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Old 05-12-14, 03:46 PM   #1
snowboardpunk
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schwinn varsity

I just recently bought a schwinn varsity, not exactly sure which year, but it seems in ok condition. a little beat up, but functioning pretty good. I was just wondering if you guys have any recommendations on improving it. Preferably some cheap things I can do to it. Not exactly sure which year it is.

I know the continental is a better bike and could have gotten one for a little bit more but really wanted the green color!
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Old 05-13-14, 05:42 PM   #2
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Color is the second most important factor in choosing a bike. I started a thread for Varsinentals a couple of years ago. Best mods are the 3 piece crank adaptor and alloy wheels. Is the rear axle bent? They always seem to be on mine.
FWIW, I've got a box of Schwinn shifters if you need anything like that.
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Old 05-13-14, 06:36 PM   #3
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Under the impression that the Varsity was junk; likely better off not sinking money into it.

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Old 05-13-14, 06:41 PM   #4
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Alloy wheels are a really big improvement on the Varsity, since these particular steel rims are much heavier than all other brands of steel rims.

Varsity frames are pretty short front-to-rear, due to the frame's "slack" or "relaxed" angles. I always advise going for the biggest frame that you can fit on when selecting a Varsity or Continental.

Lots of other useful mod's for Varsities, modern parts like cabling, chain and freewheel, wider aluminum bars, padded tape, rubber hoods for the brake levers.

Also it's a matter of getting the bike carefully set up and fitted to the rider.

I did several mod's to this Varsity, and like you I really liked the color.
I should have chosen a larger frame size however.
I kept the stock crankset and kickstand because I felt that these are things that make a Varsity a Varsity.

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Old 05-13-14, 07:15 PM   #5
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Now that I see that picture, I think you definitely need green tires.
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Old 05-13-14, 07:29 PM   #6
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Best cheap option is to pick up a used set of 27 inch alloy wheels. If you look aggressively, you should be able to find a decent set for $20 or less. I've found them for $10 or less, sometimes in the form of a complete bike.
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Old 05-13-14, 07:56 PM   #7
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Alloy wheels are a really big improvement on the Varsity, since these particular steel rims are much heavier than all other brands of steel rims.

Varsity frames are pretty short front-to-rear, due to the frame's "slack" or "relaxed" angles. I always advise going for the biggest frame that you can fit on when selecting a Varsity or Continental.

Lots of other useful mod's for Varsities, modern parts like cabling, chain and freewheel, wider aluminum bars, padded tape, rubber hoods for the brake levers.

Also it's a matter of getting the bike carefully set up and fitted to the rider.

I did several mod's to this Varsity, and like you I really liked the color.
I should have chosen a larger frame size however.
I kept the stock crankset and kickstand because I felt that these are things that make a Varsity a Varsity.

Ergo levered Varsity… I really have to contemplate this.
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Old 05-13-14, 09:08 PM   #8
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Alloy wheels are a really big improvement on the Varsity, since these particular steel rims are much heavier than all other brands of steel rims.

Varsity frames are pretty short front-to-rear, due to the frame's "slack" or "relaxed" angles. I always advise going for the biggest frame that you can fit on when selecting a Varsity or Continental.

Lots of other useful mod's for Varsities, modern parts like cabling, chain and freewheel, wider aluminum bars, padded tape, rubber hoods for the brake levers.

Also it's a matter of getting the bike carefully set up and fitted to the rider.

I did several mod's to this Varsity, and like you I really liked the color.
I should have chosen a larger frame size however.
I kept the stock crankset and kickstand because I felt that these are things that make a Varsity a Varsity.

Is that less than 30Lbs?

That is a pretty slick looking Varsity. I flipped one last summer that I found for 15.00 still had original ('74) tape and tires. And lime green paint.
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Old 05-13-14, 09:31 PM   #9
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I recently picked up a 75 Continental. The only difference I am aware of between the Varsity and the Continental is the quick release wheels (with large flanges). The handlebar tape on mine was broken and hanging but I was able to rewrap it. A little spit and polish and it doesn't look too bad. It shifts and rides like they did when new (reference is from my own memory).

I saved mine from what was to be a fixie conversion... I think.

