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  1. #1
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    need help with purchase

    hi:

    I am new to this forum.

    I decided I want to buy a vintage schwinn.

    At first, I was thinking about a breeze. Then I discovered suburbans and collegiates and now I am very confused!!

    Can anyone offer pros/cons on these bikes?

    Any other models that you know about that might fit the desires of someone who wants to go vintage?

    Are there any years for these bikes that are considered the best?

    Here is some info about me and how I would use the bike:

    Woman
    tall 5'11" : very long legs and very long arms (so what size bike do I need?)
    I live in San Diego and would use the bike year round.
    I like vintage styling. The style is important.
    I live near downtown San Diego. There are some hills.
    I would mostly use the bike for light shopping, visiting friends, seeing the sites, going to parks, etc.

    I would like the bike to look nice. Since I am interested in a vintage bike, I am assuming that there might be some wear and tear. What should I look for? What should I avoid? How serious is rust (how much can be polished away?)

    Thank you all so much in advance for any advice you can provide!!! Looking forward to hearing what people have to say!

  2. #2
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    I would suggest a suburban for a tall woman.I like the 5 speeds best but the 10 speeds seem to be more common.If you are ok with a man's frame I think the largest suburban frame is a 23".I think this would fit better than the tallest woman's size.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Road Fan's Avatar
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    Lot's of questions, and good ones. For fitting, I'd suggest measuring your cycling inseam, which is not your trouser inseam or rise. Good instructions can be found at http://www.rivbike.com/article/bike_..._to_measure_it, giving several approaches to finding your saddle height and frame size. It should cover older conventional bikes like these Schwinns.

    Bigger question: what kind of riding do you want to do, and how do you want to sit on the bike? Bent over and racy, upright and ladylike (think english lady), somewhere in between. City, country, 2 miles at a time, 10 miles at a time? Schwinn's bikes look very similar but are somewhat different. The quality is good on all of them. I've known some tall, slim, long-limbed women to ride Suburbans very comfortably, say taking the kids around the neighborhood. They only came with upright handlebars. Suburban's have 5-speed gear systems - might or might not be good for hills, but I don't know San Diego very well.

    Schwinn had a LOT of models, all with very similar styling in the '60s and '70s. You can't go wrong with anything in those years if everything, such as the gears, works.

    Just re-read your post, and I see what kind of riding you want to do. A Suburban is probably PERFECT. If you get some grocery baskets to stash trinkets you get while sight-seeing, or even groceries, that bike could be your friend for decades in that kind of usage.
    Last edited by Road Fan; 11-06-10 at 10:51 PM.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by schwinnderella View Post
    I would suggest a suburban for a tall woman.I like the 5 speeds best but the 10 speeds seem to be more common.If you are ok with a man's frame I think the largest suburban frame is a 23".I think this would fit better than the tallest woman's size.

    When I was younger, I always preferred a man's frame (I was a tomboy and wanted to look like one!)

    Now I am in my 40s and not so tomboyish and would prefer a woman's frame so I can wear skirts and be comfortable!

    Also, I would like a model that allows me to sit up straight so I can see the sights. I would use this bike for leisurely rides, not utilitarian stuff like commuting fast and efficiently.

  5. #5
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    thanks for the reply, road fan.

    I will check out the rivbik site. I think the size issue will be a big one for me. There are not a lot of women with my proportions so I think I am going to have a hard time with size. I wonder if it is possible to buy a man's frame and have it custom welded to retrofit it for a woman??

    And yes, I would like to sit upright. Ladylike! Exactly.

    There are a lot of hills near where I live. Some are very steep and I would avoid them like most other people. Because of the hills, a good selection of smoothly working gears would be nice.

  6. #6
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    Thanks swinderella and road fan for pointing me towards the suburban. I am glad I asked!

    Any thoughts on the selecting a bike of less than pristine condition? Any suggestions about how much rust is too much to restore without having to have things re-plated? I guess if I ended up finding a bike that was the perfect fit and I found myself using it a lot, I would not mind taking it apart and restoring it. I am pretty handy and I have a friend who is REALLY handy.

    At first, I would try to find one that cleans up nicely enough and use it for a few months to make sure it fits my needs before I invest in further restoration.

  7. #7
    Senior Member ftwelder's Avatar
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    When a bike is filthy with it's tubes hanging out and kinked cables tangled around the frame it's difficult to imagine but it's really quite easy to bring the chrome and paint back to a healthy shine. Coastal towns would be the worse place to shop due to the salty air but Tucson and Phoenix are among the best in the country.

