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Old 07-15-06, 07:57 AM   #1
rp macpherson
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Some advice on my new (old) touring bike?

Hey all, after a couple of months of seriously considering buying my first touring bike, i finally bought one. Eventhough i wanted the reliability of a newer model, something about this bike compelled me to buy it, and now i'm wondering if it was a worth it and how to further equip it. I paid 300$ at a yard sale this morning. Here are the specs:

Roberts frame, 1983, 53 cm, reynolds 531 ST tubing
original Campy front and rear breaks, sidepull
Campy front derailleur
Suntour bar-end shifters
Suntour rear derailleur
Specialized sealed bearing hubs
Blackburn front and rear racks
Mavic GP-4 tubular rims



My first question concerns the gearing. The bike has only 12 gears. Would it be wise to put new sprockets on and give myself some versatility? Would it be really expensive to put a more practical gear set on it? What all would i have to change in terms of components to do it?

Second, the tubular rims concern me a little, especially when i think about doing any sort of long-distance loaded touring on them. The current tires are totally busted, but look like pretty slick, narrow racing treads. Can i get a wider, somewhat knobbier sew-up tire, or will I have to change out the wheelset to get a more touring-appropriate setup? What do you all suggest?

Third, was it a mistake to buy this bike for 300 bucks, or was it a steal? It was just too damn pretty to pass up.

Any responses to these questions and other comments regarding making this bike tour-worthy are much appreciated. I can't wait to get this thing on the road.
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Old 07-15-06, 09:32 AM   #2
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Did you just buy this off of Craigslist in DC?

The first thing you need to do is figure out the size of the tires--they might be 27" instead of 700s--and the width between the chainstays (i.e. for the appropiate over locknut length).

I do not know much about tubular tires other than they are not standard. I personally like to use standard components available anywhere. If the wheels are 700s and the width is 126mm or wider, you can get a great wheelset from Performance for $200-->Mavic Open Pro with Ultegra hubs. If memory serves me right, you will have have issues with the rear cassette but appropriate ones are inexpensive. After the switch to Shimano hub, there is a wide assortment of cassettes that will give a wider gear range. You will probably have to set up the rear derailer as a friction shifter (if it isn't already). According to the size of the cassette, you might have to get another chain. I think that you can get away with the entire job (excluding labor) for less than $300. If you get lucky with some sales, you might be able to stay under $300 with labor since all of the work is straight forward.

I forgot to include new tires in the estimate above.

For touring, you bought a great bike. That is, assuming it is in good shape and standard components fit. Reynolds 531 has a comfortable flex to it which makes it appropriate for longer distances. Congratulations.
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Old 07-15-06, 09:35 AM   #3
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Oh, if the width between the rear chainstays is too narrow, for $50 you can get a local shop to widen it to 130 mm.

Let's hope that you do not have 27" tires. Switching to 700s will be a lot of work as the brakes will need to be replaced as well.
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Old 07-15-06, 10:51 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by invisiblehand
Oh, if the width between the rear chainstays is too narrow, for $50 you can get a local shop to widen it to 130 mm.

Let's hope that you do not have 27" tires. Switching to 700s will be a lot of work as the brakes will need to be replaced as well.
I just took the bike to my LBS and had the mechanic look at it. He says it's in great shape... hasn't been used too much and has been taken care of. He suggested that I have the wheels rebuilt with new rims for clincher tires and that it would set me back about 200 (the width btw the rear chainstays is 120 mm). Otherwise, he thinks its ready for touring. He also explained something interesting about the gears. Apparently the two front sprockets are a half-step difference, so every combination is a different gear with no overlap. I'm still trying to wrap my head around that... He thought they would be fine for touring as long as i'm not climbing any huge mountains.

BTW, yes this was the bike listed on the DC Craig's List. I emailed the seller and he sent back a letter to everyone interested saying to come to his yardsale this weekend. i was there when it started... I was determined to make her mine
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Old 07-15-06, 12:33 PM   #5
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More pics would be nice ! I think you have done good although you may be in for a lot of knowledge gathering in the coming months. I am a bit sceptical of having a double up front if you are palnnning fully loaded touring. Getting 60-70 pounds of bicycle up a long hill with only 42 up front and 28 teeth behind is heavy work but probably doable if you are very fit. I like the idea of rebuilding the old hubs with new clincher rims. Keep us posted on the progress. You could get a cheap triple crankset from ebay and a new Bottom bracket and still have the 120 mm rear spacing and a 5 cog freewheel.
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Old 07-15-06, 02:33 PM   #6
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More pics would be nice !
definitely. i just used the photo the seller had on the craigslist page. i will try to get some digital photos up later this weekend, showing some more of the details. It seems to me that its a pretty unique machine.

