Like many people in the United States, my first bicycle was a Schwinn. A Coppertone Stingray to be more specific. I remember telling my dad I wanted one of those flashier looking Stingray-style bikes that the department store sold; like the Murray Eliminator. But my father insisted that my first bike be a Schwinn because of the quality and durability. I was 6 years old and desperate for my own bike, so I didn’t put up too much fuss.
I still own a Schwinn; though it’s not a Stringray. It is a 1974 Opaque red Sports Tourer (ST).
The Schwinn Sports Tourer has a frameset and fork made with 4130 chromoly tubes. The Sports Tourers, along with the Super Sport and later the Superior, were fillet-brazed by hand in the same part of the Chicago Schwinn factory where they made the Paramount.
While clearly superior to the flash-welded frames featured on most Schwinns, the Sports Tourer looked very similar. But with a higher price tag, it was not obvious to the customer why the ST – which looked quite similar to the Varsity and Continental – was priced closer to the top-of-the-line hand-made and lugged Paramount.
But closer scrutiny reveals the source of the more expensive sticker price. In addition to the lighter chromoly frame/fork and the hand fillet-brazed joints, the Sports Tourer came with a cotterless (or should I say Ashtabula-less) crank and other lighter and better quality componentry.
My Sports Tourer came with a TA Cyclotouriste crankset. Earlier versions were fitted with nice Nervar cranksets. In addition to a French cranks, there was a veritable United Nations of components. Schwinn basically acquired components from wherever and frequently rebadged them as “Schwinn” or “Schwinn Approved.”
A Shimano Crane rear derailleur was standard equipment on the 1974 Sports Tourer. It was matched (or perhaps mismatched) with a Huret front changer. First year models (1971) of the ST came with a Campagnolo Gran Turismo. A five speed Shimano freewheel with the two largest cogs being skip-tooth, finished out the drivetrain.
British parts included stem, handlebars (GB), saddle (Brooks). French components were also well represented. In addition to the front derailleur and the crankset, hubs, pedals, and Twin-Stick shifters were all French. And the brakes, brake levers, and rims were Swiss (Weinmann).
Of course I’ve switched out a few of the components. For instance I traded the 170mm TA Cyclotouriste for a 180mm TA Pro. And the Weinmann brakes were exchanged for MAFACs. I added a longer stem, wider bars (needs even wider) and added VO fenders. The old Brooks B15 grew a little tattered and I replaced it with Brooks Flyer.
I like the geometry, specifically the longer top tube, compared to its British and Japanese counterparts of that era. (I’ve seen 68cm Panasonics matched with 58cm top tubes!) My Sports Tourer is called a 26 inch frame. That’s from center to top of the seat tube, which rises well above the top tube. The top tube comes in around 62cm center to center. By comparison, my British Woodrup is a 66cm frame with a top tube of 59cm.
In general, the Schwinn Sports Tourer is a pretty comfortable ride. It has a geometry not too dissimilar from the Surly Long Haul Trucker. I would not hesitate to use it on a century ride or a weekend camping trip. It’s not bad looking either!