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Is this bike worth the $$$? Please help a noobie!

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Is this bike worth the $$$? Please help a noobie!

Old 08-23-11, 07:35 PM
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LittleCaptain
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Is this bike worth the $$$? Please help a noobie!

I'm a college student looking for a commuter bike. The commutes will be 15-45min

I don't know anything about bikes and so I have no idea if I'm getting a great deal or a terrible deal! Please help me out!

Message from seller (Craigslist)
Schwinn Varsity Bicycle, parts are in very good condition (but needs a tune up), has original parts (including seat, handlebar tape, etc.) except new tubes in the tires, works well as either a collectors bicycle or a commuter bike. 21'' wheel size. The bike is from the late 70's. You could probably use it as a commuter without doing much of anything, assuming u weren't riding it very far.
I also don't know if this bike is suitable to my needs and size. Like I said, 15-45min commutes. My height is about 5'6" and weight 140lbs.

Pictures:
He wanted $85 and dropped to $75. I don't have much experience with Craigs and NO experience at all with buying used bikes. Just a little worried that I will get screwed over.
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Old 08-23-11, 07:44 PM
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It's hard to get 'screwed over' for $75. I'd say it's a fair deal. A tune-up probably just means that the cables on the derailers just stretched and you need to twist the barrel adjusters a bit and you'll be good to go.

Make sure the bike fits you. Straddle the top tube and make sure your groin does not rub against the tube. That would be bad if every time you do an emergency dismount it's like a kick in the groin. Also, ride it and make sure it's comfortable and that you don't feel stretched out having to reach for the handlebar.
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Old 08-23-11, 07:54 PM
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Make sure the wheels are pretty straight. That can be an expensive repair. Although a little wobble can be straightened. Also make sure they rotate freely and that all the gears work smoothly. Those old Schwinns are built like tanks, so it should be dependable. From what little I can see in the pictures, it looks like it hasn't been trashed, and could be in good shape.
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Old 08-23-11, 08:05 PM
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Its proably pretty decent if its roadworthy for that kind of money. The pics look good, but they can be deceiving. The seller sounds liek they don't really know much about bikes which can be good or bad. It might not need much of anything or they might think its great and its a POS when you get there which I have had that happen to me. I would go check it out and be willing to offer even less than $75 since the seller has dropped the price already and will be swayed by some cash in hand.
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Old 08-23-11, 09:28 PM
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Ok, so the consensus is that the bike is worth $70 as long as it rides?

21'' wheel size for 5'6" guy sounds ok?
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Old 08-23-11, 09:40 PM
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I don't know where the seller is getting 21" for the wheels maybe thats the size of the frame. Its hard to say for sure what size some frames are by looking at them with pics like that, but I would think that bike should be ok for you.
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Old 08-24-11, 10:37 AM
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Pretty sketchy stopping a bike with steel rims in the wet. Does it rain where you live?
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Old 08-24-11, 11:15 AM
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Originally Posted by SouthFLpix View Post
A tune-up probably just means that the cables on the derailers just stretched and you need to twist the barrel adjusters a bit and you'll be good to go.
Not even that, Varsities have friction shifters IIRC. You don't have to adjust anything unless there's so much slack that the shifters won't pull enough cable to reach the extreme gears.
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Old 08-24-11, 11:57 AM
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It really depends on where you are located and if you work on your own bikes.
He states new tubes, but doesn't state the condition of the tires. Bad tires, ozone cracked and weathered and dried out tires, and such will add $30-$100 to the cost, also factor in a rim strip or rim tape if the tires are aged.

Steel rims will probably have you wanting the Salmon Koolstop brake pads, assuming they fit and clear the forks and stays.

His comment about "assuming u weren't riding it very far" is a red flag to me. Could mean it is heavy, could mean it needs an overhaul, could mean something else.

Check the seatpost and handlebar stem to ensure they are not stuck in the frame. See the park tool web site or sheldonbrown.com for how to do this if you don't know. And if you don't know then take someone who does along with you to look over the bike.

I'd have a hard time selling that bike in my local market for $50, other markets could get over $100, so location matters.

Varsities are tanks, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, just know what you're getting and what you need.

