1966 Schwinn Paramount P-13

I’ve been actively searching for a 60’s era Paramount for a while now.  Ironically, on nearly the same day that I began sending out inquiries, a very good quality 1964 model came up on the local Craig’s List. As chance would have it, the bike was located about twenty minutes from my house. The price was right but the size was a slightly smaller than I wanted; the seller didn’t accept my low offer, I gritted my teeth and walked away, sweating bullets and agonizing that I’d probably made a big error.

Patience paid off though, because I eventually began a long distance conversation with a fellow enthusiast in Texas who was willing to part with a 1966 Paramount P-13 – and this one was in my preferred size. Fact of the matter is that it’s likely a custom built frame with a 59.5 cm seat tube (c-c) coupled a nice, long 59.5 cm top tube (c-c). My favorite riders have always had a long-ish top tube.

I had absolutely no interest in putting in any mileage until I’d fully serviced the bottom bracket and head set. On the other hand, here was this beautiful bike and who was I to not take it for a quick roll down the block and back? My three-quarter mile assessment: This bike fits me very well and feels likely to be a comfortable ride. (Thank goodness!)

Now that’s a little peculiar to say about a bike that was built for and used for racing, but “racing” geometry has changed over the intervening decades. The Campagnolo Record Strada crank set boasts what some may view as an ambitiously tall 52/49 chain ring combination, but this, too, is a remnant of a past philosophy; it wasn’t uncommon for bikes of the era to utilize such stout half-step gearing configurations. Riders of old truly must have had leg muscles of hardened oak!

I’d rather not repaint a bike like this – “It’s only original once” is an oft repeated adage, and I have always felt regret upon removing the original finish of previous bikes, regardless of the successfully slick end product. I like how the clear of the water slide decals has turned and aged yellow hue and I love the somewhat satiny painted surfaces from the 60’s. Contemporary paint has gotten too bright and too glossy for my tastes, and it’s nearly impossible to replicate the look of old paint. So, unless there is some compelling reason to do so, I try to keep it original.

And unfortunately, the top tube needed extensive touch up, so unless I can somehow match and retouch only the top tube I am left with the difficult decision to eventually refinish the entire frame.

I felt like everything was completely original to the 1966 build, but I neglected to factor in that this bike was actively raced in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Racers don’t ride on worn out components; they replace them – and that might explain why the bottom bracket spindle dates to 1968 and the rear derailleur bears a date code for 1971.

I’ve no reason to believe the Brooks saddle is anything but original, though, and it’s in sweet condition – very supple where it counts and supportive in the right spots: there’s a lot of mileage left in it.

I’m going to take things a step at a time to ensure I wind up with a great vintage rider. The first step was to remove the cranks and tear down the bottom bracket this afternoon. The 15mm crank bolts left little room to get my socket around and posed a momentary challenge for removal. I begged a little assistance from the LBS for that task then took things home to remove the cranks so I could get at the spindle. Repacking was uneventful, the spindle spins nice and smoothly now, the spider and chain rings cleaned up nicely, and after I replaced the 15mm bolt cranks with 14mm heads there is decidedly more room now – and thus far more convenient for future servicing.

For the moment, I’ve set aside the tubular wheel set and hung a pair of clinchers with vintage Schwinn racing tires installed. When I was at the LBS, the wrench mentioned that they had just located a few sets of NOS Schwinn racing tires and asked if I’d be interested in them. Of course, I’ll be checking those out next week.

Next up: the head set. Other than this one, I don’t have any winter projects planned so I think I’ll take things slow and savor things a little bit.


26 thoughts on “1966 Schwinn Paramount P-13

  1. Nice! The Paramount, she is a beautiful bike. I know that some folks don’t think they are “all that”, but if I could ever get my hands on one for a reasonable price, it would be nice to own a piece of American bicycling history.

      • I appreciate the kind words. It’s a lot of fun for me to see something beautiful and well crafted brought back to life. As a designer for many years, I always balked at the premise behind “planned obsolescence” … I like that a thing can be designed to stand the test of time and still be full of function and enjoyed for it’s form all at the same time. “Newer, better, faster, flashier, shinier, sexier…” it all sort of adds up to the same thing: scrap the “old” and replace with something new. Few of us seem to ask why it is that we’re replacing some perfectly good thing. These bikes have years and years of life left in them and I relish the opportunity to add miles onto their collective odometers.

