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Would someone buy a new bicycle today because it's a 'Schwinn Varsity'?

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Would someone buy a new bicycle today because it's a 'Schwinn Varsity'?

Old 09-28-14, 08:45 AM
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I bought my first "real" bike back in the 60's; a used Schwinn Varsity. For the sake of nostalgia, I would love to have that bike back today.
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Old 09-28-14, 08:49 AM
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In terms of business, and selling bikes has been a business since the very beginning, brands have value. That value helps to sell bikes. It is really quite simple.
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Old 09-28-14, 08:57 AM
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Originally Posted by degan
I bet most people who buy the new Varsity with little to no knowledge of the previous Varsities. It seems like something that high school and college kids buy.
Exactly.

Our local universities are loaded with these Schwinns.

I've often joked with a friend about opening a small shop that sells/services these college bikes.

If rent wasn't so expensive in our neighborhood, it would be a prime location.

Nothing fancy, nothing over $150.
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Old 09-28-14, 09:53 AM
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Originally Posted by gomango
Exactly.

Our local universities are loaded with these Schwinns.

I've often joked with a friend about opening a small shop that sells/services these college bikes.

If rent wasn't so expensive in our neighborhood, it would be a prime location.

Nothing fancy, nothing over $150.
I think that's a good idea, but I think you might actually sell more bikes if you sold and serviced old varsities and similar in the same price range. College kids might not know about the varsity necessarily, but I think many would rather have a cheap " vintage bike" than a cheap new one. Especially if you could manage to offer a wide selection of sizes and colors, all tuned up and polished up. Of course that's a lot of work for you, but maybe you could make up for the extra work on the restorations with a good profit servicing bikes that students already own.
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Old 09-28-14, 10:16 AM
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Originally Posted by turky lurkey
I think that's a good idea, but I think you might actually sell more bikes if you sold and serviced old varsities and similar in the same price range. College kids might not know about the varsity necessarily, but I think many would rather have a cheap " vintage bike" than a cheap new one. Especially if you could manage to offer a wide selection of sizes and colors, all tuned up and polished up. Of course that's a lot of work for you, but maybe you could make up for the extra work on the restorations with a good profit servicing bikes that students already own.

Just a dream, as I would rather go fly fishing any day of the week.

A bike shop would be way too much work.
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Old 09-28-14, 11:18 AM
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Schwinn Varsity was like Dr Dre Beats Headphones today. We all wanted them even though they weren't the best.

Though I had fond memories of my Varsity, that one does not look anything like what I had. I can't imagine anyone spending that kind of money for a bike at Walmart.
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Old 09-28-14, 12:01 PM
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I am amused that on the Wallyworld site, its clear the Schwinn Prelude and Schwinn Volare are decidedly lower ranking bikes than the Varsity these days

Following this inversion of the old order, the Paramount must be a fat tire hybrid step-thru with a cheap-ass front suspension fork nowadays.
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Old 09-28-14, 12:07 PM
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On the Wally World site, the Varsity is $499. But they also have the Schwinn Prelude for $261. And if you don't like those, they have the Schwinn Phocus (bofus?) (really!) for $409.

Hey, on the What's it Worth C&V forum here, we can bicker all day about whether or not a nice 30-year old full Campagnolo Record Italian road racer is worth $500, and what the deduction should be for tubulars.
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Old 09-28-14, 12:24 PM
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Originally Posted by okane
...shown in the wally world ad linked to earlier. Is there a benefit to that pattern? Stronger, require less/more attention to tension, or simply flash like gaudy decals?
Deep section rims generally don't need as many spokes.

Makes 'em look like Campy

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Old 09-28-14, 01:31 PM
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I was going to say that besides public recognition another reason they probably re-used the name was to prevent the trademark from being abandoned. However in this case some 52 years after it was registered the current owners apparently allowed it to expire in 2004: VARSITY - Reviews & Brand Information - SCHWINN CYCLING & FITNESS INC. Boulder, CO - Serial Number: 71632069

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Old 09-28-14, 02:30 PM
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Originally Posted by gomango
Exactly.

