Schwinn Sting-ray
April 10, 2011 8:54 AM   Subscribe

I had one. Mine had an extra tall sissy bar whose only real function was to support three extra gaudy reflectors. While the Stingray was not built for speed, it was a tough little machine that could handle jumps, bumps and spills.
posted by SPrintF at 9:00 AM on April 10, 2011

I had one, red with a coaster brake, just single speed. Chewed so much asphalt with that bike. So dangerous, though, I slipped off that banana seat so many times, and the handle bars got into my face so often too. Still, no better way to pull a wheelie off a kerb than yanking back on those silly ape hangars.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:14 AM on April 10, 2011

I had one. I split the frame in half doing a jump.
posted by stbalbach at 9:15 AM on April 10, 2011

Green one here. Never broke in half regardless of the number of failed jump attempts attempted.

Awesome bike.
posted by Windopaene at 9:19 AM on April 10, 2011

I had a Sears knock-off but always wanted the krate 5-speed with small front wheel and disc brake. Oddly enough, I found a '72 Lemon Peeler krate at the dump a couple years ago. I still have plans to restore it one day. Anyone have an extra seat, tires, sissy bar?
posted by Shike at 9:47 AM on April 10, 2011

Shouldn't those kids have helmets on? But yeah, I rode my brother's hand me down blue Schwinn.
posted by Sailormom at 9:49 AM on April 10, 2011

I had the Murray Wildcat. In gold with a white banana seat. Sweet ride.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:54 AM on April 10, 2011

Shike- same here. Dad wouldn't get me the Orange Krate with rear shocks, instead I got a used purple 5-speed Schwinn Fast Back. I felt hurt but dude knew what he was doing. That was a great bike.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 9:58 AM on April 10, 2011

My knock-off was much lighter, allowing me to hold the record on our street for jumping garbage cans.

Anyone remember the Huffy Thunder Road? It was the missing link between Stingrays and BMX bikes I think.
posted by Shike at 10:06 AM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I still ride one!
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 10:11 AM on April 10, 2011

Shouldn't those kids have helmets on?

In the '70s? I think not. That's nature's way of weeding out the soft-headed.
posted by Aquaman at 10:22 AM on April 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

I had a big metallic-purple Sears Manta-Ray(?) that I used to ride down to Stover's Newsstand to swap deposit bottles for comic books and penny candy. There is nothing quite like cruising through the summer heat on your boss ride, chewing gum and sipping a cold 16-ounce glass-bottled Pepsi with a couple comic books rolled up in your back pocket... until you hit the brakes and slide off that vinyl banana seat onto the 5-speed stickshift. Brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 10:31 AM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Cool. I had I think a Western Auto old school bike that my Dad put a bannana seat and the ape-hanger handlebars on. I rode the hell out of that thing.

Schwinn's were built like tanks, they had more steel in them than most of today's cars. I remember them being more expensive, that's why we didn't have them.
posted by marxchivist at 10:42 AM on April 10, 2011

Wheelie bars were for wussies (and so were helmets.) ;) Anyway, the Stingray was the cool bike to have. It popped wheelies so easily you could ride one down the block.
posted by caddis at 11:08 AM on April 10, 2011

Shouldn't those kids have helmets on?

And shoes. Why aren't they wearing shoes?

Though, I suppose Sting-rays didn't have those shin severing metal teeth on the pedals like the BMX bikes of my own misspent youth.
posted by madajb at 11:14 AM on April 10, 2011

I had one. They made them in girl's versions too! It was a totally awesome bike.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:18 AM on April 10, 2011

"Remember you can't do a real wheelie without a wheelie bar!"

I beg to differ.
posted by Fizz at 11:21 AM on April 10, 2011

My first "real" bike was a monstrosity welded together and painted safety yellow (the only color of spray paint he had) by my grandpa. It was similar to a Stingray frame, but with a much longer front fork and a smaller front wheel. Sissy bar, fat rear tire, banana seat, giant ape-hanger bars. Thing looked like a chopper, and it was all kinds of awesome. I made it go faster by putting baseball cards in the spokes and streamers on the handlebars.

I'd trade my Specialized in a heartbeat, if I could have that old bike back. :(
posted by xedrik at 11:23 AM on April 10, 2011

The Sting Ray was, alas, like the Red Ryder BB gun, as far as my parents were concerned.
I was however, allowed to disassemble and repair the old gas-powered reel mower, got a telescope and star charts, and three-stage Estes model rocket kits. Oh, and building a treehouse.
posted by nj_subgenius at 11:45 AM on April 10, 2011

I have to admit a deep dark secret here... when I was about 10 or so, my neighbor's kid had a Candy-Apple Red (his dad worked in an auto body shop and painted it) Stingray. I never coveted anything so hard in my life as I did that bike.

