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Old 09-19-08, 09:21 AM   #1
custermustache
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New Varsity owner - some questions.

Hi - I have recently gotten back into cycling for a commute, and I purchased a nice Dahon folder, but I wanted a full size bike for longer rides. I used to (when I was 15) own a nice Puegot and a hand me down Varsity.

I have been working Craigslist pretty hard for the past few weeks, and I found a Varsity for a price I was comfortable with - $100. Bought it and now I have some questions.

The bike is a 71 Chicago Schwinn (according to the serial), but it has been updated (?) a little with QR skewers front and rear, and a Mailliard hub on the rear wheel. In reading Sheldon Brown's website, I see that that is not a good hub to have - true or untrue? Both wheels have Presta valves, and I sure don't remember those on my old Schwinn.

The shifters are on the neck, and the support for them seems to be a little loose - the whole assembly that carries the shifters moves around pretty easily. Is it possible to tighten that up? If so, how?

The bars are a little cramped for me - are they a standard sized bar? Can I just buy new ones, or am I in for a search?

The bike seems to be tuned well, and rides great, and I am happy with it, and I am looking forward to making it fit me better. It does have suicide brake levers, and I am torn on wether to upgrade those to the areo style or not.

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Old 09-19-08, 09:34 AM   #2
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Also, where do I get a cool seat bag that fits into those tabs on the back of the seat?
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Old 09-19-08, 09:37 AM   #3
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If the hub is working alright, just ride it into the ground and then have a new wheel built around a better one. Or do so now if you wish. Regards the presta valves, you can buy inner-tubes with either presta or schrader. The choice is yours. There should be a collar the shifters attach to. Spray 'em with a lubricating-oil and tighten the bolt that holds them to the stem(?). Or where ever they are attached. A little Zen and the art of bicycle-maintainence is in order.

You can buy wider handlebars in a variety of configurations. Just be sure to get ones with the same diameter as your stem. Measure the current bar. My guess is that it's 25.4mm - which is standard 1 inch. Measure them end-to-end to learn the length. Then get one's that are longer/wider to suit your girth. Handlesbars should be about as wide apart as your shoulders. A tape-measure comes in handy here.

Congratulations on your new oldie. Varsities are nice bikes.
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Old 09-19-08, 09:41 AM   #4
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I lean toward the "don't mess with stuff that works" approach. True the wheels. Adjust the brakes and shifting. And just ride the bike. A "old-time" Varsity is a reliable way to get around on campus or around the neighborhood. I suspect that some 1970ish Varsity bikes will still be rolling down the road when most of us are in the "Home for Aged Cyclists".
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Old 09-19-08, 09:46 AM   #5
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The only thing I am fired up to do is the bars - they are way narrow and slope in a wierd way. And fix the shifters. IT does ride nice, just like I remember. The irony is that I sold my old Varsity for $75, years ago. Who knew I would end up paying MORE for another 15 years down the road.

Do I measure the diameter with a caliper?
I have Zinn and the art of road bike Maint.
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Old 09-19-08, 09:53 AM   #6
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Rivendell sells some wonderful bars on their website. They are designed to enable the top of the bars to form a "flat" surface behind the brake levers, and they sell them in wide and extra-wide sizes. If you phone Rivendell, they can advise you whether their bars fit your stem, or whether you need a new stem, such as the wonderful stems they stock.

They also sell some terrific friction shifters that can be mounted other on the bar-ends, or on the downtube. The shifters will work well with any drivetrain ever made, from five cogs up to ten, eleven, or twelve cogs (whatever Campy and Shimano tell us we "need"...I've used maybe three cogs in the past week).
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Old 09-19-08, 10:08 AM   #7
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The bike is a 71 Chicago Schwinn (according to the serial), but it has been updated (?) a little with QR skewers front and rear, and a Mailliard hub on the rear wheel. In reading Sheldon Brown's website, I see that that is not a good hub to have - true or untrue?

Probably true, but if it works now then you might as well run it.

The shifters are on the neck, and the support for them seems to be a little loos - the whole assembly that carries the shifters moves around pretty easily. Is it possible to tighten that up? If so, how?

They clamp on. There should be a place to tighten it with a screwdriver.

The bars are a little cramped for me - are they a standard sized bar? Can I just buy new ones, or am I in for a search?

We just had a discussion on that recently. Modern bars are generally wider than those on '70's bikes.


