Monday, June 14, 2010

Kick Standing It Old School with a Schwinn Varsity

A friend called today and said he wanted to check out a bike he found on Craig's List. And what a bike it was, a classic 1971 Schwinn Varsity. Orange.

These bikes were loaded with features. The solid heavy steel frame. The chrome fenders. The kick stand. All those features would be eliminated in the 10-speed racing bike frenzy of late 1970s and 1980s. All in the name of reducing weight and increasing speed.

We drove out to central Massachusetts to pick up this vintage baby, which was in very good condition. Always bring a buddy for a Craig's List rendezvous.

The classic Schwinn nameplate.

The rear derailleur. These days the hipsters are switching these out for fixed gear, with just a single speed. That's very hard core, but unless you plan to take the bike out of the city and into the hills, you're just posing.

Here we have the side pull brakes. Cycling purists would later insist on center pull brakes, as theoretically pulling more evenly and releasing more smoothly on both sides of the tire. And we have an electric light that runs off the rotation of the tires. It may add a bit of drag, but no batteries required.

The factory seat bag and the factory seat, both with the Schwinn nameplate.

The Varsity is a great bicycle, even if a whole generation of bicycles was designed to be "better" than the Varsity, which is indeed the sincerest form of flattery. I rode its sibling, a red 5-speed Schwinn Collegiate across the state of Iowa on RABGRAI, twice.

Here's the vintage deal. You get more exercise off pedaling the heavier steel frame. The fenders will protect your work clothes if you are using it to commute on a rainy day. The brakes stop the bike just fine, and gears come in handy if you need to climb a hill. And the kick stand? Magic.

1 comment:

Roland said...

Thanks for sharing. Just bought a varsity at a garage sale. Much worse shape (rust etc). But for $40 I have not complaints. Seller said he got it in 1971. Not sure if he bought new or not