes on a number of streets now, and they connect to various city parks. It’s really great.
But I work in an industrial area not reached by bike lanes. Riding to work would be too dangerous.
There are a couple guys I see biking to and from work (rural/industrial area north of Peoria IL). One has a recumbent, and both are lit up like Christmas trees (for better visibility to the grain truck and combine drivers).
Johannes is right about how these bikes were typically used. However, the frames on these “Chicago Schwinns” were pretty rugged: http://sheldonbrown.com/chicago-schwinns.html. Most took a world of misuse and abuse from their young owners. I took a bike/barge tour in the Netherlands last summer. The Batavus bike I was assigned reminded me a lot of the old Schwinns and 3-speed “English racers” in that it had way more heft than the commuter hybrid bike with fenders and racks I ride around the neighborhood. Nothing “racer” about it.
Sheldon Brown was really a treasure trove of info…I used his website to learn how to lace my own wheels.
Yes. Sheldon was one of my heros the way Paul is. One of my plans for retirement is getting Jobst Brandt’s book and a truing stand and learning finally to lace a wheel.
I just used my bike frame as a makeshift truing stand (since I don’t lace wheels regularly). I fitted the bare wheel to the bike frame and spun it to check…
E-bikes have become very popular now. They look like a standard bicycle, yet they have an additional battery-support. Initially very popular among the elderly, now younger people are also buying them more and more. Below an example, the battery is right above the rear wheel. Plus a cargo-rack, of course !
My dad (72 years, a retired truck driver) got himself a brand new one recently. He doesn’t give a damn about new cars. Instead he’s reading brochures and websites with the latest E-bike models.
My older brother and my Dad had Schwinn 10-speeds in the late 60’s – early 70’s. Very stout, to say the least. The other neighborhood Schwinns, Murrays, etc., suffered major amount of abuse as they were passed down through numerous children and kept on ticking. My hand-me-down was a Raleigh Hercules 3-speed that, by the time I got it, was missing its fenders. By then, fenders were considered unmanly. A wet or muddy stripe up one’s back was a badge of honor although our mothers didn’t see it that way.
My city is built along a lake and has a nice lakeside bike path whose biggest general problem for “working” traffic is that literally the entire city center is uphill from it.
One specific problem is that the largest of several beaches is along the path, and just inland of that is the high school, but they lock the beach gates (and thus bikepath access) from Columbus Day to sometime in the spring, blocking not only the high school kids but the only access point between the bikepath and the main road on a 3-mile stretch. (But you can still get to the *beach* via bikepath!)
Johannes, there are many places in the US where cycling is an accepted and encouraged means of travel. I live in Seattle, where we have an active — very active! — bicycling population. We have trails, bike lanes, roads marked for bike safety, and so on. I ride my bicycles just about everywhere here, as do many others. Even in the rainy and cold winter — we know how to stay dry and warm. (I don’t even own a car, although I love the old iron!)
Seattle isn’t the only US locale that loves bikes. Portland, Oregon is another bike-crazy city. Places like New York City and Los Angeles are trying to encourage bicycle use. The League of American Bicyclists (http://bikeleague.org) has a lot of information on these changes across the country.
Eugene is a biking mecca. We have lots of folks who only use bikes and have no cars. There are dedicated bike lanes all along the river on both sides, and others too. And there are bike lanes on all the arterials and many residential streets. Some streets are designated “bikeways” which means cars tend to avoid them, and bikes use them heavily, which makes them safer.
I very good friend of ours just got out of the hospital, and is recovering from a nasty hit by a car. She was using a very busy arterial at night, one I had told her not to use just three days earlier. She had lights on, reflective jacket, etc. A car made a left turn into a business, and just nailed her. Full recovery may take months. One does need to ride defensively, but accidents are common enough.
I ride my bike whenever I need to get into downtown, since it’s so close and I don’t need to think about parking. And we have a tandem that we use for recreational biking.
I rode my bike to and from TC3 in the warmer and drier months which saved me a decent bit of money.
