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  1. #1
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    Wheel advice: True it or leave it alone?

    I've been posting on my preparations for an attempt to ride to New York from San Antonio in June.

    The bike an '89 Voyageur I'm training on and prepping for the trip. Prior to a couple of months ago this bike hung on the wall mostly idle for twenty years

    I have been riding everywhere with four panniers and about 40lbs of weight (most of this from four gallons of water) loaded on the bike. Without checking I must have at least 500 miles now of rough urban riding on the bike loaded down this way.

    The rims are single wall aluminum (??) Araya M18 27x1.25; thirty-six spoke front, forty spoke rear. Stainless 14 ga. spokes.

    I've had the unsealed hubs greased and adjusted when I started riding it again. I'm sure when I was last riding it more than twenty years back at some point I had the wheels trued after a period of use, so the wheels have been "broken in".

    My question is this.....

    The front wheel is still round and true, no problem.

    The back wheel is still round but slightly out of true, has been since I took it down off of the garage wall. Braking is not affected.

    500 miles of hard use later (loaded, rough pavement and sidewalks, curbs) the back wheel is still as it was when I started riding on it again.

    Do wheels reach a point of stability long term?

    My concern is trying to adjust spokes not touched in more than twenty years, even by a skilled mechanic, might create more problems than it solves in terms of corroded nipples stripped threads etc..... and even without that happening if the wheel HAS reached a point of stability I might disturb that.

    So, should I have the wheel trued, or just leave it be?

    Thanks,
    Mike

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    If minor mechanical maintenance causes the wheels to become unusable, what do you think 2000 miles of riding on real-world roads is going to do? I'd go ahead and true the wheel now. If that causes a problem, I'd replace the wheel. Better to deal with problems now than when you're a thousand miles from home.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Chris Pringle's Avatar
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    Ditto. After 20 years of hanging on the wall, please take the bike to a mechanic and have the wheels thoroughly checked and trued. In the best case scenario, you might have to replace only the spokes and nipples. This will be a minor expense if you take care of it now. If you haven't done so, have your mechanic perform a full overhaul of the bike. I bet hubs, headset and bottom bracket also need to be repacked with grease. Having to deal with mechanical failures (that could have been easily avoided) while on tour will turn out to be more expensive and not fun.

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    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    I'd advise learning to do it yourself. There are good directions on the late Sheldon Brown's site and probably other places as well. It isn't that hard and is something that tourists should be able to do IMO.

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    In my limited experience with 20 year old rims I have seen little if any issues. That said I would have a local shop take a look at both wheels. The tour you have planned is lengthy enough to warrant a checked out. If you are concerned about frozen spoke nipples place a drop of chain oil on each nipple on top of the rim. Dismount the tire and tube and remove the rim strip. Place a drop of oil on each spoke from inside. Reassemble everything and ride it. After one or two treatments like this over say 10 - 15 days of riding the spokes should be fine. Best to have those hoops looked at before you leave.

  6. #6
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Being able to fix your own bike when a long way from anywhere is an important skill for a Cycle Tourist.

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    On old bikes it is not unusual for the spokes and nipples to be heavily oxidized to the point where the nipples are practically welded to the spoke/rim, so they can't be turned easily and the wheel can't be trued properly.

    OP, if this is the case on your old Schwinn, then you should give serious consideration to rebuilding the wheels with new spokes and nipples. It may be prudent to replace the wheelset entirely due to wear on rims and hubs. Reliable wheels are critical on a long loaded bicycle tour.

  8. #8
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    Mike, It is paramount that the bicycle is in the best condition possible prior to the start of the tour. If the nipples are seized, now is a good time to rectify. Ask your LBS if they offer maintenance classes because wheel truing is an important skill to learn.

    Brad

  9. #9
    Senior Member rumrunn6's Avatar
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    true the wheel and replace spokes as necessary. no biggie. you have other things to think about :-)
    cycling is like baseball ~ it doesn't take much to make it interesting

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    In my limited experience with 20 year old rims I have seen little if any issues.
    Ya, a coworker is also a skilled bike mechanic who managed a bike shop for a while; he is of that same opinion. And these wheels have seen hard use (mostly urban commute thru lower income areas) the last month or so, fixing to see about another 4-500 loaded miles this next month and likely 1,500 to 2,000 or more by June when I set out. I hate to screw with something that ain't really broke.