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Originally Posted by plodderslusk
Keep us posted on the progress.
Ha, I'll post until you guys get sick of hearing about it. The wheels should be rebuilt by next week and then i can start preparing for my first mini-tour in aug. before my classes start again. Exciting stuff.

Here's something i forgot to mention. The bike came with an Avocet (sp?) touring saddle and, although i haven't even logged a mile on it, it seems like it could be hell on the underside. Anyone know of a decent, non-leather touring saddle that isn't too expensive? My butt quivers in fear when i look at the saddle it came with.
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Old 07-15-06, 02:58 PM   #7
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Hi,
try the saddle, it needs some treatment after all these years. I suggest going to 7 speed, 8 at most. You can get parts cheap on Ebay, look for NOS. Don't go cheap on rims, you want good ones. I would also go to a triple ring crank if you are going
to tour. For tires, the 32c Panaracer Pasela Tourguard is a nice choice. It's a compromise tire, it's not a high mileage tire, but then it doesn't weigh a ton either. It's a clincher not a tubular. It will take some money to get it to suit your needs. And you won't know how wise the purchase was until you've racked up some miles. Basically, if you can adjust it to get a proper fit you will like it.
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Old 07-15-06, 07:30 PM   #8
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Sounds and looks like a nice bike. I would target a Continental UltraGatorskin tire. I always find Panaracers to feel funny due to the thick center strip.

Saddles: I like Selle Italia Prolink and the Specialized Alias.

Frame: If it's built for 126 mm rear hubs, spread it to 130. Then you'll be able to upgrade to modern geartrains anytime in the future.

A fine find, IMHO, but I like vintage steel!

ken
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Old 07-15-06, 08:30 PM   #9
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Darn nice looking bike. I can see why you fell for it. My thinking about gearing for a touring bike is it doesn't matter that much whether you have a lot of gears, as long as you have something that can get you and your gear over the big hills. If you've got a gear in the lower 20-inch range, you should be ok.

A triple up front can be difficult to set up. I'd say better a double with a nice small inner chain ring. You can find that and very nice affordable megararnge freewheels at www.sheldonbrown.com (Harris Cycles in Massachusetts). They're experts at working with people who have bikes just like yours.

To calculate your gearing, check this out:
http://sheldonbrown.com/gears/

Oh, and for what it's worth, just try the saddle and see if you like it. I have an Avocet touring saddle on a Trek touring bike I bought in 1983. Still going strong and comfy for me.
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Old 07-15-06, 09:23 PM   #10
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Half-step gearing can be a good way to go for touring. Your rear cluster can have bigger jumps and you flip from middle to large (or large to small) to split (half-step) the difference. Yes, often you have to shift rear, then front -but the front shifts can be more smooth than the 39-52 type. The other advantage of half-step really fits to the five speed limit. going from 13 tooth to 28 or 32 in 6 steps as opposed to 9. When you add a granny (which would be just a matter of a new BB and spider) you get 2 or 3 good granny gears.

While there might be tubulars capable of loaded touring (cyclo-cross perhaps), it really would be better to relace the hubs with good clincher rims. Your LBS would be a good source for measuring space available for width of tire and help make choices based on that.

I have done several multi week tours on similar frame, with a Stronglight triple (52-47-28) and 13-28 cluster - 28 mm tires. The only walkup was a 20% / mile + in Wales. Lots of people did lots of touring with similar setup and the hills really haven't gotten any steeper or longer.
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Old 07-16-06, 09:01 AM   #11
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Here is Sheldon Brown discussion of spreading the frame.

http://www.sheldonbrown.com/frame-spacing.html

You did not mention the chainring sizes on the double upfront. But my guess is that the most cost effective method will be to spread the frame and upgrade the wheels and cassette. SRAM makes some wide range 9 speed cassettes; 12-34 or 11-34. You might have to change the rear derailer, but that is neither difficult nor expensive.

Compatibility will be an issue. It might pay to head over to a trusted shop and have them figure out the compatibility issues. In my discussion above, I assume that you have a friction shifter for the rear derailer (or have a setting for it). If not, then choosing the right combination of cassette, wheel, hubs, shifters, and so on, is important since their function/use is interdependent.

Good luck!
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Old 07-16-06, 12:26 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by invisiblehand
You did not mention the chainring sizes on the double upfront. But my guess is that the most cost effective method will be to spread the frame and upgrade the wheels and cassette. SRAM makes some wide range 9 speed cassettes; 12-34 or 11-34. You might have to change the rear derailer, but that is neither difficult nor expensive.
The front chainrings have are 40-36. The rear cluster is 32-26-21-17-15-13.

