On the road a Schwinn: The Schwinn Sports Tourer

Another Chicago-built Schwinn has rejoined the road-worthy population. There have been a few changes, of course.

Upright handlebars, mountain bike brake levers and SunTour bar-end shifters. There was a time before indexing when these SunTours were just about the best shifters made. If they had a problem, it was the domed nut that provided a smooth finish to the shift body. When you find these shifters in the wild, that nice, round nut is usually missing. You’d don’t absolutely have to have it for the shifters to work, but when you find a spare one in your junk boxes (like I did, unbelievably enough), well, life is good.

Original Schwinn-approved front derailleur, Nervar crankset and (non-original) alloy pedals. These are well-made pedals with no toe clips and no attachment for an SPD cleat. This is a commuting bicycle; the shoes you have on will work just fine. If you have to pull up on a pedal, you’re pedaling too hard.

Shimano freewheel, rear derailleur and chain. The bike originally had a five-cog block; now it has a six. (And yes, I know of someone with an amplifier that goes to 11.)

The derailleur is way nicer than I planned to put on here; it’s actually a backup part for my tandem. If I ever find the top spring for the entry-level Shimano sitting back on the bench, I’ll switch this derailleur for that one.

The chain? Nothing special, except for the fact that this is the first chain I’ve installed in years that doesn’t need a double pin or connecting link. You drive one of 120 standard-width pins (I added a few links) almost flush to the inside of one side plate to remove the chain, and then drive that same pin back to the other side plate to install it. Easy-peezy.

Brooks Champion Flyer saddle and seatpost. I’ve owned very few suspended leather saddles over the years. There’s this one, one on a Kennedy Ordinary I rode several years on PACRACC (a long-departed three-day tour around Bloomington-Normal, Illinois) and a cruddy Ideale on a four-speed Peugeot I owned in college.

A suspended leather saddle is a good thing to have. You never know when you might need to show your credentials while sneaking into Portland, Oregon. And I still have an ambitiously long saddle in the basement that would be a perfect match for a rickshaw in Agra, India.

The seat post? All 350mm of it are perfectly protected within the seat tube of this machine. Yes, I too have friends who would find this appalling. Taller friends.

Mavic rims, Panaracer tires. The rims aren’t original to this bike, but they may be just about as old. There was a time when I wouldn’t build a wheel for myself that didn’t have a red Mavic label on it.

This particular Mavic is connected to the front hub, a high-flange Campy, just as I got it from Les Siegrist’s cycling estate. For some reason, it was built with 15-gauge spokes laced cross-four (a spoke at the hub flange crosses four other spokes before it enters the rim). And the valve hole isn’t where it should be (which is between two groups of four spokes, instead of within one of the groups). I’ll eventually rebuild the wheel cross-three with 14-gauge spokes to match the rear, which I built around a Phil Wood hub.

The tires are the same 700X35 Panaracers I ran on the tandem for a time last year. Nice rolling—lots of cush.

Cables and cable housing. That front brake housing looks a little long, doesn’t it, arcing from under the bar on the left side, up, over and behind the bar to the brake hanger. A little wasteful. Perhaps just a little too Jeffersonian a flourish, you might say. Yep. I like it.

I have to say the Teflon-lined cable housings may just be the biggest improvement to this bike. Ultra smooth action all the way around. And look what those housings attach to; there are clean braze-on cable stops all over this bike. And Schwinn built it in 1972, when so many other makers were trying to sell prospects on the beauty of their frame designs while totally overlooking how awful their rusty cable clamps looked.

Schwinn really did it right, even though the cable stops are a non-standard size, just like the 0.833-inch handlebar stem, the 91mm front dropout width (widened by yours truly to 100mm) and the Huret rear dropout (made compatible with modern derailleurs by a hand-fabricated derailleur angle stop adapter).

Well, look there. That bike is standing up by itself, thanks to the fully-integrated, all-steel, bought-me-a-special-tool-just-to-take-it-on-and-off Schwinn kickstand.

I like this bicycle. In some ways, I’ve summoned the ghost of my first derailleur-equipped bicycle: a Schwinn Collegiate. It also had upright handlebars, a seat with springs, about the same width tires, and fenders. And it was the same color: Opaque Blue.

