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  1. #1
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    Upgrading old pre-indexed shifting to current...worth the trouble?

    Hi Folks,

    I have a wonderful old Schwinn Voyageur SP--great touring bike, but it just doesn't have the kind of gearing current bikes have. As I look at what it would cost to upgrade, I begin to question whether it's even worth the trouble. It appears I'd need to replace:

    Indexed downtube shifters
    Ft/Rr derailleurs
    Rear wheel (or a set if I don't want to be mismatched)
    Rear cassette for the new wheel
    Chainrings or new cranks (and perhaps bottom bracket as this is the old squared end shaft type)
    Chain

    So, can anyone offer me any suggestions as to the advisability of this?

    Also, on a 20+ year-old frame like this, is there any kind of limitation on the number of gears in the rear cassette? Has the dropout spacing changed for the new, 10-speed cassettes vs. smaller numbers like 7 (which used to be impressive!).

    A fallback position is just getting a new rear cluster that has at least 6 speeds rather than the 5 that came on it. All the deraileurs are Sun Tour (sigh) and I'm sure what they used to call an Ultra 6 would work fine. Can you find these any more?

    Thanks!

    John

  2. #2
    The Improbable Bulk Little Darwin's Avatar
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    It all depends on what you want.

    Browse through the Classic & Vintage forum and you will find people who stay period correct, who update to the latest technology (very few), or something in between.

    If you want a completely modern bike, it is probably cheaper to just buy one. With the economies of scale, the manufacturers can build a new bike for less than you can build one using existing frame and forks.

    The rear spacing can be adjusted by cold setting on a steel frame like yours... So it can be done, the real question is whether you like the frame enough to spend the money to update... Financially, you could do better to keep your current bike as a backup and buying a new bike... or selling your current bike and buying new.

    Sheldon Brown's site has some good information about upgrading the freewheel for increase in number of gears.
    Slow Ride Cyclists of NEPA

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  3. #3
    biked well well biked's Avatar
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    ebay if you want a suntour 6-speed freewheel, they're commonly available there, often NOS.........My thoughts on this are that you have a very nice, lugged steel touring-specific frame, and to get that in a new frame would cost big bucks. So why not upgrade? The frame is definitely worthy, in my opinion. You're on the right track with your questions. Measure the dropout spacing on the frame, it's probably 126mm; the new stuff (8/9/10 speed cassettes) would need 130mm, but you can squeeze the slightly wider hub into 126 or cold set the rear triangle. See Sheldon Brown's site for cold-setting instructions if you go that route, it's really not that big a deal. Another issue is brake reach, because there's a good chance your wheels are 27" instead of 700c, which is the size you'll find most road wheelsets with modern freehubs have. To switch from 27's to 700c, you'll need 4mm of brake reach adjustment (downwards), because the 700c rims are slightly smaller than 27's. Or you could always rebuild the wheels with a modern hub and re-use the 27" rims. There's also a chance your Voyageur has 700c's already............In summary, yes, you can definitely modernize the bike. It won't be dirt cheap, but again, it's a nice frame. I'm running a modern 3 x 9 drivetrain on my '83 le tour luxe, with indexed barcon shifters. I love it-

  4. #4
    Senior Member peripatetic's Avatar
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    Do you want to go through all this? How much time you got? You have another ride to get you through the work period. PIA.

    If you switch to indexed, be aware that you have a lot of extra maintenance ahead of you. Having just learned to adjust an indexed derailer, they're far more work than friction--maybe not if you learn and then do it twenty times in a short period (like a shop mechanic), but definitely if it's one of your only bikes. Friction is so much simpler to adjust. If you really want the clicks, just make sure that you get things as compatible as possible--don't cut corners, even if you're sure you can (i.e. 7-speed levers with 6-speed clusters, etc.) Good luck, the idea's giving me heartburn just thinking about it, but then, this is how I got myself in over my head years ago .

