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Old 04-20-09, 08:12 AM   #1
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1974 Schwinn Suburban - my city bike.

Sometimes it pays to be the guy that messes with bikes - my neighbor wheeled this over to me about a week ago and said, "You like old bikes, right? I found this at a garage sale - you can have it."

After thanking him profusely, I wheeled it in the garage, changed the tires, pads and cables, put batteries in the turn signals(!), oiled the chain and derailuers, and rode it around the block.

It weighs a ton (a cruiser, so who cares), but the paint is almost perfect, and it is loaded with "Schwinn Approved" goodies, including the "Sting Ray" turn signals, actuated by the switch under the seat. The generator lights work great, and there is a Shwinn approved canvas bag on the back of the seat.

The odometer/ speedometer reads 181 miles, and I think it's pretty close to right. It no longer works, though, so if you have instructions or insights to help me make it work again, that would be fantastic.

This picture is from a grocery run this weekend.


I seem to have a small flat spot on the front wheel - is that fixable? I have been doing a lot of polishing, and it is starting to look very nice again. There are little rust breakouts everywhere, but it's nothing that elbow grease and polish can't fix.
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Old 04-20-09, 08:17 AM   #2
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Thats a nice looking Suburban, I don't know if I have ever seen the 10 speed verison before.
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Old 04-20-09, 11:07 AM   #3
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Thats a nice looking Suburban, I don't know if I have ever seen the 10 speed verison before.
IIRC those were the later ones, I have one that dates from the late 70's early 80's. The one I have is in horrible condition, but I might need it for parts one of these days.

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Old 04-20-09, 01:45 PM   #4
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Does the Suburban share the same frame geometry as the Varsity/Continental?
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Old 04-20-09, 02:05 PM   #5
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Looks like it to me.
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Old 04-20-09, 02:25 PM   #6
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Does the Suburban share the same frame geometry as the Varsity/Continental?
Yes, I had one in '72. Looked a lot like the one pictured and I rode it to work for a year ( when the state of Florida relieved me of my driving priveledges) I didn't have turn signals and I had a child seat instead of a rack. But it brings back memories.
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Old 04-20-09, 02:33 PM   #7
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Cool thanks guys, I couldn't tell...maybe its the angle the pic was taken at...to my eyes the headtube angle looks more slack than a Varsity. It would make more sense that they are all the same angles.
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Old 04-21-09, 09:16 AM   #8
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The speedometer not working is more than likely a frozen driver attached to the front wheel. Inside of the driver are two gears that drive the cable going to the speedometer. Lack of lubrication causes them to freeze up. When they do, one of three things usually happens. The two metal fingers that stick into the spokes bend, one of the gears in the drive ends up with it's teeth sheared off, or the cable snaps. It should be fairly straightforward to determine where the problem is. If the fingers on the drive unit are bent away so they are not engaged in the spokes, take the unit off the front wheel, and loosen up the grease with some wd-40 (or whatever your favorite penetrating oil is). Once it's freed up, lubricate it with some chain lube, straighten the fingers, and reassemble. If the fingers are already engaged into the wheel, disconnect the cable at the driver, and spin the front wheel. You should be able to see the square hole where the cable sits turn as the wheel is turned. If it doesn't turn, the gears are probably stripped. You will need a replacement driver (Ebay time, and make sure you get a 27" replacement). If the driver appears to be working, check the cable. It has a stop so that the inner cable only comes out one end of the housing. If the cable checks out OK, and the ends are still square, recconnect it to the driver, leaving it disocnnected to the speedometer head. Spin the wheel again, and you should be able to see the cable turn as the wheel turns. If all seems to be working fine, yet the needle still isn't moving, it's probably a bad speedo head (Ebay time, the heads are universal though).

If it was me, the first thing I would do is to take the driver off the wheel and clean / lubricate / inspect it. A lot of dealers would remove the axle locknut on the hub, install the driver, and reinstall the locknut so they wouldn't be a pain if you had to remove the front wheel. There's a snap ring on the inside that will allow you to remove the fingers, and get better access to the gears inside. There should also be a grease fitting on the side that can be unscrewed, and oil can be sprayed in to loosen it up.

BTW, good find, the turn signals alone are worth a pretty penny. There's a NOS set on Ebay going for $400 right now.

Best of luck

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Old 04-21-09, 09:22 AM   #9
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You have an awesome neighbor.
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Old 04-21-09, 10:35 AM   #10
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I know I do - he is a very nice guy, and I love this bicycle.

I will mess with the speedo and see what is going on - I'm going to do the bearings soon, so it will be as good a time as any.
I saw that NOS set of turnsignals and was floored - mine work great and say "Sting Ray".

