Prior to purchasing my Varsity in ’71, I picked up the 1971 Schwinn catalog to help me figure out which one I wanted (meaning, which one I could afford at the time). I still have that catalog, so I took some photos of a few of the pages showing the more popular ten-speeds at the time. The catalog cover has a store stamp from a store in Houston; I have no idea how it found its way to the bike shop in Dallas where I bought my Varsity.
Can you believe it! I haven’t posted a Schwinn in the gallery since September 28! If you recall, I temporarily banned Schwinns for sweeping a double OTSOTM. As much as I love me some Schwinns everybody needs a little time away (I heard you say (from eachother)). Well, I’m happy to report that despite my temporary ban, the Schwinns have continued to arrive in my inbox. I have 16 in queue right now, but I won’t post them all right away. I’ll do 7 or 8 and then take a week or two break and look at some other stuff and then I will post the rest after that. I don’t want to stuff another month with the cockroach of old ten speeds only to see them run away with another OTSOTM! That’s the problem with my theme stretches, they tend to flatten the competition.
Moving on: this particular Schwinn has been waiting patiently in my inbox for quite some time. This is Jay W’s 1971 Schwinn Varsity.
Love your website! I stumbled across your site while researching an electronic speedometer/odometer for my 1971 Schwinn Varsity. I never realized that 10-speeds were “old,” but since I haven’t been in the market for a bike in almost 40 years, I guess I haven’t kept up with what’s “new.” Since you’ve got a photo gallery for these fine machines, I thought I’d submit my Varsity for everyone’s general enjoyment. I’m the original owner, which seems to be fairly unique, so I’ve composed a brief history of the bike. Thanks for maintaining such an interesting site!
My first 10-speed was a blue Schwinn Varsity hand-me-down from my older brother, and it had over 2,500 miles on its mechanical odometer by the time I got it. I didn’t have it long; at the onset of the 10-speed craze it was stolen one night from in front of my college dorm in Denton, Texas (Lance Armstrong’s home town!). I was hooked, however, so in the spring of 1971 I went down to Mike Hall’s Bike Mart in Dallas and purchased a brand-new Schwinn Varsity, this time in bright yellow. I would have purchased the next model up, the Schwinn Continental, but that put the price tag north of $100, and back in those days that represented two months rent!
The only two accessories I got with my Varsity were the cast alloy bookrack for the back (a necessity for college), and the chrome wire water-bottle holder for the handlebars. The water-bottle holder I actually intended to use to hold the can of compressed gas that had a LOUD air horn fastened on top of it. The accessory that I didn’t buy at the bike shop was my new security system… a 3-foot piece of anchor chain I got from my girlfriend’s father, slipped through a length of old bicycle tire tube for padding, and fastened with a massive laminated padlock. Any thief looking to steal my new bike was going to have to bring some serious hardware with him to get through that!
I rode my yellow Schwinn Varsity through a bachelor’s degree and then a master’s degree, often riding it to work in the evening. On two occasions during consecutive summers, a couple of friends and I would make a 100-mile jaunt in one day, returning back to Denton in time to go to work that evening. By that time I was living in a house instead of the dorm, and I kept my bike parked on the large covered front porch. I reasoned that was much better than leaving it out exposed to the elements, but over the years I noticed that under the layer of dust that always accumulated, surface rust had been slowly forming on the chrome parts, and the alloy parts had oxidized.
In the early 1980’s I had moved to a house with a garage, so I disassembled the Varsity down to every last nut, bolt, and bearing ball. I disassembled the derailleurs, the freewheel, the crank bearings, the wheel hubs, everything save for removing the spokes from the wheels. All of the parts were cleaned, polished, lubricated, and reassembled. The only parts that I replaced were the control cables (for the brakes and derailleurs), the brake pads, and the tubes and tires. Ever since that time, the old bike has never been stored in an environment harsher than my garage, but it usually stayed in the house. I recently added a Schwinn electronic speedometer/odometer, but everything else is just as it came in 1971. I haven’t done any 100-mile jaunts since the college days, but I’ve steadily racked up the miles over the years, and I still ride the Varsity around town for up to ten miles at a stretch.