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1970s Schwinn Suburban

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1970s Schwinn Suburban

Old 10-29-20, 05:05 PM
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1970s Schwinn Suburban

I have a refurbished and painted steel frame from a 1970s Schwinn suburban. I want to make it a daily commuter and the occasional weekend bikepacker. I am interested in putting as many modern parts on it as I can to boost performance. Can someone point me in the right direction? It is going to need everything from a front fork to wheels. I have a SRAM 1x5 and derailleurs. Someone please help me lol.
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Old 10-29-20, 05:52 PM
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Just get it working and ride it. Don't be putting money into swapping working old for new. Once you have a ridden it for a few thousand miles then you'll have a better idea what you like and don't like about that bike.

I had a Schwinn Suburban when I was a kid. I think the frame is still at my father-in-laws barn rusting away. Nice bike for leisurely riding and maybe short commutes. Heavy though, so not sure I'd want to go bikepacking with it unless I was still a very young teen or everywhere I want to go has no hills in between.

Modern parts won't boost performance. They'll just work better. The motor is what give you better performance, but the motor doesn't work as well on hills with a heavy bike as it does a lighter bike.
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Old 10-29-20, 06:06 PM
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The Suburban was a Flat handlebar 5 or 10 speed bike. Electo-Forged frame i recall. Schwinn did make their own wheels. Which were on many Schwinns. And only their tires would fit. The rear axle space is likely 120MM for a 5 speed freewheel. If you have a (cheap) parts source. Like 1 or more parts bikes. If might be worth the effort.
But if you ride enough, you'll probably want a lighter bike. And newer bike have braze-ons like cable stops,,bottle mounts,, etc. cheers
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Old 10-29-20, 06:18 PM
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One of the best upgrades you can make to a bike like that is ditching the steel rims/wheels and replace with alloy.
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Old 10-29-20, 08:15 PM
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Do the dimensional homework well before spending any $. Those 1970 USA made Schwinns used fork, tubing and BB specs that modern parts are not available in. Excepting wheels and cables i'd question more "upgrading". Andy
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Old 10-30-20, 03:45 AM
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The FIVE SPEED Suburban is perhaps the most durable SCHWINN ever made along with the 1970 to late seventies Schwinn COLLEGIATE.
The FIVE SPEED Suburban has a 32 , 26, 21, 17, 14 model J Freewheel (same as the 1970 -1977 Collegiate which is also a five speed).
The FIVE SPEED Suburban, along with the Seventies era Collegiate, is a much better bicycle than the 10 speed Suburban, Continental or Varsity!
It is much better in that you have a far better and more durable rear derailleur built by Shimano, and the simplicity of no front derailleur. The wide range of gearing offered by the five speed's 46 tooth single front crank and those 32 - 14 five gears at rear give the rider a wide gear range of thirty-nine to eighty-nine which is almost as wide as the TenSpeed Suburban/Continental/Varsity's gear range of thirty-eight to one hundred. Do your own calculations if you don't agree. The VARSITY/CONTINENTAL/10spSUBURBAN have 52/39 front cranks and the Model F freewheel with 28, 24, 20, 16, 14 at the rear wheel.

The Electroforged frames are the same. The SUBURBAN has the front TUBULAR fork of the CONTINENTAL but without the centerpull brakes of the CONTINENTAL. The SUBURBAN has the sidepull Weinmann L.S. 2.4 brakes which the VARSITY has. The VARSITY has the Ashtabula forged blade fork which the Collegiate and other typical heavy "lightweight" Schwinn models like the Breeze and Speedster also have.
Because the 597mm (26 x 1 3/8 ) COLLEGIATES and Breeze/Speedster twenty-six wheel variants REQUIRE a MUCH longer reach sidepull caliper (L.S. 2.8 Weinmann) than the 630mm (27 x 1 1/4) SUBURBAN/CONTINENTAL/VARSITY.

Schwinns of this electroforged frame variety are known for their supreme durability and indestructibility if you replace the Huret Allvit rear derailleur of the Ten Speeds with a better Japanese built Shimano or Maeda SUNTOUR unit. The Allvit is as rugged as they got for a European rear derailleur and even though it is no match for the far superior Japanese quality, the Allvit will get the job done as well as anything until the late sixties when Shimano quality and durability redefined rear derailleur quality.

