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Finding proper forks for older bikes

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Finding proper forks for older bikes

Old 05-01-19, 08:00 AM
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treebound 
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Finding proper forks for older bikes

How difficult is it to spec and find a proper fork for an older road bike? Iím thinking about a bare frame (fairly sure mid-90ís road bike), but Iíve also checked into a few frames from the 50ís/60ís/70ís but the missing forks have always caused me to pass on them. I imagine Iíd need to find the original specs on rake and trail, and then there would be the whole headset and bearing race fitment issues. I should probably just stick with finding complete bikes, but a 90ís Caloi has caught my eye recently .... (I should just pass on it....)
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Old 05-01-19, 08:55 AM
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There is a lot to this, start here:https://www.sheldonbrown.com/rinard/forklengths.htm
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Old 05-01-19, 11:48 AM
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This ^^

Basically tl;dr is that you should stop worrying and just do it. It's pretty hard to make a bike unrideable or even unsafe. I've done a lot of mix-n-match with forks and frames and I've yet to make something I've found to be dangerous. Some of them even feel better (to me) than stock. Go nuts.

Given it's a '90s frame it's likely 1" threaded which means your options will be more limited. The ubiquitous chromed unicrown Sunlite fork is a bit ugly, but possible to obtain with cantilever studs and mid-blade eyelets, which can make your bike more versatile for carrying stuff and increase your braking power and tire clearance without breaking the bank (cheap cantis often work better than cheap sidepulls especially in longer reaches). There's also the option of carbon or aluminum on EvilBay. Even if the fork you find has a long steerer tube, you can often thread the headset way on and use a long spacer and still be fine.

The important thing to beware of in addition to the length of the steerer tube and threading is the differences in headset crown race inner diameter. Some older forks out there may be JIS standard, which will have a larger crown race.
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Old 05-01-19, 12:15 PM
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The three questions to ask are:

How special is the frame?

How good a deal is it?

How long am I willing to wait to find a fork?

I've purchased three or four frames without forks when they were an especially great deal.
So far I've found forks for all of them, although it has taken up to a couple of years.
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Old 05-01-19, 12:20 PM
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Originally Posted by easyupbug View Post
There is a lot to this, start here:https://www.sheldonbrown.com/rinard/forklengths.htm
Interesting and well set out explanation of this issue, but I think the nutgraph at the end starts with the key: "In the big picture, it is good to realize that there is a fairly large window of "safe" handling frame geometries."

Unless the bike is peculiar, or you are under time pressure, if you have access to a bike co-op you will be able to manage this issue with an old bike.

-Will
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Old 05-01-19, 12:29 PM
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Likewise I have mixed and matched forks. I crashed my ~'84 Miyata 610 twice and replaced the forks with forks from local shops that had a bunch of new and used ones. Each time the ride was a little different, like getting a slightly different bike, but never an issue.

One of my all-time favorite bikes was a ~'90 sport Peugeot frame I picked up minus fork. Put a Bridgestone(?) fork on it. So Japanese standard fork on a French frame. Tange had a stock $8 headset that worked just fine. (No seals so I packed the bearings until they squeezed out grease with the blue marine boat trailer hub stuff.) Best part was that being a Japanese/English steerer, I could use any old 22.2 mm stem, not either a French standard 22.0 mm one or 22.2 that I emery-clothed down to 22.0.

Tange makes headsets for almost any traditional bike and their headsets can be mixed and matched, both for diameters and different models to get different stack heights. And despite the very reasonable prices, they are good headsets. They don't last forever but do go reliably for me 8,000 miles with almost no attention until they begin to index, then another 1000 after I replace the balls with one size larger. I go loose ball on the lower race. Fill the race and remove one.

Currently all my bikes have original factory/builder forks. But one of my customs has a Tange mix and match headset. Bike came with a Chris King Gripnut HS that drove me nuts. Wouldn't stay adjusted more than 200 miles at a time, no matter who worked on it, including the Chris King factory. But the steerer was cut to the Gripnut stack so the best Tange was too high to work. I'm using the $14 Tange Passage with the locknut from an $8 Tange cheapo. On a multi thousand $$ custom! Sweet ride! In 3 years I'll have to dig deep and fork over another $14.

Ben
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Old 05-01-19, 12:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Hudson308 View Post
The three questions to ask are:

How special is the frame?

How good a deal is it?

How long am I willing to wait to find a fork?

I've purchased three or four frames without forks when they were an especially great deal.
So far I've found forks for all of them, although it has taken up to a couple of years.
+1
Bought a Pinarello with Tange replacement fork, and suspecting some front end damage, and with dented seatstayÖ...
I would live with the replacement, re-raking when I feel the need, Ö.but given the re-rake, then why not look for a chrome original???
Still waiting - the only good one I have found had a steerer too short.
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Old 05-01-19, 02:37 PM
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My first question would be why is the fork missing. There could be many reasons but the one that leaps to mind is damage. Just saying.
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Old 05-01-19, 03:24 PM
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I have to agree with others. You just need to be close, not a perfect match. Steertube length?

An issue, of course, is that for a collector's bike, it may ride fine with the replacement fork, but that will seriously diminish the overall value of the bike.

Originally Posted by dweenk View Post
My first question would be why is the fork missing. There could be many reasons but the one that leaps to mind is damage. Just saying.
A variety of reasons. Damage is probably at the top of the list, but it isn't always the case that the fork and frame are both damaged (but should be checked).

Some sellers think they can get more value out of a bike by separating components (fork, frame, proprietary seatposts, etc). And, in some cases they can, but it becomes a major hassle for the next person down the line trying to reassemble.

When buying a forkless frame, be very aware of the cost of a replacement fork. For example, genuine Colnago forks are often > $200, sometimes substantially more. Color/Paint match?
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Old 05-06-19, 11:03 AM
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Thanks everyone. I decided to pass on the deal. A prior crash suspicion was part of the reason, the color match was another part and I didnít want to get into a full repainting project. Good info to know though for future deals.
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Old 05-06-19, 02:20 PM
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At the other end of the fork replacement spectrum would be a custom L’avecaise fork from Jeff Lyon:

https://www.lyonsport.com/frames-0
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Old 05-06-19, 03:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Hudson308 View Post
The three questions to ask are:

How special is the frame?

How good a deal is it?

How long am I willing to wait to find a fork?

I've purchased three or four frames without forks when they were an especially great deal.
So far I've found forks for all of them, although it has taken up to a couple of years.
I bought a bike that arrived with a damaged fork... grumble, it was an ebay seller who vanished.
a year later found the exact fork I needed, same color even!

Check ebay.fr and ebay.it have had success there too.
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