Our local universities are loaded with these Schwinns.

I've often joked with a friend about opening a small shop that sells/services these college bikes.

If rent wasn't so expensive in our neighborhood, it would be a prime location.

Nothing fancy, nothing over $150.
Originally Posted by turky lurkey
I think that's a good idea, but I think you might actually sell more bikes if you sold and serviced old varsities and similar in the same price range. College kids might not know about the varsity necessarily, but I think many would rather have a cheap " vintage bike" than a cheap new one. Especially if you could manage to offer a wide selection of sizes and colors, all tuned up and polished up. Of course that's a lot of work for you, but maybe you could make up for the extra work on the restorations with a good profit servicing bikes that students already own.
There is a shop in Iowa City that got it's start that way. The owner Steve used to ride around town and salvage bikes from trash piles and garage sales, clean them up and resell them. Now they have a full blown bicycle shop that sells a wide range of bikes, not as many used ones as I remember but it may be the time of the year too.

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Old 09-28-14, 03:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Rabid Koala
When I was in the demographic target for a Varsity, in 1969, I wanted nothing to do with it. I wanted a Raleigh Grand Prix. After I wore the Raleigh out (hey by then I was 15), I got a Nishiki. Schwinn had nothing that interested me except the Paramount, and that was so far out of my budget that it was laughable.
I got my first "ten speed" around 1972, and it was a Raleigh Grand Prix. I, too, had nothing but disdain for the Schwinn Varsity. I liked the Grand Prix enough that I bought another when it got stolen (locked in the high school bike cage), bought another when that one got stolen (locked to a bike rack on my car--they took the whole rack), and bought yet another which was also stolen. I guess I wasn't the only one who liked the Grand Prix as there was clearly aftermarket demand for stolen ones.
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Old 09-28-14, 04:15 PM
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Originally Posted by findude
I got my first "ten speed" around 1972, and it was a Raleigh Grand Prix. I, too, had nothing but disdain for the Schwinn Varsity. I liked the Grand Prix enough that I bought another when it got stolen (locked in the high school bike cage), bought another when that one got stolen (locked to a bike rack on my car--they took the whole rack), and bought yet another which was also stolen. I guess I wasn't the only one who liked the Grand Prix as there was clearly aftermarket demand for stolen ones.
Got my first 10 speed in 1971, a red 25 inch Raleigh Grand Prix. My best friend had a Varsity, he insisted his varsity was lighter than my GP. He knew it wasn't even close but he never gave in. I keep looking for another one like it but so far the few red 25 inchers I have found have been trash. I found a really nice blue one for a very reasonable price but it's 600 miles away and the guy won't ship.
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Old 09-28-14, 05:53 PM
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Originally Posted by John E
You are not missing a thing, but the designers at the new Schwinn are evidently a few balls short of a full bearing race.
Dang, that's funny!
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Old 09-28-14, 06:11 PM
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Originally Posted by gomango
Just a dream, as I would rather go fly fishing any day of the week.

A bike shop would be way too much work.
Fly-fishing is probably a better business model, too.
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Old 09-29-14, 06:38 AM
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Originally Posted by The Golden Boy
The little "+ symbol to the right of the "reply with quote" box.

with it checked, and you click reply with quote- both will be there.

if you cancel the reply- that "+ will STILL BE ACTIVE
I think I got it! Listed my first post in this thread to try it out. Thanks.

