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Vintage Components - Schwinn Approved Derailleurs

Schwinn approved derailleurs: Le Tour GT 450 front clamp-on

During the 1950s, '60s and '70s, Schwinn was the dominant manufacturer of quality bicycles in the United States. In its huge Chicago factory Schwinn produced its own frames, forks and rims. Those items that Schwinn did not make for its bikes were usually branded as "Schwinn" or "Schwinn Approved". Parts could even carry the bike model name, such as "Le Tour". Well-established parts makers such as Huret, Weinmann and Shimano put Schwinn's brand on their products and there was no loss of prestige for those makers for doing this.

But by 1980, time and events caught up with Schwinn. Its 80-year old factory had not been re-tooled to make modern lightweight bikes (the famous Schwinn Varsity weighed 42 pounds). Asian and European makers were selling entry-level 28-pound bikes that often sold for less than a Varsity. In 1974 a Varsity (and Peugeot UO-8) sold for $149.00 while a Gitane Gypsy went for $119.00.

Things got worse. The Chicago factory workers went on strike in 1980. The strike was settled, but Schwinn decided to move its production to Mississippi, where it would not have to deal with unions. The company also began import Schwinn-branded bikes from Panasonic, in Japan.

The Mississippi plant was closed in 1991 and Schwinn then sourced all of its product from overseas factories.

None of this worked, and Schwinn declared bankruptcy for the first time in 1992.

It was the end of an era that is looked back on with nostalgia now. Schwinn Varsity and Continental 10-speeds were the first road bikes for many Americans of a certain age. When Sting-Ray 20-inch bikes were introduced in 1963, they were a giant hit. And it was the conversion of Sting-Rays into dirt-bikes by garage mechanics that started the BMX craze.

Those of us who had to compete with Schwinn still miss the old company.


Schwinn-Approved Le Tour clamp-on front derailleur. Used, $20.00

Schwinn part# GT-450

  • Schwinn's lightweight Le Tour bikes were introduced in 1974 and featured lightweight components. We believe this derailleur came from those early Le Tour bikes.
  • 28.6mm clamp

Le Tour front derailleur

This derailleur was made by Shimano for Schwinn.

Schwinn approved front derailleur

Here's the back. The famous Schwinn logo is on the cage.