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3-speeds: Raleigh vs. Schwinn

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3-speeds: Raleigh vs. Schwinn

Old 09-25-08, 12:39 AM
  #1  
g-funk
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3-speeds: Raleigh vs. Schwinn

Tonight, I was on a dessert run to the local italian joint (tiramisu) and it occurred to me that the consensus on 3-speeds is that Raleigh's are the top dog. However. I was riding my 61 Schwinn Traveler, #1 in the rotation, and I was wondering about a vintage bike shootout or comparison between the two. Essentially, the Schwinn is an American (Fack Yeah!!) version of the Sports but I think Schwinn got it right. I'd like to hear about your comparisons between the Schwinn double diamond 3-speeds (traveler, racer, speedster) Vs the Raleigh made 3-speeds.
My experience with the two are fairly consistant. I have a 66 Sports, a 70 or so LTD-3 with a coaster, I had a beautiful pair of Phillips 3-speeds which have been passed on. On the Schwinn side I have the 61 Traveler, a pair of 63 Travelers and a 57? Racer. here's my comparison:
Raleigh's
pros:
Original
all steel (?)
bomb proof wheels, 40 spoke rear
easy to find tires
Brooks saddle
cons:
cottered cranks
crappy brakes
unavailable brake cables (older ones)
plain steel fenders
more upright geometry (could be a pro,but these are 3-speeds)

Schwinn
pros:
One piece Ashtabula cranks
American bottom bracket (read: easily serviced)
smooth electroforged frame
slack, cruiser geometry
Stainless Steel fenders
graphics
Weinmann aluminum brakes and levers
high quality chroming
built in kickstand
cons:
small tire selection, no white walls
no chrome fender tip on front fender
squeaky Mesinger "S" Saddle (generally considered crappy although mine fits my butt perfectly, I'm a hard ass)

In my opinion the Schwinn's are the better ride. I know non-paramount schwinn love here is thin but if you compare the two side by side I don't see how you can think the Raleigh's are a better ride.
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Old 09-25-08, 01:18 AM
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I'm Schwinn lover, so you've convinced me.

Out of curiousity, though, how do the two compare weight-wise?
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Old 09-25-08, 03:29 AM
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Never seen a Schwinn 3 speed around here...Also Schwinn had to use the Sturmey-Archer hub which was built by Raleigh


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Old 09-25-08, 04:17 AM
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To me, a Sports just feels lively compared to a Racer. They both feel solid and capable of transportation under any conditions. Although I've noticed a marked difference between pre and post '60 Raleighs in the (admittedly subjective) areas of ride and responsiveness, with the earlier models having a more stolid feel to the controls and a statelier procession.

I wonder how much of the different feel between Schwinn and Raleigh could be accounted for by the differently-manufactured wheels? Would putting a Raleigh wheelset on a Schwinn transform it from drafthorse to quarterhorse?
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Old 09-25-08, 04:29 AM
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I jsut finished working on a friend's 1954 Traveler 3-speed, but I don't have any recent experience with English ones. But my old Phillips had a mattress saddle, just like the Schwinn-approved one on this Traveler. The Traveler has Weinmann side-pull brakes, a really weird seat post diameter, and an equally odd head tube ID - I've had a heck of a time finding a lower fixed cup (success, with help from Pastor Bob!!!!). I'm sure the Ashtabula crank was easier to work on than a cotterred Brit one would have been. The rims and tires were quite a frustration, but I was able to true them to spin true enough that the brakes could be trimmed in with good handle throw. The handles can be adjusted for a man's hand or a woman's.

The old Schwinn headset has a marvelously machined crown race and threaded upper race, the equal of old Italian stuff like Magistroni or FB, and near the standard of a Campy Nuovo Record headset. Same for the hub cones. The steel hub races had no perceptible wear. The only bearing surface I had to replace was the lower fixed cup, and that was only due ot warpage, not bearing track wear. As soon as 1960 they were downgraded to stamped parts with minimal machining. I re-used the old ones as much as possible.

