History of the Schwinn Le Tour
It’s the early 1970s and bicycles are booming. Lightweight road bikes are becoming very popular, and Schwinn doesn’t have one that’s more affordable. They have the Paramount, but it’s a very expensive bike. The Varsity and Continental are close to 40lbs, but they still sell well. Paramounts are made in Waterford Wisconsin and that facility certainly doesn’t have the capacity to start making budget road bikes. Chicago was already very busy making their current models, and they didn’t make lugged frame bikes. What did they decide to do?
To get into the affordable lightweight market they decided to import from Japan like many of the competition. They were very cautious about an import Schwinn because the first two bikes are the World Traveler and World Voyageur in 1972 and 1973. Very nice bikes from Japan, but they barely have a reference to Schwinn on them and are not in the catalog. They even use a different World badge. This experiment must have gone well because in 1974 they introduce the Schwinn approved Le Tour, an affordable lugged frame bike that’s about 30lbs. They are still cautious as it’s Schwinn approved rather than just a Schwinn, but it has lots of great Schwinn and Le Tour branding. It must have been a pretty good seller as they go on to offer it through 1992 and brought it back off and on through 2011.
It has had many variations during its long run including the Super Le Tour, Le Tour Luxe, and Le Tour Tourist. The Super was definitely the most popular of the variations and ran from 1976-1985. It started as an upgraded Le Tour with aluminum rims, downtube shifters, and only 26.5 lbs. By 1985 the Le Tour and Super had gotten very close in quality, so I believe that is likely why they stopped the Super. Both had alloy rims, downtube shifters, chromoly frames, and similar weights.
Take a look at these great bikes:
1974 Le Tour
Schwinn started offering the Le Tour in 1974, and it was a little different for the iconic Chicago based bicycle company. The Le Tour was made in Japan by Panasonic, with Schwinn approved branding. So, it’s branded by USA Schwinn, made by Japan Panasonic, and it’s got a French name. How cool is that? Everybody should want to own one of these.
Based on pricing it was 3rd in the Schwinn lineup behind the Paramount and Sports Tourer with a suggested retail price of $159.95. It was also quite a bit lighter than any of the cheaper Schwinn models.
What I love about these bikes is all the great branding. The 1974 has Le Tour branded derailleurs and seat post, plus lots of other Schwinn and Shimano branding. Its my only bike with model specific derailleurs. Later years have Le Tour branded saddles and cranks.
Here are some of the specs according to the 1974 catalog:
Lightweight, fully lugged brazes frame with butted top and bottom tubes.
Quick release aluminum alloy hubs.
Aluminum alloy crank set
Center pull alloy caliper brakes
27” x 1 ¼” gumwall tires
Only 30-32 lbs depending on the size and kickstand. (some models at the time were around 40lbs)
The derailleurs are made by Shimano and are similar in quality to their 500. These are Le Tour GT-400 for the rear and Le Tour GT-450 for the front.
Bars and stem are alloy. Rims are steel.
Came in 3 sizes:
LT1: 21” (31” standover height)
Colors: Opaque blue, Opaque red, and Kool Lemon.
1975 Le Tour
In 1975 a Le Tour for ladies was added to the catalog. Rest of the bike stays mostly unchanged. The rear derailleur changes to the GT-420 and the catalog changes from kool lemon to yellow. I prefer calling it kool lemon. Catalog notes that the saddle is Taihei racing style.
1976 Le Tour
Remains mostly unchanged from the 75 model, except the saddle changes to Matex racing style.
1976 Super Le Tour
This is the first year for the Super Le Tour. An ultra-lightweight bike at a moderate price. These had double butted chrome moly top and bottom tubes, alloy rims, downtube shifters, and Shimano 600 rear and 60 front derailleurs. They took what was good about the standard Le Tour and made it a little better. The 12.2 on the frame references the weight in kilograms. 26.5lbs.
Frame Finish: Sky blue, Flamboyant red or Silver Mist.
