50 colorful vintage banana seat bikes for kids from the ’60s & ’70s

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Vintage banana seat bikes for kids from the '60s & '70s
Vintage banana seat bikes didn’t just appear in stores by chance — they evolved. Kids started modifying their own basic bicycles, adding cooler paint colors, chrome fenders, bigger handlebars, and longer saddles (that also made it easier to take a friend for a ride) — and businesses took notice.

Here’s a look at some of the biggest cycle brands of the sixties and seventies (and a few from the eighties) so you can see what boys and girls wanted most in their awesomely retro bikes.

Sales of bicycles increase – catching up with cars

Article by John Cunniff in The Vincennes Sun-Commercial (Vincennes, Indiana) July 11, 1969

NEW YORK (AP) — If present trends continue, the annual sales of bicycles in the United States will match automobile sales in a couple of years, and therein lies a surprising story of social change and marketing innovation.

Almost anyone could guess that bikes were rising in popularity, after seeing once sluggish neighbors pedaling rather than driving to the station, and flocks of youngsters winging along in multicolored “high risers.”

5-speed Screamer I with 20-inch rear tire and more banana seat bikes from 1968-1970

The sales figures are probably a bit higher than your guesses. As recently as 1960, about 3.6 million bikes were sold. By 1967, the figure had leaped to 6 million. It surged to 7.5 million last year, and is expected to rise 12 percent to 8.4 million in 1969.

The swing to bikes has at least two origins: old age and youth. Dr. Paul Dudley White and others promoted the idea that pedaling was a wonderful form of exercise even for the elderly, and now thousands of miles of paths are appearing in cities that long had ignored the needs of cyclists.

A larger thrust, however, seems to have come from the youngsters. Seven years ago, the partners in a San Diego bike shop observed teenagers buying odd parts and improvising their own vehicles.

Recognizing that the demand was there, the partners, Gene Randel and Marion Moore, assembled some bikes with high handlebars, elevated and elongated “banana” seats, and low-to-the-ground chassis. They sold swiftly.

Wild dragster bike - Parts diagram (1969)

Later on, the major bike makers, long accustomed to turning out the same conventional product each year, caught on to the idea: youngsters wanted styling; they wanted innovation; they looked forward to new models each year; they desired options.

How vintage banana seat bikes became popular

Manufacturers began naming their vehicles. Copying from Detroit, they introduced the Stringray, Avenger, Eliminator, Grabber, Hugger, Spoiler. They offered unusual colors, such as “flamboyant deep purple.”

Wild options now are available, including pretzel handle-bars, steering wheels instead of bars, multispeed gear shifts, front and rear shock absorbers, caliper hand brakes, console stick shifts and quilted backrests.

Vintage Murray Wildcats and Eliminators bicycles 1968

All this opened the eyes of the tire makers, who for years turned out a dull black product. Goodyear, for example, has introduced color combinations, including green-orange and yellow-black, and called them “crazy wheels.”

The most popular bike in America now is the high riser. That’s the one with the high handlebars, elevated seat, back support or “sissy bar.” and small wheels that make for maneuverability. It accounts for 75 percent of sales.

Vintage Western Flyer Hi-Rise bikes for kids

Wild options now are available, including pretzel handle-bars, steering wheels instead of bars, multispeed gear shifts, front and rear shock absorbers, caliper hand brakes, console stick shifts and quilted backrests.

However, for the adult who fears a fall, a tri-wheeler also is selling well. This is a conventional vehicle in most ways except for double wheels in the rear, along with a basket for carrying groceries or a briefcase.

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All this has begun to push up prices, of course. A high riser costs a minimum of about $35, and the addition of accessories can push up the price to $80 or so — even more if exotic parts are piled on.

And, as any product becomes more complex, so also does the servicing, As many fathers have learned in recent months, it can be a maddening job to change a tire when the gearbox and torsion spring seat suspension are in the way.

Even the old-fashioned bike dealers aren’t fully equipped to service the vehicles, and some of them haven’t the space or the capital to invest in a variety of spare parts. The net result may be that bikes might not just catch automobiles in sales but might copy the dealership arrangement of the big car makers.

