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  1. #26
    <riding now> BigAura's Avatar
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    Even most recently, the Schwinn brand has created the Madison fixed gear. I find it, in some ways, synonymous to the way that the Varsity was a stepping stone to the "higher end" bicycle market.

  2. #27
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    This is a great thread, guys. I have a Waterford bike which is pretty much my go to bike even though I also have a high end plastic bike. When I decided to buy the Waterford my LBS called them up to have it built and Dick Schwinn answered the phone, took the details, and sealed the deal. Heck, I wouldn't be shocked if he welded the frame.

  3. #28
    Senior Member rydabent's Avatar
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    old try

    Yes--you are very correct. The Paramount was a world class bike. Two of my sons still have upscale Schwinn bikes. Both of them have down tube shifters that made the bikes some of the cleanest ever produced. One even has the brake cables hidden under the handlebar tape, so it is almost as clean as a track bike.

  4. #29
    Road Runner DougG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dazevedo View Post
    I had to laugh at this part - imported from Japan simply because Schwinn's factory was unable to manufacture bikes with the "newfangled" lugged frame technology. It was the beginning of the end for them.
    If that is really in the book then who ever wrote it was lacking in research.
    I probably just over-summarized that part, as the book seemed to be very well researched although the book was intended more as a business case study than a detailed history of the industry.

    As I recall, what they said was that Schwinn was unable to make frames of this type in their main Chicago factory. The Paramounts were built at another location, with much of the welding and brazing done by hand. The bikes were expensive to make and sold at a high price for that era, but it was OK for Schwinn since they were sold as a high-end "premium" model.

    When the market for that type of bike started to pick up, Schwinn was unable to make bikes at the volume and price point that dealers were demanding and had to import them for a few years to meet the demand. As I recall, they did start making the LeTour and similar bikes stateside in the late 70s or so, possibly at the new factory in Greeneville, MS, although I don't recall those details from the book.

  5. #30
    Road Runner DougG's Avatar
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    BTW, the way that I discovered this book was when I read David Eggers' novel of a few years ago, "A Hologram for the King." In that book, the main (fictional) character is an ex-Schwinn executive who had been saddled with trying to make a success of the ex-Soviet-bloc factory in Bulgaria that Schwinn bought into in an attempt to make bikes more cheaply for the European and other Western markets. So there are a number of interesting references back to that experience that the character reflects on throughout the book, which generally reflects on the demise of American manufacturing.

    In an afterword, the author noted this book as one of his sources, and that's why I went out looking for it.
    Last edited by DougG; 03-25-14 at 09:14 AM. Reason: Fix spelling

  6. #31
    Seat Sniffer Biker395's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tcs View Post
    Giant began producing bikes for Schwinn in 1977. The Hungarian debacle was around 1988. Schwinn's bankruptcy was in 1992.
    Whoa. I didn't know Giant was producing bikes for them that early!
    Proud parent of a happy inner child ...
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  7. #32
    Senior Member az_cyclist's Avatar
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    I had 3 Schwinn bikes, a Varsity 5 in 1979, a Traveler in 1983, and a Prelude in 1986. The Prelude had Columbus chrome-moly tubing and SunTour groupo. The rear dropout broke in July of 1998. Since the frame was supposed to have been under a lifetime warranty, I searched out a Schwinn dealer ( I lived in Indianapolis at that point, not in the city where I purchased the bike). They contacted Schwinn, who at this time had been purchased by a group called Questor (probably the Colorado group mentioned earlier in this thread). THEY determined lifetime warranty meant 10 years. I didnt expect a full credit for a 12 year old bike, but I didnt expect the bum's rush either. FWIW, I switched to Trek then.

  8. #33
    tcs
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    Quote Originally Posted by az_cyclist View Post
    THEY determined lifetime warranty meant 10 years. I didnt expect a full credit for a 12 year old bike, but I didnt expect the bum's rush either.
    I'm not a bankruptcy lawyer but I imagine the extent of the new owner's liabilities were spelled out right along with the purchase of the assets. I bet the long time Schwinn blue collar employees took it in the shorts, too.
    "When man first set woman on two wheels with a pair of pedals, did he know, I wonder, that he had rent the veil of the harem in twain? A woman on a bicycle has all the world before her where to choose; she can go where she will, no man hindering." The Typewriter Girl, 1899.

