1988 Schwinn Voyageur Touring Bike

One of the winter projects I’m currently working on is quite different than the majority of my vintage bikes. For one thing, there’s almost nothing that needs to be done to the frame. Aside from a few minor nicks and scrapes, the finish is excellent… and I was fortunate enough to locate an automobile touchup pen in almost the exact shade of pearlescent green metallic. How incredible is that?

I’ve been debating about a dedicated touring bike for a while now. The road bikes I ride regularly get the mileage because they fit me and they are comfortable, they’re relatively light weight and are well constructed, and fast. In short, they’re good road bikes for my everyday purposes of day riding and training.

But I don’t know that I’m confident taking any of them for extended, multi-day, long-mileage touring. With the exception of my Centurion Super LeMans (which is a sort of sports/tourer anyway), I don’t have the option to easily mount racks and panniers. None of the road bikes have sturdily-built wheels with high spoke counts and hubs that are intended for carrying an overland load, mile after mile, day after day. Road gearing – especially with some of the rear clusters I use – is really intended for speed, and the only road bike I own with a triple crankset is the ’08 Cannondale Synapse. Even though it has a granny ring and gearing suitable for climbing, adding luggage would prove to be challenging.

There are several modern frames built specifically for touring, and others that are marketed as “touring” bikes – but which can’t stand up to scrutiny when it comes right down to it. But given my proclivity for classic and vintage bicycles, I decided to research frames from the mid-80’s that had been constructed for the purpose of touring. I figured that this would give me the lugged steel frame that appeals to my personal aesthetic, yet would be modern enough to have a decent range of climbing gears and the drive train componentry to support them. The Miyata 1000 and the Trek 620 stand out as touring bikes favored by many C&V enthusiasts. A friend of mine has a Mercian King of Mercia, a relatively rare and incredibly fortunate estate sale acquisition. The 1985 Schwinn Voyageur gets very high marks among C&V fans also, and I liked the way it looks as well as the spread out geometry on the large frame that I ride.

I was fortunate to locate a 1988 model on Craig’s List. (Actually, the frame is a 1987, but was not painted and built up until calendar year 1988, so the components match the ’88 Schwinn catalog. Therefore, it is a “1988.”) Although the bike was clearly in terrific condition, I initially gave it a pass; I kind of had my sights set on the relatively unattainable Mercian. However, I kept thinking about the Voyageur, and eventually made an offer. The owner countered with an acceptable figure and I wound up with a new mare in the stable.

I’d never ridden on BioPace rings before and was generally very alarmed after my first shakedown ride. The oval chainrings were just freaky! I was convinced that something was amiss and went to the bike forums for an answer.

The bike forums are really great for getting answers to general, as well as obscure issues. But beware! When one ventures into the forums with a well-abused topic, one should be prepared for no end of ribbing. My question about the BioPace rings was met with general derision (mainly because most of the responders had themselves already asked the same question and been similarly rebuked) – one person even called me a “rube.” (Which pissed me off at the time.) However, I also found the answer to my problem, ironically provided by the bike-fascist who referred to me as a rube. It seems that BioPace rings have to be correctly phased – sort of like timing on a car – or the pedaling will be weird and the mechanical efficiency that might have otherwise been gained would not be achieved. I pulled the crankset, realigned the chainrings, and took it out for a spin. Major difference!

Although the foam grip was period correct and probably original, I decided to remove it and wrap the bars with brown Salsa tape. It’s much more attractive, I prefer the narrower diameter of the bar sans foam, and I think it will harmonize better with the honey-colored Brooks B17 Flyer I will mount and break in next.

Velo-Orange ran fluted chrome fenders on sale for half price and I ordered a set. I have a Blackburn rear rack and old Cannondale lowrider front rack, along with front and rear panniers that need installed. However, I’m considering a porteur style front rack with a randonneur-inspired handlebar bag instead of the front bags. Decisions, decisions! Fortunately, I’ve got a couple of months of winter to nail down the final build.


Update. The thing is, the frame turned out to be just a little too big for me. I’ve since arranged to trade frames with a Bikeforums.net member from Massachusetts. Arriving early next week is a Shogun 2000, which should fit my personal geometry a little better. I hated to see the Voyageur switch hands so quickly, and before I could ever give it any type of adequate workout, but it became clear after a few shorter rides that I need to be a few inches taller to comfortably accommodate the ride. I’m excited about the Shogun, however, and will post my thoughts about it as I build it up with the components removed from the Voyageur.