    If I were running 700 wheels it wouldn't be a big deal, such are easily replaceable at short notice. I dunno where one gets a 27" 40 spoke wheel with a 7 speed freewheel anymore.

    To address some of the issues raised; in two weeks I'll be taking a five-evening class wherein I tear down the bike from top to bottom and refurb everything. At this point a new bottom bracket, crankset, bars, stem etc etc will be installed. In the meantime myself and said coworker just pulled and lubed the old bottom bracket in about twenty minutes or les (amazing how quick it goes when you know someone who has both the tools and the skills :grin

    I'll proceed cautiously.

    Thanks for the input,

    Mike

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    Someone familiar with building wheels will have to look at it. It's really not possible to render an opinion on the wheels condition without seeing it.

  12. #12
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    Have your friend the mechanic true it up. And have him show you how he did it so you can do it in the future. It is very possible after 20 years that the tension on all spokes is a bit looser, so a slight amount of tightening on the whole wheel may be in order. I would be inclined to put a bit of oil on the threads where it could soak into the space between each nipple and thread a day earlier, that may help if any nipples are stuck to the spokes.

    If the spokes are galvanized instead of stainless, I suspect that may increase the chances that the nipples might be stuck.

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    Put in 40 miles running errands after work yesterday, including stopping in at REI. They let me use their hanging scale. Turns out I have been packing an honest fifty pounds of stuff on the bike all this time (most of which is four gallons of water). This means my first loaded ride (34 miles), where I was packing six gallon bottles of water, I was carrying more than sixty-five pounds of stuff. Geeze, no WONDER it felt like I was carrying a refrigerator :grin:

    Anyhoo..... In praise of forty-spoke rims; coming home after dark on the fifteen-mile leg from REI to home I was riding the empty sidewalk on a particularly busy stretch of highway w/out bike lanes. Geeze! On a fast downhill the whole sidewalk is suddenly taken up b a crater-like drain opening. I had to bail left off of a curb so tall it would have given me pause on a mountain bike, I actually caught air for a moment.

    Not withstanding the fifty pounds of stuff on board, both wheels survived without visible harm, amazing.

    Mike

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by egear View Post
    In my limited experience with 20 year old rims I have seen little if any issues. That said I would have a local shop take a look at both wheels. The tour you have planned is lengthy enough to warrant a checked out. If you are concerned about frozen spoke nipples place a drop of chain oil on each nipple on top of the rim. Dismount the tire and tube and remove the rim strip. Place a drop of oil on each spoke from inside. Reassemble everything and ride it. After one or two treatments like this over say 10 - 15 days of riding the spokes should be fine. Best to have those hoops looked at before you leave.
    I'd use penetrating oil, and if you do this be sure to put on new rim strips. The old ones will probably crumble apart. It should be clear immediately if nipples are frozen to spokes or rim.

    I agree that truing wheels in the field is an important skill for a touring cyclist. While you're doing this exercise, get a spare spoke of each length (there may be three different lengths) as spares.

  15. #15
    Senior Member rumrunn6's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sharpshin View Post
    Put in 40 miles running errands after work yesterday, including stopping in at REI. They let me use their hanging scale. Turns out I have been packing an honest fifty pounds of stuff on the bike all this time (most of which is four gallons of water). This means my first loaded ride (34 miles), where I was packing six gallon bottles of water, I was carrying more than sixty-five pounds of stuff. Geeze, no WONDER it felt like I was carrying a refrigerator :grin:

    Anyhoo..... In praise of forty-spoke rims; coming home after dark on the fifteen-mile leg from REI to home I was riding the empty sidewalk on a particularly busy stretch of highway w/out bike lanes. Geeze! On a fast downhill the whole sidewalk is suddenly taken up b a crater-like drain opening. I had to bail left off of a curb so tall it would have given me pause on a mountain bike, I actually caught air for a moment.

