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  1. #1
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    Schwinn Varsity upgrades

    I purchased a 70's Varsity last year and let's just say I fell in love with riding. I recently purchased a second 66cm Varsity that I will completely upgrade. My thoughts are at 6-7 I need a frame that can take a beating and my first Varsity has proven to be bomb proof. My goal is to upgrade the complete drivetrain system, wheels and tires. I need suggestions in all areas. My goal is to go with a triple chainring but what other matching components should I be looking at. Will 700c's fit and work.....I've read several articles but wanted opinions from the forum......thx

    This is what I'm working with http://www.ebay.com/itm/ws/eBayISAPI...ht_12010wt_952

  2. #2
    26 tpi nut. sailorbenjamin's Avatar
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    I found this on Ebay a couple of months ago, a real slick way to put a triple on a stock Schwinn crank;

    Otherwise, triples are available from any cheap mountain bike but they'r usually flat black. Then there are the 3 piece conversions.
    I have spoken.

  3. #3
    26 tpi nut. sailorbenjamin's Avatar
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    Oh, and this page might have something useful on it;
    http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...ge!?highlight=
    I have spoken.

  4. #4
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    Thx sailorbenjamin....

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    Quote Originally Posted by sailorbenjamin View Post
    I found this on Ebay a couple of months ago, a real slick way to put a triple on a stock Schwinn crank;

    Otherwise, triples are available from any cheap mountain bike but they'r usually flat black. Then there are the 3 piece conversions.
    Ben -- I see one set of holes there... how does that give you a triple? You stack two rings on the inside?

  6. #6
    Senior Member DsmBerg's Avatar
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    There are some true Schwinn experts here... I am not one of them but I am sort of in your same boat just a few months ahead of you.

    Wheels: 700c fits and works, but consider going with the 27s. The problem with this level of Schwinn wheels is that they are some sort of steel alloy that makes them generally terrible in every way. The size is not the issue. Several 70s/80s Schwinns came with nice aluminum rims which you could obtain for very little/free and rebuild. I have a front wheel off a Le Tour that was basically free and works perfectly. Stick with aluminum 27s and I think you will be happy. Even the new ones aren't that expensive. I have a new 27in Weinmann rear that works great.

    Crank: You want to get rid of that one piece for sure. The crank arms are 165, maybe shorter, no matter the frame size, and they weigh a ton. That's not going to be too much fun in the long run if you are 6'7. Buy this adapter, buy whatever crank you want. http://harriscyclery.net/itemdetails.cfm?ID=1335

    Also lose the kickstand. If I remember right it weighs something crazy like 3 pounds. I would suggest some research on taking it out, though. It's a pain.

  7. #7
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    Removing the kickstand is not too bad if you have the right equipment (or, of course, the Schwinn Kickstand Remover Tool) and pretty standard for holding the dead weight down to a dull roar. If the area is well cleaned of dirt and grease, you'll see that there is a collar that surrounds the kickstand shaft and sticks out of the frame bracket. Underneath the bracket, you'll see a small pin sticking out of the bottom. With a large set of channel locks or vice grips (and a protective rag) or a vice, push the collar into the bracket by compressing the collar and the far end of the bracket. Once the collar is compressed, the pin will slide or drop out (or, if it's goopy inside, you may have to pull it out with pliers). Once it's out, the kickstand assembly (with collar and big-butt compression spring) will slide right out. Congratulations! You just lost five pounds!

  8. #8
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    Acceptable new 27" aluminum wheels are still available new and not hideously priced. Complete vintage wheelsets can also be had. If you don't need something fancy, it won't cost a lot. If you don't mind an investment, you could relace the original hubs to new or vintage 27" rims. Lots of options on wheels.

