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Lightest steel that accepts wider tires?

Old 07-31-21, 07:19 AM
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RH Clark
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Lightest steel that accepts wider tires?

I have acquired a love for steel bikes. I mostly ride a Surly LHT, Trek 400, Lemond in 853 and a Miyata 610. I would love to own a light weight steel bike that would accept at least 32mm tires. Unfortunately my budget won't allow for a new purchase. Were there any older high end frames of light steel that accepted wider tires? I have been able to locate a few local bikes in 853 but nothing so far that accepts anything wider than 25mm or possibly 28mm tires. Any model names you guys could give me to be on the look out for would be greatly appreciated. It doesn't have to be an 853 steel bike but I would love to be right in the 20 lb range for a complete 58cm-60cm bike. Possibly a pipe dream but I thought I would ask.

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Old 07-31-21, 07:43 AM
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that's an interesting question!
I've got a 1987 Hetchins made with 531C that I recently put some 25mm Continental Grand Prix Classic tires on, and they barely fit. Maybe a mm or two between the tire and brakes?

That prompted me to look at my 753 Raleigh Team, circa 1982, and it is the same situation. Both bikes use Campy short reach brakes and the brake pads are at the top of the slots.
Of course, this was the era when fast bikes had the tightest clearances possible. I'm not sure when that went out of style... possibly after carbon bikes became relatively common?

One of the few options I can think of would be to look for a bike that isn't intended to be a criterium racer, such as a cyclo-cross bike. Of course, that means you end up with cantilever brakes and weird cable routing.
The other option would be to find a bike that pre-dated tight clearances. The only one that comes to mind is the Sekai 5000 frameset. This was built with some very thin gauge tubing. To my knowledge, these weren't widely available, so finding one could be a challenge.
edit: I see that the article mentions tight clearances, so getting even a 25mm tire installed might be a challenge.
Attached is a magazine review of the frame....







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Old 07-31-21, 08:02 AM
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I've been working on my Rocky Mountain Sherpa 30 made of 853, this will handle Big Apple or Fat Franks.
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Old 07-31-21, 08:37 AM
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Perhaps a 650B conversion may give you the widest options for bike selection in combo with wider tires. Some bikes are better candidates than others. I remember seeing a Lemond Buenos Aires(max tire, stock bike would be a 28mm I think) somewhere that had a 650b conversion done..it was running 38-40mm tires I think..been a while. Looked good, as I remember.

Do a search here on BF for "650b conversion" in thread titles..you'll get lots of hits.
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Old 07-31-21, 08:58 AM
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My mid 90's Colnago Master Olympic takes 28 mm tyres easily. Never tried anything bigger, but quite sure you could fit 30 or possibly even 32 mm tyres without issue.
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Old 07-31-21, 09:00 AM
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What's "wide" to you? Some think 28mm wide tires are wide, others want to go >2 inches.

Overlooked (because they're harder to find) are older, low volume English framebuiders, such as Gillott and Ephgrave. I pick these two as I've done 650b conversions with them, 42mm wide tires as the goal (met). On both of these frames I have no idea what frame tubing was used, but clearly they picked some of the lightest tubing available at the time. 650b conversions are a great way to fit wider tires into vintage frames.

Note that a frame that weights a half pound lighter won't make much difference at all from a heavier one just on weight itself - drink a third of a full water bottlee and you've lost half a pound. The frame, however, will be much more lively and compliant due to thinner wall tubing.
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Old 07-31-21, 09:02 AM
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Originally Posted by RH Clark View Post
Were there any older high end frames of light steel that accepted wider tires?
Check out this: Sport Tourer hall of fame

Old bikes generally don't have room for tires wider than 35- but 32 is usually doable. Tourers are generally going to be heavier- as they're meant to carry loads. Sport tourers generally are heavier because they're generally meantto be "less expensive" bikes. HOWEVER... there were sport tourers that had premium tube sets, as well as room for 32s- and sometimes premium components. The ones that kind of jump out are the 83-ish Trek 700 and Specialized Sequoia. In addtion- they're generally good candidates for conversion to 650B wheels.
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Old 07-31-21, 09:11 AM
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Originally Posted by The Golden Boy View Post
Old bikes generally don't have room for tires wider than 35- but 32 is usually doable.
This. I have been able to comfortably run 700c x 32 on my 1978 Schwinn Volare, '79 Raleigh Comp GS, and '71 Schwinn Paramount. Small sample size, but 100% success rate, so if that's what you're aiming for you may find it less troublesome than you expect.
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Old 07-31-21, 09:16 AM
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Get a frame originally made for 27" wheels and convert to 650. You should be able to put some big uns on there then. Really, though you're only gonna get so much weight savings on the frame. Putting some big a$$ tires on will negate the savings some. You'll need to weight weenie your components. Also, I believe the frame companies start beefing up the frames in the 58-60 range.