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Old 05-13-14, 11:26 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by snowboardpunk View Post
I just recently bought a schwinn varsity, not exactly sure which year, but it seems in ok condition. a little beat up, but functioning pretty good. I was just wondering if you guys have any recommendations on improving it. Preferably some cheap things I can do to it. Not exactly sure which year it is.

I know the continental is a better bike and could have gotten one for a little bit more but really wanted the green color!
I picked up a Varsity once as part of a 2-bike set. Compared to other steel-framed bikes of the era, this one seems to be quite heavy. Having said that, I think it would also be a great project for you. Not sure of your tools, shop or work space, but someone else here - "Hillrider" I think - shared some wise advice: The first thing you have to do with any 30-year old bike is to remove, replace and re-pack ALL the bearings: front and rear wheels, bottom bracket, headset. These are all things you can do yourself - watch a video or two. After that you can pick or choose what else you want/need to do. But the bearing service is fundamental for any old bike. Brake and shifter cables and housing would probably be next. Replacing the cantilever brake levers with Cane Creek or Tektro is also a great improvement. You can buy cheap tools to measure chain wear. Et cetera. Good luck, keep us posted
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Old 05-14-14, 01:20 AM   #11
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Is that less than 30Lbs?
...

I recall that the completed bike weighed 32lbs, so somehow I achieved an approximately 6-pound net weight savings.

Dave Cutter mentioned the Continental, which had much-lighter (still steel, but French) rims, a tubular vs. solid fork, and alloy bars and stem, as compared to the heavier Varsity.
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Old 05-14-14, 11:14 AM   #12
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The Continental and Varsity had the same large flange alloy hubs and Schwinn steel rims*.

The specs. and pricing varied a bit from year to year but as an example in '73 the Continental was only $14 more than the Varsity ($116.95 vs. 102.95), and for that extra $14 you got:

•A tubular vs. forged steel fork
•An aluminum Randonneur handlebar (British made by GB) vs. a steel Maes bar
•An aluminum "S" stem (British made by GB) vs. a forged steel stem
•Quick-release front and rear vs. bolt-on large flange alloy hubs
•Center-pull vs. side-pull brakes
•Aluminum (Atom 440) bodied pedals with adjustable bearings vs. steel (Union) sealed pedals

The tubular fork saved about 1lb and the alloy stem and handlebars saved about 1.5lbs for a total of about 2.5lbs less weight as compared to the Varsity.

Note that aside from the quick-release axles and skewers, the wheels (hubs, spokes, rims) were identical between the Varsity and Continental. The frames and pretty much all other parts not mentioned above were identical as well.

*Schwinn had actually planned on changing to lighter European made steel rims (Rigida I think) on the Continental in 1971 but according to a dealer News Flash bulletin Schwinn was not satisfied with the quality of the finish on the rims it had received and thus continued to use the Schwinn-built steel rims as before.
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Old 05-14-14, 02:27 PM   #13
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The Continental and Varsity had the same large flange alloy hubs and Schwinn steel rims*...

...Note that aside from the quick-release axles and skewers, the wheels (hubs, spokes, rims) were identical between the Varsity and Continental. The frames and pretty much all other parts not mentioned above were identical as well.

*Schwinn had actually planned on changing to lighter European made steel rims (Rigida I think) on the Continental in 1971 but according to a dealer News Flash bulletin Schwinn was not satisfied with the quality of the finish on the rims it had received and thus continued to use the Schwinn-built steel rims as before.
It depends on what year of bikes we're talking about:
Early Varsity and Continental models had 22.0mm alloy French stems inserted into 22.2mm steer tubes.
Early Continental models had Rigida Chrolux rims while same-year Varsities had heavier Schwinn rims.

Sorry to hear that later Continentals started using the super-heavy Schwinn rims. I wonder when that happened?
When the Varsities started shipping with forged steel stems, Varsity and Continental stems and steerers were changed to the "bmx" diameter .833".

Here's my mostly-original, late-1962 Continental in their largest (at the time) frame size (still way-too-short forward reach):

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Old 05-14-14, 02:52 PM   #14
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Alloy wheels are a really big improvement on the Varsity, since these particular steel rims are much heavier than all other brands of steel rims.

Varsity frames are pretty short front-to-rear, due to the frame's "slack" or "relaxed" angles. I always advise going for the biggest frame that you can fit on when selecting a Varsity or Continental.

Lots of other useful mod's for Varsities, modern parts like cabling, chain and freewheel, wider aluminum bars, padded tape, rubber hoods for the brake levers.