Portland, OR is one such place and I think about 6% of daily commuters use Bikes. Parking downtown is tricky and/or pricey so that is another influential factor. I have only biked to two of my temp job locations in the last year since all of the other temp jobs were too far away, too physically taxing, and/or had too much of an elevation change so I drove to those. I might bike to college in Vancouver one of these days, but I am usually a fair weather biker especially since I have a Mountain Bike with no fenders.
The vast majority of towns and cities in the US do not see bike usage like the Netherlands. If it’s beyond one block away, most people will drive. That is probably part of the reason why 1/3 of the population is obese. The landscape and weather is a bit more of a challenge than Holland’s.
Another reason is because Holland has towns hundreds and hundreds of years old. A lot of the American West was settled in part due to the railroad; next, the car.
It’s hard to compare the US to NL because NL is about the size of New Jersey, one of our smallest states.
Yanns, yes, on a global scale we’re like a tiny postage stamp on a very big envelope…but 0-5 miles is the same distance wherever you go.
But of course you’re right about the more extreme weather conditions. The cyclist’s biggest (and constant) challenge here is a strong headwind or storm combined with rain. Certainly on the perfectly flat land with zero wind-protection.
That’s why the boys and girls I mentioned (my highschool classmates who came from far) had the lungs of a -very healthy- Friesian Horse. They always won the Cooper tests.
So true, way too fragile for daily use. Even a crate of beer would kill it, let alone a girl. Still, the looks of it are elegant, sort of. Are there any bikes fit for daily duty being sold in the US at all?
Carolus, there certainly are! Not only do we have access to Dutch-style bikes, there are a number of makers who focus on practical stuff. Surly makes very practical frames in a variety of styles, and we also can buy “Xtracycles,” which are bikes with long rear triangles that can be used with long panniers or even seats for a couple kids. And we have plenty of options for bakfiets.
Take a look at G&O Cyclery here to see what options we have in Seattle. This is just ONE of our suppliers for working bikes: http://familycyclery.com/products/
As for racks and fenders and so on, our custom is to buy the bike we like and then add our choice of fenders, racks, and bags from other suppliers. Again, we have a huge choice for how to set our bikes up for our needs. My personal “work bike” is a randonneur style that has been set up with sturdy racks front and rear, which carry Ortlieb panniers. If those aren’t enough, I also have a Burley Travoy trailer for carrying the big stuff.
Nothing fragile about our bike choices!
@ Karel de Grote, right !
The only time i can use a bike to commute to work is when work has a shower because i tend to sweat up regardless of season. Melbourne is moving towards dedicated bike paths but a point to point bike commute during peak hour can still be quite dangerous.
A blonde, a bike and beer-“alternative” transportation looks pretty good now!
By the way, her bike is called an “Omafiets”, a Granny bike. That type of bike is especially popular among girls and young women (so far the logic). The color is mostly pitch-black.
I don’t know who Karel is, but can you explain the difference between “Groot” and “Grote”? Are the Dutch changing their spellings to match a more English pronunciation? Also, what’s the difference between Jan and Johannes? In de Bijbel it’s Johannes but my relatives are all Jan..??? Hope to hear more.
@ Yanns: Karel de Grote = Charles the Great = Carolus Magnus.
(the latter is the Latin name)
“groot” means big, “de grote” in this case means the big one (he who is big, great). And then you also have “de grootte”, which means the size, or quantity.
De auto is groot = the car is big
De grote auto = the big car
De grootte van de auto = the size of the car
Jan, Johan and Johannes are all related. Jan and Johan are mostly used as first names. Johannes is the Christian or given name. They basically all mean John.
Well, so far some Dutch for starters. Learning the Dutch language is a very hard nut to crack. Basically because there are a lot of exceptions to the rule.
I know even less about the Dutch language than I thought. I’m not going to try to learn any or my inner Frisian temperament might be released. 🙂 —a proud Zeeuw 😀
Oh yes, I forgot. “De grote” and “de grootte” are pronounced exactly the same. Kind regards from Gelderland.
Those Chicago made steel framed Schwinns like that Speedster were anything but light. On the other hand, that meant they were also anything but fragile. A bike like that Speedster will survive the apocalypse.
Very cool Aaron, I too have a weakness for old bikes although I have not indulged it yet.
