If you grew up in the 1970s, a bike was a must. Not just any bike would do, however. If you wanted to be a cool kid, you needed a banana seat bike. These bikes were the kid equivalent of motorcycles and muscle cars. According to the Chicago Tribune, banana seat bikes were a kid-inspired phenomenon. Kids on the west coast were the first to start tricking out their bikes with handlebars and seats that resembled what you would typically find on a chopper-style motorcycle.
According to Wikipedia, Peter Mole of John T Bill & Co was the first to try to get bicycle manufacturers on board with the new trends. Mole contacted Huffy Corp in 1962 and convinced them to produce a bicycle that Mole called the High Rise. The High Rise had a banana seat, strut and tall handlebars. Huffy began manufacturing the bike in 1963. They called it the Penguin.
Around the same time that Huffy’s Penguin hit stores across the country, Al Fritz a designer with Huffy competitor, Schwinn, designed the Schwinn Sting-Ray, according to Wikipedia. It had ape hanger handlebars, a banana seat with sissy bar, and small wheels. These features came to be typical banana seat bike features. According to the Chicago Tribune, the Sting-Ray cost $49.95 when it went to market in 1963.
Sales were slow at first, but Schwinn stuck with the bike line and by 1965, they had a hit on their hands, according to Wikipedia. The bikes had become so popular that knock-offs from other manufacturers began flooding the market. Though other companies such as Sears and Raleigh tried to cash in on the market that the Sting-Ray opened up, the Sting-Ray remained king of the banana seat bike scene, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Banana seat bikes remained popular for a whole decade until they were edged out by BMX bikes, according to the Chicago Tribune. Another factor in the decline of banana seat bikes was the implementation of safety regulations that prohibited bike companies from making bikes with some of the features that were signature banana seat bike features such as crossbar-mounted shifters, as explained by the Chicago Tribune.