Same sizing as the Le Tour:
Suggested retail price: $219.95
1977 Le Tour II
Most of the changes for this year appear to be visual with new decals and colors. Catalog lists the weight as 29lbs.
Colors are Scarlet, Violet, and Pearscent Orange.
Suggested retail price is $164.95.
Le Tour II for ladies comes in the same colors and is listed as 31lbs. Sizes are now L-89 for the 19” and L-92 for the 22” frame.
1977 Super Le Tour 12.2
The 77 SLT is mostly unchanged from the previous year, but now offers a SL-9 19” frame. Colors are Sky blue, Silver Mist, and Full chrome ($50 extra)
Suggested retail price is $229.95
1978 Schwinn-Approved Le Tour III
A 27” frame is added, and the colors are changed.
Colors are pearl orange and pearl blue.
Suggested retail price is $189.95
1978 Super Le Tour
Price is the biggest change from the 77 with a suggested retail price of $264.95. Models also change slightly:
C is added to the end of the model to designate full chrome.
Colors are Full chrome($50 extra), Scarlet, Black, and Silver Mist.
1979 Le Tour IV
Big changes this year as they started making them in Chicago. They wanted to try and make an affordable road bike in the USA.
Here are some of the specs:
30lbs with kickstand
18 gauge 1020 carbon steel frame
Rear derailleur: Shimano 400
Saddle: Selle Royale suede finish
Sugine Super Maxi alloy cotterless crank
Suggested retail price $179.95
Colors: Frosty Blue and Strawberry Red
1979 Super Le Tour II
The SLT is also made in the USA and gets a little bit heavier as it no longer has a partial chrome moly frame, it’s all 1020 steel. The derailleurs are also a bit of a downgrade from previous years. It does change to a 12 speed.
Here are some specs:
Altus LT derailleurs
Suggested retail price $249.95
Colors: Black Saddle, Frosty Blue, and Strawberry Red
1980 Le Tour
This year drops the numbers and just calls it the Le Tour. Another year made in Chicago. Specs and sizes appear to be the same as 1979.
Suggested retail price $234.95
Colors: Cardinal Red, Frosty Silver, and Sky Blue.
1980 Super Le Tour
Made in Chicago with unchanged specs and sizes from 1979.
Suggested retail price $296.95
Colors: Black Sable and Summer Cloud.
1981 Le Tour
Production moves back to Japan. They also got a derailleur change:
Shimano Altus ST derailleurs
Shimano Stem Mounted LE gearshift levers
1020 carbon steel frame
Sugino Super Maxy crankset
KKT Rattrap pedals
Ariake Touring Saddle
Suggested retail price $254.95
Colors: Frosty Silver and Sky Blue
1981 Super Le Tour
Production moves back to Japan for the SLT also. Not much changes from the 1980 model. It’s now listed as 27lbs.
Shimano Altus LT derailleurs
Shimano Altus Shift Levers
Sugino Super Maxy crank
SR LaPrade seat post
Ariake Jaguar II saddle
Sakae handlebars and stem
Gran Compe 500G brakes
Suggested retail price $319.95
Colors: Black Sable and Summer Cloud White
1981 Le Tour Tourist
This is the first year for the Tourist. A modified Le Tour with touring handlebars, upright saddle, and fenders. 29.3lbs.
Shimano Altus ST derailleurs
1020 carbon steel frame
Ukai Chrome Plated Steel rims
Sugino Super Maxy Crank
Kashima Touring saddle
SR Alloy touring handlebars
Suggested retail price $254.95
Colors: Spicy Chestnut and Sky Blue
1982 Le Tour
1982 Super Le Tour
1983 Le Tour
1985 Le Tour Luxe
1986 Le Tour
1988 Le Tour
1989 Le Tour
1999 Le Tour
This was Schwinn’s entry level road bike for this year. 21 speed drive train. Schwinn road design 7005 TIG welded aluminum frame with forged dropouts and cro-moly fork with forged dropouts. Shimano RSX downtube shifters and rear derailleur with T300 front derailleur. Nexave triple crank. Tektro 420AG brakes with Shimano levers. 32 hole Araya SP-30 rims with alloy hubs and 700×23 tires.
