Thursday, April 2, 2020

Schwinn Super Sport Bike Project (not mine)

One thing I'm hearing from a lot of people during the COVID-19 shutdown is that there are a lot of bike projects getting done. I was just nearing completion of my Sequoia project when the shutdown happened and won't be starting another bike anytime soon. But I did recently get an email from Steve A. from Papillion, Nebraska about a project he was just finishing: a 1970s vintage Schwinn Super Sport.

I've written about bikes like the Super Sport here in the blog before (HERE). It was one of the lovely and under-appreciated hand-built bikes from Schwinn. Unlike the bulk of Schwinn's bikes of the time, which were welded together with heavy seamed steel tubing (made in-house at the Chicago Schwinn factory), the Super Sport and its stablemates, the Superior and Sports Tourer, were fillet brazed by hand from straight-gauge chrome-moly tubing in the same corner of the factory that produced the top-of-the-line Paramounts. The Super Sport was placed above the welded Continental model in the Schwinn model lineup, but below the slightly more upscale Superior or Sports Tourer (depending on the year). With its Ashtabula one-piece crank and Huret Allvit derailleurs, many customers probably didn't know what set the Super Sport apart from the cheaper Varsity and Continental models, and many dealers probably didn't do a good enough job explaining what made them worth the extra money. In any case, people who know how to spot them in the wild can sometimes get a good bargain on them and end up with a very attractive and sweet-riding bike.

That's where this example comes in. Steve found it on the Omaha Craigslist for about $20 and then did a complete down-to-the-frame restoration. Here are some before and after pictures.

The bike was complete and original - but obviously in need of a lot of TLC. At first glance I see a lot of rust, and a very dried out Brooks saddle. Otherwise, it looks to be all there.
Steve had the frame sandblasted, then repainted it himself using actual vintage Schwinn opaque blue paint. It's amazing the 45-yr-old can of paint was still good - but mixed up with the right solvents and loaded into his air sprayer, it worked great. He also hand-rubbed the finished paint to get the proper sheen. A few parts were rechromed, others cleaned up, and some replaced. It looks here like it just rolled out of the Schwinn dealer showroom.

Some close ups:

A very rusty crank and chain.
Gleaming. He had the crank re-chromed, and I see he added some period-correct-looking toestraps and clips - a nice upgrade. The pedals were able to be cleaned up and re-used.
Lots more rust, and lots of chips and scratches in the paint.
Gleaming and beautiful. Steve was able to find a pair of new or nearly-new Schwinn-branded Huret derailleurs, and a new Schwinn-approved freewheel to replace the old rusted items. He kept the original wheels, but spent a lot of elbow grease buffing and polishing to bring them back to life.
Another look at the bottom bracket area and that very rusty crank (and integrated kickstand - also very rusty).

Very nice. See that little round decal near the bottom of the seat tube? That's where Schwinn identified the tubing as Chrome Molybdenum. It looks like that might have been missing in the "before" picture. Proper water-slide type decals came from a seller on eBay.

Brakes were replaced with correct vintage parts (with new pads added), and he was able to find a nice-looking vintage replacement for the head badge on eBay to replace the beat-up original.
All in all, this is one nice-looking bike. Steve should be proud of his work. I told him that all he needs now is a vintage Schwinn dealer price tag and people would think it was brand new. I'd like to thank him for sharing the bike and its story, and letting me share it with all the Retrogrouch readers.


  1. Wow, what a transformation! Full marks to you Steve A., from a South Dakota neighbor.

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  3. Truly a remarkable work of love! One that I would gladly see done step by step on YouTube... especially the salvation of 45 years old can of paint intrigues me to no end!

  4. Kyle, thanks for the great blog on my bike. Sincerely appreciate your write-up interspersed with the photos.
    RIP and Guido – thanks for the nice comments. My main regret was not taking more pictures, especially of the bead-blasted frame and the painting process. Regarding the can of paint – I was pleasantly surprised that the 45-year-old can was still relatively fresh. I followed the instructions on the can (5 parts paint to 1 part xylene) for mixing. I was able to remove the gummed pigment from the bottom of the can, cut that separately with the xylene, and then mixed that with the remainder of the paint. The eBay seller was very supportive during this process.
    Local weather (Omaha suburb) supposed to be great the next couple of days – perfect for the bike’s 'shakedown cruise'.

  5. Hello Steve,
    Remarkable job on the restoration, outstanding work sir. The reason i read this article is because i found an older super sport then this one u did here in alot worse shape but amazingly fully intact with all original components an hardware, (down to the tires themselves), laying next to a dumpster in my hometown of Roswell NM. I could really use some tips on being able yo maintain its originality without doing too much damage to the the parts due to how extremely rusted it has become over the years an some other question i might end up need awswer to. If u wouldnt mind assisting me id be eternally grateful. I actually worked at Roswell Schwinn, a bike shop here when i was younger so i do have a bit of knowledge about bike but its the tricks to the trade that get the job done in the best of ways which in this instance sir was a phenomenal an superior job well done. Hats off to u. sinkrys19@gmail is my email address if u could get back to me regarding this that would be great. Nice work again!