    Not withstanding the fifty pounds of stuff on board, both wheels survived without visible harm, amazing.

    Mike
    dude, seriously? why on earth (& how) are you carrying 6 gallons of water. I can't imagine riding a sidewalk with that kind of awkward load would be easy. never mind at night. you gotta show us pictures of your rig!!!! with the load!!!!
    cycling is like baseball ~ it doesn't take much to make it interesting

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    Quote Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
    dude, seriously? why on earth (& how) are you carrying 6 gallons of water. I can't imagine riding a sidewalk with that kind of awkward load would be easy. never mind at night. you gotta show us pictures of your rig!!!! with the load!!!!
    Not hard to do; 80's Schwinn Voyageur touring bike, Nashbar front rack clamped to the forks, Racktime rack on back (lets the rear panniers sit low too). Large Ortleib bags in back (the version with the outide pocket), front Ortleib bags in front. Heck I could probably fit ten gallon bottles of water on that rig. The six gallons was only once, during Thankgiving week shortly after buying the panniers, and all the time all I could think was "OMG this bike is heavy" while granny-gearing along I recall now I ditched two gallons seventeen miles into it, at the turn around point. BIG difference.

    Funny, sixty-five pounds plus felt like a refrigerator, fifty pounds is/was quite doable.

    Since then its been a gallon of water in each of the four panniers, which is around 33 pounds right there, plus the rest in tools, pump, jacket, lock, whatever else I'm carrying etc etc. The bike rides well with the load spread out and low, and under load that wonderful Voyageur steel frame just soaks up road vibrations and bumps.

    Years ago as a kid in England (where they are serious about their history) I read that the Roman Legions trained with shields and weapons heavier than what they used in battle; the same concept seems to be working on a bicycle, especially when finding the time for long rides in prep for a tour can be problematic. Biggest difference is going up inclines and hills, where that 50lbs makes itself felt.

    As for negotiating obstacles; my first bike here in the 'States was a Schwinn Varsity ten speed (possibly fifty pounds heavier than my present 32 pound Voyageur ), very similar in other respects down to the downtube shifters. MAN I was an ace on that thing, I could ride it all the way home without ONCE touching the handlebars, including long steep downhills (helmets weren't invented yet BTW).

    Of course that was all more than forty years ago, but I expect its like riding a bicycle; they say you never forget ( Ain't tried the no hands thing yet tho... see, I was immortal back then).

    That was the in New York suburbs in the 70's, but I presently live inside a big city (San Antonio) that ain't too bike friendly, bike lanes inconsistent at best. On that particular four-lane crosstown stretch at that time (8:30pmish) traffic was heavy, with a tall curb right at the painted stripe at the edge of the lane. The fact the road could be ridden at all in the absence of a death wish is the long sidewalk down the side (ain't too many pedestrians in this town either). I tried riding in the road a bit on account of it was faster, but I could have reached out and touched many vehicles as they passed, despite my reflective vest and flashing tail light.

    Anyhow, I am spending a lot of time riding after dark, I simply wouldn't be able to put in the time on the bike if I didn't.


    Mike
    Last edited by Sharpshin; 01-16-14 at 11:48 AM.

  17. #17
    Senior Member rumrunn6's Avatar
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    but whhhhyyyyy .......! :-)
    cycling is like baseball ~ it doesn't take much to make it interesting

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    Quote Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
    dude, seriously? why on earth (& how) are you carrying 6 gallons of water. I can't imagine riding a sidewalk with that kind of awkward load would be easy. never mind at night. you gotta show us pictures of your rig!!!! with the load!!!!
    Here ya go, this is how she looked this morning right before leaving for work. All kinds of room in those Ortleibs.





    All original ca. 1989 except for the LED head and taillights, racks, bags and platform pedals (which let me move my foot around to accomodate that right knee). Conti Gator Hardhells rock.

    Like what was probably true of most all 80's touring bikes its geared too tall (50/44/27 up front), I just took delivery of a Nashbar mountain bike crankset (44/33/22) which will put it in the LHT/Randonee ballpark. Hate to mess with those classic lines but a moustache (butterfly??) bar w/adjustable neck go on at the end of the month.

