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  1. #1
    Senior Member SpookyReverb's Avatar
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    (Very, very small) '72 Schwinn Varsity - Refurbish/Refinish Project

    Hey everyone,

    First of all: Yes. I know this bicycle isn't worth spending time, money or effort on. However, I'm going to be spending time, money and effort on it!
    I've never taken a bike apart, never tried to refurbish anything, and I don't know much about how bikes work, and I'm taking this as an opportunity to learn a few things.

    It's tiny (24" wheels, it's the "kids" version of everyone's favorite 40 pound Schwinn boat anchor).

    Out of curiosity, can this be updated to have quick release brakes?
    Where would one find 24" wheels that would fit this, if I decide that's a good idea?
    What chain could I buy to replace this one? (seriously, I don't know and I can't figure it out...)

    Anyway, here are a few photos so far. I think I'm going to refinish the thing in a blue metallic of some sort, but we'll see. Again, this bike is just to learn some techniques and skills on.

    b1.jpg

    b2.jpg

    Screen shot 2014-08-07 at 5.06.12 PM.jpg
    - Austin

  2. #2
    Hoarder Pur Sang non-fixie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SpookyReverb View Post
    First of all: Yes. I know this bicycle isn't worth spending time, money or effort on. However, I'm going to be spending time, money and effort on it!
    I've never taken a bike apart, never tried to refurbish anything, and I don't know much about how bikes work, and I'm taking this as an opportunity to learn a few things.
    Now, that's a useful attitude!

    Quote Originally Posted by SpookyReverb View Post
    Out of curiosity, can this be updated to have quick release brakes?
    Yes, if the calipers are standard size, you could replace them with newer models with a QR. Alternatively you could replace the levers with levers with a built-in QR. Or even both.
    Music To Watch Bikes By: Swing Easy

  3. #3
    Hoarder Pur Sang non-fixie's Avatar
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    BTW, I dig those mini machines. Got one of my own a while back. No-one to ride it though.

    Music To Watch Bikes By: Swing Easy

  4. #4
    Senior Member SpookyReverb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by non-fixie View Post
    Yes, if the calipers are standard size, you could replace them with newer models with a QR. Alternatively you could replace the levers with levers with a built-in QR. Or even both.
    I'm a bonehead. I have no idea why I wrote "brakes", I meant a quick release for the wheels. But, after looking at it, I think it'd need to be a new wheel for that to work?
    - Austin

  5. #5
    Senior Member SpookyReverb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by non-fixie View Post
    BTW, I dig those mini machines. Got one of my own a while back. No-one to ride it though.
    Man, that's pretty awesome, though!
    - Austin

  6. #6
    Ride, Wrench, Swap, Race dddd's Avatar
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    Yeah, the old steel hubs have thin, solid axles and I doubt that you would easily find a Q-R axle assembly to replace the front axle and cones.

    Your rims are ISO size 547mm BSD, and again, good luck finding modern replacements. Tires are available though.

    On the plus side, these old Schwinns are very tough, high-quality bikes, so parts are infrequently needed.
    You might be able to use this bike for years with only some tires, tubes, and perhaps a chain and freewheel replacement at some point.

    I wouldn't be tempted to change the wheel/tire size, since the brakes might not reach and the kickstand may no longer hold the bike in a good state of balance.

    I suggest keeping the bike stock, with comfort enhancements and service replacements of parts only as needed.
    Last edited by dddd; 08-07-14 at 07:40 PM.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Velocivixen's Avatar
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    @SpookyReverb- I'm in Portland and I have found the following places to be very helpful & "vintage friendly":
    - City Bikes Co-Op on 19th & SE Ankeny
    - Universal Cycles on 22nd & E. Burnside
    - Community Cycling Center on NE Alberta & 17th
    - A Better Cycle on SE Division near 23rd

    i did just what you're doing last summer and found a new hobby! Good for you - you've got that "out west" independence and initiative.

  8. #8
    SE Wis dedhed's Avatar
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    The original QR - Wingnuts.
    Nuts Bolts Washers Hardware
    '68 Raleigh Sprite, '02 Raleigh C500, '84 Raleigh Gran Prix, '91 Trek 400

  9. #9
    Insane Bicycle Mechanic Jeff Wills's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SpookyReverb View Post
    Hey everyone,

    First of all: Yes. I know this bicycle isn't worth spending time, money or effort on. However, I'm going to be spending time, money and effort on it!
    OK... as others have said, finding tires, tubes, and rims for it is going to be very tough. On the other hand, it is a Varsity... the bicycle Keith Richards would ride after Nuclear Armageddon.

    The parts are mostly standard Varsity. As long as they're kept clean and lubed, they'll last forever. If the shops in town can't help, PM me. I was a Schwinn mechanic back then (1979 - 1984) and I know my way around a Varsity. God knows I built and sold enough of them.
    Jeff Wills

    All my bikes.

  10. #10
    Senior Member SpookyReverb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Velocivixen View Post
    @SpookyReverb- I'm in Portland and I have found the following places to be very helpful & "vintage friendly":
    - Universal Cycles on 22nd & E. Burnside
    I love Universal Cycles. Sometime I feel bad for going to the "big guy" instead of a more local establishment, but man, they have almost everything and the folks there are so super nice. I've got my cart loaded up as we speak!

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Wills View Post
    OK... as others have said, finding tires, tubes, and rims for it is going to be very tough. On the other hand, it is a Varsity... the bicycle Keith Richards would ride after Nuclear Armageddon.

