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What Would Be Better (Or More Tolerable) GMC Denali or Schwinn Varsity

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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

What Would Be Better (Or More Tolerable) GMC Denali or Schwinn Varsity

Old 12-23-21, 09:39 AM
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RoadWearier
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What Would Be Better (Or More Tolerable) GMC Denali or Schwinn Varsity

Assume they are both $50. They will be used for commuting and occasionally for 30ish mile rides.
If you have something obnoxious to say, save it.
I'm just wondering if a lower end bike from the 70's is more reliable and more fun to ride than a low end road bike from the 21st century.
I'm leaning toward the newer bike because it's newer and probably easier to replace parts. Plus even at 29--30 pounds it's still probably lighter. Don't much care for the twist grip shifters but maybe I'll get used to them.
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Old 12-23-21, 09:44 AM
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Try One. Her husband changed all the moving parts. Met Her on a 60 Mile Hill Ride.
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Old 12-23-21, 09:46 AM
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The GMC Denali is professional grade. The Varsity however, made the cut, so it is a step above ordinary as well. I'd say it's a washout. Which one has the best color?
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Old 12-23-21, 11:06 AM
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What year models are we talking about? My 78 Varsity was a sweet riding bike and served me well when I lived in a flat part of the state. When I moved to where the terrain was constantly rolling, then I found myself getting worn out on some hills and being a lot slower and excessively worn out on long rides.

Never had a Denali. But if it's lighter and newer and that's your price point, then get it.
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Old 12-23-21, 12:02 PM
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It's a 1974. I like the nostalgia value but it would be tougher to get parts. I always feel like even "cheap" stuff was built to last longer back then
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Old 12-23-21, 01:35 PM
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I would for sure go with the varsity.
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Old 12-23-21, 01:45 PM
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If the Varsity has the original 27" steel-rimmed wheels, its braking would be inferior to that of the Denali. The tire selection for the Denali's 700c wheels would be greater, too. I worked in bike shops back when the Varsity was new, and I remember the Huret derailleurs on those Varsity bikes being the most annoying and fiddly of the derailleurs found on bikes in that price range. The Denali's bottom-of-the-range derailleurs aren't great, but even the cheapest indexing derailleur systems work reasonably well.

Between the two, I'd go for the Denali, in other words. But make sure it fits you correctly. Look up "fitting a bike" or the equivalent if you don't know how to choose a bike of the right size for you.

Last edited by Trakhak; 12-23-21 at 01:48 PM.
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Old 12-23-21, 01:51 PM
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Working in a shop exposes one to lots and lots of brands of bikes out there. Among them are the Schwinn Varsity and the Denali bikes. Honestly, from a mechanics perspective I'd rather work on an old Varsity that is in good repair, than a new Denali as I find the Denali a disappointment in terms of quality. They are built to a price point and the parts hanging on the frame show it. I have encountered defective shifters right out of the box several times. Replaced with Sram MRX shifters and they work OK, not great because the rear derailleurs are off-brand or the super low-end Shimano which don't work well to begin with. Same with wheels that are known as Never True wheels, and brakes that simply will not center.

On the other hand the Varsity is simple and easy to work on. If one has been maintained over the years it will present few issues outside of spoke fatigue and brakes that never center and never did, but never presented a problem. I vote for the Varsity provided it has been cared for.
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Old 12-23-21, 03:37 PM
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My wife and I enjoy this matched pair of ‘71 Varsity’s immensely!!! We both have Colnago’s, Wilier’s, Pinarello,etc…. But get a kick out of riding these on occasion.
These great old bikes still run their original drivetrain and they run great. No input about Denalis, never touched one.
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Old 12-23-21, 04:45 PM
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If you are still interested in keeping up on the group rides you mentioned, almost any of the other bikes you've posted about would have been a better choice. As would the Giant that you had, then didn't have.
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Old 12-23-21, 07:00 PM
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Tomm Willians, those are two nice rides. Are you original owners?
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Old 12-25-21, 05:25 PM
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Originally Posted by seypat View Post
The GMC Denali is professional grade.
Professional as in Tour de France rider, or professional as in delivering newspapers?
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Old 12-25-21, 08:03 PM
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Originally Posted by TiHabanero View Post
Tomm Willians, those are two nice rides. Are you original owners?
No we are not and there’s a story here…. We bought them from a married couple who bought them from the original owners (married couple also). If I recall the original owners had them from ‘71 until the early 2000’s when they sold them to couple #2. We bought them last year and their condition is amazing. Mine still has what I believe may be the original tires! We had them serviced prior to riding and they needed very little work. They both needed speedometer cables and hers needed tires.
it’s our intention to sell them to another couple once that day comes

or……. We might donate them to a local bicycle museum as they really are in fine condition.

