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Building a Gravel / Touring from Older Bike

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Building a Gravel / Touring from Older Bike

Old 12-05-16, 02:00 PM
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Seanmichael
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Building a Gravel / Touring from Older Bike

Hi Guys,

I'm in the process of locating an older '70s steel bike to refurbish as a touring bike with tires just slightly bigger so as to handle a fair amount of gravel, fire road, off pavement riding. I'd like to fit racks and fenders, install newer components (700C wheels, brifters, new cassette) etc. I'm open to spreading the fork a bit for this but can't see opting for anything beyond a 7 speed. When I first began thinking about this bike I was simply going to buy one, but I have caught a bug of sorts and would rather build one.

Can anyone suggest good, steel roadbikes from the era that I should look for? What about specific models to stay away from? I may only use the frame for the project, but depending on the components--who knows? Good quality stuff might be kept. I'm concerned about strength, tire clearance and, especially weight. Would realy like something lighter than heavier so a Varsity is pretty much out.

Any help is greatly appreciated!
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Old 12-05-16, 02:04 PM
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The easiest and cheapest to find is a vintage mtb and then convert it to drops. You'll have all the room you want for fat tires and fenders.

https://www.bikeforums.net/classic-vi...nversions.html

This is mine and it gets a lot of use for all kinds of road conditions; it's a 1987 stumpjumper comp:



A classic touring bike can do the job but those will be harder to find than a vintage mtb. Also a lot of these came with 27 inch wheels and cantilevers which can be a real PITA if converting to 700c.

https://www.bikeforums.net/classic-vi...ing-bikes.html

Also look for steel bike that were built around 27 inch wheels and center pulls as those have a lot of room as well for a fatter tire and fenders.

Lastly--and this one is somewhat more difficult--is to find the right steel frame for a 650b conversion that will allow you to run something like a 650b x 38c tire.

https://www.bikeforums.net/classic-vi...onversion.html

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Old 12-05-16, 02:09 PM
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Out of all these options, the 650b route is probably your best bet for building an all around road bike but you'll have to track down the right steel frame.

The drop bar mtb is also a good way to do this and likely cheaper since you won't need to build new wheels.

Last edited by bikemig; 12-05-16 at 02:18 PM.
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Old 12-05-16, 02:16 PM
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Also--if you can find it--I highly recommend the 1992 Bridgestone XO-2 or the XO-1 series. The bikes were designed to be fire trail bikes with road geometry and 26 inch wheels. My '92 b'stone XO-2 make a fantastic gravel bike.



Also very good are the bianchi project bikes as these were hybrids designed for really fat tires. Some of the early Trek hybrids (lugged) would also make terrific gravel bikes.
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Old 12-05-16, 03:10 PM
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If you're sticking with vintage steel frames, strength and weight are a trade-off. Low weight comes from light-gauge tubing, which will not be as strong as frames with thicker-gauge tubing (which is heavy). Obviously, stick with chrome-moly (or mag) frames for the lowest weight.

Stay away from racy bikes with narrow tire clearance and short-reach sidepull brake calipers. They may have nice, light frames, but they probably won't have enough clearance for wider tires for gravel. Even with 650b, the frame may not allow a 35 mm tire. However, early-80s or older stage race frames may have wider tire clearance.

Touring bikes will usually clear a 32 mm tire, and cantilever-brake equipped frames may fit even wider. Serious modern touring bikes can feel too-stiff when unloaded, but 80s vintage touring bikes weren't quite as over-built.
Some touring bikes turned into flat bar hybrid models in the 90s (Trek 720, for example). These can make good tourers with butterfly/trekking bars, or converted to drop bars.

Sport touring bikes (which many 80s "ten speed" road bikes were) may be your best bet, because they have decent tire clearance, but not-too-heavy frame tubing (if you find a top model). They'll usually clear a 700 x 32, or a 650 x 38-42 if you want to go that route.

MTBs with drop bars can make good tourers as well, with some complications. They often have longer top tubes, so you may need to get a size smaller than normal in order to fit well with drop bars. They usually have higher bottom brackets for ground clearance, and they're almost always heavier than touring bikes.

