Greetings. I'm trying to help some people acquire bikes for touring. I see older touring bikes with 27" wheels on Ebay quite often - usually pretty cheap. Would buying such a bike be a good idea?
On my own bike I want really strong wheels - especially the rear - to carry a load and avoid breaking spokes. Are there still suitable 27" wheels, hubs, gears, etc. available?
If one were going to replace the wheels on an old Ebay bike, would it be better to convert to 700mm?
What about dropout width? Will those old bikes be compatible with modern equipment? Would you have to go with 7-speed clusters? Would you have to look for old equipment to match the old bike?
I have an old 15-speed Nishiki touring bike out in the shed. A guy was selling an old set of panniers at a garage sale for $25, and he said that if I bought the panniers I'd have to take the bike too. Should I consider fixing it up for a friend, or would the friend become an enemy if he tried to take the bike on tour?
By all means, fix up the old bike. The availability of 27" rims and wheelsets is getting a bit thin, but most old tourers can be made to work with 700C wheels without too much hassle. They can also be made to work with modern hubs by spreading the rear triangle (if they are steel). My tourer is an '86 Trek 620 with a more modern 8 speed drivetrain and 700C wheels. It's not cheap, but a carefully upgraded old tourer can be significantly cheaper than an equivalent new bike.
Raleigh Aspen touring/off-road hybrid, and a Bob Yak trailer. Yak very useful for us car-free types that like to buy lots of beer.
Be sure to purchase a new tire or other spare parts in advance. That way, when something breaks, you don't need to rely on your lbs to have the part or wait for them to get it in. Have it in advance, and then when something goes wrong, you'll be in a much better position to fix it or have it fixed.
Bike Nashbar keeps a pretty good supply of 27" tires and wheels. Even the LBS in my area has a plentiful supply of tires and tubes. Wal-Mart also stocks 27" tubes and tires with the latest stock being Kevlar folding type no less. Remember; the 70's bike boom pumped out thousands of bikes with 27" tires and a considerable number of these bikes are still in use and parts suppliers are quite happy to keep producing replacement parts for them. I just wonder how many years it will take before Wal-Mart figures out they could sell more 700 tires than 27" tires.
The selection of 27" tires isn't what it used to be but is nevertheless not bad. If you can get a good bike cheaply don't be too concerned about the tires. And on the plus side - MOST general goods stores out in the sticks carry 27" bicycle tires. They're crappy tires but they're available.
I put a 7-speed on my Atala touring bike and simply don't worry about it. People with more speeds will usually ride a little faster for the first couple of days of a tour but then they settle down and ride the same speed as you do with your 6 or 7.
The problem with 27" touring bikes is that the rims and hubs are often real junk. I found some old DuraAce freewheel hubs for a song and used some good Mavic rims on them. If you have enough adjustment in your rear brakes (generally speaking you usually have enough in the front but for reasons never explained they spaced rear wheel brakes differently than front) you can switch over to 700c.