Sunday, November 16, 2008

1972 Schwinn Sports Tourer

About 18 months ago I bought (I'm hard pressed to use the term "won" for an eBay auction) an Allegro frameset and started gathering parts for it. It was a pretty frame, with fancy Nervex lugs and 531 tubing, but it had a few more issues than I was ultimately willing to correct -- namely some rusty cable stops that needed to be ground off, and a thick layer of awful blue paint. So I ended up selling it and looking for something else. The something else was also found on eBay -- a 1972 Schwinn Sports Tourer frameset located in Somerville -- nice and local. Not that not having to ship it helped me much -- there was a bidding run at the end of the auction, and it wasn't at all cheap. I could actually have spent just a bit more and bought a complete vintage Sports Tourer!

But that wouldn't have fit the plan, honestly. The plan was not to have a period-correct bike, but rather to find a classic and user-friendly frameset, build it up with a modern component group and end up with an all-rounder to tow my kids with. I remembered without fondness the sloppy shifting and sketchy braking of my old 10-speeds, and wasn't having any of that. And I wanted more than 10 speeds, too -- 14 was the plan, mostly because I already had a 7-speed wheelset.

When I saw the frameset on eBay, I did a little research about the fillet-brazed Schwinns on Sheldon Brown's treasure trove of a website at Just as his site had helped me while I gathered parts for the Allegro, it came through for me again in researching the Schwinn. Actually, before researching the Allegro, I didn't know who Sheldon was, but I recognized him from his pictures as someone I'd seen around. I started looking at the Schwinn just after he passed away, and his site helped me throughout the build -- thank you, Sheldon!

What I liked about the Schwinn is that it is unique. It has uncommon construction and a mix of features that make it sort of a bridge between two eras of cycling in the US. It has many of the characteristics of "modern" higher-end bicycles, but also carries over attributes from traditional American bikes. For example, sitting just behind the contemporary English-threaded bottom bracket shell (as opposed to an Ashtabula-style bottom bracket shell), is a brazed-on Schwinn kickstand mount and chromed steel kickstand. What I didn't realize then is how far that blending of eras carries with this bike. While the frame's classic lines call out "lightweight 10-speed", virtually nothing on the bike adheres to the standards of lightweight European or Japanese 10-speed, but instead follows Schwinn's usual practice. This made the build interesting, to say the least, since modern component manufacturers pay little attention to Schwinn's old specifications. More about these nuances later.

The frameset is orange, and the paint seems exceptionally tough, which is great. It came with a headset, bottom bracket, partial seatpost clamp and that massive and wonderfully practical kickstand. Everything else was left for me to source. I thought I had some pictures of the frameset from just after I bought it, but I must have deleted them. But here's a shot taken just after I finished the first iteration of the build. The bike has changed quite a bit since, having evolved from this relatively sporty build in more of a light touring direction.

I've already written about how much I enjoy the Schwinn, now that it's built up. It rides comfortably, steers with confidence, and though it's a little heavy, it's as solid as a rock. And in one of my first rides pulling the trailer bike with it, I rediscovered the ability for a road bike to tackle diverse terrain. During a hike with the family last Spring, I doubled back to the parking lot to check on the bike and trailer bike, which weren't secured to anything. On a lark, I decided to try riding back to the family, taking the rig onto the footpaths in our local convservation land, and much to my surprise there was absolutely no drama in doing so. There's a photo up here in an earlier post from that day, in fact. My daughter and I even rode out together, once I met back up with them. The Schwinn has turned out to be even more than I hoped it would -- it's a great companion for rides where I'm not quite sure where I'm going to end up.

I'm going to keep this short, and follow this introduction up with a handful of short and detailed posts about the build. I want to share some of the challenges the build posed, mainly owing to the differences in standards I mentioned above, and also what I learned in experimenting with different components. My hope is that someone out there in the world building up an old Sports Tourer will benefit from those experiences and opinions.

There's one other goal, there, as well. One of my objectives for this blog was to learn a bit about social media tools through experimentation. I've been using Blogger and Blogspot for 10 weeks or so, now, and for the past few weeks have had Google Analytics installed as well. I'll be interested in seeing how changing up the content, organization and titles of my posts affects traffic and visitor activity. That's not all that interesting to readers, of course, but it's good stuff, sitting in this chair.

All for now,


No comments: