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So why did Schwinn become so uncool in the eighties??

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So why did Schwinn become so uncool in the eighties??

Old 04-01-16, 08:11 PM
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uncle uncle
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So why did Schwinn become so uncool in the eighties??

Anyone have an opinion on why Schwinn continued to lose market share throughout the 80's? We know that they were slow to cover the BMX and mountainbike segments, but, for there was also a "change in the air" throughout the eighties, and Schwinn continued to lose market share even in the arenas where they had once been dominant. Well?
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Old 04-01-16, 08:18 PM
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Beginning in the 70's the perception of American made/manufactured products was that they were of inferior quality. And to be honest when Schwinn's were/are compared to the Japanize made bike of the early 80's... the Schwinn's don't fair well.
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Old 04-01-16, 08:19 PM
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just like american cars. and motorcycles. and electronics. and and and...
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Old 04-01-16, 08:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Dave Cutter View Post
Beginning in the 70's the perception of American made/manufactured products was that they were of inferior quality. And to be honest when Schwinn's were/are compared to the Japanize made bike of the early 80's... the Schwinn's don't fair well.
But Cannondale and Trek were American bike makers... and they did just fine. Sorry, but, I think there's more to it than that. Plus, I still knew people in the 80's that thought everything Japanese was junk (I don't agree, but there they were). By the mid 80's the Schwinn bikes were made in Japan... and they still were losing "cool".
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Old 04-01-16, 08:39 PM
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During the bike boom of the 1970s, Schwinn misread the market: They thought a "premium" bike meant that it was built like a tank, when the rest of the market was moving toward much lighter weight, more responsive products. Around 1975, if you had around $200 to spend on an adult's bike, you could buy an imported bike that weighed about 25-26 pounds, and was built with butted steel tubing. If you wanted a Schwinn, you were looking at a HiTen gaspipe frame, and the overall bike weighed 35 pounds or more. The Schwinns were beautifully brazed, but they couldn't overcome the fact that they were ~10 pounds heavier than similarly priced imported bikes. At that time, the only real high quality lightweight bikes Schwinn made were Paramounts, which were small volume high cost hand-made items that only made up a tiny fraction of their revenues.

By the time Schwinn realized their error, and started sourcing well made lighter frames and components from Asia, it was too late.

Trek and Cannondale did not even enter the market until the mid-late 1970s, after recognizing that Schwinn had lost it's way, and they targetted the very segment that Schwinn had ignored - the market for for high quality, light weight bikes that were made with more automation than a Paramount or European hand-built, and could thus be sold at lower cost than those very high end imports.

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Old 04-01-16, 08:40 PM
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They weren't exotic. Reminded ppl of The Andy Griffith Show. Too main street. Too much like mom and dad's old bike world.

British, Italian, French -- Europe, and European tastes and names, seemed more exotic, sophisticated, and cool.

Many of the best bikes and components and names were European....

Some young people felt guilty by association (with Schwinn), or instantly elevated by association (with the really cool, cutting edge glow).
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Old 04-01-16, 08:41 PM
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Originally Posted by jetboy View Post
just like american cars. and motorcycles. and electronics. and and and...
Again, Cannondale and Trek (American frame makers) were still popular choices, and GT and Centurion (oriental made bikes, but American companies) were doing just fine. Nope, Schwinn lost "cool"... and only Schwinn, compared to others in the industry. ?
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Old 04-01-16, 08:48 PM
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I think D1andonlyDman may have it. A '73 Schwinn Varsity weighed in at 40 lbs. and was priced about the same as many Japanese bikes weighing in at 25-30 lbs.
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Old 04-01-16, 08:48 PM
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I have to say, toward the late 80s they sure found their way again...those late 80s schwinns are super nice, low-end to high. I guess the reputation was too crippled by that point.
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Old 04-01-16, 08:56 PM
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Originally Posted by uncle uncle View Post
Anyone have an opinion on why Schwinn continued to lose market share throughout the 80's? We know that they were slow to cover the BMX and mountainbike segments, but, for there was also a "change in the air" throughout the eighties, and Schwinn continued to lose market share even in the arenas where they had once been dominant. Well?
Because they refused to change and essentially treated the bicycle market as a toy market. Adults wanted adult machines.
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Old 04-01-16, 09:01 PM
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When I got into vintage I was surprised how many people like Schwinn as I would see many into the old kids and balloon bikes. I grew up riding in the eighties and they were considered crap, heavy with ugly welds and basically embarrassing to ride one when there was so many cool bikes coming out. In my area they were considered department store type junk. With that said, I had a stigma (aka ignorance) of the history but have learned the were great previously and now own an old one, was even considering doing a post on it this evening. History of course excludes the Paramount which was coveted and they kept that brand up, when they saw it falling off in the 70s they had Waterford take over as that model is so well respected and has a long racing history.

