When I see bikes like this for sale I really can’t help myself. I think that the affliction is a combination of factors, in this case the bike: is from my era, is all stock, is $50, and in my opinion needs to be saved from the dump? To be clear, that list was likely all rationalizations. Rationalization or not, this completely stock 1987 Schwinn Sierra was billed as a cute, sturdy bike that want’s some TLC and for $50 no haggling dollars it is the next bike on my list.
I remember a friend of mine, back perhaps even in 1987, poo poo-ing the whole Schwinn off-road line at the Crossroads Schwinn Dealer in Bellevue, WA. After all, we both had Specialized Hardrocks, real mountain bikes ya know. Also ya know, young is the new stupid. Someday I will drag that Hardrock down from the attic, restore it, and then do a shoot out ride agains this Sierra. That’ll be fun. Other than the young and stupid incident, I knew mostly nothing about this bike. And by mostly I mean that I once had a Schwinn Prelude road bike from the same era and it was a well made light bike even if it said Schwinn. I also have the S-30 which after some research turned out to be a nice bike. This Sierra was from the time when bike manufacturers were still trying to figure out the mountain bike thing so really anyone’s guess is as good as mine as to whether this is a bike or an anchor.
After getting the Sierra home I gave it a once over before goin online to see just what I had. I noticed the use of 4130 Chrome-Moly tubing which pointed to this being more than a boat anchor. I noticed a little sticker near the derailleur that read “Schw App GIANT” which meant that the Sierra’s frame was made by Giant just before Schwinn abandoned Giant and went to China to save money. I’ve read that Schwinn’s move to China left Giant tooled up and ready to expand their own line of bikes into the U.S. and European markets; which they did. (So is it that Schwinn made some really good bikes in the 1980’s or is it that Giant made some really good Schwinns in the 1980’s?)
I also noticed weird white hubs, but they were large flange and had stickers saying that they were sealed bearing; also good. I also began to really take notice of how very little wear there was for a 35 year old bike…the stickers were not only there, they were easily readable and the rims, sprockets, etc were just dirty, not worn. Another time niched thing I noticed was that the shifters were right at that transition between friction and index shifting. The front derailleur was strictly friction which I actually like because it can be “trimmed” on the fly to eliminate chain rub. The rear derailleur was changed by a thumb-shifter which could be switched between indexed (SIS) and friction. Tires were flat, so I got new tubes. Tires were also Bell Dirtsters for which I have no witty naming remarks, just a head shake…what were they thinking?
Most of the time I give a new to me bike a new set of cables, tires and a thorough bit of maintenance before I take it on it’s first ride. For the Sierra, I didn’t. Not sure why, guess I felt like riding. I did put in new tubes, lubed and adjusted all cables, tightened all fasteners, checked the Dirtsters for dry rot and then went riding.
I know that I am not really demanding when it comes to trail riding, but this bike did everything I needed it to do with little to no fuss. As I said, I felt like riding so I hit the low part of Galbraith climbing all three of the Pigs before heading over and down Mullet before doing all of the bunny trails. I had fun. The wet brakes did a good enough job stopping. The indexed shifting shifted. The Dirtsters gripped. Well that’s done, not sure what to do with it now.