Most of us have heard about Schwinn bicycles.  A few of you could have even owned one.  However do you know that at one time, Schwinn produced bikes?  They did, and it seems that bikes helped save Schwinn from extinction.


The Schwinn bicycle firm was based in 1895 by Ignaz Schwinn and Adolph Arnold.  Opening underneath the title Arnold, Schwinn & firm, it was through the “security bicycle” increase that the corporate first turned profitable.  Not like the awkward excessive wheelers and boneshakers of an identical time, the protection bikes have been outfitted with enough brakes, chain drive, and have been simpler to trip and steer.  As a result of using a security bike required no particular abilities, the brand new “mechanical horse” was the wave of the long run.

And Schwinn was an creative firm in search of larger gross sales.  Schwinn’s bicycle fashions for girls helped to bolster the corporate’s backside line for years. For instance, the World Girls Commonplace Mannequin #34 got here with no crossbar, a rear fender, and a series guard.  These options have been stated to stop girls’s skirts from getting caught within the wheel or chain.

Schwinn’s first bicycle made particularly for girls. Picture credit score: Schwinn commercial.

Falling bicycle gross sales

However from the 1900s to the Nineteen Thirties, issues started to vary for the protection bicycle.  Henry Ford’s vehicle had folks turning from pedal energy to motorized energy.  The car was turning into the primary chime within the demise knell for bicycles.  As an increasing number of folks adopted motorized four-wheel transportation, it appeared that the bicycle could have seen its last days.


Ignaz and Frank Schwinn. Photograph credit score:

Schwinn’s bikes

Gross sales of bicycles to adults plummeted.  Solely bicycle gross sales to kids have been holding the business collectively. And Schwinn knew his firm was in hassle.   So, Schwinn knew his firm should diversify if it was to proceed.   Two-wheeled transportation would nonetheless be Schwinn’s forte’, however he would add a twist.

Schwinn purchases Excelsior

He guess his firm on a brand new kind of cycle – the bike.  Schwinn began to focus on powered two-wheelers, and in 1912, Schwinn took an enormous gamble and bought Excelsior Motor Manufacturing and Provide firm for $500,000.

From then on, underneath Schwinn’s management, Excelsior bikes began to make their mark on the American panorama.  Excelsior capitalized on efficiency and have become the king of the hill within the period’s board observe racing competitions.  In the identical 12 months, an Excelsior bike turned the primary bike to be formally timed at a velocity of 100 miles per hour.


An 1918 Excelsior mannequin 18. Photograph credit score:

Then in 1915, Excelsior launched a brand new mannequin with the “Large Valve X.” It was a 61 cubic inch V-twin mated to a three-speed gearbox.  In its ads, Excelsior says that it was the “quickest bike ever.”  Quickly, gross sales of Excelsior bikes had Schwinn’s firm again on its toes.

A 1929 Excelsior Tremendous X. Photograph credit score:

Schwinn purchases Henderson Bikes

However the increase was nonetheless not over.  In 1917, Henderson Bikes supplied to promote the corporate to Excelsior.  Schwinn finally accepted Henderson’s provide and transferred the manufacturing of the Henderson bikes to his Excelsior manufacturing unit.

Facet profit

And there was one other profit to the transaction.  Henderson additionally had a line of bicycles that might be built-in into the Schwinn portfolio. So with one buy, he had propped up each his bike and bicycle corporations.

Later, in 1922, Excelsior-Henderson turned the primary bike firm to provide a motorbike that would cowl a mile in 60 seconds on a half-mile dust observe.

Excelsior-Henderson’s progress

It appeared that bikes had develop into the means to take care of Schwinn’s corporations.  Schwinn’s Excelsior-Henderson bike firm was so in style that it turned America’s third-largest behind Harley-Davidson and Indian.

However sadly for Schwinn’s corporations, the great occasions of the roaring 20s led to the Nice Recession.  The bubble burst for a lot of, many corporations, together with these within the bike business.  Schwinn was extremely invested in Wall Road, and its plunge left him with out enough monetary assets.


An Excelsior-Henderson board observe racer. Photograph credit score: Pinterest

The tip of Schwinn’s bike enterprise

Schwinn realized that his time within the bike enterprise had ended. First he tried to discover a purchaser for Excelsior-Henderson, however his search got here up empty.

So in 1931, he known as a gathering of his manufacturing unit division heads.  He turned to his senior employees and stated, “Gents, at the moment we cease.”  Schwinn had deserted the bike business and, in a gutsy gamble, turned his firm’s focus again to bicycles.

Ignaz Schwinn retires

At 70 years of age, Ignaz determined it was time for him to retire.  He turned the corporate over to his son Frank who would actively handle the corporate.  Frank took on the powerful process of resurrecting what little remained of the bicycle enterprise.  Underneath Frank’s management, the corporate would finally be re-named the Schwinn Bicycle Firm.

Utilizing his background in bikes, Frank set his sights on growing modern bicycle merchandise geared in the direction of kids.  And for fairly a while, he was profitable.  However finally, manufacturing unit, labor points, and overseas competitors turned the undoing of Schwinn bicycles.  After quite a few makes an attempt to re-start the Schwinn Bicycle Firm failed, the model would by no means regain its earlier dominance once more.  However it was bikes that saved the Schwinn title in two-wheeled transportation for greater than 100 years.