Saturday, May 6, 2017

1976 Schwinn Varsity: See How Long We've Come

The Varsity changes hands once again. 

I built this bike for my friend Yoon in early 2015, back when I had only two bikes. I was working on my third one, the 1979 Raleigh Superbe restomod with drum brakes, when this was going on. I still have all of those bikes, except the Ross is no longer on the road. I had been doing bike stuff for only one year before then. Time flies. 

I remember when I was about to throw the whole thing out, but I'm glad I didn't. Not only did the surface rust prove to be a non-issue, but it ended up teaching me a lot about old Schwinns as well as bikes in general. A lot of the things I worked on with this bike were firsts. Today, I can look upon this experience with bewilderment because the only part that was stuck due to rust was the right pedal. I haven't always been this lucky. 

Yoon also rode to Dexter for the first time on this bike, and I joined him with the Superbe. This was in April 2016, five months before he traded the Varsity back to me with another bike in return for the Pake 2-speed

I was the custodian of this bike once again between September 2016 and May 2017. I took the chance to upgrade the forged one-piece steel crank for a 3-piece alloy one. I bought the bottom bracket adapter new, but used the bottom bracket and alloy cranks that came off an '80s Japanese road bike. 

I was also going to throw on an already-wrapped alloy handlebar/stem set from an '84 Takara Prestige but the stem didn't fit into the steerer. I'm not sure when the change was made, but the 1966 Varsity that I had previously worked on accepted a standard 22.2 mm stem. Apparently, the later Varsities went back to the American-style 21.1 mm steerer typically found on old Chicago Schwinns. 

The Varsity received chrome Schwinn fenders, finally fulfilling my desire to give this bike fenders from the get-go. They look to be from a Breeze or Collegiate or something else with a more relaxed geometry, judging by the way the rear one was positioned via the brake bridge bracket. I also replaced the saddle because the original one was falling apart. 

Interestingly enough, I worked on this bike at the very beginning and very end of my bike career in Ann Arbor. The Varsity, which was initially built for my very first customer, has recently found new ownership with a friend who was introduced by a friend who also bought a bike from me after she was introduced by a fr ... See how long we've come. It's funny to see how this bike strings together the first two-and-a-half years of my bike career.