I had been planning to take over my Dad’s 1959 Raleigh Superbe when he quit cycling, but one day I was over and asked “Hey Dad, where’s your bike”
“Oh, I didn’t ride it much any more so I put it in the scrap metal bin”
Did he have any idea how much old Raleighs go for these days? I paid $165 for mine, and it’s a run-of-the-mill ’70s Sports.
That must have made you sick!
I found an early 60s Rudge women’s bike that was sitting out front with the garbage awaiting a pickup, back in the mid 80s. I rebuilt it, including the Sturmey-Archer hub, which was no joke. Kept it around for a few decades, but it never got any use, so I sold it a couple of years ago, for $300.
You rebuilt a 3-speed hub?! You have just earned my deep, undying respect.
Another one that’s baffling inside is the Bendix Kickback Automatic! Whoever came up with that whole scheme was an evil genius! I didn’t know they could fit so many parts inside a hub.
Thanks; where were you at the time? 🙂
It was the closest thing to brain surgery I’ve ever tried. Frankly, it didn’t really need it either, but I was determined to “rebuild” the whole bike. I almost gave up once. I was pleasantly surprised when it actually worked, as well as it did before taking it apart. Never again….
And these days you can get a 14-speed hub! I really wonder how those things are designed, but not enough to take one apart!
Sheesh, I rebuilt those hubs when I was 10 yrs old. Along with all the neighbors (and there wasn’t many at the time) lawn mower engines.
Back in the 70s going to college in Sacramento Ca. a fairly flat area and not having much money I used “10 speeds” as my daily driver for over a year. 12 miles one way to my part-time job and 12 miles back from American river jr college rain or shine, To get the best ride I bought an expensive Peugeot semi-racer with single ply tires, which I was always patching, the grass stickers would pop those tires. Although it was light and a revelation to ride after heavy American bikes, it was forever breaking down (like the Peugeot cars I hear about here) and had to go the shop ever couple of weeks for a tune-up of the derailleur. After it got taken from my back porch I bought a used Huffy for $15 with 4 ply tires and a frame like that of a pick-up. Though it was heavy I never had a flat (it was impervious to thorns) and never had to adjust the derailleur. It also had a luggage rack over the back tire and fenders front and rear; no more packing my books on my back or getting drenched in the rain. It was built like a mountain bike before they called them mountain bikes. I had that old Huffy for many years and would still like one today, but after I got a better job and bought a cheap car it was like being emancipated; would never want to go back to riding in the rain on a cold night up hill to get home.
” . . . would never want to go back to riding in the rain on a cold night up hill to get home.”
Here in Seattle we like to say “If you don’t ride in the rain, you don’t ride.” 🙂 Back in the 70s we used wool (which was warm until it got wet) and rubber-coated gear (which kept you dry until you drenched yourself in your own perspiration). These days it’s much more pleasant to ride in our cold wet winters because we now have all sorts of warm, breathable, water-repellent garments available.
So true. The advent of fleece, GoreTex, and other technical fabrics, combined with better ventilation design, has made cycling in all weathers so much easier. Ecco make a line of leather, GoreTex lined shoes, one pair of which I’ve had for 10 years now and they never leak, even in slush! Amazing.
I’ll admit to actually enjoying riding in a light rain in the city. It has a peaceful, Zen quality to it, especially in a quiet neighbourhood.
I once had a green Schwinn five speed. Rode it from the Atlantic (Colon), over the continental divide (summit) to the Pacific (Balboa). Did that in one day and doubt if I could do it now and 55 miles in one day is pretty far. That was good for free beer several times. It was stolen from my apartment in Virginia. I’ve had a couple since but haven’t seen any five speeds for a long time.
Having pretty short legs I’m sure I bought a short one but don’t really remember having a choice. That was a pretty neat bike. Does anyone make a five speed?
There is nothing lightweight or fragile about these Chicago-built Schwinns. I had a green early-70s Varsity 10-speed from new well into the late 80s (it replaced a gold Schwinn Sting Ray). I can’t even tell you how many miles I put on that bike before I passed it on to my nephew, who rode the heck out of it too. That thing was indestructible.
Nice bike, Aaron.
