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Vintage Schwinn Varsity

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Hi everyone someone in my area is selling a 1970's Schwinn Varsity that is in very good condition and I was wondering if it was worth $150. I don't know a lot about road bikes but I am looking to get into it and I've heard this are great bikes.
post #2 of 15

Re: Vintage Schwinn Varsity

Quote:
Originally Posted by winstoncaufield
Hi everyone someone in my area is selling a 1970's Schwinn Varsity that is in very good condition and I was wondering if it was worth $150. I don't know a lot about road bikes but I am looking to get into it and I've heard this are great bikes.
Not worth it. I had a Schwin Varsity from about this time. Nice bike for junior high. Now it is time to graduate to something a bit more modern.
post #3 of 15

Re: Vintage Schwinn Varsity

Check craigs list, police auctions, ebay, yard sales, or garbage collection routes for cheap bicycles.

To me the Varsity is only worth $150 if the paint job is in excellent condition and you collect vintage bikes. Also note that if you buy a used bike expect to have the cables replaced and the hubs repacked, plus other adjustments (around $100). Also there is no guarantee or free maintenance like a LBS. I would say $50 or $75.

I suggest you take a bicycle maintenace course.

See sheldonbrown.com for info on vintage bikes.
post #4 of 15

Re: Vintage Schwinn Varsity

Quote:
Originally Posted by vascdoc
Not worth it. I had a Schwin Varsity from about this time. Nice bike for junior high. Now it is time to graduate to something a bit more modern.
Agreed. About 10 years ago, I sold a 70s Raleigh Supercourse in excellent, perfecctly running condition (did not need tires, tune up or new cables - I was actually using it a lot at the time) for about $75. I wouldn't pay more than $50 for a Schwinn Varsity in that same condition, unless for some reason you think it's a collector's item.

I don't believe the Varsity was anything special then, and is not a collector's item now - unless someone shows me otherwise.
post #5 of 15

Re: Vintage Schwinn Varsity

For the record: a Varsity weighs 40 lbs, has relatively poor brakes, and lacks the gear range of modern entry level bikes. The shift levers are dangerously placed on the stem, where they will do damage to your private parts if you ever are pitched forward over the handlebars. The Varsity also has secondary brake levers on the upper handlebars that are even weaker in stopping power than the main brakes, but you will be overly tempted to use them to slow down in some situations. If the slowdown suddenly needs to transition into a hard stop, you will have to jump down to the hoods to really grab the brakes.

(Former Varsity owner)
post #6 of 15

Re: Vintage Schwinn Varsity

Quote:
Originally Posted by Raleighroader
For the record: a Varsity weighs 40 lbs, has relatively poor brakes, and lacks the gear range of modern entry level bikes. The shift levers are dangerously placed on the stem, where they will do damage to your private parts if you ever are pitched forward over the handlebars. The Varsity also has secondary brake levers on the upper handlebars that are even weaker in stopping power than the main brakes, but you will be overly tempted to use them to slow down in some situations. If the slowdown suddenly needs to transition into a hard stop, you will have to jump down to the hoods to really grab the brakes.

(Former Varsity owner)
Makes the fully functional, excellent condition Supercourse I sold seem like a bargain. That bike was pretty basic quality ride, but actually a pretty good rider, comfortable and good shifting. My guess would be about 25-28 lbs.
post #7 of 15

Re: Vintage Schwinn Varsity

Quote:
Originally Posted by Raleighroader
For the record: a Varsity weighs 40 lbs, has relatively poor brakes, and lacks the gear range of modern entry level bikes. The shift levers are dangerously placed on the stem, where they will do damage to your private parts if you ever are pitched forward over the handlebars. The Varsity also has secondary brake levers on the upper handlebars that are even weaker in stopping power than the main brakes, but you will be overly tempted to use them to slow down in some situations. If the slowdown suddenly needs to transition into a hard stop, you will have to jump down to the hoods to really grab the brakes.

(Former Varsity owner)
Well said.
(also Former Varsity owner)
post #8 of 15

Re: Vintage Schwinn Varsity

An item's value has a lot to do with the market. Frankly, it can't be worth $150 because if you look around you can probably do better. I just looked at a fairly nice 1970 Varsity for $40. However, there's a cost associated with looking.

I think those are best left to the collectors at either price though. They are heavy bikes. You can do better for less in used bikes.

