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Old 12-09-21, 08:23 AM
On the road
SirMike1983's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: New England
Posts: 1,823

Bikes: Old Schwinns and old Raleighs

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Originally Posted by jkrug View Post
Not an English bike, but this was my first taste of a Sturmey Archer equipped bike. This Schwinn Breeze was in a box in pieces when I got it--previous owner had taken it apart with his son to repaint the frame and--20 years later--hadn't gotten around to it. He assured me all the parts were there and mostly they were. Took some polish to the paint and decided to leave it original. Although the painted lettering has worn, it came out pretty well, and after lubrication and some replaced cables and a tire it made a nice rider. Its new owner is very pleased with it.

Almost entirely original, only a tube, tire, brake cables, and cable housings were replaced.

I think it's fair to place the Schwinn three speeds in with the British ones as being part of the same family of bikes. They have a common lineage.

I have never seen it confirmed by any Schwinn writing, but I have a strong suspicion that when Schwinn started making these three speed utility bikes in the late 1930s, they copied a Birmingham Hercules or BSA sports/light roadster as a template. Schwinn advertised its early three speeds as something for adult riders and being a choice for serious use as an alternative to English bikes. A customer could also custom order a bike and specify which American-style features they wanted (e.g., one-piece crank, coaster brake, etc.) and which British-style ones (e.g., cottered cranks, Sturmey hub, caliper brakes). In the pre-WWII era, Hercules and BSA (Hercules in particular) were actively exporting bikes and parts to the USA.

The slack frame angles of the Schwinn 3-speeds also had a strong resemblance to the pre-war Hercules and Phillips sports roadsters, though the Schwinn was of different frame joining construction. Schwinn initially opted for the 26x1.375 (599mm) wheels, but later went to the 597mm bead seat wheels. The English preferred the 26x1-3/8 (590mm) wheel. [If you think the choice today in tires for 590mm is limited, well 597 and 599 are even worse.]

Over time, the Schwinn-made bikes diverged from the English more. The later Schwinn three speeds from the mid-1950s and onward, which are the ones that usually show up (most are 1960s or 70s) converted gradually to parts that Schwinn could source from vendors - Weinmann 810 brakes, Weinmann brake levers, Union pedals and chains, etc.

But the two lines of bikes had both emerged from the rise in the 1930s of the British "light roadster" 26 inch wheels, with cable/caliper brakes, and a three speed AW hub.
Classic American and British Roadsters, Utility Bikes, and Sporting Bikes (1935-1979):
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