Suggested retail price: $499.00
Color: Metallic Silver
2011 Le Tour Classic
This looks to be kind of a neat bike. The paint scheme with the brown bar tape gives it a bit of an older look, maybe that’s how it got the classic name? The original saddle would have also been brown, but it’s been replaced on this one. Frame is actually Reynolds 520 chromoly which I wasn’t expecting. Shifters and derailleurs are Shimano Sora. I believe it came stock with 28mm tires so this should be a really comfortable ride. Check it out:
Here is some marketing info from Schwinn:
Experience the great ride characteristics of steel aboard Schwinn’s Le Tour Classic. Whether you are just getting into road riding or are an experienced roadie, you’ll love the agile ride of the Reynolds steel tubes and the comfort of the Le Tour’s slightly more upright riding position. Together they give you a ride that is silky smooth, easy on the back and simply sublime. Plus, this ready roadster boasts a hill-topping 27-speed FSA/Shimano drivetrain, powerful dual-pivot brakes, a fine Schwinn Bio-Tuned saddle and easy-rolling 700c wheels with choice Continental tires.
2011 Le Tour Sport
This model had an aluminum frame with a carbon fork. Shifters are Shimano Sora with a Tiagra rear derailleur and a Sora front derailleur. FSA Vero triple crankset and SRAM 9 speed cassette completed the drivetrain. 700×25 Kenda Kriterium tires mounted on Xero Shawla 220 wheels.
Suggested retail price: $899
Decoding the serial numbers of the Japanese made Le Tours is covered in the imported section below. The US made models use the limited production section. It is found on the rear dropout:
This example was made in November of 1974.
What are they worth?
The good news is that you should be able to find them rather affordably. I’m in southeast Wisconsin and they can be had for $50-500 depending on the condition and model. Most models in pretty good condition you should be able to get for around $100. If you are picky about year and color, you might have to pay a bit more. Nice Super Le Tours I often see for around $300, but if you aren’t picky and take some time looking can be found for much less. The Le Tour Luxe however seems to be very rare and I usually see those more for $500. The market on Ebay is usually quite a bit higher especially after shipping. These are pretty common bikes so you will likely find a pretty good selection locally. The value will vary a bit depending on where you are. The above is true for the older steel lugged frame bikes. For the newer ones into the 2000s I guess you should just check bicycle blue book for an idea as I rarely see these for sale.
I think the Le Tours are really great as they are beautiful vintage bikes that can still be gotten for a good price. Here are some of my favorites, and those I think should be most collectible:
1974 – as this is the first year, all colors.
Yellow – Kool Lemon and Yellow were only offered for the first 3 years. And it’s a great yellow.
1976 Super Le Tour – this is the first year for the super. Really great bikes for the time, and still very fun to ride.
12.2 – all the 12.2 supers are really great bikes. Chromoly top and bottom tube, downtube shifters, alloy rims…
Chrome Supers – the all chrome supers were an additional cost. I haven’t seen many of them.
Le Tour Luxe – neat looking touring version made only from 1983-1985.
1985 Super Le Tour – 25lbs with all chromoly frame and Suntour Cyclone derailleurs. Last year for the super.
Years the Le Tour was made:
Le Tour – 1974-1992, 1995-1999
Super Le Tour – 1976-1985
Le Tour Luxe – 1983-1985
Le Tour Tourist – 1981-1982
Le Tour GS and GSX – 2007-2009
2010-2011 – Le Tour Classic, Le Tour Sport, Le Tour Elite, Le Tour Legacy, Le Tour Super
Note: Many of the bikes pictured above are no longer stock, but are a good examples of what you will see out there in the market.
More info coming soon….all years will be covered.