A tale of two bicycles—Vintage Schwinn 5-speed comparison with a possible E-bike conversion—Part 6—Performance & Comfort

The saddle on the Collegiate


          These are not performance bikes in the strictest sense of the word.   They both ride well and have their own characteristics.   Although they are practically identical, they do ride different.   The weight and the gearing are the most notable variations.   Also, the wheel and tire selections affect the way they feel.   The placement of the shifter reminds you they are not the same bike.

There is 15 lbs. separating the two bikes.   This is really most noticeable when moving them around or when lifting them.   The Collegiate’s extra heft does not slow it down.   Once you are moving, you don’t notice it much.   The bike is just a fraction of the overall weight (bike and rider).   The flywheel effect and the momentum of the heavier bike can actually be helpful.   It is also more solid and just as maneuverable as the lighter World Tourist.   This is not to say that a heavier bike is better.   The whole world desires the lightest bike they can afford.   I am just saying that it is not as big of a deal as some make it out to be.   If you are a speeder or jumper, lighter might be better, but for most of us, heavier is just fine.   It can make a small difference on a hill, but I get off and push on the steeper ones anyway.

As mentioned in a previous article, the World Tourist has a wider range on the gearing.   The gears are spaced out a little more, with a slightly lower gear (good for hills), and a taller high gear.   I do like this extra range in the gearing, although the Collegiate’s gears are closer together, giving a good feel when shifting up through the gears.   All this is not a big enough deviation to matter much.   The taller tires of the World Tourist have a little to do with the difference, also the actual gear ratio (number of teeth in the gears) is not the same.   I think you can tell that I like the way both bikes shift and feel in each gear.

The geometry of the frames and forks is quite nice.   They give good steering at low and high speeds.   I can ride very slow without wobbling or putting my feet down.   That is a nice feeling.   At higher speeds, the steering is solid and not too twitchy.   They have a great design that works well for these bikes.   Schwinn did a wonderful job with these bikes.   Just one more reason I am so happy with owning such bikes.

I’ve discussed the tires and rims effects on the ride already.   The Collegiate is the winner in this department.   Both are good, but the shorter, larger tires are my favorite.

Modern bikes have distinct advantages over these bikes.   For a high performance rider, that can be very important.   I have ridden many newer and different kinds of bikes.   For me, these vintage bikes are just as good, or better than a big dollar alterative.   Some of the points of modern bikes that affect the performance are less friction (drag) in the mechanisms, changes in the frame geometry, and click shifting.   All these things might be worth the cost of the a new bike.   I like them, but the thrill of a vintage bike, with everything that goes with them, keeps me on my old bikes.

Riding Comfort

          Probably the number one factor in this category is the saddle.   It is not the only thing, but very important.   These bikes have the original seats.   I am about 100% convinced the Collegiate has the seat it came with.   I am not as sure about the World Tourist.   I do believe it has the seat it came with.   If you go on very long rides, an upgrade would be a good idea.   Having the stock seat is more important to me.   They have a good feel and are more than adequate.   The saddle on the Collegiate is fairly cushy, and is a little wider than the World Tourist’s.   I recently replaced the internal foam pad with a 1/4 inch thick dense foam pad.   It was pretty deteriorated.   It was not as much a comfort issue as it was an appearance problem.   The support springs were starting to make visible dents in the vinyl cover.   I was able to carefully remove the vinyl cover, and used the old pad to trim the new pad to the correct shape.   It did make it nicer to sit on and the vinyl cover looks much better now.

The seat on the World Tourist is narrower and a little more firm.   A better seat would be nice, but I like the look of it.   I will check the foam pad soon to see if a replacement is needed.   I still have a large piece of foam left over.   I will change it if it’s needed and won’t hurt the cover.

There are some nice saddles on the market.   Everything from the least expensive cruiser seat, to a really nice Brooks leather saddle.   They have narrow, firm racing saddles, and big, wide ones with a load of gel in them.   The gel saddles are ok as long as the gel layer is very thin.   Too thick, and you will actually be less comfortable.   Some saddles are contoured for less pressure in sensitive areas.   These can be helpful if you’re unhappy with the feel of a normal seat.   A good bike shop will allow you to try some out to see if you like them.   Remember that they do take a while to conform to your contour.   A Brooks saddle will be one of the best, but takes a long time and some TLC to finally feel good.

The position of the rider on the bike can affect the comfort levels.   You sit fairly upright on a bike like these.   The pedals (bottom bracket) could stand to be a little farther forward.   There are minor adjustments in the saddle to set it forward or backwards.   The height of the seat can make a big difference in your fit to a bike.   The height of the handlebars can do the same.   These bikes don’t have the optimum adjustment range for me, but it is close enough.   If you go to a top end road bike shop, they can measure your body proportions and flexibility to design a bike that will fit you perfectly and allow maximum performance and comfort.   This is best for serious riders, but get ready to pay for the service and the resulting bike.   If you can afford it, it is the best way to go.   Regardless, try to make sure your bike fits you and the seat and handlebars are set to match your body.   Also, make sure the hand brake levers are set to the correct angle for easy use.

          How these things can affect the E-bike conversion

          It should be obvious that a comfortable bike is a requirement for an E-bike.   Comfort equals confidence and safety.   Performance is also related to a solid and firm bike.   Also one that is in good shape and well taken care of.   Strive for these goals in any E-bike or E-bike conversion.

Up next we will look at accessories.

“Whoever invented the bicycle deserves the thanks of humanity”—-Lord Charles Beresford.

Check out San Diego’s newest electric bike shop

Ivan Stewart’s Electric Bike Center


In Little Italy, San Diego.

Looking for a conversion kit?

see   http://www.nycewheel.com

About Turbo Bob's Bicycle Blog

E-bike Enthusiast Vintage Bike Enthusiast
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