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  1. #1
    Bicycle Adventurer banjo_mole's Avatar
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    The Demise of Schwinn:

    Can we talk about this?

    I'm curious as to what happened to this company. Their beautiful bikes from prewar (wwi) and prewar (wwii) and after all that, the le tours and paramounts.... What the hell happened? How could such a familiar, huge company, making affordable road bikes, dissappear, and become...



    In all C&V's years, it's probably been discussed before.

    But let's do it again. I'm curious.

  2. #2
    rigamortis tortoise LesterOfPuppets's Avatar
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    Well lots of things happened. I'm pretty sure there's a book or two about Schwinn that covers some of them.

    What's wrong with the current Le Tours?
    Last edited by LesterOfPuppets; 11-09-09 at 11:12 AM.
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    PanGalacticGargleBlaster Zaphod Beeblebrox's Avatar
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    ...the top tube, the geometry, the straight front forks, the vertical dropouts, threadless headset...the Korean TIG welded frame.

    From what I understand the Schwinn company stayed in the family as their revenues dropped and manufacturing prices increased. At some point in the early 90's one of the family members split off one of the schwinn factories to form Waterford bikes which continued (and still continues) to make the Paramount.

  4. #4
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    I read somewhere that Schwinn's Chicago factory went union in the 70's, which did not agree with the economics of the bicycle industry. The subsequent closing of that factory more or less turned Schwinn from a manufacturer to an importer.

  5. #5
    Larger Chainring Oregon Southpaw's Avatar
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    You need to read this book:
    http://www.amazon.com/No-Hands-Schwi.../0805035532Out of print, but I found it at my local library.

    To summarize the downfall:
    •Long legal battle demobilized the company, drained talent, resources, drive, etc.

    •Ingnaz was a visionary, Frank W. was a workaholic genius. Leadership was never as strong after. Ed Jr. was asleep at the wheel (being very complimentary here) and definitely drove the company into the ground.

    •Years of selling millions of Varsities and Continentals and Sting-Rays made the company complacent.

    •The Bike-Boom could have been a new era for the company. Instead they offered boat-anchors, until they could get decent lugged Japanese bikes (far too late).

    •Missing the BMX and Mountain Bike trends / not having an ear to the ground re: the West-Coast

    •HUBRIS (We are Schwinn!)

    •Far too many bikes that were too similar, particularly as people were realizing components = bikes

    •Shifting of resources from R&D to Advertising / Sales

    •Upper brass not particularly interested in cycling as bike-nerd oriented (and operated) companies grew

    •Moronic trifecta of A) not updating grossly-outdated Chicago factory B) trying to ditch union labor by setting up in Nowheresville, MS and Some Soviet Bloc country I cannot remember and C) Letting Giant build everything.

  6. #6
    rigamortis tortoise LesterOfPuppets's Avatar
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    They're Korean and not Taiwanese built frames?

    So I guess what's wrong with the current Le Tour are the same things that are wrong with most Trek and Specialized models. A lament for the way things were shouldn't necessarily be Schwinn-centric. There's always the current Paramount if you're rich and need lugs.

    Seems like Schwinn's been making department-store and near-department-store-quality bike for over 30 years now.
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    Greetings!

    The Schwinn family basically ran the company into the ground when they missed trends or were late in recognizing changes in the manufacturing end of the business. In the end they were unable to arrange financing to update their operations.

  8. #8
    Larger Chainring Oregon Southpaw's Avatar
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    Of course Schwinn of 2009 is not the Schwinn of 1991, let alone 1895.

    But one thing I do find interesting is that the modern Schwinn has done at least one thing that Ignaz would be happy about (and was never really successful at): Selling high-end bikes at LBS and kids bikes at Department stores.

    What I'm really interested in is what could have been. Seems to me that in the late 80s they were trying to reinvent Paramount not just as a bicycle, but as a high-end "experience" part of their company.

    Then again, in the midst of that re-invention they were building Asian-Paramounts with no lugs and paint schemes that looked exactly like Murrays of the time.

