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What were some of the common 'trick' modifications to road bikes back in the 70s/80s?

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What were some of the common 'trick' modifications to road bikes back in the 70s/80s?

Old 12-27-23, 05:14 AM
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I figured id share some of the stuff that was done around here during soviet times that i have found and heard from the old timers.

Ill start with the most common ones-
Toy car tire cut in half as something that kept the hub shell clean.
Blue electrician tape used as handlebar wrap, on rare occasions seen red also.
Forks and frames being chromed.
Derailleur hanger stops ground/filed deeper for more chain wrap.
"aero" brake levers made from normal levers by drilling, cable stop usually was the face of the lever.
Bikes painted like something from the west. Red with a chrome fork was very popular most likely due to our top racers having red colnagos.
Everybody wanted the plastic saddles.
Common cyclocross mods were widened/bent dropbars, custom made smaller front chainrings and massive dork discs. Also heard somebody repairing/improving cyclocross tubulars by sewing a track tubular inside it.
Seen some drillium also, but more rare than you would expect.
Any western parts.
Rare mods-
Heavily modified frames with internal routing for time trials, had one guy describe what he built in great detail, sadly he only had the rear disc wheel left from it. Lopro design.
Fork mounted handlebars.
Custom hubs, headsets, bottom brackets.
Titanium parts.
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Old 12-27-23, 05:50 AM
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Originally Posted by bulgie
I started to write "I hate..." but that's too strong, for how I feel about amateur drillium where the holes aren't equally spaced or in a straight line. Not hate, but it ruins the part or even the whole bike, for me.
Originally Posted by repechage
I agree, but there are exceptions, some of the 1960’s pro’s bikes had drilling that was eyeballed, no rotary table, a certain charm that can very quickly drift to careless.
When I read bulgies's my first thought was I love the look of many of these drilled parts, but the crude attempts are just horrible. Then I thought about how the early adopters just likely went after the parts with a drill to remove material without thoughts to aesthetics. Someone along the line I guess had to decide that if it was going to be done, it should at least look good.

My favorite examples I see people post are the ones where the holes are perfectly spaced and chamfered. I don't own anything where drillium would be appropriate for, but I sure think it looks wonderful when done well.
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Old 12-27-23, 07:09 AM
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Originally Posted by bulgie
here's a treasure trove of Frank Spivey parts and drilling jig pictures, on Chuck Schmidt's Velo Retro site:
Velo-Retro: Peter Johnson
Of course the Peter Johnson frame is to die for also.
I think Spivey went too aggressive. The master a bit later I think was Art Stump. Was $25 to have the cranks worked over by him. He complained about Campagnolo, accurate where they needed to be but loose elsewhere.
His big gripe was the chainrings, the punched out “kidneys” in the chainrings would require a repositioning of the rotary table center between the five segments. One could not tell afterward, he was talented.
the seatposts he did got a bit busy, the Super Record headsets were just flourish.
‘I had him do a simple flute milling on my Campagnolo seatpost, still have it on the bike.
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Old 12-27-23, 07:16 AM
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Have we mentioned the "Mexico treatment" for Campy cranks yet?
I don't know the true history of this method of taking metal off of the Campy cranks, but my understanding is that is based on what was done for Eddy's hour record bike.

Here's a shot of the Campy cranks on my '82 Olmo....



The main modifications are the slots in the spider arms, and the thinning and rounding of the crank arm cross section.
Of course, the anodization is gone, so they do need to be polished periodically to really get them to shine.

Steve in Peoria
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Old 12-27-23, 12:56 PM
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Drillium is often brought up today but really wasn't common. It 'went through' fad.