True; these are almost 5-10lbs heavier than Brit bikes, but the are tanks.
Then calling it “fragile” is the wrong assumption. I certainly like the bike’s clean and naked looks. But the chain and sprockets are fully out in the open. Furthermore no mud flap on the front fender and no protection to prevent your coat or clothes getting stuck between the rear spokes, or get dirty. And, as I said, no rack.
And those things say fun-weekend-bike to me.
Being a teen in the 80’s I grew up on BMX bikes. Of course back then I only had a Huffy while everyone else in my area had Hutch’s, GT’s, Redlines, and other high end bikes. It was probably a good thing I had a Huffy back then, it was the only one that didn’t get stolen….I couldn’t give that bike away. In my later teen I finally did get a Torker bought used off a friend of a friend (supposedly it was “hot” but had been stored for a couple years). The Torker only lasted a few months before being stolen from me, cut the cable I had it locked up with while I was at school. About 8 years ago I got the itch again and found an early 90’s Torker frame on ebay, built it up with several mid-80’s vintage parts like my old bike. Then I found a mid-90’s Redline on ebay and a late-90’s Torker so now I have 3 bikes. I would really like to find an early 80’s Torker but the prices on 80’s BMX bikes are crazy right now.
Funny how “BMX” seems to have morphed from a literal bicycle motocross (timed races around a dirt oval) to big guys doing skatepark tricks on child-size bikes.
Of course, not everyone’s dirt came in oval-track form and most original-flavor BMX bikes probably got used more like mountain bikes before the latter became widely available and after the old tanks were no longer available new, Schwinn, Huffy and the like having followed the primrose path of outsourcing and decontenting farther than the auto manufacturers could ever dream of.
Aaron, do you run across many or any bikes from the old Evans products in Plymouth Mi, http://proteanpaper.com/scart_results.cgi?comp=howiebik&part=Cat-E%20914%201961-a
Not that I remember…
I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some at the Ann Arbor Bike Swap Meet…usually when I go, I have something in mind, so I tend to miss other things.
Great to see something about one of your bikes. I love old bikes, especially Chicago Schwinns. I’ve got two 10-speeds (a root-beer-brown Collegiate and a blue Suburban), a single-speed cantilever-framed cruiser, and a 1951 Columbia Three Star (fat tire bike). Let’s see if I can upload a pic of the Suburban:
Awesome. Long history with Schwinns here… ones of that vintage are still among the only “real” bikes out there IMHO.
Fortunately, I got most of mine either through family hand-downs, or back when you could still pick up ’60s and ’70s bikes for $20 and under at garage sales and thrift stores (10-15 years ago). It was amazing what you could find back then, even if you weren’t looking very hard.
Unfortunately, most of mine are long gone now, and the asking price of old Schwinns (as well as many other “vintage” bikes) has skyrocketed in hipster-filled Minneapolis and surrounding area.
Still have a nice 3-speed Racer in blue (Grandpa’s old bike), a decent single-speed Typhoon in green (Dad’s). Also have a rough ex-campground fleet Twinn… now ridable and somewhat presentable, though a 20+ mile ride with little sis last summer has left me considering a 3-speed swap.
Meanwhile, the casual search to replace my stolen 27″ 10-speed Varsity continues, now entering year three.
aaron65, the purchase sticker said livonia did it? i’ll bet that was suburban schwinn on 7 mile just east of middlebelt. my parents bought me my first mulit-speed bike, a 10 speed continental, about 1972. i used it to get all over the neighborhood and beyond. ridden out to kent lake from redford and a few trips to a friends house once they moved out to bloomfield hills. after high school it was relegated to the basement but was resurrected when i went away to grad school. i had it for 1 year before selling it to a fellow student and buying a mountain bike hybrid that i could drive year round. i beat the piss out of that bike but it kept running. lately i’ve been looking for a replacement that would allow me to get to work (12 miles one way) and back once a week in some level of comfort.
The sticker says “Reliable” on it, and it was on 7 Mile…Hmmmm. Maybe the name changed at some point.
Aaron it’s great to see your Speedster, and I look forward to seeing more of your collection.