Originally Posted by okane
...shown in the wally world ad linked to earlier. Is there a benefit to that pattern? Stronger, require less/more attention to tension, or simply flash like gaudy decals?
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Old 09-29-14, 06:45 AM
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Originally Posted by okane
I think I got it! Listed my first post in this thread to try it out. Thanks.
Sweet!
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Old 09-29-14, 07:27 AM
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Companies recycle names all the time, sometimes for products that are much different than what the name was used for previously. Usually, they do marketing surveys to ask people what comes to mind when they hear a particular name. Then the company chooses a name that fits the image they are trying to sell. My son is in high school sports, so, aside from bikes, when I hear "Varsity", I think of athletics, competition, performance, etc.
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Old 09-29-14, 04:14 PM
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As someone pointed out in Walmart's product reviews, this Varsity doesn't seem to be sold in a specified frame size, and likely the actual frame size is equivalent to a 54-55cm road bike as far as the critical top tube "reach" is concerned.

So you'll see six-footers on these things, perhaps never realizing how a road bike should fit, for both good exercise and good bike control and maintaining decent average speed.

Of course the Dept-store MTBs are almost always the same 16-18-inch size equivalent, un-stated size, and the product description often lists the bike's wheel size as a concealment of the fact that they don't want the customer fussing over the bike's actual frame size.

I recently started a thread about my recent purchase of a 1987 Motiv Defiant roadie that was sold by Costco, and I distinguished the bike from even the best of the typical department-store bikes in that the Motiv brand offered at least three frame sizes from 54cm to 61cm, though all had nearly the same top tube length and frame angles (the 54cm size had a 2cm-shorter stem btw).

I usually never buy any department-store bikes, but I have bought several of the Target-store Schwinn MTBs with suspension forks.
These are suited only for light-duty use, and of a limited product life, but I have had good luck with them overall. Drawbacks include rear freewheel-style hub with easily-bent axle, a suspension fork that can take in water if left out in the rain, a single "medium" frame size offered, plus fragile chainrings, derailers and a "plain" steel seatpost/clamp, but the bikes actually ride quite pleasantly(!), with good handling, versatile tires and fork action that's well-calibrated for a light adult.

Anyone that has owned and worked on real Chicago Varsities knows that the crank fittings, bearings, headset pieces and kickstand were of exceptional, proven quality and durability. Exceptional is the word, and why these bikes sold for a significant premium over their competitors. Their Ashtabula cranks and forks were far, far better than similar-looking parts still found on some of today's bikes.
The Varsinental's smaller frame tubing diameters and thicker walls lent an extreme level of dent-resistance, and just try denting that Ashtabula fork! Their Chicago steel rims were strong enough for a motorcycle.
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Old 09-29-14, 04:46 PM
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@dddd is right. The quality was actually exceptional, but there weren't many people to appreciate that. I certainly didn't. I thought it was just like those Murrays and Huffys of similar design.

I grew up in NYC where people are not as brand loyal as in the rest of the country. Schwinn shops here were rare. I worked in bike shops here in the late 70's and early 80's. We had strange brands such as Panasonic and Univega. People walked in and said, "Panasonic bicycles?!" We said, yes, they're very good. And the people took our word for it. That wouldn't fly elsewhere.

I never wanted a Schwinn Varsity, but I do respect it for what it was. I've worked on many of them, and most of the components are well made if not fun to ride. I don't like the heavy steel rims, because they're heavy and dent-prone. I don't like the derailleurs because they're a bear to use. Everything else is good, especially the Schwinn-made stuff.
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Old 09-29-14, 06:28 PM
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Originally Posted by dddd
As someone pointed out in Walmart's product reviews, this Varsity doesn't seem to be sold in a specified frame size, and likely the actual frame size is equivalent to a 54-55cm road bike as far as the critical top tube "reach" is concerned.

