As I’ve mentioned before, TeamCow is about the bike. To that end, I’m going to step it up in the next few months and write a little piece about each of the vintage manufacturers that truly matter.
We’ll start with what was once the biggest bicycle company in the world, Schwinn.
Some of you I’m sure are wondering if this is because they sell cheap bikes at Canadian Tire. It wasn’t always this way – at one time, Schwinn completely dominated the American market. Like Xerox meant photocopy, and Kleenex meant tissue, Schwinn meant bicycle.
However, they ignored what was happening in the rest of the world, and ended up trying to sell very old fashioned bikes to a market that wanted lightweight ten-speeds.
They fought on bravely for a while, getting help from an upstart Taiwanese maker (you may have heard of them, they later became Giant) but their infrastructure was too old, their leadership too out of touch. They eventually went bankrupt in 1992, though continued to operate, but then declared bankruptcy again in 2001.
One man’s trash is Dorel’s treasure though, as that Canadian company purchased their assets and continued to make Schwinns. Dorel also owns Cannondale, GT, Iron Horse, Mongoose, and Sugoi.
So, why do we care about Schwinn?
For staters, Ned Overend. The Captain. Six time NORBA champion, UCI MTB champion, UCI Masters CX champion. Just say legend and you’ll cover him pretty well. Ned started out racing with Schwinn before making Specialized famous.
Then there were the beautiful Paramount mountain bikes with their unusual chainstays. These were built at the Paramount facility that Schwinn created to make European style bikes. They covered a wide range of price points, so if you’re looking for one, the 90 pictured here is a good one, but a 30 would be bottom of the line.
Incidentally, if you were interested in buying what is truly a Schwinn, the Paramount operation was purchased by Richard Schwinn during the financial troubles, and became Waterford Precision. Waterford also makes bikes for Shinola of Detroit.
In the mid and late 90’s Schwinn partnered with Control Tech, Anodizing, Inc, and Yeti to produce the Homegrown line of bikes. These were stylish aluminum hardtails and suspension bikes featuring the tomato logo, and the famous bass boat paint jobs.
Still very much sought after, these were terrible bikes, and please let me know if you find one so I can make sure it doesn’t hurt anybody.
That, as they say, was all she wrote. There was the Rocket 88 series after this, but it suffered from some design flaws, and once Dorel bought them out, all of their bikes became the heavy and cheap bikes you find at department stores. Dorel has made an effort to maintain a line of “good” Schwinns, but I think it’s very hard to separate a quality line from a department store line in consumer’s minds.
Because of the current status of Schwinn, it’s hard to find the good vintage ones. In Alberta, there are 51 listings on Kijiji, and only two are from before Dorel. I don’t think the Paramounts are very popular for the pre-1998 guys, so finding one shouldn’t break the bank. The Homegrowns however are considered among the best hardtails made at the time, so expect to pay. There are a couple of frames on eBay, all over $300.
Now you know just a little bit more about vintage mountain bikes.