“If someone tells you
that you have enough bicycles and
you don’t need any more,
stop talking to them.
You don’t need that kind
of negativity in your life.”
The early 1960s was an era of muscle cars and motor bikes. Here on the West Coast, kids were copying the styles of these motorized counterparts by buying used bikes, customizing their bicycles with “Texas longhorn handlebars” and low-rider seats.
Then in 1962, Schwinn’s West Coast Sales Manager Sig Mork noticed this new trend. He contacted Chicago Schwinn Design Supervisor Al Fritz who traveled West to check out these innovations. Wanting to capitalize on this new bike trend, Fritz set out to create a bike that mimicked these styles with a banana seat and high handlebars, the Sting-Ray was born.
By 1963, Schwinn was selling one of the strangest looking bicycles on the market. Named after the Chevrolet Corvette Sting-Ray (Schwinn had named their first middleweight after the Corvette almost a decade earlier), it was an immediate and unqualified success. It had wide, smooth tires and the craziest looking saddle, the banana seat. The Sting-Ray’s smooth tires were perfect for skid outs. The smaller rims made wheelies easier. And the durable Schwinn’s could still take a curb or even a homemade jump. It ruled the streets of suburbia for the next decade. Every kid had a Sting-Ray or wanted one.
Schwinn Sting-Rays hit the market at $49.95 in five colors: Flamboyant Lime, Flamboyant Red, Violet, Sky Blue and Radiant Coppertone. These first models had a rigid front fork, nylon tires, chrome fenders, a coaster brake and butterfly-style handlebars.
The Sting-Ray was a grotesque distortion of the typical ride, even for a kids’ bike. It was an immediate and unqualified success. Back in 1962, Schwinn sales of 10,000 of a particular model was a big year. However, by the end of 1963, Schwinn had sold more than 45,000 Sting-Rays and couldn’t keep up with the demand. A decade later, the Sting-Ray fathered the BMX from which the mountain bike was born.
In 1964, the Fair Lady model for girls went on sale. It featured pastel paint, a front basket and was an instant success. Schwinn continued to release new models each year.
The most famous Sting-Ray was the Krate. The Krate arrived in 1968 and featured classic Sting-Ray styles such as the smaller 16-inch front wheel than the 20-inch rear wheel, rear shock, and featured Schwinn’s classic front fork spring suspension system. This gave them a forward lean that resembled drag racers and the chopper style motorcycles of the age.
If you had an Orange Krate, Apple Krate, Grey Ghost or Pea Picker in those days, you were a very lucky kid indeed. Schwinn sold over a million Krates between 1968 and 1970. The signature Stik-Shift was banned due to safety issues in 1974 putting an end to the popularity of the bike.
In 1968, Krates sold for between $86.95 and $129.95. If you happen to own an original today in decent shape, these bikes are fetching between $2,000 and $4,000. Recently, a story even surfaced about an offer of $100,000 for the Krate Sting-Ray with the lowest serial number in existence.