My Dad’s 1965 Schwinn American


I don’t know exactly when my Dad acquired this bike, but in 1965 he would have been in his mid-thirties.  At this time, I would have paid little attention to any bike that didn’t have at least 3 speeds and even less attention to anything my parents were doing. But, I actually think he acquired this machine sometime in the 1970’s.  He wasn’t too much of a cyclist back then, but later in life he would ride around on the flat country roads near his home, mainly to please his physician.

schwinn 1965 schwinn1965

It is a 1965 Schwinn American with a 2 speed kick back Bendix hub, chrome fenders, and is all original as far as I can tell.  When he gave it to me about 10 years ago, he was about to haul it away to Goodwill, but I managed to intervene.  Unfortunately, I didn’t take any “before” photos, but the bike was heavily rusted and the rear hub would barely turn.  I had no idea what I was getting into.

Bendix Kickback

Back then, I had never attempted to rebuild an internal hub, and had never worked on a bike with a coaster brake.  Since both were new to me, I studied specs and repair manuals, which fortunately are easy to find.  After two weeks, and lot of lost brain cells, I managed to get the hub rebuilt and reassembled, with no mysterious leftover parts.  After that, I started in on the cleaning of the frame, rims, and other chrome parts, which went surprisingly well.

schwinn schwinn1965

Riding the bike is really odd for anyone not used to a coaster brake.  But the kick-back shifter on the hub was a lot of fun.  After a few minutes, I started practicing burn-outs – a perfect way to master coaster brake technique.  The bike is nicely brazed, and shows little wear.  It was built to be bomb-proof, and it has really held up well.  It’s not a bike that is suited to Portland riding, but would be a perfect machine in a slow-paced and relatively flat area.  I’ve been threatening to ride it some year on a Worst Day of the Year Ride, but have always been lured by a different and speedier machine.  Maybe this year, I’ll go for it!

schwinn 1965


18 thoughts on “My Dad’s 1965 Schwinn American

  1. Great looking bike.I have a 62 schwinn 3 speed corvette that I have had for several years.Coaster brake but I have added a front brake..Nice slow comfortable ride..Lot of cleaning and work..but worth it..Thank you..enjoy your postings.

  2. “After two weeks, and lot of lost brain cells, I managed to get the hub rebuilt and reassembled, with no mysterious leftover parts.”

    You are more patient than most!

    I remember my good pal, who manages a bike shop here in Portland, spending hours over the course of a week rebuilding a much older internal hub. Throughout the process he cursed it and the myriad of tiny parts inside. After numerous attempts, he finally got it back together, with no stray parts. From that point forward, he resolved to never do it again. Ever.
    In my opinion, he is a respected builder and mechanic. Seeing his strife, extreme frustration and hearing that statement has me terrified of even attempting such a procedure. So, I tip my hat to you for you for not only attempting but living to tell the tale.

    But, doesn’t it make you step back and appreciate the ingeniousness of the internal hub and the people who created such a marvel of bicycling technology?

    • That is funny, Josh. When I was a kid I remember staring at a 3 speed hub for hours trying to fathom what could be going on inside of it. The little chain coming out really threw me off and I imagined some kind of tiny derailleur inside. It is amazing how quickly cycling technology progressed in the early years.

  3. Nice machine. I’ve been intrigued by the two-speed kickback. I’ve only ridden one once, a test ride of a Huckleberry Cycle Truck that had one. While I’ve had coaster braked machines over the years and am used to it, there’s definitely a learning curve to learning the two speed! But I still think it’s a great idea for a hub, especially since there are no cables or shifters involved.

    • Thanks, Sean! I see that Sturmey Archer and SRAM both currently make a 2 speed kick back hub. It would be fun to add one to a vintage lightweight build. Thank you for the re-blog.

  4. I remember at least two times my parents surprised me, and both times, the surprise had more to do with my ignorance than any special prowess they might have possessed.

    The first time was when we were visiting the grandparents. Several cars had pulled into the narrow driveway, blocking my parents’ 1966 Chevy Bel-Aire. Grandpa’s International pickup with a three-on-the-tree manual transmission was at the back of the line. Mother needed to go to town, so Grandpa gave her the keys to the truck. And she drove away as though she had driven that truck every day of her life. Jaw dropping for me. Mother. Driving a truck.

    The second time was a couple of years after I discovered bicycles. Dad aired up the tires on Mother’s bike. Then he rode it around the block. I didn’t even know he could ride. I assumed the next surprise would be a critique of his style from the dog.

    Anyway, nice to know you have your dad’s bike. I recently built wheels for a 1964 Schwinn Corvette, to get back into the mood of that era. The paint is really rough, but you might want to take a look at the front drum brake:

    • Great story about your parents. I see you’ve put a SRAM 2 speed hub on your Schwinn. And I see that it’s actually an auto shifter rather than a kick back hub. Interesting. I like your SA drum brake. While there’s a lever and cable, the lack of a caliper still gives it that special look. Thanks for sharing the link.

      • Still puzzling over the Bendix. It hasn’t changed since I overhauled its sisters in the ’80s, so maybe I have. Still have the front sidepull it came with, but I always wanted a drum…

  5. Beautiful rebuild! While I haven’t rode a coaster brake, or an internaly geared hub in years, this makes me itch a bit more to go back in time. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Greetings. This is the first bike I bought with my own money, in 1963, and I still have it. Just getting ready to build new wheels for it using a new Sturmey Archer two speed kickback hub. I rode the heck out of it when I was young, and then all through college in the 60s and early 70s, and not a lot after about 1975. Still a nice ride though. I’ll use some alloy rims and new tires that look like the originals, and it will be even nicer

  7. I BOUGHT this exact bike new in ’65 for my paper route. The Bendix 2-speed worked perfectly and the thing ran like a tank for almost 3 years, hopping curbs, wipe-outs on ice, etc. Same exact color, everything, only we turned the handlebars around “box” style for better handling with a big load of papers. What a great bike. Thanks for the memories.

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