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.
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