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Schwinn Varsity Build

Old 08-18-18, 09:48 AM
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tantalizingchef
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Schwinn Varsity Build

Dear everyone!

I'm considering grabbing a 40+ year old Schwinn Varsity 27" bike frame and fork to rebuild. How hard is it to come across components that fit the bike? Or are things pretty standard over the decades? Want a little project and just thought to get some feedback...

Thank you!
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Old 08-18-18, 10:04 AM
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There's isn't anything on a Schwinn Varsity that wears out, if you have the whole bike. That is to say, none of the main components will wear out. Replace the usual consumable parts: tires, tubes, brake pads, chain - maybe seat and bar tape. Other than that, rebuild the bearings, clean and polish, tune and adjust. If you want to hot rod it, go with wheels with aluminum rims. It will improve performance and braking quite a bit. But you don't have the whole bike...

Some of the old Schwinn parts were wonky sizes, some were not. How bare of a frame is it?? headset, stem, bottom bracket, anything? You could come up with parts, but it will be some amount of work. Much of the components are still relatively standard. Rebuild cost will probably exceed value of the bike, unless you scrounge co-ops.

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Old 08-18-18, 10:17 AM
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FWIW. If this is your first bike project, i think you'd be way better off starting with a relatively complete Varsity. You can still buy vintage ones for under 100 bux I think, and new parts will cost you much more than that to build up a frame.
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Old 08-18-18, 11:01 AM
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It's literally the bare frame and fork And overall cost isn't an issue. just feeling out whether it's worth it to mess with. If things are standard it would be cool to 'hop up' the old bike as I'm doing with my brand new Cannondale quick1. lol...never leave enough alone I suppose

So long term project basically. Thanks for the input so far!
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Old 08-18-18, 11:02 AM
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Or better yet...is there a better option for a fun retro rebuild? Single speed? Varsity? etc?
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Old 08-18-18, 11:10 AM
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Mid-80's steel frames are best to work on. Commonality of parts is the main reason.

The Varsity will be heavy, pick something easier and more rewarding to ride after your efforts.
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Old 08-18-18, 11:22 AM
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Off hand, the things on a Varsity that are different from a common 1980s Japanese frame are:

Stem is 21.1mm vs. 22.2mm.
Front derailleur mount (seat tube) is 1 inch vs. 1 1/8.
Brake reach is longer.
Brake levers are for a thinner handlebar.
Seat post is 7/8 inch vs. one of the many more common sizes.
I think the front axle may be smaller, too, so filing the dropout may be necessary to fit a new wheel.
Also, the weight of a Varsity will be nearly double that of a decent 1980's bike.
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Old 08-18-18, 11:34 AM
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I did up a mid-70's Continental (Think Schwinn Varsity with a crome fork) 3pc. crank conversion,700C wheels and cruiser handle-bars. Got the weight down under 40# all parts from donor bikes. Seat post and stem are not your typical standard sizes.
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Old 08-18-18, 12:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Wildwood View Post
Mid-80's steel frames are best to work on. Commonality of parts is the main reason.

The Varsity will be heavy, pick something easier and more rewarding to ride after your efforts.
I think this is the most wise answer.

A Varsity/Continental/ElectroForged Schwinn is cool because it's so mid-century American retro. But as a bike- there's so much better. Not just in terms of "modern-ness," but in terms of practicality. ElectroForged Schwinns were, first and foremost, designed to be durable. Rugged, unbreakable, lifetime guarantee indestructible. However, that meant a bike that was MUCH MUCH MUCH heavier than it needed to be. It's just much more enjoyable to ride a bike that's well equipped and (well) under 30 pounds.

That being said, I learned a lot about working on bikes from playing with a Raleigh Sprite, Schwinn Suburban and Schwinn World Sport.
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Old 08-18-18, 02:22 PM
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Can't think of a more worthwhile project. The Varsity is the finest bicycle ever made.
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Old 08-18-18, 02:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Pompiere View Post
Off hand, the things on a Varsity that are different from a common 1980s Japanese frame are:

Stem is 21.1mm vs. 22.2mm.
Front derailleur mount (seat tube) is 1 inch vs. 1 1/8.
Brake reach is longer.
Brake levers are for a thinner handlebar.
Seat post is 7/8 inch vs. one of the many more common sizes.
I think the front axle may be smaller, too, so filing the dropout may be necessary to fit a new wheel.
Also, the weight of a Varsity will be nearly double that of a decent 1980's bike.
Originally Posted by Wildwood View Post
Mid-80's steel frames are best to work on. Commonality of parts is the main reason.

The Varsity will be heavy, pick something easier and more rewarding to ride after your efforts.
All of the above, I have a Kool Lemon '74 Varsity Deluxe with chrome fenders, it weighs 41 lbs.! I usually avoid them like the plague but it was a one owner in good shape for CHEAP or I would have passed on it too. In retrospect I wish I HAD passed on it.
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Old 08-18-18, 05:39 PM
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I started with a 1966 model Varsity that featured a standard 22.2mm stem quill diameter, and used an assortment of parts left over from other projects and from garage-sale "parts bikes"

Result was 32lbs with original 400gm kickstand and steel crankset still installed.