  9. #9
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    You know that's what I wanted to do. Take a 27 inch steel rim and update the hub. But all the hubs I'm finding are 126mm. Also what spoke size should I get for that rim. I liked the Suzue hubs but I don't know what size spoke to order

  10. #10
    afraid of whales Mr IGH's Avatar
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    for cranks I'd use one of these adapters:
    http://www.universalcycles.com/shopp...&category=2634

    I'd grind the adapter's edge back so the ridge inside the Schwinn BB shell doesn't prevent the adapter from seating all the way.

    I'd use a Shimano 127mm UN-54 bb:
    http://www.universalcycles.com/shopp...4&category=347

    Then choose a square taper triple crank you like.

    For wheels I'd choose some 135mm MTB 29er/touring wheels with Mavic 319 rims from Bike wheel warehouse and spread the rear triangle to 135mm:
    http://www.bicyclewheelwarehouse.com...s/prod_79.html

    Then some Tektro super long reach dual pivot sidepull brakes. You can mount modern derailleurs using an adapter plate for the rear and a shim for the front. Modern 25.4mm bars will fit the stock Schwinn stem, then you can use whatever brakes/shifters/brifters you choose.

    Last problem is the seatpost, not sure how to overcome that issue.

  11. #11
    26 tpi nut. sailorbenjamin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roll-Monroe-Co View Post
    Ben -- I see one set of holes there... how does that give you a triple? You stack two rings on the inside?
    It's got a second set of holes in the back of the arms with a smaller BCD for the granny gear.
    I have spoken.

  12. #12
    26 tpi nut. sailorbenjamin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr IGH View Post
    Last problem is the seatpost, not sure how to overcome that issue.
    I found a really long 13/16" chromoly seatpost for my Schwinn on Ebay. It was in the BMX section. I think I paid $18 shipped. It's not any lighter than the standard Schwinn part but it's strong enough to hold my 225 lbs at full extension.
    I have spoken.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by sneakywrist View Post
    You know that's what I wanted to do. Take a 27 inch steel rim and update the hub. But all the hubs I'm finding are 126mm. Also what spoke size should I get for that rim. I liked the Suzue hubs but I don't know what size spoke to order
    Hmm. Usually, if people are going to go to the trouble to build new wheels, they go with the original hubs (or better-quality period hubs) and an aluminum rim, which is much superior for braking and also substantially lighter weight. Given the not-insubstantial cost of building a wheel from components (even if you are lacing it yourself), most people go for the rim upgrade at a minimum.

    If the bearing races of the the Normandy hubs that came on Varsinentals are in good condition and the axles are straight, the hubs clean up pretty nice with some metal polish.

    As for spoke length, if you are going to build the wheels yourself, I commend you. If you're going top have a shop do it, then they can figure out the spokes. There are online spoke length calculators available if you go that route. e.g. http://www.bikeschool.com/tools/spoke-length-calculator

    If you want to totally modernize, others here have given good pointers.

  14. #14
    Ride, Wrench, Swap, Race dddd's Avatar
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    I've done a few Varsity builds by now, here's what I've learned:

    The 700c wheels are a huge upgrade, giving a 3-pound weight loss plus allowing modern hi-po tires.
    Standard side-pull Weinmann calipers stop the bike with real authority after I fitted some long, premium dual-compound brake pads.

    The bottom bracket height on these bikes is excessive, to allow cornering with those super-wide platform pedals, so 700c with lo-pro tires just makes it more normal.
    Also, since the layed-back geometry of these Varsi-nentals makes the top tube effectively very short, a rider will want to ride the largest Varsity that they can straddle!

    Consider sticking with the stock crank! It's a super-solid unit, no creaks ever.
    SailorBenjamin's alloy crank spider was branded Tioga, and is available on Ebay for a few dollars.
    It's a versatile option and allows a nice, light set of 110/74mm chainrings.
    I myself use the stock chromed chainrings, 50/39 or 52/39t, but remove the pie plates.
    The chainring bolts on 1970's cranks WILL need washers to replace the miniscule spacing effect of the chainring disc. These washers will probably be described as 3/16", and metric washers don't even begin to fit well. Tioga/Ebay also provides finer (extra-ball, grade-25) bearing retainers to replace the "#64" stockers in the bottom bracket.

