1960 Schwinn Continental—Schwinns’ First Ten-Speed

My brand-new fifty year old Schwinn Continental

When I was a boy, I loved to ride.   Late night rides with no lights were fun freedom for a pre-teenager.   As the rides got longer, I realized a single speed bike was just not enough to get where I wanted to go.   On my first (of many) ride to the beach with a friend, he laughed about how fast I was pedaling my Stingray to keep up as he cruised effortlessly on his ten-speed.   The seed was planted, I needed gears.

The local swap meet became my friend as I bought, fixed-up, rode, and resold many ten-speeds.   They were all Schwinns, as that was the popular bike of the time.   Most were Varsitys, some with the early 8-speed drive train.   Some were Continentals, with nicer pieces and better brakes.   And finally a brand-new white Varsity that I sold to a friend the second I got my drivers license.   There were some great memories that got lost with the roar of motorcycles and hot rods.

About 20 years ago, a gift of a 60’s Schwinn Collegiate revved my bike interests back into top gear.   That was just the start of falling back in love with two-wheels.   About that time, I started looking for a bike like the ones I had in my days of innocence.   This week, all that searching paid off.   And it paid off big, as this bike is a special one.   It is a beautiful color, almost all original, and in very good condition.   It has some unusual graphics on the frame and the front see-saw derailleur on the seat tube..   Some time on Google has confirmed that my new bike is the one I have been dreaming of.

The young man I got it from had recently purchased it at an estate sale.   He had it tuned, new tires and tubes, replaced the original derailleur with a nice vintage Suntour unit, and installed a Brooks saddle to replace the fully worn-out Ideale leather one it came with.   New bar tape and cables were also added at that time.   He rode it some, but really yearned for a fixie instead.   Knowing that this bike might be too special for a conversion, he offered it up for sale to get the funds for a different bike.   That’s where I stepped in, getting it for less than the repairs and updates, I’m sure.

My research on the web turned up some great facts about this bike.   It was available in radiant red, radiant green, radiant blue, coppertone, and black.   It was touted as the fastest Schwinn on the market for sport use.   It was the first ten-speed offered by Schwinn in a growing American market for European style bikes.   It is a lightweight machine with many cool features.   My scale says about 30 lbs.

The unique suicide front shifter that has fueled so many of my dreams.

One feature that stands out is the front suicide derailleur.   This was on many of my childhood bikes and was the main item I was looking for as I searched for memories of past riding days.   I used to install laminated plastic knobs of colors and clear on the lever.   I am now on the look-out for a unique item for the lever to replace the plain white nub it came with from the factory.

As I searched eBay to see how rare my new bike is, I came across a listing for a NOS (new old stock) 1960 Continental that a gentleman in LA is offering.   He is asking a pretty penny for his bike that is in near perfect condition.   But what is great, is we had some email messaging where he was able to let me know about the trim and colors of some items that have been replaced on my bike.   Things such as the cable housings being light grey (mine are white right now) and the bar tape being a medium blue color (mine is black).   You should look him up on eBay if a bike like that interests you.

Even though it is fully ridable right now, I am going to tear it down for a full mechanical revamp.   Major polishing of each piece is on the list.   I doubt I will touch-up the frame scratches, but will shine and lube with vigor.   I might go for the details to make it more original appearing.   I have a Schwinn rack and a vintage saddle bag that should look just right on it.   The Brooks leather saddle is perfect, even though it is not the exact type it came with.   It has the original rims that need a little spoke tightening and elbow-grease to look and turn their best.   It will be a fun project that will take me back, that’s for sure.

I have even considered how fun it will be to take it to the local velodrome on practice days to circle the track.   I am no racer, but it should be a thrill to hit the banked track and pretend I am in the heat of competition on a blistering run for the trophy.   A Walter Mitty day for the future.   Just riding it around the neighborhood has widened my smile considerably.

The real truth here is a didn’t need one more bike.   I am deep in my re-work of the three old English 3-speeds (see a previous article), and my E-bike tests have reached levels I never dreamed of.   I personally can only ride one bike at a time, but the desire for more than one is ever so present.   I had told myself over and over if I found this bike I would look the other way.   I figured the price would be enough to allow me to just say no.   Yet, this 50 year-old dream bike is now mine and I have turned the pedals on it several times.   Sometimes, things just seem to fall in place.

