Thursday, November 11, 2010

Schwinn Varsity / Cleaning-up the Frame

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This is typical cracking of late 70`s early 80's old Schwinn decals. The Gold decals seem to be the worst (for cracking). At least I thought so, until I saw these. After striping the bike down to the frame, it`s time to remove these badly cracked decals.
Some people think the cracked decals give a bike character, I respectfully disagree.

Above: The bike stripped down to the frame. I did relocate some of the clutter so I could "get to work". Look for me on a future episode of "Hoarders"

Above: This is "The Stuff" I like to use to remove all kinds of crud. I love Goo-Gone, almost as much as I love Mother`s Mag and Aluminum Polish. This won`t remove the decal by itself. But it will soften it up a bit. I put some on a rag or paper towel and rub the decal and surrounding area down real good.

Above: After wiping off the excess Goo-Gone I warm-up the first 5 or six inches of the decal with the heat-gun. You want to keep the heat-gun moving all the time to avoid cooking the paint. Try heating the decal for a short time and then try to scrape the decal off. I like to use my thumb-nail with a paper towel over it. You might want to use a plastic scraper. If the decal is hot enough it should break-up easily when scraping.

Above: This is me demonstrating my paper-towel over the thumb-nail method. After I scrape an area it will leave some flecks behind.

Above: Here is the first 5 or 6 inches of the decal removed. Afterwards I put some Goo-Gone on a clean paper-towel and wipe off the flecks. They will slide around a little, so you will have to fold the towel and hit it a few times.

Above; It should look something like this when you are finished. Now it`s time to clean-up those bearing-cups and races.

Above: After wiping-off the grease I cover the race with a good coat of Mother`s.
After it sets for a minute I wipe it off and buff with a paper towel. I usually have to repeat this two or three times before it really shines.

Above: I think this looks fine and it feels smooth. If I am still not satisfied
with the results. I sometimes sand it down (just a little) with # 600 automotive grade wet-sand paper, then re-polish.

Above; The head set bearing-cups get the same treatment. Sometimes I will use a brass-bristle detail brush on the inside of these. After all the bad decals are removed and all the races /cups are clean I wipe the frame down with Armor-All "Cleaning" Wipes.

Above; Now we have a nice clean frame to work with. Note: This bike is actually finished now. I will be posting the restoration in pictures in a few days. I think you will like it. Till next time, PLEASE RIDE SAFE and remember to always RESCUE,RESTORE&RECYCLE Cheers,Hugh


  1. I love Goo Gone but have never seen it in that large economy size.

  2. Hey Steve,
    I`m breaking one of my own rules but here is the URL
    I know what you are saying though. Every time I would see Goo-Gone at a hardware store or builders supply. It was always the tiny (over-priced) little bottle.

  3. Great to see that heat gun in action. :)

    I was thinking the other day that a frame like this would make for a decent entry-level cyclocross bike. The cables are run on the inside triangle of the frame and a bit protected from the mud.

  4. Hi Hugh,
    Greetings from the UK.
    I have just found your blog-a really interesting read. I will now continue to follow.

  5. Hey Everett,
    It might, but then again I know "less than nothing' about Cyclocross. My guess would be that it might be a little too heavy. My understanding is that cyclocross riders at some point have to pick-up their bikes and run with them. Sounds like great fun!
    Seriously though. I do have a cyclocross bike (appears to be entry level) waiting for restoration. It is like a ten-speed but has skinny on/off road tires. It also sports straight bars with a slight rise. And it has cantilever brakes, like a mountain bike.
    I just want the wheel-set off it, and maybe a few components. Your welcome to the rest of it, if you want to build it for yourself. I`ll measure the frame and send you the details, if your interested. I have been craving some Hunter-House burgers anyway. I believe that`s "just up the road" from you? Let`s see... three sliders with cheese and a Coke. Ten dollars should about cover it! (:

  6. Welcome Trevor,
    And thank you. For what seemed like a long time, I did not think anyone was reading the blog. I was pleasantly surprised (shocked might be a better word) to find out the blog actually
    has more readers than I would have ever imagined. The good news has inspired me to try to do better. Cheers

  7. Recently I was given a Schwinn Varsity. What on the bike would indicate the year?

  8. Hey Bez.
    Write down the serial number and go to
    You should be able to de-code your serial number there. Good-Luck

  9. Thanx excellent site, great information. The restoration steps are well presented and easily followed.

  10. Thanks BEZ,
    I sincerely appreciate that. I try to make it as understandable and coherent as I can. But sometimes I wonder if I`m hitting the mark.

  11. Hugh I've been working hard with my Schwinn Varsity restoration. Just about done, and I'm in agreement with you concerning the decals. Old cracked decals take away from the look of the bike. Do you have any idea where I can purchase decals that look exactly like the style shown in the pics on your site. There are many of generic decals on E-Bay but they look nothing like the originals. I work for the East Chicago FD and we have eight members who all ride Schwinns.

  12. Hey BEZ,
    Did you see these @
    Keep checking The E-Bay, as it changes daily. Sometimes the NOS decals do come-up for sale.
    But if they are old, sometimes they are cracking too. In this case , sometimes the imitations might actually be better "even if they are not 100% correct" You are probably in the best place to locate originals, as Schwinn was headquartered in Chicago.
    Good to hear you guys are riding Vintage American steel. Good-Luck with your search "Ride and Stay Safe" Cheers, Hugh

  13. where are you getting your decals from?


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