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Vintage Touring Bike with Modern Components - Will it Work?

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Vintage Touring Bike with Modern Components - Will it Work?

Old 12-29-20, 09:14 PM
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Guyatwork37
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Vintage Touring Bike with Modern Components - Will it Work?

My buddy and I are planning on doing a tour of Colorado this coming summer (starting and ending in the mountains, lots of climbs, camping at night, etc.). We love the look and feel of vintage steel bikes, but don't relish the thought of trying to do a mountain tour on a 10 or 12 speed with vintage components. We are toying with the idea of putting modern components (think something like Shimano 105 with a triple crank) on a vintage frame, but are unsure if it will work. I understand the rear fork spacing will need to be cold-set from 1XXmm to 130mm to accommodate a 10 - 12 speed cassette, the bottom bracket will need to be sorted out in order to accommodate a modern crankset, potentially replacing brakes for long reach if we go from a 27" to 700c tire, and possibly getting a stem adapter if we don't want to go with a quill stem, but what else am I missing? Is it even feasible? I understand the changes will cost money and time, and that's fine just trying to see if it can even be done and if worthwhile. I have a thing for Specialized bikes so I was thinking an early to mid 80s Specialized Expedition and he's British so he was looking at a Raleigh Portage. Any thoughts or insight would be great. Thank you!
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Old 12-29-20, 09:40 PM
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Russ Roth
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Since there are decent and dependable tires for 27" I'd be less inclined to hunt around for longer reach brakes, I'd sooner get dual pivot with new pads which will stop just fine, fairly certain tektro makes one for non-recessed brake bridges. A 105, or my preference, Ultegra hubset built 36h with a Velocity a23 rim in 27" will be strong, relatively light and give a good tire profile, not really a reason to change wheels sizes in general. Sun also makes a rim, think its a cr18 that will be nearly as good for half the price and still last years. From there there's not much to stop you from switching everything else. If the frame is 127mm I wouldn't even bother resetting it, brands like surly have done 132.5 spacing to let people pick their wheel size, the extra .5mm that a 127 to 130 has isn't enough to matter. 125mm I'd reset but be careful. Nothing wrong with quill stems, just find ones with a removable face plate and swaps are easy. The bikes you're considering will have a standard 68mm english thread bb, just pick the right gear, and everything else will just work. Although I'm not a fan of touring on old parts, new parts on an old frame seems like a perfectly worthy idea and I like the look of the portage.
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Old 12-29-20, 09:44 PM
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I'm in the midst of doing something like that myself. It's not cheap and there are lots of little issues that can make it a bit unpredicable (bottom bracket compatibility, finding quality 130 mm rear wheels that take rim brakes (cutting yourself off from discs), etc.).
I'm trying to stay middle of the road with my redo, but will spend close to double what I paid for my 80's touring bike new. I've always found my bike very comfortable and it has a lot of sentimental value , so I'm doing it. My main recommendation
is don't do it because you think it'll be some sort of bargain vs. buying new. Do it because there's something special to you about the frame.
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Old 12-29-20, 10:09 PM
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Originally Posted by chancelucky View Post
I'm in the midst of doing something like that myself. It's not cheap and there are lots of little issues that can make it a bit unpredicable (bottom bracket compatibility, finding quality 130 mm rear wheels that take rim brakes (cutting yourself off from discs), etc.).
I'm trying to stay middle of the road with my redo, but will spend close to double what I paid for my 80's touring bike new. I've always found my bike very comfortable and it has a lot of sentimental value , so I'm doing it. My main recommendation
is don't do it because you think it'll be some sort of bargain vs. buying new. Do it because there's something special to you about the frame.
8.5.5