    (disclosure: researching and writing a book about this stuff currently)

  9. #9
    Chrome Freak Rabid Koala's Avatar
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    Part of the problem was that they led the market for many, many years, and failed to notice (or care) when they weren't. They completely ignored BMX bikes at first, they seemed to stand by their Varsities and Continentals when the Japanese manufacturers gave us lighter, more reliable and inexpensive bikes.
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  10. #10
    Chrome Freak Rabid Koala's Avatar
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    In 1973, I purchased a new Nishiki International from a Schwinn shop. I did not even look at Schwinns, as they were way too heavy. A lot of my friends had them, I just had no interest.
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  11. #11
    sultan of schwinn EjustE's Avatar
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    Schwinn is as much a "bike company" today as is Motobecane and Mongoose

    Just a name from a bankrupt dissolved corporation, put on bikes made by an unrelated corporation. Today's Schwinns are Pacific Cycle models...
    -E

    still stuck in the '80s; '70s were good as well, but i severely dislike tubulars.
    I tri...

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Oregon Southpaw View Post
    You need to read this book:
    http://www.amazon.com/No-Hands-Schwi.../0805035532Out of print, but I found it at my local library.

    To summarize the downfall:
    •Long legal battle demobilized the company, drained talent, resources, drive, etc.

    •Ingnaz was a visionary, Frank W. was a workaholic genius. Leadership was never as strong after. Ed Jr. was asleep at the wheel (being very complimentary here) and definitely drove the company into the ground.

    •Years of selling millions of Varsities and Continentals and Sting-Rays made the company complacent.

    •The Bike-Boom could have been a new era for the company. Instead they offered boat-anchors, until they could get decent lugged Japanese bikes (far too late).

    •Missing the BMX and Mountain Bike trends / not having an ear to the ground re: the West-Coast

    •HUBRIS (We are Schwinn!)

    •Far too many bikes that were too similar, particularly as people were realizing components = bikes

    •Shifting of resources from R&D to Advertising / Sales

    •Upper brass not particularly interested in cycling as bike-nerd oriented (and operated) companies grew

    •Moronic trifecta of A) not updating grossly-outdated Chicago factory B) trying to ditch union labor by setting up in Nowheresville, MS and Some Soviet Bloc country I cannot remember and C) Letting Giant build everything.
    The No Hands book is a reasonable account, Any one of a number of solutions had they been a bit different might have saw them through. The strength of Schwinn in the 60's was their downfall, kids like me knew them as the best and most durable, with the penalty of weight, when we wanted a road bike, we looked elsewhere. What was not said in the book was that for the longest time, Schwinn only made the Paramount as a lugged lightweight bike, and probably lost money on them, a halo product, so the corporate mindset was anti-lugs. They did fillet brazing, but were not able to compete from a marketing standpoint with those models. The word on the street was lugs are what you need. They lost the "enthusiast" market. Were scared of or ignored the BMX and mountain bike market. So, its management in the end that did them in, just a few decades before GM.

  13. #13
    Upright bars SirMike1983's Avatar
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    I would contest the contention that Schwinn made "affordable" bicycles. They were a distinctly high-end brand for many years. People buying in the bike market from the 1930s through the early 1960s will probably recall that best. Schwinns were the high end of the US market.
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  14. #14
    slow as I ever was Ex Pres's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rabid Koala View Post
    In 1973, I purchased a new Nishiki International from a Schwinn shop. I did not even look at Schwinns, as they were way too heavy. A lot of my friends had them, I just had no interest.
    Same time period, similar result. I lusted after Eddy's bike (or some other 531db steed), the Schwinns in my price range weren't that, and I ended up with a Gitane. Just another lost sale. My previous bike had been a Schwinn, a '69 Apple Krate.
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  15. #15
    Elitest Murray Owner Mos6502's Avatar
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    Basically Schwinn made bad business decisions. But the truth of the matter is that no company in their position could have continued making bikes (in the U.S.) and they'd have ended up as an importer anyway.

    During the 70s you'll notice some interesting responses to foreign competition.

    Columbia tried to beat imports on price. It didn't work. During the 50s and 60s, their products were roughly equal to (and in some instances I would say better than) Schwinn's. By the time the 80s arrived they were making terrible, flimsy bikes, that didn't cost enough less than imports to be worth buying. They dropped out of the bike business altogether during the 80s (although they have resumed production since then).

    Ross went the opposite route. They decided to make better bicycles than they had previously offered. They came up with revolutionary technology that allowed them to produced extremely strong lugged frames, and adopted things like cotterless cranks etc. But by the 90s it was over for them too.