1969 Zany vintage bicycle handlebars

Mattel Stallion bikes from 1965

Mattel Stallion bikes from 1965


AMF bikes – Excitement on wheels! (1965)

AMF bikes - Excitement on wheels! (1965)

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Vintage Schwinn Sting Ray banana seat bicycles from 1965

Vintage Schwinn banana seat bicycles from 1965

Vintage Huffy “The Rail” banana seat bike from 1969

The Rail with T-Bar stick shift in handsome control console

Vintage Huffy The Rail banana seat bike from 1969

Vintage Huffy bikes for kids from 1968 (1)

Schwinn Sting Ray bikes (1967)

1967 Schwinn Sting Ray bikes

Vintage banana seat bikes for kids with slick rear tires from around 1969-1970

Deluxe 20-inch 3-speed Sportster bicycle: “Speed shifts” like a motorcycle… just twist the grip. Oversize “cheater” slick rear tire gives exciting, wheel-spinning take-offs.

Girls’ 20″ Sportster with quaint wicker basket and whitewall tires & white banana seat – Tiger stripes seat

Vintage banana seat bicycles for kids from 1969

Cheater Slick Dragster & Miss America I (1967/1968)

“CHEATER SLICK DRAGSTER” Cheater Slick rear tire. Green with chrome fenders. Glitter top saddle. Coaster brake, front hand brake. Malibu handlebars. Boys model. 40 lbs.

“MISS AMERICA I” A truly feminine bicycle with Malibu handlebars. Sparkling white frame with blue trim and chrome fenders. flowered basket. Glitter top banana saddle. Rear coaster brake. 20″ wheels with whitewall tires. Girls model only.

Vintage Huffy bikes for kids from 1968 (2)

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Old Schwinn Orange Krate, Apple Krate and Lemon Peeler bikes from 1968

Schwinn Orange Krate Apple Krate and Lemon Peeler bikes from 1968

Kids’ bikes from Sears: Introducing The Screamer (1968)

Sears went to the drag races… and came back with a new kind of bike.

At the drag races, you see cars like you see nowhere else. They’re the dream cars of people under 20. That gave Sears an idea. The idea for a bike you can really fall in love with. A bike that makes any other bike just a plain drag.

Now Sears is ready. The new bike is called The Screamer. It sure doesn’t look or rise like any bike Sears, Roebuck and Co. — or your son — ever had before. Tomorrow, let your boy check out The Screamer — one of the great collection of bikes — at the Sears Sports Center near you.

Kids' bikes from Sears Introducing The Screamer (1968)

Sears wheels out the first bike with a frame like a drag racer (1969)

The fastest cars in drag racing? Ask your son. He knows what they look like. Long, sloping frames. Huge rear tires. And a look like lightning.

That gave Sears an idea for a bike built the same way. The first one that would look like the real thing. Now Sears has it. The new Screamer.

It’s a wide-tired, low-slung, honest-to-drag-racing bike. And it’s like nothing else you’ll see this side of the drag strip.

Vintage banana seat bikes with a frame like a drag racer (1969)

Vintage 1969 Foremost Swinger bikes for boys and girls at JC Penney

Vintage 1969 Foremost Swinger vintage banana seat bikes for boys and girls at JC Penney

Sears Screamer bikes from ’69

Sears took a wheel from a racing car and put it on a hot new bike.

You’ve seen racing cars screaming flat out on the straightaways. They’re hot cars — and they look it. And that’s the kind of look a boy wants his bike to have.

Sears had an idea how to do it. They started from the ground up with a Mag Wheel designed like the ones you see on racers. The wide, flaring spokes whirl into a solid blur when you pour on the coal. That frame is a hot new Sears idea, too. It’s designed with the same low-slung, ground-hugging look of a racing car.

Ease back this stunt brake and do your thing. You’ll do it easier, too, because you can put just the right drag on the wheel. — You’ve never seen a bucket banana seat like this. It’s brand new and with rear and side reflectors built right in.

