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  1. #1
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    Touring on 1976 Fuji: Good Idea?

    Now that the forum helped me figure out that this bike does indeed fit me, time to ask:

    Is it actually a good idea to tour on a 32 year old bike?
    (I'd cross-post in Classic & Vintage but I know what they'd say )

    Recently picked up a 1976(75?) Fuji America in very nice condition on Craigslist.
    I intend to take it on a fully loaded a tour from Seattle the San Francisco this summer.
    Major components all seem to be from original setup (newer tires & rims)

    1975 Component Specs
    Page from '76 Catalog: This bike is designed especially for the long distance tourer or cycle camper with an eye on the budget but wishes no compromise on quality or performance.
    Looks Identical to These Photos: only photo I have of mine is blurry

    Worries:
    - No braze-ons anywhere: Will I be able to safely mount a load-bearing rack? Just one eyelet on back and one on front.
    - 43cm (17") Chainstay: with size 12 shoes. Trek 520 is 45cm and some folks want more.
    - Center-Pull Caliper Brakes: not cantilever
    - No Triple-Chain Ring: the smaller chainring is not a granny
    - 1976 Materials/Technology: Should I worry about the ravages of age on any component? Are there any newer technologies so killer that you cannot go without them these days?
    - 27 x 1 1/8" Tires: Should probably go up to 1 3/8"?

    Thanks for everyone's help!
    (attached blurry picture anyway)
    Attached Images Attached Images

  2. #2
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Braze-ons - Are there at least eyelets on the dropouts? If so clamp on bottle cages and "P" clamps for the racks will get you by.
    Chainstays - This should work OK just make sure that you avoid heel strike issues when setting up racks and panniers.
    Brakes - They should be fine. Be sure to use decent pads.
    No Triple - I would add one unless you will only tour where it is pretty flat. A Sugino XD600 46-36-26 can be had for about $80.
    Materials/Technologies - No worries.
    Tires - I like 27x1-1/4" Continental Ultra Gatorskins if you will be mostly on pavement. Wider is OK if you can find them in a good tire.

  3. #3
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    For a short trip like that, almost anything will work. However....

    My biggest concerns about that particular bike is the gearing. If you can lower the gear inches to 26" somehow, you'd be OK.

    Heel strike could be an issue; might be doable with 2 small bags. Or you could put 2 small bags up front and pile a bunch of stuff on the rack, and not use rear panniers.

    Tire availability and frame integrity are minor concerns. For a ride that short it's unlikely you will have a total tire blowout; if you're concerned, bring along a spare. Steel can rust, so I'd carefully check the frame.

    Is it my imagination, or are the shifter cables from the DT to the handlebars stretched ridiculously tight?

  4. #4
    Just ride it. MrPolak's Avatar
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    Gorgeous bike!

    In addition to the above....

    Get the wheels bearings, bottom bracket and headset bearings checked, lubed and adjusted, as well as inspect the wheels for loose spokes and wheel rims for integrity.
    Last edited by MrPolak; 01-21-08 at 08:10 AM.

  5. #5
    Long Live Long Rides
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    I agree with the above posts. I'm a fan of old lugged steel, myself. You shouldn't have any real issues. Like already mentioned, wider tires are nice. You can get a load bearing rack that mounts to the lower seat stays and then attaches to the upper seat stays. I added water bottle cages to my bike with clamps.

    Lower gears will be your friend if you can get them. I took my MTB with a tripple and ground the teeth off the outside front chainring. This left me with the gears I actually use; the granny and the center chainring.

    Very important rule that I mention quite a bit to anyone interested: Never take an un-proven weapon into battle!

    Take a few day or two day trips on your bike as soon as you can. Load the crap out of it and go for a ride. You will be amazed at how differently it handles. It will also let you know what you need for gearing. Good luck and check back often!
    JH
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    Touring...therapy for the soul.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    Braze-ons - Are there at least eyelets on the dropouts? If so clamp on bottle cages and "P" clamps for the racks will get you by.
    Yes, one eyelet on the front and one on the back. Good to know clamps will do the rest.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
    Heel strike could be an issue; might be doable with 2 small bags. Or you could put 2 small bags up front and pile a bunch of stuff on the rack, and not use rear panniers.
    I'll look into an extended rack and slim rear panniers. I'll probably get front rack/panniers as well. Might just be me and the little woman; I'll probably be stealing weight from her bags when she's not looking.