    "Every so often a bird gets up and flies some place it's drawn to. I don't suppose it could tell you why, but it does it anyway." Ian Hibell, 1934-2008

  9. #34
    Senior Member az_cyclist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tcs View Post
    I'm not a bankruptcy lawyer but I imagine the extent of the new owner's liabilities were spelled out right along with the purchase of the assets. I bet the long time Schwinn blue collar employees took it in the shorts, too.
    Oh I am sure they did. The hypocrisy of it is what got me; the new owners wanted the Schwinn name, but didnt want to back it up.

  10. #35
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    [QUOTE=JanMM;16608121]
    My 'upgrade' to a Made in Mississippi '79 Super LeTour

    The Greenville factory opened in 1982 Your 79 would have likely been a chicago built machine, maybe Panasonic
    Rydadiamond

  11. #36
    tcs
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    Quote Originally Posted by dazevedo View Post
    I have no idea if they didn't build lugged lower cost frames from lack of skilled workers , or they stuck with a 3 class tier so to say first class lugged Paramounts, second class fillet-brazed Sports Tourers ,Super Sports and third class electro-forged the Varsity's, Continental's.
    Nah, they sold plenty of inexpensive lugged frame bikes (undercutting their own Chicago bikes) during the 1970s bike boom - they just didn't manufacture them.
    "When man first set woman on two wheels with a pair of pedals, did he know, I wonder, that he had rent the veil of the harem in twain? A woman on a bicycle has all the world before her where to choose; she can go where she will, no man hindering." The Typewriter Girl, 1899.

    "Every so often a bird gets up and flies some place it's drawn to. I don't suppose it could tell you why, but it does it anyway." Ian Hibell, 1934-2008

  12. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by tcs View Post
    Nah, they sold plenty of inexpensive lugged frame bikes (undercutting their own Chicago bikes) during the 1970s bike boom - they just didn't manufacture them.
    They sold plenty of lugged bikes in the mid to late 80's also that were made in Greenville. Le Tours and Travelers
    Rydadiamond

  13. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by tcs View Post
    Nah, they sold plenty of inexpensive lugged frame bikes (undercutting their own Chicago bikes) during the 1970s bike boom - they just didn't manufacture them.
    Yea that was my bad there. I wrote I have no idea if they didn't I meant to write why, not if.

  14. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by DougG View Post
    I probably just over-summarized that part, as the book seemed to be very well researched although the book was intended more as a business case study than a detailed history of the industry.

    As I recall, what they said was that Schwinn was unable to make frames of this type in their main Chicago factory. The Paramounts were built at another location, with much of the welding and brazing done by hand. The bikes were expensive to make and sold at a high price for that era, but it was OK for Schwinn since they were sold as a high-end "premium" model.

    When the market for that type of bike started to pick up, Schwinn was unable to make bikes at the volume and price point that dealers were demanding and had to import them for a few years to meet the demand. As I recall, they did start making the LeTour and similar bikes stateside in the late 70s or so, possibly at the new factory in Greeneville, MS, although I don't recall those details from the book.
    As stated earlier that was true until Frank Schwinn moved the Paramount production onsite in 1959 to the Chicago site in the cage area. Where all Paramounts from 59 until the end where hand assembled with the exception of the bike boom 70's when they had Don Mainland's shop make the excess Paramount production which was around 10 frames per week to Schwinn's 15 frames per week.They also started the brass fillet-brazed Superior, Sports Tourer and Super Sport in 1962 thru 1978 in the cage area besides the Paramount's.
    As far as I can find all the lugged framed bikes other then Paramount's where outsourced frames.

  15. #40
    Senior Member rebel1916's Avatar
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    Just requested through inter library loan. Thanks for the tip.

  16. #41
    tcs
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    Quote Originally Posted by dazevedo View Post
    Where all Paramounts from 59 until the end where hand assembled with the exception of the bike boom 70's when they had Don Mainland's shop make the excess Paramount production which was around 10 frames per week to Schwinn's 15 frames per week.
    Where as out in the main factory during the height of the 70s bike boom they were stamping out (quite literally) ~1,700,000 Varsities and Continentals a year. That's ~33,000 a week or one new bike every 17 seconds, 24/7!
    "When man first set woman on two wheels with a pair of pedals, did he know, I wonder, that he had rent the veil of the harem in twain? A woman on a bicycle has all the world before her where to choose; she can go where she will, no man hindering." The Typewriter Girl, 1899.

