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Posts Tagged ‘schwinn’

Thick and Fast.

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012 by CGIT

I’ve got products and books piling up for for review faster than I can open the parcels! We’ve been so busy with The Book that it’s all gone pear shaped on the product review front. So.. I’m determined to get started on the task of reviewing all this stuff before the pile falls over and traps me against the keyboard. At least 90% of the stuff I’m sent is really outstanding gear. Among them some of the nicest, most innovative and interesting products and publications I’ve ever got my hands on. The other ten percent? I was brought up to believe that if you can’t say anything good about someone/something then don’t say anything. An attitude which doesn’t sit well with someone who’s set themselves up as a product reviewer! But I’ve had one or two products through which suck very much. And honesty, in relationships and product reviews is everything. Knowing what effort their creators put into designing, financing, manufacturing and bringing their creations to market I find it hard to be as honest as I want to be. One of these products, a book, is a direct competitor with our very own the Cyclorama book. I’ll gird my loins and wade in.



Schwinn on the bank

… as you may already know, is my venerable Centenary Schwinn which comes out for the ’summer’, though this year’s rainfest barely qualified. The kind people at Nonusual sent me a set of their gorgeous Gropes handlebar grips recently. Black with red laces was the inevitable colour choice from the many permutations available. Now, it takes a lot for me to change the original parts on this bike. It’s ridden, regularly, which is more life than most Centenary Black Phantoms are allowed to enjoy. I swapped the tyres only because one of the originals had perished prematurely. I swapped the original steel dinner plate ring for a smaller – Profile Racing Imperial – only to save my knees from imploding. And it ‘fits‘ – this being the last (imperial) model Schwinn ever made in the US. The seat got blacked because I just don’t do brown. And that was it, until I spotted the Gropes Grips. I got the long version which, designed as they are for drop bars, has given me enough off-cut to do another two bikes. Yay! They went on easy enough. The lacing was a bit fiddly but not difficult to achieve a very professional finish following the very comprehensive instructions included. They’re finished off with some very nice cork grips with a big G. Initial concerns that these would immediately fall out were unfounded. They’re incredibly well made, straight, true, well finished and soft, thick supple leather. They suit the bike perfectly and I love them.

Gropes grips on a Schwinn

You may be aware that I never talk about prices on Cyclorama. A thing is worth what you’re prepared to spend on it. This is the kind of product, if you own the kind of bike that these would suit, that you’ll order first and ask price questions later.

If I had a 5 star points scoring system these would get a six. Highly recommended.

There’s a gallery of images on our FB page here:

Major Taylor Education Program Launched

Monday, February 28th, 2011 by CGIT

Major "Marshall" TaylorThe Major Taylor Education Program was launched recently at the Trail Blazers Boys and Girls Club in Portland Oregon by a group of individuals and organizations headed by Roger Mallette of Retro.

”Retro and its partners recognize that cycle racing is not highly accessible to Black American youth and holds a vision to create connections to coaching and competitive racing in Portland.”

The program will seek to identify 6-10 kids showing interest in competitive cycling. Participating boys and girls will be ushered into the coaching camps of B.I.K.E. and Kirk Whiteman Coaching.

In addition the program aims to generate more awareness of not only Taylor’s luminous career but also his ideals and values concerning hard work and perseverance.

The Major Taylor Education Program will focus on the uncanny career in cycle racing that Taylor triumphed in:

In 1896 at age 18, Marshall “Major” Taylor emerged as “the most formidable racer in America,” earning up to $15,000 per race.

At age 20, he set seven world records. At 21, he was the first black World Champion in Montreal, and the American Sprint Champion that year and the next.

Taylor was only the second African American World Champion of any universal sport.

After one of the most successful athletic careers the world had ever seen, Taylor’s last days were spent living in a YMCA in Chicago where he died a pauper in 1932.  Taylor was reburied in Glenview Cemetery, Chicago in 1948 with funds provided by Frank Schwinn of the Schwinn Bicycle Company.

These words mark his grave:

“World champion bicycle racer who came up the hard way without hatred in his heart, an honest, courageous, and god-fearing, clean-living, gentlemanly athlete. A credit to his race who always gave out his best.  Gone but not forgotten.”


Retro’s Major Taylor Education Program was first launched in Chicago in 2007/2008 in Chicago Public Schools after a friendship was formed with Courtney Bishop of Team Major Taylor and the Team Major Taylor Scholarship Fund.  Retro’s primary partners were Mayor Richard M. Daley, Simon Schuster, and Courtney Bishop and Team Major Taylor of Indianapolis, Indiana.

