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Restoring an abused Schwinn LeTour

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Restoring an abused Schwinn LeTour

Old 05-04-13, 08:14 PM
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Restoring an abused Schwinn LeTour

I picked up this half-bike for a neighbor today at the Trexlertown swap meet. He wants a road bike and can spend $200 or $300. This half bike was $30. It looks like heck and has been abused. The chainrings are worn. The seat post is stuck! I'll see what else is wrong, but the crank and fork spin fine.

It needs wheels, a chain, a rear derailleur cable, handlebar tape, a front brake caliper, and a saddle. It will end up costing the neighbor (age 16) about $200. I told him, and he's cool with that. I'll help him fix it up and build it. He'll learn about building bikes and riding them at the same time.

This is obviously from Schwinn's last gasp period, when they decided to make seriously good bikes, before they went out of business. Can anyone date it for us?











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Old 05-04-13, 08:56 PM
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Good luck sir!
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Old 05-04-13, 09:14 PM
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There should be a 4-digit date code stamped into the headbadge, although they're sometimes difficult to see and read. I suspect it's somewhere around 1987 or so.
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Old 05-04-13, 09:32 PM
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'86 & '87 were the only years that color was offered for the LeTour. Looks like the picture in the '87 catalog has "Le Tour" underlined in red, so I'm gonna guess '86 for that one.

https://waterfordbikes.com/SchwinnCat...986Ltwt30.html
https://waterfordbikes.com/SchwinnCat...0/1987_17.html
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Old 05-04-13, 09:33 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
I picked up this half-bike for a neighbor today at the Trexlertown swap meet. He wants a road bike and can spend $200 or $300. This half bike was $30. It looks like heck and has been abused. The chainrings are worn. The seat post is stuck! I'll see what else is wrong, but the crank and fork spin fine.

It needs wheels, a chain, a rear derailleur cable, handlebar tape, a front brake caliper, and a saddle. It will end up costing the neighbor (age 16) about $200. I told him, and he's cool with that. I'll help him fix it up and build it. He'll learn about building bikes and riding them at the same time.

This is obviously from Schwinn's last gasp period, when they decided to make seriously good bikes, before they went out of business. Can anyone date it for us?
Judging by the shift levers, I think it's a 1986:
https://www.trfindley.com/flschwinn_1...986Ltwt12.html
https://www.trfindley.com/flschwinn_1...986Ltwt13.html
https://www.trfindley.com/flschwinn_1...986Ltwt30.html
Definitely Schwinn's last gasp- I ran into Ed Schwinn at the Long Beach Bike Show that year, and he had a look of quiet desperation.

Oddly, the LeTour I bought as a frame (for $50) had the same shift levers. I built it into a nice "coffee shop bike":
https://home.comcast.net/~jeff_wills/letour/index.htm
Since those photos, I've revamped it as a single-speed with fenders. Now I'm thinking of 700 x 35C tires. I can't leave this one be.
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Old 05-04-13, 09:33 PM
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'86-87 is a good guess. In addition to the head badge stamp, the serial number stamped on the bottom bracket shell can often date these Japanese or Korean Schwinns. Basically the letter in the first or second character position denotes the month, with the other first or second character (number) showing the last digit of the year of manufacture. Other components can nail the decade, but this one is clearly from the late 80's. Scroll halfway down on the Recycle page for more info on both of these date code loctations;
https://re-cycle.com/History/Schwinn/SwnB_Serial.aspx

As a aside, I've got a set of similar-styled "Schwinn" and LeTour" water-slide decals I'd sell cheap, if you decide to get that involved. However one issue with these for your application is they're white.
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Last edited by Hudson308; 05-04-13 at 09:44 PM. Reason: added decal info
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Old 05-04-13, 09:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Hudson308 View Post
'86-87 is a good guess. In addition to the head badge stamp, the serial number stamped on the bottom bracket shell can often date these Japanese or Korean Schwinns. Basically the letter in the first or second character position denotes the month, with the other first or second character (number) showing the last digit of the year of manufacture. Other components can nail the decade, but this one is clearly from the late 80's. Scroll halfway down on the Recycle page for more info on both of these date code loctations;
My LeTour (which is identical) is definitely a "Mississippi Schwinn", not Japanese. I can't recall any Schwinns made in Korea... I don't think there were very many bikes at all coming out of Korea at that time.
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Old 05-05-13, 06:10 AM
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You guys have been helpful beyond my hopes. It's definitely a 1986. I see the shifters and front derailleur are original. So is the stem, and the bars might be, too.

