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Keep it or upgrade?

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Old 01-10-18, 08:23 PM
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phtomita
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Keep it or upgrade?

If you have a functional nice classic bike, what everybody does from this forum? Keep as is with original parts or goes on upgrading?

I just got a 1985 (per serial number, but 1986 from some thread I read here) Nishiki Tri-A that has pretty much all original - will post photos on other thread - and originally was thinking on rebuilding it for the nice frame.
Bike is very nice and I like it - but but ....

Yeah, what are your thoughts?
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Old 01-10-18, 08:48 PM
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Too many considerations.

If you're a purist and the bike is all-original, you may just rehab with the original parts and enjoy the same experience the original owner did. If you wanted something more modern, personally I think you should've bought a modern bike, but I digress.

You can't just slap modern parts on a vintage bike. Some things (like wheel spacing or tube diameters) may be different. There are possibilities if you know what you're doing and/or read enough.

Rather than ask 'stock or custom', why not adjust your question so maybe you answer yourself: Why'd you buy this bike, what do you intend to do with it, and where? How does the bike ride now and do you think anything needs to be improved? Take the answers to those questions and you'll be well on your way to shaping your future.

For what it's worth, Nishiki isn't one of my brands, but a number of triathlon bikes have a slightly longer wheelbase which makes for some comfortable riding.
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Old 01-10-18, 08:53 PM
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I've upgraded a few vintage frames with modern 10 speeds. Until I realized I live in an area that's flat as a pancake. I only need to shift when it's windy, so a 10 speed cassette is overkill for my type of riding. That's one thing for you to consider.
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Old 01-10-18, 09:12 PM
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Depends how resourceful you are. If you are going to pay retail for parts and pieces, forget it. Just buy a bike that has the drivetrain you seek.

+10 Define "upgrading". To some, that just means better wheels, or better brake calipers. To others, that means the full deal, modern STI shifting and more.


Upgrading vintage bikes is best suited for people with the time/tools/aptitude/space/pile of parts to do the job themselves. I've done it many times, but it always starts with finding cheap used parts, often in the form of a complete bike.

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Old 01-10-18, 10:00 PM
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The Tri-A is a cool bike - similar to the centurion ironman. I admit that my ironman is "upgraded" to 9 speed ultegra/brifters and an xtr RD and modern ultegra wheels. but I got it as a frameset, so ...
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Old 01-10-18, 10:16 PM
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Originally Posted by phtomita View Post
If you have a functional nice classic bike, what everybody does from this forum? Keep as is with original parts or goes on upgrading?

I just got a 1985 (per serial number, but 1986 from some thread I read here) Nishiki Tri-A that has pretty much all original - will post photos on other thread - and originally was thinking on rebuilding it for the nice frame.
Bike is very nice and I like it - but but ....

Yeah, what are your thoughts?
First of all, more newer parts doesn't necessarily equal upgrade.

A Nishiki Tri A is pretty nice as is. What I would do is put modern clipless pedals on it, some new brake pads, and new modern tires -- and leave it at that.

If it has a freewheel, you could convert to 7 speed with the current spacing, then dweeb out and put some microshift 7 speed brifters on it if you really must be modern.

Yeah, you could hack a modern Ultegra group on it, but you would need to respace and realign the frame, and build new wheels. It would be throwing more money at it than the final bike would be worth, so a net loss. Yeah, you could do a lesser group, but then it would technically be a downgrade...
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Old 01-10-18, 10:17 PM
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I had a Tri A come through my doors. It is a nice bike. It is not a collectors item or anything that really needs to be kept original for the ages. If you desire to upgrade it, go for it. Parts can jump from frame to frame. I look for donor bikes all of the time. Just keep the original parts in case you ever want to sell it off. Upgrading is contagious.
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Old 01-10-18, 10:24 PM
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I'd leave it alone --- all you would be doing with an upgrade is buying convenience, not performance, -- if the condition is already good.

As others have said, fresh pads, tires , grease and true wheelset will help a lot
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Old 01-10-18, 11:45 PM
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In my opinion, "new" does not automatically translate to "better." Think about what each "upgraded" component would do for the bike. If the bike rides well as-is, then keep it the way it is. I think you've already said the bike is "very nice."

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Old 01-11-18, 12:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Steve Whitlatch View Post
It is not a collectors item or anything that really needs to be kept original for the ages.

If you desire to upgrade it, go for it.

Just keep the original parts in case you ever want to sell it off.

Upgrading is contagious.
@Steve Whitlach- sorry for chopping up your quote- but those are the 4 points to stress.


IMO- if it's a significant collectors item with no replaced parts and in pristine shape... then there's something to be said for not doing anything to it.