I think they were just around so long that they kind of sold out and were going for volume, using movie stars to promote and making deals with every gas station and store they could to boost sales numbers vs quality.

I read they also stuck with more cruiser type and did not keep pace with the market. They made the popular peel bikes but how many people really ride those? They were cool looking but not really functional for adults.

I will say this, to see catalogs back to the 1800s is amazing, they were really good bikes and had built a great brand. I'm sure some direction was also lost when AS died in the late 40s as well.
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Old 04-01-16, 09:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Kactus View Post
I think D1andonlyDman may have it. A '73 Schwinn Varsity weighed in at 40 lbs. and was priced about the same as many Japanese bikes weighing in at 25-30 lbs.
I have a late 70's Schwinn Le Tour... with the right alloy wheels (which our shop would swap out as an upgrade), they were competitive with the market, price and weight wise, with any other hi-ten Japan made, Japan components bike (because, that's exactly what it was). And, I think Schwinn did fine, percentage wise, compared to the competition in the late 70's. It was an 80's thing I think, the slide of "cool" and market share.
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Old 04-01-16, 09:04 PM
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D1andonlyDman pretty much nailed it. When the Europeans started sending decent quality "lightweight" bikes to our shores and building them out of lugged, quality steels in the early '70s, Schwinn was still producing gas-pipe specials. By the time they realized buyers wanted lightweight, responsive bikes, the Japanese entered the market with bikes that fit that niche. Schwinns were heavy and slow. By then the European bikes were using Japanese components to stay competitive. Trek and Cannondale entered the market as the only viable American-built mass-produced alternatives to the European and Japanese bikes. By then Schwinn was so woefully behind that they couldn't catch up.
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Old 04-01-16, 09:11 PM
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Originally Posted by motogeek View Post
D1andonlyDman pretty much nailed it. When the Europeans started sending decent quality "lightweight" bikes to our shores and building them out of lugged, quality steels in the early '70s, Schwinn was still producing gas-pipe specials. By the time they realized buyers wanted lightweight, responsive bikes, the Japanese entered the market with bikes that fit that niche. Schwinns were heavy and slow. By then the European bikes were using Japanese components to stay competitive. Trek and Cannondale entered the market as the only viable American-built mass-produced alternatives to the European and Japanese bikes. By then Schwinn was so woefully behind that they couldn't catch up.
This, plus the fact that their reputation was well cemented by that time. It wouldn't matter how good a bike they came up with at that point, people tend to remember generalities like "Schwinns are heavy indestructible toys for kids who want to be pretend racers", which is what Schwinns were for all of the 1960s and 1970s. That's a lot of legacy to try to make people forget.
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Old 04-01-16, 09:16 PM
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For the full real story read: "No Hands, The Rise and Fall of the Schwinn Bicycle Company".
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Old 04-01-16, 09:18 PM
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Originally Posted by uncle uncle View Post
But Cannondale and Trek were American bike makers... and they did just fine. Sorry, but, I think there's more to it than that.
True... Cannondale and Trek did well. I'd guess because they were considered high-end bikes. Just like American car makers were having difficulties... but Cadillac and Corvettes sold well. It was the mundane domestic products that faired the worst.

