No, they were 120mm/5-speed in 1971. They usually came with gunmetal-colored Regina Extra freewheels and chains; the gold Oro units were an upgrade--but in 5-speed only. I worked in a busy Schwinn shop in a very active cycling region during that era and sold quite a few Paramounts of all models. (I rode and raced them a lot also--a very nice road bike (P-13) overall, but not so hot for twisty criteriums; the track models were good for American outdoor tracks with gentle banking too.)
I don't know when factory (road) Paramounts began using 125mm/6-speeds, but would be really surprised if it was before 1978-79, or even later. I recall that Schwinn came to six cogs somewhat later than most Italian bikes imported in those years and the Italian makes were 5-speed/120mm until about 1975-76. I also recall spreading quite a few Paramounts' rear ends and rebuilding rear wheels to accept 125mm wheels, both used and newly bought around 1977 and later. This was from customer's requests to use the latest stuff from Europe. During that time (ca 1976-79) in neutral race service for the American amateur racing scene, one had to arrange for 5-speed versus 6-speed wheels. Prior to that it was all 120mm/5-speed, so no problems swapping wheels with anyone. By 1980, the change to 125mm was near-universal (but then you had the standard-6 versus narrow-7 issue to worry about.) On the touring scene, beginning in the late 1970s, many riders kept their 120mm hubs and rode the very popular SunTour Ultra-6 narrow spaced freewheels to avoid having to spread the frame and rebuild the wheel. Still, by the early '80s I think it was pretty hard to find any high-quality racing or touring bike production that hadn't shifted to 126mm. Having more than five rear cogs was seen as desirable by nearly everyone.
Anyway, I suspect Schwinn (and Raleigh too) would have happily stayed with five speeds, but the market kept changing. Unlike the Paramounts of the late 1960s and early 1970s, by mid-decade Schwinn management seemed increasingly out of touch with current industry offerings and rider desires. After selling like hotcakes in the early '70s, it became harder to sell Paramounts as they weren't in vogue by the mid-70s. Many more European brands were arriving in the US and the Paramounts looked a little "stodgy" by then. And by the late 1970s many high quality Japanese frames started showing up in shops too, and for a lower cost. Also, compared to the early 1970s when Paramounts, Peugeot PX-10, and Raleigh Pro and Internationals were about it in most US regions, by the late 1970s there were ~many~ more high-end shops and mail-order firms and the cyclist had a much wider choice of high-quality bikes and parts to choose from. Also, by 1980 there were getting to be quite a few very good US framebuilders, so Paramount wasn't the only domestic quality frame. Obviously, those ten years saw profound change in American cycling. As to Paramounts, I think things turned around at the Waterford operation in the mid-80s, but by that time I was in a different shop so can't really speak to that.
At any rate, if pressed, my guess would be that factory Paramounts switched over to 125mm/6 speeds no earlier than 1978--but in 1971 it was always 120mm.
Bill Bryant Santa Cruz, California
> Shouldn't a 1971 Paramount have the rear dropouts spaced for a five speed
> freewheel--say about 125 mm?
> paul patzkowsky, Longmont CO