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  1. #1
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    1980 Schwinn Continental (?) worth salvaging?

    Hi forumites!

    So this bike's destiny is still being determined:







    I think it is a 1980 Schwinn Continental. Serial is MR769248. It's in pretty rough shape. Rims have some dent, saddle has come apart, needs tires and tubes, etc. I'm not sure if it's worth doing anything to. I like the frame because it looks filet brazing but I am guessing that it's just filed down lugs. I think it's hi-ten and it obviously has ashtabula cranks so I'm not sure if it's worth updating? Keep as is? I haven't ridden it as is. I think it'd needs a rear wheel and tires + tubes to even test ride though.

    I don't know too much about these Schwinns. The pedals, handlebars, stem, and brakes all seem worth keeping for reuse down the line at least. Do people want the "Schwinn Approved" stuff for builds or is it not worth considering? Who made the Schwinn approved derailleurs? Suntour? I assume this is an Asian made Schwinn so I'm hypothesizing perhaps it was made by Giant?

    The bike is about a 25" and weighs a bit over 40lbs based on the arm scale.

    The bike intrigues me for some reason I don't really know and that's why I'm just looking for more info. I know its not high end or probably even mid-grade. But it was headed for the scrap so I am delaying that fate for now...
    Thank you!
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    Varsinentals as they're affectionately known around C&V are tanks - heavy as hell! Schwinn Chicago EF bikes are literally indestructible.

    Clean your find up but don't put too money in your Continental. It'll be a nice beater bike.

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    Thanks Norman. I had a feeling it might be a fun bike for short money. I can even ride this size frame... coincidence!

  4. #4
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    The worst parts of that bike are the wheel rims and the brake pads. If you can locate some inexpensive used aluminum-rimmed wheels, you may want to upgrade. Otherwise, I would not sink a lot of money into the project, other than to agree that these do make fairly decent transportation/beaters, although the ridiculously excessive weight may make lifting onto a bike rack a royal pain.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Heavy metal!
    Schwinn 'Approved' varied from lower end French stuff to Japanese.
    Suggest not to sink $$ into it.

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    The best thing about Varsinentals is they're not attractive to bike thieves. As the other poster said, the weight is the main problem with them and EF bikes were overbuilt.

    They're not as desirable as higher end Chicago Schwinns but they make good basic transportation and are readily inexpensive to acquire.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Uncle Randy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NormanF View Post
    Varsinentals as they're affectionately known around C&V are tanks - heavy as hell! Schwinn Chicago EF bikes are literally indestructible.

    Clean your find up but don't put too money in your Continental. It'll be a nice beater bike.
    There might be a Schwinn lifetime guarantee decal on the frame. My old Varsity had one and that seemed to be Schwinn's big selling point in the 60's and early 70's.
    I'm not in a hurry. 24 speeds are enough for me.

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    Schwinn no longer exists but the bikes they made are tough. There are still millions of them around.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Uncle Randy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by yuoil View Post
    Hi forumites!

    So this bike's destiny is still being determined:







    I think it is a 1980 Schwinn Continental. Serial is MR769248. It's in pretty rough shape. Rims have some dent, saddle has come apart, needs tires and tubes, etc. I'm not sure if it's worth doing anything to. I like the frame because it looks filet brazing but I am guessing that it's just filed down lugs. I think it's hi-ten and it obviously has ashtabula cranks so I'm not sure if it's worth updating? Keep as is? I haven't ridden it as is. I think it'd needs a rear wheel and tires + tubes to even test ride though.

    I don't know too much about these Schwinns. The pedals, handlebars, stem, and brakes all seem worth keeping for reuse down the line at least. Do people want the "Schwinn Approved" stuff for builds or is it not worth considering? Who made the Schwinn approved derailleurs? Suntour? I assume this is an Asian made Schwinn so I'm hypothesizing perhaps it was made by Giant?

    The bike is about a 25" and weighs a bit over 40lbs based on the arm scale.

    The bike intrigues me for some reason I don't really know and that's why I'm just looking for more info. I know its not high end or probably even mid-grade. But it was headed for the scrap so I am delaying that fate for now...
    Thank you!
    If those handlebars are randonneur bars, they might be the most valuable component on the bike... worth $30-50 used on Ebay.
    I'm not in a hurry. 24 speeds are enough for me.

  10. #10
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    The bike you're looking at was made in the Chicago factory with electro-forging machinery unique to Schwinn.

    Its different from the lightweight Schwinns that came from Japan.

  11. #11
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    I think it is a 1980 Schwinn Continental. Serial is MR769248.
    With a Dec. 1980 frame build, the bike itself is most likely an '81 model built in early '81. To verify this you can check the 4-digit date code on the headbadge, which will indicate the ordinal day and year (dddY) the bike was built. In this case it doesn't matter much as I don't think there were any changes between the '80 and '81 model years.

