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Mods to make a vintage bike more comfortable

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Mods to make a vintage bike more comfortable

Old 02-24-17, 08:14 AM
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trail_monkey
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Mods to make a vintage bike more comfortable

I have my 1985 Panasonic DX 3000. It is my only true road bike. I do have a Soma Wolverine which, although it is a touring/adventure bike, it is really my go to gravel bike. I would like to make the Panasonic a little more "modern" while keeping it's vintage look. The first thing I will think about doing down the road is replacing the 42/52 cranks with a set like this CRANKSET SUNRACE FCR86 170x50/34 SQ 8s SL

I have been looking at images of modern road bikes and it seems most of them have neutral or riser stems instead of the negative rise that this bike has. So maybe a polished aluminum riser or neutral quill stem is in order? I am wondering too if modern road drop bars are any different than the drop bars that came on this beauty or have "road" drops remained mostly unchanged in shape and design (minus modern material ex: carbon) over the years?

Has anyone else done such a sinful thing to a classic to make it more pleasurable for long rides?
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Old 02-24-17, 08:33 AM
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I always gravitate to bars and levers when thinking about comfort on modern vs. older bikes.

Yes, handlebar geometry has changed. Deep drops are no longer in vogue. Now you have compact drop bars with shallower drops. You also have more handlebars with flatter ramps that make a more level transition to the brake levers, which to me is much more comfortable for riding on the hoods.

Brake levers have also changed. The hood area is wider to fit the space between the thumb and index finger better.

If I were you I'd like at getting some modern brake levers with wide hoods and a level ramp-to-hood transition. This illustration shows what I mean:



I have had great results with the Soma Highway 1 handlebar. It comes in multiple clamp sizes if you want to use it with a quill stem, and a polished finish. If you are looking for pure brake levers (not brifters) with wide, flat hoods, look at Tektro RL340 levers (if you are on a budget) or TRP RRL SR levers (if you can drop a bit more cash on a nicer product).

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Old 02-24-17, 08:33 AM
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First off, it may be cheaper to switch chain rings on the existing crank. I'm sure your Panasonic came with higher quality cranks than the ones you link here. It may cost the same but will be easier and more vintage.

It depends on your riding style (or age!) but I find that unless you are going for a true vintage racing bike experience some basic mods can make a big difference without changing the vintage look or feel of the bike. I find that it's always smart to use the benefits of quill stems and bring the bars up to at least saddle height, or an inch or two higher. This may require a new stem or you may have enough quill to make it work. Nitto Technomic stems will give you plenty of height options if you need a new one and are worth the investment IMO.

Other than height I think that going with a wider modern drop bar can make a huge difference. There are good choices out there but I love the Nitto "noodle" bar for vintage bikes. I go as wide as 48cm but I have wide shoulders. A Rivendell designed upright bar and bar end shifters may be a dramatic change but for comfort you can't go wrong.

The last thing I do to all my vintage bikes is add a set of modern platform pedals. I usually go with either the MKS touring pedal which look very vintage or modern low profile MTB platform pedals (if you get them in silver or a matching anodized aluminum I think they can complement the look of a vintage bike without being too obvious). For comfort these two are my favorite.

Velo Orange and Rivendell are good sites to look at for ideas.

When I get home tonight I'll post some photos of my 1981 Trek I built up last year for comfortable riding (that still looks totally vintage).

Good luck and post a pic when you have a chance!!
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Old 02-24-17, 08:42 AM
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Well, everyone's definition of comfort is different. For me I treat my old bikes like I would a new one. I dial in my fit. So that usually means a swap to 42 cm wide handlebars and whatever quill stem I need to get the proper reach. Of course the first step is getting the saddle height and offset from the BB right. Sometimes that means a new seatpost to get the proper offset. Also, a saddle that works for me is a must. Since I ride a lot of chipseal I prefer a thick cork type bar tape and on some bikes have even put bar gel under the tape. I also tend to got with 700 x 25c tires or 700 x 28c if they will fit.