    Take a "chore boy" copper pad and a bit of WD-40 to the most corroded chrome on any sample you find (with the owners blessings, underside of handlebar is usually pretty safe) and see what the potential is. Many of the forums reconditioning experts have posted their entire list of potions and medias (these should be regarded like heirloom recipes) for us to use on everything, paint, chrome, leather and loosening stuck fasteners.

    Other than tools and shop conveniences, tires, tubes and cables may be all you need to really make a 'burb pop like new. Oh, post pics of everything and tell us what you find, learn and don't need any more and want to pass on.

  8. #8
    Senior Member randyjawa's Avatar
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    Though not a racing bike, this old girl is perfect for a lady who wishes to sit upright. Also, since you are interested in vintage bicycles and considering a purchase it, it would be a good idea to learn how to determine quality of bicycles. I published MY "TEN SPEEDS" with the person new to the vintage bicycle interest, in mind. You might find some useful information to get you started on the Bicycle Basics page.

    Hope this is a help.


  9. #9
    Senior Member cycleheimer's Avatar
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    The Suburban is a nice bike for around town use.

    These "Chicago" Schwinns were easy-to-service, exceptionally dependable, practically indestructable bikes with very durable and long lasting chrome plating and paint. They are comfortable to ride. Replacement tires can sometimes take a little more effort to find, as compared to a newer mountain bike tire (for example). Everything else is pretty easy to find. The Alvit-Huret deraileurs and friction shifters of the '70s are not as smooth and precise as later models from other manufacturers. They do work, however, and are fine for casual around town use. These bikes are a bit heavy, and can drain your energy on longer rides. If you have any hills at all to contend with, you are better with a 5-speed or 10-speed model instead of a 3-speed model. The 3-speed models, however, usually present you with fewer maintenance issues. There are still quite a few of them around, and they don't really cost that much. They do look nice, especially with chrome fenders, saddle bag, rear rack and a generator light set!
    To get an idea of pricing, which does vary by regional market and the bike's condition, take a look at this website:

    http://bike.jaxed.com/cgi-bin/bike.c...ye=&submit=+GO+

    Inexpensive parts and accessories can be purchased online from places like Nashbar and Niagara Cycle Works.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by ftwelder View Post
    When a bike is filthy with it's tubes hanging out and kinked cables tangled around the frame it's difficult to imagine but it's really quite easy to bring the chrome and paint back to a healthy shine. Coastal towns would be the worse place to shop due to the salty air but Tucson and Phoenix are among the best in the country.

    Take a "chore boy" copper pad and a bit of WD-40 to the most corroded chrome on any sample you find (with the owners blessings, underside of handlebar is usually pretty safe) and see what the potential is. Many of the forums reconditioning experts have posted their entire list of potions and medias (these should be regarded like heirloom recipes) for us to use on everything, paint, chrome, leather and loosening stuck fasteners.

    Other than tools and shop conveniences, tires, tubes and cables may be all you need to really make a 'burb pop like new. Oh, post pics of everything and tell us what you find, learn and don't need any more and want to pass on.
    That is a beautiful raleigh!!!!! Maybe I need to look into these, as well.

  11. #11
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by daisy101 View Post
    That is a beautiful raleigh!!!!! Maybe I need to look into these, as well.
    There are a lot of Raleigh and Raleigh Clones as well as other British bikes that will fit your needs. Names to look for: Hercules, Humber, AMF-Hercules, Robin Hood and quite a few others. To me the British bikes and the older Schwinns always stand out in a crowd.

    Aaron
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  12. #12
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    I took road fan's advice and measured myself per the instructions at "rivbak" for bike frame size/saddle height. I am 88 cm.

    I saw a 27" schwinn posted for sale on the link cycleheimer gave me. It's in Tucson (for $150) and looks like it's in good shape. When I was in high school, I had a schwinn varsity and I am pretty sure my mom had a green schwinn breeze! I recall numbers such as 26" and 27" for frame sizes. Is that as big as the frames get on these bikes?

    I also read on "rivbak" that people prefer a higher handle bar height. I do want to sit up straight (for comfort and so I can get a good look around!) so I would like a frame big enough to allow me to raise the handle bars.

    Given my measurements, does it sound like a 27" will do it? Do I need to pay attention to wheel sizes? Should I look for 19". What other measurement numbers should I keep in mind for my size as I shop???

    Thank you, everyone, for your very appropriate advice!

  13. #13
    DRF aka Thrifty Bill wrk101's Avatar
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    Nope. Don't trust sellers sizing regardless. Most of the time, sellers are looking at the number on the side of the tire, or just guessing. I rarely if ever find a seller that gets the size right. I have bought quite a few used bike in the last few years, and maybe 1% of the time does the seller get the size right. Anymore, I just ignore the size listed in the ad, or given to me verbally by the seller.