I’d like to have a nice, comfortable Speedster or Collegiate myself, but my garage is already filled with 12 bikes and 2 cars. I store almost all my bikes by hanging them from the ceiling over our cars, and lifting a vintage Schwinn is difficult at my age. Among my bikes are a ’74 Kool Lemon Sports Tourer, a ’69 Sierra Brown Paramount, and a Flamboyant Red ’76 Superior.
Aaron – well you hit a nerve with lots of people – including me.
I am a long time Schwinn lightweight collector. I have the Racer, Metro Cycle, Suburban, Continental, Collegiate, Breeze and lots of Speedsters.
I do not have a “kool lemon” Speedster nor a single speed but I have seen both in local Schwinns a few times. I prefer the S/A three speeds and that is the only type I have pursued. So I am posting photos of my various Speedsters so others can see the variety of Schwinn colors.
For those who do not know Schwinn lightweights I want to add that they are high quality bicycles with top quality components, great paint and excellent chroming.
The “Speedster” name was used by Schwinn on “middleweight” bikes before it appeared on the “lightweights”. The ’70s Speedsters were a successor model to the earlier “Racer” – same bike, same components just a new name for a new model year.
Here are mine:
1) June 1972 “burgundy” 22″ (Denver dealer)
Nice collection of Speedsters! Right now I have three Typhoons (looking to get rid of one or two of them), a Racer, the Speedster, a Sting Ray, and my wife’s Hollywood as far as Schwinns go.
2) June 1972 “campus green” 24″ (Denver dealer)
3) March 1974 “opaque red” 22″ (Irving, TX dealer)
4) July 1975 “flamboyant red” 22″ (Orange, CA dealer)
5) June 1977 “sky blue” 24″ (Lincoln, NB dealer)
Great bikes. I like this in green best.
Those big old cruiser bikes have a lot of merit and I’m glad they have made a comeback of sorts. You can buy them ranging from fairly expensive Trek models to Schwinns at Target.
In the ’70s, my parents typically bought us used bikes. My first two were ’50s models. the small starter Schwinn was mine and I loved it, but after a few years I realized it was really old, a bit beat, and certainly not the peer of my friend’s 5 speed Schwinn Stingray – dark metallic green with the white metallic fleck banana seat.
My folks next bought me an old single speed cruiser bike, not a Schwinn, and a bit heavier looking than the Speedster. But, a nice red color. I hated it, and ended up with a 10 speed Huffy – brand new.
My dad took the old bike, and got some use out of it. In my late years at home, I drove it a few times and found the single gear to be amazingly well chosen, the ride on not-quite-balloon tires to be very smooth, the seat comfortable, the entire structure to be sturdy, simple and solid.
I forgot about it for years, and as an adult I asked my dad about it in case he might want to sell it. It had been gone for years.
I guess you could say I went full circle on it.
This is great, I wouldn’t have thought I’d see mention of Sheldon Brown on CC. Always something interesting around here!
I’m a diehard Raleigh man myself, my favourite is my 73 sprite 27 5 speed in coffee brown. Also an 84 Transit in metallic red. I have an inherited 1938 CCM Redbird also, its restored, weighs a ton and looks pretty in my livingroom.
I spent a lot of time growing up near the Columbia factory in Massachusetts, but my first real adult bike was foreign, and I thought it was so bad ass. It was a green and white Takara that I outfitted with neon green grips which didn’t match the forest green on bike. Everyone else had Cannondales so mine stood out.
Great article and I am reminded of the Peugeot Racing Bike from the 1970s or 1980s that is in my folk’s shed.
I had a 1958 Speedster with a Bendix 2 speed. The shifter was so large, people often mistook it for a brake lever. It was red and white, a 24″ model. I also had a Camous Green Collegiate SS 5 speed. I like Raleigh’s more, they are easier to find tires for and seem ride nicer, but parts can be difficult difficult, Whitworth system and all.. But Schwinn’s have a place in my heart. I had a Columbia 5 Star Superbe, so that’s a good bicycle-comparison to a 1959 Cadillac.
That’s in nice shape! The Kool Lemon really stood out of the crowd.