I will be sure to report on the progress I make in the re-work and in the fun it gives me.   Some more photos are a given.   I am thrilled to have a chance to learn more about the history of bikes and the history of Schwinn bikes in particular.   When I first wrenched and rode these bikes, they were close to new.   Now it is 50 years old and as new as ever.   Do things really change?   See you at the velodrome, Turbo Bob.

“I turned back the clock almost fifty years with just one shift on the front chain ring”.—Turbo Bob, riding his (brand-new) Schwinn Continental.

Follow this link to see my Continental on You Tube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5U45Oj92J4I

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E-bike Enthusiast Vintage Bike Enthusiast
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16 Responses to 1960 Schwinn Continental—Schwinns’ First Ten-Speed

  1. MIke Smith says:

    Hey Turbo Bob,

    I like your bike man. I too have a 1960 Schwinn Continental. I just acquired it from a heap of junk bikes that were to be scrapped! Right place at the right time! It would have been a tragedy if this machine got scrapped. Anyway I recognized the bike right away, something just stood out and said it was special to me. And It turns out it is. It is all original except the tires! it is the Brilliant green color and is pretty. A little dinged up but over all good condition. I am looking for some advice for how to go about a refurbish job on it. I need to replace spokes (they are rusted bad) and the seat it is original Ideale. Do you know anyone that could refurbish the seat? Anyway what a score not just the money its worth, but the history is really cool. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated.
    Mike

    • Great deal, Mike. Yes it is a special bike. If I were you I would refurbish the bike the same way I’m doing mine. Tear it down, box the pieces, and start with the frame. Make a list of everything you need or want. Polish the frame as good as possible. One by one, rework, polish, and reinstall each part.
      Same with the spokes. Get new ones the same length and some new nipples. Polish the hub and rims as you replace each spoke. True it and retension the spokes. Get some help here if you need it. Clean inspect, and lube all the bearings.
      As far as the seat goes, you might be in for a replacement. There is a place in Vista, CA that does bike repaints and reworks. I’ve been in their shop before and seen some nice results on their work. Their website says they do leather work. They are CyclArt. You might be talking a lot more than the cost of a decent Brooks saddle.
      I got the orginal Ideale seat with mine and it’s leather is totally worn out too. My bike came with a nice Brooks replacement. It is black, but I am ok with that.
      This could be a pricey rework, but if you can do the work youself, it will make a big difference. I have been lucky with mine so far and the cost has been very reasonable.
      Mine is coming along well. I hoped to be done by now, but you know how that goes. I will have an up-date on the progress soon, maybe with a report on how well it rides too. Yes, I am that close to having it done.
      Parts might be hard to find, but don’t give up. You might have to compromise on all the parts being original. Just figure you want it to look right, but you want to ride it too.
      Let us know how it’s coming, and I’ll do the same on my end.
      Thanks, Turbo.

  2. rob.snodgrass@gmail.com says:

    Hi there, just doing some research and came across your site. I found 2 original 1960’s Schwinn Continentals at a garage sale and wondering if they are worth the $250 ea he is asking. Thoughts on this? I’m looking for something to restore and it looks like this could be it. Let me know if you think these are worth the $250.

    Some rust. All original parts including seat. Still has paperwork and serial number info.

    • Hard to say Rob, that depends on how much you really want them. There are people who buy old bikes and sell the bits and pieces to multiply their investment. If you want one to ride that is a different story.
      There is a guy on Ebay who has one and is asking 8 times that much. He doesn’t care if it sells or not, as he would like to be able to keep it. Have a look.
      If you want to rework it to keep and ride it, then buying both should net all the good pieces it takes to keep it riding.
      Let us know what you decide, and maybe some photos too, Turbo.

  3. Hello,
    This is a request, I have a La Perle that i am looking to restore. As with your Schwinn it also has a braze on for the front Simplex shifter. The trouble is in understanding how the system works. I only bought the frame and have no other reference for this fixture. Could you assist with some close-up photos so i can ascertain how it should be assembled, it would be extremely helpful.