    The parts are mostly standard Varsity. As long as they're kept clean and lubed, they'll last forever. If the shops in town can't help, PM me. I was a Schwinn mechanic back then (1979 - 1984) and I know my way around a Varsity. God knows I built and sold enough of them.
    Hey, thanks!
    At the moment, I think I'm going with these tires:
    Sunlite Tire 24X1-1/4 S6 Black/Gm Street K2
    What tubes would be good with that?
    24" x 1 3/8" or 24" x 1 1/4"?

    I think I'm going to stick with the stock wheels I have. I don't want to spend too much on this project, and I just found out that brake & derailleur cables are like 3X as much as I thought they'd be.
    - Austin

  11. #11
    Senior Member Velocivixen's Avatar
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    @SpookyReverb - FYI Universal Cycles is locally owned by a guy (don't know his name). It's big but it's local.

  12. #12
    Hoarder Pur Sang non-fixie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Velocivixen View Post
    (...) FYI Universal Cycles is locally owned by a guy (...)
    I find that bike shops are often owned by guys.
    Music To Watch Bikes By: Swing Easy

  13. #13
    Senior Member Velocivixen's Avatar
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    @non-fixie - no kidding. I just recall asking the folks who work there "Who owns this place?" and they told me that it was an individual who lives in Portland. Don't recall the name. So even though it's "big" I don't think of it as "big box" (aka corporate type conglomerate).

  14. #14
    Hoarder Pur Sang non-fixie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Velocivixen View Post
    @non-fixie - no kidding. I just recall asking the folks who work there "Who owns this place?" and they told me that it was an individual who lives in Portland. Don't recall the name. So even though it's "big" I don't think of it as "big box" (aka corporate type conglomerate).
    I know what you meant. I was just yanking your chain a bit. I've yet to find a bike shop owned by a gal. Maybe yours will be the first?

    BTW, I don't mind the big chain stores. They tend to get good purchasing deals, which means low consumer prices on the run-of-the-mill stuff. Not bad, but if you want specialist advice regarding your '71 Gitane you'll have to look elsewhere. Which is fine by me.
    Music To Watch Bikes By: Swing Easy

  15. #15
    Senior Member michael k's Avatar
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    With the 100 plus bike related shops here in town we have a few.

    I bought one at a bike salvage @ $.50 cent per pound. I paid $18.50.
    Last edited by michael k; 08-08-14 at 03:09 PM.

  16. #16
    Senior Member SpookyReverb's Avatar
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    Screen shot 2014-08-08 at 3.49.04 PM.jpg

    I have a few spots to hit with a wire brush (on the Dremel), but I'm almost there. And now I'm thinking of what color to paint the thing. And yes, I will be honoring the Varsity's place in the world by using spray paint. Wish me luck. Also, HOT DANG that chemical stripper is not messing around!
    - Austin

  17. #17
    Senior Member SpookyReverb's Avatar
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    If I wanted to get rid of that sweet kickstand, how do I cut it off? Would a cutting wheel on the Dremel work, or would that be a terrible idea?
    - Austin

  18. #18
    Insane Bicycle Mechanic Jeff Wills's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SpookyReverb View Post
    If I wanted to get rid of that sweet kickstand, how do I cut it off? Would a cutting wheel on the Dremel work, or would that be a terrible idea?

    NNNNNOOOOO!!!! If you want to remove the kickstand, you need to compress the spring and remove the little pin on the bottom. It takes three or four hands, but it can be done once you know what to look for. Schwinn had a special tool for compressing the spring, but you probably don't want to hunt one down. Pop out the cam and save everything- you may want to put it back in someday.

    As to inner tubes- either 24 x 1 1/4" or 24 x 1 3/8" will work. Inner tubes are just balloons- it's the tire that has to fit precisely.

    Jeff Wills

    All my bikes.

  19. #19
    SE Wis dedhed's Avatar
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    '68 Raleigh Sprite, '02 Raleigh C500, '84 Raleigh Gran Prix, '91 Trek 400

  20. #20
    Senior Member Velocivixen's Avatar
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    @non-fixie - I knew you were toying with me!

    @ Michael k - where was this salvage?! That's my kind of place.
    @SpookyReverb - man oh man, you're on a roll. I've never tried painting. Not that brave yet. Interested to see how it goes.

  21. #21
    Senior Member michael k's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Velocivixen View Post
    @non-fixie - I knew you were toying with me!

    @ Michael k - where was this salvage?! That's my kind of place.
    @SpookyReverb - man oh man, you're on a roll. I've never tried painting. Not that brave yet. Interested to see how it goes.
    #Velocivixen - CCC on Sundays at noon.

  22. #22
    . bbattle's Avatar
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    Spookyreverb, please check out Harris Cyclery Articles about bicycle tinkering for do-it-yourselfers

    One-piece ("Ashtabula") Cranks

    Tire Sizing Systems

    You may also be interested in replacing the old extension levers with modern interrupter brake levers. Sheldon Brown's Bicycle Glossary I--K

  23. #23
    Senior Member SpookyReverb's Avatar
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    Thanks everyone for the suggestions and resources!

    Here is an update: It's been painted and cleared, and now I'm working on the decals.
    Here is a before and after: yes, I realize the 'before' had some pretty cool patina going on, but that's not what this project is about for me.
    bike.jpg
    - Austin

  24. #24
    Senior Member SpookyReverb's Avatar
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    Alright, nearing the end of this project! I have mechanical adjustments to make, but visually, it is all there!



    IMG_5491.jpg

    NewBlue_01.jpg
    Attached Images Attached Images
    - Austin

  25. #25
    Senior Member sonatageek's Avatar
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    Really nice looking bike. Almost looks good enough to forget it weights 40lbs.

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