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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 12-21-23, 07:16 PM
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What were some of the common 'trick' modifications to road bikes back in the 70s/80s?

Hey all!

As I am walking a fine line between trying to reduce the weight AND maintain some some semblence of 'period correct' for some of my vintage road bikes, I'd like to know more about what period changes or modifications were common or typical of race bikes, back when they were raced as new/nearly new.

Off-topic example: my dad used to have a 1969 Yamaha AT-1 enduro 125cc motorcycle when he was younger. Living in Southern California, he did all sorts of local racing back in the early 1970s. In order to make the bike more competitive, he modified the frame using a frame lowering kit that brought the engine down and improved the center of gravity, gave it a lighter weight flywheel, changed the fenders to alloy MX, a lighter exhaust pipe, etc. Possibly other modifications, like removing excess hardware not essential to racing. Bike was considered 'trick', and looked a lot like this one:






What would be the equivalent in the 'vintage road bike' world? I've seen lots of examples of drillium, so I know that was a thing. What else? I've heard of 'race day' mods like removing the hub grease and just using oil in the center port. What about part replacement? What types of parts and materials were swapped out? Was titanium even a thing back in the 1970s? What type of changes were made to the cutting edge legit TdF bikes from yesteryear? Or track bikes? I've seen that Panasonic with the exposed ball bearings in a bike article.

I'd like to make some changes, but it would be kinda cool if they were also period correct if possible.

We've got a host of forum members that were involved in either racing or bicycle mechanics from this era, and your thoughts and stories on this topic, as well as any pictorial examples, would prove highly interesting! Thanks!
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Old 12-21-23, 08:16 PM
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I do think that Ti was a thing at least in the early eighties as there was a roadie in my area who ran a Ti BB spindle with his Super Record set-up. Bullseye Pulleys were another thing that showed up on some road bikes. I was too broke to afford any fun mods back then, and just keeping the bike on good sew-ups was enough of an expense..

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Old 12-21-23, 08:25 PM
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Old 12-21-23, 08:27 PM
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Titanium was in use to a limited degree with Campagnolo but they were limited, expensive and prone to fatigue cracks, Teledyne had a titanium frame road bike in and around 1973 -75 for instance, Bullseye alloy pulleys became a bit of a status part though not really any lighter but the anodized red finish added some bling. Lighter tubular tires of course.

There were not really any advances then that finally became available into the 1980's and beyond to truly reduce weight without losing strength and ultimately reliability. Using the best and lightest parts and thin wall tubing a road bike back then could weigh under 20 pounds which is still quite good.
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Old 12-21-23, 08:34 PM
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Top of the list was a race set of 'sprint's (aka: tubulars). Preference of silk$. Butted thin spokes, low count, many choices in weight weenie rims, alloy nipples.

Fasteners from Omas and Arnold Industries. The crank and stem bolt replacements in either titanium or aluminum alloy required first tightening the component with the steel bolt, then remove, install the lightweight goodies.

Also, lightweight CLB aluminum cables of which sacrificed or countered brake performance.
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Old 12-21-23, 09:29 PM
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I can’t speak for the 1970s but in the 1980s…

- Cinelli 1/a steel expander bolt replaced with aluminium from 1/r
- short piece of dowelling into fork steerer to supposedly reduce brake shudder and/or for crown/steerer failure contingency
- Ill-advised tubular selection including Clement Campionissimo Seta Extra and Nuovo Super Seta Extra for road races on sketchy roads
- seat post cut short for minimum insertion into frame
- 2/3/4/5cm cut off end of handlebar drops
- aluminium crank arm attachment bolts requiring initial steel bolts to tighten before substitution
- Keywin pedals were everywhere in New Zealand in the mid-1980s, probably half the weight of Campagnolo Superleggera
- Modolo Kronos plastic time trial brake levers used on road bicycles. They were almost purely decorative.
- Ofmega Mistral plastic rear changers and shift levers.
- very occasionally a steel fork replaced with a Vitus 979 or SR Litage aluminium fork, although Alan/Vitus aluminium/Carbonio/Carbone 3 and 9 frames were pretty common.

By the 1980s there was only so much left to do because racing bicycles had largely evolved down to the bare minimum needed for functionality by then.

I did hear of racers removing a few loose bearings each from headsets, hubs and bottom brackets but never saw it first hand.

