Modern professional road racers often have a fleet of bikes to choose from: a lightweight one for climbing, an aero one for flatter and faster stages, dedicated time trial rigs, classics machines, and so on. But back in the 1980s, racers typically used the same bike for every discipline, such as this cherry 1988 Schwinn Paramount that Irish pro Alan McCormack had custom made with some rather unusual geometry.
McCormack preferred exceptionally quick handling. That meant an ultra-short wheelbase measuring just 915mm – 55mm shorter than Specialized’s smallest Tarmac – plus a 50cm top tube that’s awfully compact even given his 1.63m (5ft 4in) height. In fact, the front end is so short that there isn’t just toe overlap; the pedals themselves actually make contact with the front tire.
The Paramount name really meant something back in the day
“I asked Schwinn to custom make me a bike that like the bike I had in England,” McCormack told BikeRadar during a casual sit-down meeting near his home in Boulder, Colorado. “But when I gave the guys in Chicago my dimensions they thought I was nuts. But I just insisted and insisted and they built it for me.”
“It’s so tight and it has a high bottom brackets for criteriums,” he continued. “It’s super fast out of the corners which is why I had it made. The top tube is also short for my size.”
The front end is so short that the pedal can hit the front tire
Although McCormack had the bike made with criterium racing in mind, he used it for everything, including stage racing and time trials, varying only the gearing and a few bits of equipment to suit the day. And while top pros today have countless bikes at their disposal, McCormack says even as a member of the Wheaties-Schwinn team – one of the best at the time – he had just two. That's one for training and home, and one that went with the mechanic to the races.
Video of McCormack and his 1988 Schwinn Paramount (credit: The Pro's Closest)
McCormack sadly lost track of both of those after a divorce but, as it turns out, there was a third bike Schwinn built at the time that was kept as a spare and ended up with a collector. Two years ago, that collector decided that the bike should be returned to its rightful owner and presented it to McCormack at a stage start of the US Pro Cycling Challenge, asking only that he never sell it.
Deep-drop Cinelli 66 bars
McCormack says that he never raced that bike and didn’t even know it existed, and nearly three decades after it was first built, it still looks nearly new.
Today, McCormack rides his trusty old Schwinn regularly, mixing it up at the front of local group rides on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. And although he does have a modern carbon rig, he says he still often prefers his much heavier steel bike.
'The Leprechaun' may not be on the Wheaties team any longer but he's still blazingly fast, regularly mixing it up at the front of local group rides in Boulder
“Steel is great. It’s got a nice feel to it, especially on smooth American roads. I can definitely go faster on this bike than my carbon bike. This bike is six pounds heavier and it rides just as good. It’s solid. I won a bunch of races on the thing!”
Complete bike specifications
- Frame: 1988 Schwinn Paramount 50th Anniversary with custom geometry
- Fork: 1988 Schwinn Paramount 50th Anniversary, 1in threaded steerer
- Headset: Shimano Dura-Ace, 1in threaded
- Stem: Cinelli 1A, 140mm
- Handlebars: Cinelli 66, 42cm (c-c)
- Bar tape: Cinelli cork
- Front brake: Shimano Dura-Ace BR-7402
- Rear brake: Shimano Dura-Ace BR-7402
- Brake levers: Shimano Dura-Ace BL-7402
- Front derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace FD-7402
- Rear derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace RD-7402
- Shift levers: Shimano Dura-Ace SL-7402
- Cassette: Shimano Dura-Ace CS-7402 7-speed, 13-21T
- Chain: Shimano IG
- Crankset: Shimano 600 FC-6207, 165mm, 52/42T
- Bottom bracket: Shimano Dura-Ace BB-7400
- Rims: Wolber Profil 20 tubular, 32h rear, 28h front
- Spokes: Sapim stainless steel, 3x
- Front/rear tires: Wolber Neo Pro Slick tubular
- Saddle: Selle San Marco Rolls
- Seatpost: Shimano Dura-Ace SP-7402
- Weight: 10.40kg (22.94lb, with pedals and bottle cage)