Also it's a matter of getting the bike carefully set up and fitted to the rider.

I did several mod's to this Varsity, and like you I really liked the color.
I should have chosen a larger frame size however.
I kept the stock crankset and kickstand because I felt that these are things that make a Varsity a Varsity.
I ought to lay off the hard stuff... I'm beginning to see green varsity with carbon Ergo's.
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Old 05-14-14, 02:53 PM   #15
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Early Continental models had Rigida Chrolux rims while same-year Varsities had heavier Schwinn rims. Sorry to hear that later Continentals started using the super-heavy Schwinn rims. I wonder when that happened?
The rims differed in 1960-62 only. 1963 and later Varsity and Continental models had the same rims (Schwinn tubular steel S-6).

Quote:
When the Varsities started shipping with forged steel stems, Varsity and Continental stems and steerers were changed to the "bmx" diameter .833".
Both changed to .833" stems in '66. The Varsity used alloy stems (albeit different ones than those used on the Continental) until mid-1970, when they were replaced by forged steel stems. One exception are the '73 and later Varsity models with 26" frames, which used the same longer reach alloy stems as the 24" and larger frame Continental.
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Old 05-14-14, 04:02 PM   #16
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The rims differed in 1960-62 only. 1963 and later Varsity and Continental models had the same rims (Schwinn tubular steel S-6).

Both changed to .833" stems in '66. The Varsity used alloy stems (albeit different ones than those used on the Continental) until mid-1970, when they were replaced by forged steel stems. One exception are the '73 and later Varsity models with 26" frames, which used the same longer reach alloy stems as the 24" and larger frame Continental.
You have quite a knowledge base on these Schwinns. I can't quite even remember when safety levers and TwinStick shifters arrived in the late '60's.
I like the earlier ones, even though I don't mind TwinStick shifters, but it seems impossible to find large-enough frames from the earlier years.
I've bought Supersports for this reason, the upright angles allow for a sporting posture on more-difficult rides, and a 11cm neck doesn't mess up the Supersport's steering the way it messes up a Varsinental's steering.

I test-rode a 26-inch (C-T) framed Varsity at the swap on Saturday, but the top tube was fully a half-inch too high.
What would the next-smaller frame size be for the 1970's Varsity and Continental? My Continental and Supersports are like 24" or so.

Maybe I'll just stick with my two 24" Supersports, since fellow roadies don't seem to know that it isn't essentially a Varsity, it just almost weighs in like one and of course looks like one.


Italuminium wrote:
"I ought to lay off the hard stuff... I'm beginning to see green varsity with carbon Ergo's."

You should have seen the look on a local shop proprietor's face when I returned with the Varsity, to offer drink for the discarded old Ergolevers they allowed to go into the outside bin.
It was that "long pause" sort of look, probably thought he was seeing things?
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Old 05-14-14, 04:10 PM   #17
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Don't spend too much improving it. When you get more money, buy a nicer bike but keep the Varsity. You'll like having both. I say just get new tires and leave it at that.
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Old 05-14-14, 04:15 PM   #18
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…better off not sinking money into it...
yard art.
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Old 05-14-14, 04:53 PM   #19
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You have quite a knowledge base on these Schwinns. I can't quite even remember when safety levers and TwinStick shifters arrived in the late '60's.
That would be 1969 and 1967 respectively. Yeah I'll admit to being kind of OCD on these bikes... <g>

Quote:
I test-rode a 26-inch (C-T) framed Varsity at the swap on Saturday, but the top tube was fully a half-inch too high.
What would the next-smaller frame size be for the 1970's Varsity and Continental? My Continental and Supersports are like 24" or so.
For most of the '70s the Varsity and Continental were available in 20" through 26" sizes (c-t), including a 24" size.
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Old 05-14-14, 08:18 PM   #20
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Alloy wheels are a really big improvement on the Varsity, since these particular steel rims are much heavier than all other brands of steel rims.

Varsity frames are pretty short front-to-rear, due to the frame's "slack" or "relaxed" angles. I always advise going for the biggest frame that you can fit on when selecting a Varsity or Continental.

Lots of other useful mod's for Varsities, modern parts like cabling, chain and freewheel, wider aluminum bars, padded tape, rubber hoods for the brake levers.

Also it's a matter of getting the bike carefully set up and fitted to the rider.