    Schwinn. Schwinn basically twiddled their thumbs. The bike boom came in the 70s and they persisted in selling remarkably heavy, welded bikes. They did import bikes, but made a number of bad decisions here that came back to bite them in... Then the UAW got on their case. They built a new factory in Mississippi to escape them - but - they built it to make their outdated designs using outdated processes (when they could have used this as an opportunity to step up their product, like Ross did) They bought a factory in Hungary... that didn't work out either. Everything worked against them. So they went bankrupt.

    AMF's story goes somewhat like Schwinn's - trouble with unions, manufacturing costs etc. Although AMF also suffered from a tremendous fall in quality. The late 70s AMFs are just some of the absolutely worst made "bicycles" I have ever laid eyes on.

    Murray also moved their factory to escape unions, and for a while they had it pretty good. They scored a HUGE portion of the low cost market for decades (around 1982, nearly half of all American made bicycles being sold were made by Murray). But by the 90s, imports killed them too.
    Last edited by Mos6502; 11-09-09 at 02:16 PM.

  16. #16
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    My Dad sold Schwinn bikes and just about every part and accessory associated with them from 1952 until 1979. For a long time, it was like selling Cadillacs or Lexus. I agree with everything posted above: They were arrogant/ They missed the boat on trends/ The market was shifting to nice lightweight Japanese and European bikes-while Rome burned and Chicago kept manufacturing 40 pound anchors/They forced many dealers to choose between selling ONLY Schwinn products and jumping on board the shifting lightweight market, etc.,
    It is a very sad case of this company going bust. I hate to see Schwinns at my local Wal-Mart and Target. They had such a good thing going for them for so many years, and managed to throw it away very quickly. I think that even if they had survived longer, they still would not have been competitive with Trek, Specialized, etc.

  17. #17
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    I don't get it. Schwinn is still around. "Had they survived?" The name is the same -- just not family owned. Schwinn has survived, and when pitted against big competitors of their ilk, such as Giant, Specialize and even Trek, Schwinn's product is just as good.

    Yes, the higher-end Paramount and Peloton carbon frames are produced in Taiwan, but so is every other higher-end frame. In fact, I think Giant builds the carbon frames for Schwinn's Paramount and Peloton.

    I look at it this way: you get what you pay for. One can have a brand new Paramount for $5K+ that has full Dura-Ace and weighs less than 15 lbs. Or, you can source out Waterford for a lugged 953 Paramount - though it'd still have that hideous sloping top tube.

    You can get any bike you want from Schwinn from crap to concourse, you'll just have to pay for it.

  18. #18
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    Add to all the above a failed multi million dollar LAWSON ERP implementation that had a huge impact on their supply chain. Just another nail in the coffin.
    You go where you look

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    The foreign made Schwinns are actually good value for the money. The Le Tour Classic made with double-butted Reynolds 520 is better than the classic Le Tours. Better quality frame and good ride. I think Schwinn today is as a Pacific Cycle brand is even better than the parent company that went bankrupt in the 1990s. They've innovated and led the way forward with a number of new bikes. I would like to see it return to the US but all bike manufacturing has moved offshore for good and it looks like a fact of life we have to live with. The US Schwinn era will never return.

  20. #20
    sultan of schwinn EjustE's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dd74 View Post
    I don't get it. Schwinn is still around. "Had they survived?" The name is the same -- just not family owned. Schwinn has survived, and when pitted against big competitors of their ilk, such as Giant, Specialize and even Trek, Schwinn's product is just as good.
    No, it has not survived... Schwinn died as a corporate entity. The name was sold to Pacific Cycles (another corporate entity) which produces bikes with that name. The only thing that has survived is the name... just like Motobecane
    -E

    still stuck in the '80s; '70s were good as well, but i severely dislike tubulars.
    I tri...

  21. #21
    Larger Chainring Oregon Southpaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NormanF View Post
    The foreign made Schwinns are actually good value for the money. The Le Tour Classic made with double-butted Reynolds 520 is better than the classic Le Tours. Better quality frame and good ride. I think Schwinn today is as a Pacific Cycle brand is even better than the parent company that went bankrupt in the 1990s. They've innovated and led the way forward with a number of new bikes. I would like to see it return to the US but all bike manufacturing has moved offshore for good and it looks like a fact of life we have to live with. The US Schwinn era will never return.
    Apples v. Oranges

    Moreover, could you explain why Pacific Schwinn is better than Schwinn Schwinn? Admittedly some of their newer offerings look OK, but I fail to see how the new Le Tour being better than the old one makes the company better.

