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  1. #1
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    Old bikes and their weights

    Some of the old road bikes that I have seen weigh as much as 35 pounds. What is making these old bikes weigh this much? Is most of the weight in the frame? Is there anything that can be done to lessen the weight of the old bikes?

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    Senior Member ollo_ollo's Avatar
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    Depending on tubing, my 53 cm, bare, "old" steel frames run from a low of 4 pounds for Columbus SL up to 7 pounds on a high ten frame, so most of the weight would be from all the other components. Especially anything where steel is used instead of the alloy parts found on lighter bikes....Such as seat post, rims, headset, stem, bars, crankset, pedals, brakes, derailleurs, freewheel cogs & even the saddle. To lighten, freely substitute alloy for steel parts. There are threads detailing the process for lightening a Schwinn Varsity or Super Sport. Don

  3. #3
    Broom Wagon Fodder reverborama's Avatar
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    On a Varsity I took apart recently the kickstand itself weighed 15 ounces. The stem was forged steel instead of alloy. The bars were steel instead of alloy. Steel seatpost, forged steel forks, heavy seat, and steel rims. They didn't spare the steel in the pedals either. It all adds up, a few ounces each on 20 different components and you have 10 pounds before you know what happened.

  4. #4
    Bike Junkie roccobike's Avatar
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    I have an old Fuji Monterey that is in excellent condition with the original 27" chrome, steel rims. I replaced those wheels briefly with a set of alloy 700C Araya's from my Ross, not exactly lightweight wheels, but I still reduced the Fuji's total weight by over 2lbs. Brought that early 80's bike down to respectable 26lbs! This bike has the Valite tubing Fuji used to reduce weight before chromoly.
    I have a Varsity that I'm probably going to flip sitting in my basement. That thing must weigh about 35 lbs. Those frames were not chromoly and used a heavy grade of steel. As was said before, everything on those bikes is made of steel.
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    Thanks for the good info. I was wanting to know about the weights because I am thinking about picking up an old varsity or such bike at a thrift store and I was wondering if I would just have to live with the weight. I was hoping that I could find a frame the size that I want and then replace the parts that need replacing and have something that would fit me better than my present thrift store bike. I am wanting to try a 59 to 61 cm c to top frame and the only bike that I have seen so far weighted about 40 pounds so I decided to pass on it. I know that the cost of replacing parts adds up quickly and it probably is not going to be economical to replace very many parts unless I can just swap parts from some of my old bikes. So I will probably just keep looking for something a little lighter that is the size that I want to try out.

    If anyone has a link to the thread/threads about lightening up a varsity or schwinn link me up.

  6. #6
    biked well well biked's Avatar
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    If you're really concerned about weight, the Varsity would be a poor choice, as it's heavy even when compared to other bikes of its era that weren't terribly light either. A better choice would be a road bike from the '80's, something like a Schwinn le tour or Traveler. From the mid-'80's onward, those bikes had frames of chromoly steel of one type or another, nice Sugino cranksets, aluminum rims, aluminum stems, seatposts, handlebars, etc, and you'll probably find that the price at a thrift store, yard sale, etc. for a bike like that will be roughly equal to a Varsity. In stock form, an entry to mid level road bike from the mid-'80's typically weighed a little over 25 lbs., 15-20 lbs. lighter than a Varsity from the '70's........as for what makes a bike heavy, it's the same thing that makes a bike light: every little bit counts, with the biggest single factors being frame, wheels, and crankset. In the realm of 35 lb. bikes, you're talking about bikes with high ten frames (as opposed to chromoly steel) and steel rims for example. And by the way, I've never owned a Varsity, but from what I've heard 35 lbs. would be very generous, I think they're actually more like 40-45 lbs-

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    Senior Member ollo_ollo's Avatar
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    Varsity & Continental bikes were very heavy, still remember my then teenaged son's amazement when his lift test found my raleigh sports 3 speed to be a bit lighter than his Varsity!

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    Points well taken. I will probably just keep an eye out for something that is already in the 25 pound range and the size that I am wanting to try. One day the right bike will find me.