The old Schwinn has an elegant Arts and Crafts look to it with feathered panels outlining the block-lettered "Schwinn." I'll be able to get pictures in the winter when I take the bike back to re-do the BB and maybe some deeper clean-up. This look was lost in the early '60s.

But I think the geometry is VERY laid back. The chainstays are around 46 cm, and the wheel base is around 108 cm. There is a lot of fork head lowering as you turn the fork. I recall the old Phillips as feeling rather sprightly, and this Schwinn does not. But that's just ancient memory from the late '60s, when I rode the heck out of the Phillips.

Why is there any doubt that the British bikes were "all steel?" Just check it with a magnet. BTW, the brake calipers and handles were steel, in contrast to the aluminum Weinmanns on the Schwinns.

Last edited by Road Fan; 09-25-08 at 04:33 AM.
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Old 09-25-08, 04:34 AM
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Hey, nice comparison, g-funk.

I agree with your mechanical pros and cons - especially about the Raleigh cottered cranks; what a headache those are for sure!

However, concerning ride quality and characteristics:

I just road my old Raleigh 3-speed last night after a long absence. I was reminded of the really nice ride and feel of the Raleigh.

I have Schwinn too which are nice.

The Raleigh is just a lot zippier, faster, it seems and handles well.

The Schwinn is a smooth and elegant ride, but a little boat-like if you know what I mean. Compared with the Raleigh, the Schwinn kind of lumbers along.

My vote is for the Raleigh for ride quality.

Last edited by mike; 09-25-08 at 04:38 AM.
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Old 09-25-08, 07:58 AM
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I have had a few Schwinn 3 speeds over the past year and they all rode like a dream. Don't have any experience with Raleigh 3 speeds, but I have tinkered with a few bikes with 3 speed Shimano hubs(Huffy, Panasonic, Murray) and even they were nice rides for going around the neighborhood.

The only problem with the lot of them are the damn steel rims.
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Old 09-25-08, 08:25 AM
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I have had several Raleigh Sports over the years and commuted to school and work on one all through the early 80's. I also had a Schwinn Speedster and a Collegiate 3 spd which was used as a Winter commuter rain bike a few years then passed on to my grandsons. They rode the crap out of that bike and couldn't break it.

I agree on the better handling of the Raleigh vs the Schwinns but someone had switched to steel drop bars to my Collegiate which allowed a more aero position and it could hold a much higher cruising speed with less effort than the Raleigh.

I used to time my 4 mile work commute and several of my faster times were accomplished on the 3 speed, almost as fast as on a modern road bike. Several co-workers who bike commute, thought the fast time resulted from the fact I had two short, steep hills on a short, mostly flat commute. The single low gear of the 3 spd was higher than the gears I usually used on my derailleur bikes and resulted in a faster uphill speed(with more effort though). Once I was on level ground, it wasn't hard to maintain a fast cruising speed for such a short commute on the heavy Schwinn. Don
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Old 09-25-08, 10:52 AM
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Nice points everyone. for a bit of clarification the ride on the raleigh is a bit snappy compared to the schwinn. I was more talking about overall bike quality.

Scooper- the bikes weigh the same to me as in F-ing heavy

wahoo- yes they use sturmey archer hubs. would you have it any other way?

Flat Top- the wheels on my Travelers and raleigh's are very similar and with only 7mm(?) difference in the diameter I don't think the difference would be noticeable. On that point though the schwinn has an aluminum front hub and less spokes. This leads me to believe that the Schwinn wheels are the lighter pair.

Road fan- I agree with you 95%. the question mark behind the all steel aspect was questioning whether being all steel was a pro or con. The schwinn graphics are the best. for a utilitarian bike why would the slack geometry on the schwinn be considered a con? It's more efficient for sure especially with a few twelvers in the front Wald basket. The other downside to some of the schwinns is the cast front fork compared to the tubular Raleigh and old schwinn forks.