Agreed, it's not a cost saving measure for us, I mean hell, I can just buy a relatively new used Fuji Touring disc for probably $600 and it would be great. It's more that we're in to vintage steel and thought it would be fun to do the tour on an older bike, just having the convenience of newer equipment.
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Old 12-29-20, 10:27 PM
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So you want to use all modern components? Because they are new and can be replaced at a LBS when they malfunction? I suggest you guys get your Expedition and Portage, do a major tune up, and ride them everywhere while you ponder what components really require replacement with "new and improved".
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Old 12-29-20, 10:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Classtime View Post
So you want to use all modern components? Because they are new and can be replaced at a LBS when they malfunction? I suggest you guys get your Expedition and Portage, do a major tune up, and ride them everywhere while you ponder what components really require replacement with "new and improved".
We just like the idea of different / more gears, brifters instead of downtube shifting, etc. We both have vintage road bike and enjoy them, but want something slightly different for touring purposes. As for a LBS, I restore and sell vintage bikes, so no need to get a LBS involved for any of this.
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Old 12-29-20, 10:44 PM
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Hopefully you get some positive input for your project. I think it is certainly an interesting pursuit. Old frame,modern components. I wonder if it could be done with belt driven Rohloff hub? Big money but cool. Best of luck on your project.
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Old 12-29-20, 10:53 PM
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If you want to do this, I'd suggest leave the BB, FD and crankset and just run friction for the left side. Reasoning being the limited options for sensible chainrings for touring if you're looking at road groups (I don't wanna tour on a 53-39, but I guess that's up to you). Sugino AT or the like would provide great gearing options for touring.

I'd also keep the vintage cockpit and use indexed bar end shifters, but that's just me. I'm not keen on brifters and tons of folks tour with bar ends.

But by all means, go with a modern rear drivetrain if you want lotsa gears and indexed shifting. Dual pivot brakes will also be an upgrade to braking power.
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Old 12-29-20, 11:15 PM
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Originally Posted by jPrichard10 View Post
If you want to do this, I'd suggest leave the BB, FD and crankset and just run friction for the left side. Reasoning being the limited options for sensible chainrings for touring if you're looking at road groups (I don't wanna tour on a 53-39, but I guess that's up to you). Sugino AT or the like would provide great gearing options for touring.

I'd also keep the vintage cockpit and use indexed bar end shifters, but that's just me. I'm not keen on brifters and tons of folks tour with bar ends.

But by all means, go with a modern rear drivetrain if you want lotsa gears and indexed shifting. Dual pivot brakes will also be an upgrade to braking power.
I updated my 85 Trek 620 with an ultregra long cage rear derailleur and installed a Dura-Ace 9 speed indexed bar end shifter. The front is still using the downtube shifter although I had plans to install a bar end shifter for the front as well. I have been running a 9 speed hub without resetting the frame.

I had 700C wheels installed and decided I did not like the look so went back to 27". Even picked up a misc 32 hole rim and built a powertap wheel for it. (Kind of awkward with 36 spokes in front and 32 in back). There was enough adjustment in the cantilevers that you could run 700C but it was defintely easier to set up the brakes on the 27" wheels.
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Old 12-29-20, 11:20 PM
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It really depends on how old the frames you’re trying to modify are. Both Expedition and Portage are late enough to likely have downtube shifter/cable stop mounts, which you’ll need for brifters. Both of those models use canti brakes, which you can stick with or go with v-brakes. The Portage is a 650b bike, which isn’t necessarily a problem though it’s getting harder to find 650b wheels for rim brakes if you’re upgrading. All in all, quite do-able.
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Old 12-29-20, 11:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Guyatwork37 View Post
We just like the idea of different / more gears, brifters instead of downtube shifting, etc. We both have vintage road bike and enjoy them, but want something slightly different for touring purposes. As for a LBS, I restore and sell vintage bikes, so no need to get a LBS involved for any of this.
If you already do C+V bikes, there really is no question here, may be some hunt and peck but that can be par for the course as you may well know.

I would encourage you to get after it, post haste.

Here's a couple of prime examples, converted to brifters and triples after the fact.

74 and 78 Jim Merz customs, fantastic riders to be sure.



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Old 12-29-20, 11:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Guyatwork37 View Post
My buddy and I are planning on doing a tour of Colorado this coming summer (starting and ending in the mountains, lots of climbs, camping at night, etc.). We love the look and feel of vintage steel bikes, but don't relish the thought of trying to do a mountain tour on a 10 or 12 speed with vintage components. We are toying with the idea of putting modern components (think something like Shimano 105 with a triple crank) on a vintage frame, but are unsure if it will work. I understand the rear fork spacing will need to be cold-set from 1XXmm to 130mm to accommodate a 10 - 12 speed cassette, the bottom bracket will need to be sorted out in order to accommodate a modern crankset, potentially replacing brakes for long reach if we go from a 27" to 700c tire, and possibly getting a stem adapter if we don't want to go with a quill stem, but what else am I missing? Is it even feasible? I understand the changes will cost money and time, and that's fine just trying to see if it can even be done and if worthwhile. I have a thing for Specialized bikes so I was thinking an early to mid 80s Specialized Expedition and he's British so he was looking at a Raleigh Portage. Any thoughts or insight would be great. Thank you!
Totally feasible, and honestly even poorly done I'd prefer it to anything modern. I toured for collectively about 400 days on a converted old bike, unsupported, carrying camping and cooking gear. My whole family were real dirtbags. Here are some things I would recommend:

-Keep the old crank, if it's a decent 110-74 BCD touring crank. These are easy to get chainrings for, and generally were high quality. You can swap things around and decide what gearing you like, affordably!

-Spread it to 135! It's steel. It can take it. You can do it with some lumber and a crescent wrench to realign the dropouts. I've done it for five friends, and half my family on the aforementioned tour used bikes treated this way. I've never seen a failure. Read Sheldon Brown's guide.

-Use a 135mm-spaced MTB rear hub that takes a cassette. These make the strongest rear wheel, because the axle won't be cantilevered like a freewheel hub, and the wheel can be less-aggressively dished. Also make sure the rear wheel has 36 spokes and uses a strong rim in 700c (for better tire choices and more clearance). I like the Mavic A319 or Rigida Sputnik, but there are others. Don't be afraid of a heavy wheel - you are touring. The rear wheel is the heart of a touring bike. It carries most of the rider's weight AND most of the load, AND it's dished because it's a rear. You're inviting failure if you skimp on durability in this area. I have had numerous friends come to me with freewheel hubs having broken axles over the years, just riding around town with no load, so I can't imagine what a touring load would be like. Even with a 130 spaced cassette hub, broke 18 spokes (the entire right side) and two rims (pulled out the spokes) touring with an inadequate rim. This is what I remember from Switzerland instead of the stunning views. Learn from my mistake.

-Get a bike with braze-ons! Less stuff will break if it's not clamped on. I also recommend not using vintage aluminum racks. I've broken several clamped-on Blackburn alu racks due to fatigue.

-Consider a modern rear derailleur. While an older one will work, the modern ones have a smaller chain gap and shift better over wide ranges found on modern cassettes, in my experience.

-Put a sealed bottom bracket in it. That way you only have to take the BB tool with you, not the whole complement of BB wrenches. Plus the sealed BB should be good for some time.

-Put fenders on it. You'll be somewhat drier, but a whole lot cleaner. The 700c wheels will help with giving you adequate clearance.

-Try to stay away from sidepull brakes. When they need to reach around a fender and a big tire, their performance is generally feeble. Centerpulls are a decent alternative, but cantilevers are the best in my experience.

-Consider putting modern "aero" brake levers on. They will likely increase your comfort and definitely increase your mechanical advantage.

-Consider a tall quill stem instead of a quill adapter. You may even save money. A Nitto Technomic can be had pretty darn cheaply and they're beautiful and strong. I use one on my tandem, touring with a heavy front load.

Beyond that, you can add indexed shift levers easily with a modern derailleur. I agree not to index the front, it's nothing but trouble, and in my experience, the vintage front derailleurs work better anyway.

In addition, although the Portage and the Expedition are nice bikes, I wouldn't restrict myself to those two. It may be hard to find them in the right size, and many of these '80s tourers are pretty similar. Plus, that Raleigh isn't even British! The Portage was made in Taiwan while Huffy owned Raleigh. Also it's 650b so you shouldn't change the wheel size on that one! Still get a freehub though. Here is a list of old touring frames that will work. Most have braze-ons for front low-rider and rear racks, along with cantilever brakes, with exceptions in the early years (take a look at the pics in the ads you're perusing!) :

Nishiki Cresta GT
Nishiki Riviera GT

Univega Specialissima
Univega Gran Turismo

Miyata 610
Miyata 1000

Raleigh Kodiak (careful this one is also the name for a mountain bike)
Raleigh Alyeska
Raleigh Portage (650b!!)