    Mike

  19. #19
    Senior Member rumrunn6's Avatar
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    hmmm ... looks good. but why carry all that water? for training purposes? sorry if I was a little slow on the uptake! :-)
    cycling is like baseball ~ it doesn't take much to make it interesting

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    Quote Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
    hmmm ... looks good. but why carry all that water? for training purposes? sorry if I was a little slow on the uptake! :-)
    Ya, exactly so, to maximize the hours I can fit in (I have a sort-of target weight of 30 pounds of gear for the actual trip). Also for testing the bike, if stuff (like wheels) is going to break under load, I want to know that now.

    WRT the two gallons of water up front, a buddy is planning to ride from San Antonio to El Paso (his hometown) in March. He plans to carry extra water that way on account of its 90 miles of nothing between towns on that route.

    Mike

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    Senior Member rumrunn6's Avatar
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    you guys are animals ... but in a good way!
    cycling is like baseball ~ it doesn't take much to make it interesting

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    Quote Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
    you guys are animals ... but in a good way!
    The other guy is retired military who also does triathlons and road races and has toured in the Rockies. Me, I just hope to be able to keep that front wheel turning long enough to get where I want to go.

  23. #23
    Senior Member Road Fan's Avatar
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    With all that weight on an older bike, and that you can't avoid all the potholes that are out there, I'd really work to make sure all the bearings are freshly greased, races and cones inspected and pronounced sound, spokes with clean threads and all at the proper tension, with rims that have a minimum of built in or crashed-in stresses. Wheels aren't good just because they are true, they also need to have low added stress in the rims - relatively even tension in each spoke in the wheel.

    I'd also strongly suggest overhauling the BB and headset and cleaning and renewing those bearings as needed. At the same time pull the stem and seat post and reassemble with grease and proper torque, to minimize slippage of these parts. You need to get home on this bike, don't tempt fate.

    It sounds like it's never been overhauled. I might not overhaul it if it was mine and I was commuting, but a long tour is a different story. The older Schwinns were awesome bikes for robustness and longevity, but honestly their parts are about the same as the ones everybody knows about. They need maintenance or they can fail suddenly.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sharpshin View Post
    Ya, a coworker is also a skilled bike mechanic who managed a bike shop for a while; he is of that same opinion. And these wheels have seen hard use (mostly urban commute thru lower income areas) the last month or so, fixing to see about another 4-500 loaded miles this next month and likely 1,500 to 2,000 or more by June when I set out. I hate to screw with something that ain't really broke.
    ...
    Your basic instinct is right. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

    Yes, wheels do "settle in". This will happen if you have someone screw around with your wheels now, and then when you get a few miles down the road everything could go pear shaped.

    It is better to hit the road with the wheels you have now in a known and stable condition.

    I am very impressed how well you have done everything exactly right in your preparations. Have a great journey!
    Vitaly

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Road Fan View Post
    I'd also strongly suggest overhauling the BB and headset and cleaning and renewing those bearings as needed. At the same time pull the stem and seat post and reassemble with grease and proper torque, to minimize slippage of these parts. You need to get home on this bike, don't tempt fate.

    It sounds like it's never been overhauled. I might not overhaul it if it was mine and I was commuting, but a long tour is a different story. The older Schwinns were awesome bikes for robustness and longevity, but honestly their parts are about the same as the ones everybody knows about. They need maintenance or they can fail suddenly.
    The back wheel hub was so loose it had actual play when I took it off of the wall. I took both wheels in to have the hubs greased. Also the bottom bracket sounded like gravel when we spun it, we greased that at school and it quieted down a lot. The old chain was way stretched too, I replaced that before it broke on me somewhere remote from home. And I just took delivery of a Bike Nashbar Mountain Bike crankset and bottom bracket to fit. They will probably go on this coming week.

    Only part not looked at yet is the headset, but I'm taking a week long class at the end of the month where we tear town and rebuild. Pretty much the headset is getting to be the only part left to look at when I do take that class

    Thanks for your response,
    Mike

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