The road may be bumpy but you won’t feel it with these giant “shocks.” / Dig out fast! The cheater slick tire puts more rubber on the road. — That’s a Candy Apple paint job. Really sharp. Sears got the idea from the people who build custom cars.

Have your son test drive the Sears “Mag Wheel” Bike and all the other great bikes at the Sears Sports Center tomorrow. Or look in the Sears, Roebuck and Co. Catalog.

1969 Sears Screamer - Vintage banana seat bikes

Girls’ 20-inch vintage banana seat bikes: Sharp Spyder styling from their high-rise handlebars to the banana seats (1969-1970)

Single-speed Spyder: Gleaming chrome-plated fenders resist rust. Rear Cheater slick tire holds the road… Move out on this red, white and blue free spirit… Bike may be ordered with white woven vinyl basket with gaily-colored plastic flowers and leather bucket straps (basket from South Korea). 

Value model – price cut $1: A girls’ bike you accessorize the way you like… add a basket or radio. Blue metallic finish with white vinyl banana seat. Rear coaster brake. Chrome-plated support bar, handlebar.

Vintage banana seat bikes with baskets for girls 1969-1970 Sears catalog

Spyder 500 bike for kids (1970)

Sears invents the lightweight “Spyder 500.” It gets you there a whole lot faster. 

Choosing a bike used to be a tough decision for kids. Sears knows. They talked to hundreds of them. For hot styling, the Spyder was the favorite. For speed, the lightweight.

But now they don’t have to make that decision. Because Sears had an idea. An idea to take the things they like best about each kind of bike and put them together on a bike like there never was before. So Sears had a famous bicycle designer do just that.

And this is the bike. The “Spyder 500.” Butterfly bars, cheater slick tire, bucket banana seat on a lightweight racing bike that’s geared to get you where you’re going a whole lot faster. For anyone, from 7 to 17, it’s a whole new way to go.

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Spyder 500 bike for kids (1970)

Spyder 500 bikes for boys & girls from 1971

When Sears rolled out this baby, they rolled out a bike like there’s never been before. It’s got the hot Spyder styling. The bucket banana seat. The butterfly bars. And it goes like a lightweight racing bike.

Its 24-in. wheels, lightweight frame, cheater slick tire and 5-speed derailleur make it lightning fast. Dual brakes make it stop fast—and safely. One’s a caliper, the other a big drum brake like the kind on cars.

And to make night riding safer, Sears put safety reflectors all around. Even on the pedals. “Spyder 500.” See it in a Sears Sports Center. Or Sears, Roebuck and Co. Catalog. Bikes serviced at most Sears stores. Set-up available for a small charge.

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Sears Spyder 500 Bicycle from 1971

There’s a special “Spyder 500” for girls. With 1 or 5 speeds. In Raspberry, with daisy-covered seat and basket.

Sears Spyder 500 Bicycle for girls 1971

Boys’ 20-inch Spyder Bikes, with high-rise styling for high-spirited fun (1972)

Boys 20-inch Spyder bikes 1972

Girls’ 20-inch Spyder Bikes, with frames in high-flying colors (1972)

Your little girl will always have somewhere to go with this red, white and blue winner! Chrome-plated fenders, rims and sprockets add a gleaming touch. But this bike’s got a lot more going for it than good looks… check out the road-gripping rear cheater slick tire and the rear side-pull caliper handbrake.

And for even greater braking safety, there’s also a rear coaster brake for sure, smooth stops. Power chain guard looks sporty and protects her slacks, too. Support bar adjusts to six positions. Optional white vinyl basket with flowers. Basket from S. Korea. • Acrylic-finished frame • Deluxe 6-position support bar • Coaster and rear side-pull brake • Rear slick tire

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Dazzling raspberry acrylic-finished frame with chrome-plated fenders and rims. Rear drum brake and front caliper brake assure smooth stopping. Standard size sprockets and chain guard. Support bar. Optional white vinyl basket with flowers (from S. Korea). • Acrylic-finished frame • Quilted banana seat • Rear drum brake • Front caliper brake