  9. #9
    Broom Wagon Fodder reverborama's Avatar
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    My recently completed Varsity project:
    My finished Varsity project

    The giant thread that started me on my Varsity project. I list the weight of many of the components as I strip them off a donor.
    Of Schwinn Varsities and Yacht Anchors

  10. #10
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    Varsity/Continental-considered high end "college" bikes 1968/69

    When I was at LSUBR late 60's early 70's the Schwinns-Varsity and the Continental were considered very good bikes. I remember them being expensive-maybe $125-$150 in the late 60's-a lot of $$-like $600 now.There were plenty of them on campus.A buddy of mine Catalog ordered 3 single speed 26" bikes from Sears-they were just under $40 each-my 1st bike.It looked a little like an English Racer with the "skinny" 26" tires, but it was pretty crude and heavy(probably not as heavy as the Schwinns). Soon I moves up to a true 10 speed-a real POS called a Kollkoff ?? made in W Germany.The Germans still made lots of junk then. After about 6 months a chainstay or seatstay(can't remember which) suddenly let go. To its credit,I didn't wreck, and it might have even been "pedalable". Brought it back to the bike store-no warranty-the owner sent it out to a welder.When it returned-she( the owner) said the welder had no faith in his handy work, you could seen some frothy looking "bubbles" on the edge of the weld.Heck, it looked fine to me, I rode it 3 more years until I got my 1st good bike-a Bottechia Pro "Full Campy".Well,almost full-it had POS Universal 63?? brakes.
    The $150 Schwinns were expensive back then, and considered very good bikes;you could buy Schwinns high end 22-23 lb bike for $300. I guess that was the Paramount, though I don't remember that name(it might have been chrome plated-can't remember for sure).I used to go in a bike store in BR just to "lift test" that bike. It was the 1st real "racing bike" I ever saw.It made almost as big an impression on me as the 1st English Racer I saw in 1955.
    Thanks,
    Charlie
    Luck,Charlie

  11. #11
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    The Schwinn electro forged frames were heavy but the components were worse. My single speed winter bike is based on a Schwinn Racer. It currently weighs 27 pounds and still has the steel crank, sprocket, kick stand, and original frame. I changed the bars, stem, seat, brakes and much lighter wheels. The original bike was a three speed and weighed 36+ pounds. Roger

  12. #12
    Senior Curmudgeon Halfast's Avatar
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    I have a mid 80s Miyata 710 that weighs in at 24 lbs., with a heavy seat, seatpost and pedals. It is all original except for the seat and pedals. I bet with wheel replacement and maybe seat and post I could easily get it down to 22-23lbs. I won't cause it is just my backup, so why spend the $$$ to do it.
    "The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane."

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    My early 80's 3Rensho weighs about 19 lbs with sew ups, so its a bit of a myth that old bikes weighed more. Sure, cheap road bikes of the 80's era were heavy, but so are cheap steel road bikes of today.

    If its heavy, its probably because its cheap. I wouldn't waste money trying to get the weight down.
    Il faut de l'audace, encore de l'audace, toujours de l'audace

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  14. #14
    biked well well biked's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by San Rensho
    so its a bit of a myth that old bikes weighed more.
    I disagree. Road bikes have gotten steadily lighter for decades, from entry level to the highest end stuff. Say what you will, but the driving force in the industry is lighter, lighter, and lighter, in that order. Whether that's as important as it's made out to be is a different matter-

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    I have to resoind to this. Just as today there were different levels of bikes during the late sixties early seventies bike boom. The Varrsity was Schwinn's cheapest and heaviest ten speeds. It is a welded steel frame, with Astabula steel cranks and steel most everything else including a frame mounted kick stand. The Contimental was a step up with center pull brakes and other alloy parts but was still a tank even for its day as a UO-8, Peugeot's bottom line, although more eecpensive than the Schwinn. weighed a good ten pounds less. By the way I paid $70 for my UO-8 in 1970.

  16. #16
    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by well biked
    I disagree. Road bikes have gotten steadily lighter for decades, from entry level to the highest end stuff. Say what you will, but the driving force in the industry is lighter, lighter, and lighter, in that order. Whether that's as important as it's made out to be is a different matter-
    Ha, my old 80s mid-range Bianchi road bikes weigh less than the comparable models of today. Since I run new components on them, that leaves one difference - the frames. The driving force behind components might be weight, but when it comes to frames, if someone is worried about weight they're probably buying carbon or ti.
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

  17. #17
    Sometimes knows stuff. rmfnla's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by reverborama
    My recently completed Varsity project:
    My finished Varsity project

    The giant thread that started me on my Varsity project. I list the weight of many of the components as I strip them off a donor.
    Of Schwinn Varsities and Yacht Anchors
    You can hang any components you want on that boat anchor and you will still have a heavy frame constructed of seamed tubing made from mild steel. These frames were designed for ease of manufacture with no thought given to ride quality, and they feel like it.

    Talk about throwing good money after bad!
    Today, I believe my jurisdiction ends here...