A perfect example is this 1989 Greg LeMond Ventoux. Cinelli bars and stem, offset seatpost, Brooks saddle, 700 x 25 and 700 x 28 tires on this, cushy tape, and bar gel. It's now my favorite fast and comfortable ride for centuries and other long rides.



This Giordana Antares is another with different mods for comfort. In this case I'm using a CF seatpost to help some with the buzz, a comfy saddle, then relace the rims with wider SL23 rims and am running 700 x 28c tires at lower pressures. Cushy tape on the bars. The only issue with this are the uncomfortable hoods on the brake levers. Struggling between keep it "stock" or swapping those for a cushy aftermarket set.



So much goes into comfort. Even just dialing in the "perfect" saddle tilt and bar angle can go a long ways into making a ride comfortable and may be a tad different on each bike.

Gearing for me matters too. I have no issues with swapping cranksets or cassettes as needed to make the bike fit it's main purpose for me. I do like them looking classic in a lot of ways but since I ride all of mine a lot comfort and practicability win over the correct look.

And in my opinion you can do some things to it for comfort without really changing the classic look. This Opus III was improved with the very comfortable leather saddle that just looks right to me. I'm also getting ready to wrap the bars with matching faux leather bar tape that I plan on putting over the cloth tape for a tad more cushion and width. Plus I used GP Classic tires in size 700 x 25 for comfort and a period look.

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Old 02-24-17, 08:56 AM
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The more you ride it the more comfortable it gets.
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Old 02-24-17, 08:58 AM
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If you want a 120mm stem, the Nitto Dynamic II is a 0 degree rise quill stem. Retains the classic look of a quill while being 0 degrees instead of -17 degrees so it gets the bars up a bit higher. 120mm on a 0degree stem is going to be something like 110 or 100mm on a -17 degree stem due to the angle change. Just a heads up.
Its $30 and a Nitto makes really good stuff.


As mentioned, Soma Hwy1 bars are a great option to change to. VeloOrange GrandCru bars are also really nice. I have both and both seem like great quality. Different bend styles though, just be aware.



If you want to get wild and create a period correct looking compact double crankset, there are some old triples out there which can be used as doubles with a 110mm bcd.
Vintage SR Sakae SX Bike Crankset 175 - 48/38/28 - Triple | eBay The 48T ring could stay and you would buy a 5 bolt 34t ring like this one for $12.
So for $45 you have a compact double crank which looks period correct.
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Old 02-24-17, 09:09 AM
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Originally Posted by swen0171
First off, it may be cheaper to switch chain rings on the existing crank. I'm sure your Panasonic came with higher quality cranks than the ones you link here. It may cost the same but will be easier and more vintage.
My cranks have a 144 bcd. Can't get smaller than a 42.
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Old 02-24-17, 09:37 AM
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Originally Posted by trail_monkey View Post
My cranks have a 144 bcd. Can't get smaller than a 42.
... or 41, if you can find it. The other option is a triplizer middle ring with a longer spindle and a smaller granny ring.

I kept the classic look on my Peugeot PKN-10 by switching to a 110mm BCD Sugino crank with a 48-45-34 ringset and a 13-24 6-speed freewheel and a short-cage rear derailleur.
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Old 02-24-17, 10:09 AM
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Originally Posted by TenGrainBread View Post
I always gravitate to bars and levers when thinking about comfort on modern vs. older bikes.

Yes, handlebar geometry has changed. Deep drops are no longer in vogue. Now you have compact drop bars with shallower drops. You also have more handlebars with flatter ramps that make a more level transition to the brake levers, which to me is much more comfortable for riding on the hoods.

Brake levers have also changed. The hood area is wider to fit the space between the thumb and index finger better.