    Quote Originally Posted by MrPolak View Post
    Get the wheels bearings, bottom bracket and headset bearings checked, lubed and adjusted, as well as inspect the wheels for loose spokes and wheel rims for integrity.
    I plan to take a course on bike repair, or at least get a good deal of informal training at a co-op, in the months leading up to summer so I'll have things checked out as I go. I'm going to be the tech expert on our trip.

    Quote Originally Posted by jharte View Post
    took my MTB with a tripple and ground the teeth off the outside front chainring. This left me with the gears I actually use; the granny and the center chainring.
    I love this! Pants don't get nabbed by the outside teeth anymore either. Looks like a triple chain-ring is the must-have upgrade. If I can't steal one off my hybrid, I'll add it to the shopping list. (Kills me how quickly upgrades exceed what I originally paid for this old beauty )

    Quote Originally Posted by jharte View Post
    Take a few day or two day trips on your bike as soon as you can. Load the crap out of it and go for a ride. You will be amazed at how differently it handles.
    Yeah, I'll definitely be testing longer rides, loaded rides, and overnight camping trips leading up to the big trip.

    Thanks for all the support and feedback!

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
    Is it my imagination, or are the shifter cables from the DT to the handlebars stretched ridiculously tight?
    I see what you mean, in the picture, but this is only an illusion.

  8. #8
    Leather and Canvas Fetish
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    I like your vintage bike...you'll be stylin' on your tour! Hey, you already have the leather saddle and barcons. Back in it's day, lots of tourists used similar setups and couldn't be happier--although they might curse a little when walking up some of the steeper grades

    The only thing I can add is that I would trade out your non-aero brake levers for some modern aero levers, like Tektro or Cane Creek. Way better leverage and your hands will thank you. Those old narrow hoods kill my hands. (Some Kool Stop pads work wonders too.)

    You might be able to get away using your double up front if you're young and strong. Seattle to SF is a fairly long haul--but there's no major climbing. Most hills max out at around 500 to 1,000 feet and the only real climb is at Leggett (2,000'). If your rear derailleur is a long cage (Suntour VGT), maybe you could switch out to a 34 tooth "megarange" freewheel?
    Last edited by ronzorini; 01-22-08 at 12:09 AM.

  9. #9
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    BTW: I forgot to mention. That is one beautiful route you are planning to take. You will really enjoy it!

  10. #10
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by monkeyography View Post
    Now that the forum helped me figure out that this bike does indeed fit me, time to ask:

    Is it actually a good idea to tour on a 32 year old bike?
    (I'd cross-post in Classic & Vintage but I know what they'd say )

    Recently picked up a 1976(75?) Fuji America in very nice condition on Craigslist.
    I intend to take it on a fully loaded a tour from Seattle the San Francisco this summer.
    Major components all seem to be from original setup (newer tires & rims)

    1975 Component Specs
    Page from '76 Catalog: This bike is designed especially for the long distance tourer or cycle camper with an eye on the budget but wishes no compromise on quality or performance.
    Looks Identical to These Photos: only photo I have of mine is blurry

    Worries:
    - No braze-ons anywhere: Will I be able to safely mount a load-bearing rack? Just one eyelet on back and one on front.
    - 43cm (17") Chainstay: with size 12 shoes. Trek 520 is 45cm and some folks want more.
    - Center-Pull Caliper Brakes: not cantilever
    - No Triple-Chain Ring: the smaller chainring is not a granny
    - 1976 Materials/Technology: Should I worry about the ravages of age on any component? Are there any newer technologies so killer that you cannot go without them these days?
    - 27 x 1 1/8" Tires: Should probably go up to 1 3/8"?

    Thanks for everyone's help!
    (attached blurry picture anyway)
    I think you can certainly tour on that bike. I toured on something similar back when I started touring and it worked, and I had a great time. however I would like to voice some concerns you might need to deal with. I'll take them in the order of urgency, as I see it (others might vehemently disagree.)

