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  1. #1
    Lover of Old Chrome Moly Myosmith's Avatar
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    Schwinn Varsity Alumni

    How many of you started on, or at least owned an old school Schwinn Varsity? Not this new bike for which Schwinn reincarnated the name, but the original steel 10-speeds with the stem shifters, steel rims and plastic bar tape. My sister and I got matching Chestnut brown Varsities in the late 1970s when we were in high school. She still has hers. I let mom sell mine years ago but am wishing I hadn't as I'm getting old and nostalgic. They might not have been great road bikes, but dang we put on a lot of miles.



    Not mine, but this picture looks just like it.
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  2. #2
    Dirt Bomb sknhgy's Avatar
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    I bought a 5 speed Collegiate around 1970 to get me to work. I'm still kicking myself for putting it out on the curb 10 years ago when we were making a move and I was cleaning out the garage. It needed cables, pedals, tires, etc. but it was still in good condition. That was my first real bike and it served me well for a long time.
    more cops have been killed by donuts than guns in chicago it is a medical fact ask any doctor.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Jim from Boston's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Myosmith View Post
    How many of you started on, or at least owned an old school Schwinn Varsity? Not this new bike for which Schwinn reincarnated the name, but the original steel 10-speeds with the stem shifters, steel rims and plastic bar tape. My sister and I got matching Chestnut brown Varsities in the late 1970s when we were in high school...
    I can precisely identify the day my adult cycling lifestyle was sparked back in May of 1970 when I rode my roomate’s Chestnut Brown Varsity, the first derailleured bike I ever rode. I needed to run a few errands encompassing a distance of a few miles. Being in a college town, I did not have (or really need) a car, and the bus system was too cumbersome to make all the stops I had planned.

    I was amazed at how quickly and conveniently I could get around on that beautiful Spring day and in particular because I grew up in Detroit. I alluded about it in my Introdution to Bike Forums.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
    … Back in the 60’s in the Motor City, I had an “English Racer,’ and longed to tour at about age 14, but then joined the car culture. In Ann Arbor MI in the 70’s I really realized the utility of bicycles for commuting, and began touring on a five-speed [chestnut brown] Schwinn Suburban, but soon bought a Mercier as did my girlfriend, later my wife. We toured in Michigan and Ontario….
    My roommate and I did some riding together in Ann Arbor, and I refer to him as my cycling guru. I have occasionally quoted on Bike Forums his remark one day as the skies unexpectedly cleared as we were about to go out on a ride, “God smiles on his bicyclists.”
    Last edited by Jim from Boston; 01-09-14 at 10:58 AM.

  4. #4
    Senior Member BobbyG's Avatar
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    Early one spring 20-some years ago I bought a 20 year-old Schwinn Varsity (Blue) to keep me from tinkering with my commuter. I took it as an opportunity to learn how to repack the wheel, crank and head bearings (Thanks Sheldon Brown!) I replaced the cables, brake pads, tires, tubes. handlebar tape and chain. I don't remember spending a whole lot, but I got it running nicely. As surprisingly heavy as it was, it was still lighter than my cruiser-based commuter at the time. At the end of the fall the downtube separated from the head tube and that was that. A few years ago I happened across an old 1970's Azuki, similar to the one I owned from 16 to 21 years old. It too was unbelievably heavy, and I remember thinking it was heavier than the varsity.
    "When life hands you lumens, make lumen-aide!"

  5. #5
    Senior Member Mobile 155's Avatar
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    I think the original ones had down tube shifter. Mine did anyway. But I don't really miss it. Not bad I. The flats but climbing was a lot harder on a 30+ pound bike. I didn't notice it as much at first because I came to it from a Western Auto tank bike.
    Life is like riding a bicycle - in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving. ~Albert Einstein.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    By the time that I could aspire to owning a bike that nice I knew better.
    My greatest fear is all of my kids standing around my coffin and talking about "how sensible" dad was.

  7. #7
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    They come into, and go out of, the shop I volunteer at on a regular basis. There are usually a few sitting around waiting for cleaning and repair. Never had one call to me to take it home though. They are heavy.
    If you don't know the way, you shouldn't be going there.

  8. #8
    Senior Member NOS88's Avatar
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    Yep, I owned one in Emerald Green. When I moved up to the Continental, I thought it was the cat's meow.... that is, until I then got my Schwinn Voyageur SP.
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    Favorite rides in the stable: Indy Fab CJ Ti - Colnago MXL - S-Works Roubaix - Habanero Team Issue - Jamis Eclipse carbon/831

  9. #9
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    I never had a varsity, but I did get a used gold '66 super sport in '68 from an employee of my dad. He bought it full of hope that he would ride, but he had obviously not followed through, at least according to the condition of the tires. I still remember the funny font on the handlebars. The stem had the word "super" and on either side the handlebars supposedly were supposed to have the word "sport", but it looked more like "snort". That bike was ahead of its time; cocaine abuse didn't really hit its stride in the Bay Area until a decade later.

