"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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
“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!”"
-James Huang // Bike Radar