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No Hands: The Rise and Fall of the Schwinn Bicycle Company

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No Hands: The Rise and Fall of the Schwinn Bicycle Company

Old 04-30-14, 03:59 AM
  #51  
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Originally Posted by downtube42 View Post

I've sort of come to the conclusion that Schwinn built bikes people needed, but the imports were the bikes people wanted.
Being that the US bike market is almost entirely recreational/fitness, that statement does not compute.
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Old 04-30-14, 10:48 AM
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Originally Posted by rebel1916 View Post
Being that the US bike market is almost entirely recreational/fitness, that statement does not compute.
To some degree that's what I'm saying. Schwinn built bikes that made sense for transportation, and Americans increasingly considered bikes to be recreational. Bikes for transportation isn't a 21st century urban invention. We didn't have minivans full of kids going to soccer games in the '60's and '70's, we had kids riding bikes to little league and Cub Scouts. The Collegiate was a transportation bike for college students; some college campuses didn't even allow students to have cars. I can imagine Schwinn seeing those kids and college students growing up and continuing to want transportation bikes. But that didn't happen, they grew up wanting Detroit iron for transportation and lightweight bikes for recreation.

If you look at the widespread use of mountain bikes for urban on-road riding today, what's that about? Upright seating, wider softer tires, emphasis on ruggedness rather than light weight. That's what Schwinn built, but the growing market wanted something else.

I don't know if anyone at Schwinn stubbornly stuck to the idea of transportation bikes, or if they were simply asleep at the wheel. But out of it all, we have 40 year old Schwinn bikes that still roll today, nicely filling a transportation niche.
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Old 04-30-14, 05:40 PM
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Originally Posted by downtube42 View Post

I don't know if anyone at Schwinn stubbornly stuck to the idea of transportation bikes, or if they were simply asleep at the wheel. But out of it all, we have 40 year old Schwinn bikes that still roll today, nicely filling a transportation niche.
Read the book. Schwinn was much more invested in the idea of bikes as kids toys than in the idea of bikes as transportation. But I get what you're saying.
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Old 05-01-14, 04:53 PM
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Originally Posted by rebel1916 View Post
Read the book. Schwinn was much more invested in the idea of bikes as kids toys than in the idea of bikes as transportation. But I get what you're saying.

From what I saw, they were also of the opinion that weight equaled quality. They wanted to give you more poundage for your money than any other bike company. So, when their 45-pound ten-speed cost the same as a 30-pound European ten-speed, theirs gave better value. (?)
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Old 05-01-14, 06:15 PM
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Originally Posted by BlazingPedals View Post
From what I saw, they were also of the opinion that weight equaled quality. They wanted to give you more poundage for your money than any other bike company. So, when their 45-pound ten-speed cost the same as a 30-pound European ten-speed, theirs gave better value. (?)
They were like Grant Peterson. If GP was more into golf and cocktails than cycling.
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Old 05-02-14, 09:58 AM
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Who can forget Kermit's famous line: "If frogs couldn't hop, I'd be gone with the Schwinn!" Kermit survives, good bye Schwinn!

I had a Sting Ray, a Paperboy Special, and a Varsity! Long live the 60's and 70's.
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Old 05-02-14, 10:00 AM
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Originally Posted by rebel1916 View Post
Being that the US bike market is almost entirely recreational/fitness, that statement does not compute.
The quote makes perfect sense. People buy what strikes them and grabs their attention. In the sales world we are taught to sell the sizzle, not the steak.
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Old 05-02-14, 02:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Daspydyr View Post
The quote makes perfect sense. People buy what strikes them and grabs their attention. In the sales world we are taught to sell the sizzle, not the steak.
Except that the original quote was that Schwinn gave em what they needed, not what they wanted. So they were not selling sizzle.
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Old 05-02-14, 03:37 PM
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Originally Posted by rebel1916 View Post
Except that the original quote was that Schwinn gave em what they needed, not what they wanted. So they were not selling sizzle.
The quote I used states that the Imports what people wanted (sizzle), not the steak (big heavy beefsteak) that Schwinn was selling.

