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Getting a used Schwinn Varsity?

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Getting a used Schwinn Varsity?

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Old 10-06-17, 05:58 PM
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littleArnold
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Getting a used Schwinn Varsity?

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?
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Old 10-06-17, 08:07 PM
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Originally Posted by littleArnold View Post
I don't really care if it is faster than my Trek Hybrid or not.
An old Varsity should do fine, if we're talking steady riding on flat ground.

but don't know about condition or how it will ride.
Well, the Varsity was Schwinn's lowest-end road bike. They were built fairly bombproof, but also on the cheap, and the result is that they're crazy heavy. These things tend to weigh in at like 35-40 pounds. Don't expect it to feel very sprightly or climb well. Expect steep climbs to be especially dubious on the stock gearing, since the lowest gears on most older road bikes aren't particularly low.

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?
Varsitys were sold down to pretty small sizes, since they were primarily marketed toward youth.
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Old 10-06-17, 08:28 PM
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Our shop recently had in a 24 inch wheel Varsity, although that probably would be too small. I am sure they were made with 19 inch frames.
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Old 10-06-17, 09:32 PM
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Travelers/Le Tours generally cost no more and look the same and are better. Look for one of those.
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Old 10-06-17, 09:41 PM
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Your Trek hybrid will do everything better than a Varsity
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Old 10-06-17, 09:50 PM
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19 inch frame, under $100 in very good condition = pull the trigger. In your area you can always sell and get your money back if you tire of it.
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Old 10-06-17, 10:31 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.
Agreed. The Varsity's did have some great color options but are heavy. If you're looking for a 70s model, the Le Tours, Super Sports or Superiors would be a little lighter and not that much more expensive.

I'd try to look for something toward the later 70s since some of the latter models came with Huret rear dropouts which only use obsolete derailleurs (still obtainable, but limited to 70s and earlier models). Even better would be an 80s Schwinn. If you keep the search to pre-1986 Schwinns, there are some classy options. Of course, you could always repaint...

Also, bike prices on ebay are really out of line most of the time, pretty much "must have" pricing. Varsity's pop up around here for under $100 all the time on Craigslist. I'd look at your local co-op or bike shop. Craigslist is good but you may have to do some work (or pay a bike shop) to get the bike where you want it.

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Old 10-06-17, 11:40 PM
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I'm the same size as you and am always on the lookout for a small frame Schwinn. Both of my parents are from Chicago so it was always the joke in my household that my parents would not buy my a Schwinn!
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Old 10-07-17, 03:42 AM
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Originally Posted by HTupolev View Post
An old Varsity should do fine, if we're talking steady riding on flat ground.


Well, the Varsity was Schwinn's lowest-end road bike. They were built fairly bombproof, but also on the cheap, and the result is that they're crazy heavy. These things tend to weigh in at like 35-40 pounds. Don't expect it to feel very sprightly or climb well. Expect steep climbs to be especially dubious on the stock gearing, since the lowest gears on most older road bikes aren't particularly low.


Varsitys were sold down to pretty small sizes, since they were primarily marketed toward youth.
Well I also ride an old used Schwinn Mnt bike bought from a co-worker that is like 45 lbs and I have no problem climbing hills with that so the weight isn't that much a concern. I ride mainly on flat bike trails that have maybe a steep hill or two on the path, but for the most part it is mainly all flat riding. Even if Varsity is a little slower than Hybrid that's fine. I just want something that is not going break down on me and last that is my main concern with an old Varsity bike.
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Old 10-07-17, 09:28 AM
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Your Trek Hybrid is like a light, modern, midsize SUV. The Varsity is like a 1967 Chevy Biscayne...an impossibly heavy, bottom-of-the-line, under-powered, sloppy-"handling", drudge-mobile that looks like it should be fast (it's a fastback, just like a sports car), but is, in fact, slow and a chore to drive.

I bought an old Varsity in 1993 to fix up and tinker with instead of my main commuter. The Varsity was a pig. I cleaned and repacked the bearings in the wheels, bottom-bracket and head-tube, and ran new cables and cable-housings and it was still a pig.