  5. #5
    biked well well biked's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by peripatetic
    If you switch to indexed, be aware that you have a lot of extra maintenance ahead of you. Having just learned to adjust an indexed derailer, they're far more work than friction.
    I agree that upgrading an old frame to new components can be a challenge to make everything play well together, but there's really no maintenance headache once everything is set up and adjusted. In fact, the derailleurs don't know the difference, just get your cable tension, limit screws, and B screw set and you're good to go, just like with friction. I agree that it's important to use parts that are compatible with each other, but it's a pretty broad range of things that will work. Example: on an '83 steel frame, with an adapter claw rear derailluer hanger, no less, and the frame cold set to 130mm rear spacing, I'm running an XT rear der., SRAM 9-speed 11 x 32 cassette, SRAM 9-speed chain, Nashbar touring triple cranks (46-36-24), 105 front der. (dremeled to better fit the shape of the 46t big ring ), and Dura-Ace nine speed barcons (indexed rear, friction front). Works so smooth you'd think it was built up this way originally. Extra maintenance? None.

  6. #6
    Non Tribuo Anus Rodentum and off to the next adventure (RIP) Stacey's Avatar
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    IMHO ~ If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

    I love my barcons more than pie!

  7. #7
    Mad scientist w/a wrench
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    +1 for upgrading old lugged steel touring frames. Now if I could only get my hands on one cheap enough.

    Something about the idea of touring with brifters scares me (unless that is you do touring where you know where each and every lbs between you and the destination is) all those little parts...
    Proudly wearing kit that doesn't match my frame color (or itself) since 2006.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Wogster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JMCraig
    Hi Folks,

    I have a wonderful old Schwinn Voyageur SP--great touring bike, but it just doesn't have the kind of gearing current bikes have. As I look at what it would cost to upgrade, I begin to question whether it's even worth the trouble. It appears I'd need to replace:

    Indexed downtube shifters
    Ft/Rr derailleurs
    Rear wheel (or a set if I don't want to be mismatched)
    Rear cassette for the new wheel
    Chainrings or new cranks (and perhaps bottom bracket as this is the old squared end shaft type)
    Chain

    So, can anyone offer me any suggestions as to the advisability of this?

    Also, on a 20+ year-old frame like this, is there any kind of limitation on the number of gears in the rear cassette? Has the dropout spacing changed for the new, 10-speed cassettes vs. smaller numbers like 7 (which used to be impressive!).

    A fallback position is just getting a new rear cluster that has at least 6 speeds rather than the 5 that came on it. All the deraileurs are Sun Tour (sigh) and I'm sure what they used to call an Ultra 6 would work fine. Can you find these any more?

    Thanks!

    John
    If you have an old frame that fits, why turn it into landfill, when a few new parts can get it working like brand new.

    You can do it, over time, for example do the rear wheel, front wheel, cassette and rear derailleur, just make sure the chain rings are not too thick for the new chain. 10 speed stuff is expensive, 9 speed is reasonable, and 8 speed can usually be obtained from the bargain bin at the LBS . The spacing difference came around 7 speed, where they moved to 130mm from 126mm, and most 126mm spaced dropouts can be coaxed to accept a 130mm hub, without to much difficulty. With steel, if your dropouts are the older still 120mm, then you can "cold set" it to 130mm, cold set is a fancy way of saying bend.

    I would probably go 9 speed these days on an upgrade, regardless of what the marketing types at Shimano and Campagnollo and SRAM would like you to believe there really isn't a big enough difference between the 9 speed and 10 speed to justify the high premium cost. It's more of a "bling" factor, then an actual performance boost. The one bit of forethought is, if your going to switch from a double to a triple chain ring, you want to make sure the RD has enough capacity for the new chainrings that will be coming in phase two.

    Phase two would be the cranks, there are still plenty of square taper around, it worked fine for over 20 years, and they still build quite a few bikes with it. Unless something is worn out, or you don't like the gear ratios, for example if you have a 52-39 and find that you have more trouble hauling your butt up the hill from hell then you did when the bike was new, it probably isn't the bike A triple running 52-42-32 can be a real knee saver. In that case you might want a new FD, simply to make sure it's compatable, and matches up with the new RD. Whether you want to stick with the square taper, or switch to the new splined setup, depends on how much you want to spend on a crank, and how much "bling" factor you want.

