Friday, February 27, 2015

1976 Schwinn Varsity: Restoration Complete

Prior to today, I'd been slowly working at the Schwinn when I wasn't doing school work or wrenching on my other bikes.  My friend who commissioned me to do this doesn't ride in the winter so he said there was no rush at all.

One of my friends who has access to the machine shop helped me grind the old kickstand thing off.  The kickstand was long gone and the sleeve it went into was badly rusted.  These brazed-on Schwinn kickstands were really tough, but I suppose that doesn't make a difference when they're not actually on the bike ...

For paint, I used white primer since metallic paint isn't completely opaque.  The bike's original color was called "Flamboyant Red" which was essentially candy apple red.  The closest automotive equivalent was Duplicolor's "Redfire Metallic" for early 2000's Ford vehicles.  The issue with metallic paint is that the thicker the coat, the darker it is.  Again, it's not entirely opaque.  I wanted to lay a lighter coat so it would really glow in the sun but since it took a few more passes to get the paint onto the cable braze-ons, I had to make the entire bike darker to get an even hue.  I'm still happy with it, though. The last thing I did was clear coat the frame and fork on Wednesday.

I also had to spray some parts with "chrome" paint last week just to cover the bare steel.  Much of the chrome on this bike had completely rusted through and flaked off so while chrome paint doesn't look like chrome at all, it wouldn't have been good to just leave it naked.  As shown in the photo to the right, it's nice having a bike with a rack.  More than anything, I use them as tables when putting my winter riding gear (a ski mask that requires temporary removal of helmet and glasses) on, working on the bike, etc. Don't mind my foot; this photo was originally intended for another purpose.  Anyway, the Schwinn's freshly-painted chain guard is shown here, hanging on an old spoke from its own front wheel which is itself hanging from Gilbert's brake lever.  Bikes like to help each other out, too.

I told my friend to come over today so we could assemble his bike.  It went pretty smoothly, for the most part.  For some reason, the rear axle wouldn't fit.  The over-locknut-diameter seemed alright but the axle stuck too far out on both sides so the skewers were unable to clamp down.  Not sure how that happened.  We had to quickly run to the hardware store and get some washers to space it out.  Also, we used bolt-on skewers instead of the quick-release ones (one, rather, because the rear was missing) that came with the wheels.

I originally intended to use a new derailleur but after a second look and a good cleaning, I felt like the old Shimano Eagle was still good.  That might not be the case, actually.  We'll see.  Also, the right side brake lever's adjusting screw was stripped by whoever worked on it last so it wouldn't tighten.  I grabbed the lever off a '74 Schwinn Collegiate Sport that no longer needed it and as expected, it was a perfect match.

I love the look of those huge Schwinn shifters.  The only major thing that needs to be done now is to send it to Joel at Midwest Bike and Tandem so he can wrap the bars - that's the one thing I still don't know how to do. A chain stay protector is also on the way.

I love the way this paint shines in the light.  I can't wait to see how it looks in the sun.

Once again, nothing ever escapes my hackery.  The bolts that hold the cable onto the rear derailleur and brake were rusted and stripped so I had to use some pieces I had lying around to make them work again.  Also, I somehow lost one of the little fittings for the rear brake cable braze-on (left photo) so I just used an adjusting barrel that I knew I'd never use anymore.  It works better now, if you ask me!

Some before/after photos. Cyclists like to hate on the Varsity for its weight but it's got good looks and durability going for it.  This is the kind of bike you can hand down to your great grandchildren.

The bike had 99 problems and rust was 95 of them.

I was concerned about structural rust at first but these heavy steel frames are pretty impenetrable.  It still feels solid.  I meant to add some Frame Saver before putting it together but forgot - I'll have to see if I can put some in tomorrow while the bike is fully assembled.  It might be messy.

This project took a while.  As with all other projects, it was fun to do but I'm even happier that it's done.  My friend said this was very close to the "dream bike" he had in his mind.  We'll see if it rides up to his standards.

I know my friend didn't want fenders but after he left, I rested a salvaged pair of chrome fenders onto the wheels to see how it looked.  It don't look too shabby, huh?

I've been thinking for a while that I'd like to have a candy apple red 10-speed some day, preferably a mixte frame, as a regular town bike.  If or when I do get one, I will put these chrome fenders on it.

The pink Collegiate Sport 5-speed in the back is the one that donated its brake lever.  I'm converting it to a "Collegiate Tourist" which pretty much just means it has regular upright bars instead of drop bars.  I'm just hoping to sell it as quickly as I can.  I tried fitting the old bars from my Raleigh Superbe onto it but as expected, Raleigh's stupidly weird handlebar diameter, which was like a millimeter too big, prevent it from fitting.

Oh, yeah. The chrome fenders also came from the Collegiate but I took those off so long ago that I've all but forgotten.

EDIT 2-28-25: My friend and I put the new rear derailleur on after having some trouble with the old one.  We then went to lunch at McDonalds for a shakedown ride, my friend on the Varsity and me on the Raleigh Superbe.  Everything held up.  We traded for a little bit and it was quite nice.  I have to say I wouldn't mind having a Varsity of my own and in this color, too.  Hmm...