You should not try to change a heavy "lightweight" electroforged Schwinn. If you want something lightweight and vintage, you'll be better served to start with something Japanese made during the mid seventies to the mid eighties.
Embrace it for what it does offer: the world's best kickstand, a very stable and comfortable ride with predictable road manners such that you can easily ride with no hands as many of us did during the 1970's, and an unbreakable forged one piece crank that is so extremely simple to grease/service and-or replace the two #64 caged bottom bracket crank bearings. The original #64 stamped "SCHWINN" bearings can easily last fifty years or more if greased properly. So super simple that any 11 year old kid can learn to do the bottom bracket on such a Schwinn with just a large CRESCENT Wrench, and a large flathead screwdriver, as well as the wrench to remove the left side pedal and wrenches to remove the Chainguard on five speeds and cruisers. Simplicity is wonderful when it also is extremely durable! Yes, it is weighty but what the heck are you gonna save, maybe a pound or perhaps two at most by changing to a three piece crank set up.......................but by doing that, you lose the simplicity and you don't gain a damn thing because the crank isn't any more durable or more efficient. Yes, perhaps going to lightweight aluminum wheels will give you a much more peppier bicycle because of significantly lighter rotating mass of wheel. Aluminum wheels will significantly improve braking especially in wet or damp conditions. The original steel Schwinn wheels are durable and will take more punishment than perhaps any other wheel but if you don't intend to ride like Evil Knievel making jumps at Caesars Palace or at the Astrodome, then any wheel that you decide to fit to such an old Schwinn should work well as long as it fits well enough. Remember what I said about the VARSITY/SUBURBAN using the L.S. 2.4 Weinmann side pulls and the COLLEGIATE using the L.S. 2.8 Weinmann sidepulls. Should you decide to change to something smaller than 700C (622mm) such as maybe something like 650a, 650b, 650c, the longer reach L.S. 2.8 Weinmann sidepulls (same as 810 Weinmann) might assist you in doing that if you're okay with vintage sidepull brakes. I personally don't think it is necessary to change away from the stock steel chromed SCHWINN wheels because most people will not be riding these old Schwinns like speed demons in the rain or in wet conditions. Nearly everyone aboard an old vintage eletroforged Schwinn is going to be travelling at an average speed of less than 18 miles per hour. If you really need to ride at a faster pace, then ideally, you should consider a significantly lighter, faster, and slightly more modern bicycle than the SUBURBAN/VARSITY/CONTINENTAL 27(630mm) electroforged Schwinns and the 26 Collegiates and other 26(597mm) variants.

These old SCHWINNS have frame geometry which allows for the frame to accomodate many different size riders comfortably just by raising the seat post and perhaps the stem also. In addition to that, these old Schwinns came in many different frame sizes from about 18, 20, 22, 24 typically in mens version and typically 17, 19, 21 in women's version. A few years during the seventies boom, there may have been a few super large 25 and 26 men's electroforged frames too. If you look at the seat tube angle on old electroforged Schwinns, you'll notice that the angle of the sixties-seventies era bicycles is such that as the seat post height goes up, it brings the rider's seat farther away(back) MORE SO THAN MOST OTHER BIKES, such that this accomodates many different sized riders on these frame sizes that one typically would not be able to ride if it were another maker's frame geometry and design.

Don't be the idiot who removes the SCHWINN kickstand and one piece crank to try to put the ancient SCHWINN on a weight loss plan. The benefit of retaining both certainly outweighs any benefit that you might derive from saving weight. A SCHWINN is a SCHWINN and they are the most durable and bombproof bicycles ever made. They are NOT lightweights and they were significantly heavier than their early Seventies competitors. They were designed to take a severe beating and keep rolling along where other bicycles would have been destroyed. Every part was considered by Schwinn engineering for best durability and continued operational functionality after the most punishment an energetic Dennis The Menace type teenager could throw at it in his best effort to replicate the mayhem and violent abuse as seen on the TV Commercial with the Gorilla and the American Tourister luggage. Schwinn engineering did not consider reducing weight at all, as everything specified was done so for durability, quality and overall functionality from a potentially abusive young nut. It only was designed to have "the look" from twenty feet away of a sporty bicycle with the durabilty and comfortable stable ride of a heavy cruiser.

Enjoy your Schwinn. Customize it. Have fun with it. Do what you'd like. It isn't worth a lot of money! Millions were produced and huge numbers are still being ridden or at least in near roadworthy shape. Don't waste money trying to make it into something lightweight as there are better candidates for that (the Japan imported Le Tour of 1974 -1977) and many other various JAPANESE bikes that were competitors. Why? because you get both quality components and a superb much lighter frame with anything from the many Japanese marques of 1974 thru at least 1985 and beyond. Durabilty of Japanese bikes is superb because SHIMANO and Maeda SUNTOUR components were aboard and nothing from the likes of Huret, Simplex, or Campagnolo. This is not to say that the European components aren't decent enough to ride with, ... the European stuff from Huret, Campagnolo, etc isn't as durable as Shimano and Suntour components of that era and at best probably not as good (functionality) as the the basic economy line Shimano equipment of that era.
If you have fun, and ride and enjoy the bike, then it is not a waste of money on any super-upgrade customization project, no matter how much you choose to spend! These bikes are so simple that the most that you could possibly spend on potential upgrades likely would not amount to a huge amount of money. If it brings you joy, go for it.