    Phase three is the shifters, many friction DT shifters can handle the new gearing, which is a function of the amount of cable pulled, because there is less cable pull, it's harder to nail down exactly how much is enough, so indexing makes this easier. Typically indexing consists of a measured amount of cable travel. There are two camps those who who think brifters are shifting heaven, and those who think that brifters were invented by the spawn of hell . Brifters work this way by pulling the lever you get brakes, by shifting it side to side, you either upshift or down shift. The pro is that you don't have to move your hands much to brake or shift, which sometimes you want to do at the same time. The con is that mechanically they are complex, and when something is complex it is more likely to go wrong. There are people who can't seem to ride once around the block without breaking them, and there are people who can put 10,000 miles on a set, and have them still working like brand new. Shimano ones that break need to be replaced, Campy supposedly can be repaired, if you do your own wrenching, you can save some money by going campy and repairing them yourself if they break, if your the kind of person who takes your bike to the shop for a puncture, then go Shimano. The service costs on the campy wold make buying a new set financially more viable. We all know that Campagnollo is Italian for expensive.

  9. #9
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    Well, this is a lot more interesting info than I got when I took it to one of the LBS's a couple of years ago and left a few minutes later muttering that apparently the bike was older than the employees--which definitely said something about me too....

    Just BTW, for those who took the time to reply, the frame of this thing is just great. It tracks like nobody's business and it soaks up road shock like something made of much fancier stuff; that's the main attraction to upgrading it.

    It has a triple crank: so-called half-step + granny (for those that are old enough to remember what that is). If I had a slightly higher top end gear, that may be about all I really need. It was irritating getting passed by a guy on a Mtn Bike with fancy gears 'cause I didn't have a high enough gear to keep up with him (I mean, if it had been a roadie, that'd be one thing...).

    At any rate, thanks for the helpful info and advice!

    Happy riding!

    John

  10. #10
    cs1
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    I have an old Schwinn Prelude that I am upgrading for my wife. Originally it was a SunTour 7 speed bike. It had 126mm spacing in the rear. I put a Campy Chorus 8 speed wheel in just to see what happened. Surprise, it actually dropped in. The wheel appears to be perfectly centered.

    If the frame fits, then you might want to just buy a build kit. Try GVH for good deals on build kits. Good luck

    Tim
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    1989 Raleigh Technium, 1989 Schwinn Traveler, 1986 Specialized Rockhopper
    1984 Specialized Stumpjumper, 1986 Specialized Stumpjumper and just way too many projects to list.

  11. #11
    Death fork? Naaaah!! top506's Avatar
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    The quick and dirty (and cheap) way would be to replace your 5 speed freewheel with a 7, re-spacing and re-dishing the rear wheel as need be. Ditto for cold setting if you have to. Then pick up a set of 7 speed DT shifters and a compatiable RD. And a new chain to go with your new freewheel.
    That's it! keep the rest of what you have. You won't miss the indexing of the front, and it's easier to trim without it.
    Top

  12. #12
    The Improbable Bulk Little Darwin's Avatar
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    You are going to need more than a generic freewheel change to get a higher gear. Just getting a freewheel with more gears and installing it won't get you what you need.

    For example, a 14/28 five speed doesn't have any higher gearing than a 14/28 seven speed... the advantage most times in moving to more gears is smaller gaps between the gears, not higher or lower gears. There will probably be freewheels that wil provide higher gears depending on what you currently have, but don't assume that blindly going with more gears will automatically give them to you.

    If your intent is to save face for being dropped by someone on a mountain bike, this may not be your answer. You probably already have a higher gear than most mountain bikes.

    If being dropped by a mountain bike is really the issue, then I think you need to recognize that there will always be the risk that someone on a mountain bike will be able to drop you. Have you considered that you could contribute to knee issues if you try to push too big a gear?

    If you want to upgrade to increase your joy of riding, then please do so... But the guy on the mountain bike will potentially still drop you.

    If you really want to pursue mechanical solutions to being dropped, then that is fine too, just don' expect a higher gear to be a magic bullet.