But the overwhelming majority of the bikes you will ever come across are NOT anything that are going to have collectability in their originality. When I acquired a few of the first bikes I looked for- I thought they were in great shape... As I've gotten more bikes, I've simply gotten more picky about what's "really nice shape."

I see a lot of people that want to return acquired bikes back to stock. I think it's best, for a non-collectable bike to run as well as it can for the person riding it. To that end, I think it's stupid to put parts on a bike that were inferior at the time, just because that's what came on the bike. I suppose I can get behind something cool looking and adequate functionality- but I would pretty much always prefer excellently functioning, reliable, really cool looking and really cool in general.

And the concept of someone buying a well used bike and paying a premium for it because it was a "one owner bike" is stupid.

I think there are things that you should swap out, things you should swap out (if you wish), and things that just look right about old bikes. I used to be much more 'purist' and not dig new parts on old bikes. I've mellowed about that- and there are some modern parts that are just "classic" looking. There's also stuff that just looks painted black molded modern "cheap."
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Old 01-11-18, 01:33 AM
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I've upgraded a fully complete (slightly rusty) Peugeot Triathlon 1986 to 9 speed non-indexing (better brakes, BB, cranck, gearing). So far, so good. Might go with brifters someday, who kows.
Why? because the gearing wasnt to my liking and I want to use it on some upcoming triathlons. I mean, why not?


I can see the beauty of restoring a bike as well, but for me, at this moment, if I buy a bike I want to ride it, and do so safely/comfortably. If that means upgrading brakes (for example) then so be it.
I wouldnt do that if the bike was a high end bike with high end parts though. But I doubt I find one I can afford so I just have to look at the pretty pictures here.
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Old 01-11-18, 03:23 AM
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I can add that there can be value beyond $£€¥ in simply making the bike the way you want it. I have rebuilt many old bikes with parts I like, and I have to recognize that I won’t recoup my costs. But then, I got a lot of enjoyment out of both the work and riding the finished bike. :-)
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Old 01-11-18, 05:57 AM
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As has been suggested, there are upgrades and there are upgrades. What kind are you thinking of and why?

For me (and possibly other C&V'ers too) upgrade means replacing anything that doesn't work well, such as brakes or just brake pads, cables, etc. Then it means selecting gearing via either chain rings or rear sprockets to match the typical terrain. Finally it means a comfortable saddle regardless of its pedigree. Good wheels and tires are always desirable. Then go riding.
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Old 01-11-18, 06:27 AM
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Another "Upgrade" approach is what I have done with my 1973 Bottecchia Giro d'Italia. Because the frame is the same as the Professional, I upgraded the parts to Professional specs. All nearly period correct of course!

Staying with that theme, upgrade might be just higher level parts from about the same time period.

To the point about umpteen gears. I lived and commuted in the DC area with a 11-16 mile commute one way, added miles to get more! I don't usually mention my SS because it is not C&V but has the C&V traits. I found that the SS was no slower and sometimes faster than any of the multi speed bikes I rode. As one person said to me, "it keeps you honest." One could argue that changing from using the multi speed C&V racer to using a 2010 SS is an upgrade! Point is that the terrain you ride makes a difference. In my case, I could stick with all original race bike with a corn cob block and not impact my commute performance.
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Old 01-11-18, 07:03 AM
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Lots of well-reasoned thoughts from experienced folks here. My question to the OP is this:

Do you feel that you are a steward of this bike, a caretaker if you will? Or are you a rider who happens to own this particular bike? Most of the bikes in the C&V threads will outlive us, to be ridden and admired by owners to come.

So your choices seem to be - maintain it as a caretaker and enjoy it for what it is, or upgrade/modify it as you see fit and ride it. Each choice has it's attractions and detriments.

Philosophical rant complete.
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Old 01-11-18, 08:22 AM
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You already have what I would consider a modern, competent machine. If you want more gear ratios, I second the suggestion to convert to 7 cogs in back (been there ... done that), or even a triple in front (been there ... done that, as well). I don't see much else that would need changing, other than KoolStop pads and better brake cables and housings.
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Old 01-11-18, 08:47 AM
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First, ask yourself what you hope to gain by "upgrading." Then decide how much effort and money you're willing to put into the project. Then look at what it would take to simply purchase a "modern" bike (new or used) with the features you feel are missing on your vintage bike.
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Old 01-11-18, 09:28 AM
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What most people do here (myself included) is spend as much as possible on "upgrades" of "period correct" or "modern" components, take lots of pictures, post about how it is the only bike you will ever want/need to justify the expenditure, ride it less than 100 miles total and then decide you want a different bike.

Next, try to sell the current bike (at not too much of a loss) to "raise cash" for a "new, grail bike" that just came up for sale and that you have NEVER seen for sale previously.....conveniently forget you were not LOOKING previously, but I digress..