Schwinn Voyageur
Schwinn Voyageur SP

Fuji Touring Series IV

Panasonic Touring Deluxe
Panasonic Pro Touring

Centurion Pro Tour (this has brazed-on centerpull brakes; very cool)

Bridgestone RB-T

Trek 520
Trek 720

Shogun 2000

Originally Posted by Russ Roth View Post
Since there are decent and dependable tires for 27" I'd be less inclined to hunt around for longer reach brakes, I'd sooner get dual pivot with new pads which will stop just fine, fairly certain tektro makes one for non-recessed brake bridges. A 105, or my preference, Ultegra hubset built 36h with a Velocity a23 rim in 27" will be strong, relatively light and give a good tire profile, not really a reason to change wheels sizes in general. Sun also makes a rim, think its a cr18 that will be nearly as good for half the price and still last years.
I have to disagree. Firstly, both the bikes in question that the OP suggested have cantilever brakes (and I think this is a must for touring since it allows you to use decent sized fenders and puffy tires that will make the ride more comfortable and keep you from denting your rims as often). I have never found a bike that was originally 27" with cantilever brakes that I haven't been able to make work with 700c wheels. You may need to change the brakes, if the originals were not very adjustable, like the Dia Compe 960 "shorty" brakes or Mafacs. I like the Shimano M732 for its wide adjustment range and high quality. As long as they have some adjustment up and down for the pads, you should be fine. The advantage is that much nicer tires (lighter and foldable because of kevlar bead, more supple as is the rage these days, and dare I say cheaper) are available in 700c, and you get more room for fenders. You also will gain some mechanical advantage as the pads will be closer to the pivots.

Last edited by scarlson; 12-29-20 at 11:56 PM.
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Old 12-30-20, 03:56 AM
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Another thread where I can post pitchers










itíll have ergoís this time next week. Itís vintage has all modern parts and Iíve spent 2 trek 520ís on it at this point so Iíll let you decide if itís worth it to you
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Old 12-30-20, 05:49 AM
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Go for it. I just spread the rear triangle on my 85 Voyageur to accept a modern 130 OLD hub the other day. I have an 84 Paramount Touring built with modern (but not too modern) Ultegra. There is a thread in C&V devoted to vintage bikes using brifters with 100's of bikes. With a small amount of effort and know how, you can make it work.
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Old 12-30-20, 07:54 AM
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I converted my Ď87 Trek Pro Series 560 to 9 speed compact gearing with Tiagra brifters. No problems with shifting or brakes. However the frame has horizontal dropouts and the axle wants to shift if really putting weight in the peddles. Almost impossible to get quick release tight enough, I made restraints that hold the axle from moving, a pain if I get a flat but I avoid tire rubbing on chain stay!
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Old 12-30-20, 08:45 AM
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I have 2 Centurion Pro-tours and they are great for touring. Do a search for Pro-tours here and you will find a bunch of info. My bikes are both 3x10 with half step plus granny with a 11-36 cassette.


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Old 12-30-20, 08:50 AM
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Seems you have your rear axle problem solved but try the OG quick realease skewers that came with your Trek. They will work with your modern wheels and keep the axle in place.
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Old 12-30-20, 09:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Guyatwork37 View Post
We just like the idea of different / more gears, brifters instead of downtube shifting, etc. We both have vintage road bike and enjoy them, but want something slightly different for touring purposes. As for a LBS, I restore and sell vintage bikes, so no need to get a LBS involved for any of this.
I like the idea. I have a 1981 Fuji America that I converted to a single speed, but would love return it to its touring glory. In fact, I am doing just that, but a little differently. Building up some 650C wheels (yes - 650C) so I can fit fenders. Front will have a Dynamo Hub.