    I like the frame because it looks filet brazing but I am guessing that it's just filed down lugs.
    The frame is electro-forged: Inside the Varsity

    The pedals, handlebars, stem, and brakes all seem worth keeping for reuse down the line at least. Do people want the "Schwinn Approved" stuff for builds or is it not worth considering?
    The pedals are not original, but most everything else seems to be. The Schwinn Approved components are generally desirable only to others restoring a similar bike, however other parts like the SR (Sakae Ringyo) alloy stem and handlebars may be worth a bit more.

    Who made the Schwinn approved derailleurs? Suntour?
    That bike would have originally come with a Schwinn Approved GT-510 rear derailleur and a GT-290 front derailleur, both made by Huret for Schwinn.

    I assume this is an Asian made Schwinn so I'm hypothesizing perhaps it was made by Giant?
    That is a Chicago made bike. Schwinn made the Continental in Chicago through mid-'83, upon which time the Chicago plant was closed.

    The bike is about a 25" and weighs a bit over 40lbs based on the arm scale.
    That is a 26" frame (measured center to top) and weighs between 36 and 37lbs.

  12. #12
    Senior Member downtube42's Avatar
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    Pleasant riding city bike, as others have indicated they are indestructible and undesirable to most bike thieves. Converted to a 3-speed IGH and a generator hub front wheel, mine was a solid and comfortable commuter for years before I 'upgraded' to a vintage Motobecane. I took to locking the front wheel, because that's what I didn't want to lose.

    Brakes are the weak point, aside from the heft.

    I'd say keep it around until you can source some cheap wheel upgrades, and use it for a beater.
    What is bicycle touring?
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  13. #13
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    The CV knowledge never fails to impress! Thank you, I love learning about bikes.

    Quote Originally Posted by NormanF View Post
    The best thing about Varsinentals is they're not attractive to bike thieves. As the other poster said, the weight is the main problem with them and EF bikes were overbuilt.

    They're not as desirable as higher end Chicago Schwinns but they make good basic transportation and are readily inexpensive to acquire.
    That makes a lot of sense. This bike's life existed as the beater bike for a few local brothers and was abandoned when they got cars. Know knows what it was doing before that!

    Quote Originally Posted by Uncle Randy View Post
    There might be a Schwinn lifetime guarantee decal on the frame. My old Varsity had one and that seemed to be Schwinn's big selling point in the 60's and early 70's.
    Yes, it's there and a bit worn. That must be why it's so heavily built!

    Quote Originally Posted by Uncle Randy View Post
    If those handlebars are randonneur bars, they might be the most valuable component on the bike... worth $30-50 used on Ebay.
    They are Sakae Randonneur (edit:As Metacortex suggests, they are SR), though I think they misspelled randonneur on the bars. I was planning to keep them at the least.

    Quote Originally Posted by NormanF View Post
    The bike you're looking at was made in the Chicago factory with electro-forging machinery unique to Schwinn.

    Its different from the lightweight Schwinns that came from Japan.
    Ah! So this is electroforging. Metacortex's link was very helpful. I knew there was so little chance that such a heavy bike was filet brazed that something had to be up. This must be what they used on my mother's '77 surburban too. I like the look of it, anyway.

    Quote Originally Posted by Metacortex View Post
    With a Dec. 1980 frame build, the bike itself is most likely an '81 model built in early '81. To verify this you can check the 4-digit date code on the headbadge, which will indicate the ordinal day and year (dddY) the bike was built. In this case it doesn't matter much as I don't think there were any changes between the '80 and '81 model years.
    Thank you Metacortex. It was 2451 so I think you're right it's a '81. Is the 5 the month? May 24, 81?

    The frame is electro-forged: Inside the Varsity
    Thank you! This was very enlightening. Schwinn invested much more into being a massive company than I thought.

    The pedals are not original, but most everything else seems to be. The Schwinn Approved components are generally desirable only to others restoring a similar bike, however other parts like the SR (Sakae Ringyo) alloy stem and handlebars may be worth a bit more.
    I thought perhaps Schwinn collectors might want them, but if these lower end Schwinns are so ubiquitous it's probably not worth setting them aside if I don't use them. The handlebars were the reason I grabbed it before it went in the scrap. I could see the Randonneur curves!

    That bike would have originally come with a Schwinn Approved GT-510 rear derailleur and a GT-290 front derailleur, both made by Huret for Schwinn.
    Thank you!