Are you suggesting that I leave the double up front as it is and try to compensate with a wider range 9 speed cassette? How expensive would it be to cold-set the frame, replace the cassette, and flip the rear derailleur with another one of good quality?

Thanks for all the responses so far. Looks like i've got my work cut out for me.

Last edited by rp macpherson; 07-16-06 at 01:45 PM.
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Old 07-16-06, 05:11 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rp macpherson
The front chainrings have are 40-36. The rear cluster is 32-26-21-17-15-13.

Are you suggesting that I leave the double up front as it is and try to compensate with a wider range 9 speed cassette? How expensive would it be to cold-set the frame, replace the cassette, and flip the rear derailleur with another one of good quality?

Thanks for all the responses so far. Looks like i've got my work cut out for me.
The rear cluster has adequate gearing. If you go to a compact crank you will only drop a couple teeth, which is insignificant. I still think you should get a triple if you are going to tour. All you need is a new crank to get lower gearing.
That won't be hard, or expensive, to do.

If you still want to upgrade, I suggest planning it all out, to determine the cost.
It will cost more than you think.
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Old 07-17-06, 10:21 AM   #14
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Hmmmm ....

Well, I agree that the gear range afforded by the rear cassette is quite low and wide for touring.

Here are my thoughts on the issue:

(1) You have a great bottom bracket with your crank.
(2) But the gear range with the crank is limited.
(3) You have a wide and low cassette.
(4) But you probably want to change the wheels, hubs, and tires.
(5) There are probably compatibility issues to overcome or (at a minimum) consider.

I understand the rationale for getting a triple crank up front. I just do not know whether there are compatibility issues with the commonly available cranks and your Phil Wood bottom bracket. Assuming that you can keep the bottom bracket, changing the the crank + front derailer is cheaper than the wheel, hub, + new cassette. Although you might have to see whether your rear derailer can handle the increased differential in chainring sizes plus the differential in the rear cassette.

If you can be happy with a double and only replace the chainrings on the crank, then the cost of the whole process might not get out of control. Ask yourself whether you will ever use the big chainring on a triple. Mind you, I have a triple and use the big chainring on a somewhat regular basis (~10-15% of the time); but my wife almost never does.

Here is a gear chart for your bike as calculated on http://sheldonbrown.com/gears/index.html.

For 700 X 32 / 32-622 tire with 170 mm cranks
With Custom Sizes Cassette
40 36
32 33.8 30.4

26 41.5 37.4

21 51.4 46.3

17 63.5 57.2

15 72.0 64.8

13 83.1 74.8


If you kept the same cassette but changed the chainrings on your crank to the sizes typical for a compact double then you would have the following.

For 700 X 32 / 32-622 tire with 170 mm cranks
With Custom Sizes Cassette
50 34
32 42.2 28.7

26 51.9 35.3

21 64.3 43.7

17 79.4 54.0

15 90.0 61.2

13 103.8 70.6


Chainrings in these common sizes are cheap. If you are already planning on changing the tires, wheels and cassette, then on the margin also changing the rear derailer and chainrings is a small percentage increase in cost.

I have never had the axle-width spread. But it should be easy to get a few estimates and we both know that there are a ton of reliable bike shops in the area.

Check the gear range on your present bike and compare it with the estimates above. Then also realize that with loaded touring, you will want to have some lower gears. If the 50-34 combination compares poorly, then try something like a 48-32 or 46-30 with a 11-34 9 speed cassette.

Quickly scanning the Performance Bike, Nashbar, and Harris Cyclery webpages, my back of the envelope calculations are the following:

(1) wheels - $200 http://www.performancebike.com/shop/...TOKEN=91078401

(2) cassette - $35 http://www.performancebike.com/shop/...tegory_ID=5130

(3) rear derailer - $35 http://www.performancebike.com/shop/...tegory_ID=5111

(4) tires - $40 http://www.nashbar.com/profile.cfm?c...eid=&pagename=

(5) two chainrings - $35 http://www.nashbar.com/profile.cfm?c...eid=&pagename=

There are a few miscellaneous things that you might need as well (tubes, tape, cables, ...). Do not forget to add spreading the axle width if you decide to get new wheels. Do not forget to check (with knowledgable folk) the compatibility of the rear derailer with your present shifter. If you are going to pay someone else to install the parts, do not forget labor.

Good luck. Let us know what you decide.
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