This early 1960s Schwinn Continental is an early attempt by Schwinn to make a multispeed bicycle using derailleurs rather than internal hub gearing. The Schwinn Paramount was available in the 1950s with European derailleurs, but it wasn’t until 1960 that Schwinn put a derailleur geared bicycle into mass production. That gear it came out with an 8speed Schwinn Varsity and 10 speed Schwinn Continental.
It was outfitted with a Simplex hand operated front derailleur that had a braze on tab on the seat tube. That was soon changed to a normal cable operated front derailleur, and these Schwinn “lightweights” soon became Schwinns most successful selling models.
here is an outline of the parts from Schwinn Lightweight Data Book–
“First year for the derailleur Continental. 10 speed. Stronglight 47/50 chainset. 15-17-19-22-25 Atom freewheel cluster. Simplex Competition front derailleur and Simplex Tour de France rear derailleur. Weinmann side pull brakes. Tubular painted fork with chromed tips. Forged alloy stem with double clamp bolts. Steel? drop bars. Tire size is listed as 27 x 1 1/4 (correct) in the consumer brochure, but as 26″ (incorrect) in the model and price sheet. Rims were Rigida steel with knurls on the sides. Hubs were alloy high flange (Normandy?). Yellorex chain. Ideale saddle (#43). Colors were Radiant Red, Radiant Blue, Radiant Green, Radiant Coppertone, and Black. Options included thorn-resistant tubes at $2.00 extra cost and southwest tires and heavy duty tubes for $4.50 extra cost. Frame sizes were 19″, 21″ and 23”. $86.95 “
Here are some pics of a Schwinn Continental we have lurking in the woodshop at the bike shop. A customer called and was interested in seeing photos of it, so I emailed them to him, and here they are for you too. Sorry they are not the best, lighting is poor there, and it is packed full of bicycles. Funny, not that much wood in the woodshop, mostly bicycles.
2 thoughts on “Schwinn’s early attempt at a derailleur geared bicycle”
I was working for the Western Union Telegraph Co in St. Louis, MO in 1963. I owned 4 Schwinn 3 speed bikes while delivering telegrams in the St. Louis, area. A job came open (Union bid) for a bike messenger in Crestwood, MO replacing a motorcar delivery service. They ran 12 small towns and covered some 35 sq miles of area. I bid on the job and got it but I realized that these meager three speed bikes would not cut the speed needed to do this new job. I went into the showroom and told the salesman what I was about to do and he proposed the Continental Racer in Iridescent Copper, chromed front fork, detachable wheels, wrapped bars, jacked up seat, and some gum Pirelli tires. I thought I was buying a Jaguar or something. And at $112.00 tag, tax and title out the door, I had to lean on him for some payments. My dad thought I was NUTS as did everyone else when they weren't ogling the thing. It could do 50 just standing there. I had to replace the Pirelli's as they could not take the street abuse and I completely wore the damn thing out in 6 mouths and had to go get another one. Same color, same price of course. Rode for a full year on that bike and turned in a mind numbing 107% of service. (I was 7% faster than the standard company time prescribed for all runs in one year) Was given a traffic ticket for 35 in a 25 zone in a small town called Warson Woods, MO. But the guy never caught me on the bike. He had to show up at the Western Union station in Crestwood to hand me the ticket. The judge threw it out saying it was a bit of a stretch to hand a ticket to someone “speeding” on a bike. I THINK the judge thought the radar gun was not functioning properly. It was ONE fast ride. Larry D Owens
what a great story! thanks!! nice to hear about the bikes actually being ridden.