I'm up in the NE, and looking for a good used 56-58cm touring frame to build up into a touring bike for ~5 day touring. The LHT and 520 are obvious choices, but the frames (and bikes) seem exceptionally rare to find, used.
I have, on the other hand, seen a few 1980s vintage Schwinn Le Tour frames, and have heard that with improved brakes and wheels/tires, they're quite usable and not that much heaver than the newer LHTs, etc.
Is anyone out there actively riding one? If so, was it a major pain to upgrade to 700s? What about the brakeset? Anything else to know / look for?
My first 10-speed bike back in the 1980s was a Schwinn Le Tour. Don't remember anything about the geometry, but it struck me a being more of a racing bike (as in Le Tour de France) than a touring bike. I don't recall mine having mounting points for racks or fenders, for example. You can make anything with two wheels work as a touring bike in a pinch, but the Schwinn Le Tour probably wouldn't be my first choice for a touring bike.
If you need a cheap frame, check out Nashbar's double-butted aluminum touring frame. It's frequently on sale for around $100 and the fork is another $40 or so. The ride is quite nice with 700x32 or larger tires. I've been very happy with mine...
2012 Motobecane Fantom CXX, 2012 Motobecane Fantom CX, 1997 Bianchi Nyala, 200? Burley Rock 'n Roll
I own a 1984 Le Tour Luxe. I guess it is what people call a "sport touring" bike. Basically an all-around bike. It came with an OEM Blackburn rack, so I guess they were marketing it as a bike that could carry stuff. I ran it for years as my main commuter, so I had panniers on it every day. Probably 15 pounds of stuff is typical on my commutes. It has 1 pair of rack/fender eyelets each on frame and fork. It can take 27x1-1/4" tires with fenders. It might take 1-3/8" tires without fenders, but I never tried it. It weighs about 26 pounds in essentially original form. (I've replaced some parts over the years with similar parts as needed, so weight is probably similar to the stock bike).
I've never tried it heavily loaded, but it was ok with my typical commuting load. The handling is a little more twitchy than my other bikes. That was never a big deal to me. I don't know how a heavy load would affect the handling.
It still has the original center-pull brakes (they say Schwinn-approved but look a lot like the Dia-Compe center-pulls). I put Kool Stop pads on, and the braking is actually pretty good. I think the pads will adjust a little lower on the arms, so you might have a shot at putting 700c wheels on without changing the brakes. On the other hand, if you find a bike with sound 27" wheels, there's nothing wrong with running them. Tires are still available.
Mine has a 28/42/50 crank and a 14-28 6-speed freewheel. Some would advocate slightly lower gearing for touring. The Suntour Mountech RD has a long cage, and I bet it would run a 32 or 34 tooth freewheel with no problems.
I may consider it. In the end, I can find one for about $150-200. It would be great to be able to use it to haul things -- and 28lbs isn't too bad, especially for a touring rig (that seem to run on the heavier side anyway).
If I go with it, I'll post the before-afters here.
I had an '87 LeTour for awhile - that I used as an all-around commuter. It had a True Temper butted CroMoly frame and, I thought, for the cost, I got a lot for not too much. I didn't tour at the time but don't think it would have made an ideal tour bike. The frame had one set of eyelets on the back; I had to use p-clamps to attach a rack. It also had typical road bike caliper brakes. I think it also had one set of mounts for a water bottle and a clamp-on for the second.
Note that Schwinn used a non-standard stem size on some of their bikes from that time period. Stems were 21.1mm (.83 inches) and there's not a wide variety available now. I am not sure the LeTour you reference uses this size stem, but if you wish to change stems you should inquire about it. You can, however, find several stems of 21.1 size on ebay. One nice option is to buy a stem adapter for threadless stems. I saw 3 or 4 stem adapters of size 21.1 on ebay.
Fixie conversion, a few 10 speeds, a trailer, I GT Transeo for utilitarian riding
I recently converted a late 70's to early 80's road frame built for 27"s to 700c. I used a 700c 6 speed wheelset. I had to spread the dropouts to fit the wheel. I also had to lock out the top gear on the freewheel, as the chain would rub the dropouts in that gear. I used schwinn approved centerpull brakes, they reach and work well, this leaves lots of fender and tire clearance. This bike was stolen, but it handled well loaded. I have a similar raleigh frame that i am building up the same way. These frames make solid bikes with lots of tire options when converted.
Also keep an eye out for a Miyata 610 (615) or 1000. I have a 1981 Miyata 610 set up for touring and love it. The only thing I upgraded to modern was the brake levers. I added a Brooks saddle, fenders, and vintage bar end shifters (barcons). With front and rear Tubus racks, fenders, Brooks saddle and pedals, it weighs 31 lbs before I add the panniers. You can still get good touring tires in 27", so there's really no reason to upgrade...most bike shops, at least carry a cheap 27" tire if you need one in a pinch. I've even come to like the old half-step gearing on the bike, strange as that may sound, and I can always find new old stock components on ebay as needed. I keep a spare freewheel around, just in case, and have an extra set of chain rings. The old suntour derailleurs are virtually indestructible.
2011 Surley LHT, 2007 Specialized Roubaix, 2004 Giant Cypress, 1990 Simoncini Super Professional
I commuted on an '84 Le Tour for a year before it got wrecked. I replaced it with an LHT. I loved the ride of the Schwinn, but the LHT is definitely more stable under a load. Longer wheelbase and other geometry, I suppose.
On the '84, I had to mount the rack a little high and slide the panniers back to avoid heel strike, so that may have been a bit of an issue with the stablity. As a "sport" tourer, it was a little short in the chain stays. I got fenders on it, too, but it was tight. I stayed with 27-inch wheels because it had good sturdy Weinmann rims.
So it's doable, and definitely cheaper. It might work better if you can find a real touring frame, like a Voyageur, instead of the Le Tour.