    That is a Chicago made bike. Schwinn made the Continental in Chicago through mid-'83, upon which time the Chicago plant was closed.
    That's even more interesting then an Asian Schwinn. I thought that Schwinn outsourced earlier than that so thank you for setting me straight.

    That is a 26" frame (measured center to top) and weighs between 36 and 37lbs.
    Seems about right. Definitely a tank.


    I almost didn't bother asking about it, but now I'm glad that I did. I might take a set of 27 alloy wheels that are already on another bike and just give this one a ride for the heck of it.

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    Alloy wheels should lighten the weight down to around to 32 lbs. If you can get rid of the heavy steel Ashtabula crank, you can get it down to a more reasonable 30 lbs.

    It won't ever be a light bike but at least it will be more pleasant to ride.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Uncle Randy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by yuoil View Post


    I thought perhaps Schwinn collectors might want them, but if these lower end Schwinns are so ubiquitous it's probably not worth setting them aside if I don't use them. The handlebars were the reason I grabbed it before it went in the scrap. I could see the Randonneur curves!
    Paramounts were the ultimate Schwinn bikes and you can find those for around $300. Continentals were the next level up from the low end Varsity.
    I'm not in a hurry. 24 speeds are enough for me.

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    I salvaged a 73 Varsity that was in poor shape. It now has upright bars, alloy wheels, five speed drivetrain w/thumb shift, and a Brooks B-17. It's still a tank, but it is one of my favorite riders. Do it, do it, do it. Lol.

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    I pulled a disassembled '71 Continental out of the trash, that someone had stripped most of the paint off. One can of John Deere Blitz Black paint later I built it back up as an all steel fixed gear. With one chain ring and front brake only I'm thinking it weights 35+/- pounds. It is a great exercise and get-in-shape bike.

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    Quote Originally Posted by yuoil View Post
    It was 2451 so I think you're right it's a '81. Is the 5 the month? May 24, 81?
    The first three digits on the headbadge represent the ordinal day of the year. That number indicates it was built on the 245th day of 1981, which was Wednesday September 2nd, 1981. While this may seem strange considering that the frame serial number dates to Dec. 1980, it was relatively common for Schwinn to store frames for months or even years in some cases before building them into bikes.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uncle Randy View Post
    Paramounts were the ultimate Schwinn bikes and you can find those for around $300. Continentals were the next level up from the low end Varsity.
    Yea, I Googled the Schwinn catalog and found it's place in the line up. About where I expected. Maybe a little higher actually.

    Quote Originally Posted by NormanF View Post
    Alloy wheels should lighten the weight down to around to 32 lbs. If you can get rid of the heavy steel Ashtabula crank, you can get it down to a more reasonable 30 lbs.

    It won't ever be a light bike but at least it will be more pleasant to ride.
    Quote Originally Posted by BFisher View Post
    I salvaged a 73 Varsity that was in poor shape. It now has upright bars, alloy wheels, five speed drivetrain w/thumb shift, and a Brooks B-17. It's still a tank, but it is one of my favorite riders. Do it, do it, do it. Lol.
    Quote Originally Posted by 0.2HP View Post
    I pulled a disassembled '71 Continental out of the trash, that someone had stripped most of the paint off. One can of John Deere Blitz Black paint later I built it back up as an all steel fixed gear. With one chain ring and front brake only I'm thinking it weights 35+/- pounds. It is a great exercise and get-in-shape bike.
    Yea I think it might be a fun thing to have. I'm not sure what I'm going to do about the crank. I'll probably just use it unless an adapter for a three piece crank turns up somewhere. I meant to put alloy wheels on it today and take it for a spin but it was just too busy! I did weigh it though. 37lbs 12ozs on the park scale. If it ever gets down to 30lbs I'll be impressed. Weight's not that important for a bike like this. The eyelets on the fork and the Rando bars make me wonder just how much people have done with a Continental. The lack of rust on this bike for a beach bike surprises me though. Too much iron I guess!

    Quote Originally Posted by Metacortex View Post
    The first three digits on the headbadge represent the ordinal day of the year. That number indicates it was built on the 245th day of 1981, which was Wednesday September 2nd, 1981. While this may seem strange considering that the frame serial number dates to Dec. 1980, it was relatively common for Schwinn to store frames for months or even years in some cases before building them into bikes.
    Thank you again Metacortex. You've been extremely helpful! So if the frame was dated for 1980 but the headbadge indicates it was built in September 1981 how does that work? They used the same color for multiple years in a row, unlike now? Seems almost backwards. I would have expected the build date to be earlier than the frame date. Maybe they made "batches" of model years for a few years at a time?

    I'll post a couple pictures if I get wheels on it and so forth!

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    Cool.

    This bike will last forever.

