A tale of two bicycles—Vintage Schwinn 5-speed comparison with possible E-bike conversion—Part 2—Construction


A close-up look at the welds on the head tube of the Collegiate frame.

Today I will look into the way these two bikes are made and the materials used in the frames and forks.   I will take these factors into account as I decide if either one is capable of being a good candidate for an electric conversion kit.

Frame Size

Both of the bikes have a large-sized frame.   The size is the distance between the bottom bracket (where the pedal crank is) and the top of the seat tube upright (where the seat post goes in).   They are both 20 inch frames.   This is good, because I am over 6 feet tall, and a smaller size would not be large enough for me.   17 inch frames were also available, and I believe the Collegiate was also made in a smaller sized frame.   It is important that you ride a bike that is the correct size for your height and body parameters.   When purchasing a new bike, you must make sure it is compatible with your body.   That is one area a good bike shop comes in handy. As these are used bikes that were given to me, I was lucky to have the large frame to fit me.   At my height, a slightly larger frame would be good, but these will do.   Of course, the seat height is adjustable, but the frame size is more than just that. It affects many parts of the way the bike fits your body.

Frame Construction and Materials

Steel is the standard for older bikes.   Nowadays they use many other materials for them.   If these were made of chromoly alloy (a type of steel), they would have a sticker to let the owner know.   Chromoly is much heavier and stronger than mild steel.   Because it is stronger, they can use a thinner wall tubing, and have a lighter, more rigid frame.   I would think that these are both made of mild steel.   The World Tourist has a sticker that indicates it has a extra-light frame.   This would lead me to believe it is made with butted tubing.   That means the wall thickness is thicker at each end, and thinner in the middle of the piece of tubing.   This allows the frame to be lighter and still strong enough to do its job.

A close-up look at the lugged frame of the World Tourist.

Welding is the way most of the pieces of the frame are held together.   But some of the more important joints use a different technique.   On the Collegiate, the welds at the steering tube appear to be fillet brazed.   But this is not the case.   The Schwinns made in Chicago used a special process called electro forging.   This makes for a very nice looking joint, that is strong and secure.   The World Tourist was made by the Giant Corp in Taiwan.   Around 1978 Schwinn closed its American plants, and moved production out of the country.   That is not why, but the World Tourist has a different construction method.   It is a lugged frame. You can see the difference in the photos.   It uses butted tubing for a lighter weight.   This is a common method used in the top of the line bikes of the time.   Schwinn was happy with the quality and strength of these frames.   Check Wikipedia for more information on these construction styles if you are interested.


No suspension here folks.   These are solid, plain old-fashioned forks.   They do give a little, and are designed to give a good ride with no compromise on safety.   The Collegiate has a blade fork, made from forged steel.   It is solid and strong.   They can bend if over-stressed.   I know this from hard riding and jumping in my younger days.   Under normal conditions, it should never give any problems.   The fork on the World Tourist is made in a different way.   It uses tubing for a lighter weight.   It will flex during use to give a more comfortable ride.   It is still plenty strong to give good service.


I will discuss the weight issue further in the upcoming articles.   For now we can know that the World Tourist is a much lighter bike.   The Collegiate is heavier at 49 lbs.   The World Tourist has a big advantage at it’s 34 lbs weight.   Some of this difference comes from the frame and fork, and some comes from the other fitted pieces.   This weight difference is not as big a deal as some people try to make it out to be.   The rider is so much heavier than the bike weight, the bike is just a fraction of the total heft.   Still, a lot of people spend a lot more for less (weight).

E-bike compatibility

Schwinn has long been known for bulletproof bikes.   Both of these bikes have the strength to handle the weight and stress that the E-bike conversion needs.   An E-bike kit will add 25-40 lbs to the weight of the bike.   It will also add extra stress from the torque of the motor.   The standard E-bike kit uses a hub motor that is either in the front or rear wheel.   The World Tourist does have a weight advantage for the E-bike kit.   You would think a light-weight bike would the logical starting point for a E-bike conversion.   But that is not necessarily the case, as the E-bike must be strong enough to handle everything that comes its way.   For now, the items covered on both bikes says, “Make me into an E-bike.”

More on its way, thanks for following along, Turbo Bob.

“If the constellations had been named in the twentieth century, I suppose we would see bicycles.”—Carl Sagan

If I do order a E-bike conversion bike for one of these bikes, it will be from

NYCeWheels    http://www.nycewheels.com

About Turbo Bob's Bicycle Blog

E-bike Enthusiast Vintage Bike Enthusiast
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3 Responses to A tale of two bicycles—Vintage Schwinn 5-speed comparison with possible E-bike conversion—Part 2—Construction

  1. Hayward says:

    HI there,
    Your Schwinn World Tourist might be Hi Ten steel given the weight of your bike plus your steel rims. It’s more likely some kind of Hi Ten steel if your seatpost size is less than 26mm. I have a Schwinn World Tourist 1984 that I picked up for free with steel rim and replaced it with alloy rims. My Schwinn was made in Taiwan and has a seatpost size iof 25.7mm.

  2. Dennis Bell says:

    I have to respectfully disagree with you about weight. Were it insignifcant, racers wouldn’t spend a fortune on carbon models to save a couple pounds. A good analogy is the weight of your shoes. You would soon notice the difference if they weighed an extra two pounds apiece, despite the fact that this would be a fraction of your overall weight.

    • Thanks for kicking in, Dennis. You are right in so many ways. Then again, there is a big difference in overall weight and rotating weight.
      If I were a racer, I would be more concerned about every ounce. I don’t mind the extra heft of my vintage bikes verses the fun and thrill they offer.
      I have read that on some bikes the makers will sometimes spec heavier rims to add stability on certain bikes.
      I once suggested to a biker friend that would spend big bucks for light-weight hardware for his race bike, that he could reduce some weight from his bike for free. All he had to do was to scrape off the many stickers and decals. “No way” he said, the stickers were important.
      Everyone has diffferent bike needs and wants—that is part of what make them so fun.
      Ride on and smile, Turbo.

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