You could probably pick up a slightly newer, much lighter steel road bike that would be more rewarding for not much more money.
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Old 10-07-17, 09:43 AM
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Originally Posted by littleArnold View Post
Well I also ride an old used Schwinn Mnt bike bought from a co-worker that is like 45 lbs and I have no problem climbing hills with that so the weight isn't that much a concern. I ride mainly on flat bike trails that have maybe a steep hill or two on the path, but for the most part it is mainly all flat riding. Even if Varsity is a little slower than Hybrid that's fine. I just want something that is not going break down on me and last that is my main concern with an old Varsity bike.
The point is, there are relatively light weight vintage Schwinns with decent components, and there are boat anchor Schwinns that do not have decent components. Some of those early to mid 80s Schwinns even came with Columbus made Tenax tubing. Letour, Voyageur, Prelude, Tempo, Super Sport, even some later model World Sports are a few examples of vintage Schwinns that have stood the test of time and are, weight wise, lighter or comparable to a modern Trek hybrid. Moreover, these Schwinns typically used better quality Shimano and Suntour components, which are still available on the used market and compatible with modern Shimano components should you need to replace something. Not so much with your older Varsitys, which were extremely heavy with heavy steel wheels, which are both slow and dangerous in the rain.
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Old 10-07-17, 10:08 AM
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Originally Posted by littleArnold View Post
Well I also ride an old used Schwinn Mnt bike bought from a co-worker that is like 45 lbs and I have no problem climbing hills with that so the weight isn't that much a concern. I ride mainly on flat bike trails that have maybe a steep hill or two on the path, but for the most part it is mainly all flat riding. Even if Varsity is a little slower than Hybrid that's fine. I just want something that is not going break down on me and last that is my main concern with an old Varsity bike.
I've got a 1978 Le Tour. Under 30# (at least naked, not as equipped), and every part on it is "standard", unlike many of the old Varsities, many of which had the old Huret derailleurs and all of which I believe had Ashtabula cranks. An old Varsity is going to be no more reliable than any other decent vintage steel bike.

FWIW, even though it is not the nicest bike I own, it is probably my favorite to ride.

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Old 10-07-17, 10:12 AM
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If you really must have a Varsity, you can improve it by replacing the wheels with Aluminum ones. I have an old Schwinn Speedster with aluminum rims (and a triple crank!) that is at least pleasant to ride.
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Old 10-07-17, 10:14 AM
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They are like the platonic imagine of "bicycle" to me. My mom and dad had matching blue Le Tours with seats for me and my brother and then I had a varsity for my 10 Speed.
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Old 10-07-17, 10:38 AM
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Whatever bike you like and you are satisfied with how it rides, that's all that counts.
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Old 10-07-17, 10:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Aubergine;19914044[B
]If you really must have a Varsity, you can improve it by replacing the wheels with Aluminum ones.[/B] I have an old Schwinn Speedster with aluminum rims (and a triple crank!) that is at least pleasant to ride.
Yes but now you are talking about additional expense. New wheels are, maybe $100 to $150? Unless you are talking about restoring a beloved heirloom or valuable collectible bicycle, it starts to make no sense economically, especially since even with alloy wheels, you still have a low end, heavy bicycle.
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Old 10-07-17, 11:21 AM
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Originally Posted by elocs View Post
Whatever bike you like and you are satisfied with how it rides, that's all that counts.
Yes. Despite my experience, if it makes you happy, it can't be that bad.
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Old 10-07-17, 02:18 PM
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Originally Posted by MRT2 View Post
Yes but now you are talking about additional expense. New wheels are, maybe $100 to $150? Unless you are talking about restoring a beloved heirloom or valuable collectible bicycle, it starts to make no sense economically, especially since even with alloy wheels, you still have a low end, heavy bicycle.
Grant you that, but I wanted to give the OP some options, given my experience with the Speedster.
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Old 10-07-17, 02:26 PM
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You can get the Schwinn Prelude in the small size.
https://chicago.craigslist.org/chc/b...336643718.html
It's more expensive than the Varsity, but it has very nice components and it is in very good condition.

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Old 10-07-17, 04:40 PM
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I suggest asking yourself what you like about the look. My only reason is that if you expand your criteria to include more bikes, you'll get a broader selection from which to choose. I've noticed that the Schwinn name commands a premium among used bikes, and there are some other classic bikes of the same era that also look... classic. I'm fond of that look myself, and I own two old Schwinn frames, a World Tourist and a Traveler. It must have a horizontal top tube, even though that's pure vanity.

Of course if you like chrome, there's no substitute. Brillo pad will remove light surface rust, so long as there's no pitting. In my case, my bare minimum bike has aluminum wheels, but we all have our preferences. The Schwinn steel rims were easy to bend, so be sure to check the wheels for true if you're looking at bikes.

