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1986 Trek 520, 500 (tri), and 400 (elance) - the same frame?

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1986 Trek 520, 500 (tri), and 400 (elance) - the same frame?

Old 04-05-10, 07:37 AM
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vins0010
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1986 Trek 520, 500 (tri), and 400 (elance) - the same frame?

So, after a few long rides last summer to distant locations, my fiance and I are thinking of going on a few shorter tour rides this summer (1-2 nights overnight) - and possibly longer, in the future, if we like it. We have '86 and '87 Trek 400 Elances that we use for this now. However, I've also been looking around to see if I can set up some more serious touring bikes if we get into it.

I know the Trek 520 is a well-regarded touring bike (and came across an'86 listed on ebay), I went to look at the Vintage Trek brochures and saw that for '86, the Trek 400 (elance), Trek 520, and Trek 500 (tri) all look to have the same frames but somewhat different components. This seems off because the three bikes seem to be going after different audiences: 520 (touring), 500 (triathletes),and the 400 (the "sport" crowd).

Has anyone else noticed this? Do all these bike really have identical frames? Also, with the 42.5 cm chainstay, is the '86 520 really a bit short for a touring bike? If they are the same and good, I might just consider putting some updated (touring) components on our old bikes. However, I want to see if anyone else has any thoughts/experience with these old Treks. Any explanation/experience?
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Old 04-05-10, 07:45 AM
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You are correct. It is not uncommon that a manufacture do that. I think the 520 got an extra set of bottle brazon's and the triple cranks but the frame was the same as the 500.

I had a 84 520 and according to Vintage-Trek the Serial number says it was a 500 The parts on it said it was a 520.

I also feel that the 520 has short chain stays for a full on touring bike. Seems to me it is better suited as a "Credit card tourer" (Stay in hotels instead of camping so about 1/4 of the gear).
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Old 04-05-10, 07:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Grim View Post
You are correct. It is not uncommon that a manufacture do that. I think the 520 got an extra set of bottle brazon's and the triple cranks but the frame was the same as the 500.

I had a 84 520 and according to Vintage-Trek the Serial number says it was a 500 The parts on it said it was a 520.

I also feel that the 520 has short chain stays for a full on touring bike. Seems to me it is better suited as a "Credit card tourer" (Stay in hotels instead of camping so about 1/4 of the gear).
Agree. The Trek "sport" model frames are actually really nice platforms to upgrade to day tourers, precisely because they have a geometry that lends themselves to fenders, some rackage, etc.
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Old 04-05-10, 07:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Picchio Special View Post
Agree. The Trek "sport" model frames are actually really nice platforms to upgrade to day tourers, precisely because they have a geometry that lends themselves to fenders, some rackage, etc.
Ditto, the Reynolds 531 500 and 400 series are great bikes. I did 144 miles on mine last week;

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Old 04-05-10, 11:32 AM
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Thanks - that's good to know. I'm also glad I checked. I wouldn't want to spend more money to get a 520 just to discover it is basically the same bike I already have. We'll use the 400s for some light touring this summer. If want anything more, we'll have to check the used bikes carefully...or just go with a Surly LHT.
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Old 04-05-10, 12:06 PM
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Trek continued that practice later on. I believe even their later aluminum frames were shared about with different component groups and badged as different models.
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Old 04-05-10, 01:57 PM
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Originally Posted by vins0010 View Post
Thanks - that's good to know. I'm also glad I checked. I wouldn't want to spend more money to get a 520 just to discover it is basically the same bike I already have. We'll use the 400s for some light touring this summer. If want anything more, we'll have to check the used bikes carefully...or just go with a Surly LHT.
Really depends on the year

86 The frame was the same geometry and material but the componets were not. Gearing was different and level of componted the 520 got a little more beef, the 400 a little more speed.

Now in 83 ( think I put I had a 84 above but it was a 83) without looking it up I recall the 500 and 520 were same frame but the 400 was lower quality tubing and a little different Geometry giving it a little shorter wheel base. In 84 I think the 520 got cantilever brakes I recall
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Old 04-05-10, 03:23 PM
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My trek sport touring road bike (1989 400) makes a great day tourer but its a little squirrelly under load, it can carry loads but not ideal. If you like to tinker you can easily convert a vintage MTB to a fully loaded touring bike. There are a bunch of threads about this over in the touring section of BFs .

