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Getting a used Schwinn Varsity?

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Getting a used Schwinn Varsity?

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Old 02-01-19, 10:43 AM
  #51  
VegasTriker
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Lots of the Schwinn Varsities were bought by parents who rode Schwinn bikes when they were kids so knew the brand name. To any fan of lightweight bikes the Varsity screams "cheap" from the welded frame to the one-piece Ashtabula crank. The Le Tour models of the early to mid 70s were made in Japan by Panasonic who employed craftsmen who could braze rather than weld the frame. I doubt there were many real craftsmen in the Chicago factory. The real rub was that we had one independent bike store and one Schwinn shop in town that both sold the same Panasonic bike. The one with "Schwinn Approved" stamped all over it sold for $30 more than the identical bike with Panasonic on the frame. It was Schwinn's reluctance to build a reasonably priced lightweight bike that did them in eventually.

I was lucky enough when I bought my first bike as an adult to have the choice between two used bikes for the same price. One was the Varsity and the other a 29 pound Italian Fiorelli 10 speed bike with low end Campi components. The Fiorelli was way nicer looking so I bought it. What a lucky choice. It served me well for a decade and kept me riding. I can't imagine riding a 70 pound version of the Varsity. That was half my body weight at the time I bought the Fiorelli.
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Old 02-01-19, 10:47 AM
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Originally Posted by nomadmax View Post
Throw up a pic of that bad boy, I like a Varsity too

20190105_133655 by Richard Mozzarella, on Flickr
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Old 02-01-19, 10:50 AM
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Varsities are relatively expensive here on Craigslist. It has become very desireable.

Woe...that must be very creepy to ride under that overpass after dark.
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Old 02-01-19, 11:18 AM
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Originally Posted by mtb_addict View Post
Varsities are relatively expensive here on Craigslist. It has become very desireable.

Woe...that must be very creepy to ride under that overpass after dark.
They do tend to be overpriced here, in Seattle. The troll was a volunteer project by a local art professor. The local news does a fluff story every once in a while. Fun fact: the artists nose was the model they used for the troll. If you've ever seen the guy, it's about proportionate!
FWIW: Here is my wife's Varsity
QLC2Ckg5uLvGxL4lUbAUdGFmj6ewk66G6eSflITih7M-2048x1536 by Richard Mozzarella, on Flickr
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Old 02-01-19, 12:13 PM
  #55  
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Originally Posted by base2 View Post
They do tend to be overpriced here, in Seattle. The troll was a volunteer project by a local art professor. The local news does a fluff story every once in a while. Fun fact: the artists nose was the model they used for the troll. If you've ever seen the guy, it's about proportionate!
FWIW: Here is my wife's Varsity

QLC2Ckg5uLvGxL4lUbAUdGFmj6ewk66G6eSflITih7M-2048x1536 by Richard Mozzarella, on Flickr
Those Varsitys are awesome! Thanks for sharing the pics Can you elaborate on the cantilevered rear dropouts on yours?
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Old 02-01-19, 01:52 PM
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Originally Posted by nomadmax View Post
Those Varsitys are awesome! Thanks for sharing the pics Can you elaborate on the cantilevered rear dropouts on yours?
I had the work done by Haulin' Colin. Steel is pretty versital stuff. Mostly I wanted to get the axle on the other side of the Panniers so that the front end wouldn't get light when it was fully loaded. Most people load front panniers to keep things in balance, but the super relaxed geometry & high trail number of 86mm (47mm rake fork was the best I could do) would've made steering unbearable. Thanks to the extended rear drop outs, the cg is just forward of the bottom bracket for both loaded/unloaded conditions. It rides much more consistantly across a broader range than otherwise.
The canti brakes were a response to marginal long reach brake performance. Since I was using 700c rims, I figured it was then or never. They also allow 47mm wide tires. Ideally suited for gravel riding.

There is also WoundUp disc forks & work done on the head tube to accommodate a 1 1/8 headset. For my wifes bike, I bought a VPH755 headset from Porkchop bmx & a Nashbar carbon fork for about $75 It saved about 3 pounds and got modern short reach dual pivot brakes. A huge upgrade well worth the cost. The locknut on the my Vph755 headset did need to be enlarged a schoche for the quill stem adapter. That was an easy task.

