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Schwinn road bikes a are...insert answer here

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Schwinn road bikes a are...insert answer here

Old 12-26-09, 11:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Mos6502
I'll have to disagree (slightly), the only technical difference of any importance between Columbia and Schwinn was that Schwinn used more balls in the headset bearings than Columbia (or any other U.S. maker). - Schwinn used 17 balls per bearing, and Columbia and others used 15. Raleigh (I think) used 20 or 21.

What sets Columbia and Schwinn bearings apart from other American companies is that the bearing surfaces are curved to give a larger contact area for the balls. In other U.S. brands the cones and races are flat, and commonly you'll find that they show impact damage.

Schwinn also did a neat little trick where the top bearing in the headset was upside down - this kept water from entering the bearings.

Schwinn and Columbia also sourced a lot of parts from the same companies too - Union (German) made Pedals, Weinmann brakes, Huret derailleurs etc. (actually, Columbia originally started out using Simplex, then followed Schwinn to Huret, which I feel was a step in the wrong direction).

Objectively Columbia was only ever a notch below Schwinn. Although if you care about weight, then maybe Columbia comes out a notch ahead - in addition Schwinn stuck to forged forks, when tubular blades offered a lighter, better riding fork.

I'll have to say that even Murray and Huffy made some acceptable bikes. Disregarding their inferior bearings and other minor detail differences - I'd rather ride around on one of Murray's hydrogen brazed frames than one of Schwinn's electro-forged frames any day.

I disagree very strongly. I never wanted to own a Varsity or anything like it, but let's examine some of the technical aspects.

Comparing a Schwinn of that variety with a Columbia reveals many fundamental differences:

The frames were both welded at high temperatures, requiring heavy, thick tubes. But the Schwinns were much stronger. Colliding with a brick wall would typically bend the Columbia frame or fork drastically. The Schwinn would be intact. Huge difference there.

The difference in bearings is major, not minor. The bearing and threaded portions are precisely ground and of very hard steel on the Schwinns. They are of soft, inferior steel on the Columbia.

The rims were prone to bending on the Columbia.

The brackets all over the bike were prone to bending on the Columbia.

The Columbia often came with super-soft steel brake calipers. These brakes didn't stop well and couldn't be adjusted well, even by a good mechanic.

When I started out as a mechanic, I confused the Schwinn with other cheap, poor-riding, heavy bikes such as Murray, Huffy, Iverson, and Columbia. The designs are similar, but the materials and construction are fundamentally different.
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Old 12-26-09, 11:22 AM
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Originally Posted by sonatageek
I have to say in the Huffy, Murry and Columbia bikes I have seen, the frames seem far inferior to the EF Schwinn frames. Sure the EF frames were really heavy but they were solid.
I've never seen an EF frame that could match a pre-70s Columbia in terms of build quality. The EF frames just seem so sloppy by comparison.

Notice the slag left over from welding on the chainstay, and the ever so slightly misaligned down and seat tubes, which is fairly common - see this next pic:

Compared to Columbia:

Clean joins, no slag, etc.
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Old 12-26-09, 11:30 AM
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Originally Posted by noglider
I disagree very strongly. I never wanted to own a Varsity or anything like it, but let's examine some of the technical aspects.

Comparing a Schwinn of that variety with a Columbia reveals many fundamental differences:

The frames were both welded at high temperatures, requiring heavy, thick tubes. But the Schwinns were much stronger. Colliding with a brick wall would typically bend the Columbia frame or fork drastically. The Schwinn would be intact. Huge difference there.
Except not. Columbias were brazed, not welded. Columbia used seamless tubes for the bottom bracket and head tube - Schwinn's by comparison were made up of stampings. Both were plenty strong regardless.

The difference in bearings is major, not minor. The bearing and threaded portions are precisely ground and of very hard steel on the Schwinns. They are of soft, inferior steel on the Columbia.
Until 1960 Columbia was owned by Torrington and featured basically the best bearings there were for bicycles. However I will admit that after MDT took over Columbia in 1967 the quality of the components and the bicycles as a whole declined significantly.

The Columbia often came with super-soft steel brake calipers. These brakes didn't stop well and couldn't be adjusted well, even by a good mechanic.
If they were steel they were not original. Even the bottom of the line Sports featured alloy brakes. Some of the house brands Columbia made had steel brakes - but they didn't appear on anything with the Columbia badge on it - at least not until the 1980s.