I love bicycles as much as cars. I rebuilt/restored this mid 60’s CCM Fleetwing cruiser i pulled out of a garbage pile where i worked. Quick release front rim i found on a boulevard, ten speed front forks, mountain bike neck and handle bars, BMX pedals and saddle. She rides smooth as silk. The weird thing about riding a coaster you keep reaching for levers that aren’t there.
I still have the ten speed (Concord Raven) I got for Christmas in 1973. It was my primary mode of transportation until I started driving a few years later, and even after that I continued to ride it for pleasure and exercise until I bought a new touring bike (lNishiki) in 1988. I put many miles on the new bike over the years both in pleasure/exercise touring and commuting to work until knee problems brought my biking days to a halt just a few years ago. The ’88 bike is well maintained and still in great shape, as is the ’73 Christmas bike other than dry rotted original tires. Both are hanging from the ceiling in my garage.
My first bike was a 1952 Huffy convertible. It was converted to a girl’s model, by dropping the rear of the center bar, for my sister when I got my new bike for Christmas 1955. What a bike that was! A burgundy Automoto racing bike with a three speed Sturmey Archer and coaster brake, front brake, generator, headlight and taillight, tool bag and chrome pump and polished aluminum fenders with two burgundy stripes. I rode it so hard, including pulling a two cycle Craftsman lawn mower all over the neighborhood, that the frame eventually cracked.
I was then gifted with a red 1962 Raleigh lightweight single speed with a leather saddle. It was literally saddle leather, thick enough to not need a frame. It said ASS in big embossed letters for anyone behind me to read. Associated Saddle something or other, I thought it quite daring. I used it almost forty years with no maintenance required and then let it sit in the weather and ruin. One of my biggest regrets.
I don’t remember the make of the 1974 English racer with rat trap pedals, I never bonded with it or any of the discount store mountain bikes I have owned since. I guess my father had really good taste in bikes.
Chicago Schwinn’s are of exceptional quality. I have mechanically reconditioned a few and was just amazed on what quality steel was used for the bearing races and bearings in the steering head and bottom bracket. It is unbelievable. One thing though truly bothers me about old Schwinn’s: proprietary tire sizes! For that reason alone I will not touch an old Schwinn again.
Of the old bikes I like Raleigh, made in England the best, followed by Peugeot.
Once I was looking for a bottom bracket fixed cup. The local bike shop opened the reference book and tried to identify the piece I brought in. Everyone knows about the Italian and English BB’s, but they opened my eyes to French, Swiss and Belgian types. I demanded: ” I want the Liechtenstein type!” There is no Liechtenstein BB, but they found what I needed.
As a kid I had an orange schwinn fastback 5 speed with a bananna seat and a racing slick rear tire. When I outgrew it I changed to a brown Schwinn Suburban 10speed with fenders painted to match and a cargo rack. Never used more than 5 of the gears. Then in the late 80s I changed to an aluminum 15 speed Canondale to which I immediately added full fenders, a cargo rack, and tall handlebars. I still have that bike and still never use more than 5 of the gears. I never did care for the hunched forward race bikes.
FWIW I always thought there was one gearset too many on most of these 10+ speed bikes. Got curious since I hadn’t seen any five speeds since mine was stolen. When I looked, Walmart and Target still sell a bike with a real derailer only that’s made by Schwin. It’s a 700c and now carries seven speeds. Huffy also makes a cruiser that appears to have the same sort of setup. Price ranges from $1-200.
There is a park with bike paths nearby and I still have a bike rack and a vehicle that can carry it and a dog that loves to run. I’m tempted as I need more exercise.
I’m told the most popular setup now is 7 or 8 gears on the rear wheel and only a single sprocket in front. It sound to me like people finally came to their senses.
It all depends on the terrain. If you live where it’s hilly, more (lower) gears are helpful! That’s where two or three chainrings (the front sprockets) are most useful.
Nice article. Bikes are CC’s too!! 🙂
My favourite steed, a Vitale steel-frame touring bike, with Shimano hardware.
My first 10 speed was a Columbia. My friends nicknamed it the Impaler because the front brake would grab and the pitch you over the handlebars. Later I found a 3 speed Raleigh at a yard sale for 10 bucks. Cool bike until I snapped the frame mountain biking.