02 June 2008

Discussing Schwinns

A frequent reader recently pointed me to this discussion of Schwinn Cruisers.

(Here is) yet another Ode-to-the-Dutch-Bike. Seems like every one of the bike-fashion / fashion-on-bikes / chic / etc blogs are doing it. OK, Dutch bikes're maybe nice and certainly it's maybe neat to buy something new (here) and trendy. I submit though that old Schwinns are a much better fit for the American commuting and city-bike scene.
  1. They're ubiquitous and cheap. Every thrift store in every metro gets maybe 50 of them per year. Here in the Iowa/Illinois Quad Cities' 7 thrift stores they are priced between $5.38 (don't ask me - that 38-cents thing is unique to Goodwill nationwide apparently) and on up to, but never higher than, around $25.
  2. With a disassembly, cleanup, lubing, and new rubber/cabling/chain, they'll likely be good for another 28-44 years. Those are the ages of the youngest and the oldest of the twenty-some Schwinns that I refurbed this past year.
  3. They are city-riding-comfortable. Fenders, upright handlebars, and really comfy old mattress seats are on every Schwinn I put out, even the ones that originally came set up as roadies. I mostly prefer the 3-spd internal Sturmey Archer hub bikes altho I have put out a few 5-spd derailler bikes, two 10-spds, and converted four 10-spds to different gearing/drive set ups.
  4. They can be _very_ chic. Please look at this bike to see some photos and a narrative about one such Schwinn I recently finished.
So anyway, it's my opinion that the ideal bikes for putting Americans back onto bikes for urban riding are here, right under our noses and we're perhaps too snobbish to see them.

I confess that I have long been under the impression that Schwinns aren't worth much (maybe it was the $5.38 pricetag?). I don't want to be snobbish. If possible I'd love to borrow a Schwinn in Boston for a quick joyride. I know that some people adore theirs, and I'd love know know how they ride... Anyone?

I'd be very interested in hearing other people's experiences (good and bad) with their Schwinn, please leave a comment.


Krista said...

I have a 1974 Schwinn Suburban, and I absolutely love it. I bought it on eBay, and it runs like a dream. There's some rust on the wheels that's easily scrubbed off with steel wool, and I'm sure it'll run a lot longer than I'll be able to ride it. I think it'd definitely be a good buy. Now I might have to hit the antique/thrift stores to get one for my boyfriend (poor mountain bike riding thing that he is...)

Anonymous said...

Hey, use bronze wool, not steel wool. The steel wool scores the chrome and encourages the next round of rust.


Anonymous said...

Late to the party, but my $0.02 is that these are great bikes if you want to bum around on nice days.

For actual commuting, the main problem for me is the steel wheels. This means that whenever it rains, your braking ability is SEVERELY reduced, which is very, very bad.

You could always buy an alloy front wheel, which would mostly fix the problem, but that would increase the cost.

Cricket24 said...

I have a '78 Schwinn that I bought for $30 at Goodwill, and fixed for $100. I scrubbed all the rust off myself with steel (oops) wool. Now it's all shiny, has new gumwall tires and a modern derailleur and rides pretty smoothly.

It's true that it's a little heavier than my Giant Cypress, but I haven't yet used it to go long distances (though I may eventually, just for fun) so I don't notice the difference much. The fender does rattle, but maybe something just needs tightened. Normally, I don't notice the rattling because I just feel so calm and happy on the bike.

It really is a great bike and it rides like new, even though it's 31 years old. I love it. It's the perfect casual or downtown bike.