When I started out as a mechanic, I confused the Schwinn with other cheap, poor-riding, heavy bikes such as Murray, Huffy, Iverson, and Columbia. The designs are similar, but the materials and construction are fundamentally different.
Well I'm not actually sure Iversons were bicycles technically. xD On that note, I've never understood how the factory that made Rollfasts and Hawthornes could turn out Iversons that were so badly made that you couldn't get them to track straight no matter how much you fiddled with the alignment of the wheels.

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Old 12-26-09, 11:35 AM
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Mos6502, I don't think I have any experience with pre-1967 Columbias, so I'll take your word for it about them. And I'm probably remembering the steel brakes wrong, conflating Columbias with other inexpensive bikes. (Aren't you proud of me for not saying "cheap?")

Are you a Sixer?
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Old 12-26-09, 11:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Mos6502
Schwinn also did a neat little trick where the top bearing in the headset was upside down - this kept water from entering the bearings.
Primarily on the models equipped with Twin-Stick shifters, excluding the Paramount. Other models had conventional cups.

There may be a few other exceptions.

-Kurt
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Old 12-26-09, 11:47 AM
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Originally Posted by noglider
Mos6502, I don't think I have any experience with pre-1967 Columbias, so I'll take your word for it about them. And I'm probably remembering the steel brakes wrong, conflating Columbias with other inexpensive bikes. (Aren't you proud of me for not saying "cheap?")

Are you a Sixer?
I'm not sure what a sixer is....

Well you might have worked on a bike that was made by Columbia with steel brakes, but it wouldn't have been branded as such.
I had a Columbia made Western Flyer that was mostly just awful - terrible steel brakes - awful steel Troxel seat, awful Wald bearings etc. But I've never seen these things on a Columbia bearing the Columbia badge. Don't get me wrong, Columbia was happy to build things to a price - as long as their name wasn't on it!
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Old 12-26-09, 11:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Mos6502
I've never seen an EF frame that could match a pre-70s Columbia in terms of build quality. The EF frames just seem so sloppy by comparison.

....

Compared to Columbia:

Clean joins, no slag, etc.
The Columbia joints were also poorly brazed, and in many ways, their soft tubing was worse then riding a stiff-as-hell EF frame.

For that matter, compare the hardware between the Varsity and the Columbia. The Columbia's kickstand looks worse then a Japanese tin-toy of the 1960's, and the BB looks no better then a present-day Wal-Mart Huffy - worse, in fact. By comparison, the Schwinn's Ashtabula BB - as in the second photo - has always stuck out as one of the best pieces of hardware I've ever seen on these things. Granted, it's just an Ashtabula BB, but one that is very well made, and easily adjustable (especially in comparison to the joke mounted to the Columbia).

Originally Posted by Mos6502
Don't get me wrong, Columbia was happy to build things to a price - as long as their name wasn't on it!
'70s Vista Esquire roadbikes come to mind. I've had to deal with two of them (quickly turned into coaster singlespeeds, at which point they became nice upright-bar cruisers), and I don't think I've ever seen a thread on this forum that hasn't torn them apart.

Funny thing though - the folks who subcontracted the work out to Columbia requested Ashtabula forks on these things (not that I think Ashtabula forks are good, nor indestructible. Far from it - they have no lateral strength).

-Kurt
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Old 12-26-09, 11:49 AM
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A sixer is someone who programs in Assembly Language for the Motorola family of processors whose model numbers begin with '6' such as the 6502. MOS means metal oxide semiconductor, so I started thinking...

And an eighter is someone who prefers the Intel '8' chips.
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Old 12-26-09, 11:50 AM
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Kurt and I posted at the same time. I agree with what he said, once again.
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Old 12-26-09, 11:57 AM
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Not having ridden an EF bike (yet), I can't really comment on them, but I really like the LeTour mixte that I built up for my girlfriend (including its original and gorgeous steel rims), and I just picked up a World Tourist that I stripped and painted in an eventual attempt to enter the velo-cheapo contest...it;s a nice bike, but it's also built by giant.

