Powered by the People: Schwinn Varsity

Ford had the Model T.  Volkswagen had the Beetle.  And the Schwinn Bicycle Company of Chicago, Illinois had the Varsity.  Like the other two, the Schwinn Varsity was not a very good bike itself, but Schwinn timed the market just right to when the boomers were transitioning from their banana seat bikes to “lightweight” European derailleur bikes.  If you are of that boomer age, you either owned a Varsity or knew someone who did.    Find this 1970’s era Schwinn Varsity for sale in Lewiston, ID for $95 via craigslist.

In a 1973 Schwinn catalog I found on line, the Varsity Sport was available in Kool Lemon, Sunset Orange or Campus Green.  Funny, the boomers that got to pick from those Krazy Kolors now seem to prefer colors like Class Envy Grey, Trading Civil Liberties for Security Black and Influence Peddling White.  Anyway, our subject looks like an original survivor for sale in an Idaho Pawn Shop.  It still has the brake lever extensions that allow you to use the brakes while riding in a more upright position.  Most of those were removed back in the day as no Road Racer would ride like that.  Also, it still has the original “Twin-stik” gear levers where you actually have to feel the gears engage vs. pushing a button.

It’s also got a period head and tail light.  No retina burning LED powered by a lithium battery here.  This bike has an honest to God incandescent bulb powered by a generator driven off the rear wheel.  Want more light?  Pedal faster!

Looks like it still has the original seat with the riveted Schwinn Chicago tag on the back and the attachment points for a patch kit (unfortunately not included).  Also it has a period rack with what looks like an instruction manual for your new bike.

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Gianni is Daily Turismo’s Pacific Northwest correspondent.  He had a Kool Lemon Varsity when he was a kid.  It didn’t do well on jumps.