26" Wheels in a Frame made for 27": Panasonic Mixte
I know this may be heresy but in an effort to try to get my wife to do some more riding with me I was going to buy a Panasonic 1000 mixte 49 cm (If anyone knows anything about it I would appreciate it TAnge 900 tubing?).
My dilema is that she is afraid of "skinny tire" bikes. I rehabed a late 50's Roadmaster single speed for her which she likes but it must weigh forty pounds.
Needless to say, even when I am pulling my 50+ pound son on his tag along, she gets left behind on the slightes incline. My idea was to take this mixte, add a set of nitto north roads, cork grips and the appropriate brake lever and a set of 26" wheels w a nexus 3 spd coaster brake in the rear. She is intimdated by multiple gears and has also stated a fear of hand brakes. I know this will all pass once she gets comfortable and then I can swith the bike back. Am I nuts or just looking for a way to entertain myself and buy more bike stuff?
I think you are on the right track make her comfortable. I did something like that for my wife, although she did not have a problem with the narrow tires. I found a lady's Schwinn Traveller and swapped to flat bars and a big gel seat. It's about 10 lbs. lighter that her old Collegiate and it has SIS shifting. She doesn't ride a lot but she really likes what I did to the bike.
3 speed is almost fool proof for someone that doesn't like to shift gears. And old bikes are common enough that you could buy one for the wheels for not much money. If you are going to add hand brakes later, a lot of the American frames were the same for 26" or 27" tires, so the brakes have long reach to reach the smaller wheel. If you use the 40 tooth chainwheel and about an 18 tooth sprocket, you get gearing from about 43 to 77 inches. That should get her up and down most hills. Sprockets up to 22 teeth are available.
You don't need to go to 26" wheels to use fat tires. They make some pretty wide 700c tires these days. Since you plan to use a coaster brake, brake reach won't be an issue, but pedal strike might be if the diameter of the tire is too small. My wife doesn't like derailers either and I thought about a Shimano Nexus hub when I built my wife's mixte, but I gave up the idea when I how much the back wheel would cost. I ended up building her a 52X22 single speed on 28c tubulars.
That Panasonic frame sounds excellent! Most all of the mixtes I find are gas pipe.
Here's my wife's bike. I actually bought Nitto North Road bars for it, but I returned them when I saw the Nitto copies of 3tt flat bars at Jitensha Studio.
You don't need to go to 26" wheels to use fat tires. They make some pretty wide 700c tires these days.
P.S.: Anyone know if there was a specific, ignorant a-hole who started the "thin tire" fear? Or was it something that all Americans simply couldn't understand after abandoning balloon tires for 27"s during the Bike Boom?
I recently installed 27 x 1-1/4" Panaracer Paselas on Jane's mixte and my Jack Taylor. These are the new ones, 630-32, not last year's 630-30 "27 x 1-1/4" Paselas, which were considerably smaller than their nominal size.
These are so much bigger than the 27 x 1-1/4" Contis I took off, that when I asked her if anything felt different she said "I know it sounds crazy but I feel like I'm taller.".
At 31.5mm (actual width on Super Champ Mod 58s) they are only 2mm narrower than the 590-37 Kendas I like for my 3 speeds. They are rated for 95 psi, but are so big they ride harshly at 75psi. Fortunately they are so supple that they roll beautifully at 65 psi (We both weigh about 185. If your wife is smaller use even less.)
It gives us a lot of confidence knowing the tire is rated for 30psi more than we are using. With such a big tire, at a moderate pressure, she is now comfortable riding dirt stretches where she used to get off and walk.
I had to put bigger fenders on her bike and the big hammered aluminum LeFol fenders on my Taylor no longer look outsized.