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  1. #1
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    1984 or 85 Schwinn Mesa Runner UPDATE/Makeover

    Hi all you awesome bike mechanics!

    I'm in a bit of a pinch here. I know absolutely nothing about bike mechanics/nomenclature, but would like to update/re-build my Schwinn Mesa Runner (1984 or 85 model) w/26" wheels and steel frame.

    I'm very mechanical (re-build car motors, change brakes/transmissions/shocks/struts/u-joints/etc), but simply don't know bike 'stuff'. I believe i can handle most repairs, though specific-tool tasks will be impossible for me (straightening wheels, etc) as i simply don't own the bike-specific tools.

    I use my bike for commuting, utility and exercise (paved/gravel surfaces - *never* in a mountain-bike role). I intend on riding year 'round. I have a rack set up on the back (just added a basket to it tonight!) and will eventually get a heavy-duty rack up front as well.

    I'm a Clydesdale, but will be dropping a good bit of wgt. off and am interested in learning the following:

    1) How do i know what size "gear cassette (?)" fit my bike? It currently has 12 - i'd like 18 or so (i do like the very simple thumb levers and want to keep 'em if possible)
    2) How do i know what size "gear crank-sets (?)" fit my bike?
    3) How do i know which of the above components are best for my bike?
    4) How do i know if/what size "disc brakes (?)" fit my bike?

    OK, that's ALOT.

    Thanks in advance for any "piece of the puzzle" you can help with!!!

    frank
    I'm planning on de-branding my 23" Schwinn High Plains updating components and powder-coating the frame - metamorphosizing it into the ULTIMATE TOURING MACHINE!!!

  2. #2
    Senior Member mechBgon's Avatar
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    To make a long story short, I'd advise any of my customers to skip that project and start over with a bike that's using modern parts standards. If you need a nominee to build on, the Surly Troll is your ticket to ride. http://www.mechbgon.com/troll

  3. #3
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    . right now you have two chainrings up front "a double" , you want to get a triple crank. I'm guessing standard square taper. you also likely will need a front derailleur that can handle a triple, and maybe a new rear derailleur as well.

    oh, and a new bottom bracket could be required to fit the triple crank.

    disc brakes wont fit without more work than it is worth.

    http://www.sheldonbrown.com/ is a good website for diy repair info. as is
    http://www.parktool.com/blog/repair-help

    getting used parts will save you money, esp if you have a bike co-op or good source of old parts.
    if you go the ebay route i would guess
    Cranks $50
    FD 10
    RD 20
    Bottom Bracket new $20

    so 100 plus shipping. the key is figuring out exactly what you want beforehand. read those links and ask more spefific questions until you are sure you are on the right track. also, the guys over in the classic vintage forum have a ton of info on rehabbing old bikes. you might want to take some pics and post it there asking for help.

    changing out the cranks and bottom bracket require bike specific tools but the derailleurs not so much.
    Last edited by Chris Chicago; 04-16-12 at 09:39 PM.

  4. #4
    Constant tinkerer FastJake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PolarBear007 View Post
    1) How do i know what size "gear cassette (?)" fit my bike? It currently has 12 - i'd like 18 or so (i do like the very simple thumb levers and want to keep 'em if possible)
    2) How do i know what size "gear crank-sets (?)" fit my bike?
    3) How do i know which of the above components are best for my bike?
    4) How do i know if/what size "disc brakes (?)" fit my bike?
    1) Sounds like you want to put a triple crank in place of the double. But before you do that, you should decide which ratios you want rather than just more ratios. Do you need lower gears? Higher gears? Tighter spacing in between? The thumb shifters are good, they are probably friction so they'll work with anything.

    2) You'll have a "square taper" crankset on that bike. A triple might work with your bottom bracket, or you might need a new spindle. Chances are you have a loose-ball bottom bracket unless it was replaced at some point in its life with a cartridge bottom bracket (BB.)

    3) You can research the component level, there are articles out there. For example, the Shimano hierarchy used to go something like this: XTR, XT, LX, Deore, Alivio, Acera-X, Altus (from high end to low end.) But component names are always changing, it can be tough to keep up.