I did several mod's to this Varsity, and like you I really liked the color.
I should have chosen a larger frame size however.
I kept the stock crankset and kickstand because I felt that these are things that make a Varsity a Varsity.

Someone's parts bin runneth over.
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Old 05-14-14, 10:58 PM   #21
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I replaced about half of the parts for mostly lighter stuff.


Parts replaced:

Shift/brake levers >> Record-10
Wheels/tires/tubes >> 700c
Rear derailer >> 7700 Dura-Ace
Chain >> Campag C9
Cables/housings
Bars/stem >> SR alloy
Brake Pads >> Kool Stop MTB
Pedals >> 1/2"-threaded Wellgo clipless BMX
Cogs >> SRAM 8s minus 12t cog, so 7 speeds
downtube cable stops >> Shimano
Saddle >> Brooks Team Pro
Bottle Cage >> Minoura w/adjustable strap-clamp


Original parts:

Brake calipers
Headset
Kickstand
Seatpost/clamps
Front derailer
Crankset/bb
Chainrings
Remaining cable stops and ferrules
Fork
Bar tape


I might have mentioned this before, that I think Varsities are good bikes, but the rider does usually need time/miles to get used to the unusual steering geometry, layed-back rider position, prodigious heft and resultant sluggish acceleration.
Well-made though, and with great stability once up into the normal speed range.
Other little things like the fork's 96mm spacing and 8mm axle slots making the fitting of a different front wheel a bit of a challenge, and the rear brake cable housing stop ferrules being somewhat special, so make sure any frame you buy has these.

Last edited by dddd; 05-14-14 at 11:15 PM.
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Old 05-16-14, 06:43 AM   #22
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The old Schwinns are great for beginners who are learning about bicycle maintenance. I love them. Do what you want with it and if you booger it up, who cares. It's a Varsity. I love mine. Is anyone else impressed by the chrome on these things? The headset on my '73 Varsity is like a mirror.
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Old 05-16-14, 07:18 PM   #23
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The old Schwinns are great for beginners who are learning about bicycle maintenance. I love them. Do what you want with it and if you booger it up, who cares. It's a Varsity. I love mine. Is anyone else impressed by the chrome on these things? The headset on my '73 Varsity is like a mirror.
Not just that, but parts on these things seem to not wear out as much as on other bikes the same age. I've salvaged many old Schwinn-approved alloy hubs off of bikes that have been sitting outside for years - many times the bearings/cones/races look like new after an overnight soak in paint thinner.
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Old 05-16-14, 08:19 PM   #24
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One good thing about finding better wheels is that if you decided to build a better bike from the frame up you can always use the wheels for that.
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Old 05-17-14, 11:21 AM   #25
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Not just that, but parts on these things seem to not wear out as much as on other bikes the same age. I've salvaged many old Schwinn-approved alloy hubs off of bikes that have been sitting outside for years - many times the bearings/cones/races look like new after an overnight soak in paint thinner.
Especially those bottom bracket bearings!

Not only did Schwinn's bottom brackets use high-grade, 5/16" chromium balls, but the races are hard metal, coated with some kind of zinc-based plating that allows old Schwinns, even the lower-level ones, to endure years of outdoor exposure, very unlike other bikes whose bottom bracket bearing surfaces quickly rust away.

Schwinn's headsets were likewise made of good metal, but too often there is a loose fit between the crown race and the steer tube.
Loctite fixes this, but it's a laborious fix and often the clicking headset first gets over-tightened, and possibly damaged, in a futile attempt to correct the freeplay between the crown race and the crown race seating area around the steer tube.

It's amazing what a good oiling can do for a severely-neglected Varsity, not that these bikes don't deserve a proper rebuilding.
You've almost got to love the fact that the entire bottom bracket can be rebuilt with just a Crescent (adjustable) wrench and perhaps a blade screwdriver to adjust the cone.
And for the true Schwinn aficionado, there are Tange brand bearing reatiners available with fully (12) high-grade, 5/16" chromium ball bearings.

Schwinn even special-ordered things like fully-sealed freewheels from both Shimano and from French suppliers, and I believe that the Schwinn-Approved Allvit derailers were the first to appear with durable, oversized, spring-retained barrel adjusters. And I probably don't have to mention again the superiority of the integral Schwinn kickstands.
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