Stay away from MTBs with front suspension. You don't need shocks for touring, so the suspension fork will be mostly dead weight. Old sus forks are usually worn out, but the changes in headset sizes over the years has made 1" replacement forks very hard to find. You can swap the sus fork for a suspension-corrected rigid fork of the correct axle-to-crown length, but it's usually cheaper to just start with a rigid-fork MTB.
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Old 12-05-16, 03:45 PM
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OK--you've definitely got me thinking. I looked through some of those pictures and they are gorgeous! I've got a cheap early 90's Giant Attraction MTB in my garage that NO ONE will ride. It's really miserable, but could it possibly be made better with a retrofit?

I just threw it on a scale and it came in at about 36 lbs. I bought it new when I was in college--maybe 90-91. It's high-ten construction and was the first bike I ever bought. I planned to really start cycling but it cured me pretty quickly on the ridiculous hills around here.

Is it possible that some of the components and the old wheels represent a good amount of that weight and once removed / replaced it will be a new machine or should I keep looking?
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Old 12-05-16, 03:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Seanmichael View Post
OK--you've definitely got me thinking. I looked through some of those pictures and they are gorgeous! I've got a cheap early 90's Giant Attraction MTB in my garage that NO ONE will ride. It's really miserable, but could it possibly be made better with a retrofit?

I just threw it on a scale and it came in at about 36 lbs. I bought it new when I was in college--maybe 90-91. It's high-ten construction and was the first bike I ever bought. I planned to really start cycling but it cured me pretty quickly on the ridiculous hills around here.

Is it possible that some of the components and the old wheels represent a good amount of that weight and once removed / replaced it will be a new machine or should I keep looking?
If it's a high-ten frame, you could spend a lot of time and money but it will never be very light. I'd sell it or donate it and keep looking for a better frame. That's my opinion; I stay away from high-ten bikes because they weigh more--with no additional strength--and usually have lousy components.
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Old 12-05-16, 04:27 PM
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For is build a good budget option you should consider is a late 70's early Japanese sports touring model with 27 inch wheels and preferably center pull brakes and 126 spacing you can easily convert it to 700c's and readily bolt on whatever drivetrain you want with little effort and have room to run 38-40 tires with fenders and rack. My current rider a single speed gravel grinder
nicely setup only cost me about $200 build up.
[IMG][/IMG]
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Old 12-05-16, 04:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Seanmichael View Post
OK--you've definitely got me thinking. I looked through some of those pictures and they are gorgeous! I've got a cheap early 90's Giant Attraction MTB in my garage that NO ONE will ride. It's really miserable, but could it possibly be made better with a retrofit?

I just threw it on a scale and it came in at about 36 lbs. I bought it new when I was in college--maybe 90-91. It's high-ten construction and was the first bike I ever bought. I planned to really start cycling but it cured me pretty quickly on the ridiculous hills around here.

Is it possible that some of the components and the old wheels represent a good amount of that weight and once removed / replaced it will be a new machine or should I keep looking?
Vintage MTBs are available and relatively inexpensive. I see 900 series vintage treks (the upper end ones) on CL on a regular basis and they go from between $100 and $200. I live in IA and Trek had a huge market presence here. You're likely to find different upper end MTBs where you live but they're out there and with luck should cost you under $200.
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Old 12-05-16, 09:09 PM
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Lots of good suggestions so far. I'll throw in early to mid 90's hybrids. Room for 700c x 38mm tires, plus lots of mounting points for racks and fenders. Trek MultiTrack 750 or 730, Bianchi Project series, Schwinn Crosspoint or Crosscut, Cannondale H series, etc.
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Old 12-05-16, 09:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Seanmichael View Post
Any help is greatly appreciated!
Where are ya and whats your general frame size?
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Old 12-05-16, 10:55 PM
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mstateglfr:

I'm in Southern Ohio. I'm not really sure of what size I need in a mountain bike. I'm a 50 or 52 in a road bike which, from what I've read this evening, means I need about an 18-19" mountain bike. And so far, that's been a problem. Finding bikes for me has been tough because it seems like most on Craigslist are for bigger guys. I have found several Treks and Diamond Backs. A couple Raleighs, too. All too big according to the sizing chart I read. But it's really hard to believe based on what they look like in their photos. And prices are from 35 bucks to 150.00.

I'm simultaneously looking for a road bike for my son. He's easier because he's 6'. That bike should be an older chromoly if possible. We're planning to do a couple century rides in the spring and then the Ohio to Erie trail in the summer (cross state tour on rail trails). I'm planning to update that bike so it's as sweet as it can be for him. So far I've had trouble finding anything I really like for him, though. I've got my eye on a '74 Concord (which I believe is chromoly) and a '72 Peugeot UO8 (at least I think it is based on the serial number, but I haven't seen it in person and the owner doesn't know what it is). I should probably avoid cheap French stuff, but it looks to be in good shape for 125.00 even though I'm pretty sure those are heavy steel.

