Bike Forums - View Single Post - Suicide Lever 2550 Schwinn Emblem Bike, curious of model!
Old 05-25-20, 02:04 AM
vintage rider
Join Date: Jan 2018
Posts: 38

Bikes: 1937 Roadmaster, 1972 Schwinn Typhoon, 1972 Raleigh Sports

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I've owned Schwinn Varsity's, Continentals, and a few Caliente models as well. I never once had a complaint about those bikes, my first was an early 60's Varsity which a co worker had used for 10 years to get to work on, no telling how many miles it had but he had gotten a raise and went down and bought a brand new Caliente and threw the old one in the dumpster. I dragged it home gave it some new cables and tires and rode that for years. When that guy retired he sold me the Caliente for $10, and I again fixed that up and started riding that. Not many road bikes could do what those old Schwinns could do. The heavy steel frame and wheels is why they survived. Most of my riding back then was on dirt trails through the woods, I'd venture to guess that 90% of the riding I did back then was on dirt bike trails through the woods or down by the river. I had tried 'better' bikes but they didn't last. Skinny alloy rims folded and flat spotted, frames cracked under load, etc.

My point is that a Varisity or any of its brethren models can't be compared to most road bikes, they were never meant to be. They were rock solid, somewhat sportier versions of the heavier duty Schwinn models.
They were perfect for the guy who didn't want to be seen on some old three speed or balloon tire cruiser. They were never meant to ride the Tour de France, they were meant to get the average person who knew little about bikes up and riding and they did that very well. The average person's budget back then likely topped out somewhere around the cost of a Schwinn Varsity or Continental, which for years were under the $200 mark, if not under the $100 mark a bit earlier. As someone who was actively riding and buying bikes in the 70's, most folks simply would not spring for a $250 Raleight or Nishiki, or what ever brand the store sold at the time. A Schwinn was also American made, something that used to mean a lot to most folks. I myself, particularly back then would rather push a 60 lb bike made in the USA than ride something imported that even worse, cost me more money.

I can remember as a young kid, pretty much every last kid on the block owned a Schwinn, it was their first bike, it was their 2nd, third, and last bike. Those that rode anything else were looked at like traitors or sell outs.
The only brands that were 'allowed' some slack back in the day were other American bikes, like Columbia, Ross, Rolllfast, etc. Even a kid on a Huffy didn't get the heckling that someone on a foreign bike got.

Keep in mind the 70's were also the time of Evel Knievel, I had a neighbor a few years older than me who thought anything on two wheels should be jumped off a ramp. He rode a mid 70's Continental that had been spray painted olive drab. The things that bike went through and kept rolling were amazing. He was no little guy either, he was close to 200 lbs in high school and would jump that bike off everything from plywood ramps to dirt hills. Finally busting the front forks off it. It lived the rest of its life with a set of orange Varsity forks he got from a junk yard. It was hillarious to watch, a big guy like that pedaling all out and getting air on a bike with 27" inch wheels. Sure he got hurt a lot, but he always said the bike always fared better than he did. While it all just goes down more as a things rednecks do type of deal, it shows why they sold so many Schwinn bikes.
The one kid on the block who rode a fancy Italian bike wouldn't jump the ramp, so he did it for him. that fancy Italian bike didn't do so well, not much of it survived. I remember them having to haul the big guy away for stitches after that one while the bike's owner dig around in the grass for parts that broke off his bike. If only we all carried camera phones back then.
Memorial Day weekend also always meant big barbecues in the neighborhood, and the one house with the big ramps was the center of attention for all the kids on bikes. Kids would line up to see who could jump the farthest, (or get the biggest scar). I never put my Varsity or even my old Schwinn Tourist or World off that ramp but my Typhoon and old Sting Ray sure took a few leaps. The only damage I remember doing was folding a back wheel nearly in half on my Sting Ray, but I was likely in high school when that happened. A few days later, it had a new/used back wheel and it hung in my parents shed out back for the next 40 or so years.
I only recently sold my last Varsity, a 1974 that I had bought new and kept as my 'good' bike when I was in school. It still had its original tires on it. Some kid bought it off CL for $250 cash about four years ago.
Seeing what they're bringing now, maybe I should have kept it. I see most of them listed over $400 now here. More if its a larger frame like mine was.
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