People like sizzle. I like my sizzling bikes. My inner Spock did require that I justify my purchases with LOGIC, but that is usually a shroud for I like how I look on it!
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Old 09-18-14, 05:18 PM
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I'm about a 1/4th of the way through the book and it's a great read. I got my copy from EBay for a pretty good price - about $22. There seems to be a few of the books on EBay but some of the sellers want upwards of $75 for them.
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Old 09-18-14, 06:17 PM
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[QUOTE=DougG;16605711] ... Also brought out was how difficult it is for a 100% family-owned business to succeed for many generations in a row with family members at the helm....QUOTE]

When I was a youngster in UK, I seem to recall the expression was 'rags to riches to rags in three generations' - maybe a slight overstatement but the general drift is too often correct.
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Old 09-19-14, 03:36 PM
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Originally Posted by crazyb View Post
They sold plenty of lugged bikes in the mid to late 80's also that were made in Greenville. Le Tours and Travelers
... and my Project KOM-10.

1988 Schwinn KOM

The nail in the coffin was the late entry into mountain bikes, which is ironic, given that Joe Breeze, Gary Fisher, et al. prototyped the original mountain bikes on pre-WWII Schwinn frames and even tried to work with the company to produce mountain bikes early on.
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Old 09-26-14, 08:17 PM
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*In 1970, ~200,000 adult derailleur geared road bikes (a.k.a. 'ten speeds') were sold in the US market. In 1972, annual sales rose to ~8,000,000.
I was way young back then but the above dwarfs even Beanie Baby / Furby / Tickle Me Elmo type sales craze growth. Did the industry predict it and actually deliver the bikes?? or were LBS's invaded by riders camping out to get a set of wheels?

That is one astonishing set of numbers. Thank you all for the reference, I just put the book on hold in my LBS (local book supplier aka library )
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Old 09-28-14, 05:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Cognitive View Post
I was way young back then but the above dwarfs even Beanie Baby / Furby / Tickle Me Elmo type sales craze growth. Did the industry predict it and actually deliver the bikes?? or were LBS's invaded by riders camping out to get a set of wheels?

That is one astonishing set of numbers. Thank you all for the reference, I just put the book on hold in my LBS (local book supplier aka library )
It caught the industry by surprise, and the reasons behind the bike boom are still debated. I walked into a Schwinn total concept store in the summer of 1972. Total adult bike inventory consisted of three Varsities (one was a 16" frame, another a drop bar 'girls' frame and the final was the massive 27" model) and one Paramount, and there was a minimum five month waiting list for any Schwinn 'ten speed' model besides a Varsity*. Bicycle factories all over Europe and Japan were pressed into shipping everything they could build to the USA, and old time dealers started carrying brands nobody had ever heard of before. The general interest magazine Popular Mechanics began running a regular monthly bicycle column.

*Man, oh man, could that eletro-forging process turn sheet metal into bicycles!
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Old 09-29-14, 06:08 AM
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Schwinn and most others did get caught flat footed in the early 70's boom, and by the time it played out there were too many others that overproduced hoping to cash in. Way too many cheap, poorly constructed bicycles flooded the market and the shops were over stocked for several years in some cases, or they went out of business. One thing that was a positive aspect was the introduction of several of the European marks that were obscure, small and/or not offered here in the states. Ten Speed Drive and the other importers introduced us to a lot of brands we had no idea about, unless you were one of the few that already knowledgeable of bicycles beyond a 26" wheeled "paper-boy" bicycle or the ubiquitous 20" sting-ray style bicycles most of us grew up with.

It was 1971 when I got bitten by the bug and got my first derailleur equipped bicycle and began hanging out in bicycle shops here. The Schwinn dealer, Escambia Schwinn Cyclery, was a family owned business that somehow anticipated the rush of that boom and they rode the wave very well, Mr. Wheelan (perfect name for a bicycle shop owner!managed to taper back his orders just in time to avoid the excessive inventory problems and was going strong until he retired in the late 80's. That was a sad day for me and a lot of other people here in Pensacola, Florida. The Raleigh dealer was the other shop, it too was family run by a wonderfully curmudgeon like guy, Mr. Stachow, and he too anticipated the taper, although he did have some bikes from the boom period that gathered dust for a while. Luckily for me it meant a 1974 Raleigh International at a dream price, to replace my Schwinns, a Le Tour II and an opaque blue Continental. I wish I had every one of them now, and throw in my 1972 Bottecchia from Escambia Schwinn, too, please!

Both of these shops had expert, trained bicycle mechanics that were thorough and friendly, a good combination for a teenager with a mechanical curiosity back then

A shop manager here that worked in the Raleigh shop told me that Schwinn's denial of the MTB boom is what sent them down hill, that is something the experts here can better address than I ever could. I just want a copy of that book, somehow. It is getting more expensive by the day, it seems.

Bill
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Old 10-13-14, 06:11 AM
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The 1984-85 Schwinn LeTours are my favorite. Double-butted cro-mo with light wheels. I'm so glad a Schwinn started Waterford cycles in Wisconsin. It's expensive, but they also have all the old Schwinn colors, including Radiant Coppertone. So you can get the newer version of a Paramount. Custom Bicycles from Waterford Precision Cycles
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Old 10-13-14, 11:52 AM
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I just finished the book yesterday after picking one up from Amazon for $28--not cheap, but they seem to be getting rarer. Surprisingly, I found it a real page turner and devoured it in 2-3 days. Very well written with a lot of vignettes of movers and shakers in the evolution of the bike industry. Thoroughly enjoyable and highly recommended!

STP
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Old 10-14-14, 03:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Cognitive View Post
I was way young back then but the above dwarfs even Beanie Baby / Furby / Tickle Me Elmo type sales craze growth. Did the industry predict it and actually deliver the bikes?? or were LBS's invaded by riders camping out to get a set of wheels?

That is one astonishing set of numbers. Thank you all for the reference, I just put the book on hold in my LBS (local book supplier aka library )
It explains something I found frustrating back then, finding that new bike prices were skyrocketing!
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Old 10-14-14, 04:23 AM
  #69  
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Originally Posted by rebel1916 View Post
They were like Grant Peterson. If GP was more into golf and cocktails than cycling.
I don't get that comment at all. I haven't owned a Riv, but I have ridden a bud's RB-1. It's definitely a rival for my Masi or Mondonico. I've also ridden with friends on Rivs, and they are not held back by the bikes.

I've also owned '50s and '60s balloon-bikes, and ridden friends' Schwinns, because that's what all us kids had when I was one. I always saw the Varsity as a race-shaped Typhoon. It was great if when the Hurets failed to shift on demand, the bike was in the same gear as the old one-speeds. That was somehow a good gear. Perhaps Schwinn popularized the urban single?

With Riv, Grant seemed to try to bring comfort back to the road bike, and make them more accessible to riders who didn't want to dress up in quite so much kit, or become billboards. Jump on and go, and still enjoy a lively frame with usable gearing.
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Old 10-14-14, 07:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Lizzy View Post
The 1984-85 Schwinn LeTours are my favorite. Double-butted cro-mo with light wheels. I'm so glad a Schwinn started Waterford cycles in Wisconsin. It's expensive, but they also have all the old Schwinn colors, including Radiant Coppertone. So you can get the newer version of a Paramount. Custom Bicycles from Waterford Precision Cycles
I stopped riding bikes when my Raleigh "English racer" bike was stolen just before I turned 16 back in 1962. Since I started driving right after that, I didn't miss cycling for a number of years. So it was probably about 1980 when I bought my first modern bike from the local Schwinn dealer. It was a LeTour "10-speed racer" in that beautiful pearlescent gold color. And a bike has never been absent from my garage since!

