Friday, December 19, 2014

Tearing It All Apart: Varsity Restoration Day 1

With final exams coming to an end on Wednesday night, I was finally able to start working on my friend's '76 Schwinn Varsity yesterday.  I did not hesitate one second to blow the entire thing apart.

Photo from when I first got it

It looks like the bike had the exact same Kenda K35 tires that I bought for it.  

A week ago, I had about a half hour to spare before I had to go somewhere so I decided to mount the tires to the Sta-Tru alloy 27 x 1 1/4" wheels that my friend told me to get.  The Kenda K35 is the easiest tire I have ever installed - rather than pushing and pulling with tire levers and pouring sweat, these simply went on with the push of a thumb and even centered themselves.  It took all of five minutes to fully install and inflate both tires.  They probably ride pretty well too since they're kind of popular.  I would recommend these as a budget-friendly tire.

Anyway, the first things I took apart after removing all the cables were the shifters.  One of the little metal balls at the end of the shifter cable became so embedded in the hole that I resorted to using a lighter to heat the shifter.  I'm not sure if it actually worked, but I eventually got the cable out.  This photo is to be used as a reference so I know how to get everything back together.

I was initially unsure, but yesterday I found out that buying all-new wheels was a good call.  Besides being covered in surface rust, the front wheel was horribly bitten up in places, probably from someone riding on a flat.  The weld seam was also so conspicuous that the previous riders probably went clunk-clunk-clunking down the road every time the brakes were applied.

I took the spokes out of the front wheel so I could keep the beautiful hub.  I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the wheel (besides not using it as a wheel) because I really hate throwing things away, so I guess it'll join my pile of wheels.  I'm going to ask the bike shop to take the old freewheel off because I don't have the tool so the back wheel is staying together for now.  The freewheel will get cleaned up later and put on the new back wheel.

Haha.  Probably an understatement.  

Although there was rust in many places, the frame still felt super solid.  I guess that's the benefit of a super beefy electro-forged frame.  I read up on the construction of these bikes when I first got it and it was pretty useful.  Also, the bike had been painted over in most places but the part of the fork that goes into the head tube still had its vibrant shade of candy apple red, known as "Flamboyant Red" in the original catalog.

Last week, my friends and I went to study at our old pre-architecture studio on Central campus and found out all of the vinyl on the desks had been replaced and the old sheets were piled up to be thrown away.  I figured if anything, this stuff would make good floor mats so I wouldn't end up soaking the carpet with oil.  I rolled it all up and tied it to the rack on my Raleigh.  All 25 pounds of it made it home with no trouble at all.

As Sheldon Brown said, old-American-style one piece cranks are the easiest type of crank to service.  All you need is a huge wrench to undo the left side lock nut (with a left-hand thread!) and a flat head screwdriver or something to unscrew the grooved bearing cone.  The whole thing then slides out of the right side.  As a general rule of thumb when dealing with cranks and pedals, the left side is usually a left-hand thread and the right side is a right-hand thread.  Something about the Schwinn that I found funny was that while the head tube and crank bearings all had cages holding the balls together, the front wheel bearings were a bunch of loose balls.  It is exactly the opposite with my Raleigh.  Also, I once heard somebody talking about upgrading their "3 lb Ashtabula crank" to a 3-piece, and I now know that 3 pounds is not an exaggeration.

I finished the day by cleaning the grease out of the front hub and parts and making some food.  I found myself playing with the hub for what must have been about half an hour while taking to an old friend online.  At the bike shop near my apartment, a similar wide-flange hub had been cut so it had flat spots to sit on and a slot to hold business cards.  That was super cool but I think this Schwinn hub is too beautiful to sacrifice like that.