So you'll see six-footers on these things, perhaps never realizing how a road bike should fit, for both good exercise and good bike control and maintaining decent average speed.
In the Q&A section, they specify the frame as being "approximately 22 inches" and being "one of the larger models sold at Wal-Mart". That would be about 55-56 cm. They also say the bike weighs 27 pounds after assembly.
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Old 09-29-14, 10:44 PM
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Another thought on the Varsinentals: long chainstays. I rode mine from about 73 to 80. I figured all bikes rode like that. When I got a Traveler in 83, chainstays were shortened and angles were steeper on many bikes. I hated those bikes. They were still heavy but rode twitchy. Double suck. I still ride touring bikes and still like the way they ride. Plus, you can drink much more beer before you crash a Varsity and the bike won 't mind it much.

And for school at UW in Seattle, plastic bar tape was great! No rot!
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Old 09-30-14, 04:07 PM
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I remember very clearly the thrill I had when I got my Continental at the age of 13. For most of us, getting our first "10 speed" was a big deal. Those were the days before parents drove their little darlings everywhere, and we were on our own to find transportation to wherever we wanted to go. Those Varsinentals we all rode gave us the freedom to go pretty much wherever we wanted, until we could get our drivers license (and a car).

Mine had a rear rack, and that bike and rack carried what must have been 100 pounds of newspapers through my route every Sunday mornings. Weekdays were smaller loads but it was still hard work. And the old Schwinn just kept on going, long after I moved on to better bikes. It may even be around still.

And, it never felt heavy until I got a lighter one.
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Old 09-30-14, 04:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Jeff Neese
It looks like it retains at least the spirit of the original. It might make a good first-time road bike for someone.
I think the new Varsity's very much retain "the spirit of the original".

I owned an original 1963 Schwinn Varsity back in 1964. I got it in new condition from a local "rich kid" that learned (from another rich kid) after he got the Schwinn that he should have got a European made bicycle.

We knew full well what a Schwinn was (and wasn't) even back then. I believe my lightweight Varsity weighed 38 pounds. Maybe a full 10 pounds heavier than an imported 10 speed. But it was twice as durable and painted in popular colors too. And Schwinn parts were available and would be... forever.

The brand new in the store 1964 Varsity's cost just under $100 (tax included). About a weeks take home for the average factory worker and a LOT of money for a "toy".

How Much things cost in 1964
Year End Close Dow Jones Industrial Average 874
Average Cost of new house $13,050.00
Average Income per year $6,000.00
Gas per Gallon 30 cents
Average Cost of a new car $3,500.00
Loaf of bread 21 cents
United States Postage Stamp 5 cents
Average Monthly Rent $115.00
Ticket to the movies $1.25

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Old 09-30-14, 08:45 PM
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I recently took the opportunity to ride a pristine, 1972 Varsity after it sat for 40 years in a house. The owner had brought it outside to show me, and it wasn't even serviced since it was last ridden. Well, the derailleurs still worked, front and rear. Tires were cracked, but still held air. The bearings were good, tight, and smooth as was the bottom bracket. And the frame was perfect! I could shine that bike up to look like new if I could have just had enough money on me to buy it, as there was virtually no rust, except for very minor surface rust.

OK, so he let me ride the bike for a bit. It took a bit of work on the cables to get the derailleur to get going, and one of the springs had to be re-positioned. After that, I took it around the block a couple times. Just some minor lube, and I would be good to go, indeed. The bike handled so much better, with tracking that's far superior to even the base-model 22 pound Specialized Allez I demoed. The Varsity was heavier by 12 pounds or so, but I didn't notice the difference while riding it. If that guy still has that Varsity, I am buying and won't need the pearl white Allez. Instead, I would have a show-quality specimen that I would never feel bad about taking on social rides or down one of the paved trails in my area. It really is that good!

Now, comparing that original Varsity to one of the newer Wal-Mart specials would be like night and day. There is no comparison, as the older Varsity was of such better quality, with a far more durable finish and a superior candy luminescent shine. The one from China looks like any other cheaply made BSO on the store shelf. I don't even think they would be worth being called a "Varsity". Maybe in 40 years, we'll see. But those originals like the one I rode will STILL be around, and will STILL be worth more than the current models.
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