    The first issue is preventing mechanical breakdowns, which are more likely to occur on a long tour due to the time spent carrying a heavy load. It's a pain to have a breakdown miles from anywhere. There's no spouse or friend to call to come pick you and your crippled steed up. You're on your own and you have to deal with it. The most likely breakdown is a broken spoke. These can be dealt with, but it's nicer when you complete a tour without breaking any. I'd suggest taking the wheels - especially the rear - to a good wheelbuilder. Spend what it takes to get a strong rear wheel! Maybe even call Peter White. I think Harris Cyclery also builds wheels and guarantees them. You might also wish to learn how to true a wheel, and get a hypercracker, or some tools to remove your cassette, and a few spare spokes. Also good are those kevlar emergency spokes. When I rode the west coast it was with some suspect Nashbar wheels, probably laced by a machine(?) They made it from Seattle to the California border. Then the spokes started to break. Each time I was able to put on an emergency spoke, true the wheel enough to ride, and make it to the next town with a bike shop.

    The next issue I'd address would be the crankset. I toured with no granny gear when I was young and foolish, had young knees, and didn't carry much of a load. I wouldn't want to do it now. See if you can find a triple crankset, and go for a low granny - 26 teeth would be nice; 24 would be better.

    The brakes should be fine, though you might have to start braking a little earlier. If you feel a little nervous about them, a good habit is to not let yourself get going so fast down a steep hill that one brake couldn't stop you (in case the other fails.)

    The frame should be fine, but it's a good idea to check it over for cracks carefully, especially prior to setting off on a long tour.

    It's a little clunky, but you can always figure out a way to strap on a rack. P-clamps from the hardware store might be what you want. You can buy racks from Old Man Mountain that ride on quick releases. And, of course, you can always pull a Bob and skip the racks.

    I have size 14 feet. Look for panniers that are cut diagonally in front to avoid heel strike. On my old Raleigh from the 70's I had a Pletscher rack from Fred Meyer. I just pulled the panniers all the way back and got enough room. I had to make sure my feet were properly situated on my pedals and not slid back or my heels would hit. But it worked fine.

    I can imagine two reasons to buy a vintage bike and tour on it. One is that you have aesthetic or nostalgic reasons - you just like old bikes, or maybe you had a bike just like it 20 years ago that you absolutely loved. If that's your situation, hopefully you have the money to restore it and take care of the mechanical issues that might arise.

    The other reason is that you are on a limited budget and have to scrimp and save as much as possible. In that case you might not have money for component upgrades. I'd say take care of the rear wheel, pack light, and go for it. Maybe you can find a triple crankset on Ebay cheap.

    I wish you a wonderful trip. As another responder said, that's a terrific route. You'll love it, and you'll probably meet some interesting, fun cyclists along the way. Both times I rode it I met people from all over the world, and forged some friendships that lasted long after the tour was over. Enjoy!

  11. #11
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    I would take a long look at the wheels and try to put them through their paces a bit before taking off. 30 year old spokes have a tendency to, well, who knows? I might go so far as to have the rear spokes replaced from the getgo instead of worrying about it.

    Consider the tubus logo if you're anticipating heel clearance issues.

    I'd also agree that a triple would be nice but you could probably find a used mountain biopace triple at the lbs for $10 and just temp it on there (maybe a new $20 bb to go with it), then switch back when you get done. If you like touring you'll be getting a dedicated touring bike soon enough.

  12. #12
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    In addition to checking carefully for signs of cracking on the outside of the frame, and assuming there is only surface rust on the outside, I'd check the frame over carefully on the inside for rust. Pull the seat post out, the bottom bracket out and dismantle the headset, and then shine a flashlight down all the tubes. A little patina of surface rust is OK, but if you're seeing a lot of rust then that's a bad sign. This also gives you a chance to rebuild all those parts with new ball bearings and fresh grease, after you've checked that the cups and cones aren't shot.

    I have an '84 Trek 400, so I'm all in favor of old, lugged steel. But unless you know and trust all of the owners of the bike, you can't tell whether some prior owner left it outside in the rain for five years. The failure mode of steel is less likely to be catastrophic than aluminum or plastic, but with a loaded touring bike going down a steep hill, you might not get much warning.

