“Cycling has done more to
than anything else in the world.”
Susan B Anthony
My passion for bikes was passed onto my son. A decade ago, I owned a bright orange Mongoose Mountain bike and my son had his first dream bike he hand-picked from numerous models, a Maverick 18-speed mountain bike, his pride and joy.
When my son went off to college, although he had outgrown the Maverick bike, he wouldn’t part with it and brought it with him to his university. He was heartbroken when it was stolen. I helped him buy another bike which was subsequently stolen. Instead of purchasing another new bike, I gave him my Mongoose Mountain bike to use. Luckily this bike wasn’t stolen but by the time I got this bike back it was trashed from him riding it hard on mountain trails.
I decided it was time to get myself a new bike. I thought long and hard about what kind of bike I wanted and I remembered how much as a kid I loved riding my Schwinn Sting Ray. So began my quest for a Schwinn Sting Ray bike.
My first place to look was Craigslist, but I soon discovered how expensive and how desirable these bikes had become. Craigslist led me to eBay, at which point I learned that a great deal of these bikes where halfway across the country. All I wanted was to find an inexpensive bike that I didn’t have to ship to California from Omaha.
After several days looking on eBay, I discovered eBay Classified, and found a bike located 75 miles from me out in Acton, California.
When I first saw the photo of the bike, I knew instantly the bike was vintage. The funny thing was, it was the spitting image of my bike from the 1960s. After speaking with the owner I found out she had purchased it used in the 1990’s for her daughter and she didn’t know how old it was. It had been in her garage for the past fifteen years. After a long telephone conversation with this nice woman, I decided to make the long drive out to Acton to check out the bike.
The bike was not in pristine condition, but it was rideable and the price was right, $50. However, when I got the bike home, my husband decided that it needed some major cleaning up. At which point hubby began taking it completely apart and the cleaning and polishing began.
Excited about my new bike I began voraciously researching information about this bike and found websites that allowed me to plug in the serial number and find out the exact month and year it was built. I quickly learned it was a 1969 My Fair Lady model built in August and originally sold in Massachusetts for $49.95.
My husband suggested I call some local bike shops and find a replacement seat for the bike, even though the seat was in good condition.
I found a few local bike shops that had Schwinn replica seats. The bike shop I decided to deal with was Gilbert’s Bicycles in Torrance, California. Gilbert, the owner has been in business for over 30 years. He’s extremely knowledgeable about bikes, especially vintage Schwinn bikes. He was also the most personable when I called all the bike shops.
Gilbert’s shop is five miles from me, so I drove over immediately to buy a replacement seat. After speaking with Gilbert and telling him about my purchase, he showed me a vintage Schwinn bike he recently had powder-coat painted. It was a beautiful cobalt blue and the smoothest powder-coat finish I had laid my hands on. He suggested I bring in the frame and he would get me a quote. Meanwhile, I purchased a white sparkle replica seat and returned home to tell my husband about the powder-coated Schwinn.
After a week of sanding, soaking and attempts to put back the shine in the Sting-Ray, it became apparent that the bike needed more than a little elbow grease. My husband wanted me to have the bike frame and chain guard powder-coated and have all the chrome redone. So, back to Gilbert I went. At this point, Gilbert and I had become quick friends and he began calling me, Schwinn Lady.
My second trip to Gilbert was to get a price on the powder-coating. After discussing the quote with my husband, we decided to get the frame powder-coated. That led to a third, fourth, fifth and sixth visit which I ended up having Gilbert do the re-chroming of the handle bars, which led to the re-chroming of the sissy bar and fenders, which led to the re-chroming of the crank and the seventh visit was to get the kick-stand, tire rims and spokes re-chromed.
My $50.00 bargain bike quickly turned into a bottomless bike pit. The cost to refurbish my $50 bike ended up costing around $1,000 when the bike was completely restored to better than new condition.
Here’s some before and after photos of sections of the bike:
It took exactly a month of working closely with Gilbert to restore the Schwinn. Most of the restoration was completed by Gilbert or the people that did the re-chroming and powder-coating. However, I am so grateful to my husband for his hard work and determination to help me get the details, such as all the custom screws and bolts cleaned and polished for my bike. We both spent a great deal of time getting the fine details just right. The bike looks better than new and rides quiet and smooth.
On my first hour ride along the beach, I was stopped by several people who were excited to see a restored vintage Schwinn Sting Ray bike they grew up riding. Although it was a pricey endeavor restoring this children’s bike, I would do it all over again. You can’t put a price on the happiness that the bike provides this vintage Schwinn Lady.