In 1962, Schwinn’s designer Al Fritz heard about a new youth trend centered in California for retrofitting bicycles with the accoutrements of motorcycles customized in the “bobber” or “chopper” style, including high-rise, “ape-hanger” handlebars and low-rider “banana seats”. Inspired, he designed a mass-production bike for the youth market known as Project J-38. The result, a wheelie bike, was introduced to the public as the Schwinn Sting-Ray in June 1963. It had ape-hanger handlebars, banana seat and 20-inch tires. Sales were initially slow, as many parents desiring a bicycle for their children did not find the Sting-Ray appealing in the least. However, after a few appeared on America’s streets and neighborhoods, many young riders would accept nothing else, and sales took off. By 1965, a host of American and foreign manufacturers were offering their own version of the Sting-Ray.
The Schwinn Bicycle Company was founded by German-born mechanical engineer Ignaz Schwinn (1860–1945) in Chicago in 1895. It became the dominant manufacturer of American bicycles through most of the 20th century. After declaring bankruptcy in 1992, it has since been a sub-brand of Pacific Cycle, owned by the multi-national conglomerate, Dorel Industries.