    EDIT: With your "ranking" stating "Middle Aged Member" you also need to remember that as you age, your speed will drop, and nothing you do to the bike will stop that as much as making sure you spend lots of time on the bike...
    Slow Ride Cyclists of NEPA

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  13. #13
    Senior Member euroford's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cs1
    Try GVH for good deals on build kits.
    GVH? Clarify please?

  14. #14
    biked well well biked's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JMCraig
    Well, this is a lot more interesting info than I got when I took it to one of the LBS's a couple of years ago and left a few minutes later muttering that apparently the bike was older than the employees--which definitely said something about me too....

    Just BTW, for those who took the time to reply, the frame of this thing is just great. It tracks like nobody's business and it soaks up road shock like something made of much fancier stuff; that's the main attraction to upgrading it.

    It has a triple crank: so-called half-step + granny (for those that are old enough to remember what that is). If I had a slightly higher top end gear, that may be about all I really need. It was irritating getting passed by a guy on a Mtn Bike with fancy gears 'cause I didn't have a high enough gear to keep up with him (I mean, if it had been a roadie, that'd be one thing...).

    At any rate, thanks for the helpful info and advice!

    Happy riding!

    John
    If your biggest concern is getting a higher gear, the easiest way to do it will be to replace your large chainring with something larger. Chances are you're running a 50t ring right now on a 110/74 BCD crankset. Here's a link to Sheldon's site that should be helpful: www.sheldonbrown.com/harris/chainrings/110.html.........................With a five-speed freewheel on a touring bike, more than likely your smallest cog is a 14t. You should be able to find something in a 6-speed freewheel that will be perfectly compatible with your existing setup, still give you a couple of good climbing gears, and have a 13t cog. Combine that with a 52t big ring and you won't be able to use gearing as an excuse when you get passed by a mountain bike-
    Last edited by well biked; 08-10-06 at 07:25 AM.

  15. #15
    Senior Member peripatetic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by top506
    The quick and dirty (and cheap) way would be to replace your 5 speed freewheel with a 7, re-spacing and re-dishing the rear wheel as need be. Ditto for cold setting if you have to. Then pick up a set of 7 speed DT shifters and a compatiable RD. And a new chain to go with your new freewheel.
    That's it! keep the rest of what you have. You won't miss the indexing of the front, and it's easier to trim without it.
    Top
    I think quick and dirty is a very relative term here. Top, the only thing "q & d" about this solution is your concise prose: OP, don't let it fool you .

  16. #16
    cs1
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    Quote Originally Posted by euroford
    GVH? Clarify please?
    Sorry, I thought everyone knew about GVH Bikes, Gary V Hobbs. Gary is a mail order cycle shop. Gary just passed away recently from a long battle with cancer. Tom is now running the shop. Tom spent most of last year redoing the website. It is an exceptionally nice site now. Here is a link. http://www.gvhbikes.com/
    Tim
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    1989 Raleigh Technium, 1989 Schwinn Traveler, 1986 Specialized Rockhopper
    1984 Specialized Stumpjumper, 1986 Specialized Stumpjumper and just way too many projects to list.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by JMCraig
    It has a triple crank: so-called half-step + granny (for those that are old enough to remember what that is). If I had a slightly higher top end gear, that may be about all I really need. It was irritating getting passed by a guy on a Mtn Bike with fancy gears 'cause I didn't have a high enough gear to keep up with him (I mean, if it had been a roadie, that'd be one thing...).
    On my 1982 Schinn Super Sport S/P I just went through this myself after six months of 20 miles a day riding it stock in 15 speed friction.

    Stock setup: rear spacing 126 mm, 52/46/34 chain rings, 13/28 five cog rear, Suntour Cyclone M-II derailleurs, clydesdale rider; already had removed the Suntour Superbe downtube shifters and replaced them with NOS Suntour Command 7 speed shifters index/friction but running friction, technomic stem and Nitto noodle 46 cm B-177 bars.