Even when I got my own (second-or-third hand) Stingray, I kept secretly planning to steal the neighbor kids bike... I think that the only thing that stopped me in the end was that I had no place to hide it, and I couldn't bear to repaint it.

--from My Tawdry Life, Vol. XIV
posted by pjern at 11:46 AM on April 10, 2011

I had one of the 3-speed models with the stick shift conveniently located in the perfect place to cause irreparable crotch damage. That I grew up to father two children is a nothing short of a miracle.
posted by tommasz at 11:47 AM on April 10, 2011

Seriously, this is one of the worst bikes ever made. It's dangerously unstable both forward and backward, the front chainring is so small that you couldn't keep up with a regular 1-speed, and the three-speed shifter was strategically placed to cause damage even just getting on and off. In addition, the three-speed version that I borrowed once in a while had such poorly made brakes and shifters that without constant repairs (that's where I came in) the thing was practically useless.

But hey! they look great with all that red paint and a sparkly banana seat.

Kids' bikes today are much better designed, so the child doesn't have to concentrate on the bike and can devote their full attention to more important things, like cell phones and slurpies.
posted by sneebler at 12:07 PM on April 10, 2011

In the '70s? I think not. That's nature's way of weeding out the soft-headed.

Indeed. One of my friends had a really sweet 3 speed he inherited from his uncle, and as an antitheft device switch the sides the handbrakes were on. Front brake, right side. Rear Brake, left side.

He let me borrow it one time and I came tooling down the hill, did a few jumps and when I went to skid out I squeezed the right brake handle, full stop. Landed square on my head. I didn't come to for a few minutes and couldn't turn my neck for a week.

and the end of hockey season, before our moms put our gear away, we'd joust with broken hockeysticks with a wad of tape on the end and garbage can lids as shields. How none of us got seriously injured, I will never know.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:12 PM on April 10, 2011

I had a Chopper. That thing was one seriously overweight bike.
posted by Xoebe at 12:14 PM on April 10, 2011

I hated these things when I was a kid because I didn't think they were real bicycles.

They were toy cars, I thought, more like the garish pieces of crap four-year-olds sat in and pushed around with their feet than anything you could actually, you know, go anywhere with.

But I'm vicariously enjoying people's nostalgia for the damned things. I probably would have been a lot happier kid if I'd liked them.
posted by jamjam at 12:25 PM on April 10, 2011

Shouldn't those kids have helmets on?

Head injury wasn't as big a deal back then as other neighborhood dangers, such as getting bottle rockets stuffed down your pants for wearing a helmet.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 1:00 PM on April 10, 2011 [7 favorites]

I didn't have the language to describe issues of frame geometry back in my youth, but I was one of very few kids in the neighborhood who didn't have one of those kinds of bikes (we were on the cusp—for my brother's peers, it was 100% BMX, all the time). I was a bit of a pill, but they just really did look like sad, silly, half-drugged metal giraffes, and when offered a chance to give them a try, I'd park my gangly brick red Western Flyer with tall, narrow wheels, crowned fenders, and a real pewter St. Christopher medal that, as I understood it, meant that I could pretty much attempt any fool thing and God would save me from harm, and climb onto the glitter-flecked banana seat and take off.

I didn't have the language for it, but everything about those things felt wrong. The weight balance was wrong, the position was wrong, the leg never made a fully extended stroke, and it pretty much required you to slouch like Shaggy. They were the cool ones, the slung-back slouchers on their choppers, and I'd hear snickers, passing by on my ancient off-brand British racer wannabe, but in the end, they all just putzed around the neighborhood and I'd hit the big roads, chasing adventures on a long-legged touring setup instead of shuffling around like a secretary in a too-tight polyester skirt. De gustibus est non disputandum and all that.

Mind you, any bike, no matter how awkward, is better than being bikeless whining minivan-dependent modern kids who have all been trained all their lives to fear the world. The empty streets in my neighborhood just make me sad.
posted by sonascope at 1:21 PM on April 10, 2011 [4 favorites]

Peer pressure forced me to get to stupid BMX bike with mag wheels and all the rest. It didn't take long to realize that was just a dumb game you could never win. There was always some kid with a better bike who could do more jumps and it just became another thing 9 year old boys could ridicule each other over if you weren't good enough, or if your parents didn't spoil you enough to buy you the latest fuck-me-up-the-butt bad ass bike. I just wanted a bike that could get me over to Scott K's house across town quickly. He had like every single Star Wars figure they'd made at that point, plus The Death Star with the foam pieces of "garbage" in the trash compactor and like a real working elevator. Plus his dad kept nudie magazines in the garage.

