The Schwinn Bicycle Company is one of the best-known, well-loved bicycle brands the United States has ever seen. The company began in the late 1800s in Chicago, producing its still-famous single-speed Roadster, but evolved through racing campaigns, mergers with motorcycle companies and the military, stationary bikes, new innovations and ever-changing styles. The Collegiate line of bicycles was one of Schwinn's many success stories.
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As the name suggests, the Collegiate series was marketed toward the college crowd, as a spinoff of Schwinn's popular "Varsity" models from the 1950s. Originally produced in Chicago in 1964, Collegiates were 26-inch lightweight bikes in boys' or girls' styles with coaster brakes. They could be ordered with 1-, 2-, 3-, 5- or 10-speed set-ups. Collegiates were sold throughout the 1960s and 1970s, according to "Classic Schwinn Bicycles" by William Love.
Advertising of the lightweight Schwinn classic models, such as the Collegiate, used phrases like, "sophisticated" and "bright-eyed" but also made mention of an ever-growing area of consumer interest: exercise. In 1969, a Schwinn ad read, "Do your jogging on a Scwhinn," and listed the Collegiate Sport at $77.95. The bikes were said to be easy to pedal, equipped with hand brakes, fast, fun and part of a regular exercise regimen.
The 1970s brought incredible demand for Schwinn bicycles, according to Lou Dzierzak, author of the book "Schwinn." Because Schwinn bikes were known as the best in the industry, many athletes and celebrities promoted the bicycles, including Bobby Sherman who sat on his Schwinn Varsity on the cover of his record album. Also, Olympic gold medal skier Jean-Claude Killy proclaimed his fondness of his Le Tour IV on television and print ads alike. The Collegiate Sport, however, held the honor of being ridden by U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who pedaled it in order to relax. Pictures captured first lady Rosalynn Carter riding her Collegiate Sport while promoting Carter's energy conservation plans.
While the original Collegiates were pushed aside in popularity by BMX bikes and other newer, better selling models of the late 1970s and 1980s, Collegiates returned with the wave of nostalgia Schwinn rode into the new millennium. In the 1990s, Schwinn reproduced many older models with new technology but the same appearance as the vintage classics. Collegiates produced as late as 2010 include the same gear options as the originals, with prices ranging from $210 to $570.