  10. #10
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    I had one in 1971, only until i could afford to replace it. Total piece of crap. Heavy, crummy brakes, crummy shifters, crummy wheels, doesn't bring back any fond memories at all other than to laugh about how bad I wanted it, and until I realized it was bottom end for road bikes.

  11. #11
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    Not nostalgic at all. In 1967 I was looking for a bike to get from my apartment to the university in East Lansing and I came across two choices that I could afford used. One was the Schwinn Varsity and the other was an Italian 10-speed Fiorelli with low end Campi components. I bought the Fiorelli as both bikes were around the same price but the Fiorelli was about 10 pounds lighter and worked much better.

    In the early 1970s a bike shop I worked in bought a couple of Azuki 10 speed bikes (mentioned above by Bobby G) for rental. One came back a few minutes after it went out and the front wheel was a mess. The rims had a unique design in which the spokes could be slid into place with the spoke head on and then pushed into a smaller hole and tightened. The renter must have hit a curb or pothole hard and most of the spokes came out of the rim. I don't think they were rental bikes for very long.

  12. #12
    Lover of Old Chrome Moly Myosmith's Avatar
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    Yeah, they were tanks, but the nostalgia is that it was my first bike that wasn't a kid's bike and it was probably the best bike available in a small rural North Dakota town around 1976, so dad buying my sister and I each one was pretty cool.
    Lead, follow or get out of the way

  13. #13
    Dharma Dog lhbernhardt's Avatar
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    Back in the 60's, official Schwinn dealers sold the line of Schwinns plus Peugeot. My first ten-speed, back in my Jr. High School days, was a cheap Peugeot. Nothing close to a PX-10, I recall that it had cheap Simplex plastic derailleurs and probably Mafac brakes. But it was the option in the Varsity price range. The Peugeot was a nice lime green. I rode it all over until one day I crashed on a wet corner because the rear wheel pretzeled. It had steel rims, 27 x 1 1/4 tires, downtube shifters, probably a Pivo stem and steel bars.

    When I was 21 or 22, I bought a PX-10, my first really good bike. Wish I still had that one. It still had the cheap Mafac brakes, but it had the upgraded Simplex Prestige derailleur (which broke during the Nevada City race), Cinelli stem, Brooks Pro saddle, and tubulars mounted on cheap rims. It also had the external cam French-made quick releases which I thought were really ugly. I remember the French components were not very durable; I broke a number of Lyotard pedals before I switched to Japanese pedals, and then to Campag.

    I never liked Schwinns lower than the Paramount. All the Schwinns had either Schwinn or "Schwinn-approved" components. The derailleurs on the cheap Varsity's were "Schwinn approved" Huret steel units. Everything weighed a ton - a friend of mine had a Varsity, and it was painful to lift! But I don't think the components broke!

    Luis

  14. #14
    USMC Veteran qcpmsame's Avatar
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    No Varsity but the Continental in their opaque blue was one of my bikes in high school and for a few years afterwards. I got it because of its durability factor, it was too heavy but it never ever broke or even got much out of adjustment for that fact. Those old Schwinn Approved components were all as heavy as it comes but the could last quite a while. Now we know better than to have the turkey leg brake levers but I remember kids wanted them and sought out the Schwinns for them, the Continental with its center pull brakes, quick release wheels (with heavy, poor stopping steel rims) and those gum wall Schwinn Puff tires were the thing in our little southern town. One guy had a Sport Tourer with the alloy rims, a triple rear der and the leather Brooks saddle, he was too much for us we secretly lusted for his bike.

    After a couple of years the dealers here picked up better bike lines, Bottecchia, Gitane and the better Raleighs came in and we got wise to them, thankfully. Luis, your PX-10 would have been a big dawg here with those components. You would have been an elite for a while, we didn't get a Pug dealer for a while, the Yamaha motorcycle dealer had a few, strangely. A Paramount was something we all rode to the Schwinn dealer to lust over and dream about, they always had 2 on the showroom floor, who bought them we never knew or saw. Good times, indeed.

    Bill
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  15. #15
    Senior Member Jim from Boston's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lhbernhardt View Post
    …When I was 21 or 22, I bought a PX-10, my first really good bike. Wish I still had that one. It still had the cheap Mafac brakes, but it had the upgraded Simplex Prestige derailleur (which broke during the Nevada City race), Cinelli stem, Brooks Pro saddle, and tubulars mounted on cheap rims. It also had the external cam French-made quick releases which I thought were really ugly. I remember the French components were not very durable; I broke a number of Lyotard pedals before I switched to Japanese pedals, and then to Campag

    I never liked Schwinns lower than the Paramount. All the Schwinns had either Schwinn or "Schwinn-approved" components. The derailleurs on the cheap Varsity's were "Schwinn approved" Huret steel units. Everything weighed a ton…