    You are better off calibrating your eye (study pictures of bikes, and you can quickly guess pretty close) and take a tape measure with you. I have not heard of a Suburban or Breeze in those sizes. But I am not a Schwinn expert.

    26 or 27 inch frames are rare and HUGE, and too big for you unless you are about 6-4 plus. Women's style frames commonly topped out at around 21 inch. I would like to see a women's style 27 inch frame. That would be something!

    Go to a bike shop and try out a couple of bikes. Sizing over the internet is inefficient at best, and probably wrong. If I was to guess, I would put you on a 24 inch frame bike, maybe a 25 inch. It is more common for someone 5-11 to be on a 23 inch size frame. I am a short legged 5-11 and ride a 22.

    26 inch Breeze = 26 inch wheels, not a 26 inch frame. The Breeze came in a 17 and 19 inch frame size (at least in the early 1970s).

    Here's a picture of a 25 inch frame bike:

    1985 Centurion Accordo 004..jpg
    Last edited by wrk101; 11-07-10 at 09:52 AM.

  14. #14
    Chrome Freak Rabid Koala's Avatar
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    As a fellow San Diegan, welcome to C and V!

    I built a small Paramount for my wife to ride, she never liked step through frames so I used a man's frame. I used tourist bars rather than drop bars. It is quite small but she is 5' 4" When I met her back in the mid seventies, she was riding a lime green Varsity.

    There are a whole lot of other bikes you might consider that could be converted to tourist bars, including the Le Tours and other Japanese sourced Schwinns. There would be a definite weight advantage to the Japanese Schwinns.
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by wrk101 View Post
    Nope. Don't trust sellers sizing regardless. Most of the time, sellers are looking at the number on the side of the tire, or just guessing. I rarely if ever find a seller that gets the size right. I have bought quite a few used bike in the last few years, and maybe 1% of the time does the seller get the size right. Anymore, I just ignore the size listed in the ad, or given to me verbally by the seller.

    You are better off calibrating your eye (study pictures of bikes, and you can quickly guess pretty close) and take a tape measure with you. I have not heard of a Suburban or Breeze in those sizes. But I am not a Schwinn expert.

    26 or 27 inch frames are rare and HUGE, and too big for you unless you are about 6-4 plus. Women's style frames commonly topped out at around 21 inch. I would like to see a women's style 27 inch frame. That would be something!

    Thanks for the clarification regarding sizes. The size issue has had me stymied and I hadn't really found a decent explanation until now.

    Go to a bike shop and try out a couple of bikes. Sizing over the internet is inefficient at best, and probably wrong. If I was to guess, I would put you on a 24 inch frame bike, maybe a 25 inch. It is more common for someone 5-11 to be on a 23 inch size frame. I am a short legged 5-11 and ride a 22.

    26 inch Breeze = 26 inch wheels, not a 26 inch frame. The Breeze came in a 17 and 19 inch frame size (at least in the early 1970s).

    Here's a picture of a 25 inch frame bike:

    1985 Centurion Accordo 004..jpg
    Thanks for the clarification on sizing. That has had me stymied for a while.

    So I guess that I will be looking for a frame size of about 23 inches. Can you suggest any bike models that are relatively common in that size?

  16. #16
    DRF aka Thrifty Bill wrk101's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by daisy101 View Post
    Thanks for the clarification on sizing. That has had me stymied for a while.

    So I guess that I will be looking for a frame size of about 23 inches. Can you suggest any bike models that are relatively common in that size?
    There are endless number of good bikes with either a 23 inch or 24 inch frame size. Pretty much every single manufacturer made bikes with that frame size, not not in a drop top bar, women's style. So you really need to consider that facet.

    But again, don't trust the seller to get the size right. Instead, you will have to either get really lucky, or chase after a few deals.

  17. #17
    Senior Member cycleheimer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by daisy101 View Post
    When I was younger, I always preferred a man's frame (I was a tomboy and wanted to look like one!)

    Now I am in my 40s and not so tomboyish and would prefer a woman's frame so I can wear skirts and be comfortable!
    Luckily for you many used women's bikes can be found in pretty good condition. Unless things have changed recently without me being aware of it, they also can be purchased for less than a comparable men's bike. I hope I am not being politically incorrect here
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  18. #18
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    There have been a few, very few step through bikes built in the 23" size. Also look for mixte frames, they will still allow the skirt and often came in larger sizes. I have a Peugeot that is a the large size and it would probably fit you fine with some modifications to the handle bars and stem. My sister is close to your height and rode if for several years. Her current bike is a 21" Hercules 3 speed. Pictures below, the blue bike is the Peugeot.

