The 1970 - 1976 5 speed SUBURBAN is a fantastic bicycle!
1977 saw the introduction of FFS.
The ten speed SUBURBANS are very good but not as good as the 5 speed model.
The five speed has a Shimano built rear derailleur (GT-100 on 1970 thru Feb '74 and GT-120 on 1974 on) and the five speed has the superior Shimano built Model J freewheel.
The 10 speed SUBURBAN has the same exact French .(model F) freewheel as the Continental & Varsity, and the same inferior Huret Allvit rear derailleur, unless you were lucky enough to get a Varsity or Suburban 10 speed that was built on a day that the Chicago plant's production line was out of Allvits, so they substituted the superior Shimano built rear derailleur of the 5 speed Suburban & '70-'77 Collegiate.
The ten speed SUBURBAN was essentially an UPGRADED Varsity Tourist model.
Last year of the Varsity Tourist model was 1969.
The Suburban was introduced in 1970.
Intitially you had 5 speed, 10 speed & 3 speed SUBURBAN models.
The 3 speed was discontinued after 1971.
They may have slapped the Suburban name again on a ordinary 3 speed near the Chicago end as they did with the Collegiate name, but Suburbans were 5 speeds and 10 speeds, and also in '70 & '71 only you could get a 3 speed.
The reason that the SUBURBAN was an UPGRADE over the VARSITY is because the SUBURBANS have the tubular front fork that the Schwinn Continental has. While the Continental has center pull brakes, the Suburban uses the same L.S. 2.4 Weinmann sidepulls as the Varsity but with the Continental's front fork.
Geometry of the Suburban frame is exactly the same as the Varsity & Continental.
There is absolutely no geometry & ride difference once you swap the seats and swap the drop bars for 7881 tourist handlebars & weinmann tourist levers. The tubular front fork of the Continentals & Suburbans is lighter than the blade front fork that the Varsity, Collegiate and other common Schwinns have.
Yes, you'll notice that the SUBURBAN has large flange wheels, while the Varsity doesn't but in my opinion that this does absolutely nothing to change the ride quality.
The Ashtabula blade fork is perfectly fine too. Anyone who has ridden a 1970 - 1977 COLLEGIATE can attest that is probably Schwinn's all-time best riding and most practical bicycle from a gear range perspective.
The wider (37-597) and smaller 597mm (26 x 1 3/8 597mm) wheel & tire offer a Cadillac ride while at the same time the '70-'77 Collegiate (five speed) has superior low gear hill climbing than the Varsity/Continental and 10 speed Suburban.
The 1964 -1969 Collegiate has awful hill climbing as it has the same French made (14-28) freewheel as the late sixties and seventies Varsity & Continentals . The Japanese made (14-32) freewheel that the 1970 - 1977 Collegiate and the 1970 - 1976 Suburban 5 speed has IS THE PERFECT UPGRADE FOR ANY Varsity, Continental, 10 speed Suburban, or sixties era Collegiate. You will significantly improve hill climbing ability, but you must employ a Japanese rear derailleur as the European rear derailleurs will not be capable of shifting the 32 teeth first gear cog, they can't reliably shift anything beyond 28 teeth.
The 1970 - 1977 COLLEGIATE and the 1970 - 1976 Schwinn SUBURBAN 5 speed are the best bicycles that Schwinn ever made in my opinion.
The only bad things that you can say about SUBURBAN 5 speeds of 1970 -1976 are that the paint colors offered during certain years are not nearly as attractive as those offered in certain years and/or same years on Varsity/Collegiate other models.
The decals/graphics on for example a '72 Suburban Campus Green colored bike will nearly disappear or seem to disappear into the paint. The chainguard decals and the front fork decals on Suburban models have always been ugly when compared to the bike boom era Collegiates, Breezes, Speedsters. Because the Suburban was targeted at a more mature adult consumer, Schwinn probably didn't concern themselves with that issue. The other thing that I dislike is only on 1974 Suburban five speeds. I do not like the thumb shifter on the 1974 five speed. I like the (S) schwinn stik stem shifter. 1975 model saw the return on the (S) schwinn stik on the stem. That isn't a big deal because its easy to change. I also find that the tall plastic rectangular rear fender reflectors that are seen on 1974 and later Collegiates & Suburbans are UGLY when compared to the round rear fender reflector that sits on that metal bezel.
I do find that the schwinn model 7881 handlebars that the Suburbans, Collegiates,Breezes etc., came with from 1967 through 1977 are the finest tourist handlebars that Schwinn or anyone else ever offered in my opinion.
The Suburban's Deluxe Mattress Saddle is an extremely comfortable seat, though it weighs nearly five pounds. The only Schwinn tourist seat that is more comfortable in my opinion is the BLACK rubberized vinyl Messinger T-85 spring seat which came on the 1971 and later Collegiate. Those older "cool" looking two-tone 'S' seats are horrible in comparison to those two Schwinn seats that I just mentioned.