    4) Disc brakes will not work on your frame unless you have someone professionally weld or braze-on disc tabs. To service the cantilever brakes you have see sheldonbrown.com

    Finally, if any of the terms I used are confusing look them up in Sheldon Brown's bicycle glossary. Also for repair help see the Park Tool repair blog.
    Why "derailer" is the correct way to spell the gear-change mechanism: sheldonbrown.com/derailer.html

  5. #5
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    Out of the gate, thanks for all the great tips!!! I'll comment accordingly to each, but want to say thanks up front.

    Quote Originally Posted by mechBgon View Post
    To make a long story short, I'd advise any of my customers to skip that project and start over with a bike that's using modern parts standards. If you need a nominee to build on, the Surly Troll is your ticket to ride. http://www.mechbgon.com/troll
    That looks like a REALLY nice frame. I saved the page as future reference for a "build-a-bike" frame component. I'd hazard a guess there are alot of great frames for what i want from a bike, but this one sure looks like a winner!!! What does something like this cost?

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Chicago View Post
    . right now you have two chainrings up front "a double" , you want to get a triple crank. I'm guessing standard square taper. you also likely will need a front derailleur that can handle a triple, and maybe a new rear derailleur as well.
    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Chicago View Post
    oh, and a new bottom bracket could be required to fit the triple crank.
    I'll be reading from the links what a "bottom bracket" is.......

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Chicago View Post
    disc brakes wont fit without more work than it is worth.

    http://www.sheldonbrown.com/ is a good website for diy repair info. as is
    http://www.parktool.com/blog/repair-help
    I'll be book marking these websites!!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Chicago View Post
    getting used parts will save you money, esp if you have a bike co-op or good source of old parts.
    if you go the ebay route i would guess
    Cranks $50
    FD 10
    RD 20
    Bottom Bracket new $20

    so 100 plus shipping. the key is figuring out exactly what you want beforehand. read those links and ask more spefific questions until you are sure you are on the right track. also, the guys over in the classic vintage forum have a ton of info on rehabbing old bikes. you might want to take some pics and post it there asking for help.

    changing out the cranks and bottom bracket require bike specific tools but the derailleurs not so much.
    I'll be checking out if there's a bike co-op in my area to help with special tools/classes!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by FastJake View Post
    1) Sounds like you want to put a triple crank in place of the double. But before you do that, you should decide which ratios you want rather than just more ratios. Do you need lower gears? Higher gears? Tighter spacing in between? The thumb shifters are good, they are probably friction so they'll work with anything.
    I will be visiting the links above to learn/determine what types of gear ratios will serve me best.

    Quote Originally Posted by FastJake View Post
    2) You'll have a "square taper" crankset on that bike. A triple might work with your bottom bracket, or you might need a new spindle. Chances are you have a loose-ball bottom bracket unless it was replaced at some point in its life with a cartridge bottom bracket (BB.)
    I've absolutely no idea what the bottom bracket is - lol! Again, i'll be heading to the info links above to learn.

    Quote Originally Posted by FastJake View Post
    3) You can research the component level, there are articles out there. For example, the Shimano hierarchy used to go something like this: XTR, XT, LX, Deore, Alivio, Acera-X, Altus (from high end to low end.) But component names are always changing, it can be tough to keep up.
    Thanks for giving me a starting point for comparison/evaluation in components.

    Quote Originally Posted by FastJake View Post
    4) Disc brakes will not work on your frame unless you have someone professionally weld or braze-on disc tabs. To service the cantilever brakes you have see sheldonbrown.com
    I can get some *serious* welding/brazing done - that's not a problem. Whether it's worth the hassle to retro-fit/buy components instead of just getting a newer frame is probably your point (and a good one at that!!!).