If I were you I'd like at getting some modern brake levers with wide hoods and a level ramp-to-hood transition. This illustration shows what I mean:



I have had great results with the Soma Highway 1 handlebar. It comes in multiple clamp sizes if you want to use it with a quill stem, and a polished finish. If you are looking for pure brake levers (not brifters) with wide, flat hoods, look at Tektro RL340 levers (if you are on a budget) or TRP RRL SR levers (if you can drop a bit more cash on a nicer product).
x2. dual pivot front brakes w TRP RRL levers worked for me. Leveled out the ramps and gave soild control to brakes.
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Old 02-24-17, 10:30 AM
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I put this IRD Defiant triple crankset on my Raleigh International. It looks great and gives my old legs the granny gear I need to get over some hills.
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Old 02-24-17, 10:32 AM
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Originally Posted by trail_monkey View Post
I have my 1985 Panasonic DX 3000. It is my only true road bike. I do have a Soma Wolverine which, although it is a touring/adventure bike, it is really my go to gravel bike. I would like to make the Panasonic a little more "modern" while keeping it's vintage look. The first thing I will think about doing down the road is replacing the 42/52 cranks with a set like this CRANKSET SUNRACE FCR86 170x50/34 SQ 8s SL

I have been looking at images of modern road bikes and it seems most of them have neutral or riser stems instead of the negative rise that this bike has. So maybe a polished aluminum riser or neutral quill stem is in order? I am wondering too if modern road drop bars are any different than the drop bars that came on this beauty or have "road" drops remained mostly unchanged in shape and design (minus modern material ex: carbon) over the years?

Has anyone else done such a sinful thing to a classic to make it more pleasurable for long rides?
In what specific ways is your Panasonic *uncomfortable* compared to your Soma? It's all well and good to ask for comfort tips, but we need to know what areas need improving!
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Old 02-24-17, 10:35 AM
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Originally Posted by RunForTheHills View Post
I put this IRD Defiant triple crankset on my Raleigh International. It looks great and gives my old legs the granny gear I need to get over some hills.
+1 on IRD Defiant cranksets. I have the compact double and it's super stiff, shifts silently and immediately, and gorgeous.
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Old 02-24-17, 06:04 PM
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Originally Posted by willydstyle View Post
In what specific ways is your Panasonic *uncomfortable* compared to your Soma? It's all well and good to ask for comfort tips, but we need to know what areas need improving!
It is hard to explain. It is not that the Panasonic is uncomfortable so much just that the Soma rides like a Cadillac. I could probably use a different length stem and for sure the negative rise needs to go. The bars are too narrow for me. They are really narrow but I must say the steering is responsive if not twitchy. The cranks are so I can get lower gears without having to go crazy on any frame mods for an 8 speed freewheel. And I am running an extended range cassette on my Soma but I really don't want to run one of those extended range freewheels on this bike. I like the close gear spacing in the back so that means I must find some different cranks to give me a compact crank set. And yes the hoods do not feel near as comfy on the hands coupled with the bar which is narrower than my skinny frame shoulders lol.
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Old 02-24-17, 06:29 PM
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Originally Posted by trail_monkey View Post
It is hard to explain. It is not that the Panasonic is uncomfortable so much just that the Soma rides like a Cadillac. I could probably use a different length stem and for sure the negative rise needs to go. The bars are too narrow for me. They are really narrow but I must say the steering is responsive if not twitchy. The cranks are so I can get lower gears without having to go crazy on any frame mods for an 8 speed freewheel. And I am running an extended range cassette on my Soma but I really don't want to run one of those extended range freewheels on this bike. I like the close gear spacing in the back so that means I must find some different cranks to give me a compact crank set. And yes the hoods do not feel near as comfy on the hands coupled with the bar which is narrower than my skinny frame shoulders lol.
Those factors you mentioned regarding the stem will greatly effect comfort but more specifically will introduce differences to your body if you regard the bike as an "extra". This brought to mind my purchase of a backup bike about 5 years ago. My body was conditioned for the main bike but I really liked that backup bike. The differences were found in the reach of the stem, width of handle bar and an extra 1/2" of top tube length. Some of that I could alter and the more miles I rode it, the more I liked it. The two bikes were similar in geometry to some extent and I ended up cherishing the both and having the delight of choice.
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Old 02-24-17, 06:51 PM
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Originally Posted by trail_monkey View Post
It is hard to explain. It is not that the Panasonic is uncomfortable so much just that the Soma rides like a Cadillac. I could probably use a different length stem and for sure the negative rise needs to go. The bars are too narrow for me. They are really narrow but I must say the steering is responsive if not twitchy. The cranks are so I can get lower gears without having to go crazy on any frame mods for an 8 speed freewheel. And I am running an extended range cassette on my Soma but I really don't want to run one of those extended range freewheels on this bike. I like the close gear spacing in the back so that means I must find some different cranks to give me a compact crank set. And yes the hoods do not feel near as comfy on the hands coupled with the bar which is narrower than my skinny frame shoulders lol.
If you don't want an extended range freewheel, I strongly suggest a triple crankset. Most people can generally muscle out a good bit more gearing than they would really want to be using. If you think you need a 34T chainring, you'd be more comfortable with a 30T. Plus the middle chainring gives you more options so you can keep your tight gearing without having to go to the big chainring for most of your riding. Finally, friction shifters eliminate any reasonable argument against using a triple.