  4. Pat says:

    Hi,
    First let me say that it took a long time to find a blog like yours and I am truly grateful.
    I have a Schwinn seat that is wide and measures about 12×11. I “think” it is leather (there’s a tiny tear and that’s how I saw it (it also smells like leather). It’s one of those wide seats that has the extra “cheek” pads. I’ve seen a few of them online, but they all have an emblem on the back. Mine has a stencil. They don’t mention leather. I believe mine is.
    I took a picture of it and would appreciate any help or direction you can give me.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/69738387@N02/8095145929/in/photostream

    All best, and my thanks,
    Pat

    • Hi Pat, sorry to take so long to get back to you. I saw the photo of your Schwinn seat. I am not sure what kind of help you are asking for. Clue me in a little better.
      Thanks for following along with my bike journeys, Turbo.

      • Pat says:

        Hi, Bob:
        Still getting used to the blog (and had difficulty finding this “space”.) I thought I signed up to receive an email.
        What I should have make more clear is to ask what type of seat it is and for what bike? Not sure when these were around or if they still are.
        Thanks!

    • Ok Pat, I see what you mean.
      I get a little box that I can check (under the comment box) to make sure the messages come on my the email too.
      I am no expert on this seat, but my impression is that it might be from one of their exercise machines. They sold tons of those. Check E-bay for those Schwinn machines and see if that is the case. I might have a chance to check too.
      Also, it seems to be missing all the base mounting and hardware. Those pieces might be hard to find. They are probably very specific for that seat.
      There are two basic types of mounting seats to bikes—one for a post—and one that hooks onto the seat rails.
      There are many to choose from if you are looking for a bike seat. Finding the exact vintage seat for a Schwinn can be a little tough. Sometimes a new, aftermarket seat is the only way to go.
      Does that help? Let me know.
      Turbo.

  5. Dave Balmes says:

    I have one in turbo blue that been with me 35 years. The bike is about 75% cond. Its for sale, how much should I ask or who buys them outright. Thanks Dave

    • Both questions are difficult to answer. There are many vintage bikes pages on Facebook that work with, sell, buy and can maybe help you if you are thinking of selling this bike.
      Some people dismiss old bikes as junk, where others love, ride and cater to them.
      There are other online sites too. Have to talked to your local bike shops?

  6. David Kettlewell says:

    Hi, I really enjoyed your nicely written article about your 1960 Schwinn Continental refurbish project. Like you, I came off a Sting Ray banana seat bike, in my case a campus green 5-speed with thick slick on back, and like you, I quickly moved to a 10-speed when the craze hit. I was lucky and got a used italia campy bike. (all campagnolo meaning front and rear derailleurs, bottom bracket, crank, and pedals, the brakes were centerpulls…nothing special.

    Today I ride a KONA UTE daily due to the comfort (long long wheelbase makes it my caddy ride)
    and recently I’ve been drawn to the idea of a bike from that era, and as a former restorer to museum standards of motorcycles, i’ve been thinking of what i want to do. I do not want another Italia, the bike was very hard riding due to racing geometry although campy was spot on. I’m really looking at continentals as their frame is longer and it will offer a more comfortable ride.
    Again, nice article and thanks so much for posting. dave.

  7. Tony says:

    Hello, love your article on your cool Schwinn Continental. A few months ago I ran into a bike just like yours…brought it home and it stood in my yard for months been neglected. Looked tore-up from the floor-up!..till one day i took the time ,did my research and saw your story. I also took the WHOLE bike apart like suggested to Mike and s.o.s.ed everything! Most of the chrome was covered in rust and know the bike looks like everything was redipped! (not that nice, but hella differnce for sho! and my hands are tired too!) Everything but the tires and tubes are original! Ideale seat and Simplex dereauler!? and the pedals have chrome and leather straps for your feet! Its a 1960 june …figured out how to decode it. Love my Continental! I saw the Schwinn Cont. on Ebay and Im debating on if I should sell it and how do I price it? The more I read on this particular bike and the more it feels like a piece of American History! Thanks for the Knowledge, Dave!

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