That said, the thread title was inclined toward 'trick' mods. Have personally done some drillium but also to mention where shedding minuscule grams was fairly easy and quick. That being in steel freewheel cogs.
Remove freewheel and cogs.
Simple holding jig consist of a wooden board and two screws not fully in. The screws are spread just enough between width of the cogs teeth.
Clamp the jig / board to a drill press table.
Determine desired size of hole and spacing/ consider first drilling a pilot hole.
Manually hold the individual cog by a pliers.
Drill, baby, drill-
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Old 12-27-23, 04:45 PM
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Originally Posted by repechage
I think Spivey went too aggressive. The master a bit later I think was Art Stump.
I hardly knew Bud (Art Stump), only visited twice in the '70s, but I loved his work and he was so nice to me. He gave me a lot of pointers (I was an apprentice framebuilder at the time), took the time to show me everything from his jig and frame assembly process, to the parts that he cast or machined, to his side projects like a Stanley Steamer and a very old horse-drawn carriage he was restoring, super fancy like for an aristocrat. He was casting brass decorative brackets and such that were missing to put it back to completely like new. Maybe for a movie company? (If I asked at the time, I don't remember now.)

I used Stump dropouts on the first 3 frames I made for myself, wish I still had those frames but I sold them one at a time in my early 20s when I was too poor to pay rent.

Here's a modest sample pic of how crazy that guy went on making a "special" bike:


Not all his bikes were quite so over-the-top.

Me, I don't like seatpost flutes that go down into the frame, channels for rain and road grit to get into the frame/post interface. I guess like with most SoCal bikies, rain was not much on his mind...

I saw a Davidson once where the flutes were different lengths at the bottom to match the swoop at the top of the seat lug, all stopping few mm away from the frame.
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Old 12-27-23, 05:06 PM
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Originally Posted by bulgie
I hardly knew Bud (Art Stump), only visited twice in the '70s, but I loved his work and he was so nice to me. He gave me a lot of pointers (I was an apprentice framebuilder at the time), took the time to show me everything from his jig and frame assembly process, to the parts that he cast or machined, to his side projects like a Stanley Steamer and a very old horse-drawn carriage he was restoring, super fancy like for an aristocrat. He was casting brass decorative brackets and such that were missing to put it back to completely like new. Maybe for a movie company? (If I asked at the time, I don't remember now.)

I used Stump dropouts on the first 3 frames I made for myself, wish I still had those frames but I sold them one at a time in my early 20s when I was too poor to pay rent.

Here's a modest sample pic of how crazy that guy went on making a "special" bike:


Not all his bikes were quite so over-the-top.

Me, I don't like seatpost flutes that go down into the frame, channels for rain and road grit to get into the frame/post interface. I guess like with most SoCal bikies, rain was not much on his mind...

I saw a Davidson once where the flutes were different lengths at the bottom to match the swoop at the top of the seat lug, all stopping few mm away from the frame.


Great insight on the SP fluting and I fully agree, the ones that go below the lug have always screamed amateur/production hack to me, an egregious faux pas even before you consider water intrusion.

Never seen a custom fluted one that matched the SL but that would be perfect and could still be done high enough to leave wiggle room before they went into the lug.
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Old 12-27-23, 05:56 PM
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Originally Posted by merziac
Never seen a custom fluted one that matched the SL but that would be perfect and could still be done high enough to leave wiggle room before they went into the lug.
Yeah but to be perfect, there's no wiggle room because the amount of post below the flutes has to match the amount above them. Or else get outta town. Sorry, I don't make the rules!
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Old 12-27-23, 06:02 PM
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Originally Posted by bulgie
Yeah but to be perfect, there's no wiggle room because the amount of post below the flutes has to match the amount above them. Or else get outta town. Sorry, I don't make the rules!
Agreed, no worries, what I'm saying is the lower end of the flutes could match the lug profile even if there was a bit of space between without the flutes being in the ST, maybe no more that 10-15mm below the flutes for micro adjustment of the SP up or down.
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Old 12-27-23, 07:06 PM
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Had there been bar tape under the tree, we'd be looking at a picture of the whole bike. Arghhh... This is a 1973 Shorter time trial bike from the UK. Very much like the one Alf Engers ("king alf") rode during his career. The first person to go below 50 minutes in a 25 mile time trial.

