A tale of two bicycles—Vintage Schwinn 5-speed comparison with possible E-bike conversion—Part 4—Wheels & Brakes

Front Brake

Wheels and Tires

          Next up will be a look at the rolling parts of each bike.   Neither bike shares the same pieces and sizes.   The Collegiate has a 26 inch set-up.   It also has a larger cross-section tire.   We are looking at a 26x 1 3/8 tire on this bike.   This gives a little better ride on slightly rough pavement.   It is a very specific size that was only used on Schwinns.   Part of that has to do with the rim design.   It is called a straight sided rim.   That is the part were the bead of the tire contacts the rim.   This can cause some difficulty when mounting the tire.   The tough part is to get the tire to sit true on the rim, so it rides smooth and doesn’t wobble when the assembly is turning.   I will go into that more in the maintenance section.

Even though it is an older, specific sized tire, they are still available.   There is no choice in tread designs or quality levels.   It is an inexpensive tire and gives a long wear life.   They are prone to visible external cracking, but this does not affect the ride or safety.   These tires have been on the bike for 15 years and are still fully serviceable.   This is the same tire that is used on the 8 and 10 speed Schwinns of the era.   It is used on many other Schwinns as well.

The World Tourist uses a taller, but thinner cross-section tire.   It is a 27 x 1 1/4.   This cuts down on rolling resistance and is slightly better going over rough roads.   The ride is not better, but the larger diameter will flow over dips better.   Once again, this is a tire size that only Schwinn used.   And, not only can you still get them, there is a minor variety of types available.   Continental makes a very high quality tire in this size that would be my first choice when replacements are needed.

Tubes are also in stock for these bikes at any bike store.   I recommend the thorn-resistant ones, with the green sealant added.   It does add to the weight, but reduces the chance of a flat, and all the work involved with fixing it.   Another benefit is that the pressure in your tire will stay up longer because the tube rubber is denser.   Less pumping, and more riding.   The 26 inch tire is designed to be inflated to 65 lbs, max.   The 27 inch is listed to go to 75 lbs.   These are the maximum pressures recommended.   You can leave the pressure down a little bit for a smoother ride.   I like to run them at the max setting for less rolling resistance and less flexing that will increase the wear on the tire.   You get a rougher ride with the pressures at max, so it is your decision what level to inflate yours to.

          Rim and Hubs

          Schwinn has always been known for having  very strong and well designed rims.   This is one item that was made in their own factory.   I don’t think the World Tourist rims were made by Schwinn, as they had closed their American factories by then.   The rims are straight sided and tubular.   They are made of steel.   They use a standard type of spoke.   They are not the same as any rim made today.

The hubs are made of aluminum.   Both bikes have different hubs on them.   They have internal ball bearings that ride on steel races that are pressed into the ends of the hubs.   Nothing special here.   This design has been used for many years by all bike manufacturers.   The rear hubs have a threaded collar on them for the free wheel cluster to attach to.   Once again, nothing unusual about this design.


          Identical brake systems are used on both of these bikes.   They are marked “Schwinn Approved”.   They are old school, single pull, caliper style brakes.   With a higher quality red pad, they work well, but are not exceptional.   They can be a little tricky to set-up correctly.   Any long time mechanic can do it easily, because this type has been around so long.   I will discuss the set up more in an upcoming article.  

The hand levers are the same.   They give a good feel and are designed to give long service.   They use standard cables and attachments.   Because the frames are step-through types, the rear cable is routed in a longer and indirect manner.   This slightly reduces the effectiveness of the rear brake.   That is not a big problem, because the front brake does most of the stopping anyway.   

          E-bike Compatibility

          I am already convinced that both of these bikes can be successful and good E-bikes.   One factor against them is the fact that they are original vintage bikes that I like so much the way they are now.   We will see about that.   

An E-bike conversion will use a hub motor.   This can be mounted in the front or rear of the bike.   Each has it’s good and bad points.   I think these bikes would be best with the hub motor in the front.   Partially, because they don’t have the modern rear gearing set-up.   When you get a E-bike conversion kit, you would normally get the motor (hub) laced and trued to the supplied rim.   This would be the way to go.   But these old rim sizes are not available from the suppliers of the conversion kits.   For these bikes, you would have to lace up the stock sized rims to the hub motor with the correct (different length than original) spokes.   Most people would have the supplying company or a local bike shop take care of this for you.   Along with truing the rim and tensioning the spokes, this is not a draw back.   If you go the electric route, I think it would be best to get a replacement (stock sized) rim to be installed to the hub motor (from E-bay or a bike shop) and keep the original assembly intact for future use if you want to change the bike to the way it was.

Another factor is the width of the hub motor.   I will do some measuring and investigation into this.   The axle on the hub motor is larger and the slots in the fork will need to be enlarged to fit.   This is also not a big problem, and is the standard procedure for up-grading any bike for the motor.

The brakes are a limiting factor for the conversion.   All modern E-bikes use high- performance V brakes or disc brakes.   The E-bike conversion will be heavier, and needs a very good braking system.   With a low power kit and careful riding, these brakes will do the job.   If you are planning a 1000 watt E-bike kit, it would not be wise on a bike like this.   Our E-Zipps have the best bike brakes I have ever used, and there are times when this is the only option.   In traffic, and at higher speeds or going down hills, you are going to need maximum braking power.

Well, there you have it.   More coming up on this subject.   I also have made a few rides I want to report on.   Until next time,   Turbo Bob.

“Think of bicycles as rideable art that can just about save the world.”—-Grant Petersen

Looking for an E-bike or conversion kit

Talk to my friend Bert at


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In Clairemont and Lemon Grove

About Turbo Bob's Bicycle Blog

E-bike Enthusiast Vintage Bike Enthusiast
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