    See also: corporate parasitism, globalization/consolidation of capital, demise of American manufacturing, the Schwinn dealership model

  22. #22
    Senior Member Shimagnolo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dd74 View Post
    I don't get it. Schwinn is still around. "Had they survived?" The name is the same -- just not family owned. Schwinn has survived, and when pitted against big competitors of their ilk, such as Giant, Specialize and even Trek, Schwinn's product is just as good.
    No they did *not* survive.
    They are dead and gone.
    Pacific Cycle bought the *name* at a bankruptcy auction.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schwinn#Sale_to_Pacific

    Do you also think Motobécane survived?

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mos6502 View Post
    Basically Schwinn made bad business decisions. But the truth of the matter is that no company in their position could have continued making bikes (in the U.S.) and they'd have ended up as an importer anyway.

    During the 70s you'll notice some interesting responses to foreign competition.

    Columbia tried to beat imports on price. It didn't work. During the 50s and 60s, their products were roughly equal to (and in some instances I would say better than) Schwinn's. By the time the 80s arrived they were making terrible, flimsy bikes, that didn't cost enough less than imports to be worth buying. They dropped out of the bike business altogether during the 80s (although they have resumed production since then).

    Ross went the opposite route. They decided to make better bicycles than they had previously offered. They came up with revolutionary technology that allowed them to produced extremely strong lugged frames, and adopted things like cotterless cranks etc. But by the 90s it was over for them too.

    Schwinn. Schwinn basically twiddled their thumbs. The bike boom came in the 70s and they persisted in selling remarkably heavy, welded bikes. They did import bikes, but made a number of bad decisions here that came back to bite them in... Then the UAW got on their case. They built a new factory in Mississippi to escape them - but - they built it to make their outdated designs using outdated processes (when they could have used this as an opportunity to step up their product, like Ross did) They bought a factory in Hungary... that didn't work out either. Everything worked against them. So they went bankrupt.

    AMF's story goes somewhat like Schwinn's - trouble with unions, manufacturing costs etc. Although AMF also suffered from a tremendous fall in quality. The late 70s AMFs are just some of the absolutely worst made "bicycles" I have ever laid eyes on.

    Murray also moved their factory to escape unions, and for a while they had it pretty good. They scored a HUGE portion of the low cost market for decades (around 1982, nearly half of all American made bicycles being sold were made by Murray). But by the 90s, imports killed them too.
    You did not mention, Huffy, or Huffman Mfg. Corp. WalMart helped kill them off, Huffman made a big mistake on a deal with WalMart, they could have as many bikes as they could order, but many parts were imported, and Huffman did not have enough control over those costs, and WalMArt squeezed for every bike they ordered, knowing that they were strangling Huffman by pinching their capacity so much that the more profitable production was lost, and ultimately they lost the company due to that deal. WalMart knew what was happening, but decided to let the supplier die. That style of business is why I never go to WalMart, even if they have cheap bar tape.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by SirMike1983 View Post
    I would contest the contention that Schwinn made "affordable" bicycles. They were a distinctly high-end brand for many years. People buying in the bike market from the 1930s through the early 1960s will probably recall that best. Schwinns were the high end of the US market.
    Schwinns were Just affordable, expensive, and "fair traded" so prices in a given region were the same, often due to the low mark-up percentage. But for a while being a Schwinn dealer was a profit printing press.

    I remember a kid telling a not so fortunate classmate with an off brand, "your parents must not like you, they would not buy you a Schwinn", Ouch.

    When I got my first Schwinn, my parents went to other Schwinn shops, only to find that the prices were the same, and other off brand bike shops, where the bikes were cheaper, I was not budging, Schwinn or nothing. I told them they had the best quality, which they did at the Sting -Ray level and would be easier to keep up in the long run, which I did, it was kept spotless. Polishing it was such a pleasure, you got results for your effort. Although I really wanted chrome or stainless spokes...

  25. #25
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    Sorry, but what is a Lawson Erp implementation ? No idea what you are talking about -explain please.

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