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Old 12-27-23, 08:22 PM
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Originally Posted by bulgie
I hardly knew Bud (Art Stump), only visited twice in the '70s, but I loved his work and he was so nice to me. .....

Here's a modest sample pic of how crazy that guy went on making a "special" bike:


Not all his bikes were quite so over-the-top.
Boy, I've got a Hetchins Magnum Opus with curly stays, and I'm still thinking "that bike is just too much..."

But.. I do like that arrangement for the brake's straddle cable. The dual pulleys might be hard to implement, but I like the idea of getting the hangar for the straddle cable located out where you can access it. It seems like other bikes with the Hellenic stays like to put the hanger immediately in front of the seat tube. That seems like it is fairly constrained and requires you to get everything positioned just right in order for it to work out. Maybe not?? ... but at a glance, that's the feeling I get.
Nice that some of that creativity got channeled into a practical detail.

Steve in Peoria
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Old 12-29-23, 03:17 AM
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Originally Posted by bulgie
Cool bike! Speedwell?
How's it ride?
Remind me, was it a Speedwell badged as Motobecane that Ocaña used (for at least some stages) the year he won TdF?
My Speedwell is nice to look at and smooth when on a line—the ti fork sucks up the road—but not really confidence-inducing. Keep in mind that I’m 200+ pounds. The frame has eyelets but the one time I tried to ride it with racks and loaded panniers was the last time. It’s fun and comfortable to ride but it’s not a great descender and I hesitate to try a full-out sprint. My first race bike was a Vitus 979, and I enjoy a bit of flex, but this is another level. Ocana complained about the Speedwell’s feel on descents, too.

Originally Posted by seagrade
Another passing observation is that both dddd ’s and Luis Ocana’s Speedwells appear to have the rear wheel axle set more or less in line with the seatstays, and have similar-sized tubulars, although Ocana’s frame looks like it has several cms less clearance behind the seat tube. Both bicycles have good clearance below the fork crown and brake bridge.

Perhaps Ocana had a custom frame built to his personal specification.
You’re right about the clearance. Lots of room under the fork and below rear brake bridge (mine originally came with a drop bolt when I found it). Limiting area is the chain stays. 25mm are tight on mine. Pictured below with some skinny 21mms I had on hand.

Back to the topic at hand, I built my Speedwell with a few other weight weenie touches (some previously mentioned above): Bullseye pulleys, Regina hollow-pin chain, lightweight Cyclone mechs, Weyless pedals, alloy-railed Ideale saddle, O.M.A.S. Ti BB, 3ttt superleggera bars, alloy toe clips, Hi-E hubs, Robergel Trois Etoiles spokes, Record du Monde (front) rim. I’ve since added Hi-E bottle cages.

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Old 12-29-23, 10:55 AM
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When I was a teenager, my bike was a 1975 Raleigh Gran Sport, a fairly light bike. I met a guy in Central Park who urged me to upgrade to tubular wheels and tires. He said they would make my bike "stiffer." I followed his advice, found some wheels from a Viscount Aerospace Pro, and lived the tubular life. American Youth Hostels had an office in Manhattan and offered a seminar on the care and feeding of the tires, and that proved useful. Looking back at all the labor it involved, it seems pretty crazy, but it was a good way to get lightweight wheels, and they did transform the bike.
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Old 12-29-23, 11:05 AM
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Back in the 70’s always had a needle and thread for the emergency tire repair… I was too broke to afford a spare… More than once I had to do a roadside locate the leak, cut the stitching, pull the tube, patch, sew back up, stick it back on, pump it up and pray…… It was, what it was…
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Old 12-29-23, 02:35 PM
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Originally Posted by steelbikeguy
I do like that arrangement for the brake's straddle cable. The dual pulleys might be hard to implement, but I like the idea of getting the hangar for the straddle cable located out where you can access it. It seems like other bikes with the Hellenic stays like to put the hanger immediately in front of the seat tube.
Here are a few other variations on the theme:

A Trek supposedly built by one of their builders for himself.