That summer my little sister was given a second hand garage sale purple Sting Ray, a girl's bike, with a flower basket on the handlebars. Almost always I would "borrow" that bike to ride to the creek, or Scott's house, or 7-11 or whatever. It was just so much more fun to ride, and you could carry shit in the basket, and it gave the big old finger to those asshole BMXers I hated so much.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:40 PM on April 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

4 years ago, I saw what turned out to be a 1971 Stingray with the 3 speed shifter out in front of Play it Again Sports. I plopped my 7 year old son on it, and when the salescritter came out, I said "how much?" Now I should add that at the time, my sons hair had not been cut since birth and he had a righteous tie dye shirt on. Sales dude said $19.95. I never sent cash out of my wallet with such velocity before or since. As we were wheeling away, he called out "he looks like he was made for that bike." Unfortunately, he didn't like the way it rode (blaphemy!) so he now rides a decent mountain bike like his dad, but I still consider that a huge score
posted by Redhush at 1:57 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

In the late 60's, my older brothers were looking for novel ways to set off the fireworks they got in Chinatown. They pulled off the handle bar grips on an old Stingray, shoved smoke bombs in the ends and lit them and then coasted down the street near our California home, leaving a "jet trail" behind them.

I was so impressed that later I snuck off with the bike to ride it downhill. It was when I was going a little too fast that I found that the coaster brake didn't work. Luckily, plowing through the front hedge, flying off the bike and tumbling down a hill of iceplant managed to slow me down.

Good times.
posted by jabo at 2:11 PM on April 10, 2011

Had an orange one myself. Best part of the banana seat was tying clothesline to the back and pulling one or more people on skateboards behind your bike.

Natural selection at its finest!
posted by Gronk at 6:30 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, man. I had a red metal-flake Stingray...huge sissy-bar...the playing cards in the wheels and a long orange triangular flag flying from the back. I rode that bike to hell and back. Then a tornado took it right out of my back yard and I never saw it again. This happened over 30 years ago and I am still bitter about it and I think I always will be.
posted by causticgnostic at 7:00 PM on April 10, 2011

My older kid has a Stingray and the younger one is outgrowing her Stingray Pixie and I don't know what to do if i can't find another Stingray for her in time.
posted by padraigin at 7:35 PM on April 10, 2011

Back before '75, there were four of us on the block who pretty much shared two bikes, a Sting Ray knockoff, and a Schwinn girl's version. We were pretty poor, and the two bikes had been cobbled together from whatever dumpster diving someone had done. All the nuts and bolts were rounded off from the only tool we had, a Vise Grip. Which was clamped to the seat post of one of the bikes as a portable tool kit, when not in use, because the things were constantly in a state of falling apart. Between the two bikes, all four of us had mobility, riding two-up if needed, and learned how to keep a bike running. A skill I use to this very day as someone who commutes almost every day by bike.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:04 PM on April 10, 2011

I had a no name repainted stingray knock off. My friend up the street had a purple 5 speed that I coveted heavily. That bike was replaced by a Yamaha Moto-bike. Needless to say, this just induced more lust. I'm pretty sure this is the first bike I ever saw with front shocks (1974). Unfortunately, it was seriously heavy and the shocks were squishy so it wasn't a particularly good dirt bike.
posted by doctor_negative at 1:26 AM on April 11, 2011

My circa 1978 Stingray is still hanging from a hook in my parents' garage.

It was my sole present when I turned 10 and it outlasted all of my friends' Diamondback/Mongoose/etc frames. The abuse that bike sucked up was nothing short of phenomenal (jumped off roofs, thrown over fences, pulled up into trees, ghost-ridden into god-knows-what) and it just kept rolling.

For seven years, until I got my first car, it was my link to freedom and the greater suburban northwest Phoenix land of adventure.
posted by djeo at 6:43 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

The vise-grip under the seat! I had forgotten that till you said it, 2N2222. You could fix anything on a stingray with that, except maybe the chain breaking. God I wish I wasn't too fat to still ride the one we have...
posted by Redhush at 7:48 AM on April 11, 2011

My first bike was a Stingray knockoff - green, with a lower profile shifter. It got stolen, and my parents replaced it with a blue Stingray.
Older brother took a Schwinn Classic, and added banana seat and Stingray handlebars. Younger brother had a gold Stingray Deluxe. I think. Good times!
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 11:19 AM on April 11, 2011

The de rigeur for badass bikes in my neighborhood were:

Schwinn Scrambler 36/36

I had a JC Penney knockoff which resulted in relentless and savage mockery and may explain a lot about my horrible personality in later life.
posted by Kafkaesque at 12:33 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had a used Stingray that waas my first "real" bike and rode it all over the neighborhood. Eventually my parents decided to give me a brand new bike for Christmas and I finally got the coolest bike in the world: a shiny red Appple Krate! Man that thing was cool, even though as I now know it weighed a ton and didn't handle worth a damn. Only a few months later it was stolen out of my parent's front yard while I was at a Boy Scout Jamboree downtown. When I got home and realized it was gone that was my first real heartbreak; I moved up to a Schwinn 10-speed next, but it just wasn't quite the same.
posted by TedW at 11:45 AM on April 12, 2011

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