Only thing I want to do, is go to Downtube Shifters (I have both 9 and 10 speed Dura-Ace in my garage), and return this bike to what it wants to be, which is a dedicated touring bike.
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Old 12-30-20, 09:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Guyatwork37 View Post
My buddy and I are planning on doing a tour of Colorado this coming summer (starting and ending in the mountains, lots of climbs, camping at night, etc.). We love the look and feel of vintage steel bikes, but don't relish the thought of trying to do a mountain tour on a 10 or 12 speed with vintage components. We are toying with the idea of putting modern components (think something like Shimano 105 with a triple crank) on a vintage frame, but are unsure if it will work. I understand the rear fork spacing will need to be cold-set from 1XXmm to 130mm to accommodate a 10 - 12 speed cassette, the bottom bracket will need to be sorted out in order to accommodate a modern crankset, potentially replacing brakes for long reach if we go from a 27" to 700c tire, and possibly getting a stem adapter if we don't want to go with a quill stem, but what else am I missing? Is it even feasible? I understand the changes will cost money and time, and that's fine just trying to see if it can even be done and if worthwhile. I have a thing for Specialized bikes so I was thinking an early to mid 80s Specialized Expedition and he's British so he was looking at a Raleigh Portage. Any thoughts or insight would be great. Thank you!
You may be overthinking this a bit. There are three big questions: is the frame geometry suitable for touring; what kind of gearing do you want; and how large a tire volume do you want?
(1) Frame geometry: you'll be fine with most any bike but you will want to avoid racing bikes as they can't take a fat bike and likely won't handle well under a load.
(2) Gearing is easy. A 110/74 bcd triple will give you all the gearing you will need and those are easy to find (they came stock on pretty much every MTB for a long time). If you want indexed, you can run shimano bar ends or find brifters. Personally for touring, I'd lean towards indexed bar ends. They have a friction mode and they're less likely to be damaged if the bike falls.
(3) Tire volume: if you stick with a "classic" vintage touring bike, you are likely limited to a 32c tire (or a 27 x 1 and 1/4). Nothing wrong with that size tire volume. It was the standard for a long time. If you want something fatter, think about a drop bar conversion on an MTB. An old MTB will have great gearing for touring as well. This is my drop bar stumpjumper with drops and bar ends. It would make a fine touring bike with 46/36/24 chainrings and an 11-28 7 speed cassette. It can easily take 26 x 2.0 inch tires and fenders. Plus it has eyelets.

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Old 12-30-20, 10:08 AM
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One of the good things about converting a vintage MTB for touring duty is that it is likely a cheap conversion. The bike will come with a triple crank (very likely 110/74 bcd) and derailleurs suitable for touring. Tires will need to be replaced. One question is whether you want to go with drops or not. Drops are great for touring but so are the right kind of flat bars. Trekking bars are easy to install on an MTB since all the parts (brake levers, shifters) will fit on the bar. Your only costs will be the bar, tires, and consumables (plus the initial cost of the MTB) if you go this route. This is my 1992 Trek 950 set up with trekking bars.

Trekking bars solve a problem with flat bars by providing you with multiple and usable hand positions. Just think of them as a drop bar squished flat.

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Old 12-30-20, 10:13 AM
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Originally Posted by Guyatwork37 View Post
Vintage Touring Bike with Modern Components - Will it Work?

I have a thing for Specialized bikes so I was thinking an early to mid 80s Specialized Expedition and he's British so he was looking at a Raleigh Portage. Any thoughts or insight would be great. Thank you!

Its been answered, but yes itll work. Ive done a few touring builds with old frames and more modern components. By the mid-80s, frames were standardized enough to allow you to update stuff that is still used today.

If you pin yourself in with a specific bike model, it could cost you a bunch or make for other concessions like a frame that isnt in as good condition as alternatives. Just keep that in mind when looking for specific frames instead of looking for any touring frames in your size, then narrowing those down by cosmetic condition and features(brazeons, tire clearance, etc).