As for handlebar shape and position, I personally love compact bars with a stem that puts the bar just about level with my saddle. Depending on how much height you need, you can accomplish this with either a Soma Sutro (pretty tall) or a Nitto Technomic (absurdly tall).

Pics for reference:

Soma Sutro:



Nitto Technomic:


Believe it or not, the Technomic will go an inch or two higher than shown in that picture. I actually had to cut it down for that bike because it was bumping into the butting in the steerer and I couldn't insert it as far as I needed to.

If you don't like the giraffe look of these stems you can get a quill stem with a bit of rise. That generally limits you to bars with a 25.4mm clamp diameter, but the Soma HWY One bars (seen on both bikes above) are available in that diameter and a range of widths.
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Old 02-24-17, 08:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Andy K
If you don't want an extended range freewheel, I strongly suggest a triple crankset.
I am not expecting a granny gear so much although on long grades that may be nice. I have no idea what length cage derailleur I am running. I bought a replacement off Ebay a few weeks ago. I will attach a pic of it from the auction. I am assuming it is a medium cage? It can handle the 52/28 just fine although I know thats not an ideal chain line I tried it anyways to see if it could handle it.

Let me ask you....Will it have enough chain wrap to handle such a small gear like a 30 front without the chain being too loose and still have enough chain to handle the larger gear combos?
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Old 02-24-17, 09:03 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
If you want a 120mm stem, the Nitto Dynamic II is a 0 degree rise quill stem. Retains the classic look of a quill while being 0 degrees instead of -17 degrees so it gets the bars up a bit higher. 120mm on a 0degree stem is going to be something like 110 or 100mm on a -17 degree stem due to the angle change. Just a heads up.
Its $30 and a Nitto makes really good stuff.


As mentioned, Soma Hwy1 bars are a great option to change to. VeloOrange GrandCru bars are also really nice. I have both and both seem like great quality. Different bend styles though, just be aware.



If you want to get wild and create a period correct looking compact double crankset, there are some old triples out there which can be used as doubles with a 110mm bcd.
Vintage SR Sakae SX Bike Crankset 175 - 48/38/28 - Triple | eBay The 48T ring could stay and you would buy a 5 bolt 34t ring like this one for $12. NEW Shimano Ultegra FC-6750 Replacement Inner Chainring 110 BCD x 34T - Silver | eBay
So for $45 you have a compact double crank which looks period correct.

I am pretty sure my bike came with 170 mm cranks. I know I could slap 175s on but as it is the toe clip drags the ground when I get started. I hate to make the ground clearance that much tighter
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Old 02-24-17, 09:51 PM
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Originally Posted by trail_monkey View Post
It is hard to explain. It is not that the Panasonic is uncomfortable so much just that the Soma rides like a Cadillac. I could probably use a different length stem and for sure the negative rise needs to go. The bars are too narrow for me. They are really narrow ......
I've been riding my new gravel Grinder since early January. Today (the weather was beautiful) I rode my normal daily rider (Trek 1.1). Boy... I sure noticed/missed the comfort of those big fat 700X35 tires that are on the gravel grinder.