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Old 07-31-21, 09:28 AM
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I think Vitus made some light frames. I think they also had a reputation for being noodly. Someone with more knowledge can elaborate.
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Old 07-31-21, 09:37 AM
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My 1970's Paramount P10-9 barely fits 32-630 Paselas. But tubulars were a factory option so the brakes are set right between 630 and 622. Therefore it would have no trouble with 32-622, 35-622 might be pushing it at the chain stays. Full 531 and it rides sublime.

(But it does not have bottle bosses, chain hanger, pump peg that you get on an 80's bike. And the brakes and shifting are poor.)

To get that sublime ride you need at least a chromoly and preferably a branded-tubing fork, and it needs to be roadie-spec. It needs to flex. If you went to a drop bar MTB, you need the big tires... a MTB fork is stiff as hell
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Old 07-31-21, 09:38 AM
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finding older bikes that take 32c is easy. In fact here is a long thread on that

Show your classic sports touring bicycle

But by and large most vintage bikes will be north of 20 lbs once you build it up. That's an aggressive weight for an older bike that you are not likely to hit if the bike is made of Reynolds 531, columbus SL/SP, or any of the good Japanese chrome moly tubing sets (Ishiwata, Tange).

Super vitus 980 built up a nice light bike and you could try your hand at a 650b conversion but finding an appropriate frame for a 650b conversion is another story.
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Old 07-31-21, 09:40 AM
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Originally Posted by fishboat View Post
Perhaps a 650B conversion may give you the widest options for bike selection in combo with wider tires. Some bikes are better candidates than others. I remember seeing a Lemond Buenos Aires(max tire, stock bike would be a 28mm I think) somewhere that had a 650b conversion done..it was running 38-40mm tires I think..been a while. Looked good, as I remember.

Do a search here on BF for "650b conversion" in thread titles..you'll get lots of hits.
This ^, particularly since you already have the bike in hand. Here's mine and my buddy's Lemond Buenos Aires 650B x 38mm builds. We both had to dimple the chainstays a bit, but was able to do that with my bench vise.

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Old 07-31-21, 10:16 AM
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I'll also point out, since this is C&V, that a lot of adds-lightness tricks are not C&V, but can go on a C&V frame if you want. And/or can also make for a better experience and keep you from shopping in other peoples' parts bins. A 105 R7000 crankset & bb saves >100 grams over Nuovo Record, and it's hardly the lightest thing you can find. It also gives you shift ramps and pins and a lower front gear, and you can buy a matching power meter. Spreading the rear for a 130mm freehub might not do anything for the weight but lets you have any of today's cassettes... which shift better even on friction. While you are at it 622 (700c) rims and tires are an easy win, most of the time. Velocity will sell you some nice ones, and they can be tubeless if you want. I haven't undertaken this project on my Paramount because, hey, it's a Paramount. But if I had something more mass-manufactured like many many 1980's Taiwanese bikes, I wouldn't hesitate so much. I did a Shimergo conversion on my Expert TG and it's been pretty great.
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Old 07-31-21, 10:19 AM
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Thanks' guys. I should have specified on tire size closer before. I have a Marlin 5 for my wider tire needs. My Trek 400 currently has 32's on it and I like it a lot. I wish it was 5 lbs lighter .I have my Miyata set up with the original 27x1-1/4 as well as a 700c set with 38's. Anyway,I really like the 38's on my Miyata which got me thinking how great it would be to have a bike as light as my Lemond, currently 18lbs, but still be able to take up to a 32 and optimistically, maybe a 35mm.

Honestly, I feel pretty blessed to have some really nice bikes that I bought real cheap but I can't help thinking about the next one.
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Old 07-31-21, 11:17 AM
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Originally Posted by RH Clark View Post
My Trek 400 currently has 32's on it and I like it a lot. I wish it was 5 lbs lighter .
You're not saving 5 pounds on a steel frame. A decent steel frame is around 6 pounds. If you've got a stock build on that Trek 400, you can save a lot on your build.
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Old 07-31-21, 11:26 AM
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total bike weight bike weight is overrated so a large degree. sure difference between 30 and 20 is noticable but 22 and 20??

any way I can fit a 30mm corsa control tubular in my 85 team miyata, run 28 easily with both it and my 84 team miyata.

another thing to look at is wheelset.... a lighter wheelset can make an amazing difference. I see this with the difference between a mavic gel 330 tubular set and a mavic ma40 clincher on the 84 miyata. so consider going tubular

good luck
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Old 07-31-21, 11:42 AM
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Originally Posted by The Golden Boy View Post
You're not saving 5 pounds on a steel frame. A decent steel frame is around 6 pounds. If you've got a stock build on that Trek 400, you can save a lot on your build.
This: It is impossible to save 5 pounds on a steel bike by changing to a lighter frame. Don't forget as well that the wider the tire the more it weighs unless you can find very lightweight wide tires. Steel bikes that weigh under 20 pounds have to use the lightest weight components possible
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Old 07-31-21, 12:11 PM
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+1 on considering a 650B conversion. Pretty straightforward way to get ~38mm tires into just about any C&V frame.