    Quote Originally Posted by FastJake View Post
    Finally, if any of the terms I used are confusing look them up in Sheldon Brown's bicycle glossary. Also for repair help see the Park Tool repair blog.
    Thanks again for the pointers!!!

    frank
    I'm planning on de-branding my 23" Schwinn High Plains updating components and powder-coating the frame - metamorphosizing it into the ULTIMATE TOURING MACHINE!!!

  6. #6
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    You sound like me. I am ex-pro mechanic (did it about 15-20 years ago). Have a garage full of car/truck tools, etc. I just didn't know the first thing about bike mechanics 5 months ago. I got a decent brand bike that needed a ton of work at that time. I ended up joining here and reading the Sheldon Brown website and park tools websites up and down. I also volunteer at my bike coop. I can now tear down and rebuild a bike almost completely from scratch. Ended up buying about 60 dollars worth of bike specific tools like crank arm puller, rear cassette remover, spoke wrench, etc.

    Read, read, search, read some more.

  7. #7
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    Overhauling the bike and making sure everything works as well as it possibly can is a good idea. Replace cables, grips, tires, brake pads, and anything else that could be worn out, as this has to be done occaisionally to all bikes.
    Trying to 'upgrade' what was a pretty entry-level bike and make it more modern is a waste of time and money. A new bike of the same quality can be purchased for little money. A used bike of substantially better quality can be had for even less. The only use I see in modifying the Scwinn is to outfit it as a winter bike. WWinter riding kills a bike in a single season, and for your basic 30 year old bike this will basically be euthanasia.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobotech View Post
    You sound like me. I am ex-pro mechanic (did it about 15-20 years ago). Have a garage full of car/truck tools, etc. I just didn't know the first thing about bike mechanics 5 months ago. I got a decent brand bike that needed a ton of work at that time. I ended up joining here and reading the Sheldon Brown website and park tools websites up and down. I also volunteer at my bike coop. I can now tear down and rebuild a bike almost completely from scratch. Ended up buying about 60 dollars worth of bike specific tools like crank arm puller, rear cassette remover, spoke wrench, etc.

    Read, read, search, read some more.
    Thanks for the encouragement bobotech! I'm not a pro-level auto tech, but definitely comfortable in the garage!

    Quote Originally Posted by DCB0 View Post
    Overhauling the bike and making sure everything works as well as it possibly can is a good idea. Replace cables, grips, tires, brake pads, and anything else that could be worn out, as this has to be done occaisionally to all bikes.
    Trying to 'upgrade' what was a pretty entry-level bike and make it more modern is a waste of time and money. A new bike of the same quality can be purchased for little money. A used bike of substantially better quality can be had for even less. The only use I see in modifying the Scwinn is to outfit it as a winter bike. WWinter riding kills a bike in a single season, and for your basic 30 year old bike this will basically be euthanasia.
    Thanks DCBO - that's what i was wondering..... euthanasia seems about accurate, but maybe i can add a little re-tooling to stall the inevitable!

    I'm hoping to get enough resurrected life outta this one as is reasonable and save for/buy a "as i can" component-by-component bike.

    Great info everyone - thanks so much!!!

    frank
    I'm planning on de-branding my 23" Schwinn High Plains updating components and powder-coating the frame - metamorphosizing it into the ULTIMATE TOURING MACHINE!!!

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    Component-by-component is another way to spend much more money than you need to (like 2X or 3X too much). For the price of the Surly frame mentioned above you can get a decent whole bicycle. If there are any parts that do not meet with your needs they can be replaced when they fail or you realize you need something better.

  10. #10
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    The thing is, when it comes to refurbishing old bikes, I rarely ever buy new. It really only makes sense to buy cheap old used but in good shape parts for a bike that in complete good shape may not be worth much more than 100 dollars.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobotech View Post
    The thing is, when it comes to refurbishing old bikes, I rarely ever buy new.
    Refurbushing an old "new" bike? Funny!!!

    I understand what you meant though.
    I'm planning on de-branding my 23" Schwinn High Plains updating components and powder-coating the frame - metamorphosizing it into the ULTIMATE TOURING MACHINE!!!