I'm impressed that this fairly low model had butted main tubes of 4130. And yes, it's a Mississippi-made bike, not an Asian-made bike.

My neighbor is going to be very happy.

I don't have much time to devote to this. I'll let him paint it if he wants, but if he does, I will insist that he bring it back painted quickly, even if the paint job isn't very good.

I can't see a number on the BB, but I haven't scraped the dirt off yet. The date code on the head badge is 1006. How does that decode?

Thank you again. I'll post progress here.
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Old 05-05-13, 06:32 AM
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You deserve some kind of medal for rescuing a venerable old Schwinn frame from a landfill. I had a Schwinn LeTour for a few years, sold it last year when I bought my Salsa Casseroll. Keep us posted.

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Old 05-05-13, 06:45 AM
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The pedal threads look abused but I think there's a good chance we'll be able to use them. Cool a Stronglight crank. It's stylish in its plain-ness.

The headset squeaks. We are definitely overhauling the headset and BB. It will give us a good chance to refinish the frame. I'm thinking maybe decoupage or contact paper. I bought a roll of faux stone contact paper for my Raleigh International but decided against using it there. This frame is a good candidate for that, since it will be fairly quick and have a unique look.
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Old 05-05-13, 09:35 AM
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I think the White looks salvageable, if you just get the greasy dirt off it and hit the scratches with appliance white paint. That's a great bike you guys got at T-Town. LeTours offered a lot of value for money in the line then, as did Voyageurs. If you go for contact paper, how will that work? Does it hold up for a long time? I think if you were stealth touring some of that camouflage wrap would be useful, but no experience with either as to their durability.
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Old 05-05-13, 10:05 AM
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I haven't used contact paper, so I can't say how well it works. It's just an idea for a cheap and interesting look.

Interestingly, the dirt -- and there is plenty of it -- doesn't look greasy. It looks really dry. I'm trying to resist the temptation to work on the bike until the boy comes over. I just sent him a message asking when he'd like to come. He's away for the weekend. He now lives about four blocks from me. He used to be my next door neighbor.

I agree the LeTour was a great value, especially for a starter bike and especially from the last-gasp era.
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Old 05-05-13, 04:08 PM
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A non-abrasive scrubbing pad and a good degreasing cleaner will go a long way towards cleaning that white paint. Some Testor model enamel will work for touching up.
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Old 05-05-13, 04:41 PM
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I would also agree its a 86. I have a red 1987 Le Tour which is a fantastic bike the best road bike I have ever ridden when it comes to the feel and frame for me. $30 for what you got is great. If I ever see a different color Le Tour or Traveler (same frame) I might have to pick it up if its a reasonable price.
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Old 05-05-13, 05:27 PM
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Funny how that works with those old Schwinns, how they could make 4130 Hi-Ten into a fairly light and comfortable frame. And the Columbus Steel is another great , truly lightweight frame material Schwinn was using in the higher end at the time. The Traveler you might like a lot, Monsterpile, would be the WinterMint(Celeste) 1987 Traveler that was made with double-butted True Temper Steel. I've seen very few where that paint stood the test of time. But a double-butted True-Temper frame with brazed on downtube shifters is just about as nice as it gets in that end of that line, at that time.

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Old 05-05-13, 05:53 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
The date code on the head badge is 1006. How does that decode?
100th day of 1986. Agreeing with everyone that the paint may clean up pretty decent, I'd just give it a standard hot water + dish soap + sponge wash, then hit it with some polishing compound if it looks dull. Since it's white, it should be reasonably easy to color match for touch-up.
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Old 05-05-13, 07:09 PM
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Eagle One A2Z wheel cleaner, and pressure wash. Instant clean, and no harm to the paint.,,,,BD
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Old 05-05-13, 07:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Jeff Wills View Post
My LeTour (which is identical) is definitely a "Mississippi Schwinn", not Japanese. I can't recall any Schwinns made in Korea... I don't think there were very many bikes at all coming out of Korea at that time.
My apologies, Jeff. Schwinn may have become more persnickity with their sources by the mid 80's. I was going by the '79 World Sport I've got that was made by Giant.

