Patrick Lalley / KSOO
Patrick Lalley / KSOO


A couple weeks ago I wrote about an accidental obsession of mine: Rebuilding an old Schwinn Varsity.

Rebuild is bad characterization. Take a part and hack everything down to make a single speed is more like it.

This weekend I finished it. Bought an old set of wheels off a local bike dude who has lots of Schwinns laying around. Found some fresh tires and tubes at Spoke-n-Sport. (Schwinn always made things in funny sizes so it's not guaranteed stuff is in stock, but it was.

A basic single-speed chain from the small ring on the front to the middle of the five rings on the rear cassette and you're set.

Flipped and cut the old handlebars with a pipe cutter to fashion some hipster horns for bars. Taped up the bars with new tape and found a couple wine bottle corks to shave down to plug the bar ends. The standard bar end plugs that come with tape don't fit in the old small diameter bars.

I'm not going to suggest that it's smooth or elegant or even completely safe, but it works and I can ride it. Which is sort of the thing. These types of hacks started in cities so young people could have functional bikes that didn't cost a lot and there were plenty of old Schwinns laying around so why not.

Make do and make it work.

I've got two now. My other single speed is a Nishiki from the 80s. It's maroon with a sweet headset badge.

Both of the them are cobbled together with stuff I had laying around. That's why I don't throw anything away. Yeah, that's it.

Anybody want to buy a single speed?

Schwinn Varsity rebuild

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