  12. #12
    Senior Member mechBgon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DCB0 View Post
    Component-by-component is another way to spend much more money than you need to (like 2X or 3X too much). For the price of the Surly frame mentioned above you can get a decent whole bicycle. If there are any parts that do not meet with your needs they can be replaced when they fail or you realize you need something better.
    The Troll frameset is $495. You don't get much of a bike for $495, but you can have the start of a really great one that's excellent for what he wants to do.

    I can get some *serious* welding/brazing done - that's not a problem. Whether it's worth the hassle to retro-fit/buy components instead of just getting a newer frame is probably your point (and a good one at that!!!).
    The frame you've got is not simply missing fittings. It's built for narrower hubs. Your first move would have to be cold-setting the frame to take modern-day hubs, so you can use a disc-compatible hub (and get a stronger axle setup in the process, since your weight + cargo + lots of riding is asking a lot of the old-school axle setup it currently has). Cold-setting the frame isn't that hard, but that's just one of the obsolete features & standards on an '84 Mesa Runner.

    If you really want to take the path of greatest resistance just so you can say you did, then by all means go for it, but it's like pimping out a Model T to tow a 10,000-pound boat when you could just grab a used 1-ton pickup for $2000 and be done with it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mechBgon View Post
    The Troll frameset is $495. You don't get much of a bike for $495, but you can have the start of a really great one that's excellent for what he wants to do.
    If you are talking 'new' then no. But it will get you a basic bike-shop bike of about the same quality of the Mesa Runner. And paying $495 for the 'start' of a great bike is fine, but how much will he have to pay to finish the bike? If he buys new components then it will certaily be much more expensive than any factory built bike with whatever quality components he chooses.
    I like your analogy about pimping out a model T. $495 will buy a very nice used bike of considerably better quality than the Mesa Runner. THe Mesa Runner will make a fine winter bike without any mods.

  14. #14
    Senior Member JReade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mechBgon View Post
    The Troll frameset is $495. You don't get much of a bike for $495, but you can have the start of a really great one that's excellent for what he wants to do.
    Or buy a complete mountain bike with disc brakes, rear rack braze ons, slap some slicks on and be in the same boat with modern components for close to the same price. I'll admit, the troll has great features, but I feel like for hte price, he'd be getting a lot of stuff he will never need/use and the level of complication of building a bare frame is probably beyond his capability (for now!).
    Jesse

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    I'll probably eventually go the bare-frame build if i remain interested, but will wait-n-see if i'm going to continue on with cycling or if it's just a passing interest for me.

    In the interim, i'll be reading/learning everything i can RE: bike nomenclature/component compatibility (and saving my pennies - i've noticed bikes/components can get really spendy!!!).
    I'm planning on de-branding my 23" Schwinn High Plains updating components and powder-coating the frame - metamorphosizing it into the ULTIMATE TOURING MACHINE!!!

  16. #16
    Senior Member mechBgon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DCB0 View Post
    If you are talking 'new' then no. But it will get you a basic bike-shop bike of about the same quality of the Mesa Runner. And paying $495 for the 'start' of a great bike is fine, but how much will he have to pay to finish the bike? If he buys new components then it will certaily be much more expensive than any factory built bike with whatever quality components he chooses.
    As a complete bike (minus pedals), the Troll is $1400 with a Deore drivetrain and Avid BB7 disc brakes. I don't think the OP has stated a budget, or that money is a problem, but that's for him to decide. What this approach would get him, is an extremely tough full-rigid bike that's a natural for front and rear racks, basically a mountain-touring bike.



    A Surly LHT would be another option. If someone wanted just an off-the-rack mountain bike with any sort of el-cheapo disc brakes and a worthless pogo stick of a front fork, there are plenty of those to choose from at less than half the price, of course.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Flying Merkel's Avatar
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    I built up a Nashbar mountain bike frame that sounds close to your desired specs. What I learned from it was the following:

    Disc brake are nice but really not necessary for street use. Adding a rear rack is now a lot more difficult.

    I used a Nashbar rigid carbon fiber fork. A steel fork would have been fine.