If you want modern drivetrains and STI, then you are pretty much stuck at the highest level with Sora 3x9 for proper touring gearing. You can combine Sora r3000 shifters with MTB rear derailleur and wide range cassette to get good gearing range.
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Old 12-30-20, 10:50 AM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
Tire volume: if you stick with a "classic" vintage touring bike, you are likely limited to a 32c tire (or a 27 x 1 and 1/4).
I've put modern 700c wheels and tires on half the bikes in my above list: Cresta, Riviera, Touring Deluxe, Voyageur SP, Specialissima, Gran Turismo, Touring Series IV. They all can take 700x38, true-to-measure (Panaracer Gravelking Slick (measures 37mm) or Compass Barlow Pass (measures 38-40mm) are the usual choice), with VO Zeppelin fenders. Nothing bigger would comfortably fit, except in rare cases (the Nishiki Cresta fit a 42 in back with a perfect fenderline). Sometimes, I have to fight for clearance under the fork crown. This is easily done, shortening the daruma bolt and using a recessed nut to mount the fender with less intrusion into where the tire is. If the bike has horizontal dropouts, you may need to soften, but not fully deflate, the rear tire to remove it, on certain models.
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Old 12-30-20, 10:59 AM
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Originally Posted by scarlson View Post
I've put modern 700c wheels and tires on half the bikes in my above list: Cresta, Riviera, Touring Deluxe, Voyageur SP, Specialissima, Gran Turismo, Touring Series IV. They all can take 700x38, true-to-measure (Panaracer Gravelking Slick or Compass Barlow Pass are the usual choice), with VO Zeppelin fenders. Nothing bigger would comfortably fit, except in rare cases (the Nishiki Cresta fit a 42 in back with a perfect fenderline). Sometimes, I have to fight for clearance under the fork crown. This is easily done, shortening the daruma bolt and using a recessed nut to mount the fender with less intrusion into where the tire is. If the bike has horizontal dropouts, you may need to soften, but not fully deflate, the rear tire to remove it, on certain models.

Most of these bikes were not originally designed to fit this large a tire but good to know that by moving to 700c (I suspect many of these models were originally designed for 27 inch wheels) you can fit a 35c-38c on many (but not all) vintage touring bikes. A vintage MTB obviously gives you a larger tire volume with more clearance for fenders which may matter if you like riding on gravel roads. I do.

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Old 12-30-20, 11:29 AM
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I think these sorts of conversions are very feasible and worthwhile. If you like riding that particular frame and to not want to mess with adapting to a different one, this conversion should just make a known good bike into a surprisingly better one. You should have the frames cold-set to accept a 130 wheel. It might also be good to have the headset bearings overhauled in case there has been a lot of bad weather riding. I'd do the headset and the cold-setting because as you're out on the road, many little problems can make you want to r/r the rear wheel. If that and any other service motions are easy, it will all be more pleasant. The headset is just because you will be away from town for a while, and to start with a dependable machine gives peace of mind, and you will be better prepared. I had cold setting done in Denver (west suburbs area) at Schwab Cycles a number of years ago, and it was perfectly done. There's also Turin Bicycle Coop, but those both are companies that have a lot of experience. I believe Denver has a touring club, or perhaps its called Rocky Mountain Bicycle Touring Club.

I find Campagnolo 3 x 10 to be very reliable and robust, but I would not say that Shimano or even Microshift systems will not go the distance. A shop in Boulder, Vecchio's, is one of the best experts in Campy, anywhere in the USA. If they tell you it's a bad idea, it's a bad idea.

I would go 3x10, Shimano or Campy. I would try to set up a 50/40/30 chainset, with the widest cassette the derailleurs can handle. I think it's more important to have the lowest possible low gears than the highest high., though I would want to have a top in the 95 to 110 range. But also good brakes since I would imagine screaming down mountains from time to time. Off the shelf I'd look for 12/36. If you can only handle that with Shimano, then make the rest of the system Shimano. I would not play games with mixing shifter system brands (like Shimergnolo or such). For nearly all Campy systems, you can mix levels, unlike some Shimano (I'm not very experienced with Shimano, but I've learned to trust Campagnolo). One selection criterion is, for which system do you have confidence in managing on-road maintenance or adjustments?

You will need a 130 mm 10 or more speed hub depending how you set things up. If you are good with wheels and spokes, I'd build a new hub into the existing rim, if it is not toast.

As far as saddle, pedals, seatpost, stem and handlebars, I think it's all very dependent on taste and habit.

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Old 12-30-20, 11:37 AM
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One thing I’ll add is that a Jtek shiftmate or Wolftooth tanpan can be used to get modern road shifters and MTB rear derailleurs working well together. That’ll further open up gearing options if needed. Start there - determine desired gear range - and work backwards to your components.

I built this bike with a very low gear for carrying a load up off road climbs. Gearing is 46/30 SunXCD ramped and pinned chainrings on a 49d crankset, 11-42 XT 11sp cassette on a Dura Ace 9000 rear hub. Ultegra 8000 series STI levers and front derailleur, XTR M9000 rear derailleur with the appropriate Jtek shiftmate to make it work. I’m very happy with this setup.



Please keep us updated as you work through the build!
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