Last edited by base2; 02-01-19 at 02:11 PM.
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Old 02-04-19, 10:10 AM
  #57  
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Base 2 I put brazed cantilever brake posts onto a 26" Varsity frame 36 yrs ago to use in early MTB racing here in Northern California. I had no trouble with the Ashtabula fork using this system but the Mafac Tandem cantilever brakes actually started bending the seat stays forward. Smaller Varsity frames might not have that problem. The bicycle was being used as a race bicycle where conditions are much worse than for everyday riding. Racing tends to weed out the weaknesses rapidly. Varsity's are not alone in having this problem. After a while MTB frame makers put on stouter seat stays that would not bend when using very strong brakes. I love your idea of longer rear forks. Rivendell has gone to this idea and if I get enough scratch together I would love to get one of their long wheelbase bicycles.
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Old 02-04-19, 01:12 PM
  #58  
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I sold my old Schwinn w/o looking back. I had ridden it for decades, but not often once I found other brands were more entertaining. Sold my Peugeot shortly after as I was moving away from pure road bikes. Prolly would rather have the P back, or a good used Raleigh Grand Prix than a Varsity. I was riding when they were all "new" current bikes. Schwinn Paramount maybe ... But Varsity - not going there ever again. Even nostalgia can't beat the slow heavy nature ...
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Old 02-04-19, 01:55 PM
  #59  
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Due to the nature of their build and their heavy weight, the varsity’s were awesome if you liked to ride no-handed.
Once you got the hang of it you could even take fairly sharp turns no-handed and could track straight on the worst of roads
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Old 02-10-19, 09:14 PM
  #60  
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I bought a brand new Schwinn Paramount in 1971 with the Weinmann brake option on an otherwise all Campagnolo gruppo package. The bicycle had sew up rims and was bought in the 26" frame size. I'm 6'5". The bicycle weighed 26 lbs ready to roll. My Paramount had very laid back angles on the headtube and seatpost and was absolutely comfortable to ride. The Reynolds 531 double butted tube frame would bend this way and that at the cranks and it would flex on high G turns. Unfortunately the bike was a one trick pony and I started riding all road/gravel road/mountain bicycles and eventually sold that Paramount. I had found the Varsity for off road racing in my frame size and that experience opened my eyes to another world of cycling out there. By the way the Varsity ready to go with 26x1.75" tires and all aluminum components weighed 31lbs ready to roll. Not bad for a 26" framed off road racing bicycle in the early 1980's. Base 2 I just love what you've done to your Varsity. I believe a longer wheelbase generally benefits bicycle handling in mostly positive ways. It also splits the weight more equally between the front and rear wheel. If you have occasion to really abuse that rear brake let us know if the frame stays bend forward as mine have done in the past. I just kept riding mine and it never seemed to hurt the overall performance. Your smaller frame size may not allow this to happen. Tom Ritchey has a great video out there that was recorded in Germany at a discussion session. One of the things he had to say was all steel bicycles are cold bent during assembly and bending one back to original specs is OK as long as the damage bend was not severe. Good luck.
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Old 02-10-19, 10:12 PM
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Originally Posted by jefnvk View Post
Travelers/Le Tours generally cost no more and look the same and are better. Look for one of those.
I had a Schwinn Super Le Tour 12.2, it was a fine bike. I was stolen
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Old 02-11-19, 05:30 AM
  #62  
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Originally Posted by base2 View Post
I had the work done by Haulin' Colin. Steel is pretty versital stuff. Mostly I wanted to get the axle on the other side of the Panniers so that the front end wouldn't get light when it was fully loaded. Most people load front panniers to keep things in balance, but the super relaxed geometry & high trail number of 86mm (47mm rake fork was the best I could do) would've made steering unbearable. Thanks to the extended rear drop outs, the cg is just forward of the bottom bracket for both loaded/unloaded conditions. It rides much more consistantly across a broader range than otherwise.
The canti brakes were a response to marginal long reach brake performance. Since I was using 700c rims, I figured it was then or never. They also allow 47mm wide tires. Ideally suited for gravel riding.