Don- The three speed definitely makes you work a bit harder and maintain speed on hills. I have about a 1/2 mile wall leading up to my house and I keep my gearing so that I can barely make it up the hill. that way I'm not giving up too much on the flats.
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Old 09-25-08, 12:07 PM
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I've got a '79 Raleigh Sport and basically I like virtually everything about it, right down to having Sir Walter Raleigh lowering his cape for the queen all over the bike - pedals, cranks, stem, etc. The only thing I find a nuisance is the front wheel bearing cone nut deal. The right side cone is rounded - no adjustments to be made there. All adjustments are done on the left side - not really a problem. But there are no locknuts and you have to spread the forks to lower them onto the axle. This invariably will distrub the cone setting. So, you end up readjusting the cones with the wheel on the bike whenever the wheel has been removed. I carry a small cone wrench on the bike for just this purpose. They could have done better than that.

My vote for the better bike - Schwinn or Raleigh 3-speed is THEY BOTH WIN. They both have their strong qualities and their own quirks but they have so much going for them that separate them from all the other wanna-be's from that era.
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Old 09-25-08, 12:15 PM
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I prefer the Raleigh Sports to the Schwinn 3 speeds by far-- the frames feel better to me (prefer the lugged to the EF design).

I do prefer Schwinn for the heavyweight ballooners though to any of the Raleigh or foreign cruisers that would be in the heavyweight division (Roadsters I find a different bike altogether).

Last edited by SirMike1983; 09-25-08 at 01:51 PM.
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Old 09-25-08, 12:20 PM
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Have you seen the new Schwinn Coffee? Looks more like an old Raleigh than the new Raleigh retro thingy.
How bout a comparison between the Super Sport and the Supercourse?
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Old 09-25-08, 12:57 PM
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I have had a number of English 3 speed bikes but never the opportunity to own a Schwinn 3 speed. Maybe some day. Old Schwinns are much less common in Canada than English bikes, likely due to the strong English influence here. Everyone has a Grandpa, uncle or neighbor that recalls riding fine English bikes during the war while stationed in England. Having said that the quality of a Raleigh is a time dependent factor. I have an English Raliegh from 1973 which is not of the same quality as the my older 3 speeds from the 1950’s and 1960’s. On the 1973, the frame lugs were not filed smooth, there are lumps of excess bronze at the lug connections, the paint is not as durable… I have to agree the English lightweight bikes are a joy to ride.
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Old 09-25-08, 02:16 PM
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But did Schwinn make any 3 speeds like this?

Neal

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Old 09-25-08, 03:03 PM
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Well, the Raleigh's reputation came from the high end ones which very few folks actually had, with dyno hubs, leather saddle, full chain case, battery backed lights, etc. AFAIK, the Schwinn's did not have that stuff. But comparing the mid line Raleigh and the Schwinn, it is more a case of which you like the looks of better. The fact is that prior to the Veit Nam era the 3-speed bikes were the touring bicycles of choice, and I do not think there actually were any bad ones built. Derailleur bicycles were only owned by racers and very serious bicycle tourists. Later on 3-speeds were mostly built for price and sold to kids who could not afford a cheap 10 speed.
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Old 09-25-08, 03:53 PM
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i own both a 68 raleigh superbee 3 speed and a 53 schwinn world 3 speed, and both are good bikes. i would personally take the raleigh for the frame, handling and general workmanship, but i too ahte the cottered cranks and other similar componetures. on the otherhand, a real schwinn is just as bullit proof and a little more mechanic friendly in my opinion, but would still opt for a raleigh's frame. it's like ford vs chevrotet. all i know is that once pacific cycle co bought out schwinn, quality became an issue.
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Old 09-25-08, 04:46 PM
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For the folks that prefer the ride of the Schwinn, I wonder if it has anything to do with the tires.

The Schwinn required Schwinn specific tires which were generally better quality like the Schwinn Puff Tire. Mmmm, Schwinn Puff Tires....

The Raleighs accepted any old dime store replacement tires which often happened over the years.