I'm in LOVE with BIKEMIG's ride posted above. That's exactly what I have in mind.

Thanks for the suggestions everyone.
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Old 12-05-16, 10:59 PM
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What do you guys think about Ross bikes such as this one?

https://cincinnati.craigslist.org/bik/5903455066.html

Heavy and to be avoided? I've read where most were department store junk (always what I thought as a kid) but that some were pretty well made and light, good riders.

Thoughts?
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Old 12-06-16, 10:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Tim_Iowa View Post
If it's a high-ten frame, you could spend a lot of time and money but it will never be very light. I'd sell it or donate it and keep looking for a better frame. That's my opinion; I stay away from high-ten bikes because they weigh more--with no additional strength--and usually have lousy components.
I agree with this. Like much of the vintage MTB drop bar thread, I'm building an old, large size MTB into a tourer.

I'm working with Treks that have similar geometry to their touring models, but depending on your preferences, you could start with a frame with 26" wheels and put in 50+ mm tires or a hybrid frame with 700c wheels with room for 40mm tires pretty easily.

You can pick up a decent double-butted chromoly frame pretty easily for $0-100, plus you could salvage certain parts easily like cantilever brakes, stem and seatpost, though I like modernizing the hubs and drivetrain together.
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Old 12-06-16, 10:36 AM
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Yup.

From:

To:

Although, I've recently changed the cockpit back to upright bars, with Jones cut loops. No pics yet.
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Old 12-06-16, 12:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Seanmichael View Post
mstateglfr:

I'm in Southern Ohio. I'm not really sure of what size I need in a mountain bike. I'm a 50 or 52 in a road bike which, from what I've read this evening, means I need about an 18-19" mountain bike. And so far, that's been a problem. Finding bikes for me has been tough because it seems like most on Craigslist are for bigger guys. I have found several Treks and Diamond Backs. A couple Raleighs, too. All too big according to the sizing chart I read. But it's really hard to believe based on what they look like in their photos. And prices are from 35 bucks to 150.00.

I'm simultaneously looking for a road bike for my son. He's easier because he's 6'. That bike should be an older chromoly if possible. We're planning to do a couple century rides in the spring and then the Ohio to Erie trail in the summer (cross state tour on rail trails). I'm planning to update that bike so it's as sweet as it can be for him. So far I've had trouble finding anything I really like for him, though. I've got my eye on a '74 Concord (which I believe is chromoly) and a '72 Peugeot UO8 (at least I think it is based on the serial number, but I haven't seen it in person and the owner doesn't know what it is). I should probably avoid cheap French stuff, but it looks to be in good shape for 125.00 even though I'm pretty sure those are heavy steel.

I'm in LOVE with BIKEMIG's ride posted above. That's exactly what I have in mind.

Thanks for the suggestions everyone.
bikemig has a stable of bikes that would impress most anyone.


As for around you, not sure if anything like these are possible, but I figured I would list them to get you thinking.

https://columbus.craigslist.org/bik/5857851273.html this is a small frame Trek hybrid with 700c wheels. maybe too small? anyways, the Trek hybrid bikes from the 90s(700 and 900 series) are fantastic quality to start from. They accept wide tires and have the general(or exact) geometry of Trek's 520 touring bike.

https://columbus.craigslist.org/bik/5863997841.html Schwinn Crisscross from 1992. 700c wheels, lugged double butted chromoly frame and fork, and 20" frame(pretty sure) which would fit you most likely.

https://columbus.craigslist.org/bid/5906411495.html 54cm Cannondale touring bike. extremely high quality frame and components

https://dayton.craigslist.org/bid/5896417639.html 56cm new Fuju touring bike. Great value, steel frame, and could more than handle what you want to do this coming year.



