Rare Schwinn Gladiator Restoration




Introduction: Rare Schwinn Gladiator Restoration

Hello everyone! A couple weeks ago I was using this weird thing called the Schwinn Gladiator that my uncle gave to me a year or two ago. It was an ugly, sun beaten yellow... thing... Anyways all of the nuts, bolts, and spokes were pretty rusty. So I decided it was time to not only repair it, but make is everything is was before and more.

Step 1: Why I Started This Project

So me and my brother were out in the front yard riding all around when suddenly the back rubber tire blew and the fork screeched across the ground. It was then I realized that it was time for a make-over.

Step 2: Taking It Apart

First off, you are going to want to take all pieces off down to only the body and front suspension. All wheels, nuts, bolts, rubber stoppers, and handlebars should be take off. There is also a front medallion that should be taken off. It has double sided tape holding it on so you have to get all of the residue off as well. Be sure that all pieces are separated by what they went to. i.e. the back axle and pieces should go together while the front tire should be kept in its own pile.

Step 3: Getting the Rust Off

Get some plastic water bottles and cut the top portions off so that it resembles a cup. Fill the "cups" halfway up with vinegar and put the separated pieces in them. Back axle configuration pieces go into one and front tire go into another etc. You know what I mean. Let the pieces sit in the vinegar over night. Then take a dremel and take off all of the rust residue.

Step 4: Stickers

There are stickers that were there for 20+ years. You could imagine that they were pretty hard to get off. Anyways, take a blowtorch and heat the stickers and then, while hot, take a sticker remover (the kind that attaches to a drill) and rub it off. Note: I am not responsible for any injuries or property damages coming from the use of the blowtorch. Use at your own risk.

Step 5: Primer

Now that the stickers are off, you can now spray some primer on the frame. Let it sit over night so you can handle it. Be sure to tape off the suspension and holes for the handlebars with some painters tape. Don't forget the handlebars! Make sure you take the grips off before you do so.

Step 6: Front Wheel

In the meantime, you can work on the front spokes. take the tube and tire off and then spray the spokes with WD-40. This cleaned the surface rust right off. After it has sat a bit, take a toothbrush, some q-tips, and a rag and clean up the spokes. The tire itself was fine but the inner tube was not. If you need to replace both, do so. Just make sure you have the dimensions right.

Step 7: Back Wheels

As you may recall from an earlier step, one of the back wheels blew out. After we took the axles out we realized that the bearing were shot. Unfortunately after visiting about 5 skate/bike shops, we couldn't find any in these dimensions. Save yourself the time and look them up on ebay. They are cheaper here. Since they were shot we just banged them off after the new ones arrived we put some scooter wheels from an old push scooter on and they work even better than before. In line skate wheels will also work but will wear down way faster than scooter wheels.

Step 8: Foot Pads

The plastic foot pads that we had were very sun beaten and worn. We used a 2 part plastic cleaner and plastic polish to bring the shine out of them. Do this while they are still off of the frame.

Step 9: Painting

Now it is time to paint! We used 2X from rust-oleum and it is working great. After you tape the suspension, I suggest hanging it by a chain from a rope outside or something like that (the pictures or of it hanging in the garage, we didn't paint it there, we attached a chain to the tape and hung it from a rope). This will make sure you can see all sides and have no sticking of paint to whatever you set the frame on. We pounded a piece of rebar into the ground and slid it into the side of the handlebars. You now have a 360 degree view of both the handlebars and frame. Make sure you use more than one coat and don't let it sit in the sun. This will make the paint crackle and look like the desert floor. Try to do it in the shade or when it is cooler outside. After you let the paint sit overnight, spray a couple coats of clear coat over and let it sit for a day or two. After this, you should start putting everything back together.

Step 10: Handle Bar Extension

This step is optional. When you ride the gladiator normal, and you are tall, you are very hunched over the top of the handlebars making it slightly uncomfortable. We bought a handlebar extension which makes it a bit taller making it more comfortable.

Step 11: Brakes

When my uncle gave me the gladiator, it had no front brakes. It has the bar for them, but no brakes none the less. We bough a bike brake kit and put that on and it works great. You used to stop by pulling up on the handlebars to use the rubber stoppers in the back. Not gonna lie, they sucked. It was actually easier to use your foot, than to use the rubber stoppers. Put the brake lever on before the handlebar grips. After that, we had to cut the cord a little bit. The brake kit was meant for a bike so it was pretty long. Leave enough so that you can twist the handlebars 2 times in both directions without getting in the way. Adjust the brakes to make sure you don't flip over the handlebars. It is very hard to flip but it can happen so better safe than sorry.

Step 12: Finishing Touches

Now you can put on some grips. we went with red and black theme and found some Schwinn grips that were red and black. Talk about lucky. Also, put some double sided tape on the inside of the medallion we talked about earlier and stick it back on. Feel free to add anything to personalize your ride. Color, grips, and handlebars are just a few things that you can change.

Step 13: Finished

Now you have something that stands out from all of the rest. Gladiators are becoming more rare all of the time. If you find one for cheap take it! By all means take it. These cool scooter/bike hybrids were only made for a short time in 1990. I traveled to about 5 or 6 different bike shops and none of them have ever seen or even hear of a Schwinn Gladiator. That was pretty cool. If you find one in nice condition I suggest not modifying it. If ours wasn't rotted and rusted we would have left it the way that it was. Whenever I ride this anywhere I always catch people looking about it and talking with their friends about it. Definitely stands out from a normal push scooter.

I hoped you enjoyed my instructable! If you have any questions or comments please leave them in the comments. Also another subscriber wouldn't hurt. I will be posting another project in the near future so be on the lookout. Thank you for reading!

Fix & Repair Contest

Participated in the
Fix & Repair Contest

Be the First to Share


    • Rice & Grains Challenge

      Rice & Grains Challenge
    • Puzzles Challenge

      Puzzles Challenge
    • Lamps Challenge

      Lamps Challenge



    5 years ago

    What size rear wheels did you use? I see several sizes listed on eBay, ie 100mm, 110mm, 120mm, 125mm, etc. Also, would metal core wheels hold up better that plastic?


    Reply 5 years ago

    110 mm are too big. Just won't fit at all. 100 are probably too big. The original wheels measure about 62 to 63 mm.


    6 years ago

    nice upgrade. I just picked one up in excellent condition and I will be looking into replacing the rear wheel with larger pneumatic ones to use on trails for joring. Joring is any sport where a dog is harnessed to pull you. I want my dog to learn the commands while pulling the scooter so she knows what to do this winter when I'm on my skis. I'm looking at placing an axle across the two brackets and adding six inch or so wheels. Advice welcome. Thanks


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Very nicely done. The finished bike-thing (?) looks great!


    8 years ago

    reminds me of a pallet jack, but nice work


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Ha ha! I thought the same thing!

    I used to work in warehouse when I was younger, and we'd have daily races with the pallet jacks. OSHA did not approve. Fun times!