    I would suggest seeing if you can find someone who is bike savvy to help you look at the bikes you find. If I were closer I would be glad to help out. Another bike to look for would be the Raleigh Sprites.

    Aaron

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  19. #19
    Disraeli Gears Charles Wahl's Avatar
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    Here's a blog that you may find interesting
    http://lovelybike.blogspot.com/
    by a cycling enthusiast writing from a woman's point of view. The author's tastes in bikes do not include Schwinns, alas, but she started with “utilitarian” bikes and covers them well. More recently, she has been getting more interested in owning/riding “performance” bicycles (of the vintage type), but she's had quite a few bicycles, and even the ones she's sold off are fairly well-documented. Style is a very important aspect of the bikes she's interested in, too.
    Last edited by Charles Wahl; 11-07-10 at 02:03 PM.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Charles Wahl View Post
    Here's a blog that you may find interesting
    http://lovelybike.blogspot.com/
    by a cycling enthusiast writing from a woman's point of view. The author's tastes in bikes do not include Schwinns, alas, but she started with “utilitarian” bikes and covers them well. More recently, she has been getting more interested in owning/riding “performance” bicycles (of the vintage type), but she's had quite a few bicycles, and even the ones she's sold off are fairly well-documented. Style is a very important aspect of the bikes she's interested in, too.
    You're KILLING me by posting the lovely bike link!!!! Yes. I'll take a Pashley princess, please. Green or black: I am not picky.

    I see a Pashley princess listed on craigslist in Colorado for $1000. It is for a short person, though. Bummer!!!!

    I had not thought to spend a $1,000 for a bike. If I find one as perfect as the Pashley, though, I just might!

    I ended up talking to a local guy who had something listed on Craigslist. He told me that vintage step through bikes in my size are few and far between, but he thought that if I were diligent enough, I might find one by Christmas!

    Perhaps I should try zeroing in on finding the right frame: a 23" step through loop would be ideal.

    Can anyone tell me what the level of difficulty is in building a nice vintage bike from scratch? Perhaps in descending order, which are the parts that are the hardest to find? In my case, the key piece might be the frame I want. If I find that, what do you think my chances of success are to find the right wheels, tires, handle bars, etc?

  21. #21
    Senior Member Road Fan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by daisy101 View Post
    Thanks for the clarification on sizing. That has had me stymied for a while.

    So I guess that I will be looking for a frame size of about 23 inches. Can you suggest any bike models that are relatively common in that size?
    Just to weigh in on sizing ... You've measured an 88 cm inseam, yeah, you're a tall girl! Conventional theory on frame sizing points you to a frame with a size spec 2/3 of that, or 59 cm. In inches this is 23 inches, so I agree this is a good starting point. If you get a step-through (conventional ladies') frame or a mixte (the one with the dropped upper bar that "points at" the rear axle), you'll be in a good starting point. It won't be a done deal until you've been on the bike for a little while, AFTER the fitting adjustments have been worked out (another essay). I'm glad you're receptive to the other styles of womens' bikes like the English 3-speed or mixtes like Veloria has built (the Beautiful Bicycle woman), because I think those are technically better bikes, and I personally like those aesthetics better - strange, being a Chicago native!

    My only concern with those bikes is hill ability. Your views on gears seem to be evolving - first you wanted a single or 3-speed, then the gearing of a Suburban (5-speed derailleur) may be good. If you could borrow a friend's 3-speed for an hour (make sure the gears work ok!) and see if it works for you on your SD hills, that would help make your focus. Keep in mind that if it feels sluggish, that will change after all the bearings have been properly cleaned and lubed, and the tires are in a condition where they'll hold proper pressure. These bikes should feel rather light and sprightly. Less than a modern bike, but still sprightly.

    If you'd consider $1000, look at Terry Bicycles (www.terrybicycles.com). Georgena Terry rejuvenated and greatly expanded the idea of a woman's bicycle, using her engineering head to figure out how to fit women in all their sizes. She still runs the company but does not own it, and hence has time to assist INDIVIDUAL CUSTOMERs, just ladies like yourself, to figure out what might be best for them. She was a big help in finding a first fast bike for Mrs. Road Fan, who is now kicking my butt on the hills. Maybe I need a Terry bike .... well, not in pink and powder blue, at least! There's also a forum there you can sign up for free, and speak to Georgena and to other women who bike. I am authorized by Mrs. Road Fan to post there on her behalf.

