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kram

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My other build in this category has slowed a little, just waiting for a good time to get some paint on it. I got thinking that I should have enough parts to throw together another off road machine, and this one doesn’t require paint. I picked up this 1965 varsity a few years ago. I would have preferred that it was the taller frame, but it’s hard to pass up a cheap coppertone bike. Plus a 22” frame is still a bit bigger than the 19” standard cruiser. These earlier varsity’s don’t seem to pop up as often as their 70’s counterparts. I almost feel bad pulling it apart, but might as well make a bike that I’ll enjoy.

My hands got frozen spraying off the last few years of accumulate dirt. That’s some good looking paint!
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Captain Awesome

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Off road varsity

I like it!
 
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That paint is in great shape. I put 26 x 2.0 wheels/ tires on a 65 Continental. 2.125 was just barely too wide. I used a coaster brake 3 speed, the regular calipers wouldn't reach the smaller wheels.
700c would work better, the 27" that it has is 630mm, 700C is 622mm, only 4mm difference in radius.

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twojs.bike

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I’ve converted 3 varsity’s into BMX style cruisers. Love working with varsity’s.

Mine were all from the 70’s. Looking at your picture I notice 2 differences. Yours has down tube shifters and a round head badge. Anyone know the significance of the round head badge? Seems rare for a Chicago frame to have a round head badge.
 

kram

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I’ve converted 3 varsity’s into BMX style cruisers. Love working with varsity’s.

Mine were all from the 70’s. Looking at your picture I notice 2 differences. Yours has down tube shifters and a round head badge. Anyone know the significance of the round head badge? Seems rare for a Chicago frame to have a round head badge.
I don’t know that there was much significance or not, but it felt like they were making a lot of changes on these bikes to begin with. I have a 1961 varsity, which is where they switched to ten speed from eight speed mid year. Also it has the jockey shifter for the front. It has an oval badge.
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This 1962 varsity that I also have went to the small badge. Also, they ditched the jockey shift for two downtube shifters and a front derailleur. But I put in a 700c wheelset with a nexus 3 that shifts with the friction shifter
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kram

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That paint is in great shape. I put 26 x 2.0 wheels/ tires on a 65 Continental. 2.125 was just barely too wide. I used a coaster brake 3 speed, the regular calipers wouldn't reach the smaller wheels.
700c would work better, the 27" that it has is 630mm, 700C is 622mm, only 4mm difference in radius.

View attachment 219229
I’m going to test out some tires tonight if I get a chance. Was it the rear or the front fork that was limiting the tire? I’m sure it’s close on both ends. I’d like 2.125 if they’ll fit. I have a wider fork.
 
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I’m going to test out some tires tonight if I get a chance. Was it the rear or the front fork that was limiting the tire? I’m sure it’s close on both ends. I’d like 2.125 if they’ll fit. I have a wider fork.
If you already have the 2.125 tires, it can't hurt to see if they'll fit. I was trying to fit 2.125 big beach cruiser whitewalls on my bike, but it's possible they were a little wider than 2.125.
 

us56456712

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That paint is in great shape. I put 26 x 2.0 wheels/ tires on a 65 Continental. 2.125 was just barely too wide. I used a coaster brake 3 speed, the regular calipers wouldn't reach the smaller wheels.
700c would work better, the 27" that it has is 630mm, 700C is 622mm, only 4mm difference in radius.

View attachment 219229
I built the same bike 9 years ago. Green Varsity with 26 x2 wheels with a Bendix red band coaster, no front brake. Be very careful off road with it. The top tube is high, which makes slipping a pedal very painful. It also will give you pedal strikes with 26 inch wheels. The rubber pedals will slip off your shoe, not enough grip. It has a tendency to throw you over the bars or sideways riding rocks and roots as the riding position seemed high and forward. I dismantled mine after flying off a rock garden and landing in a valley full of junk. I just missed being impaled by a metal fence post and tangled up in a bale of rusty barb wire. My right hand landed inside an old bucket. I somehow missed all the broken glass. I think the geometry is bad for anything but very easy trails.
 
