When I was a kid in the 80s, the Schwinn Varsity was the most popular 10 speed bike around. And that’s what we always called road bikes, 10 speeds. It was one of the best-selling models for Schwinn and has a long history. It was never a top-of-the-line bike, but it was affordable, durable, and reliable. And there are many still out there that are in good shape, and a good price. It was a nice affordable bike when made, and now it’s an affordable vintage bike. I’m going to cover this bikes history and specs.
The Varsity was first introduced in 1953, but as more of a cruiser bike. It was a typical 3-speed bike with upright bars and full fenders.
Schwinn considered it a 3-speed lightweight probably because it didn’t have the heavier cantilever frame of many other models. It was not very light at around 50lbs. It came as a men’s and ladies’ models with 26” and 24” tire options. 1957 was the last year for this version.
In 1960 it became the drop bar style road bike that most of us are familiar with.
It started as a men’s only model with 8-speeds, racing handlebars, and hooded caliper brakes. Sizes were 19, 21, and 23 inch. Rims were 26” with Schwinn tires and diamond steel frame.
Colors: Radiant red, blue, green, and black
Retail price: $69.95
1962, it became a 10-speed with Huret derailleurs. Weight is about 40lbs.
1963, it changed to 27” wheels.
1965, it becomes the Varsity Sport and a model with chrome fenders is available.
1967, it now has Twin-Stik stem mounted shifters. Previous years had downtube shifters.
1972, they begin offering a 24” wheel kids version.
1975, chrome fenders become an option rather than a separate model.
1977, camelback frame become available.
1978, drops the Sport and become just the Varsity and offers ladies frames.
1979, become the Varsity Sport again.
1980, Deluxe Varsity is introduced. This version has front freewheeling FF system and positron shifting.
1982 was the last year for this version of the Varsity. The Varsity and Deluxe Varsity were offered. Schwinn claims it is the best-selling full-size 10-speed in America. The Chicago manufacturing plant also closed this year.
How much is a Schwinn Varsity worth? Because there are a lot of them, and it is a very entry level bike, Varsities are usually rather cheap. In this area I could get a nice condition one for $100 or less. Bad condition ones are generally best avoided as you will spend way over value to fix up. If you search around, you should be able to find a good price on one in great condition.
One thought on “Schwinn Varsity Guide and History”
When I was a kid, everyone wanted a ten speed, and that meant a Schwinn Varsity. Those who couldn’t afford one got a Lenton Sports (probably actually a better bike). The rest of us just rode the family hand-me-downs.