Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The (Enormous, Super-'70s) Schwinn Le Tour III

I've mentioned it in passing, but I felt the Schwinn Le Tour III I've had laying around for the last while deserved it's own post, as I'm honestly not sure what to do with it.  For one thing....it's gigantic.  The roadbike of a Viking.  No getting around that.  It's from the 1970s, and weighs a ton.  But on the other hand, it's a steel, Japanese frame roadbike that hasn't seen a lot of obvious wear and tear, and has been stored inside for it's entire existence.  It also has all-original parts.  So, without further ado, here it is, The Schwinn:

The first thing you're saying, I'm sure is "GODDAMN that's a bigass bike!"  At least, that's the first thing I said.  The second thing is "But...it seems to be in pieces."  I admit it.  I've never put this bike together and ridden it, not only because I'm not sure if I know anyone tall enough to ride it.  So I have no idea if the bottom bracket squeaks, if it shifts or stops...also it doesn't have a back tire.

Front Derailleur

Rear Derailleur
 One truly unique thing about this bike (and this could possibly just be a feature of major brands from this era) is that all the components are branded with either Schwinn or Le Tour, meaning I have no idea who made them.  Given the bike's origin in Japan, I'd be willing to bet it's Shimano, but there is remarkably little information on this bike available on the internet.

 This bike is rocking a quill stem and stem-mounted shifters, and show no rust.  I did absolutely zero cleanup on this bike before taking these pictures, and it's been sitting in my garage for several months at this point - still shiny!

The crankset (another Schwinn/Le Tour branded component) has a double chainring, in the classic "ten speed" way.  It also has a dented pedal.

The frame is fully lugged (a bit point in this bike's favor), and the fork crown is blingin' shiny chrome.

More Schwinn-branded components in the cockpit.  Of particular interest to me are the handlebars on this bike - the slight rise in the flats, leading to a long ramp and a nice curved drop all strike me as very reminiscient of the Nitto Noodles.  

For the uninitiated, these are "centerpull" brakes.  They're an older brake style to the modern, more popular sidepull brakes, but some would argue are equally as effective, if not superior to the sidepull.  An interesting feature to this type of brake is that it apparently widens above the pivots as it compresses, avoiding pinching fenders (which, admittedly, this bike does not have).

The bike still has the sticker from the original bike shop it was purchased at, West End Cycle Co, of Galveston, TX.  I've tried giving them a call, but no one has answered - I have no idea if this shop still exists. The bike is proudly labeled as "Made in Japan" which does make me wonder what company was contracted for the manufacture of this bike - maybe Panasonic?

While I have no idea as to it's trueness, even the wheels seem to be free of rust, though the cassette could certainly use a trip through some degreaser to see what lies beneath.

So there you have it.  The (free, gigantic, late-1970s) Schwinn I've been trying to decide the fate of.  I'm having trouble figuring out what I have on my hands here.  Is this a beautiful, lugged Japanese frame worthy of restoration, or an old crappy ten speed I pulled out of a pile of bikes destined to be scrapped out for parts.  Does ANYONE have more information on these particular bikes, and would they be willing to share?


  1. It seems to be the 1981 model that is in this catalog and it may be a 25" frame: http://bikecatalogs.org/SCHWINN/MODELS/Le%20Tour.html
    It is supposed to weigh 29 lbs. You probably found these links already, but someone else has an 81 or 82 model and has posted the user manual and a couple of pictures: http://www.bikeforums.net/archive/index.php/t-652166.html

  2. Well, the sticker on the bike is from 1979, so I figured the bike for a '78 or thereabouts - the paint job on the '81 is missing the championship striping detail on the seat tube. It looks like they got rid of that detail on later models.

  3. That's a beautiful bike. Keep it. Maybe you will meet someone that fits it and it can be a project for the two of you. I have a women's Le Tour III that I got for free on trash night that is NOWHERE near in good a shape as yours.

  4. I have had this same bike since 1978 and have ridden it 1000's of miles. It has held up wonderfully and would recommend it to any tall Viking like myself (6'-5", 36" inseam and 3rd generation Swedish American).

    I have since replaced the tires and cables, the wheels and seat post with lighter aluminum versions, the saddle with a Brooks B17, and pedals with Shimano 105's. Otherwise everything else is stock.

    It's a great bile!

    1. Interesting! I'm also 6'5" tall with a 36" inseam, but I bought mine in 1979. I'm also part Swedish, though I'm half Mexican, with some Cherokee Indian as well as Irish, Scottish and some others.

      My Le Tour III has never had any problems and continues to perform well, thousands of miles later. And yes, it's a great bike!

  5. I have a Schwinn Le Tour made in Japan that I found at the dump. The serial number says J322156. So I figure it was from September 1973. It has a Los Angeles county registration sticker that says 1978. Big bicycle. I am only 5'8 and I ride it. It's a 64 centimeter.