There is also WoundUp disc forks & work done on the head tube to accommodate a 1 1/8 headset. For my wifes bike, I bought a VPH755 headset from Porkchop bmx & a Nashbar carbon fork for about $75 It saved about 3 pounds and got modern short reach dual pivot brakes. A huge upgrade well worth the cost. The locknut on the my Vph755 headset did need to be enlarged a schoche for the quill stem adapter. That was an easy task.
Awesome bikes!
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Old 02-11-19, 01:03 PM
  #63  
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My suggestion is to try to get an older one (pre 1975). the Q.C. was better. I had a '72 and it was really solid. Check the rims. They tend to be rusty on the inside from water entering the flat tire beads. They are super easy to fully disassemble and reassemble. They are heavy, but ride so smoothly and balance nicely. I'd get a small (20" frame) for your height. (this size seems to be fairly common around here)
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Old 02-11-19, 01:11 PM
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Originally Posted by cyclist2000 View Post
I was stolen
Damn, that's rough.
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Old 02-18-19, 01:15 AM
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Base 2 with my current Varsity rear 700c wheel in the stock position I can get a 40mm tire on a Velocity Chukkar rim to work. I is tight with about 4mm of clearance per side. Not much room for mud or a broken spoke. Getting 47mm is quite a bit more. The stock Varsity fork probably would fit a 47mm tire. I'll have to check it out. I really like the 40mm tire. It is not big enough to slow down overall average speed but does make a big difference offroading. Your 47mm tire is going to be a very good off road tire. I find that street tread patterns are fine off road as long as you aren't racing or riding in a lot of mud. Love your project.
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Old 02-18-19, 01:17 AM
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All please ignore my feeble efforts to post photos in my last post. My phone has the wrong photo output for this website. Going to try a different camera.
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Old 02-18-19, 08:12 AM
  #67  
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Originally Posted by tallbikeman View Post
Base 2 with my current Varsity rear 700c wheel in the stock position I can get a 40mm tire on a Velocity Chukkar rim to work. I is tight with about 4mm of clearance per side. Not much room for mud or a broken spoke. Getting 47mm is quite a bit more. The stock Varsity fork probably would fit a 47mm tire. I'll have to check it out. I really like the 40mm tire. It is not big enough to slow down overall average speed but does make a big difference offroading. Your 47mm tire is going to be a very good off road tire. I find that street tread patterns are fine off road as long as you aren't racing or riding in a lot of mud. Love your project.
No worries. I just found out I mis-spoke. The Woundup fork for has room for a 41, but nothing more. About 3mm clearance on each side. The rear of mine only has room because the axle is moved back. Here is a pic I took from this morning's commute. I just put a set of knobby 41's on last night because of the thick sand on the roadways from snow removal efforts. I still have about 1/2 inch clearance on each side. So I'm still sure a 47 would fit.

I think you're right. Not so big as to slow you down, but plenty big enough to be useful for less than optimal conditions.

Usually, for photos, people upload to Flickr, then get the BB Code from the "share photo" option, then paste right into the "reply" text box here.
20190218_050706 by Richard Mozzarella, on Flickr
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Old 02-18-19, 06:50 PM
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Originally Posted by jefnvk View Post
Travelers/Le Tours generally cost no more and look the same and are better. Look for one of those.
Seconded on that thought, lighter, much better frame, better componentry, and much nicer to ride overall.
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Old 02-18-19, 07:35 PM
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Originally Posted by littleArnold View Post
I would love a road bike, I don't really care if it is faster than my Trek Hybrid or not. I really like the old Schwinn Varsity bikes. They sell for decent price on eBay , but don't know about condition or how it will ride. I can ride at 15-16 mph on trek hybrid for 20 miles as long as can ride the Schwinn varsity for 15mph for 20 miles I'm happy with that.

I really like the look of the old schwinn's. The problem is of course the fit of those bikes. A lot are like 32" from ground to top bar, which is too big for me. I am 5'5" I ride a 26" Schwinn mnt bike and my hybrid is a little smaller. Thoughts?
You might find that there are other bikes you will like as much or more than the venerable Varsity. You might be pleasantly surprised by some of the others.
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