    Quote Originally Posted by qcpmsame View Post
    …After a couple of years the dealers here picked up better bike lines, Bottecchia, Gitane and the better Raleighs came in and we got wise to them, thankfully. Luis, your PX-10 would have been a big dawg here with those components….A Paramount was something we all rode to the Schwinn dealer to lust over and dream about, they always had 2 on the showroom floor, who bought them we never knew or saw. Good times, indeed.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
    … in the 70’s …[I] soon bought a Mercier as did my girlfriend, later my wife. We toured in Michigan and Ontario….
    The above quotes really capture the bicycle marketplace of the 1970’s, well before the introduction of mountain bikes—when Bicycling Magazine was a good read. When we were looking for “really good bikes,” our Merciers were equivalent to the PX10s, better than the Puegot UOE8’s (I think that was the model name I’m thinking of). Our components were similar to those described above. We were so nave that we actually used the Merciers to tour, including a fully loaded cross-country trip on tubulars!

    I’m sure you guys remember back in those days, our odometers were metal clickers on a spoke that struck a mechanical counter that tallied the wheel revolutions and read out miles. A friend of mine who was a nuclear engineer added a then-high tech modification. He fashioned a hard nylon striker to silence the click-click-click.
    Last edited by Jim from Boston; 01-09-14 at 06:19 PM.

  16. #16
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    My first road bike, Chruistmas present at age 12, was a 1962 bottom of the line Bianchi Corsa. When the neighbor kids saw that my brother and I had gotten matching bikes (mine was red with gold trim; his was the opposite), they asked, "Are they Varsities or Continentals?" The Varsinental's biggest defects were those super-heavy steel rims and the Varsity's flat-bladed fork.

    I did commute on a Varsity for a couple of years -- I got it from my father-in-law and kept it at the train station, for the connecting ride up a 12% grade to the office. I put aluminum-rimmed Japanese wheels, a 6-speed ultra-spaced freewheel. toeclips, and KoolStop brake pads on my Varsity, and threw a shim around the downtube so that I could use SunTour downtube levers instead of the TwinStiks.

    When a coworker gave me a Peugeot UO-8, I scrapped the Varsity and put the wheels, and a set of aluminum cranks, on it. That was my commuter for the next few years, until I cracked the drive side chainstay between the tire and chainring clearance dimples. I suspect this would not have happened to the Varsity.
    "Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise." -- George Stahlman
    Capo [dschaw'-poe]: 1959 Modell Campagnolo, S/N 40324; 1960 Sieger, S/N 42624
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  17. #17
    Slogging along rubic's Avatar
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    I rode my Schwinn Continental during my college years between 1969 and 1972. It was so much more durable than those Peugeots. I went everyplace with that bike not to mention all over the campus. Lots of nice memories.

  18. #18
    Trek 500 Kid Zinger's Avatar
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    Yep

    Started out riding on a Varsity when I stopped smoking in my late 20s. Up to 40 or 50 mile rides on it. It was a tank alright. Next bike was an Italvega. Gave the Varsity to my sisters boyfreind.
    "I never lost a race because my bike was too heavy".......George Mount

  19. #19
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    I got my Varsity in '71 when I was 14, my parents bought it for me for my paper route. Yes Heavy, but built like a TANK. Rode it on a 100 mile charity ride at 16, rode it down staircases, rode it off jumps, etc.... broke rear axles, bent seat post, but the frame was good for more. I replaced it in '73 with a Volkscycle mark 100. Tim

  20. #20
    rebmeM roineS JanMM's Avatar
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    Not a Varsity, but took up cycling when I bought a new Continental in 1973 (at age 23). The bike served me well for three years but I have never missed it.
    RANS V3 (steel), RANS V-Rex, RANS Screamer

  21. #21
    Senior Member curbtender's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by B. Carfree View Post
    I never had a varsity, but I did get a used gold '66 super sport in '68 from an employee of my dad. He bought it full of hope that he would ride, but he had obviously not followed through, at least according to the condition of the tires. I still remember the funny font on the handlebars. The stem had the word "super" and on either side the handlebars supposedly were supposed to have the word "sport", but it looked more like "snort". That bike was ahead of its time; cocaine abuse didn't really hit its stride in the Bay Area until a decade later.
    http://i256.photobucket.com/albums/h...r/DSC00451.jpg
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  22. #22
    Rod & Judy gracehowler's Avatar
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    Yes, I got an emerald green varsity in late '72, rode it about a year, traded up to a Peugeot. All I remember is that the Peugeot was a nicer ride.
    R

  23. #23
    Senior Member woodcraft's Avatar
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    The best thing about it was burning off other riders on the hills.

  24. #24
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    That's it. I can't believe someone has a picture of one of those.

  25. #25
    Senior Member JimF22003's Avatar
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    Had a green Schwinn World Traveller in 1973 or so. Heavy as hell. I have a picture of me standing with it in my backyard with my hair looking like Moe from the Three Stooges.
    2009 Cervelo R3SL TdF Edition, Ultegra Di2
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