I don't remember how I eventually disposed of that bike in favor of a "new-fangled" mountain bike when they first started getting popular, but recently I've seen a bike around town that is exactly the model and color that I used to have. Unlikely that it was actually mine, but I still admire its looks and paint job.
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Old 10-14-14, 06:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Road Fan View Post
I don't get that comment at all. I haven't owned a Riv, but I have ridden a bud's RB-1. It's definitely a rival for my Masi or Mondonico. I've also ridden with friends on Rivs, and they are not held back by the bikes.

I've also owned '50s and '60s balloon-bikes, and ridden friends' Schwinns, because that's what all us kids had when I was one. I always saw the Varsity as a race-shaped Typhoon. It was great if when the Hurets failed to shift on demand, the bike was in the same gear as the old one-speeds. That was somehow a good gear. Perhaps Schwinn popularized the urban single?

With Riv, Grant seemed to try to bring comfort back to the road bike, and make them more accessible to riders who didn't want to dress up in quite so much kit, or become billboards. Jump on and go, and still enjoy a lively frame with usable gearing.
Like Grant they felt heavier is better. Unlike Grant they were more into cocktails and golf than cycling.
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Old 10-14-14, 09:51 PM
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I have a 1973 Schwinn Paramount handbuilt in Chicago. At the time, it was THE bike. My wife and I had minimal furniture at the time, but the living room of our apartment featured two super bikes of the day. Hers- Gitane Tour de France. I had the Paramount repainted in about 1982 with Imron paint. I obtained an original decal set from Schwinn that I have never set after the repaint. It's one sweet bike, and I will probably never sell it.

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Old 10-14-14, 10:00 PM
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Originally Posted by tcs View Post
I'm not a bankruptcy lawyer but I imagine the extent of the new owner's liabilities were spelled out right along with the purchase of the assets. I bet the long time Schwinn blue collar employees took it in the shorts, too.
According to the book, most of the employees who were vested in the pension plan did OK--thanks to the US government's pension insurance agency. Some of the later execs who opted not to participate were left out in the cold. Ed and Richard Schwinn tried to push a $638K "golden parachute" through the bankruptcy, but received a small fraction of that in the end. Ed comes across as someone really "not there" most of the time and the company's downfall, while due to a complicated set of circumstances, could certainly have been avoided, or softened if he had been willing to face reality at any point. He was definitely out to lunch--often quite literally!

The chapters on the bankruptcy proceedings are, like the rest of the book, very detailed as well as interesting--I couldn't put the book down.

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Old 11-29-20, 10:10 PM
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Originally Posted by JanMM View Post
...My 'upgrade' to a Made in Mississippi '79 Super LeTour was fun until the seat tube broke (this was after thousands of miles of touring, commuting, baby trailer pulling, etc.) The original straight gauge hi-ten frame was replaced by Schwinn with a much-improved butted cromo frame.
Fascinating! I had a 79 Super LeTour but didnt know it woulda been Mississippi built. My seat tube came unbrazed at the BB and it was replaced by a Voyager 11.8 which I believe was built by Panasonic in Japan. I replaced pretty much everything (fork, wheels, bars, stem, derailleurs etc) and raced that bike for a few years. Frames still in my basement now 40yrs later.

And No Hands.. great book. I pick it up from my bookshelf occasionally.
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Old 12-08-20, 10:37 AM
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Originally Posted by az_cyclist View Post
I had 3 Schwinn bikes, a Varsity 5 in 1979, a Traveler in 1983, and a Prelude in 1986. The Prelude had Columbus chrome-moly tubing and SunTour groupo. The rear dropout broke in July of 1998. Since the frame was supposed to have been under a lifetime warranty, I searched out a Schwinn dealer ( I lived in Indianapolis at that point, not in the city where I purchased the bike). They contacted Schwinn, who at this time had been purchased by a group called Questor (probably the Colorado group mentioned earlier in this thread). THEY determined lifetime warranty meant 10 years. I didnt expect a full credit for a 12 year old bike, but I didnt expect the bum's rush either. FWIW, I switched to Trek then.
I you had any of the original paper work, such as your bill and the owners manual with the guarantee, I think you could have pushed it.
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