6 thoughts on “1988 Schwinn Voyageur Touring Bike

  1. I’ve enjoyed your website for some time now. We have similar tast in bikes photography, etc. I purchased an 88 Voyageur about 2 months ago in New Orleans. It is in almost new condition with only a few nicks in the paint (probably from bumping other things while in storage). The bike was never really used. No signs of wear, road grime, etc. The brakes were never even adjusted. I’ll send some pics when I can.

    My question is regarding the chain rings. They are a little strange to me, as well. How did you determine that they were not phased properly?

    • I believe that the pin and the index marks on the BioPace rings need to be oriented directly behind the crank arm. Check to see if your rings are correctly oriented with that positioning (some people rearranged their rings for a different effect, although I’ll be darned if I can tell you what the heck that might be!) If those indicators are not aligned behind the crank arm, I can assure you that the ride (especially shifting between chainrings) will be a bizarre experience indeed. This is the voice of personal experience talking!

      • Thanks for the info. Its noticable on the small ring, which I am not using much. I will take a closer look. Do you remember where you found touch up paint pen, or any info you recall about it? This would not normally interest me, but considering the condition, I think it would be worth it.

        Also, I’ve never used a brooks saddle. What is the deal with these? This bike came with a suede San Marco saddle. It is rather large, but not very comfortable to me. I put a cheap nashbar road saddle I had (divinci, I think about 15 bucks) on it and it is more comfortable than the san marco. I only paid 250 for the schwinn, so its kind of hard to justify the price for a good saddle at this time.

        Do you know what an 88 Voyageur would have cost (listed) new?

        So far, I’m really enjoying it. My dad got me a new 89′ la tour when i was 16, which i rode heavy until I was about 25. That year I wend to the LBS and the owner covinced me i ‘needed’ a light mountain bike with slicks. I did enjoy it, for a while, but always wished Id gotten another road bike. Live and learn.


      • Yes, I found that the granny ring was most notably different to spin. I only use a granny on very steep climbs and find the spin, even on normal “round” rings, to be odd. At any rate, after touring on the bike for a few days I just got used to the spin and never noticed it again after that time.

        Regarding touchup paint, I found a nearly perfect match in an auto paint touch up pen at Advance Auto Supply. I don’t recall the exact paint (I think that it was for a Ford Explorer though) but I’ll see if I have a record – maybe on my flickr account.

        Brooks saddles, Selle San Marco, and all the rest: I am a firm believer in finding a good quality saddle that will fit your particular sit bones perfectly, and that will also stand the test of time, and hours in the saddle. A lot of people really like Brooks, and I’m one of them. However, I’m not a fan of the B-17 sprung version. Yes, it looks very classy, but I couldn’t stand the springiness and even after breaking it in I was not happy with the fit. The Brooks Pro and the unsprung B-17 have worked out very well for me. Like you, I find the San Marco unremarkable. I’ve also got a Hinault Turbo that I feel pretty “meh” about. My favorite saddle is the Selle Regal, which I find fits me just about right. I like it so much that I’ve got one mounted to three of my bikes, including my main rider, the Boulder Brevet. Saddles are a very personal choice and far be it from me to spend your – or anyone else’s – money by recommending a very expensive seat. Bear in mind that cheap saddles – especially padded ones – will most likely not provide you with the ride quality you’ll be looking for.

        As for original price, visit http://www.schwinnbikeforum.com and look up the catalogs and dealer sheets. I’d be surprised if there’s not a price sheet in there someplace. If your bike is in good condition, $250 is not unreasonable to have paid; the Voyageur is sought after by many enthusiasts. Mine was comfortable but I prefer a little speedier geometry and longer top tube. My Boulder Brevet meets that criteria… it’s moderately light, very comfortable, and while it’s not a race bike, it is definitely faster than a typical touring bike. A fellow enthusiast in Boston traded me frame-for-frame, his Shogun 2000 for my Voyageur. (We both came out winning, by the way.) He converted the Voyageur to 650B configuration and is still riding it very regularly I believe. You can see his build version at http://www.flickr.com/photos/7516215@N03/sets/72157625779079421/

  2. Tom says:

    Dear folks,

    The BioPace alignment pin is located directly abeam the crank arm. I bought my Voyageur back in the Spring of 1998 and have had many miles of riding enjoyment. I’ve given it careful maintenance and it has held up amazingly well.. it performs and looks like a new bike. It’s almost all original equipment, except for the seat, which I’ve replaced but kept in storage, all the way from the foam handlebar grips down to the pedal cage straps. It’s been a real performer.

    I still have some matching original Schwinn emerald green touch-up paint left…. only a few tiny blemishes in all the years that I’ve had it.

    Best regards,

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