Schwinn riding high with new retro model

Schwinn Reintroduces String-Ray Bicycle
Schwinn's new "Sting-Ray" bicycle, with it's banana seat and slick back tire, is a hit with the 7- to 12-year-old market.Schwinn via Getty Images
/ Source: CNBC

With its banana seat and slick back tire, the Schwinn Sting-Ray was the bike to have in the ’60s and ’70s. Now, 30 years later, it's back in style.

"They're cool because not everybody has them," said Sting-Ray owner Mitch Reardon. "If everybody had them, they'd still be cool."

That may be changing. Since the April rollout of two retro style Sting-Rays, and a new chopper style model, Schwinn is hot again. Just ask 11-year-old Frankie Pellegrini, who paid almost $400 for his chopper Ray.

"Everyone says, 'Whoa look at that kid! Look at that bike, it's so awesome!” he said. “And I just smile… It's just been: ‘Kid, I love your bike. Can I ride your bike?’ It's so cool."

How hot is the Sting-Ray market right now?  Most dealers have lengthy waiting lists, and in the case of the Sting-Ray chopper model, some dealers have even gone out, bought unassembled models, put them together, and sold them for a higher price."

“Every dealer out there, they're hunting them down through other sources — Wal-Mart, Kmart, Toys R Us — they're hard to find," said Chicago-area dealer Greg Hajduk. "But that's how we're doing it."

Hajduk has bought chopper Sting-Rays at other stores for $180, customized them and resold them for close to $400. Even with that mark up, he can't keep them in stock.

"Every day, (we get) phone calls one after another,” he said. “’Do you have the new Sting-Ray? Do you have the new Sting-Ray?’"

That's welcome news for Pacific Cycle Group, which bought Schwinn out of bankruptcy two years ago when it was losing out to cheaper foreign models, and popular mountain bikes.

But Schwinn still had incredible name recognition with Baby Boomers who grew up on the bikes — especially Sting-Rays. Schwinn's new owners took a classic name and updated the look.

"What we wanted to do with the launch of the Sting-Ray, was to get the youth market excited about Schwinn again," said Byron Smith, President of Pacific Cycle.

The Schwinn revival seems to be working. Sting-Ray production has been increased from 70,000 to 350,000, and the company is expected to turn a profit.

So, with or without the sissy bar, the Sting-Ray is riding high again.        

"I always ask where I can get one,” said 12-year-old Tony Dibiase Jr. “Because it's a really cool bike."