Classic & Vintage - Another Game of "Name That Schwinn"!
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Hello everyone, I need some help.
I recently became the owner of a Schwinn road bike. I'm hoping to use it for commuting once it's fixed up. I've done some searching around, but have yet to find out exactly what type of Schwinn it is. I just read about the serial number possibly being located on the handlebar stem, however I've yet to look it up. I have written down a slew of other information off the bike though, which will hopefully help with identification.
The Chain and Freewheels, and Rear Derailleur are labeled "SunTour Honor 4532", "Maede Industries Ltd. Japan".
The Brake Levers are labeled "Dia-Compe Schwinn Approved".
The Brake Shoes themselves are labeled "compe" as well.
The Brake Assembly near the Tires is labeled "Type LS 2.4".
The back of the Seat has a metal tag labeled "Schwinn Approved Comfort Form".
The Tires are labeled "27 x 1 and 1/4" and "32 - 030".
Of course a picture is worth a million words, so here are some pictures of her. She's got a fair amount of rust all around the frame and wheels. The paint has began to peel a bit. One brake lever, as you can see, has fallen off. The brakes are stiff and unresponsive. The handlebar foam is torn up and old. It needs new tires and tubes as well. But, otherwise it's great. I'm hoping to take her apart and clean her up as best as possible soon.
Well, what do you think? Any clues as to her identity? Will she work for an 8 mile commute once she's fixed?
Thanks for the help,
05-10-07, 05:15 AM
That's a Varsity. Chicago electroforged frame, sidepull brakes, one-piece crank, steel handlebars and stem, steel wheels. It's a very sturdy but also very heavy bike. In my opinion, it's a fine bike for an 8-mile commute. I bet it didn't cost you a lot, so fewer worries about leaving it chained up while you're working. I like the color, don't think it's original.
Unless it's raining. The steel wheels when wet have almost no braking power. If you have the presence and intensity to keep this in mind when it's wet (that is, if you always remember to apply the brakes very early) and if there aren't too many hills or other stops, you might get by without getting hurt. Aluminum wheels would be a worthwhile upgrade. Better stopping when wet and would also make a big difference during acceleration.
I recall from owning a Varsity as a kid that the shifter cables frayed at the stem controls. Maybe you could shape the cable channels there with a fine file or just keep an eye on it & keep it lubed.  now i remember that it's the cable runs and derailleur that i should've lubed, too much force is what did the cables in.
Enjoy the Schwinn. I was privileged to have several as a kid. I have re-experienced the pleasure by recently getting a Schwinn Speedster 3-speed which I commute to work on and use for other short rides. My commute is short and mostly through low-traffic zones, but still, forgetting to brake early in the rain has had me close to doing myself damage at least once. Don't know of a source for aluminum Schwinn 26" wheels. Finding 27" wheels will be easier.
Have fun, --Rich
05-10-07, 10:46 AM
...or swap the wheels w/ some 700's...looks like there is enough "adjustment" in the brakes...lighter wheels and more tire choices.
Replace the brake cables, brake pads (KoolStop salmon), and rims (aluminum). If you want to invest a bit more, replace the cranks and pedals, using an Ashtabula - to - Euro adaptor bottom bracket.
05-10-07, 11:32 AM
Look for the serial number on the head tube, below the badge. That should tell you the year.
05-10-07, 05:22 PM
Regarding a replacement brake lever. The old Schwinn handlebars are smaller diameter than most I think. 7/8" (BMX size?) instead of 1" I think. You'll need the proper clamp diameter on a replacement brake lever. If you have a bike co-op that has more old parts than bikes to put them on, or a bike shop that has a bunch of old stuff, you might be able to get a replacement for next to nothing. Not the 'Main Street' bike shop, I'm thinking the guy with the garage packed full of old stuff & he parks bikes on his lawn on days he's open. Not sure if you even could buy anything new in that clamp diameter.
Here are links to articles written by Master Mechanic Sheldon Brown, and by Tom Shaddox (professional bike reporter?) and Marc Muller who was an engineer or something at Schwinn-Chicago back in the day (?). When I was a kid, Schwinns like yours were the 'genuine article' for the biking masses, shops were everywhere and they were not too expensive and far far better than the Huffys and Murrays, etc., from dept. stores. And 'real bikers' hung there too for the Paramounts.
05-10-07, 10:21 PM
Regarding a replacement brake lever. The old Schwinn handlebars are smaller diameter than most I think. 7/8" (BMX size?) instead of 1" I think.
It's not a Schwinn issue, it's a steel vs aluminum issue.
Steel bars are 7/8" (22.2 mm), while aluminum drop bars are generally 15/16" (23.8 mm.)
