One thing unique about Schwinn was that they always had a strong commitment to adult cycling - long before it became popular during the Bike Boom of the early '70s, and during a time when there couldn't have been much financial incentive to do so. Sure, they had their ads for Sting Rays and other kids bikes in magazines like Boys Life - as well as all those television ads with Captain Kangaroo -- but they also ran tons of full-page ads for adult bikes throughout the '60s and '70s featuring adult riders, usually in "normal" clothing - out enjoying a ride for fitness and fun - or with the whole family. Maybe for that reason, when the Bike Boom hit, sales of bikes like Schwinn's Varsity and Continental went through the roof.
I just went through some of my old Bicycling and American Cyclist (that was Bicycling, before the name was changed) magazines from that era and found a bunch of old Schwinn ads - usually taking up the entire back cover of the magazines. Take a look - and enjoy!
|From 1968. The slogan "For the Young in Heart" would be used again and again through the late '60s and early '70s.|
|Also from 1968. "His and Hers" bicycles are a common thing in the ads from this time, and I'm betting a lot of couples bought them exactly that way. I had an aunt and uncle who owned matching "his & hers" Schwinns from about the same time.|
|Another "His & Hers" ad - from '72.|
|From '78. I adore the women in these old Schwinn ads. Totally middle America - kind of wholesome - but a little sassy at the same time. Yeah - those are some short shorts - but in their defense, the men are often shown with basically the same shorts.|
|1978. His & Hers matching bikes - and outfits! See what I mean about the shorts?|
One of the things that's so great about these ads is that bicycling is shown to be as normal and American as apple pie -- with regular people, men and women, out having fun, wearing "normal" clothes - and just enjoying themselves on a bike. Look through a magazine like Bicycling today, and see how many ads send that message. Instead of coming up with increasingly smaller marketing segments (gravel bikes, all-road bikes, bike-packing bikes, etc. etc.) in order to sell more bikes to the same people who already have bikes, maybe the industry should be looking at ways to make cycling more appealing to all those people who think about riding but don't do it because they're afraid they have to dress like a super hero to do it.