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Old 12-25-21, 10:12 PM
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I'd take the Varsity without question. It's inherently a better ride.

And parts availability for older bikes is not generally a concern, although with the current supply chain issues I understand some parts both old and new can be hard to source.
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Old 12-26-21, 06:40 AM
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This nice Cannondale you asked about is still on your CL. https://www.bikeforums.net/classic-v...cent-bike.html Just buy it and start riding!
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Old 12-26-21, 06:47 AM
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Originally Posted by znomit View Post
Professional as in Tour de France rider, or professional as in delivering newspapers?
Did you not get the reference?
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Old 12-26-21, 08:53 AM
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Originally Posted by shelbyfv View Post
This nice Cannondale you asked about is still on your CL. https://www.bikeforums.net/classic-v...cent-bike.html Just buy it and start riding!
Don’t start.
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Old 12-26-21, 01:40 PM
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I have no love at all for Schwinn Varsities, but unlike the GMCs, they’re built to last. Cheap old Schwinns and cockroaches—they’ll be around long after we’re gone.
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Old 12-26-21, 05:24 PM
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Let's be honest: both are terrible bikes.
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Old 12-26-21, 05:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Koyote View Post
Let's be honest: both are terrible bikes.
A lot of us are terrible riders though.
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Old 12-27-21, 04:58 AM
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There should be a third option.
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Old 12-27-21, 06:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Ghazmh View Post
There should be a third option.
This is correct. One of OP's goals is to participate in group rides. A 34# BSO isn't what he's looking for.
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Old 12-27-21, 10:09 AM
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I'd say even a 22 pound bike will leave it's rider off the back of the group going up hills and always trying to catch up on the other side.

Unless perhaps it's only a 45 minute ride or the group is just a 12 mph average group.
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Old 12-27-21, 12:47 PM
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Schwinn story.

In 1978 I shredded my knee playing football, ACL, cartilage, etc. No fixing knees in those days. Just surgery to remove the 'split ends'. Doctor said I should ride a bike, so I found an old Schwinn Speedster, 24" single speed somebody was throwing out, put on high handlebars, big front basket and a banana seat. Rode it everywhere, when I went Saturday day drinking I'd park it at the local bar between my friend's Harleys. Didn't need to lock it up either. A few years later a biker guy guy sold me his huge, heavy 10 Speed Schwinn Varsity, said he had never ridden it.

Bike was a beast. Rode good, but I hated being bent over with the drop bars as I lived/rode in the city. Loved the 'safety levers' on the brakes. So on went the high handlebars, banana seat and a huge Wald basket that could hold a 30 pack. Rode that every chance I could. I'm the last of seven siblings and most of the family owned a home in the zip code, so I'd ride around and visit. Friends and I would go riding after the bar closed during the summer. Great fun. (I worked evenings and didn't get off until after midnight). Just as a matter of pride I never took it out of Tenth gear.

Was a pleasure when riding, otherwise a PITA.

Problem with the bike was the huge size and weight, access to storing it in the basement was difficult and awkward at best. Nightmare getting it down the steps and through the door. In the garage it just got in the way. The size of a motorcycle. Even transporting it in the Suburban was difficult. It hurt me to keep it outside. Eventually I had other bikes and our kids were biking, so in the mid-90's I gave it to a nephew who lives in Norfolk (flat) and he still rides it.

Not sure if this helps, just wanted to tell a story.
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Old 12-27-21, 01:08 PM
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Originally Posted by shelbyfv View Post
This is correct. One of OP's goals is to participate in group rides. A 34# BSO isn't what he's looking for.
I'm not sure he's really looking for a bike, if you know what I mean.
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