    Here's how:
    1. Found a Suntour 7 speed freehub 36 hole rim / greaseguard wheel with new Suntour 7 speed cassette all NOS cheeep on Ebay-$35 delivered! 130 mm. Was ready to spread the frame, but when it was suggested that cassettes only last 2k, and they are hard to find, wound up swapping that honey of a wheel at a modest profit to the LBS for the work below.
    2. Next I tried a seven speed Shimano HG freewheel and a new chain. Let my LBS do it, as I wanted their experience and wisdom. Chain wouldn't fit between small cog and dropout. I didn't want to spread the frame because I wanted to be able to put the bike back to stock when I'm done with it. even though the LBS has a frame table and was ready to do it.
    3. Found a Shimano 105 126 mm 7 speed 36 hole freehub almost new at the Greensboro bike swap. Tried to get a Sun CR-18 36 hole rim, but they weren't in distribution for the LBS. Finally gave up, let the LBS order a Mavic A719 36 hole rim, they got pretty near to the best online price plus shipping.

    New setup new rear wheel, new 7 speed 14/32 Shimano HG-70 cassette, new large and granny chainrings now 50/46/32 and two sets of chainring bolts, new chain, new Deore LX M570 rear derailleur closeout of last year's model, new compressionless cable rear derailleur loop. Total cost just under $300, including a very modest LBS charge to throw it all together. It indexes perfectly. I'm ecstatic. Normally I would have wrenched it myself, but its over 100F in my garage here in the PM in ATL. I was very happy to let them do it in a space of 45 minutes.

    Afterward: In your case, as a stronger rider you would elect a different gear setup. It was totally worth it for me. I didn't lose use of the bike for a single day, and I have a beautiful Champion #2 frame, clydesdale compatible touring wheels, 21 speed index whole step/half step plus 1:1 granny drivetrain with shifters on the bars, Technomic stem and Nitto Noodle bars (now $35 at Nashbar!!! a frikkin steal!!!) all in for less than $650.

    A new Rivendell bike would run, well, we all know how much, don't we? Who cares? This frame fits me to a tee. It was totally worth it.

    Upon reflection, I think the frame fit/feel issue is the metric you need to use here in order to decide when measured against the cost.

    Good luck.

    PS: Shameless NOT self promotion: I can't say enough good things about Bicycle South here in the Atlanta area in Decatur. Very sympathetic to VLW's. I went into, and quickly out of, about a dozen shops here until I found them. They have a website, http://www.bicyclesouth.com/

  18. #18
    Gone, but not forgotten Sheldon Brown's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JMCraig
    I have a wonderful old Schwinn Voyageur SP--great touring bike, but it just doesn't have the kind of gearing current bikes have. As I look at what it would cost to upgrade, I begin to question whether it's even worth the trouble. It appears I'd need to replace:

    Indexed downtube shifters
    Ft/Rr derailleurs
    Rear wheel (or a set if I don't want to be mismatched)
    Rear cassette for the new wheel
    Chainrings or new cranks (and perhaps bottom bracket as this is the old squared end shaft type)
    Chain

    So, can anyone offer me any suggestions as to the advisability of this?

    Also, on a 20+ year-old frame like this, is there any kind of limitation on the number of gears in the rear cassette? Has the dropout spacing changed for the new, 10-speed cassettes vs. smaller numbers like 7 (which used to be impressive!).

    A fallback position is just getting a new rear cluster that has at least 6 speeds rather than the 5 that came on it. All the deraileurs are Sun Tour (sigh) and I'm sure what they used to call an Ultra 6 would work fine. Can you find these any more?
    Those were GREAT frames. A new, comparable frame alone would cost you well over a grand.

    I get asked about this sort of thing a LOT by email, so I have a canned reply that I can paste in with a couple of mouse clicks. Here it is:
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Shimano's Sora STI brake/shifters are my favorite Shimano model, and are particularly well suited for upgrading older bikes.

    If you get the 7-speed version, you can use your old rear wheel with a new 7-speed freewheel and suitable chain.

    You will need a Shimano indexable rear derailer...even the cheap ones work just great, a lot better than anything you could buy a generation ago.

    Generally any front derailer will work if you have a double chainring setup. If you have a triple, you may need to replace the front derailer as well.