Good times.
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Old 12-21-23, 09:55 PM
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I raced in the late '70s. We considered light weight stuff something to stay away from. Now, wheels were a different story. We all wanted the lightest rims and tires that 1) we could afford and 2) would reliably get us to the finish. Everyone rode tubulars, at least while racing. I had race wheels and training wheels light enough to club race and serve as spares in the bigger races. (I raced 290g rims, Clement Criterium Seta tires and the equivalent of DT Rev spokes at 145 pounds and was gentle on my wheels.) Everything else was stock or swapped out for better fit. Yes, I ran Bullseye pulleys because I had them already when I bought my race bike and there was no downside. Then forgot about them. And an Avocet III seat for the comfort on rough roads. (Light? Nice but not the reason.)
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Old 12-21-23, 10:09 PM
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Drillium

Drillium was the fad in my time, though of zero interest to me. Instructive is the drillium version of the Huret Jubilee rear derailleur- the standard version was actually lighter than the later drillium version!
Standard fad dynamics- mostly just looks cool. Often pointed out that the weight advantages of turning every component into Swiss cheese is a small fraction of the weight of a full water bottle...
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Old 12-21-23, 10:48 PM
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Leave off those crank dust caps: wow, SO much faster now! And the emergency crank swaps in the heat of a Crit are full mili-seconds quicker than before...
While at it lose the little threaded rings on Presta valves as well as those plastic caps (can you FEEL the speed picking up, now? YES!)
Drill out the hard plastic Unicanitor/Cinelli/Kashimax/BMX-y saddle (actually that did make them slightly more comfortable if only a fly-weight lighter)
Shortest possible cables and housing (another fly-weight of savings)
Smaller frame, taller seatpost and longer stem...Maybe more fashionable in the '80s when long seatposts could actually be found (and certainly not as sensible as riding a frame that FIT)
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Old 12-21-23, 11:09 PM
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Cut the extra length off your seatpost. Alloy saddle rails. Alloy freewheel (Campy). Cello bar tape. Cut the ends of the bar drops off. Alloy chainring bolts.
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Old 12-22-23, 12:01 AM
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Well if you are thinking period correct for the 70s, then drillium would certainly be the choice…but by the 80s it had fallen out of favor. I recall somebody figured out that the minimal amount of weight savings couldn’t compensate for the increased wind resistance caused by all the little holes…basically it was a detrimental mod. But dang, some of the stuff was just so dang pretty and heck, if Eddy did it, then it must be worth having…I remember drilling my Universal brakes levers and Suntour bar ends…looked so *****’n to my teenage eyes!
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Old 12-22-23, 12:08 AM
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Into the 80s and the aero era…drilling holes in the bars for cables before grooved bars were common.

+1 to Bullseye pulleys and alloy/ti replacement bolts.

Banana stickers on the rim…maybe it was a SoCal thing.

Regina hollow-pin chains and alloy freewheels for race wheels.
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Old 12-22-23, 12:55 AM
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Mid-80's: American Classic seatposts (and bottle cages?), Bullseye pulleys, Bullseye or Phil Wood hubs, or Hi-e if you could find them. Some guys in my club ran 48-spoke hubs and rims but then only laced up every other hole, making them pre-drilled 24-spoke wheels. 54x14 junior gearing. Or was it 54x15?
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Old 12-22-23, 03:24 AM
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Old 12-22-23, 03:28 AM
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Old 12-22-23, 04:27 AM
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Aluminium toe-clips.





(crop from Trade Pinarello alloy toe clips for plain steel ones; still have them...)
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Old 12-22-23, 04:51 AM
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From a Huffente standpoint, your best bet is the saddle, stem, bars, cables, tires, wheels and pedals.

A modern ultra light saddle will shave a bundle.

Drilled chains were a thing if I recall...
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Old 12-22-23, 07:57 AM
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Titanium components from Pino Morroni. I had his quick-release skewers on my Assenmacher late 70s. Interesting article here: TheRetroGrouch - Pino




Also, Modolo had carbon fiber downtube shifter levers available in 1980. There was much confusion about these, many believing they were plastic (which technically I suppose they were) and would surely break. I used them for years with no problem although I never cared for the curved design.



Tied & soldered spokes were common.



Lightened shifters. These were mine. The other broke


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Old 12-22-23, 08:12 AM
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Another really common modification was to replace the steel crank fixing bolts and the chainring bolts with anodized aluminum pieces. Same for most steel bolts anywhere on the bike.

And, of course, never ever under any circumstances does one use the plastic caps on their presta valves - 1. added weight, and 2: removing the cap uses up valuable time if you need to air up or repair a flat during the race!

