Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Chicago, IL, USA
Bikes: 1974 Raleigh Sports
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For brakes: use top quality brake shoes. Kool Stop gives silky, rock-solid braking power on alloy rims. I wish I could comment on their performance on OEM vintage steel rims; soon I will learn, as I am going to retrofit my old steel-rimmed Raleigh with new brake shoes/cables/levers as soon as the parts come in.
For the crank: If the crank needs replacing, retrofit to the three-piece. It's lighter, and the available one-piece bottom bracket bearings are lousy in my opinion. They're made out of relatively soft, easily pitted/damaged metal. But those one-piece cranks are extraordinarily strong, so if that's what you value, then opt for the one-piece.
For wheels: build your own. It's the hardest bike work I've done so far, but you'll be proud as a peacock of your bike when you're done! Plus, you can easily surpass crummy, spoke-breaking factory issue wheels in terms of build quality. 650a (ISO 590 mm) rims aren't too much smaller than the original Schwinn 597s, assuming that's what you have right now.