  18. #18
    biked well well biked's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chipcom
    The driving force behind components might be weight, but when it comes to frames, if someone is worried about weight they're probably buying carbon or ti.
    The fact that carbon, aluminum, and ti frames are available these days, and have largely replaced steel as a frame material, is further proof that the driving force is weight savings. I don't see your point-

  19. #19
    Broom Wagon Fodder reverborama's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rmfnla
    You can hang any components you want on that boat anchor and you will still have a heavy frame constructed of seamed tubing made from mild steel. These frames were designed for ease of manufacture with no thought given to ride quality, and they feel like it.

    Talk about throwing good money after bad!
    The frame itself weighed 9 lbs, 6.4 oz -- at most only 5 or 6 lbs heavier than the lightest and most expensive frames made today. It's probably only 4 lbs more than most aluminum frames. How does that make it a boat anchor?

    Throwing good money after bad? I paid $11 bucks for the frame. Every single part can be transfered over to a nicer frame if and when I tire of the Varsity. How have I wasted any real money here?

  20. #20
    rebmeM roineS JanMM's Avatar
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    My first 'adult' bike was a '73 Continental. That electro-forged boat anchor was fairly durable but completely mediocre in every respect. The '76 LeTour that replaced it, on the other hand, while not a contender for World's Greatest Bike, was lively and fun (at least, after the the steel rims were replaced with alloy.)

  21. #21
    back in the saddle bent-not-broken's Avatar
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    I think if you are looking for a nice light [B]steel[B] frame the mid to late 80's are great values. My centurian and nishiki 12 speeds weight 24 lbs. with original components. Look for a minimum of alloy wheels.

    Bent

  22. #22
    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by well biked
    The fact that carbon, aluminum, and ti frames are available these days, and have largely replaced steel as a frame material, is further proof that the driving force is weight savings. I don't see your point-
    The point is that newer steel frames are not any lighter, and are in some cases heavier than their vintage counterparts, because specific to steel frames, weight is not a driving factor, so the manufactures opt for other considerations - like cost. People don't buy steel frames if weight is a concern, so bike makers are not obsessing about creating lightweight steel bikes.
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

  23. #23
    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    My old Bianchi xcross bike weighs less than a new Bianchi Eros...even with the fenders, 32c tires, brooks saddle and Velocity Fusion 32/36sp wheels. How do I know? We weighed them at my LBS one day.

    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

  24. #24
    biked well well biked's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chipcom
    The point is that newer steel frames are not any lighter, and are in some cases heavier than their vintage counterparts, because specific to steel frames, weight is not a driving factor, so the manufactures opt for other considerations - like cost. People don't buy steel frames if weight is a concern, so bike makers are not obsessing about creating lightweight steel bikes.
    In the case of the highest end steel frames, that's incorrect, the new frames are lighter. But back to the point, if you were talking specifically about steel frames, you should have said so. I saw no reason to limit the discussion to steel frames when I made the statement that lighter weight (road) bikes are the driving force in the bike industry. Walk into a typical bike shop that carries mainstream brands, and see how many new steel framed road bikes you see. Years ago, you'd have seen almost exclusively steel framed bikes, of course, and now you don't see many steel framed models from the major brands; so I was simply comparing modern vs. vintage, and pointing out what's been the driving force all along: lighter weight bikes. When you're talking about mainstream road bike weights, modern vs. vintage, it's silly to say "yeah, but let's just talk about steel frames" because there aren't that many steel frames produced for the mainstream market these days. Which makes my point even further: steel, for the most part, has been replaced by lighter weight frame materials, from entry level bikes to the most expensive ones.

    As for modern steel frames, I agree that brands such as Surly, Soma, etc. aren't about light weight, but good quality steel at a value price. My '83 Schwinn, lugged 4130 frame, is pretty much identical in weight to a Surly LHT frame-
    Last edited by well biked; 02-02-07 at 06:24 PM.

  25. #25
    Senior Member TimJ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chipcom
    My old Bianchi xcross bike weighs less than a new Bianchi Eros...even with the fenders, 32c tires, brooks saddle and Velocity Fusion 32/36sp wheels. How do I know? We weighed them at my LBS one day.
    It weighs less than 23 lbs? How much does your bike weigh?

    What would the xcross be made out of that's significantly lighter than 631?
    fun facts: Psychopaths have trouble understanding abstract concepts.
    "Incompetent individuals, compared with their more competent peers, will dramatically overestimate their ability and performance relative to objective criteria."

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