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Old 12-22-23, 08:18 AM
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Most of us who were actively riding back then weren’t racing. In 1986, I built my first wheel: a tubular rim laced to a Sturmey-Archer 3-speed hub, which I used to commute to my job at the bike shop, as well as to leave at the Menlo Park, CA, Caltrain station for my commute to San Jose, where I went to grad school. I had various cheap bikes stashed at that train station, and learned that bike thieves will steal something cheap if you use a cheap lock. I don’t remember the frame I mounted that wheel to, but I did have a Trek 412, which I purchased new from Palo Alto Bicycles in Dec 1982 to use for road riding. I don’t recall changing any of the stock components on that bike; they all worked well enough for my purposes, and by 1984 I wasn’t riding it much as I had had a head-on collision with another cyclist on Stanford’s campus which bent the top and downtube. It didn’t handle very well after that (and was eventually stolen at the MP Caltrain station).

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Old 12-22-23, 09:30 AM
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I want to take a moment and thank everyone for your replies - this is turning into a fun thread! My hope is that some of these thoughts, ideas, and habits from yesteryear can be preserved for history's sake. It's always fun to recall how people used to do things when.


Originally Posted by jdawginsc
From a Huffente standpoint, your best bet is the saddle, stem, bars, cables, tires, wheels and pedals.

A modern ultra light saddle will shave a bundle.

Drilled chains were a thing if I recall...

Trust me...I've gone back and forth on the saddle! The thing probably weighs 500+ grams and I'd easily be able to shave the better half of a pound off the bike if I went with something lighter, but...I want the bike to look ace! Because the leather saddle is so well loved, seeing it on a bike like this helps w/ the shock value. What I was thinking was somewhere in the middle - keeping a leather saddle, but going with a more lightweight option. A Berthoud Galibier saddle is about 360g, which would shave 150g off easily, and still looks awesome. It solves the one problem of the weight, but creates another - now my saddle costs 10 times what the bike is worth


I'm getting some great ideas from others in this thread. Keep the thoughts/ideas/memories rolling!
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Old 12-22-23, 09:36 AM
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Originally Posted by merziac


I've got some of those very same 'Ace' pedals on the 'H' bike, w/ the titanium spindles. While they don't provide the biggest footprint, they are insanely light, right around 140-150g per pair.
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Old 12-22-23, 09:53 AM
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Anything Hi-E.

Someone mentioned replacing the Cinelli 1A steel steerer bolt with the aluminum 1R bolt. I hope people knew enough to tighten the expander wedge with the steel bolt and then insert the aluminum bolt to secure the wedge in place.

A friend of mine had his 1R bolt snap while riding. He was able to slow to where he was able to take a safe tumble off the bike, but I imagine not everyone was that skilled or lucky.

Don't remember if they were lighter, but O.F. Mega sold their Mistral plastic shifters and rear derailleurs for a while in the 1980's:

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Old 12-22-23, 10:18 AM
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Back then I really wasn't doing different than most of today's builds. Moderate upgrades continuously. On the used Schwinn Suberban, my parents gave me 1978 Christmas. First my dad converted the upright bars to Varsity drop bars. Things like the Alvit was replaced with Suntour 7. At this time 1981 I found a set of Campy high flange on Mavic sewup. Unfortunately these were never used by me and were stolen by a high school chum I thought was a friend. The steel wheels were replaced with Arraya with Specialized High Pressure tires, steel handlebars were replaced with alloy.

Consistancely was Frankenstein, lol, of course the Schwinn frame was swapped for a Peugeot, the uo8. The Suntour 7 got swapped for a Steel GT, the steel GT gave way to the VGT. The VGT broke so I down graded to the long cage Suntour Honor (Super Studly this was my best of the era).

Here is when I frame swapped to a Falcon, and started to learn the difference of bottom bracket threading. That was learning the hard way, lol. By this time I think all my parts were now alloy, except for the cranks. The Falcon was robins egg blue and I junked all simplex to install my Suntour. I think went the Mafac over the Weinman.

I had for a while until I bought a Raleigh Tourist. Man that was nice, but really small. That bike had Stronglight cranks with the big pant guard, it had Maillard 700 hubs on alloy Rigida 27", SR Royal post, with first gen Gran Compe side pull with the matching adjustable levers, it had the Brooks professional, and Atom 700 pedals, with Huret Jubilee shifters and derailleurs. Oh my gosh that was a nice bike!

Its about here that ended up with my brothers neglected RedRodriguez, actually everything I got for the Schwinn on forward to here was hand me down from the bro. Again a frameswap!

I used the Rodriguez for thousands of miles and never did any other changes. I did a couple of rattle can paint jobs on it. First to gold and then to the red and black metallic fade, but I wouldn't call those up grades.

My brother has passed, I still have the Rod. Now built up with Shimano 600 and Weinman sidepulls.
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Old 12-22-23, 12:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Trakhak
NSFW!

This site is supposed to be family friendly!
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