    Frame geometry on these will not support the use of stems longer than 90 or 100cm, and only some of the 1960's Varsitys have normal 22.2mm quill diameter.
    The 1970's Ashtabula steel .833" stems are a short 75mm for a reason: to match the slack geometry.

    90mmm alloy stems with the bmx-standard .833" quill (labeled "COMPE") are available, and have a triangular horizontal extension. These will work, and with still-decent handling.
    GB also provided alloy 9cm S-logo stems in the .833" quill size for Schwinn SuperSports.

    Because of the slack seat tube angle, the Varsi-nental saddle clamp is best reversed, putting the saddle foreward. This goes perfectly with riding a larger frame size, and is how racers did it 75 or 100 years ago, since most bikes back then had similar slack-angled geometry.

    The task of spreading the rear end and aligning the dropouts on these bikes is kind of "different". I usually leave 'em alone since there is typically room for a 6/7 speed wheel in there already.

    Allvit derailers are good up to 28t, but will require modding for 30t and/or for 6 speeds.
    With good cabling and a well-lubed shifter, these are awesome if the pulleys and pivots move freely.
    I've used modern Dura-Ace rear derailers also (on a Suntour hanger).
    The front Alvits also work very well, and of course can be found with the 1" clamp.
    I've used Shimano and Campag 9-speed chains for quick and quiet shifting on my Varsity builds, and these have played nice with the steel chainrings and Shimano/Suntour freewheels/cassettes every time!
    I use lined brake cable housing with a bit of the covering trimmed back for the hooped shift housing stops near the bottom bracket.
    Using SIS housing just because it fits will eventually jam in the narrow hole since you can't easily fit a ferrule, and is nearly too stiff to install down near the bottom bracket area.
    Varsi-nental top tube brake cable ferrules are special. Don't lose them.

    ATMO, a Varsi-nental should have a kickstand, and the stocker is one of the best.

    Most Varsity fork crown races fit on a knurled section of the steerer that tends to compress, so the crown race loosens. These need to be set on with Red Loctite.
    These forks weigh 4 pounds! A tubular steel fork weighs only 1.5 to 2 pounds. Advantage Continental.
    Bare (un-built) steel Varsity rims are over 1100grams EACH.
    A bare steel ChroLux (Continental, UO8, etc) rim is only 750 grams.
    Bare alloy rims are 400-550 grams each.

    Pedals are a potential problem. I've found clipless BMX pedals in the 1/2" size, but these are now quite rare. I really prefer clipless, and lucky to have found some over the years.

    Riding the Varsi-nental, after riding imported bikes, is gonna feel weird with such heavy steering flop at low speeds.
    The payback is at higher speeds, off-road and when riding in the dark. Stability is unreal, and you get used to the weight and handling after just a few rides. It takes time to apreciate the handling traits which at first you will not be able to exploit.

    All-up weight of a Varsity with alloy parts (but with stock crankset and kickstand) is 32 pounds. It is what it is. The stock bike weighs about 39 pounds.

    The pictured bike is really too small for me, but it flies!


    Last edited by dddd; 03-13-12 at 04:35 AM. Reason: .

  15. #15
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    Great info ...... Thx so much

  16. #16
    Senior Member DsmBerg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roll-Monroe-Co View Post
    Hmm. Usually, if people are going to go to the trouble to build new wheels, they go with the original hubs (or better-quality period hubs) and an aluminum rim, which is much superior for braking and also substantially lighter weight.
    + 1

    You really want to get rid of those steel rims.