    • I seldom buy into the hype that occasionally engulfs an idea – and this is especially so when it comes to the mystique surrounding certain elements of cycling: Narrow tires make you faster – no! Wait! FATTER tires make you faster! All French bikes are crap, their paint quality was terrible, and they used funny sizes… but the quality of the ride is wonderful. The PX-10 was the most iconic bike of the 70’s (but only because the mainstream didn’t really know about Singer or Herse at the time, right?)… hang on a second, the iconic 70’s bike would be a high end Raleigh wouldn’t it? Or a Masi (because I saw it in a movie with some young actor that’s now old.) Or maybe the iconic bike of the decade was the Paramount, hmm? I like to laugh at these things (well, just a little bit anyway – I’d probably knock down a row of grandmothers at a rummage sale if a Herse were leaned up in a corner.) I agree that the Paramount is a legitimate part of American cycling history, but more important to me is the personal connection… as a twelve year old, the the PX-10 and the Paramount bikes were 100% pure unobtainium. Unlike so many other things desired – that first swig of whisky, a stolen cigar, British sports cars – my past personal experience with Paramounts has not been associated with a let down. So, while some folks might view the acquisition of a Paramount as a strategically smart investment – which it might very well be – I see it as something personally relevant and meaningful. They’re beautiful bikes and I’m a little fascinated with the history behind this, and other bicycles quite honestly.

      But history and desire and “collectibility” aside, this bike will get ridden, which is the point of it after all!

      • Do you have any knowledge of a 1962-63 ladies Schwinn Paramount ?
        I have one, cannot find any info on it. Have looked for 1 1/2 yrs. nothing yet.
        Any info is great info. thanks

      • I don’t have personal information myself but you might try to contact Kurt Kaminer at http://www.kurtkaminer.com/TH_paramountregistry.html. There’s another Paramount registry at chainedrevolution.com/registry/schwinn_paramount.aspx and the host might also have some information that would be helpful. Also, if you’re not already a member of Bike Forums, I’d encourage you to join (it’s free) and visit the Classic & Vintage forum – the folks there are very helpful and willing to share their collective knowledge. That’s at http://www.bikeforums.net/forumdisplay.php/181-Classic-amp-Vintage. The Schwinn Bike Forum is located at http://www.schwinnbikeforum.com and while not nearly as active as Bike Forums in my opinion, there are also many knowledgeable folks that frequent that site. Go to the Lightweight Bikes section of the site. Finally, one of the very best places to visit for collective bike knowledge is the Classic Rendezvous list at http://www.classicrendezvous.com. Read the rules (that’s important!) and subscribe to the list. Someone there will almost certainly be able to provide you with further details.

        Paramounts are almost mythical among many vintage cycling enthusiasts. I’d be shocked if there’s not someone who can add some useful information.

    • And with all the extra information that has been given on where to check, this bike is elusive and mysterious. Thank you all for your aid, but I guess somethings are best left a mystery.

    • I’m looking forward to the outcome myself. Kind of fun to build up the anticipation and then watch it come together, piece by piece. I need to pace myself though… I don’t want to get so excited that I attempt to accomplish too much at once.

      • It is Elusive and an Enigma in the bicycle industry .
        None of those links that were given told me more than what I already knew. I am in need of The EXPERT on Schwinn bicycles.
        .I can not insure what I cannot describe or show proof of it’s existence somewhere..
        Thanks you..

      • Erroll, the collective wisdom of the members of the Schwinn Bike Forum are very likely the most knowledgable people around when it comes to the Schwinn Paramount. Another option would be to contact Richard Schwinn at Waterford Bikes. He has maintained the original build records for the Paramounts of that era. For a fee, he can provide you with a provenance report. As I think you’re trying to point out, it does sound like you’ve an unusual Paramount, and one that is probably seldom seen. Richard’s service might help to shed some light on your bike. Do you have any photos you’d care to share? I’m sure other enthusiasts would be interested to see what you have.

      • I just clicked through the photographs of your bike. Clearly, it’s been loved and ridden by someone, as evidence of use is quite apparent. Like many Paramount enthusiasts, I love the short-lived “Disney” lettering on the down tube. I’ve looked too, and I don’t see any mention in the catalogs I’ve got links to. But that is hardly conclusive since they’d build to your specifications; there wasn’t a need to depict every variation they could build in the catalog of the time (too expensive to reproduce, I would imagine.) Valuation is going to be tough. On the one hand, you are absolutely correct: you won’t see this bike everyday – it’s probably close to unique. On the other, fairly or unfairly, the “ladies” models of all vintage bikes tend to be extremely undervalued because they don’t “fit” into the more classically streamlined look of a “racing” bike. In any event, thanks for sharing and I certainly wish you the very best. Tighten those spokes (or rebuild that back wheel), carefully clean and polish the frame, service and lube the headset and bottom bracket… and then ride that sucker. Enjoy!

