As I wandered the aisles at Goodwill last week, I stumbled upon something that instantly flashed me back to the days of yore (and yes, I realize this is a girls model of the item in question, not a guys version):
Before we continue, however, I will ask something of you, the reader, that I have often wondered: Who, way back when, thought it was a good idea to make a guys bike with that horizontal, potentially nut-crushing bar that runs between seat and handlebars? Seems like the design above just could’ve been designated unisex, and clumsy male riders everywhere would’ve rejoiced.
Anyway, the bicycle shown above is a legendary 10-speed Schwinn Varsity, coveted by school kids three decades ago. First one I ever got a really good look at was my big brother Craig’s, when he was about 17; it cost $99, was described as “lemon yellow,” and came from Ed’s Bicycle Shop in downtown Milwaukie, basically the only place in our corner of the world to sell bikes.
My own first real bike was an orange five-speed Scwhinn Fastback, in the style known in those days as a “stingray.” You sat upright and the handlebars were around shoulder height.
As a teenager I got a burgundy Scwhinn Continental, used, for $100. It was a good deal, but it was always a bit tall for me — I think the only difference between the Continental and the Varsity was the height.
I can’t remember exactly what happened to the Continental, but by the fall of 1981, when, it was time for me to be an OSU freshman, I had inherited Craig’s Varsity — showing its age but still quite cool.
That bike, despite my crashing it occasionally as I reported a few days ago, served me almost all the way through college — until I lent it to a roommate, who rode it somewhere, neglected to lock it up and got it stolen.
Soon after, however, another roommate (who had graduated to a motorcycle) gave me his blue Varsity, complete with a little license plate that read “Who R U?” Alas, the answer to that question was “not the owner of this particular bike for very long,” as I ended up shortly thereafter giving it to yet another friend who needed a bicycle worse than I did. And now, of course, I have graduated to a motorcycle too, relegating my current bicycle — a 20-year-old Specialized Hard Rock — to an almost unused status.
In case you were wondering, btw, Goodwill wanted $150 for that Varsity I photographed. That seemed kind of spendy to me, but then again I don’t make a habit of pricing vintage bicycles.