An Argos (England) with elbow macaroni instead of rollers.


And probably my favorite, a Routens with the brake cable piercing through the seat tube below the seatpost.


Sorry for straying so far off the original subject of this thread.

-Mark B
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Old 12-29-23, 02:55 PM
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@bulgie - obviously the extended rear straddle cables work, but being aware how adjusting the straddle cable on a Mafac brake changes the feel of the brake, I wonder if it is really acceptable.
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Old 12-29-23, 04:05 PM
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Originally Posted by bulgie
Here are a few other variations on the theme:

A Trek supposedly built by one of their builders for himself.

An Argos (England) with elbow macaroni instead of rollers.

And probably my favorite, a Routens with the brake cable piercing through the seat tube below the seatpost.

Sorry for straying so far off the original subject of this thread.

-Mark B
That non-standard Trek and the Argos both look like good solutions to me!
I might be too practical, but running cables through the seat tube always seemed like something done to look good, but imposed some inconveniences on the user. Does the user just cut the post short and avoid having the cable go through it?

Still... it is distinctive and does have its charms.
Looking through my photos from a couple of Classic Rendezvous gatherings, I found one Jo Routens and one Charrel with this arrangment. The Routens was displayed by Mr. Della Rossa, and it was beautiful! The rest of the pics are on Flickr.





The desire to run cables through frame tubes might come under the heading of "stuff done to reduce weight", so perhaps it's not completely off topic?

Steve in Peoria
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Old 12-29-23, 04:16 PM
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Originally Posted by repechage
@bulgie - obviously the extended rear straddle cables work, but being aware how adjusting the straddle cable on a Mafac brake changes the feel of the brake, I wonder if it is really acceptable.
Not acceptable with a low-profile (narrow) canti, but fine with Mafac or other wide cantis. Mafac isn't all that sensitive to straddle length, although the effect gets more pronounced when the straddle is very short. But between medium and long, not really noticable. Plus it's only a rear brake — almost any brake will be able to lock up the rear wheel, so more power than that isn't really a plus. I often adjust my rear brake to a lower leverage than the the front.

Mafac always intended these brakes to have long straddles anyway, going by their ads.
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Old 12-29-23, 04:37 PM
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steelbikeguy -

so they are long and historically endorsed.

classic rendezvous gatherings, in the telephoto rear view mirror now.
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Old 12-31-23, 05:06 PM
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This guy's cable routing is ahead of its time. looks like a milled out head tube and some pretty extreme drillium.


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Old 01-01-24, 09:43 AM
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What I find interesting here are Universal brakes in the Colnago era for Eddy. Note the drillium is not machine shop grade. White tape. Short cable arcs. Should note Campagnolo levers.
from An eBay listing.


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Old 01-01-24, 02:27 PM
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I can't believe no one has opined on the performance increases provided by installing these babies.

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Old 01-01-24, 02:29 PM
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Originally Posted by GeezyRider
I can't believe no one has opined on the performance increases provided by installing these babies.

They do help in finding the sweet spot for drafting, which can be tricky for echelon angle in a crosswind.
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Old 01-01-24, 02:42 PM
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Originally Posted by bulgie
They do help in finding the sweet spot for drafting, which can be tricky for echelon angle in a crosswind.
Absolutely! Have you ever seen an America's Cup racing yacht that did not have these on their sails? Monitoring apparent wind on a sailboat as well as on a bicycle is crucial.
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Old 01-02-24, 01:07 PM
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Originally Posted by repechage
What I find interesting here are Universal brakes in the Colnago era for Eddy. Note the drillium is not machine shop grade. Whie tape. Short cable arcs. Should note Campagnolo levers.
from An eBay listing.
[pic of some has-been snipped]

Note panel-ectomy on the nearside rear door.
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