Need Help Restoring Schwinn Giraffe

I have a 6’ Schwinn Giraffe that I got as a gift back in the early 80’s. I was a teen at the time and rode it a lot. It has sentimental value for me so I want to make it ridable again. Over the years it rusted and was passed around the family. I’m ordering parts to restore it but need help with a couple of items.

If anyone can help then I would really appreciate it!

  1. I no longer have the spokes so I need to know the spoke length. I’m using the stock 20" rim and hub.

  2. I don’t know the lacing pattern. I need some close up photos of the wheel where I can make out the lacing. I tried google images but none of the photos are detailed enough.

  3. I no longer have the chain so I need to know the chain length and/or the number of links.


Welcome to the community. That is a cool project you are working on.

It seems like most of the questions you have are regarding how different things fit, and there is nothing better than measuring what you have to get the fit right. There may be stock answers to these questions, but I would measure.

One thing you may consider is swapping the rim for a standard 20" rim rather than using the original Schwinn S-7. It is hard, not impossible, to find tires for that size. I would look for a period rim that has the right number of holes for your hub.

As for your questions. Bike chain is available in set lengths, and almost always needs to be shortened. In some cases you need to use two chains put together, and then shortened to fit. I’m not sure if a single chain will work for a Schwinn Giraffe, but it may.

Spokes can be calculated if you measure your hub, and rim. I use a couple of different spoke calculators, but this one is easy to use. It lets you input your own measurements for odd hubs and rims. You can also figure out the lacing pattern and it will give you the length for whatever pattern you choose. I suspect the standard 3x pattern was used on the Schwinn.

Thanks for the advice. I spent a lot of time on another wheel building site and couldn’t come out with an easily available spoke length. It was helpful to look at the calculator at the link you posted.

From the pictures I could find, I think the wheel is laced at 2x. The spoke lengths I get from the 2 calculators are 198.8 and 197.5 for a 2x. 198 mm spokes seem to be harder to find, more expensive and mostly sold for road bikes. I can find 197 mm pretty easily and at a reasonable price. I might try those instead. Not too sure if 1 mm makes a difference or not…

If I go 3x, the spoke length is 211 mm and is easy to find. I had read that smaller wheels have fewer crosses for various reasons so I’m not sure if I would have problems doing a 3x. Any advice on that?

This morning I looked at my daughters 16 inch uni and it’s laced 2x with the same number of spokes. If I go 2x then I’ll use that wheel to work out the lacing. If I go 3x then I’ll use an online guide for it.

I figured out the math to measure the chain so if I can’t find it laying around the garage then I can buy/make one of the right length.

That leaves one new question I have about the tire. I had planned on buying a 20" white wall tire from but based on your advice I’m not sure now. What’s different about the stock rim on that Uni that makes it hard to find a tire?

Back in the day Schwinn had proprietary tire sizes (s5, s6, s7). The numbers seem like modern sizes, but they fit a slightly different size rim, and are incompatible with what became the standard sizes. The Schwinn 20x1 3/4 is a different size than the more common 20x1.75. What matters most is the bead seat diameter (BSD). S7 20" tires have a BSD of 419mm, and standard 20" tires have a BSD of 406mm. Any tire that has the right BSD will work on any rim with the same BSD.

As spokes get shorter you generally go with fewer cross, but 3x is still very acceptable for a 20" wheel, in fact is most common. If you have a very large flange hub it can severely alter the spoke angle so that it is not aligned to the hole in the rim. in that case fewer x’s fixes the problem. Also, if the flange on the hub is really low it can cause spokes to cross over the heads of other spokes, and again fewer x’s will fix it. 3x builds a stronger wheel, but that’s probably more theoretical with a 20" since it’s very strong already due to its small size.

Do you have 36 spokes, or is it 28 like the Schwinn uni hubs? 28 is hard to find in a standard rim, but they are out there.

I have the 28. I think I got the unicycle somewhere around 1980-82.

I did some more tire research based on your advice and found an S7 white-wall and bought it. It was easier to find than a new rim. I don’t have a personal preference on lacing but I do want to keep the cost down. Spokes seem to vary significantly in price. I’m still unsettled on what to buy but I want to get all of my parts ordered by the end of this weekend.

Where are you buying your spokes? If you buy them individually they are expensive but not if you buy them bulk.

That’s a good point about the spoke cost. Unless I have a customer needing new spokes asap I order mine from They have Sapim stainless spokes for .25/spoke w/nipple. I usually buy enough for two or more wheels, so it puts me into the free shipping category.

Still, for single spokes I can get them in town for .50/piece and nipples for .1/piece. So a total of .60 a piece. Not a great price, but not prohibitive. These are straight gauge DT stainless.

I recently bought a package of 50 293mm Wheelsmith spokes from an ebay vendor for $44 (with shipping). You can probably find shorter ones cheaper than that. Just offering the info for comparison.

I guess 60 cents a spoke w/nipple is a pretty good deal after all. That would be 50 spokes for $30 plus tax since it’s local. Did your Wheelsmith spokes come with nipples?

You may be able to find some vintage NOS Schwinn spokes if you look around. They were “rustless” A.K.A “galvanized”. If you can find them you may be able to get a good price since they are hardly rare. I think Schwinn required all of their dealers to stock certain inventory based on the square footage of the shop. So, many shops had a full supply of spokes and other small parts that didn’t get used much.

No, I had to look up the order, but I bought the nipples separate for $20. Not such a good deal I guess. This was my first wheel build, so I was kind of “flying blind.” (I also splurged and bought a little jar of the spoke prep as well. Since that little jar is probably good for a thousand spokes, that will be a lifetime supply!)

I wanted to post some follow up details in the event that someone else is looking for the same info later.

I finished building my wheel yesterday and it turned out great. I ordered spokes from Dans Comp on the advice of someone here earlier. The spokes came the next day and were very affordable. I spent about $12 for 30 spokes (2 extras). Based on numbers from wheel spoke calculators found on the web, I bought 198 mm spokes. I would still recommend that anyone who needs to build/re-build a wheel should use one of the calculators with their numbers. If your numbers hover between 197 and 198 for this uni then go with 198. It worked well for me.

I’m just about finished with my build. I’ve run everything over the buffer and I’m just waiting on a tire and need to order a chain. I’m looking forward to riding this again soon and watching my kids ride it one day.

It will be cool to see some photo’s, or maybe a vid of you riding it, when it’s done. I know uni’s have come a long way since the early '80’s, but I have a soft spot for Schwinn’s. I grew up in Chicago.

I was out of town so didn’t see this thread until now:

Not recommended, unless you want to be as authentic as possible. The original stock spokes would turn grey pretty fast, just like the seat post. Mine were upgraded to stainless long ago.

Looks like you stuck with the original rim. It’s a good, strong rim; the only problem will be finding tires. I think they may fade away over the years as that size gets more and more out of date. I still have one or two spare “Schwinn Unicycle” whitewalls, but I’m going to hang onto those. Also they’re over 30 years old, so a new tire would be much better for actual riding.

You’ll need something longer than a standard bike chain which has, in my experience, meant buying two chains (then shortening). Once upon a time I found a pair of chrome ones, which I still have on there. Let me know if you still need a photo of the spoke pattern.

Did I hear 2 Chainz?