The bike seems to be tuned well, and rides great, and I am happy with it, and I am looking forward to making it fit me better. It does have suicide brake levers, and I am torn on wether to upgrade those to the areo style or not.

All depends on how you like to ride. You need to be in the drops or on the "hoods" to use aero levers since there will be no lever at the top position. If you usually are in the top position it is pretty easy to slip your hands to the top of brake lever, the "hoods", when you need to brake but you do have to get used to it so you don't get caught out in an emergency situation.

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Old 09-19-08, 11:48 AM   #8
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I am looking at the shifters and I do not see a tightening screw anywhere - it looks to be just one round piece of metal.

any advice as to wher eI should look?
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Old 09-19-08, 11:53 AM   #9
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Also, where do I get a cool seat bag that fits into those tabs on the back of the seat?
Rivendell's webstore carries a selection of bags designed for being attached to the seat, and special supports for super-large saddle bags for week-end touring.
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Old 09-19-08, 12:07 PM   #10
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Yes - calipers would be ideal for measuring the diameter of the handlebars. But a tape-measure would do. If it looks like 1 inch - it likely is. The other possibility is the 26mm. But that's very unlikely on a 1970's Varsity. If it was an Italian racer...well....
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Old 09-19-08, 12:24 PM   #11
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Regarding the rear hub, if it is a "heliomatic" rear hub then its operation can be problematical. If it is a standard maillard hub for screw-on freewheels, then it is probably a higher quality unit than the usual Normandy hub found on many mid or low end bikes.
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Old 09-19-08, 12:27 PM   #12
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The shifter mounting plate on Schwinns with Twin Stik shifters is held down by the steering tube nut.
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Old 09-19-08, 12:32 PM   #13
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Not knowing the shifters (picture?), they might just need to be bent - or maybe a piece of friction-tape (the stuff used to wrap hockey-sticks (hardware-store) around the tube underneath. Just common sense should dictate the course of action. Odd no bolt though. I might just swap 'em out for some better ones.
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Old 09-19-08, 12:36 PM   #14
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It is a heliomatic hub. I reckon I'll ride it until it breaks or screws up, then just buy new wheels.


The steering head nut is well away from the shifters, so I will tighten it when I get home. I will probably swap whn I change the bars, but first I have to explain to the wife why I need this bike before I start to explain why I need to upgrade it...

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Old 09-19-08, 12:46 PM   #15
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Do post some pictures - before & after - if you can. The Schwinn Varsity is a good investment. Tell your better-half it will more than keep pace with inflation and likely will increase in value. Then tell her how much gasoline goes for. LOL.
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Old 09-19-08, 12:57 PM   #16
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I know that I sold one just like it, but blue, for $75 15 years ago. I think I sold my Puegot for $40.

Kicking myself.
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Old 09-19-08, 12:58 PM   #17
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Also, how do I get a waterbottle cage on this?
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Old 09-19-08, 01:02 PM   #18
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waterbottles were attached with clamps back then. Maybe you should get one of the aero seat-attached cages.
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Old 09-19-08, 03:02 PM   #19
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Yeah, be careful about installing a clamp-mounted bottle on a Varsity; it'll tear up the downtube decals.
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Old 09-19-08, 03:27 PM   #20
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The Twin-Stick mounting plate is secured by tightening the fork locknut.



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Old 09-19-08, 03:42 PM   #21
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[QUOTE=Scooper;7504487]it'll tear up the downtube decals[QUOTE]

Those are pretty rough and faded anyway - what is the name of the place to get them?
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Old 09-19-08, 03:51 PM   #22
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Send a private message to JRrestore on this forum; he'll hook you up.
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Old 09-19-08, 03:52 PM   #23
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it'll tear up the downtube decals
Those are pretty rough and faded anyway - what is the name of the place to get them?
Huh? That was Mike Swantak's reply, not mine. How did my name get on the quote?
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Old 09-19-08, 03:54 PM   #24
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Hot dog! If Stan's gonna get credited for things I say, it's time to bust loose!
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Old 09-19-08, 05:15 PM   #25
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The Twin-Stick mounting plate is secured by tightening the fork locknut.
Good opportunity to take the fork down & service the bearings & races.

Takes (me) some trial-n-error to put it all back together & get the headset solidly tight but not binding.

If the grease in there is hardened & dried out, then you should look to service the wheel bearings & bottom bracket too. Don't fear; the Schwinn is the easiest bike made for DIY-ers.

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