BTW, did those taiwan built Worlds have chromoly throughout, or were the stays hi-tensile?
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Old 12-26-09, 11:59 AM
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Originally Posted by cudak888
For that matter, compare the hardware between the Varsity and the Columbia. The Columbia's kickstand looks worse then a Japanese tin-toy of the 1960's, and the BB looks no better then a present-day Wal-Mart Huffy - worse, in fact. By comparison, the Schwinn's Ashtabula BB - as in the second photo - has always stuck out as one of the best pieces of hardware I've ever seen on these things. Granted, it's just an Ashtabula BB, but one that is very well made, and easily adjustable (especially in comparison to the joke mounted to the Columbia).
Seriously Kurt? Schwinn's doesn't even have a dust cap... Let alone the BB of the Columbia is actually quite cleverly designed so that it is easier to adjust than (pretty much) any other ashtabula crankset - including Schwinn's.

The kickstand, well I guess if you hate kickstands and like to remove them, then maybe Schwinn's wins - but if you like them and use them, I prefer the Columbia's.
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Old 12-26-09, 12:00 PM
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P.S.: Main problem with the Schwinn road machines below the SS (Varsity and Continental, amongst others) were their steel "Schwinn Approved S7" rims. Bulletproof they are not, chromed well they are not, yet, they are heavy enough to make Columbia's cheap rims feel good.

Someone once said that they'd rather ride a Varsity with a Paramount wheelset then ride a Paramount with a Varsity wheelset. While I would have gone for the Continental over the Varsity, there is a lot of truth to that statement. Someone must have tried it out too, for when BlankCrows first got his chrome Paramount, it had a set of steel Schwinn S7's on it

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Old 12-26-09, 12:03 PM
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You guys are nuts. Ive got a columbia frame sitting in my garage from the mid-60;s I'd guess, and aside from the paint, the frame looks identical to my former '83 Free Spirit and the Murray I just picked up. I'm really not impressed with any of them.

And what's the deal with adjusting ashtabulas? Screw it together finger tight, then a little bit more with a decent sized screwdriver, make sure it's running smooth, then screw on the retaining nut. That's hard? Heck, I've been doing it since I was 7!
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Old 12-26-09, 12:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Mos6502
Seriously Kurt? Schwinn's doesn't even have a dust cap... Let alone the BB of the Columbia is actually quite cleverly designed so that it is easier to adjust than (pretty much) any other ashtabula crankset - including Schwinn's.

The kickstand, well I guess if you hate kickstands and like to remove them, then maybe Schwinn's wins - but if you like them and use them, I prefer the Columbia's.
I count my lucky stars when a Columbia dust cap hasn't been been bent to the point that it contacts the frame, and I seriously doubt that it provides any additional protection over the Schwinn design. Real dust caps that weren't a joke didn't arrive until Shimano's foray into the MTB field, in the 1980's.

For that matter, every original Columbia crankset I've come across (all on '60s-'70s machines) has been bent inwards from pedaling. I ended up cold-setting two of them myself during test-rides, and I'm no gorilla.

Kickstands - that's another thing. When Columbia got rid of their built-in design, any of their fleet retaining the single-tube chainstay connection prevented any aftermarket job from being mounted correctly without spinning. A simple kickstand plate would have sufficed to fix that.

-Kurt
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Old 12-26-09, 12:07 PM
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Originally Posted by cudak888
P.S.: Main problem with the Schwinn road machines below the SS (Varsity and Continental, amongst others) were their steel "Schwinn Approved S7" rims. Bulletproof they are not, chromed well they are not, yet, they are heavy enough to make Columbia's cheap rims feel good.

Someone once said that they'd rather ride a Varsity with a Paramount wheelset then ride a Paramount with a Varsity wheelset. While I would have gone for the Continental over the Varsity, there is a lot of truth to that statement. Someone must have tried it out too, for when BlankCrows first got his chrome Paramount, it had a set of steel Schwinn S7's on it

-Kurt
Well Columbia sourced their wheels from Araya and Rigida (for their "lightweights", they built their other wheels in house) so I guess that makes some sense.

For that matter, every original Columbia crankset I've come across (all on '60s-'70s machines) has been bent inwards from pedaling. I ended up cold-setting two of them myself during test-rides, and I'm no gorilla.
And I've never seen this on the dozen+ Columbias I have had. So what?

The highest quality piece on an EF Schwinn is the name-plate. ;D

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Old 12-26-09, 12:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Mos6502
Well Columbia sourced their wheels from Araya and Rigida (for their "lightweights", they built their other wheels in house) so I guess that makes some sense.
True - though their wheelsets were steel, the rims were generally passable.