Be aware of the geometry of these bikes before building one up, since the rider's fit will be affected.

The bottom bracket on these bikes is very high, so narrower tires on 700c rims are a no-brainer. The stock Weinmann or Dia Compe calipers will still fit and work perfectly.

The frame angles are roughly 70x70 degrees, which reduces the forward reach of the frame to the tune of 2-3cm relative to the toptube measurement. Further, the 70-degree headtube angle favors the use of stems shorter than 10cm, which further limits the reach to the bars. So overall, these aren't a very good choice for riders with shorter legs versus their torso dimension, especially for aggressive or hilly riding.

Consider not buying a frameset missing the brake cable housing ferrules, as these are difficult to replicate. Any front derailer can be shimmed however to fit the 1" seat tube using 1/16" aluminum.

I agree that starting with a complete bike in excellent condition is the way to go, shouldn't cost more than $150 for nice one in one's preferred size. I would go for the largest frame that I could straddle to make for a roomier fit in terms of the reach.

These two Varsities (22" and 24" frames) get plenty of use here in the foothills, with the larger 39lb silver one having a better fit for me.




Last edited by dddd; 08-18-18 at 05:48 PM.
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Old 08-18-18, 07:00 PM
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nice conversion with the brifters on the green one. I had an old one new to me not long ago. most stable & most quiet
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Old 08-18-18, 07:48 PM
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Here’s another to avoid, but less than a Varsity.
Carabela SemiPro, even with chrome headlugs.



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Old 08-18-18, 08:12 PM
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What about an 80's FUJI frame and fork? More common?
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Old 08-18-18, 09:03 PM
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Originally Posted by tantalizingchef View Post
What about an 80's FUJI frame and fork? More common?
I have a bad habit of buying Fujis when I find one in my size LOL, even when they're a size too small. An 80's Fuji is a great foundation for a project but you can usually pick up a nice complete one pretty cheap. I snagged these for $75 or under for each one.

1986 Team Fuji


1986 Fuji Del Rey


1983 Fuji Royale II
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Old 08-18-18, 09:39 PM
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I got this bike in 1974, I was 13 years old ... just brought it home from hanging in my dads garage. I need to disassemble it and clean it up and service it. Not restored, just deep cleaned.
Original owner (me!) survivor.
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Old 08-18-18, 10:16 PM
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Dang, looks like you've lost the rear brake cable housing stop ferrules, I hope not.

Stem looks to have been raised beyond any safe limit. Is it still your size? I'd look for a cleaner 24" example, but nostalgic ties to this beast might prevail in your case(?).
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Old 08-18-18, 10:46 PM
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@dddd, the cable Ferrell’s are present under the top bar, I remember taking the rear brake off because that rack would not fit, but the caliper and cable were hanging on a hook in dads garage! Yep, the stem is high and the worst part is (back in the day) I had the handlebars turned upside down and I could ride a wheelie around the block!
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Old 08-18-18, 11:08 PM
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Broke Joke, I am busy looking at some of other stuff in the picture. The bike looks workable. Evoporust can do a good job on the stem and other parts that may be rusty. I don't know how good the rims are. When you get the bike working again, see if you could replace the rack with a Schwinn rack. They attach to the binder bolt on the seat tube.

For the original poster, I have to agree with what some others have said that it might be better to start with a more complete Varsity or Continental, if that is what you want to ride, or go for a a lighter bike. Schwinn LeTours can often go for little money and most can be made into decent riders.

Of course, there is always the trade-off between how inexpensive the bike is and how much time and effort you have to put into it. To me, it is therapy so, it is preferable to get them cheap and then think about how to go about getting them back on the road.
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Old 08-19-18, 12:21 AM
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Originally Posted by tantalizingchef View Post
What about an 80's FUJI frame and fork? More common?
Yes but if this is your first retro rebuild I highly suggest starting with a whole bike rather than a frame set, I have done it both ways and its much easier with a whole bike to start with. Even if you have a co-op near you its easy to end up having to search for a tough to find or odd sized part of having to hack something together. OTOH if your intent is use more modern parts on a vintage frame then a frame set -especially an 80s Japanese frame set isn't a bad option. Take your time have fun and you will find most of your questions answered on this forum - someone has had your issue before whatever you run into.

I have rebuilt a Varsity, one of my first ones, and also a Fuji from a frame-set. I would go with the Fuji. YMMV.
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Old 08-19-18, 05:12 PM
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You could look for the 2005+ a few years Wamart Varsity. Aluminum frame and used usually cheap. This is my newest but I also have a 1964 and 1965 Varsity.

Roger
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