I love my Trek, it's my favorite.... and it fits like a glove. I can get most of my bikes to meet the dimensional measurements of my favorite bike.... but they never feel the same... or as good.

You can find a taller stem... and wider vintage bars (wider bars will make a huge difference) at a bicycle co-op for cheap. Or on eBay if you don't have a local bike co-op. Or... maybe just look for a huge cheap vintage "parts bike" on your local Craigslist.
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Old 02-24-17, 11:04 PM
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The main thing is to ride a bigger size frame. People have a tendency to ride vintage frames that are way too small for them because they are accustomed to the modern sensibility of a long seatpost sticking up.

If you prefer to ride a frame that is small, there are always riser stems to make up for it.
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Old 02-24-17, 11:19 PM
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I only speaking from reading about this, not actual experience but wanted to throw it out there for others to confirm or depute.

I believe I've read that some of the extreme bends of the new compact bars weren't possible with quill stems. The bends being too extreme to be able to slide through. This may be incorrect but with all the different bar suggestions I thought I'd bring it up.
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Old 02-24-17, 11:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Salamandrine View Post
The main thing is to ride a bigger size frame. People have a tendency to ride vintage frames that are way too small for them because they are accustomed to the modern sensibility of a long seatpost sticking up.
This has been my experience too, a larger frame usually has the effect of being able to get the bars up higher relative to the seat height. The top tube will be longer though, so you might need a shorter stem to make up for it.

Kind of just repeating info that others have given at this point, but any time someone asks me about making a vintage road bike more comfortable I always recommend a taller and shorter stem. Nitto Technomics work well with existing bars and look good on pretty much everything.
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Old 02-25-17, 06:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Salamandrine View Post
The main thing is to ride a bigger size frame. People have a tendency to ride vintage frames that are way too small for them because they are accustomed to the modern sensibility of a long seatpost sticking up.

If you prefer to ride a frame that is small, there are always riser stems to make up for it.

Possibly but this bike was found in a pasture and was a freebee so I can't complain. If need be I will change stems, bars, and cranks down the road to make the bike better for me.
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Old 02-25-17, 07:26 AM
  #23  
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Well I did the math and the derailleur I have has a max chain wrap of 26 teeth. If I went with a 48x34 compact double my chain wrap would be 28. It also means that if I went with a megarange 7 speed freewheel (14x34) the chain wrap would be 30 with the current cranks. It sounds like no matter what I would have to buy another rear derailleur (which isn't the end of the world) but when I decide to spend the money, I didn't want to completely overhaul this thing. I like this bike but I hate to spend hundreds of dollars on an old bike.

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Old 02-25-17, 09:41 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by Salamandrine View Post
The main thing is to ride a bigger size frame. People have a tendency to ride vintage frames that are way too small for them because they are accustomed to the modern sensibility of a long seatpost sticking up.
+1

Yep. The old-school saddle height had only a handful of seat post exposed (about 4 inches).

In the old days... I can't recall as much attention paid to comfort as it is today. And many of the ways we select a bike for fit has changed over the years as well. The distance (on my old bikes)... from saddle to hoods are exact or nearly exact as my daily rider. But my vintage bikes have higher stand-over height.... and barely enough exposed seat tube to grip a workstand to.

Like desk chairs and easy-chairs... or apples and oranges... old bikes and new bikes ain't exactly the same. By careful selection... you can match the bikes comfort. But I am not sure you'll ever match fit.
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Old 02-25-17, 10:22 AM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by dksix View Post
I only speaking from reading about this, not actual experience but wanted to throw it out there for others to confirm or depute.

I believe I've read that some of the extreme bends of the new compact bars weren't possible with quill stems. The bends being too extreme to be able to slide through. This may be incorrect but with all the different bar suggestions I thought I'd bring it up.
VeloOrange suggests an open face stem for their private brand Dejia compact handlebar.

With that said, i just fit a Soma Hwy1 bar on an Origin8 labeled Kalloy quill stem and it went on without any scratches to the bar. The Hwy1 bar is the same reach and almost exact drop as the Dejia compact bar.

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