Roger Mallette, Retro’s Founder, recently approached Tim Sicocan, Director of the ‘Trail Blazers’ Boys and Girls Club , John Bennenate, Director of B.I.K.E ., Kirk Whiteman of Kirk Whiteman Coaching and River City Bicycles. Kirk Whiteman is one of the United States’ greatest cycling sprint champions. John Benenate founded (B.I.K.E.) Bicycles and Ideas for Kids Empowerment.  B.I.K.E. is an inner city cycling team supported by a dedicated group of volunteers that nurture up to speed, faces missing from the sport and has been serving the Portland Community for over 16 years raising 74 Oregon State Cycling Champions. B.I.K.E. coached the first all black women’s cycling team to race in the little 500 at IU in Bloomington Indiana. Oprah Winfrey presented Mr. Benenate a $100,000 award from her Angel Network for his work with B.I.K.E.

Major Taylor program poster

Read more about Roger and Retro here,

and a Bike Culture review of a Taylor biography by Andrew Ritchie here.

My 1995 Schwinn Black Phantom

Monday, February 7th, 2011 by CGIT

Arnold, Schwinn & Company was incorporated  in Chicago, USA in October 1895 by Adolph Arnold (a wealthy meat packer) and Ignaz Schwinn. The launch of the new company coincided with the great bicycle craze and they very quickly became a major player in US bicycle manufacturing. By the turn of the century there were thirty factories producing bicycles in Chicago, but the craze was short lived. Over the years, as bicycle sales declined, Schwinn bought up much of their competition and by 1950 was established as the pre-eminent brand in North America. It remains by far the most well known American bicycle manufacturer. Many of their older models are highly collectible and sought after.


The Black Phantom was produced in 1949. In the following model year there were three colour schemes available – black, green and red – but these were called only ‘Phantom’ not ‘Black Phantom’. The Black Phantom was the first one. Rare and exclusive, to this day original Black Phantoms are among the most desirable and collectible of all of Schwinn’s 100 years of production.

Schwinn were justifiably proud of their long history. When the company decided to release a limited edition replica of an historically important model to celebrate their Centenary in 1995 the legendary Black Phantom was  the obvious choice. They planned to make 5000 of them. In the end they produced no more than 3000 and perhaps fewer than 2000, almost all of which quickly disappeared into the hermetically sealed garages of private collectors where they remain in their un-opened boxes. They retailed for $3000 a pop.

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to purchase what I’m pretty sure is the only example in the UK, and possibly the whole of Europe (it didn’t cost me $3000 I hasten to add!).

fantom with flame tyres

The attention to detail is quite extraordinary – the closer you look the more it becomes clear that this is a bike made by people who had enormous respect for Schwinn’s heritage and for the original bike. In 1995 Schwinn still owned the factory which made the original bikes – and the factory still contained almost all of the original machinery and tooling. So to make the reproduction they were able to use the actual machines which originally turned it out. Everything about the bike, from the fillet brazed frame to the tyres was as authentic as it is possible to be. It is a blue-printed original. The only part they couldn’t remake exactly as the original was the (incorporating a steering lock) fork crown. The equipment no longer existed so they couldn’t cast it as per the original. So they made it better – exactly the same shape but a stronger process. I’ve taken the tank, chain guard and fenders off mine. For safekeeping, though they do find their way back on for special occasions. And I’ve swapped out the knee busting original steel chainring for a lightweight, and stunning, Profile Racing Imperial (gettit?). The tyres change with the wind and my whim- wide whites, cinder-block black walls, Dyno ‘Flames’ or Tioga dirt tyres. I dyed the saddle black. I don’t do brown.

black phantom as klunker

For ninety seven years the company was headed by someone with the surname Schwinn and the companies’ place at the top the hierarchy of US bicycle manufacturers seemed assured. Until that is, they were faced with the tsunami of good quality inexpensive bikes which arrived from the Far East propelled by consumer demand for mountain bikes. The mid nineties was a hard time for Schwinn. The companies’ factories, machines, production line processes and tooling had suffered from a severe lack of investment and the company simply couldn’t adapt quickly enough to compete in this new world. Within a very few years Schwinn floundered and the name is now owned by one of the very Taiwanese companies which drove them out of business.

By sad coincidence (irony #1) the Schwinn Black Phantom Anniversary, the bike built to celebrate 100 years of production became the very last bike Schwinn made in the USA.

My bike is a memorial to the rise and fall of Arnold, Schwinn and Co. the greatest American bicycle manufacturer that ever was. They went out of business because they failed to modernise their factories but it was only the existence of those outdated vintage manufacturing machines which made production of the ‘Anniversary’ possible. (irony #2)

This bike is the last beautiful hurrah of legendary company put out of business by the rise of the mountain bike. Which was, ironically, a craze started by people riding down Californian mountains on old Schwinns! (irony #3)

And they say Americans don’t ‘do’ irony.

PhantomI think of all those other collected Schwinn Black Phantom Anniversaries asleep in the darkness of their original, unopened shipping boxes. Commodities accruing value. Well let me tell you, my Anniversary isn’t a commodity. It is a bicycle. I love it, and so I ride it. When the weather is good I ride it a lot. Because it is a bicycle and bicycles are for riding – not for hiding away.

I’m sure it’s what Ignaz and Adolph would have wanted.