Tires have a profound impact on the quality of the ride - about as much as the rest of the bike combined.
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Old 09-25-08, 06:10 PM
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Actually Schwinn did make a 3 speed like the one in the picture. They were called Paramounts and were made in the late 1940s and in the 1950s. Roger
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Old 09-25-08, 06:41 PM
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Originally Posted by mike View Post
For the folks that prefer the ride of the Schwinn, I wonder if it has anything to do with the tires.

The Schwinn required Schwinn specific tires which were generally better quality like the Schwinn Puff Tire. Mmmm, Schwinn Puff Tires....

The Raleighs accepted any old dime store replacement tires which often happened over the years.

Tires have a profound impact on the quality of the ride - about as much as the rest of the bike combined.
Now there's a point I hadn't considered. This is a real wild card that I hadn't accounted for in my comments.

I would imagine that the prospects for finding good non-Schwinn 26x1 3/8" replacement tires are now better than for Schwinn size, though
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Old 09-25-08, 06:48 PM
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Originally Posted by nlerner View Post
But did Schwinn make any 3 speeds like this?
Columbia did. My Moms bike when I was a kid was a nickel plated Tourist with a twist grip 3 speed. It was stolen around 1982, and I have never seen another one since. Believe me, I have been looking!

One thing I don't like about the Schwinn, and most three speeds in general? It has something to do with the rake. It feels like you have to force the front wheel off center just to steer, and the handlebars are raised up as much as an inch in the process. I find it unnerving, and it creeps me out in a out of control sort of way. On my 5 speed Sprite it seems much less prominent, probably a different geometry/rake combination. On a Schwinn the steering feels heavy to me. Put a set of upright bars on a road bike though, and I'm right there with it.,,,,BD
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Old 09-25-08, 07:01 PM
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Originally Posted by rhenning View Post
Actually Schwinn did make a 3 speed like the one in the picture. They were called Paramounts and were made in the late 1940s and in the 1950s. Roger
Yes. ...and here's Frank W. Schwinn's personal 1952 Paramount with Sturmey-Archer 3-speed hub.

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Old 09-25-08, 08:16 PM
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I personally prefer the look of the lugged Raleigh frame. I've had the pleasure of working on only one Schwinn three-speed, a ladies Breeze, and it did not have pump pegs. Some of the Raleigh Sportses I've worked on have had them, often with a functional alloy pump. And the Brooks saddle is a huge plus, in my book.
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Old 09-25-08, 09:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Scooper View Post
Yes. ...and here's Frank W. Schwinn's personal 1952 Paramount with Sturmey-Archer 3-speed hub.

cha-ching!! The Paramount 3-speeds really make the case for Schwinn for me, you can't compare them to the best quality stock raleigh 3 speed

Franks 3-speed shifter in on wrong...sheesh

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Old 09-25-08, 09:49 PM
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I just finished up rebuilding a '67 Schwinn DeLuxe Racer (hey, I wanted a Traveler but you take what you can find). Damned thing came from Santa Cruz where the salt air turns bikes to barnacle-encrusted reef material. I had to literally grind the rust off the frame before I repainted it, but it turned out pretty well. The original 26" S-7 rims were shot, and I had a nice pair of 27" S-6 hoops, so I upgraded to those and a pair of Weinmann centerpulls. The result is sort of like the newer 3-speed Collegiate. The gearing is taller but the ride is smoother. Right now it's got the el cheapo two-tone saddle that feels like the business end of a coal shovel. I think the deluxe two-tone or a Varsity-type road saddle is in the future.

Generally though, I think the comments above are about right. I have a '70 Raleigh Superbe too, and it is generally more nimble, but a slightly rougher ride. The Racer's geometry is more akin to a Raleigh Tourist. They definitely both have their own charms, and rather than choose one over the other I heartily recommend having one of each.
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Old 09-25-08, 09:57 PM
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Originally Posted by mswantak View Post
They definitely both have their own charms, and rather than choose one over the other I heartily recommend having one of each.
Mike, I like the way you think.
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