You know, except for the Sports Tourer’s significantly lighter frame and wheels, higher-quality crank and brakes, quick-release hubs, front derailleur, wider gear range and bar-end shifters, the two are almost exactly alike.

Except I remember seeing a seat post on the Collegiate.

About 16incheswestofpeoria

Former bicycle mechanic, current peruser of books, feeder of birds.
This entry was posted in Equipment, Schwinn Sports Tourer. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to On the road a Schwinn: The Schwinn Sports Tourer

  1. woo says:

    have you seen the new sram 11 mnt cass. it has a 42 tooth cog think about it , its like a chain ring back there , If you are interested I have a lx der that is top spring. the bike looks good I like the bar and fender set up

  2. schwinn says:

    That’s a Nervar crankset (it says so right on it!), not a Stronglight.

    • Right you are. Correction made. Thanks for the quality control. I double-checked other entries on the topic and seemed to have mentioned the name of the cranks only once, this time correctly, as Nervar. And fine cranks they are, too. Cleaned right up and went back together easily. If I found another pair (and needed them) I’d bolt them on without hesitation–assuming, that is, I also had a skinny front derailleur, maybe an old Campy or Huret Jubilee, to navigate the tight spacing between arm and big ring.

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  5. If you had the smallest frame boys Collegiate, it had a curved top tube, and this might account for there being seat post showing for a shorter rider. Schwinn made that model for the worst of all possible reasons, namely to provide a bike that the kid could “grow into.” You could get the seat way down for a child and then raise it as he grew. This of course meant that the poor kid had a really long reach to the handlebars and, even worse, the tube curved the wrong way. Ideally, the TT would pitch down immediately after leaving the head lug and then go straight back to the seat tube, providing stand-over clearance. With the Schwinn camelback and similar designs, the TT was highest right where the kid would need to stand over it. The design resulted in some horrible bike fit and lots of creative and hazardous dismounting strategies. Many a young boy would have loved to have had the opportunity to kick some Schwinn engineer in the nuts as hard as the whack the young buck had just received.

    I think part of the reason for the above-mentioned frame design was due to the aesthetics of the time, but a bigger issue was likely production. The curved tube design would have allowed the use of the same formed head tube unit as the next larger frame. Only the junction at the seat tube would be different and that one was the only hand-brazed joint on the frame, making a unique joint less of an impact on production. In fact, it is reported that the TT- seat tube junction was silver brazed, though why Schwinn would have thought this was necessary on such heavy tubing escapes me.

    Several years ago, a friend of mine celebrated a birthday by riding his childhood Collegiate 3-speed (with the curved TT!) on the Prouty cancer fundraising century out of Hanover, NH. He did the full 100 miles in sandals and Bermuda shorts, most of it with only two speeds, having lost low gear early in the ride. A former racer, he amazed and shamed us by catching up to our tandem a couple times at the breaks!

  6. picassobull says:

    Hello 16incheswest, I just picked up a ’72 mint green Tourer in better shape than yours was when you started. I’m excited to read about how you cleaned it up.

    My Schwinn has a Campagnolo Nuovo rear derailleur but the same French cranks as yours… I believe the front derailleur is Schwinn brand. Was the Campy derailleur added after market on this bike?

  7. Salty says:

    What handlebars are you using? I have a Sports Tourer that I’m updating like you did.

    • I’m using the laidback cromo Nitto Albatross, because it accepts bar-end shifters. However, between the fairly short (and now, non-standard quill diameter) stem that came on the Schwinn and the Brooks sprung saddle, the cockpit is too upright for me. I may experiment with a different saddle and a straight handlebar before I sell the bike. The straight handlebar will also force me back to a stem shifter.

      • Salty says:

        Thanks. I put generic 3 1/2 lift North Road bars on mine- the bike just looks right with them. Unfortunately the original SunTour shifter won’t fit. I’ll be setting up the saddle tomorrow- a more upright position works for me, the old girl will be mostly ridden on sometimes-crowded paved park trails where visibility trumps low drag.

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