    My bike has a triple up front and 8 speed rear cassette. I only use the smallest front sprocket on the rare occasions I go off road.

    I spent more on the project than if I had bought a good used bike.

    The end result was a good street commuter that can be ridden off road. I am pleased with the results, but the money could have been better spent. It was a fun build. Check out the Nashbar website. The frame only cost $80.00. Part of the problem was that a lot of the components I had on hand were in worse shape then I realized. Ride your bike for a month or so, then honestly assess your needs. Have fun!

  18. #18
    Senior Member JReade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mechBgon View Post
    As a complete bike (minus pedals), the Troll is $1400 with a Deore drivetrain and Avid BB7 disc brakes. I don't think the OP has stated a budget, or that money is a problem, but that's for him to decide. What this approach would get him, is an extremely tough full-rigid bike that's a natural for front and rear racks, basically a mountain-touring bike.

    A Surly LHT would be another option. If someone wanted just an off-the-rack mountain bike with any sort of el-cheapo disc brakes and a worthless pogo stick of a front fork, there are plenty of those to choose from at less than half the price, of course.
    I was looking at the Specialized hardrock sport disc, which are spec'd with Avid BB5's, which are not really El cheapo disc's, and the fork isn't anything fantastic. However you can get a rigid disc fork WITH canti mounts to replace it, get bb7's, and still come out less than the $1400 price tag for the Troll.

    I understand that the OP hasn't specified a budget, but as he is trying to rehab an 85 Mesa runner, and mentioned it as it might be a passing interest, why spend $1400? Did you spend $1400 on YOUR first bike? Did you get a set of top of the line golf clubs for your first set?
    Jesse

  19. #19
    Senior Member mechBgon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JReade View Post
    I was looking at the Specialized hardrock sport disc, which are spec'd with Avid BB5's, which are not really El cheapo disc's, and the fork isn't anything fantastic. However you can get a rigid disc fork WITH canti mounts to replace it, get bb7's, and still come out less than the $1400 price tag for the Troll.
    That would work, BB5s aren't as adjustable but are still legit. And the Troll fork is available separately (I even have a spare I'd sell cheap).

    I understand that the OP hasn't specified a budget, but as he is trying to rehab an 85 Mesa runner, and mentioned it as it might be a passing interest, why spend $1400?
    I didn't catch on that it was a passing interest at first, and since we're seeing that he's not even familiar with what a bottom bracket is, his choice of an '85 Mesa Runner might be through ignorance of its obsolete nature, rather than because it was cheap per se. Maybe he can divulge whether budget is an issue.

    Did you spend $1400 on YOUR first bike? Did you get a set of top of the line golf clubs for your first set?
    No. Due to up-front cost, I haven't always bought the right thing the first time. And this has sometimes come back to bite me. My advice to the OP would be to limit the Mesa Runner to trial-balloon status, if anything, and then if he likes cycling he can justify building or buying a bike that really suits his needs.

  20. #20
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    Here is an inspirational photo of my Mesa Runner, somewhat newer than yours but a nice fun bike for summer. I have less than 20 bucks in the bike. Garage sale find and cloned with a beach cruiser and some old mountain bike parts saved from the dump. Mine came with a triple chain ring but I have swapped Mountain triples onto other bikes and it’s not so hard. I have also when needing just some slightly lower gears used a mountain crank and just removed the granny gear and left it with two smaller rings than what was normally on the bike. You don’t need a lot of special tools for bikes but a crank puller is a must to get started. You will surprise yourself how fast you pick things up. Rarely is it wise to put a lot of money into an older bike with older components. But if you look around there are a lot of swapping that can be done to get you something to ride. I like my Mesa Runner Cruiser.



    .
    What's not in your legs needs to be in your gears.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by mechBgon View Post
    As a complete bike (minus pedals), the Troll is $1400 with a Deore drivetrain and Avid BB7 disc brakes. I don't think the OP has stated a budget, or that money is a problem, but that's for him to decide. What this approach would get him, is an extremely tough full-rigid bike that's a natural for front and rear racks, basically a mountain-touring bike.