Or see if the seller will meet you at a local bike shop and have one of the mechanics look it over for you in exchange for a 6-pack of carbonated beverage during a slow period in their day/week, along with a $10 bill to keep the shop owner content as well.
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Old 08-24-11, 01:18 PM
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Originally Posted by treebound View Post
Or see if the seller will meet you at a local bike shop and have one of the mechanics look it over for you in exchange for a 6-pack of carbonated beverage during a slow period in their day/week, along with a $10 bill to keep the shop owner content as well.
Like a used car inspection. I dig that idea...
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Old 08-24-11, 01:26 PM
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The inspection sounds good in theory, $15 for an inspection on a $75 bike and coordinating all that between all parties? That sounds like more trouble than its worth unless the seller lives near a bike shop and can go there when its open.
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Old 08-24-11, 01:56 PM
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A hassle? Sure. But you'd be surprised at how many mechanics and bike builders and sales folks in bike shops have lines on used bikes which are ready to ride for a fair price equipped with employee discounted parts which were used by the employees as personal bikes. They also know of customers wanting to upgrade to a new bike and who want to sell their used bike for trade-in value. Lifestyles have accessories, and those accessories make the rounds at times (sometimes for a song).

Still don't know where the OP resides so hard to say what he or she may be able to find locally. But it seems like the OP's biggest concern is not getting burned.
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Old 08-24-11, 02:51 PM
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I see your angle on the inspection and its a good one. Plus I bet alot places would be willing to look over the bike for no cost since ther is a good chance you come back there for more service or tell people how great they were at least. I think its still going to be an issue getting a seller to agree to all this, but like you said if the OP was really concerned about getting a good quality bike for the price will run into the right bike with the right seller who is willing to go the extra mile and the inspection plan is worth a shot. Like you said we have no idea the area the OP s in so thats a big consideration.

Varsities have jumped in price since more flippers have gotten into the game. They used to be $60 or so in rideable condition, but now guys are getting $100+ for them now. Of course some of these have been regreased, new tires bar tape cables and housings so that seems more than reasonable to me. I sold a pile of them for $20 to one of these guys who does good work on them making some of them into singlespeeds or 1X5s or whatever. So even here in Lincoln where I consider bikes to be cheap Varsities aren't as cheap anymore because people assume that they are worth At least $100 because thats what some of these flippers are asking.
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Old 08-24-11, 06:50 PM
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Re

Thanks for all the responses. Much, much appreciated.

I bought the bike early today before the "go to a bike shop" suggestions came in. Too bad.

The final price we agreed on was $66. That's in Princeton, New Jersey - I have no idea if that makes it cheap or a burn. Either way, $66 is affordable... but I'm still kind of curious how good of a deal I got (just for kicks).

The condition seemed solid to my untrained eye. I read up on how to check a used bike and did the best I could. I checked the frame for cracks and rust. I made sure the fork wasn't bent. I made sure the wheels didn't wobble and spun smoothly. Checked tires for cuts, spokes, breaks, gears. Everything seems to be working. As one of you mentioned now, I didn't check if the seat lowers, I do hope it does

About the only thing that seemed a bit off target was the steering. Moving left/right is met with just the slightest bit of restriction/friction. It definitely doesn't make the bike unusable however. Could that be normal or an easy fix?

Visually the bike seems to be in excellent condition. The guy I bought it from said it was an impulse buy at a garage sale - however being 6' tall the bike is uncomfortable for him to use (I'm 5'6"). He said the couple he bought it from just kept it in the basement for 30 years... and to be honest it kind of seems like that might have been the case indeed. Paint, stickers, and even handlebar tape looks almost new.

Here's hoping for no hidden defects. Maybe I'll take it to a local bike shop tomorrow to have them take a look.

Pretty sketchy stopping a bike with steel rims in the wet. Does it rain where you live?
Yes, it tends to rain here in the fall and spring. I'm in NJ. Will this be a major problem? This bike will definitely spend some time outside while I'm in class.