JFTR, technologically speaking, I have found the range of a 10-speed's chain ratios to be adequate; I wish modern bikes came with fewer ratios and stronger hubs. I have found the brakes work well enough if you get new pads. If you can lift the rear wheel, that's well enough.
post #9 of 15

i have a schwinn varsity road bike that i re-built last fall.the only reason i think that its worth a lot is because i put a lot of work into it.i tried selling it either to a shop or on craigslist.its still on craigslist.this is my second year of mountain biking,so i dont know a lot about road bikes.i found this one on the tryon bike trails all bent up,so i put used rims,tires,handle bars,and i re painted it.it works for me,going a half mile every day to my middle school.if anyone has any info on it,i would be interested in knowing it all,and even though im only 13,i know more about bikes than i do in any classes in school.thanks.

post #10 of 15

   Schwinn Varsity's weigh in at 28 pounds as it was designed for a specific task back in the 60's.  That task was to deliver newspapers.  Varsity's have a nickname, "Newspaper Bikes".  all the welds and tubing are almost indestructable, as are the wheels.  The wheels were made from tubular steel, stamped so they have double walls.  You can have a full load of newpapers on the middle bar, on back, and on the handle bars, bump the curb with the front tire, then peg the pedals and walk the tire up the curb.  Your wheel will still be perfectly round.  The bike was made to be strong.  The ten speed gears was to make the heavy load a little easier.  The number of paper carriers that did not have a Schwinn Varsity, wanted one once they earned enough money selling papers to buy one. 

   With the newspapers off the bike, it will move out quite well, and is superbly well suited for trail riding, such as the Katy Trail in Missouri, that goes from St. Charles to Kansas City on compacted cinders.  A Schwinn Varsity will carry tents, sleeping bags, food and gear with ease, for overnight trips on trails.  They will also carry 1 - 5 year olds on the back without twisting the frame.  Try that on a modern high speed road bike of today. 

   I bought many years back a lite weight bike for speed, paid 5 times the price of the Varsity.  But, I lived in the city.  The first curb I came to, I brought the tire up to the curb, not even bumping it, stood on the pegs and walked it up the curb.  And to my amazement, the rim BENT, and wobbled from that moment on.  Lite bikes are just that, lite, meaning don't even try to do anything that will give them a jolt, they will twist and bend.  I sold the bike after paying $100 for a new wheel, UGH. 

   Choosing a bike depends on what you are going to use it for.  Mountain bike for hill climbs, road bike for fast road trips, trail bike for rough terrain, etc.  So, how much money is needed for a full complement of bikes to do the different things you want to do, or.... find a bike that will perform well at many tasks, knowing that it will not do all perfectly, but will be adequate for all.  The one thing the Varsity does well, and it does it superbly is to deliver.... newspapers. 

   The reason you can find them around still today is testimony to how well they were built.  In 1974 the Schwinn Varsity new was $279, if memory serves me well. But know that the minimum wage in 1974 was $2.00 an hour.  As a paperboy, it would take many months in order to save up for a Schwinn Varsity....   
 

post #11 of 15

thanks 4 the great info  on the varsity bike

post #12 of 15

Good Day,

 

Just could not help but chime in here .... reason for joining this forum, this weekend I have just made the decision to restore my old "Newspaper Bike", a 1971 Schwinn Varsity that has been with me since 1973. Just as you explained about the durability Ron, the bike delivers news papers and much, much more.

 

The bike, after literally 10,000 miles of riding in my younger days, it is still intact, no dents or bends in the rims, frame is perfect with the same rack on the back for over 30 years. I lived in Edmonds, Washington for a long time with 2 Seattle Times Paper routes, 31049 and 31050. On "Thanks Giving Day" paper delivery was the test for the bike and myself. Average paper was 368 to 398 pages thick those holidays! With one set of paper bags over the bars, a set bags on my self, a basket rack mounted to the back of the bike full of papers with one set of bags draped over the rack, then a two wheeled paper cart attached to the the seat stem by rope that was full of papers, with two sets of bags draped over the top of it. The bike never flinched, just kept on going .... replaced brake pads every 3 months and new set of gum-wall tires every six months. Edmonds has lots of hills, going down to the Sound we needed brakes, going up we needed first or second gear and lots of leg muscle ... the bike did it all!

 

Once the papers were delivered, it was down to the water front for fishing, that was 4 to 5 miles down long hills. The bike was used for school every day along with any where else my friends and I wanted to go. This included taking the Ferry "The Elwha" across to Kingston, riding to Point no Point out on the Peninsula for fishing.  The bike  is one of my oldest friends, reason for never letting go of it and now it is time to bring the bike to beauty it once was.

 

Our family has other bikes, lighter with the all the suspension pieces and disc brakes, but just as Ron talked about the toughness of rims and frame, I do not remember any better or more ready to go the distance.

 

 

Respectively,

John Q

post #13 of 15

I know this is an old thread, but with all the snobbery at the top I had to respond.  Is it a fast bike? Not really.  Is it worth $150?  Well....if you want a Varsity, and if it is in really, really good condition to begin with (paint awesome, nothing bent or rusted) by the time you bring it up to safe and reliable riding condition with tires, tubes, pads, cables, probably seat, handlebar tape....you may well have that in to it if you have your local bike shop work on it. 