  2. missgeorgieo says:

    A great winter project. I have an old 60s Cliff Pratt of Hull mixte from ebay. Sadly it was powder coated – tho I love the apple green to bits – when I discovered the original colour scheme was claret & blue (which is my home town’s football team colours) I realised how sad it is to have lost it’s orig identity (plus its head badge which I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to replace heyho). But I love riding her, with all her quirks. She literally sings with her spokes when you ride her into the wind.

      • missgeorgieo says:

        Cliff Pratt was a bicycle shop in Kingston upon Hull in Yorkshire that opened up in the 30s. The shop still exists today, but as a retail outlet mainly, tho I believe they do have a repair workshop (I’ve only ever been to Hull once about a decade ago). He also wrote a book about bicycle touring. I assume they did do some frame building themselves, but believe they used Hetchins frames too.

        My orig bike should look like this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/52827433@N07/4871122123/
        but mine actually looks like this: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-hf5zpaaUGB0/Tj2bzBNlRYI/AAAAAAAAAF4/TcxijmRR2YA/s364/DSC00025%25282%2529.JPG

        It’s a very rare bike (lots of local enthusiasts have not heard of it) and I love her to bits. Three owners, a teenager, a short lady who let her go in favour of something more upright as she got older & me. She’s done a tonne of touring round continental europe before I got her. Rides like a dream around gentley contoured areas – I have steeper hills where I am and sometimes find the gearing a little awkward, but were trying to work things out.

      • Both examples are very nice, and I’m glad to become acquainted with the builder now. Have you considered mudflaps for yours? I have really grown to appreciate how much the addition of fenders has extended the rideability of my bikes.

      • missgeorgieo says:

        It has been mentioned before, especially as I live somewhere that rains 80% of the time (altho this year its been more like 95% percent and we have had floods all summer long). I tend to use her for more summery rides and I use my Raleigh (which does have mud guards) in wet weather, so I’ve left her naked. I quite like the way she looks without the mud guards, but thats probably because normally vintage bikes do have them I suppose.

      • Ah yes, rain. I seem to recall precipitation. We’re in the midst of a 180+ day stretch of drought. I believe we’ve managed to slip immediately out of summer and into winter. My bikes are confused.

      • missgeorgieo says:

        I live in the bit of Britain that was the world’s force in cotton (not anymore tho) because our permanently wet climate made it ideal for working with the cotton fibres. Even our beautiful summery days that are bright have skies filled with clouds and when I look through my ride pictures I always think ‘huh, it looked sunnier than that to me at the time I took the photos’.
        Hope your drought isnt being too damaging.
        We’ve suddenly become cold and crisp here – had a beauiful ride at sunrise this morning watching the mist burn off into a beautiful day – my fav time of year.

  3. My favorite time of year as well, although the drop in temp over the past few days was rather precipitous. It was right at freezing when I dragged my sorry carcass out to ride bright and early this morning. It’s warming up at the moment and as there are many boring meetings planned for the coming work week, I sense little opportunity to get in many miles… This being the case, I reckon to head back out this afternoon for a few more hours in the saddle.

    • missgeorgieo says:

      Just posted my ride pics. Only had my little snapper (other half has the good camera at his house, so these dont really do it justice). 30 miles & 1200ft of ascent just because I wanted some bilberry pie for breakfast. https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151257501061763.518026.646101762&type=1&l=6c2632fee4
      I had three top layers on, ski gloves and big boots to keep warm, tho shed afew later on.
      I know that feeling, I’ll get home from a ride and then want another one afew hours later. Hopefully I’ll get some cycle commuting to work in this week, but I try to set off very early when I do that so its safer to ride, but I’m not usually much of a morning person – suffering from jet lag this weekend and not yet readjusted to the UK time zone.

  4. Nice ride, and quite lovely at that! What is “bilberry pie?” We have something called bumbleberry pie – a wonderful concoction of blueberries, blackberries, rhubarb, strawberries, pecans, and raspberries.

    • missgeorgieo says:

      It was an amazing ride. Sunday mornings mean there’s hardly any traffic and all the people about are walking dogs. I like it when it’s quiet.
      Bilberries are also known as whimberries, whortleberries, winberries and afew other things. They grow wild on high acidic moorlands in afew select cool climate places – round the north west of england being one of them. Picking them is a total pain tho – they’re on low lying bushes in September, usually burried within the leaves so you get a terrible crick in the back collecting them and they spoil very easily. But they make the best pie ever – it turns your tongue purple and tastes like heaven. When my Dad was passing away it was what he asked for.

  5. When I lived in Alaska, we picked Salmon Berries this time of year (or perhaps a little earlier – it’s already winter in the Yukon.) I always wondered if those berries were common to the northern climes; now I still wonder!

    Oh well, I’m off to ride.

    • missgeorgieo says:

      They arent the same as bilberries. But it’s lovely to have a berry so localised and special.
      Enjoy your ride and hope you get many more in this week!

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