Might be worthwhile to upgrade to aluminum handlebars, there are no good drop-bar levers available with the 7/8" clamp diameter.
Sheldon "Aluminimuminimum" Brown
Okay, so here is the status on the Varsity. I can't read the entire serial number though I can make out the first letter which is an "E".
The bike is in pieces all over my living room floor at the moment. I'm on my way to the store to get some Zud cleanser, WD40, and steel wool to clean off some of the rust and build up. My main worry right now is the brake system. Seems like, right now, I'm going to have to replace the brake levers, wires, pads, and I'll need a new chain. I already got new tires and tubes. I'm hoping at that point I should be able to ride it around the neighborhood at least.
Do you think I'll need to take it to a shop to install all the brake stuff or can I do that myself with the parts? Are there any other tune up type stuff I need to do or should have a shop do?
Thanks for the help,
05-14-07, 07:28 PM
I'm working on a Continental right now, sounds like it's in similar condition. Take your time. I suggest you give it a complete overhaul. The bearings on my Continental were absolutely dry, would have been ruined in short order if I'd ridden it.
The Schwinns are amenable to a relatively simple toolkit. They're simple & rugged, about the easiest bikes to work on. Here are the tools I can think of. Not cheap, but some of the tools are general-purpose and useful for other things, and maybe you can borrow or beg some tools or services & don't have to spend a lot. For bike-specific tools, 'High Street' shops will charge a lot for top-of-the-line tools, but there are online stores with cheaper, lower-quality stuff that works fine for occasional use.
-Medium-size straight-slot screwdriver. Brake levers, unscrewing the bottom bracket adjustable cup
-Assortment of english & metric combination wrenches. Many of the accessories (brakes, derailleurs) are metric. The axle nuts, stem bolt, and seatpost bolt are english, and maybe some others too.
-Adjustable wrenches, esp. a large one for the headset and bottom bracket locknut. Smaller ones will be helpful esp. when you must have two wrenches of the same size.
-(Optional?) Pedal wrench. I'm using a cheapo 'Pyramid' brand with 15 mm jaws, this seems to work. You'll need to get the non-drive-side pedal off to take out the crank & ease maintenance of the bottom bracket bearings. You might get by w/o taking the pedals off if you're patient and can work on the bearings while they're still on the bike, but this would be an unpleasant and tedious task. Be aware that the non-drive-side pedals, bearing cup, and locknut are left-threaded; they unscrew by turning to the right.
-Spoke wrench. You probably should tighten the spokes and true the wheels. Several sizes, not sure which. Schwinn wheels are very strong. My guess is they'll hold up pretty well even if your work isn't perfect, but you should try your best to get even tension and a straight wheel anyway.
-Cone wrenches. The wheel bearing cones & locknuts have very narrow lands, and you need very thin wrenches to remove & adjust them. Not sure of the sizes. They come in 13,14,15,16 mm.
-(Optional?) Special splined tool to get the freewheel off. Several kinds, not sure which, may vary from year to year. I just took a look at the Continental's wheel, and I think it may be unpleasant and slow-going, but not impossible, to service the drive-side wheel bearings without removing the freewheel. I recall servicing my Varsity's bearings without removing the freewheel. Memory is hazy since it was 30 years ago.
-Cutters for the cable housing and cables. Expensive. There are probably less-expensive methods (ordinary wire cutters for the cable? hacksaw for the housing?) Not sure.
-Chain pin remover tool if removing & replacing the chain
When they're apart, clean the bearings and races well. To put it back together - Marine waterproof wheel bearing grease for the bearings, seatpost, and handlebar stem. Almost any grease would be good enough, but the marine-type will last a long time. Bearings should spin freely without play, will take some time to get this right, take your time. Motor oil for the cables, brake mechanisms, derailleurs and pulleys, pedals. Special chain lube for the chain, plain motor oil ok in a pinch.
Good luck, it'll be ready to run for 30 more years. Be sure to post a lot & let us know if you need help & how you're doing! Sheldon's pages have a wealth of information and there are other good sites too. Maybe there are some clubs or co-ops in your area, you could take your wheels to for advice on truing, etc. Check the libraries for maintenance books. If you're an earnest, hungry-looking kid, just maybe the right bike shop mechanic would do simple things like take the pedals off for next-to-no money. I hope this doesn't sound like too much or is unaffordable. It's rewarding when done & you're riding a perfectly-tuned and restored old bike, functionally good as new.
Whew! I guess I was tired of working on the Continental. I hope it goes well for you, good luck!
05-14-07, 07:41 PM
I'm working on a Varsity as well. Best of luck with your project!
One small suggestion: Don't discard any of the old parts until the bike is back together and functional. You just never know what replacement part might not be available, or need to be matched up to the original.
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