    "Mountain-Touring bike" is pretty much what i'm looking to accomplish - on the cheap of course! If i'm still interested in biking then i'll start looking at new(or at least used but newer) components.


    Quote Originally Posted by mechBgon View Post
    I didn't catch on that it was a passing interest at first, and since we're seeing that he's not even familiar with what a bottom bracket is, his choice of an '85 Mesa Runner might be through ignorance of its obsolete nature, rather than because it was cheap per se. Maybe he can divulge whether budget is an issue.
    For now, as my era of ignorance fades, i'm sticking to a pretty tight budget. That said, i'd like to get a 3-ring up front (so maybe i need another derailer as well) and if necessary a new-to-me rear cassette (again, if necessary, change whatever part back there as well).

    Quote Originally Posted by mechBgon View Post
    No. Due to up-front cost, I haven't always bought the right thing the first time. And this has sometimes come back to bite me. My advice to the OP would be to limit the Mesa Runner to trial-balloon status, if anything, and then if he likes cycling he can justify building or buying a bike that really suits his needs.
    This just about hits the nail on the head. Though i must admit i really like that Troll frame!!!
    I'm planning on de-branding my 23" Schwinn High Plains updating components and powder-coating the frame - metamorphosizing it into the ULTIMATE TOURING MACHINE!!!

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by bud16415 View Post
    Here is an inspirational photo of my Mesa Runner, somewhat newer than yours but a nice fun bike for summer. I have less than 20 bucks in the bike. Garage sale find and cloned with a beach cruiser and some old mountain bike parts saved from the dump. Mine came with a triple chain ring but I have swapped Mountain triples onto other bikes and it’s not so hard. I have also when needing just some slightly lower gears used a mountain crank and just removed the granny gear and left it with two smaller rings than what was normally on the bike. You don’t need a lot of special tools for bikes but a crank puller is a must to get started. You will surprise yourself how fast you pick things up. Rarely is it wise to put a lot of money into an older bike with older components. But if you look around there are a lot of swapping that can be done to get you something to ride. I like my Mesa Runner Cruiser.



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    That is one sweet, old granny! Thanks for posting her up! Makes mine look like a scarred, old battle bruiser.

    Thanks for the 'heads up' on tools and old bike investments.
    I'm planning on de-branding my 23" Schwinn High Plains updating components and powder-coating the frame - metamorphosizing it into the ULTIMATE TOURING MACHINE!!!

  23. #23
    SE Wis dedhed's Avatar
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    Or you educate yourself and buy used and save a ton of money.

    http://grandrapids.craigslist.org/bik/2954023588.html
    '68 Raleigh Sprite, '02 Raleigh C500, '84 Raleigh Gran Prix, '91 Trek 400

  24. #24
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    Thanks for the linky! I found my Mesa Runner through Craigs List - Grand Rapids.

    I'm all set for now (at least in terms of bike buying) - though i'd like to ugrade a couple components "on the cheap" if possible.
    I'm planning on de-branding my 23" Schwinn High Plains updating components and powder-coating the frame - metamorphosizing it into the ULTIMATE TOURING MACHINE!!!

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    If you have steel wheels on the MEsa Runner (it looks like they might be chromed steel in the catalogue page but it is unclear) then switching to alloy rims will instantly make the brakes work better - especially in wet conditions where steel rims can be downright scary. Also aluminum wheels are generally more durable than steel wheels, not to mention lighter. That and new brake pads like Koolstop Salmon pads will make the bike safer. CHanging cables and housing (if the ones included on the bike are more than a couple of years old) will cost $15 or so and make a quick improvement to the brakes and ease of shifting.

    If you are riding mostly on road or hard surfaces, then narrower high pressure tires will make riding easier and probably more enjoyable. A decent floor pump ($25 - $30), if you don't already have one, is a very good investment - underinflated tires are a common cause of flat tires, and flat tires are a common cause of getting frustrated and quitting riding.
    Last edited by DCB0; 04-19-12 at 07:43 AM.

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