    "Every so often a bird gets up and flies some place it's drawn to. I don't suppose it could tell you why, but it does it anyway." Ian Hibell, 1934-2008

  17. #42
    <riding now> BigAura's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tcs View Post
    Where as out in the main factory during the height of the 70s bike boom they were stamping out (quite literally) ~1,700,000 Varsities and Continentals a year. That's ~33,000 a week or one new bike every 17 seconds, 24/7!
    I agree this is really what made Schwinn, versus the Paramount. Analogously, Chevrolet is not really about the Corvette. Sure enthusiasts love Paramount and Corvette but it's not essence of what these companies are about.

  18. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by dazevedo View Post
    As far as I can find all the lugged framed bikes other then Paramount's where outsourced frames.
    They made a few Le Tours in the Chicago factory at least in 1980. That was before the unionization effort. The last year of Paramount production at the Chicago facility was 1978. None were made until the Waterford facility was opened in the early 80's. They produced their own lugged frames in the 80's at the Greenville factory ( Le Tours, Travelers).
    Rydadiamond

  19. #44
    Trek 500 Kid Zinger's Avatar
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    Schwinn Super Sport (60's) 001 copy.jpgSchwinn Super Sport (60's) 002 copy.jpgSchwinn Super Sport (60's) 003 copy.jpg
    CIMG5636med.jpg11901519766_4e552d766d_c.jpg

    I thought this thread I was gazing at in the Classics & Vintage forum might be interesting because some of these guys who restore and build a lot of classics are also using their extra parts fixing up these early '70s fillet brazed chrome moly Schwinn Super Sports (Quite a different bike than what they became a decade later.)

    1971 Schwinn Super Sport with all original parts?

    I can remember considering aluminum rims on my Varsity when I first started riding but abandoned the idea when I bought my Italvega. I probably wouldn't sink money into one of these old frames, even a chrome moly one, but it's kinda cool seeing the results when somebody without anything better to do does.

    He got the weight down to around 26 lbs on the red one.

    7230922884_9c962c71a2_c.jpg7265199400_9ae04cb96e_z.jpg

    And here's a clean almost original '62 Schwinn Continental from the following C&V thread.

    '61 Schwinn Continental
    Last edited by Zinger; 04-28-14 at 03:13 AM.
    "I never lost a race because my bike was too heavy".......George Mount

  20. #45
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    I haven't read the book and, as such, am wondering if it mentioned anything about the unfair and often one-sided "free-trade" agreements that essentially discriminate against many U.S. manufacturing companies...

  21. #46
    Senior Member rebel1916's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FMB42 View Post
    I haven't read the book and, as such, am wondering if it mentioned anything about the unfair and often one-sided "free-trade" agreements that essentially discriminate against many U.S. manufacturing companies...
    That had nothing to do with it.

  22. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by rebel1916 View Post
    That had nothing to do with it.
    Care to explain your comment?

  23. #48
    Senior Member rebel1916's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FMB42 View Post
    Care to explain your comment?
    Sure, the problems started in the 70's, free trade deals weren't an issue, hell, Schwinn was doing much of their manufacturing overseas anyway. Schwinn refused to innovate or modernize their plant, they drove crummy bargains with Chinese manufacturers, upper management were not involved with cycling, they refused to seek investors, and as a result were very heavily in debt. A perfect storm of mediocre, third gen, family dynasty management.

  24. #49
    It's as easy as riding a dannwilliams's Avatar
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    Speaking of Schwinn, I was at my mom's house over the weekend for a visit. Was rummaging through the basement and came across a can of Schwinn LPD-9 spray lubricant. Must be between 30 - 40 years old! I brought it home and am displaying above my workbench.
    "It doesn't get easier, you just go faster."

  25. #50
    Senior Member downtube42's Avatar
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    At the bike co-op we get fairly frequent donations of old Schwinn's - usually 70's and 80's mid levels. Looking at them today as transportation bikes, they are solid. If they've been kept in somebody's garage, away from moisture, then with some fresh lubrication, cables, and rubber, they are ready to go for another few decades. Their only glaring weakness as far as I'm concerned is their brakes. Chromed steel rims just don't provide a good braking surface.

    I recently upgraded my daily commuter from a Continental to a Motobecane Grand Jubile of similar vintage. The Moto is lighter and feels sportier, whatever that means.

    I've sort of come to the conclusion that Schwinn built bikes people needed, but the imports were the bikes people wanted.
    What is bicycle touring?
    "So I kept looking and eventually found that a spark plug had same threads. So I cycled next two days until I got to Jackson, MS with a spark plug instead of right pedal." - mev

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