The year is 1994, and the newly formed Schwinn Cycle & Fitness is getting serious about building serious bikes again. Some of the world's best MTB, BMX, Vert and Flatland riders are being hired, but as far as the racing world was concerned, that iconic headbadge contained a huge oxymoron- Schwinn Quality. Undaunted, Team Schwinn led by the inimitable Foster bothers, started winning and winning big- on frames most would consider barely adequate for the intermediate ranks. Enter the lean and mean design team of ‘Schwinn’s Second Century’.
Design work on the ENF. began in spring of 1994 and continued through July in time to get the bike ready for its introduction at Interbike in the fall of 1994. Though his first BMX frame design, working with geometry provided by Product Manager Mark Pippin, Product Engineer Rich Adams knew where he wanted to go. Borrowing from their work on the new Homegrown MTB’s, he knew it would be aluminum (of course), so he spec’d a huge over-sized 50.8mm downtube for stiffness with tons of overlap at the headtube for strength, he included Schwinn’s newly patented Epicenter Stays for maximum braking power, and as Anodizing Inc., the company contracted to produce the frames for the ENF. (and several other Homegrown models) was famous for their custom aluminum extrusions, he designed an industry first one-piece bottom bracket/chainstay bridge- the ENF.’s standout feature. This unique approach served to reduce weight and increase strength, in addition to reducing production time.
Sold only as a Frame/Fork/Aheadset/Stem combo and advertised as “Pro sized” with a 21.25” TT and 15.5” chainstays, Schwinn’s new flagship BMX won the AMA Bike of the Year Award in 1995 and Brian Foster won Rider of the Year astride it. The earliest 1995 frames received larger black SCHWINN downtube decals and block lettering for the ENF. decal and blue details, transitioning into the standard red downtube script and stylized ‘cuneiform’ ENF. script somewhere before frame #236.
Stress testing during ongoing development would soon discover a failure point in the joint where the two-piece seatstays joined at the tubular yoke. The designers solved this by welding two small triangular gussets where the yoke met the stays, but this would have not been cost effective during actual production. The solution? Another extrusion would be used to replace the tubular monostay and this both increased strength and simplified production. This change was late enough in the 1996 model run to appear to have only made it into production on the last ~130 frames produced (all cruisers, so far). One 20" prototype (PRO sized) frame has been found with the extruded bridge.
1996-99 Pro Modifieds
Although the 1996 Schwinn brochure still listed the ENF, it appears all 1996 frames shipped with Pro Modified decals. 1996 models included the unchanged ENF frame (now called the PRO XL), a confusingly named PRO model with a shorter 20.25" top tube found it's way into the line mid year, with 24” cruiser production entering very late in the run.
Several minor design changes were implemented for the 1997-99 models. The brake cable guides received welds on all four sides, the seatstays became a single tube looped into a 'U' shape (previous stays were two separate pieces joined in the middle) and a small gusset was added at the top tube-headtube junction. Two versions of the 1997 sales literature exist- a small pamphlet offering what amounts to ENF. frames with tubular yokes and no TT gusset, and a larger version illustrating the finalized frames with the gusset, extruded monostay, the 20.5” TT PRO model and the Cruiser models, which also featured a 21.25 TT. The 1997 models would become the only USA sourced BMX completes Schwinn would produce, available in the traditional Buffed finish and the new Black Anodized. For 1998 and 1999 the Pro Modified line was once again relegated to frame only available in Schwinn's famous Bass Boat Red or Cream (the Wuler-sourced 1 ¼” legged 4130 fork was now available separately). The PRO model with the 20.5" TT is now called the 'Junior' and a true Mini frame with a euro BB and 1" headtube is added.
The four models would continue into 2000-2001 with a redesign of the bottom bracket extrusion and extruded chainstays and seatstays which now blended smoothly into the "Ram Air" seatystay extrusion, and in keeping with the 'Signature Frames' theme of the rest of the Schwinn line are now called the "Matt Pohlkamp Pro Modified". Additionally an XXL model is added with longer chainstay and TT lengths of 15.8" and 21.5" (respectively) due to Matt's personal preference for the longer frames. Despite these updates, the basic geometry of the ENF/Pro Modified line would remain the same from 1995-2001.
Identification and Production Estimates
Exact production numbers are unknown, but it is estimated that total production of ENF. frames was approximately 1000 units for each of the 1995 and 1996 calendar years. This estimate is based on the recollection of the original design team members and is backed up by the format of the 1995 serial numbers, which allowed for a maximum of 999 units, and serial numbers as high as 967 have been found. The new format adopted in 1996 reflects the projected increase in sales, allowing for a maximum of 9999 units and serial numbers as high as 1029 have been discovered.
Don’t know quite what you have? First step is to determine if you have a USA frame or an import. If your 20” has round chainstays and the extruded bottom bracket with the large rectangular hole it is a USA built frame, if it is a forged BB with a round drilled hole it is an imported frame. Most (though not all) USA frames will have a serial number stamped inside the left rear dropout. Some will not however- it is still unclear what these unstamped frames represent.
The second step is that serial. The format is pretty straightforward-
1995: 95 B 01###
1999: (unknown as of the time of this writing)
The first two digits are the year of production, B denotes Anodizing Inc. (or A.I.’s code for Schwinn- indeterminate at this time) and 01/30 appears to indicate BMX. Note also that sales projections for the 1997 models appear to have been less optimistic than the other years- this is possibly a reflection of the near doubling in the price of the bikes when sold as competes- $750 for a Pro Mod 2 with one piece cranks or $999 for the Pro Modified 1 with 180mm Profile cranks and Whippet chainring vs. $399 for the ENF. as a F/F only, $430 cruiser.
Tentative suppositions at this point-
1996 PRO frame serials end in suffix 'A'
1997 PRO frame includes 'A' after BX
1997 cruiser frame includes 'B' after BX
A special note of thanks to Rich Adams for all his gracious help and cooperation in helping sort all this out.
Submitted by ChattyMatty