I had a Varsity as a teenager, and was perfectly happy with it. I rode it everywhere. But when I got the cheapest possible Trek in 1983, the weight difference was night and day in terms of the ride quality.
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Old 10-07-17, 05:11 PM
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Originally Posted by MRT2 View Post
The point is, there are relatively light weight vintage Schwinns with decent components, and there are boat anchor Schwinns that do not have decent components. Some of those early to mid 80s Schwinns even came with Columbus made Tenax tubing. Letour, Voyageur, Prelude, Tempo, Super Sport, even some later model World Sports are a few examples of vintage Schwinns that have stood the test of time and are, weight wise, lighter or comparable to a modern Trek hybrid. Moreover, these Schwinns typically used better quality Shimano and Suntour components, which are still available on the used market and compatible with modern Shimano components should you need to replace something. Not so much with your older Varsitys, which were extremely heavy with heavy steel wheels, which are both slow and dangerous in the rain.
I didn't know there was such a big difference between the old Schwinn bikes. My father had an old Schwinn road bike he rode when I was a kid I couldn't keep up with him He said he bought it for $300 in the 70's was a lot of money back then. It was either a Varsity or a Paramount. He could go very fast on it and would ride 20-40 miles a day after work. He could go 20+ miles an hour on that thing. I remember how fast it was as a kid.

I will look at the Letours, voyagers, and Preludes then. Sounds like the Varsity isn't the bike I want. Had no idea was such a big difference between them.
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Old 10-07-17, 05:51 PM
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Originally Posted by littleArnold View Post
I didn't know there was such a big difference between the old Schwinn bikes. My father had an old Schwinn road bike he rode when I was a kid I couldn't keep up with him He said he bought it for $300 in the 70's was a lot of money back then. It was either a Varsity or a Paramount. He could go very fast on it and would ride 20-40 miles a day after work. He could go 20+ miles an hour on that thing. I remember how fast it was as a kid.

I will look at the Letours, voyagers, and Preludes then. Sounds like the Varsity isn't the bike I want. Had no idea was such a big difference between them.
The big difference is that Schwinn had two distinct frame-making technologies. There's a lot written about Schwinn history because it's an iconic brand, and an interesting business case. Going back to practically the dawn of time, Schwinn made frames by a specialized welding process, and used particularly thick walled steel tubing. During their heyday, they made a heavy bike, but it was considered to be of high quality. If you were to resurrect a 1940's to 60's Schwinn, the only thing you would not have to worry about would be the frame. Well, the other thing would be the Sturmey Archer hub.

Meanwhile, the bikes that Schwinn made for racing teams were of lugged steel. That was the Paramont. Those were made in a separate factory in Wisconsin, and were a thing to behold.

During the 70s, high quality Japanese and European bikes began to take a pretty good sized chunk out of the US market, and Schwinn didn't have the capability to mass produce lugged frames, so they switched to an outsource business model, having frames and then entire bikes made in Japan and Taiwan. Eventually the heavy welded frames were discontinued. Schwinn went through bankruptcy around this time period, and emerged as a brand of Pacific Cycle.

Welded frames have come full circle, as the welding process has been revolutionized, and high quality welded frames from both aluminum and steel are now reasonably lightweight and inexpensive.

So, that's the reason for the variety of frame styles sold by Schwinn over the years.
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Old 10-07-17, 06:40 PM
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Originally Posted by littleArnold View Post
I didn't know there was such a big difference between the old Schwinn bikes. My father had an old Schwinn road bike he rode when I was a kid I couldn't keep up with him He said he bought it for $300 in the 70's was a lot of money back then. It was either a Varsity or a Paramount. He could go very fast on it and would ride 20-40 miles a day after work. He could go 20+ miles an hour on that thing. I remember how fast it was as a kid.

I will look at the Letours, voyagers, and Preludes then. Sounds like the Varsity isn't the bike I want. Had no idea was such a big difference between them.
Paramount was the top of the line and were among the finest bikes available. Varsity was the bottom of the line. I had a yellow Varsity I used for my paper route. Later I gifted it to my brother. Don't think I ever rode more than 5 miles on that bike.
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Old 10-07-17, 07:19 PM
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Schwinn Varsity = 42lb gaspipe bike. Terrible bike, OMG do not buy run away
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Old 10-08-17, 05:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Gresp15C View Post
I suggest asking yourself what you like about the look. My only reason is that if you expand your criteria to include more bikes, you'll get a broader selection from which to choose. I've noticed that the Schwinn name commands a premium among used bikes, and there are some other classic bikes of the same era that also look... classic. I'm fond of that look myself, and I own two old Schwinn frames, a World Tourist and a Traveler. It must have a horizontal top tube, even though that's pure vanity.

Of course if you like chrome, there's no substitute. Brillo pad will remove light surface rust, so long as there's no pitting. In my case, my bare minimum bike has aluminum wheels, but we all have our preferences. The Schwinn steel rims were easy to bend, so be sure to check the wheels for true if you're looking at bikes.

I had a Varsity as a teenager, and was perfectly happy with it. I rode it everywhere. But when I got the cheapest possible Trek in 1983, the weight difference was night and day in terms of the ride quality.
I guess I only know Schwinn from that era and I am sure Schwinn from that era commands a premium. You said maybe broadening my selection what other used bikes from that era besides Schwinn were you thinking of that were great bikes?
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