But I am sure you're correct.... that there was more to it than a generalized perception. Schwinn's were too old fashioned and heavy... Schwinn failed to judge where their market was heading (or to diversify their product line). Like many failures.... it wasn't just a single mistake that killed Schwinn. It was a series of errors, mistakes, poor planning, and a failure to react quickly to the changing market.
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Old 04-01-16, 09:19 PM
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I worked in a Schwinn Shop in the 80's, and before that, was a bike shop rat... by 1982, even though Schwinn was still producing their heavy electro-brazed bikes, that shop wasn't carrying a single one of them. Why? Because the shop already learned that the market for them had all but disappeared. Other Schwinn shops may have been different. But, Schwinn did carry a full line of bicycles for every price range. I think their is some truth to the idea that people had grown up with the neighborhood Schwinn shop always being a fixture within their city, selling bikes to John and Mary Doe, and thus couldn't be viewed as a "serious bike" shop.
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Old 04-01-16, 09:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Bandera View Post
For the full real story read: "No Hands, The Rise and Fall of the Schwinn Bicycle Company".
Back in the late 90's I took a course where the rise and fall of Schwinn was the whole course... though I haven't read that book (I plan to) I have read a lot on the subject. Nothing answered the "coolness loss" factor, so far. Coolness, or the loss of it, could have been a very likely contributor to the bankruptcy.
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Old 04-01-16, 09:34 PM
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Originally Posted by davester View Post
......... It wouldn't matter how good a bike they came up with at that point, people tend to remember generalities like "Schwinns are heavy indestructible toys for kids ..........That's a lot of legacy to try to make people forget.
Yes! But in the same era a southern soda pop maker (Dr Pepper) saw their brand desirability changing as well... and purchased Snapple to bolster sales. They understood their market and got ahead of the trends. Schwinn had the opportunity to buy (or create) a European bike name... and manufacture it in the cheaper southern [American] states. But Schwinn did too little, too late.

Originally Posted by uncle uncle View Post
Back in the late 90's I took a course where the rise and fall of Schwinn was the whole course....... Nothing answered the "coolness loss" factor, so far. Coolness, or the loss of it, could have been a very likely contributor to the bankruptcy.
Perception is everything! I mean.... look at a carbon fiber. Charred rayon (wood cellulose) cloth bonded in petroleum resins!
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Old 04-01-16, 09:48 PM
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Originally Posted by uncle uncle View Post
Back in the late 90's I took a course where the rise and fall of Schwinn was the whole course... though I haven't read that book (I plan to) I have read a lot on the subject. Nothing answered the "coolness loss" factor, so far. Coolness, or the loss of it, could have been a very likely contributor to the bankruptcy.
The only reason Schwinn lost it's "coolness" is that it's product line became non-competitive from the mid-1970s on. They failed to make lightweight adult bikes during the 1970s, they failed to make good MTBs ever, and they enabled two major international competitors: Giant and CBC, by transferring whatever technological prowess they still held to companies who could easily undercut Schwinn's cost structure.

Good, competitive products are cool. Lousy, heavy, non-competitive products are not cool. In the late 70s, Schwinn became uncool, because their products ceased to be competitive. And when Schwinn finally out-sourced their products to Asia, they did so in a manner that guaranteed their demise due to non-competitive costs.

Ironically, the fact that Schwinn failed from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s before being broken up in a fire sale of assets, has resulted in the actually quite good Schwinn products from the mid-1980s to late 1990s - products that were either too expensive or under-componented when bought brand new, are now some of the best bargains on the used market. And THAT is due to the stigma of Schwinn as a failed company - which is assuredly NOT cool.

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Old 04-01-16, 09:53 PM
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I think it was a subconscious rebellion against Captain Kangaroo, and possibly Mr. Greenjeans.
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Old 04-01-16, 10:01 PM
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Originally Posted by uncle uncle View Post
Again, Cannondale and Trek (American frame makers) were still popular choices, and GT and Centurion (oriental made bikes, but American companies) were doing just fine. Nope, Schwinn lost "cool"... and only Schwinn, compared to others in the industry. ?
Cannondale and Trek didn't carry the history baggage Schwinn did with the electro-forged framed models like the Continental, Varsity, Collegiate, etc.
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Old 04-01-16, 10:10 PM
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Originally Posted by stardognine View Post
I think it was a subconscious rebellion against Captain Kangaroo, and possibly Mr. Greenjeans.
This^
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Old 04-01-16, 10:14 PM
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Also, after Vietnam mainstream Middle America seemed to become more uncool, and Schwinn was associated with that.

People needed to escape from Captain Kangaroo and the gang, and wanted something different.

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Old 04-01-16, 10:31 PM
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Originally Posted by uncle uncle View Post
GT and Centurion (oriental made bikes, but American companies) were doing just fine.
GT: In the '80's and '90's, GT was a California company that made almost all of their bikes in the U.S., except perhaps the lowest end models (maybe even the lowest end GT's were U.S. built, I'm not sure). Bottom line: the GT decal that said "made in Southern California" was pretty cool, and I never saw a GT that didn't have it until much, much later than the '80's.

Centurion: WSI (Western States Importers) brand that offered some nice bikes, 100% Japanese made until they switched to Taiwan in the late '80's.

These two brands, GT and Centurion, during the '80's, could not have been more different in terms of where the bikes were made. Both quality brands, FWIW.
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