Vintage MTBs are way cheapier then any sort of touring bike and some of them are really nice. I just picked up a 1990 trek 930 for $75... in mint condition... its a great round town bike and with some changes could be a loaded touring bike.
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Old 04-05-10, 07:42 PM
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You need to get the information in detail off the Reynolds sticker because Reynolds had all sorts of different 531 tube sets and one was specific for heavy loaded touring called 531st. You could use other 531 tube sets for touring but for long term fully loaded touring use 531st for reliability, this was the tube set used on Trek 720's, not sure about the 520 (actually a sport bike not a real touring bike thus probably not 531st) or 620 since I don't have any of those, but my 84 720 has the 531st tube set and my understanding was at time of purchase that the 720 was the only Trek model that used the 531st in 84.

I don't like MTB's for touring because of the limited hand positions available with a flat bar, and when your riding for a long time having several different places to put your hands, like you will find with a drop bar, will elevate hand pain.
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Old 04-05-10, 07:57 PM
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531ST, or 531SL?

-Kurt
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Old 04-05-10, 08:22 PM
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Originally Posted by cudak888 View Post
531ST, or 531SL?

-Kurt
SL was a oval shaped tube set designed for aerodynamics used in track racing and time trials not touring.
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Old 04-06-10, 07:31 AM
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The older Trek 520s were made out of Reynolds 501 and, I assume, were made a little beefier for it. I know the 720 was the high-end of Trek's touring line - and still a highly sought after bike. I had an unknown neighbor in my old condo complex who used to have an old 720 hanging up over his car (in the parking garage). I don't think the thing had been ridden in 15 years. I always contemplated leaving a note about buying the bike but never did...then moved...and that is that. I suppose the lesson with these old Treks, especially the 520 (which seems like it vascillated between sport and true touring bike in the early years), to just double-check the year and the frame specs. My previous notion of "any 520 would be a great touring bike" is not necessarily true.
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Old 04-06-10, 08:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Valerie Wilson View Post
SL was a oval shaped tube set designed for aerodynamics used in track racing and time trials not touring.
Not true. Let me dig up one of the Reynolds threads; I'll post it here.

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Old 04-06-10, 09:06 AM
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It depends on year. If you check the '87 catalog the 520 has different geometry while the others share.

https://www.vintage-trek.com/images/t...rekCatalog.pdf


Here's the label from my 87 Elance 400T. just says 531, no suffix
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Old 04-06-10, 09:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Valerie Wilson View Post
SL was a oval shaped tube set designed for aerodynamics used in track racing and time trials not touring.
Reynolds 531SL was 531 "Special Lightweight" but not ovalized tubing. 531SL later became 531 "Professional" (only the label changed) and was essentially identical to 753 tubing except 753 was heat treated to achieve a higher tensile strength.
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Old 01-23-11, 11:35 PM
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Tagging this thread so I can add photos at a later date...

I own a Trek 500 Tri Series and recall the 531 label but not the letters after them. I'll add info when I can take some pictures.
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Old 01-24-11, 12:05 AM
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Originally Posted by TIOS View Post
Tagging this thread so I can add photos at a later date...

I own a Trek 500 Tri Series and recall the 531 label but not the letters after them. I'll add info when I can take some pictures.
I had the Trek 500 Tri Series in red and white fade. It just said 531 butted main tubes on it. Same frame as the Elance.
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Old 01-24-11, 12:12 AM
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I have a Trek 520 from 84. It may have similar geometry to the other Treks of the time, but it was different as it has canti brakes, an second bottle cage, and I believe it had more dropouts for fenders and racks and whatnot.
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Old 01-24-23, 09:26 AM
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1987 Elance

I have a 1987 400T Elance and have done a number of fully loaded tours. It is not quite the touring geometry of the 520 or the Disc trucker but I feel it is quite stable and nice to with low rider racks and front panniers taking a share of the load. I have updated the bike with new 36 spoke wheels, 8 speed Sora rear der, microshift front der, shimano br ends and the only original parts are the crank (new chainrings) and the BB cups (have gone through multiple axles). Current low gear is 28/34 front/rear so it is quite a bit lower than the original spec. I have always really liked the bike. When it was new I did not have the money for a dedicated tourer. Not I just like the bike.
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Old 01-24-23, 12:46 PM
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Originally Posted by lennyrosenfeld View Post
I have a 1987 400T Elance and have done a number of fully loaded tours. It is not quite the touring geometry of the 520 or the Disc trucker but I feel it is quite stable and nice to with low rider racks and front panniers taking a share of the load. I have updated the bike with new 36 spoke wheels, 8 speed Sora rear der, microshift front der, shimano br ends and the only original parts are the crank (new chainrings) and the BB cups (have gone through multiple axles). Current low gear is 28/34 front/rear so it is quite a bit lower than the original spec. I have always really liked the bike. When it was new I did not have the money for a dedicated tourer. Not I just like the bike.
Get your post count up and get us some photos! Makes the zombie thread worth it
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