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kram

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I got most of the parts mocked up last night. Not sure if I’m going with the chrome fork or the blade fork. The stock fork clears the tires, but I didn’t have time to file the axle for the wheel to get it to slide in. If I use the chrome one I will cut it down. I’ll probably use the smaller chainring. The wheels I got from Chucj a long time ago. They are alloy with stainless 12g spokes. Bars are fairdale, fork is sunlite, and if I remember correctly the truss rods came off an Electra.
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These 26x2.125 clear decently. The chain stays have a little less clearance than the chain stays, but still plenty. The blade fork has about as much clearance as the seat stays and maybe a little more.
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kram

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I built the same bike 9 years ago. Green Varsity with 26 x2 wheels with a Bendix red band coaster, no front brake. Be very careful off road with it. The top tube is high, which makes slipping a pedal very painful. It also will give you pedal strikes with 26 inch wheels. The rubber pedals will slip off your shoe, not enough grip. It has a tendency to throw you over the bars or sideways riding rocks and roots as the riding position seemed high and forward. I dismantled mine after flying off a rock garden and landing in a valley full of junk. I just missed being impaled by a metal fence post and tangled up in a bale of rusty barb wire. My right hand landed inside an old bucket. I somehow missed all the broken glass. I think the geometry is bad for anything but very easy trails.
I totally get what you are saying. It does feel tall and forward and the pedals don’t have a lot of clearance. Realistically this will be light trails, mostly fire roads, and street. I have had a vintage schwinn frame fail while on some light trails. There was no visible cracks or damage and the head tube basically broke off. Like your story it is not a pleasant experience. Since then if I want to do trails I generally use a bike designed for it.
 

us56456712

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I totally get what you are saying. It does feel tall and forward and the pedals don’t have a lot of clearance. Realistically this will be light trails, mostly fire roads, and street. I have had a vintage schwinn frame fail while on some light trails. There was no visible cracks or damage and the head tube basically broke off. Like your story it is not a pleasant experience. Since then if I want to do trails I generally use a bike designed for it.
That will make a nice fire road bike. I used similar bikes for two tracks and had a lot of fun. You will be fine if you don’t pull a stupid like I did. I just was giving you a heads up based on my experience.
 

us56456712

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I got most of the parts mocked up last night. Not sure if I’m going with the chrome fork or the blade fork. The stock fork clears the tires, but I didn’t have time to file the axle for the wheel to get it to slide in. If I use the chrome one I will cut it down. I’ll probably use the smaller chainring. The wheels I got from Chucj a long time ago. They are alloy with stainless 12g spokes. Bars are fairdale, fork is sunlite, and if I remember correctly the truss rods came off an Electra.View attachment 219269 View attachment 219270 View attachment 219272 View attachment 219271

These 26x2.125 clear decently. The chain stays have a little less clearance than the chain stays, but still plenty. The blade fork has about as much clearance as the seat stays and maybe a little more. View attachment 219273
I bought a set of Duro white wall tires with the same pattern. They delaminated at the whitewall and tubes poked through and popped. Yesterday I burned them in my fire pit. I bought another brand with the same pattern but in black walls. They are fine.
 

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That's looking awesome, I like it! The chrome forks and truss rods look great with the MX style bar. Love the color too. I want to do a Varsity klunker but I need a smallish frame. Also the folks around here seem to think they have collectors value, like in the $200-600 range. I think $30-40 is more realistic but what the hey. Nice build!
 

kram

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@us56456712 - that’s a bummer about the tires. I think these ones are innova. I’ve had them around for probably close to ten years but they don’t have many miles.

@Pondo - Varsity’s really don’t have a lot of value. The 60’s ones are a little more valuable, but I think I paid $20 for this one. I think this is the mid sized frame. The red and green ones I posted further up the thread are the taller frame, that one fits me better. There are usually cheap ones around here, too bad shipping makes it too expensive.
 

OddJob

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Build looks great! I like that chrome fork on there as well. Maybe some bear trap pedals to carry the 'off road' theme a little farther?
 

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