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stingray bike

The Stingray Bike 1963-1981

For me, the invention of the Stingray bike was a major techno-sociological event. At last, Schwinn Bicycles had a special bike just for kids, and everybody actually, that looked something like a motorcycle. It was short, and had a long "banana" or "solo-polo" seat, and "butterfly" motorcycle-style handle bars. It didn't take long before we started "modding" (altering) them just like we did with our skateboards. One of the things I really liked was the "super slick" tire. I put one of those on the back because it just looked so cool. I did eventually put a "nobby" tire on, and that was the style I used throughout my Stingray riding years. Both tire types were specialty items you had to buy separately.

cards in bike spokesAnd weren't we cool when we put playing cards or balloons near the spokes of our bikes? Though the cards wore out rather quickly, in those days, they were very cheap to buy in the store. It didn't really matter anyway because moms and dads usually had 3 or 4 extra packs of them lying around.

"Sissy bars" were also sold separately. I never had one, as I never really liked them that much. In case you don't know what those were, they were copied after the chopper-style backrests, and were the high bar coming off the back of the seat. The purple-tinted glitter seats were in high demand, and were very cool. I had one on mine. I immediately took off the fenders, but left the chain guard because it had the cool "Stingray" logo on it. I had a purple version like the one in the picture below.

stingray bike

Your machine had to have your own signature style, and whether we admitted it or not, each style came with a degree of coolness.

stingray title stingray bike

Handlebars tilted forward. You had style and were a tough guy. You always had to stand when you rode, or sit way forward on the seat.

stingray bike

Seat pointing upwards was tough. Again, you had to reach for the handle bars. Seat up was cocky, self-assured; a kid who'd been around, and knew the best places to ride. A "seat up" kid had his name scratched in sidewalks of almost any neighborhood or playground.

stingray bike

Seat pointing downwards. This was a style ride, and you had to push yourself toward the back of the seat to stay afloat.

stingray bike

Stingray with regular seat. This was my style (of the week). This was the mark of a loner. You didn't take on cargo or passengers. On our block, we all referred to them as "choppers." I usually wavered back and forth from "regular seat" to "handlebars tilted forward.

A Bit of Stingray History

It shouldn't be too surprising that almost overnight, the Stingray sold like wildfire. In 1964 Schwinn featured their new "Stingray" on the cover of their catalogs. By 1965, the Stingray became the most popular bike on the market. Naturally, several variations were released over the years including shifters, different speeds, handlebar brakes and even front wheel sizes.

Hats Off to California!

stingray bike

In 1962, California kids were responsible for influencing The Schwinn Manufacturers to design their line of Stingray bikes. During this time California kids had been creating their own "mods" using 20" frames, and specialty seats and handlebars. The "ape hanger" handlebars and the "banana" seats resembled motorcycle seats and handlebars reminiscent of the choppers of the era. In December 1963 Schwinn announced the arrival of the Deluxe Sting-Ray.

Go Girls! The Schwinn "Fair Lady"

stingray fair lady

Girls now had their own Stingray identities, and for those who liked the sweeter touches, Schwinn released the "Fair Lady" model. I could always tell when a girl was coming on one of these as she usually rang that little zinging bell on the handlebars. As a guy I didn't care for the baskets on the handlebars, but then again, the bike wasn't designed for me.