Originally Posted by Mos6502
And I've never seen this on the dozen+ Columbias I have had. So what?
So I'll sell you a few Columbias, seeing that you like them.

Originally Posted by Mos6502
The highest quality piece on an EF Schwinn is the name-plate. ;D
And the highest quality piece on a ladies' Columbia is the frame - when it bends in the middle.

-Kurt
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Old 12-26-09, 12:48 PM
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Originally Posted by cudak888

And the highest quality piece on a ladies' Columbia is the frame - when it bends in the middle.

-Kurt
And the highest quality piece of a lady's AMF is not the frame. Where it bends everywhere. For no apparent reason.

And if you actually have some Columbias you hate so much, I'd be happy to pay postage for them, get them out of your way ;D
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Old 12-26-09, 12:54 PM
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Originally Posted by VicaDylaN
What kind of bars are you rocking?

SR Sakae "FX" Japan, some script engraving that I can't make out? I'm pretty sure they're orig to the bike.
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Old 12-26-09, 12:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Mos6502
And the highest quality piece of a lady's AMF is not the frame. Where it bends everywhere. For no apparent reason.
And an AMF isn't a Schwinn.

For that matter, since I really don't care for Schwinns in the first place either, a Varsity or Continental is not bulletproof either. I've seen enough of them with bent headtubes which prove that even the "mighty" EF frame is not infallible.

Originally Posted by Mos6502
And if you actually have some Columbias you hate so much, I'd be happy to pay postage for them, get them out of your way ;D
I got rid of my existing lot, but the next frameset to come around shall go straight to you.

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Old 12-26-09, 12:55 PM
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I always thought that the Schwinn kickstand was one of its best features. It was so robust that you could actually sit on the bike with the kickstand deployed and not worry about it bending or breaking or retracting. It was super stable preventing tipover on soft surfaces such as hot asphalt. In fact, I liked it so much that when I had a custom touring frame built, I had a Schwinn kickstand grafted onto it.
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Old 12-26-09, 01:07 PM
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Originally Posted by cudak888
And an AMF isn't a Schwinn.
I know, I was just trying to lighten the mood. ;D

Although actually, the Roadmaster brand was purchased by Pacific... and.....
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Old 12-26-09, 01:14 PM
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Schwinn bikes generally speaking were just department store cheapies that were sold in bike shops. Yes some were well made, like the Paramount, World Voyager, et al..... However the Typhoons, continentals, collegiates, and many similar others(they were actually the same "body type" with varying components to creat different "models") really shouldn't be great collectables ever. Why? They were inexpensive, and there are millions of them still out there. I would like to have a black, tall men's model like a collegiate, but they really aren't worth a lot of money.
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Old 12-26-09, 01:45 PM
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When I got my first road bike at age 12, I was glad to receive a $55 bottom-end Bianchi instead of a $70 Varsity. When I bought a new bike for myself in 1971, I was glad the local Schwinn shop had branched out into Nishiki. However, I did commute on a Varsity for a few months in in 1995, but I quickly replaced it with a Peugeot UO-8 someone gave me. On my 12% climb (Lusk Bl. in San Diego's Sorrento Valley) from the commuter rail station to work, the Peugeot was a lot more fun than the Varsity. However, I managed to crack the Peugeot's drive side chainstay after 4 years of commuting, and I suspect the Schwinn would still be operating nicely today, had I kept it.

By the way, I upgraded both bike with aluminum rims, which is the best thing you can possibly do to any Varsinental or UO-8.
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Capo: 1959 Modell Campagnolo, S/N 40324; 1960 Sieger (2), S/N 42624, 42597
Carlton: 1962 Franco Suisse, S/N K7911
Peugeot: 1970 UO-8, S/N 0010468
Bianchi: 1982 Campione d'Italia, S/N 1.M9914
Schwinn: 1988 Project KOM-10, S/N F804069
John E is offline  
Old 12-26-09, 01:53 PM
  #74  
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I like this whole arguing over the quality of lower end bikes thing. Especially since it seems like you guys are very passionate about it. It almost makes me want to see a thread comparing all of pros and cons of the common cheapo bikes. haha. Maybe a what bike for under 150$ or 200$ would you have bought during the 60s(or 70s) thread?
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Old 12-26-09, 02:20 PM
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Originally Posted by chrispe
for under 150$ or 200$ would you have bought during the 60s(or 70s) thread?
A beat Jaguar XK120.

-Kurt
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