Monday, June 13, 2011

Could S-6 Gumwalls Be the Secret Behind Her Smile?

Dirk Reinauer's photo of Diamond with her classic Schwinn bike

Dirk Reinauer posted a photo on the BikemanforU facebook page recently that proves, once again, the essential beauty of a girl and her bike. 

He describes the snapshot as "Diamond with her Schwinn bike all fixed up...” 
In this timeless photograph, Diamond rests a hand on a bright chrome fender while the other grips the handlebar. Her long brown hair falls loosely past her shoulders. She looks relaxed and confident. Hers is the smile of a Mona Lisa.
Does she know that in fixing up her bike, Dirk found and installed a fresh set of 26 x 1 3/8” S-6 gumwall tires ?

Tires with tan sidewalls were once a standard for hundreds of thousands of bikes sold throughout the 20th century. With many of those old bikes still on the road, the BikemanforU sells gumwalls “by the boatload,” as he likes to say. He's in sequence. Most tires today, gumwalls included, are imported from the Pacific Rim.
S-6 tires are what BikemanforU calls “an oddball.” They only fit certain older, lightweight Schwinn models.  Decades ago, when this quintessential bicycle manufacturer was in its Chicago heyday, the company used its own wheels and tires that were sized differently from the bicycle industry’s accepted standard.

The S wheels and tires, as they were called, stood for Schwinn Special. There was S-4, S-5, S-6, and S-7, depending on the diameter and width.
This was Schwinn’s marketing strategy for keeping its customers coming back whether they wanted to or not. “Use the word monopoly,” Mr. Pump says whenever the topic arises around the shop.

For example, if you try to put a standard 26 x 1 3/8” tire on a Schwinn Lightweight like the Breeze or Collegiate, you’ll be disappointed because it won’t fit the S-6 wheel. You HAVE TO BUY a 26 x 1 3/8” S-6 tire.

Schwinn, of course, is no longer an American brand and imported bikes do not have "specially" sized tires and wheels. Yet the S legacy lives on today. Kenda, the international tire manufacturer, is now producing S tires for the Schwinn crowd.
We will stock the S-6 as long as Kenda, or another manufacturer, produces them. With American-made Schwinns being rescued and restored by enthusiasts who discover them in the basements, garages, and junk yards across the country, we expect people like Dirk and Diamond will be demanding S tires for a while. 

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