The SUBURBAN has probably the best tourist style (ordinary pedals) pedals that any Schwinn bike ever had. (those GERMAN made "BOW PEDALS" with reflectors). Great pedals in my opinion from a tourist style riders" standpoint.
It is simple enough to as the old Burger King ads stated, back when Chicago Schwinn was king and inflation and gasoline prices were a serious concern---Have It Your Way............just like the groovin Isley Brothers said in their 1969 smash hit, Its Your Thing Do Whatcha Wanna Do...
That is perhaps the coolest thing is that by mixing and matching only very slightly from different year SCHWINN models, one can build a fantastic rider that suits them perfectly. Personally, I hate the two tone 'S' seats that are seen on many sixties era Schwinns and I hate the chainguard style that the COLLEGIATE/SUBURBAN got from about 1975 on. See the chainguards used on 1972 & 1973 and earlier Collegiates/Suburbans and compare with 1975 & 1976 and later.
Some people love the two tone seats and those other chainguards, and that is a great thing. Do it your way. Life would be boring if everyone's bicycles looked exactly the same.
SUBURBANS and seventies era Collegiate 5 speeds are superb bicycles that too many often overlook because they aren't valuable from a collector's standpoint even though they are great riders. Really, any 1967 or later Varsity/Continental/and '64-69 Collegiate can be a great rider WITH CERTAIN UPGRADES from the Schwinn parts bin.
Don't forget that if you stick the tubular front fork from a Continental on to a Varsity, you have an instant SUBURBAN 10 speed.
Upgrade the VARSITY/CONTINENTAL & '64-'69 Collegiate AND the 10 speed Suburban WITH the FREEWHEEL FROM THE 1970-1977 Collegiate & 1970 - 1976 Suburban 5 speed , and you WILL HAVE A GREAT BIKE. Just remember that you'll need the Japanese rear derailleur (GT-100 or GT-120, or something from Maeda SUNTOUR or a SHIMANO model..)
The step-Thru Womens models of electroforged Schwinn lightweights are great choices for older and middle-aged men.
They came in three different frame sizes during the bike-boom era of the seventies (17), (19), (21).
The 19 and 21 inch sizes will accomodate most men. The 19 inch will work well for men under 5'-11" and the 21 inch will work for most men under 6'-2" inches tall.
You may have to get a longer 13/16" seatpost than the stock nine inch post, but because of the Sting-Ray banana seat bikes, you have 14 inch seat posts and WALD makes several NEW replacement seat posts in several lengths greater than 10 and 12 inches that you can get.
No joke, the old ancient 19 inch womens frame is Bigger than the new men's frames that you'll find today at Walmart & Target.
The 21 inch womens step thru frames on SUBURBANS/VARSITIES/COLLEGIATES etc are a lot bigger than the men's frames that you'll find at Walmart & Target and other big box stores.
Guess what, the build quality of those old ancient Chicago Schwinn electroforged lightweight models were the best in the world. You'll have no worries about possible weld failures or frame cracks. You can't say that for a same era AMF, Columbia, Murray, Huffy, Iverson, etc..
The other thing that many folks fail to realize is that you can build many things around either a Diamond or Step Through electroforged lightweight Schwinn frame. You can fit a very wide wheel on such a frame without too much difficulty.
You can build one helluva coaster brake beach cruiser if you want to.
These old frames come in so many large sizes that you cannot find in the cantilever framed models.
So don't pass by those old VARSITIES-CONTINENTALS/SUBURBANS/COLLEGIATES/ etc that you see at the dump or curbside on trash day because you might realize that that you may want to build a project around that larger frame size that is more comfortable for you as a 68 year old adult today than the same cantilever framed model that you and Opie Taylor once rode as eight year olds back in the sixties. I'm sure that you could go to town with a welder if you wanted to get that nostalgic goofball howdy-dooty custom tank look, with light and horn and idiotic springer helper front end if you wanted to.
If you have the ability to weld, and you can dream it up, then why the hell not? You might have fun building something large enough for you as an adult today that looks almost like what you rode when you were 8 years old and half a foot shorter and 150 pounds lighter. One of those old Suburban/Varsity etc frames would offer the great starting point for welding/cutting/customizing to build a rather large size howdy-dooty type bike with cantilever and tank, lights etc.
Schwinn built everything really heavy and solid back in the day.
The ride quality was and still is extremely nice on these ancient bikes.
Schwinn engineers knew something about how a basic bike should ride, even though they never figured out how to make a true lightweight bicycle. Bombproof durability and a quality ride, so you can really say that two out of three things sure ain't bad.