Last edited by LittleCaptain; 08-24-11 at 06:55 PM.
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Old 08-24-11, 07:05 PM
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to put in perspective, I bought my 74 varsity in mid summer for 25, tires tubes another 35, and I don't dare admit I have just under 250 in it now. I don't admit that I might be buying new wheels and tires next week or so, for another 100 in cost, but I do admit it is just faster than my much newer schwinn voyageur. Hint, order a wald seat post and so you can get a nicer seat.
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Old 08-24-11, 10:19 PM
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I think you got a good deal. I bought a Varsity that looks like yours a couple years ago from a guy that said he rode it less than 15 miles since he bought it. So it only had some imperfects from storage and the decals were cracked and stuff, tbu it was in pretty awesome conditon. I think I paid like $25 or something. Cleaned it up super nice made sure everything worked as iot should and put it on CL for $100 maybe more becasue of the condition. A student I know at the college I work at called me (I wasn't sure it was him until he showed up at my house) and so I gave it to him for $85. He was super excited about it and rode is alot over the next couple years. So it sounds like you have a bike in similar shape and thats a good deal. I could have probably sold the Varsity I had for $150 with no problem in a couple days now. $66 is a fun number i wonder if there is a story about how you settled on that. =)

The issue with the steering is probably the headset and it probably has grease that is dried out. Thats probably the case for the crank and the wheel hubs too. It sounds like you are willing to wrench on your own bike and cleaning those bearing surfaces and re-greasing them is pretty simple on these bikes so Go for it. Read up on how to do it on the internet and you will be good to go. Maybe you will need a couple bike wrenches or something, but you can probably borrow some from somebody if money is really tight.

The Schwinn Varsity is heavy and has steel chrome rims, but other than these drawbacks its a good bike. Those shifters work great and the bikes ride smooth. Its not a bike I would pick to ride but they are good bikes. The difference between the Varsity and some other cheaper bikes of that era is pretty significant. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the bike. Make sure you get a good lock for it.
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Old 08-24-11, 10:35 PM
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For $66, you get a bike that is rideable. Even if something goes wrong, the opportunity to find out why it went wrong and how to fix it is value. If the bike doesn't suit you, you should have little problem getting most or all or more of that $66 back. That sounds like a deal to me. Ride proud Varsity warrior.
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Old 08-24-11, 11:08 PM
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Originally Posted by LittleCaptain View Post
I'm a college student looking for a commuter bike. The commutes will be 15-45min

I don't know anything about bikes and so I have no idea if I'm getting a great deal or a terrible deal! Please help me out!

Message from seller (Craigslist)


I also don't know if this bike is suitable to my needs and size. Like I said, 15-45min commutes. My height is about 5'6" and weight 140lbs.

Pictures:


He wanted $85 and dropped to $75. I don't have much experience with Craigs and NO experience at all with buying used bikes. Just a little worried that I will get screwed over.
I think you got a reasonably good deal. I'd drop $66 for a Schwinn Varsity in decent shape without hesitation.

Last edited by bragi; 08-24-11 at 11:20 PM.
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Old 08-25-11, 07:40 AM
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This is one option for brake pads:
https://harriscyclery.net/product/koo...-of-4-3162.htm

They also come with the holder/body so all you'll have to do is wrench and adjust, sometimes the pads don't want to slide out.

As noted above the steering issue is probably just dried grease. And if the headset is dried out then you can assume everything else is as well. Either take it to a shop for an overhaul, or take your time and work on one section of the bike at a time. First make it safe, then make it functional, then refine the ride from there.
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Old 08-25-11, 09:57 AM
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I'll repeat the need to grease all the bearings. If you ride too long with dried out grease (typical of most GS bikes) you risk more expensive replacement later.
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Old 08-25-11, 03:46 PM
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Any idea how much greasing & general look-over maintenance (no reparis) would/should cost at a local bike store?

Thanks all
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Old 08-26-11, 07:37 AM
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Originally Posted by LittleCaptain View Post
Any idea how much greasing & general look-over maintenance (no reparis) would/should cost at a local bike store?

Thanks all
Every shop is different, but figure at least $100 for a complete overhaul plus parts, probably closer to $150 plus parts for a complete tear down and clean and regrease and reassembly and adjust.
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Old 08-26-11, 07:52 AM
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Pricy. I guess I'll try to do it myself.
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Old 08-26-11, 08:30 AM
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You could try Google or ask around and see if there is some sort of bike coop or bike kitchen in your area that would help you out.
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Old 08-26-11, 09:08 AM
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My New Jersey geography is a little weak, but I believe noglider (Tom) lives nearby. He may be able to help you, too.
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