18 lbs is optimistic, but low 20s is fairly easy to accomplish without resorting to anything expensive and/or stupid.

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Old 07-31-21, 12:28 PM
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Originally Posted by seypat View Post
Get a frame originally made for 27" wheels and convert to 650...
Or even 700c, if 32mm is sufficient.
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Old 07-31-21, 03:35 PM
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My 1980 Peugeot PKN-10, now my son's kiddie puller, takes up to 700Cx35 tires. This was one of its more endearing features, and I would have kept it if it had been one size smaller.

My old PKN-10, now my son's kiddie-puller, although the boys are getting big for the trailer now.
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Old 07-31-21, 05:01 PM
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Find a racing frame from before 1980 built with Reynolds 531 or equivalent. It will most probably take 700x32C. Build it with lightweight parts and decent tires and you'll have a wonderful bike, weighing 22-24 lbs. Maybe a bit less if you choose tubulars.

I once managed to get a fendered 25" bike with clinchers down to 10 kgs (~22 lbs) without breaking the bank, but that was pushing it:

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Old 07-31-21, 05:55 PM
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Originally Posted by gugie View Post
What's "wide" to you? Some think 28mm wide tires are wide, others want to go >2 inches.

Overlooked (because they're harder to find) are older, low volume English framebuiders, such as Gillott and Ephgrave. I pick these two as I've done 650b conversions with them, 42mm wide tires as the goal (met). On both of these frames I have no idea what frame tubing was used, but clearly they picked some of the lightest tubing available at the time. 650b conversions are a great way to fit wider tires into vintage frames.

Note that a frame that weights a half pound lighter won't make much difference at all from a heavier one just on weight itself - drink a third of a full water bottlee and you've lost half a pound. The frame, however, will be much more lively and compliant due to thinner wall tubing.
There are some nice older British bikes that might work for you. The Gillot and Ephgrave Mark mentioned are top quality and would command a premium price. However there were many builders in the UK during the classic period (when I was traveling around England in the early 70's looking for someone to teach me, my address book contained well over 100). Many of them are not well known and as a result have a lower value today even though some are high quality. I learned at Ellis Briggs in Shipley West Yorkshire (part of the Bradford/Leeds metropolitan area). That area just wasn't a tourist place so builders in that vicinity don't get as much love as they deserve.

British Bicycles made in the classic era had to be all around useful. They were primary individual transportation and had to have clearance for mudguards. Longer chain stays and center pull brake clearance provides a lot more room for fatter tires. Italian bikes were and are full on road racing machines so there isn't much point in considering those. Somewhere in the late 70's Campy went from making 47/57 mm brakes to 40/50 (or 39/49 if they are made in Japan). That kind of brake clearance is not helpful for fatter tires. And to make things worse brake clearance distance usually put the brake blocks at the top of the slot. Americans wanted go fast bikes so most of them are out of consideration. However Trek did make some steel sport touring frames that can easily handle 32s.

One option for those not on a tight budget and want light steel combined with fatter tire clearance is to make the frame yourself. For most people that would require taking a frame building class. I've had lots of students that have made a frame with that combination. How much I need to help them depends on their natural skill and their future plans. Rene Herse sells light tubing and frame materials just for that purpose. I'm going to emphasize what gugie wrote that a light tubed frame has a lively feel that standard double butted tubing does not.

I just made a bicycle for my wife out of the Kaisai light tubing with angled chain stays that work well for 650B X 42 tires. This one is for MUT riding. She has other bikes for other purposes. It rides like a dream. I'll attach a picture.
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Old 07-31-21, 06:17 PM
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My '69 PX-10 had 32mm Tufo cyclocross knobbies on it for a while with plenty of clearance. Surprisingly light but never weighed it.
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Old 07-31-21, 06:29 PM
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I am not sure if my 1982 Bianchi would qualify as light but I do know for sure that 32s will fit just barely.

I keep the Bianchi in Jamaica and when my original tires failed, The bike shop in Black River had a set of 23s but, try as I could, I could not get them to fit on the rims. The front one was a struggle to mount and, finally, I gave up on trying to do the rear.

I ordered a set of 28s (what I already had on the bike), however; a set of 32s arrived. I told the bike shop guy, a friend, that I would see if they fit. The set set me back $26.00 US. Well, they did fit (just barely clearing the chain stays) and I love them. In fact, these days I always opt for bigger tires thanks to what I learned from this experience...

Getting that 23 mounted was really really hard to do...


So, I went with the 32s and wow - bigger is better..!
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