One product I've found that works great for cleaning grime without harming the finish or graphics is good ole mineral spirits. Have one rag or paper towel with some applied, and a second one that's clean and dry. Wipe on and scrub if necessary with the first rag, then wipe off with the second. A 1-quart can from your favorite builder supply is cheap, and I've even been able to clean off shoe scuffs with it. Also works great on cable housings.
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Old 05-05-13, 08:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Gravity Aided View Post
...4130 Hi-Ten into a fairly light and comfortable frame.
I've not heard 4130 steel referred to as Hi-Ten. Isn't 4130 Cro-Moly?
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Old 05-05-13, 08:27 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
...The seat post is stuck! ....
You really won't know if you got a good deal - or if you just got stuck for the $30 until that seat post comes out!
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Old 05-05-13, 08:40 PM
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Originally Posted by auchencrow View Post
You really won't know if you got a good deal - or if you just got stuck for the $30 until that seat post comes out!
That seat post should be your first step......if it doesn't move; it's a show stopper. ....
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Old 05-05-13, 09:27 PM
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Yes, 4130 is Cro-Moly.
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Old 05-05-13, 09:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Gravity Aided View Post
Funny how that works with those old Schwinns, how they could make 4130 Hi-Ten into a fairly light and comfortable frame. And the Columbus Steel is another great , truly lightweight frame material Schwinn was using in the higher end at the time. The Traveler you might like a lot, Monsterpile, would be the WinterMint(Celeste) 1987 Traveler that was made with double-butted True Temper Steel. I've seen very few where that paint stood the test of time. But a double-butted True-Temper frame with brazed on downtube shifters is just about as nice as it gets in that end of that line, at that time.
I think I'd take any different color in those frames. I really like the Schwinn road bikes of that ere, but I like the geometry of these alot. Years ago when I started working on bikes I sold what I am pretty sure was a white women's 1987 Schwinn Letour for like $40. I only paid $10 for it and probably didn't do much to it, but ugh... Oh well. I also had a pair of 1986 Le Tours a matching Men's and Women's pair that a married couple that were friends of mine picked up at a garage sale for like $10 for the pair. They road them for a few years and then were going to give them to me because they were moving. I forced them to take $20 cause its what I had on me and I only sold them for like $275 for the pair to a young couple. I also refurbished a 1989 Traveler for a friend that wanted to ride his dad's bike and I put a flared dirt drop bar on it. It was a great bike the paint was very good on it. Heck all of them are great bikes. =) My Le tour saw some use so its not a garage queen, but its not rough either.

The reality is that I should limit myself to just one road bike, but if I ever come across another one of these something else might have to go. My latest road bike that may be a keeper is a 1990 Trek 1400 that at some point in its life someone upgraded with a carbon fork. Based on the early short neighborhood rides it might be hard to let it go.
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Old 05-05-13, 09:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Hudson308 View Post
My apologies, Jeff. Schwinn may have become more persnickity with their sources by the mid 80's. I was going by the '79 World Sport I've got that was made by Giant.

One product I've found that works great for cleaning grime without harming the finish or graphics is good ole mineral spirits. Have one rag or paper towel with some applied, and a second one that's clean and dry. Wipe on and scrub if necessary with the first rag, then wipe off with the second. A 1-quart can from your favorite builder supply is cheap, and I've even been able to clean off shoe scuffs with it. Also works great on cable housings.
Urrghhh... I'm gonna get picky on you, son!

Yes, the World Sport was made by Giant for Schwinn, but Giant was/is based in Taiwan, not Korea. Two totally different countries.

I was working in a Schwinn shop in those years (1979 to 1984) and I watched the first Giant-sourced Schwinn bikes appear. They were definitely lower quality than the Chicago-built or Panasonic-built Schwinns, but they sure were cheap! Giant definitely learned a lot in those years- when they came out with their own bikes the bikes were very nice.

Also FWIW: I spent a school year in Taipei, Taiwan in 1972/3. A very strange experience for a skinny red-haired kid as tall as most of the adults. I'd love to go back now that I could appreciate the culture.
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Old 05-06-13, 04:42 AM
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I think the first Korean bike I saw was made with Murray and Huffy's name on it. A very basic, spot welded 10 speed.
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