  17. #17
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    There are some decent-looking modern 1/2 in non-clippless (clipful?) pedals if youre starting with a varsity and keeping the original crank. Harris Cyclery has them. Probably available elsewhere. http://sheldonbrown.com/harris/opc.html

  18. #18
    Elitest Murray Owner Mos6502's Avatar
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    I have the Origin 8 "track" pedals on my Columbia - they're very light and the bearings are serviceable. I recommend them, but they seem to be stiff right off of the package, with the proper wrench it's easy to adjust them though.

    A varsity will always be a varsity. If it were mine, what I would do is switch to alloy 700c wheels, switch to alloy pedals, switch to alloy handle bars. Trade the Huret rear dérailleur for a sun tour. And more or less leave the rest of the bike as it is. I'd even keep the original hubs because they're pretty decent and modern hubs aren't going to be any more free rolling.

  19. #19
    Senior Member element-82's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sneakywrist View Post
    I recently purchased a second 66cm Varsity that I will completely upgrade. My thoughts are at 6-7 I need a frame that can take a beating and my first Varsity has proven to be bomb proof.
    Man, I am only 6'5" and I have a hell of a time finding a 63.5cm frame! It took me a year to find a celeste bianchi and that was just luck.

    Pb

  20. #20
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    I've been lucky in that aspect. I have two 66cm frames. The one I purchased in Nov I will leave stock. But this one I'm going for speed... Maybe.

  21. #21
    Senior Member Captain Blight's Avatar
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    This is a really good thread. I came very, very close to buying an early-production Continental about 6 months ago and still lightly kick myself for not doing so. I'm not sure it would have been possible to buy a more comfortable bike at that price point regardless of weight.
    '71 Raleigh Super Course ("Loose Change")
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  22. #22
    Ride, Wrench, Swap, Race dddd's Avatar
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    I forgot to mention that the fork tip slots on my Varsities is only wide enough for a 9/16" or 8mm axle, and seems to be set for only 96mm hub width on the older one.

    I filed away to get the QR 9mm axle to fit, and beveled the bottom tips so as to make installing the 100mm width QR hub much easier.

    "...And more or less leave the rest of the bike as it is."

    I would, as a very first upgrade, install a modern, narrower chain. An 8-speed Shimano chain will work so much better on the French or Italian freewheels, and 9sp chain works best with Suntour/Shimano freewheels (or with any cassette).

    Even the $10 WalMart/drugstore Bell/TaYa "Speedy" 8-speed chain makes quite an improvement.

    I've put in many hard/fast/hilly miles on a basically stock, 39-pound Varsity, a big one with no mods other than WTB saddle, 9sp chain, 90mm stem, brake pads, Wellgo SPD pedals and Suntour 6sp freewheel.
    Alloy wheels and parts and lined cable housings would be logical next improvements, and of course anything like a dented rim also gets priority to be tossed.
    Of course, most Varsities firstly need a few hours of TLC.

    A smaller open-end wrench, filed out to the needed 14 and 16mm (9/16 and 5/8") for the axle nuts, can be reasonably light for carrying in the bag, compared to any adjustable wrench.
    Sturdier wrench is 49 grams, vs. 57 grams for the cone wrench, which also does the job if the axle threads are well-lubed.
    Last edited by dddd; 03-13-12 at 10:29 PM.

  23. #23
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    Wealth of information. I soaked all nuts, bolts tonight. I will start breaking the frames down this weekend...

  24. #24
    Ride, Wrench, Swap, Race dddd's Avatar
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    If you can spare the time, a few photos along the way will be fun and is sure to bring forth the best info that bikeforum members has to offer.
    It looks like your frames have downtube cable stops already, handy for getting the shifting up to the bars.

  25. #25
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    Sure will...my computer is being repaired should have it back in a day or two....I would like to keep the original crank but wanted opinions on this http://harriscyclery.net/itemdetails.cfm?ID=2547 set up. I like the clean look of the chainring on your bike

    Ben, I like the ebay find, what description did you use to find it?
    Last edited by sneakywrist; 03-15-12 at 09:29 AM.

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