...........STAY THIN, RIDE AN OLD ELECTROFORGED SCHWINN, You'll Get More Of A Workout Pedalling That Weighty Windy-City Beast!!
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Old 10-30-20, 06:54 AM
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I just sold a complete 1972 Suburban with fenders, all original parts and a spring seat for $120. Nice upright bike, wrap back handle bars, classic styling. Thought I would ride it more but holy moly those things weight a ton. It was great for cruising the MUP at under 10 mph and stalking joggers. But the combined lack of gearing and riding position made hills murder. Lifting it up on a bike rack was murder. Like a buddy said they made those old frames out of radiator steel.

Sold a matching 1973 Continental for $100, It had alloy wheels.

Wheels do make a difference, not just in riding but braking, especially in the rain. The center pull brakes on those old units were anemic at best, I'm not sure how the frames adapt to modern calipers. 27 inch wheels and tires are still available but limited. Wonder if you can switch to 700c wheels and find brakes that match. Want to echo what someone said about non-standard sizes and parts. Had to find my SAE wrenches again. Even the pedals were a different size thread.

Unless you already have a used parts bin I think you are going to spend a lot of money and end up with something unique but lacking.

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Old 10-30-20, 08:27 AM
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In summary, just get your Schwinn in riding order and ride it. You are not going to use it for anything other than local riding for fun and fitness, to get your self into a state of bicycle fitness and maybe commute. Most production Schwinns were always the heavyweight bikes, even when I was a kid in the late 60s early 70s they are considered heavy bikes. Well built and could take a beating but heavy.

As a general statement, most but not all of us here are deep into riding bicycles. Personally I'm a piker and yet I ride 150 miles a week. As such, many of us have several or even dozens of bikes. If you start riding bikes and find yourself thinking about bikes all day long, you will start adding bikes to your collection.

I think most of us either have or think about upgrading vintage bikes to get better performance. Anyone who has done it will tell you that it is almost impossible to get a value for your upgrading efforts because bicycle technology has come a long long way since the 1960s. If you want something fast and light, Schwinn is not it. But even late 70s to mid 80s Asian bikes are technically easy to upgrade but difficult to upgrade on a budget that makes sense to most of us.

The best performance upgrade you can do is to work on your fitness. My primary road bike is a 16 year old alum frame 3x9 speed. At 62 years old I have been riding for 2 years now. Last winter I spent tons of time on an indoor trainer which elevated my fitness level to what I think might be the highest it has ever been in my life. I ride weekly with a guy half my age that has an expensive carbon fiber, electronic shifting bike. For now at least he simply cannot keep up with me, especially on the big climbs. As other have said it's the engine. Or it's the Indian not the arrow.

Get your bike road worthy and try to ride the wheels off of it.
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Old 10-30-20, 03:16 PM
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Sorry, duplicate post

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Old 10-30-20, 03:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Thomas15 View Post
. As other have said it's the engine. Or it's the Indian not the arrow.
That's true but a Corvette V-8 is not going to provide much performance if installed in a dump truck.

OP: Building up and modernizing that old Schwinn frame is going to quickly turn into a money pit and, when you are finished, you will still have a heavy unsatisfying bike. Unless you are deeply into accurate period piece restorations, start with a more modern frame or, better yet, a complete new or modern used bike.
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Old 10-30-20, 10:49 PM
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I will echo what the others said: the Suburban is a useful bike as it was built. Trying to "improve" it by installing modern parts will just frustrate you as you encounter multiple incompatibilities and changed "standards". Your best bet is to rebuild the frame with parts from a similar-era Schwinn and just enjoy it for what it is.

That being said... I was a Schwinn mechanic in the early '80's as Schwinn was fading and new designs were taking over. It was fun then to consider how to adapt parts across the eras but I never got to indulge my whims until a few years ago. (My wife is rather tolerant of my eccentricities.)

My 1977 Schwinn Superior with '90's first-generation Shimano XTR:
My early-'70's Schwinn Super Sport three-speed:
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Old 10-31-20, 06:19 AM
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Fifteen speed suburban

I have a 1975 Suburban 10 speed which is now a 15 speed. There are steep hills where I live, so I installed a triple chaining. The swap was easy, since both derallerars and the original chain worked with the triple. I needed a 15/16 flat washer as a spacer behind the right side crank cone, and the front derailleur limit screws required adjustment. The suburban is like driving an old pickup truck. The Schwinn mattress saddle is easy chair comfortable. I would not change anything else except perhaps adding clipless pedals and adapters if I rode it on a long trip.
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