 

But if you want a bike that will never let you down, never break, require the most minimal of maintenance, that is the bike for you.  

 

Let's face it - Varsitys are common.  But that is not a reason to sneer; it is a testament to their good ole American, tough-as-nails build.  There are tons of them out there, 40, 50 years later because you have to work really, really hard to kill one. I know from personal experience.  As a kid I was the local bike shop.  I had a 10x10 metal garedn shed all to myself with workbenches, home made truing stand, and piles of frames, rims, handlebars, you name it behind it that I traded, bought, salvaged, all just so I could have a bike to ride every day to school and after in South Florida. Because we lived on our bikes from sunrise to sunset, and when you are doing wheelies, jumping, riding off culverts into water filled ditches (look out for copperheads!), jumping curbs, etc., bikes tend to not hold up.  Until the day I got my hands on a Schwinn Varsity.   I jumped it.  I wheelied all over town on it.  I hopped curbs, sometimes misjudging.  I rode the living tar out of it.  And I am not waxing nostalgic when I state the fact that it never, ever, let me down, It was absolutely bomb proof.  To the dismay of my friends I let my informal bike shop sideline fade away because I didn't need it anymore:  I had the one bike I could not kill.  

 

And yes, as some will sniff, it is relatively heavy.  But you know what you get with that "heavy" bike and its laid back geometry?  A wonderful, smooth ride.  Predictable handling.  A 'no worries' trip to wherever you are going.  And sure, stem mounted friction shift levers are not fashionable technology.  But just about anybody that knows one end of a screwdriver from another can figure out how it all works and fix it.   And yes - the brakes are not at all good on those steel rims. But unless you are the kind of rider that likes to come to a stop in 10 feet from a 30 mph clip, you probably will be OK in 99% of the situations you will find yourself in.  Literally millions of bikers made it out alive of their steel rim Schwinn braking experiences.  You can too.  Unless...of course.....the rim somehow gets wet.   Then you need to practice your Flintstone stopping technique because you aren't going to come to a halt anytime soon, no bones about it.  But most anyone can figure that out and 99% of the time will still be OK.  

 

 So is it worth $150? I know this has long been a moot question by now.  In my experience I know I can pick up project Varsitys, Continentals, etc. for usually under $25.  But shopping at my local bike shop - I will put $40 in tires, probably another $10-$20 in tubes and rim tape, another $20-30 in a seat, $15  or up in handlebar tape, and $8 - $10 for pads.  So without any cable replacement, labor, etc. I will have over $100 in it.  If I order my stuff online and shop judiciously I can put the bike back on the road for less.   Parts just cost more than the bike nowadays.  And what do you have when all is said and done?  

 

A bike you can totally rely on, that won't cringe and whimper at every pothole you might fail to miss.    

A bike that rides really, really nice, even if it doesn't climb as easily as one closer to half it's weight.   

A bike that will get you all kinds of attention, even amid the fakey boy-racer stuff du-jour you could have paid a lot more for. 

A bike you can fix yourself with minimal tools, and only when it really needs it, not before every ride. 

 

If the paint is excellent, the chrome is shiny, the tires new, the brake pads new, the cables nice, the seat good, wheels true, everything spins and turns nicely, what are you waiting for?  

post #14 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Artifex View Post
 

If the paint is excellent, the chrome is shiny, the tires new, the brake pads new, the cables nice, the seat good, wheels true, everything spins and turns nicely, what are you waiting for?  

If there is a 44 year old Varsity in this kind of condition, it is most likely in somebody's collection.

post #15 of 15

I see we have resurrected an older thread lol. I have some questions pertaining to 1974 varsity. I am in Vermont about 3 years ago I was at one of the bike shops in my area the man who owns it had his old Schwinn signs up and told me he had sold Schwinn's till the family sold in the 1990s. At first I thought wow a real Schwinn dealer, but alas I was saddened by that.

 

He told me that my 1974 opaque blue varsity was rare cause of the colour not being on the market for more than one year. I wanted to know if this is true? I saw some of his old papers which confirms it was only sold for a few months in the colour. Just curious if there is some collector value. Also he had told me the union light with motor was a special option not listed in the Schwinn books, but was worth a few hundred maybe; wanted to confirm.

 

By the way I love my varsity has every option but the fenders which i want to acquire when i can find the original painted ones. As people have said yes a heavier bike, but rides so smooth and i never noticed the brake issues people talk of on here. 

 

New here so this is my first posting and will get a pic up of the varsity so people can see. 

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