    Its not as nice as Schwinn's fillet-brazed Superior, Sports Tourer and Super Sports bikes which was a step above the EF models but its a still a good ride!

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    BMX guys have been converting one piece cranks to three piece for years. I don't think kits are that expensive, and I know they can be had with sealed bearings. I actually like the one piece crank on these bikes (ease of maintenance). I just put cork grips on my Varsity and I love them. I am not ashamed to admit that I have a moderate affinity for the EF Schwinns. They are nearly indestructible and the finish that was applied to them was fantastic. Why buy a new big box bike when you can buy a decades old Schwinn for a song and beat the hell out of it? It will remain reliable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by yuoil View Post
    Thank you again Metacortex. You've been extremely helpful!
    You're very welcome, I'm happy to help!

    So if the frame was dated for 1980 but the headbadge indicates it was built in September 1981 how does that work? They used the same color for multiple years in a row, unlike now?
    Schwinn was notorious for stockpiling frames (and other parts) well in advance of actually building bikes. They used the same frames for many years in a row, but the colors and components often varied from year to year. The frames wouldn't be painted until the bikes were built. Because of how Schwinn operated back then you can't go by frame serial numbers alone to date most vintage Schwinns.

  23. #23
    Ride, Wrench, Swap, Race dddd's Avatar
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    A couple of things to remember about this Continental and other Schwins of the electroforged type.

    Firstly, the overall quality is high compared to other inexpensive and/or heavy bikes. This means that the bottom bracket bearings are high-grade chromium balls from the factory, are oversized at 5/16", and that the adjusting hardware is fully hardened and with fine-pitch threads.
    That particular version of Schwinn-Approved rear derailer is the very best "Allvit" derailer ever made, in that the main pivot arm (that the cable attaches to) has much-lengthened bushing bores for much-reduced friction in the shifting parallelogram.

    Secondly, these electroforged bikes all had frame angles layed back around 70 degrees, which allows these bikes to be confidently ridden along the edge of more-dangerous roads since the bikes don't have "flighty" steering behavior. This is what endears these bikes to anyone who rides them day-in and day-out over typical roadways, and allows one to more safely look over their shoulder without the bike veering off course while the rider isn't looking straight ahead.

    I ride my varsity all over the place and don't regret the time that I have invested into keeping it running well. The steel cranks are actually one of my favorite features, since the steel rings shift so well, don't wear out, and the entire crankset never creaks or requires attention beyond a one-time greasing of the bottom bracket bearings (took 15 minutes using an adjustable wrench).
    I actually rode the bike for the first year and a half after only shooting oil into the bearings with the bike laying on it's side.

    As long as the rider isn't having to lift the bike into or onto a car or car roof, the actual riding quality is great, even compared to my more-expensive bikes.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by dddd View Post
    A couple of things to remember about this Continental and other Schwins of the electroforged type.

    Firstly, the overall quality is high compared to other inexpensive and/or heavy bikes. This means that the bottom bracket bearings are high-grade chromium balls from the factory, are oversized at 5/16", and that the adjusting hardware is fully hardened and with fine-pitch threads.
    That particular version of Schwinn-Approved rear derailer is the very best "Allvit" derailer ever made, in that the main pivot arm (that the cable attaches to) has much-lengthened bushing bores for much-reduced friction in the shifting parallelogram.

    Secondly, these electroforged bikes all had frame angles layed back around 70 degrees, which allows these bikes to be confidently ridden along the edge of more-dangerous roads since the bikes don't have "flighty" steering behavior. This is what endears these bikes to anyone who rides them day-in and day-out over typical roadways, and allows one to more safely look over their shoulder without the bike veering off course while the rider isn't looking straight ahead.

    I ride my varsity all over the place and don't regret the time that I have invested into keeping it running well. The steel cranks are actually one of my favorite features, since the steel rings shift so well, don't wear out, and the entire crankset never creaks or requires attention beyond a one-time greasing of the bottom bracket bearings (took 15 minutes using an adjustable wrench).
    I actually rode the bike for the first year and a half after only shooting oil into the bearings with the bike laying on it's side.

    As long as the rider isn't having to lift the bike into or onto a car or car roof, the actual riding quality is great, even compared to my more-expensive bikes.
    Very well said.

    I run the local bike co-op, and when these 30-40 year old bikes come in they often need nothing more than lube, cables, and rubber to get back on the road. Today's low end bikes have broken brake levers, shifters, and derailleurs after one or two years.
    What is bicycle touring?
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    Try buying one new and immediately mothballing it for 33 years (for reasons I won't go into here). This is what you have after a good spit shine and thorough lube, still has original tires. This bike will last the rest of my life with new rubber and normal maintenance.
    Attached Images Attached Images

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