    After truing up the wheels on the Trek, I made it about a hundred miles before the rear rim cracked at a spoke hole. The hubs are good, so I bought a new rim and double-butted spokes and rebuilt the wheel. Make sure you've ridden far enough with a load that you can be confident in your wheels.

  13. #13
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    Thanks for the advice and concerns regarding frame and rim integrity. This spring I'm hoping to take a repair course and get involved with a bike co-op. I'll make sure nothing's in bad shape and get lots of second opinions before heading out.

    Plan get a triple on there, as mentioned; also want to completely rebuild the handlebar area: higher stem, wider bars (current ones much more narrow than my shoulders) more comfortable brake hoods.

    Quote Originally Posted by BigBlueToe View Post
    I can imagine two reasons to buy a vintage bike and tour on it. One is that you have aesthetic or nostalgic reasons - you just like old bikes, or maybe you had a bike just like it 20 years ago that you absolutely loved. If that's your situation, hopefully you have the money to restore it and take care of the mechanical issues that might arise.
    I didn't aim to buy such a vintage bike, but that's what Craigslist sent my way. Didn't discriminate against vintage because:

    1) Cheap.
    - I'm just graduating and a good bit in debt
    - It's my first road bike so I'll learn what aspects I do and don't like on this $100 bike before I drop a grand
    - Less likely to be stolen, less heartbreak if it is. I commute on this and leave it locked up alone for hours at a time.

    2) Touring tech has just not changed much in the past 30 years.

    When I started toying with the touring idea, I read up and found that steel frames are still best and folks still prefer friction shifting. Why get this year's model if the only real difference (wear & tear notwithstanding) between an '08 Trek 520 and a '78 Trek 520 are some braze-ons. Not trying to be cocky, please correct me where I'm wrong here.

    3) Pretty

    Definitely not nostalgia, this bike is five years my senior , few adults rode bikes where I grew up, and the kids all rode crappy ones.

    Not afraid to drop some money here and there. I won't be making much from now till the tour's over, but I'll be jumping into a well-paying career right afterwards.

    Also, a bike that needs parts and tweaks and isn't worth enough to fret over while I fumble around on it is great for me since I'll be the tech guy on our trip and need something to learn with, and I really like fixing stuff besides.

    blah blah blah
    Last edited by monkeyography; 02-28-08 at 10:43 PM. Reason: I was ranting

  14. #14
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    One of the best things about bikes, in general, is that if you are at all mechanically minded, and are careful with the wrench, you can figure out how things work just by looking at them and thinking about them. Major exception: STI shifters (which if in need of repair appear to be a disposable part that is more expensive than many bikes that I have bought) but you're not going to have those on your bike, so don't worry.

    I taught myself how to fix my Huffy back when I was about 13, only later to buy a book, "Anybody's Bike Book" that helped me improve my technique. The Park Tools website has lots of useful tips if you don't want to spring for a book. Do read carefully about wheels before tinkering, as its easy to mess them up. In particular, on your old wheels, you'll want to put a drop of oil onto the spoke threads and onto the nipple-rim interface before you do anything with a spoke wrench. If you're buying a spoke wrench, get the type that has two sides -- one an open square, and the other a nearly-closed square that you have to slip the spoke through and then slide it down over the nipple. That second side is very useful on old nipples that might be slightly rounded and or stuck.

  15. #15
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Your bike will get the job done, but I would stop short of saying not much has changed since it was built. It has 27" wheels rather than 700c, probably a 7 speed freewheel as opposed to a 9 speed freehub, centerpull brakes as opposed to cantilever, non-ergo levers and handlebar, and friction shifting as opposed to indexed or STI. FWIW: I am a big fan of STI.

    Your Fuji is a cool bike, very nice looking, and capable of getting the job done, but it is definitely different from what I would buy today to tour on if shopping new. I had a somewhat similar bike and considered using it to go coast to coast this past summer, but decided to buy a new bike. The decision wasn't a slam dunk though and if money were tighter I would have used the old bike.

  16. #16
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    Just finished my secong tour of Mallorca on this 80s beauty. Some really rough stony MTB tracks included. No problems and very comfy. fast and light enough for me, 501 tubing. Paid 40 for the bike and spent 26 on new tyres and Shimano block. Don't think I really needed to though. http://www.flickr.com/photos/23172121@N07/2219310876/

    Jim

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