    You will need to add spacers to the rear hub and re-dish the rear wheel to fit the 7-speed freewheel, and may need to spread the frame as well. See: http://sheldonbrown.com/frame-spacing

    Here's what you need:

    Sora shifter kit http://harriscyclery.com/shifters

    7-speed freewheel http://harriscyclery.com/freewheels

    Chain (I recommend the SRAM PC58) http://harriscyclery.com/chains

    Rear derailer http://harriscyclery.com/derailers-rear.html

    Handlebar tape: http://harriscyclery.com/head

    All the best,

    Sheldon
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  19. #19
    Life is short Ride hard
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    "cold set" brown why not use a torch to get the chain stays nice and tosty especially if your going to repaint any way

  20. #20
    Gone, but not forgotten Sheldon Brown's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ryanparrish
    "cold set" brown why not use a torch to get the chain stays nice and tosty especially if your going to repaint any way
    What would be the point of that?

    And who said anything about a repaint?

    Sheldon "Why Make Trouble?" Brown
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    [URL= http://harriscyclery.com] http://harriscyclery.com[/URL]
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  21. #21
    cs1
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    Quote Originally Posted by ryanparrish
    "cold set" brown why not use a torch to get the chain stays nice and tosty especially if your going to repaint any way
    What exactly would a torch do to the stays?

    Tim
    1999 Waterford RSE-11, 1995 Waterford 1200, 1989 Specialized Rockhopper Comp
    1989 Raleigh Technium, 1989 Schwinn Traveler, 1986 Specialized Rockhopper
    1984 Specialized Stumpjumper, 1986 Specialized Stumpjumper and just way too many projects to list.

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    warm it up so that you wont need to apply so much strength to bend wouldnt the excessive heat would bubble the paint?

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    and if you're not using so much strength wouldn't be easier to get exacting measurements?

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    You would likely just end up messing the tubes up pretty well (and maybe burn yourself) with a torch. With a long lever (like a 2X4) it doesn't take that much strength to bend the frame. Remember, if you are going from 120mm to 130mm, that is only 5mm a side. Not much.

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    Senior Member grolby's Avatar
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    Absolutely worth the trouble if you're okay with spending a few bucks. There's a lot to be said for the more standardized sizing and fittings of many modern frames, but there's really nothing like a nice, old bike made to work like new again.

    I would disregard warnings about a huge jump in maintenance when switching to indexing. The truth is, you generally need to adjust it once when you install it and then a couple of hundred miles later after the cables have stretched a bit. After that, just forget about it - you're good until you need new cables, unless damage from a crash or something affects the derailer or shifters. While it's a little bit more work, I have more or less the same opinion as Sheldon - rear indexing is such an improvement over friction shifting, and the increase in trouble so minimal, that it's completely worth it. And I like friction shifting!

    I would start by following Sheldon's advice. If STI doesn't seem like your kind of thing, you still might be able to find 7-speed bar end shifters on ebay or at your LBS, if they sell used parts. If you can't find indexing shifters that will work, friction shifting on modern freewheels is very smooth. It's not as nice as indexing, since there's more brain work involved in shifting rather than just riding (okay, so this is why some people hate indexing, but I like that feature!), but it shifts like buttah. But if you decide to give STI a try - and I think concerns among the touring crowd about the reliability of brifters are overblown, for the most part - then you'll probably still be able to find 7-speed Sora shifters without much trouble (like from Sheldon's website).

    I personally hate half-step plus granny gearing, but more power to you if you want to keep it. You should still consider changing it, though. Half-step was a means of dealing with iffy front derailers and clusters with only five or six cogs in back. In my experience, the middle chainring is really much too large to give a suitable range of gears for riding with a touring load. Even for just tooling around, it's a bit much. Your mileage may vary, of course, especially since I have really bad knees, but I've been much happier since I changed my 44 middle and 50 large rings for a 36 and a 48, respectively. It turns out that the "iffy" front derailer (a Shimano Light Action from the mid-80's) can handle the 12-tooth jump from middle to large as long I don't try to shift it under load. In my opinion, a 48-13 gear is a more-than-respectable top gear for a touring bike. I figure that if I can sprint that gear to 31 MPH on level ground, which is WAY faster than I ever ride, that I don't really run much risk of running out of gears on anything short of a big ol' hill.

    Good luck with your bike! Definitely upgrade it, it'll give you many more years of pleasure.

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