Classic American Steel: 1972 Schwinn Breeze

We all have memories of Schwinn. For most of us, some Schwinn model was our first bike. They were the original city bike company in America. The bikes had style, were versatile and sturdy. I think it’s safe to assume that today’s city and commuter bikes are linked in some way to the Schwinns of the past.

FROM THE ADVERTISEMENT
“Value priced for the girl who wants the most in ride and style on a budget. Lightweight design, Schwinn tubular rims, chrome-plated fenders, two-tone padded saddle, built-in, rattle-free kick stand. Choice of colors: Campus Green or Burgundy.”

When my wife’s Linus was stolen, I pondered replacing it with another one. I also considered something similar and cheaper—a bike that had style.  There are plenty of them out there. Then I searched Craigslist for old bikes and came across a few Peugeots and Univegas, but then I remembered the Schwinn Breeze 3-speed that was made in Chicago. They’re out there in varying conditions, but I settled on this one for $150. Except for the Wald basket, it’s all-original—even the tires! It was dusty and dirty, full of spider webs and surface rust. I brought it to my dad, the king of restoration, for a fix-up. The first thing that goes on these great old bikes is the shifting. It’s just a cable with a nut and a screw. The Sturmy-Archer rear hub is basic in design and easy to get back to original condition. Surface rust is a simple fix: all it takes is some light buffing with steel wool. The fenders have dings and dents but that’s character, and trying to pound them out will only make it worse. The bike has a TR Driggett bike shop sticker on it from Wisconsin, and based on the numbers on the head tube, this Breeze was made in June of 1972. The bike rides perfectly, brakes decently and looks like it did when it rolled off the factory floor. For $150, it’s definitely worth it!

POSTSCRIPT
My wife kept it for a few years and rode it often around town. The shifting continued to work well and it handled just right for the type of riding she did–getting groceries or hitting the weekly farmers market or just riding around town. The only real drawback to the Breeze was the weight. It was a tank and made it nearly impossible to haul to the beach.

Like an old Volkswagen, people on the street had stories of their Schwinn bike. Many had a Schwinn when their were young (often a Stingray) and a lot of people had them in college. It wasn’t uncommon to find a beater at a yard sale for $25! It got you to the bars and if it broke or got stolen, you just bought another one.

Eventually we sold the old Schwinn and if I recall I think I got $150 for it. A cool, hipster woman with an old burgundy Chevy truck bought it to tool around in the pits when she wrenched on motorcycles at some speedway in Southern California. She didn’t ask any questions. She saw it, loved it, rolled around the street for five minutes and handed me a wad of cash. The deal was done. She was giddy, and off went the burgundy Breeze. I imagine that bike is still around. Hell, she may still have it. The rear hub is the only thing that needs a tweak here and there, but aside from that it’s an American-made tank that will stand the test of time. 

An interesting fun fact is that the 1972 cost of $66.95 for this version equates to about $418 in today’s money per saving.org.

From issue 20 of Peloton magazine.