Here’s a bright blue bike any little girl would love to own… chrome plated fenders and rims complement the lustrous enamel finish of the frame. Rear coaster brake for dependable stopping. Standard chain guard and sprockets. Blackwall tires. Support bar. Enamel-finished frame • Banana seat • Chrome-plated fenders • Rear coaster brake

Girls 20-inch Spyder bikes 1972

Vintage Huffy Dragster vintage banana seat bikes from the ’70s

Vintage Huffy 20 inch Dragster bike 1970s

Dragster III & Miss America III with glitter top banana saddles

DRAGSTER III:  T-Barstick shift controls 3 Speed rear hub. Malibu handlebars. Front and rear caliper handbrakes. Sunray Bronze color with chrome fenders. 20″ wheels with Red Band tires. Glitter top banana saddle. Boys model only. 

MISS AMERICA III: 3 Speed rear hub. Twist grip control on Malibu handlebars. Midnight Magenta frame with chrome fenders. Front and rear caliper handbrakes. 20″ wheels with whitewall tires. Glitter top banana saddle. Flowered basket. Girls model only.

Dragster III and Miss America III vintage bikes from 1967

Hiawatha – Best bike built! Drag Duster & Sports Bike (1970)

Sensational mod colors! What a look! Hi-rise back and racy low front, banana seat. Lemon-Lime and Flame Red finish. Drag action details — slick rear tire for squealing starts, sweeping chain cover, safe stop Bendix brakes. The newest, the raciest around!

Kids bicycles from 1970 - Drag Duster and Hiawatha bikes

The High-Low Vista Banana bike (early 1970s)

The newest, the wackiest, the most fun! A real gasser featuring s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d out front fork in gleaming chrome. Get the fun-feel of this bike which steers differently from any other! VISTA 20″ x 2.125″ Fastrack white sidewall balloon tire, rear; 16″ Chain Tread tire, front. Strong tubular rims.

The High-Low Vista Banana bike

Classic boys’ Pacer bike and girls’ Filly bike from 1970

Old boys' Pacer bike and girls' Filly vintage banana seat bikes from 1970

Western Auto bike for kids with a banana seat saddle (1970)

1970 Western Auto bike for kids with a banana seat saddle

Schwinn Hurricane 5 bike (1977)

Schwinn Hurricane 5 bike 1977

K-Mart Hardtail bike from 1980

K-Mart Hardtail vintage banana seat bikes from 1980

Strawberry Shortcake bike from the ’80s (1981-1984)

Strawberry Shortcake bike from the '80s

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3 Responses

  1. i had a purple banana seat bike with flowers on the seat and a fake muffler on the back and flowers on the basket. i got it for christmas in the 1970s and now i am 58 and can not find it anywheres. i would really like to see it again on go flying down our street one last time. it would be my dream of dreams

  2. In ’69 or ’70 Dad bought a bike for me that I see referred to here as a dragster, small pneumatic front tire, ape hanger’s or whatever all of our bicycles had in that time, a banana seat, a tall sissy-bar with matching slip-on headrest or pad, the back tire was a slick w/ those two water channels grooved into it. Now, this bike had NO gears, not even a 2-speed pedal box. This one was red, w/ a red glitter seat and I left it in the front yard one-night forgetting to put it away and of course, it was taken and guess what Dad was pissed! Lol. (If, anyone knows the bike I am describing I would love to know the maker/model. It seems like most of those types of bicycles all had more equipment on or crazy looking forks, or shocks, or geared in some way, not this one.

  3. This article was a true eye opener for me.
    The San Diego partners mentioned were the owners of the El Cajon (Schwinn) Bike Shop in City Heights. I first met them in 1968 and bought a Sting Ray that was modified and shown at the Community Concourse car shows in the early 70’s. That neighborhood was a true hot bed for custom bikes!
    Those influences still drive my bike designs today.
    Thanks Gene and Marion!
    And a big shout out to Mr. Lausten, the metal shop teacher at Wilson Jr. High (directly behind that bike shop). He was a crazy man, an awesome teacher and he welded up so many frames for me it wasn’t funny. I was truly fortunate to have landed into that area and to have met those fine gentlemen.

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