I linked the last 2 for your son only because they are very capable touring bikes that could be great for the long rides you mention and for the ride across Ohio. Not sure if the budget is too high, but just thought it would be worth mentioning since if you get a bike for $150 and plan to redo most of it, the cost can often times exceed $500-600 and you mentioned wanting to make it great for him.
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Old 12-06-16, 01:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Seanmichael View Post
mstateglfr:

I'm in Southern Ohio. I'm not really sure of what size I need in a mountain bike. I'm a 50 or 52 in a road bike which, from what I've read this evening, means I need about an 18-19" mountain bike. And so far, that's been a problem. Finding bikes for me has been tough because it seems like most on Craigslist are for bigger guys. I have found several Treks and Diamond Backs. A couple Raleighs, too. All too big according to the sizing chart I read. But it's really hard to believe based on what they look like in their photos. And prices are from 35 bucks to 150.00.

I'm simultaneously looking for a road bike for my son. He's easier because he's 6'. That bike should be an older chromoly if possible. We're planning to do a couple century rides in the spring and then the Ohio to Erie trail in the summer (cross state tour on rail trails). I'm planning to update that bike so it's as sweet as it can be for him. So far I've had trouble finding anything I really like for him, though. I've got my eye on a '74 Concord (which I believe is chromoly) and a '72 Peugeot UO8 (at least I think it is based on the serial number, but I haven't seen it in person and the owner doesn't know what it is). I should probably avoid cheap French stuff, but it looks to be in good shape for 125.00 even though I'm pretty sure those are heavy steel.

I'm in LOVE with BIKEMIG's ride posted above. That's exactly what I have in mind.

Thanks for the suggestions everyone.

Thanks! Like @mstateglfr suggested, Craigslist is your friend. You'll have to be patient and willing to drive but things will pop up. Best bet is to start a separate thread on what you're looking for and people will help you search the CL ads to find a bike that works.

If you ride a 50-52 cm in a road bike, my guess is that you will ride a 16-17 inch in a mtb; even an 18 inch might be too large. The key is to go by top tube length, not seat post length, esp. if you're thinking about a mtb drop bar conversion. You want something with roughly the same top tube length as your road bike.
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Old 12-06-16, 01:44 PM
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Wow! What a ton of information! And thanks for the links.

Funny--my son was eyeing that same Fuji this past Saturday at Performance. But he can't afford it.

I'm really interested in this Trek 720 you sent me. The only one I had found was way too big. This is about my size and for a good price. It's also 2 hours away so it'll have to wait until the weekend.

What does everyone think of the Trek 820? People have mentioned the 700 and 900 series, but not the 800. I found one of those, but there's not much information.

For my son--what about this?
https://cincinnati.craigslist.org/bik/5867507207.html
Anyone know about this brand?

Thanks!
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Old 12-06-16, 03:24 PM
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I didn't find a whole lot since Craigslist gets kinda dry in the winter. The good thing is that there's plenty of time to research before cool stuff starts popping up in the spring.

Suspension forks aren't needed for a build like this, but at least this Indy C doesn't look blown.

1997 TREK 930 SHX- $100 (Powell, OH)

https://columbus.craigslist.org/bik/5848660774.html




Who knows if these super-old listings are any good? If it's still around, you have leverage for a deal.

1993 Trek 830- $75 (Westerville, OH)

https://columbus.craigslist.org/bik/5841272490.html




The current owner wasn't afraid of looking like a dork. Remove the Chain Disc, swap its seat and stem and this'll do you well.

1994 Alpinestars CR-D100 - $75 (Westerville, OH)

https://columbus.craigslist.org/bik/5890677362.html


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Old 12-08-16, 10:54 AM
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This has been some really great information, guys. I posted a response a couple of days ago, but it has yet to appear here. Not sure what happened.

So the Trek 700 and 900 series sound like they have received your approval, but what about 800?

Also--I have found a couple of options I may look at this weekend that have 26" wheels. My plan is to replace wheels with 700c because I want new tires--something that is more road than dirt so road riding isn't so difficult. Can this be done or are there concerns generally with frame and brake clearance with a conversion like this?

Also--I found this bike. NOT sure how I feel about it. Thoughts?
Like New Adult Bike

Thanks again!
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Old 12-08-16, 10:57 AM
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This has been some really great information, guys. I posted a response a couple of days ago, but it has yet to appear here. Not sure what happened.

So the Trek 700 and 900 series sound like they have received your approval, but what about 800?

Also--I have found a couple of options I may look at this weekend that have 26" wheels. My plan is to replace wheels with 700c because I want new tires--something that is more road than dirt so road riding isn't so difficult. Can this be done or are there concerns generally with frame and brake clearance with a conversion like this?

Also--I found this bike. NOT sure how I feel about it. Thoughts?
Like New Adult Bike

Thanks again!
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