Sunday, March 11, 2012

My Mega Modernization Project of a Vintage Schwinn Varstiy!

In the month of August, 2011, I was given a Schwinn Varsity frame, fork, and various other parts. I was planning the build project to be a restoration, but I was sorely wrong. Finding the correct parts, i.e., 27 inch wheelset, 1 piece crankset, was to complicated, I then decided I was going to modernize the all-American steel frame!

Some of the various parts given to me were, chromoly drop-bars,

Steel stem,

Classic brake levers, titanium chainring for a Shimano crankset, Custom brand crankset, various derailleurs and other parts.

This is a bottom bracket conversion for vintage American bikes, this replaces the usual 1 piece crankset with a square taper bottom bracket.
I got this part at the Silverdale Cyclery. I asked an associate if they had "A one to three piece bottom bracket conversion."  He brought his voice down low, "Do you know how many people have asked for one of these? Four a year, at least." This cost me around 20 dollars

I brought the frame in and they popped out the original bottom bracket bearing cups to make way for the conversion part.

This is one of the bearing groups for the headset, with "Schwinn" written on it.

Here I am sampling the classic brake levers with the chromoly bars.

Here is the white base-coat.

I did the final coat on the fork immediately after the base-coat.
Here is the final coat on the frame.

Here I have placed the classic badge on the front, and have the headset cups in place.

Mind you, I had no repair stands, proper bike tools, or socket wrenches, while building the bike.

Here are the bearing cups tapped in nicely with a mini hammer.

I was sampling the the look of the single pivot brake caliper. When this picture was taken, I was going to build my own aluminum 27 inch rims to fit the frame and the brakes, but I was later directed away from that, because it was easier to buy 700c rims and long reach brake calipers.
I bought some bar tape at the Silverdale Cyclery for $10, and immediately taped the bars... Except I didn't check if the brake levers were level, the right one is lower than the left...
Here I have greased the bearings and attached the crank, pedals, vintage stem shifter levers, Origin 8 saddle, seat post, and assembled bars.

Here are the long reach brake calipers I spoke of earlier, they cost me 70 dollars at the Silverdale Cyclery.
After drilling wider holes for the screws for the brake calipers, I purchased 40 dollars worth of brake/shifter cables and housing.

Here, ladies and gentleman, is the final product!

Vuelta ZeroLite wheelset- $100, Nashbar rear rack- $14,

Roswheel repair bag- $20, Sunrace 8 speed indexed stem shifter- $22, Kenda Kwick cyclo-cross tires- $15,

Shimano 11-32t 8 speed cassette- $28, Shimano rear derailleur- $20, KMC 7-8 speed chain.

This whole project cost me around 400 dollars, and trust me folks it was worth every penny! I look at my stand-in bike, during the build project, and think, "bike", because I can look at it straight on. But the bike that I have built is more than just "bike", it is "multi-sport beauty" or "one hot bike". I am sincerely proud of my build and hope to do another one soon!


  1. Wow. She's a beauty. Nice work Luke!

  2. The guys at Memory Lane Classics can get you an appropriate decal set for it.

  3. Great work and ideas. I just received a Schwinn Caliente and a Centurion both in great shape. Wondering if an upgrade like this is worth is and which bike should I upgrade? Maybe use one a single gear cruizer?