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  1. #1
    creaky old bones FZ1Tom's Avatar
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    So, just how much can I 'modernize' a Varsity frame?

    Picked up a 24" Yellow Varsity.

    I have a friend who says he can powdercoat it, but I haven't decided. May be easier to touch up the paint somehow.

    As I understand, a lot of folks convert them to FG/SS for simplicity, reliability, etc.

    I'm not familiar enough with components to know what would fit or what wouldn't. I reckon most any clamp-on FD would work, but no idea what newer cranksets, RD, cassettes would work. Also, are there clamp-on downtube shifter mounts out there?

    Likewise the brakes. What modern brake, cable and lever sets will work? While its mainly a matter of aesthetic preference, I think I would prefer to be able to route the brake cables under the bar tape - is this possible?

    What seatposts, stems, bars out there will work?

    Wheelsets? Can I get 700c rims to fit and the brakes and everything else to work with them?

    Don't even get started on English, Italian and French threads. I'd be hopelessly confused

    Oh yeah, and did I mention that I'm on a limited budget like everyone else?

    How much money we talking about here? After all if it's gonna cost $500 in components (to say nothing of the time spent) then it would be easier in the scheme of things to find a different bike....or concentrating on Project Blue (the C-dale CAAD9) instead.

    Tom

  2. #2
    Senior Member rumrunn6's Avatar
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    Reliability? I just found out mine was made in 1955 and everything works fine! How many bikes made now will be running in 54 years?
    cycling is like baseball ~ it doesn't take much to make it interesting

  3. #3
    Novist senior member tolfan's Avatar
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    Old varsities love to be worked on. 700 wheels will work but you will need brakes with a long reach. the original center pulls should have the reach if you want to keep them.If you want to replace them most any nuted brake will work but the ones that atach with an alen head wont. Again the reach needs to be long if you are using 700 wheels. If you want to convert to a 3 piece crank you will need an adapter set. It fits in the bottum bracket and alows you to use most of the common 3 piece cranks. Down tube clamp on shifters are realitively easy to find and not a lot of money,$5 or $10. If you want to rout the brake cables under the bar tape you will need levers with the cable coming out the bottum, local bike shop here has them new for $15. thay make bars with grooves for the cable housing but you can use bars without $10 for used at the local bike shop.
    There are some things a man needs to believe in wether they're true or not;

  4. #4
    PanGalacticGargleBlaster Zaphod Beeblebrox's Avatar
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    Varsities have their quirks.

    Front Derailleur clamp size is 25.4 mm (1 inch), which is not the standard 26.8. You can either make a shim and use a standard clamp, or you can look for a 1 inch clamp...they are around, just not as plentiful.

    Any rear derailleur will work. The Cassette is a thread-on 5 speed, pretty standard. If you want to use clamp on DT shifters you might have to shim them. Varsities have a One Piece Crank, If you want to switch to a modern crankset you need to convert the BB to 3 piece.

    Scroll down about halfway on this page for the conversion piece.
    http://sheldonbrown.com/harris/opc.html#opc

    The stock side-pull brakes should reach with 700c rims on it. You can use any modern caliper brake, side pull or centerpull...and any levers will work.

    The stems are wacky, and sometimes hard to come by... so don't lose yours. Its 25.4mm handlebar clamp size, and IME its not pretty if you try and jam 26.0mm handlebars in there.
    --Don't Panic.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by FZ1Tom View Post
    Picked up a 24" Yellow Varsity.

    Tom
    Is that 24" frame or wheel size. Can 700c wheels be made to fit in a frame designed for 24" wheels?

  6. #6
    DRF aka Thrifty Bill wrk101's Avatar
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    If you are doing it because you like the bike, great. If you are doing it and thinking you will be able to get your money out of it, I am not so sure. There are too many good bikes out there. I picked up a Varsity a couple of weeks ago for $14, and it was in really good shape. I plan to just clean it up, cables, grease, and so on, and send it on to its next home. I grew up with a Schwinn Continental (about a 1/4 step up the Schwinn product line, very similar).

  7. #7
    Tinkerer jamesl's Avatar
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    I know the bike -- it's complete and only needs tires, tubes and a seat to be rideable. My suggestion is that you keep it original.

    However, if you want to modify it, start with lighter and more common 700c alloy wheels. The brake calipers will be fine with new brake pads.

    The next step for me would be to spin on a modern five or six speed freewheel and get some indexed shifters and a suitable replacement rear derailleur. Just because I prefer indexed shifting. The friction system you have would work fine.

    You can get an adapter to convert your one piece crank to a three-piece, but with some new grease that one piece crank will last forever and never cause you a problem.

    The seat post and handlebar stim are not common by today's standards, but you can find replacements of various lengths on e-bay and elsewhere. Wald is one company that makes inexpensive steel replacements.

    For cheap parts on-line, I've had good results from Niagra Cycle

    The bike is never going to be light, but unless you're racing or riding a Century, the weight won't be a problem. The Varsity is heavy, no doubt, but it rides very nice and is bullet-proof, IMHO.
    Last edited by jamesl; 05-21-09 at 02:12 PM.
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  8. #8
    Rustbelt Rider mkeller234's Avatar
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    IMO, the 10 speed EF schwinns are practically perfect for bar end shifters. They already have the cable stops on the downtube right where you need them.
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  9. #9
    Seņor Member USAZorro's Avatar
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    If you touch up the paint, and replace the wheels, cranks, derailleurs, seat post, stem and handlebars, you can end up 5 pounds lighter, and a lot more fun to ride. If you find a donor bike, this could be done for under $50.00. Even if you have to shop around some more to buy pieces, you can get everything for under $200.00 with little to no trouble.
    The search for inner peace continues...

  10. #10
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    Lose the kickstand and the pie plates, replace the TwinStiks with barcons, replace the 5-speed freewheel with a 6- or even a 7-speed, replace the rims with aluminum, replace the brake pads with salmon KoolStops, and, budget permitting, replace the crankset and pedals with a Japanese aluminum 3-piece and road quills, and you will be much happier with your Varsity.
    "Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise." -- George Stahlman
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  11. #11
    Since 1938... JunkYardBike's Avatar
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    Check out reverborama's Varsity project:

    My finished Varsity project


  12. #12
    Senior Member rumrunn6's Avatar
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    I just swapped in a 6 speed freewheel by accident so now it's a 12 speed instead of a 10 speed. The derailer can actually handle the gearset.
    cycling is like baseball ~ it doesn't take much to make it interesting

  13. #13
    PanGalacticGargleBlaster Zaphod Beeblebrox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
    I just swapped in a 6 speed freewheel by accident so now it's a 12 speed instead of a 10 speed. The derailer can actually handle the gearset.
    I wouldn't be shocked if it handled up to an 8speed. Chain wrap is generally the limiting factor.
    --Don't Panic.

  14. #14
    stringbreaker stringbreaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John E View Post
    Lose the kickstand and the pie plates, replace the TwinStiks with barcons, replace the 5-speed freewheel with a 6- or even a 7-speed, replace the rims with aluminum, replace the brake pads with salmon KoolStops, and, budget permitting, replace the crankset and pedals with a Japanese aluminum 3-piece and road quills, and you will be much happier with your Varsity.
    I can agree with all but getting rid of the kickstand. I like kickstands and especially the Shwinn pieces. without them its just another bike I have to find something to lean it against.
    (Life is too short to play crappy guitars) 2006 Raleigh Cadent 3.0, 1977 Schwinn Volare, 2010 Windsor tourist. ( I didn't fall , I attacked the floor)

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