Wash, rinse and repeat until you realize you can only ride one at a time and that you will always be in the "hole" and that you are looking for the next bike/upgrade because that is a large part of the fun.

Physical exercise is generally less enjoyable than buying stuff and talking about it on the internet.
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Old 01-11-18, 09:55 AM
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Keep it as is through the spring. That is a nice bike. After you tune it up and put a few thousand miles on it and can ride it as fast as it was designed to go, then consider modernizing or getting a more modern bike.
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Old 01-11-18, 09:58 AM
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I upgraded my 1987 Bianchi. I broke the original frame, trashed out the original wheel, etc., so I didn't have a museum piece. I have no regrets (apart from not upgrading the brake calipers in 1987 -- the Modolos weren't good).

At worst, just keep the original parts in a box, or sell them to someone who could use them for a project.

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Old 01-11-18, 11:07 AM
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Originally Posted by fender1 View Post

Physical exercise is generally less enjoyable than buying stuff and talking about it on the internet.

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Old 01-11-18, 11:24 AM
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Originally Posted by DMC707 View Post
Right? That's gotta be the line of the year, and we're only 11 days into 2018!!
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Old 01-11-18, 11:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Charliekeet View Post
Right? That's gotta be the line of the year, and we're only 11 days into 2018!!
For sure. Snarky comment of the year so far...

For me, it's kind of the opposite. I like riding. I like the views, I like the feeling of speed, I like the trees and animals I see, etc, etc. OTOH, actually working on bikes is a bit of a drudgery. Comes from fixing bikes in bike shops for a long time as a job...
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Old 01-11-18, 12:03 PM
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I'm going to go a bit further. There are some bikes I would preserve mostly as is simply because I consider them industrial art, and worth preserving. A Nishiki Tri A is a nice bike, but it isn't that. IMHO. My advice to keep it mostly as is is simply a matter of pragmatism. If you want modern parts, it's going to be more practical to buy a modern bike.

What advantage do you expect to get from a parts swap? Other than the aforementioned tires, pedals and brake pads; nothing modern will provide any real significant performance benefit. Clincher tires now are definitely better. Same with clipless vs toe clip pedals. I admit that it's kind of nice to have more gears, but that won't make any real difference in whether you get dropped or not until you get yourself in the top 1% or so of fitness. Brifters are slightly advantageous IMO in one situation: while paceline riding down rolling terrain on a rough country road with lots of bumps and lots of turns. Nice to be able to keep both hands on the bars. Even then, not that big of a deal compared to fitness.
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Old 01-11-18, 12:40 PM
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Assuming you have the spare cash to go either way and are willing to spend it on a bike project, you have to start with a decision...is this a "rider" or a "show bike"?

A "show bike" doesn't necessarily need to mean that you intend to hold it back just for shows or even that you'll ever take it to a show. It just means that you're choosing to treat the bike as a piece of the past that you're preserving specifically because it's a piece of the past. This may be some really significant collector's bike that everyone remembers fondly, or it may just be a bike that holds particularly fond memories for you. If it's a show bike, you'll want to keep the components as original or period-correct as possible. Many people in the U.S. treat old cars this way. You'll find old cars with perfectly restored paint, ugly vinyl tops, 8-track tape players and Slant-6 engines -- not because any of this makes the car more useful on a day-to-day basis, but because that's the way the owner remembers this car.

A "rider" on the other hand is a bike that you own just because you enjoy riding it. You may still like the way it looks and you may value its history, but you'll make the build choices based on what you like to ride. For many people on this forum that still means vintage and period correct components. Those components were quality and that's still what a lot of people would choose for purely practical reasons. Personally, I like to "hot rod" my bikes with more modern components. This too has an analog in the U.S. car culture. There's a recent movement to "resto-mod" old cars. A person will start with a classic car in rough shape, drop in a brand-new, after-market, performance engine; retro-fit it with disc brakes; completely redo the interior; give it a "fancy" paint job of some kind, etc.

So that's where you are. What do you want out of your bike? And is it worth more investment? Personally, I avoid complete bikes in good condition because it's harder to justify customizing them, but if you're willing to re-sell the parts or keep them on the shelf for possible later restoration it can make sense.

I strongly disagree with Salamandrine about modern parts pointing to a modern bike. It's possible to start with a classic steel frame and build it up with good new components for a cost that's competitive with new bikes, especially if you like to customize your choice of parts. Plus I have a strong preference for quill stems. I've usually got a bunch of parts on hand, so I can usually put together the kind of modernized bike I like to ride for $500 or less, but even if I include the original cost of the parts in some way my builds are usually in the neighborhood of $1000, which is cheaper than new but more expensive than modern but used. I could never get my money out of any of them, but that's generally true of any bike purchase unless you're a great deal hunter.
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