    I KNOW she makes a mixte in your size. If it proves tough to find one on the used market, you can certainly get one there.

  22. #22
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    Thanks for the input, Road Fan. I am very happy to have all the input people have been giving me. Everyone's comments seem to be spot on.

    After thinking about it, I think I am going to be compulsive (ultimately) about a bike that has the proportions that fit my body. The "downside" is my long legs. On the other hand, I also have long arms (which will make it easier to sit up straight like I want to) and broad shoulders so that even bikes designed more for a man will suit me better than the average woman. I don't think I have ever been compulsive about fit for a bike. It's funny, but even with clothes that fit perfectly, I get a whole different feel -- it's like I feel sprightly! -- no distractions.

    I am totally haunted by that Pashley Princess!!!! One drawback is that I don't think there are any dealers close to me so I could try one out. I completely agree that it will take some time to find out which bike really works for its intended purpose. One pro is that a 22.5" frame is a STANDARD size for the Princess (Oh Oh -- now I am starting to rationalize!! danger. danger.)

    As for the drawbacks, and there are many: The Princess seems to only come with 5 gears and it appears to be a heavy bike. With the uneven topography in my neighborhood, that means some work. Nearly every day is a great day to do outdoor activity in San Diego because the average temp year 'round is a sunny 70. One downside to that, though, is that we don't have a lot of nice shade trees lining our streets and the sun and reflected heat off pavement can really take it's toll on you.

    I have also decided that my main goal for a bike is leisure, not exercise, and not a lot of sweating! I am fit and strong and can probably manage to stay that way another 20 years. Maybe I would soon adapt to a heavy bike, with few gears for use on hills (I grew up in Wisconsin and every time the snow melted in spring, even in my teens, there would be a period of a week or so when my quads would BURN from riding my bike after a winter of no biking!), but spending 4 figures on an experiment seems ill-advised.

    Someone gave me a small huffy five gear, step-through bike. It is a rattle trap and even with tweaking and new brake pads, the gears don't shift well and it takes me at least 5 feet to come to a complete stop. Riding that bike, though, is how I discovered that we have hills. Somehow, I totally overlook that fact otherwise!

    I am sort of leaning toward getting a basic schwinn bike -- probably a suburban after the input from this forum, with as big a frame as I can find and trying it out for a while to get a good feel for how I ultimately will use a bike (assuming there may be some discrepancies between my bike use fantasies and reality! A reality/fact gap seems to be ubiquitous). I figure I can probably find a decent vintage schwinn/raleigh with some of the features I am seeking for a little over $100 and that I would get back at least $100 in self education from it. After that, if I don't luck out by making a perfect choice from the get-go, I could probably sell it easily for at least half what I paid for it, then apply what I have learned to getting something more tailored to my needs.

  23. #23
    Oh Snap, not again... atmdad's Avatar
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    Hi daisy,

    Keep an eye out on San Diego Craigslist. The style of bike your are looking for pop up pretty often. This past summer I picked up and fixed up Scwhinn Collegiate, Suburban and World Tourist and a Centurion ladies style all for between $25 - $70 dollars. All cleaned up nicely and after a good overhaul which included new brake pads, cables, tubes/tires, rear freewheels and chains. So I did put in about an extra $60 or so on each bike, keep that in mind, but they are all very nice riding bikes. Sorry I don't have one to offer though, the Centurion is my daughters, I sold the Suburban to one of her friends, the Collegiate i gave to a friends daughter, and I use the world tourist as my own grocery getter/ sight seeing / cruiser beater bike.

  24. #24
    rhm
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    What about a Schwinn Super Sport? I know, it has drop bars; but it's a much better frame, isn't it? I happen to have a Super Sport lady's frame with, I think, a 23" frame; and it's the second one I've found in the trash in the last few years. you can have it, but it's in NJ and not in great shape, so I'm not recommending this option. But they definitely do exist.

    I prefer English bikes, though. More stylish, and lighter.

  25. #25
    alr
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    If you are worried about the weight of a Pashley, I think you also may worry about the weight of a Schwinn. I am pretty sure that they both weigh more than my Raleigh DL-1 lady tourist. The tourist only comes in 22" size, for which I am on the small side for riding it at 5'5". My much taller (5'10") sister was able to ride it just fine with a major upward saddle height adjustment. I used to live in Banker's Hill in SD years ago, and I am pretty sure that I would be able to ride up from Bankers hill (north) from downtown on a 3 speed with lowered gearing-- though coming up from the west (little italy side) would be challenging on any bicycle with any number of gears.

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