As I polish more and more, this bike gets cooler and cooler. No cracks in the cable housing, the chrome is shining right up, and it runs fantastic. I have come back outside the store to find people checking it out several times.
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Old 04-21-09, 11:15 AM   #11
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I'm thinking about putting upright bars on the Varsity I just found at the dump Saturday. With a few accessories added, it could almost be a twin to your bike.

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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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Old 04-21-09, 12:25 PM   #12
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I recently did the same type of conversion for my wife on a Schwinn "World", and it was fairly inexpensive - I got everythign I needed at "Niagra Cycles", and it was fairly cheap. If this bike wasn't so original, I'd spring for bar mounted shifters instead of the stem shifters, like I put on hers.

I love love love my Suburban. It is exactly what I wanted for running to the sto, or for a beer. I cannot thank my neighbor enough. I wish the generator lights would glow a little when I am not pedaling, but I can wish in one hand...
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Old 04-21-09, 12:27 PM   #13
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You're in Plano? Keep your eyes peeled for vintage rides in Dallas; maybe we can get the two bikes side by side and take a few pics together.
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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Old 04-21-09, 12:30 PM   #14
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In fact, if you want, I have a set of Schwinn Generator lights, and a Schwinn rack (all vintage) I'll sell you for your bike - I am in Plano.
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Old 04-21-09, 12:32 PM   #15
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and that is a fantastic dump find. I was at the Richardson dumping station one day, and I watched a guy toss a perfectly good looking Schwinn with a stick shift into the pile - the attendant would not let me retrieve it, and I have stewed about it ever since.
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Old 04-21-09, 01:12 PM   #16
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Actually I'd be very interested in the light, maybe the rack as well. PM me with details. And I think there will a vintage ride at some point this year, or maybe another event, where we will cross paths to save shipping.
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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Old 04-21-09, 05:06 PM   #17
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I recently did the same type of conversion for my wife on a Schwinn "World", and it was fairly inexpensive - I got everythign I needed at "Niagra Cycles", and it was fairly cheap. If this bike wasn't so original, I'd spring for bar mounted shifters instead of the stem shifters, like I put on hers.

I love love love my Suburban. It is exactly what I wanted for running to the sto, or for a beer. I cannot thank my neighbor enough. I wish the generator lights would glow a little when I am not pedaling, but I can wish in one hand...
Shouldn't be too difficult to rig something up. Raleigh used to offer the DBU (Dry Battery Unit) which was a battery back up of sorts. With today's miniature electronic goodies you could build up something similar. FWIW I have a couple of halogen headlights that have a capacitor with a small LED that light up when you come to a stop. I have no clue how to build that type of circuit but I am sure someone around here could tell you how.

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Old 04-23-09, 08:39 PM   #18
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I love my 1972 Suburban ten-speed. It was given to me ten or so years ago by a nice older neighbor lady whose husband had passed away shortly after they moved in. It was his. She gave me wife her Raleigh. Thanks for the tips on the Schwinn speedometer, as I've got parts of three of them that I could mount on my bike. Here is the bike, unrestored:

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Old 04-23-09, 10:32 PM   #19
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Does the Suburban share the same frame geometry as the Varsity/Continental?
I have a '74 Suburban, and I have been told that the Varsity of that year and the Suburban were the same frames. The major differences were the gears and the upright handlebars.
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Old 04-24-09, 08:58 AM   #20
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I tear around the bikepaths with it, and have gotten lots of compliments, though I would like anew front wheel if someone has one. Mine has a flat spot, and makes for a little bit of a bump when I am riding.
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Old 04-25-09, 07:37 PM   #21
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Actually, I might have something. Not a straight changeout, but it's still chromed and came on a (later) Schwinn bike. I haven't messed with that bike to know if the rim is any good (small ladies frame; strictly a flipper).
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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Old 04-25-09, 07:55 PM   #22
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Is a "Schwinn Suburban" a USA equivelent to say a "Raliegh Sprite" ??? (Plz pardon my ignorance as I really dont know coz we dont really get "Schwinn,s" down here and I,m always eager to learn) !
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Old 04-25-09, 08:37 PM   #23
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Yeah, I think that's a pretty close comparison.
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Old 04-25-09, 10:27 PM   #24
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I found a perfect little red suburban the other day, the Huret odometer reads 75 miles. but its to small for me. I was thinking about putting everything onto a larger varsity frame, but the colors would be wrong for the fenders... could not stand that. Such a solid feeling bike. like cruising in a 1964 lincoln continental. It has the front freewheel system, five speed. Those are actualy very nice shifting systems, I have it on my world tourist and love it. Guess I will hold onto it untill someone comes along that needs/loves it.
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Old 04-26-09, 07:37 PM   #25
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Turn signal assembly.
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