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Converting a vintage road bike to a gravel bike.

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Cyclocross and Gravelbiking (Recreational) This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like :The Dirty Kanza". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

Converting a vintage road bike to a gravel bike.

Old 10-28-19, 07:24 PM
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Converting a vintage road bike to a gravel bike.

Bought a CL bike. 1982 Fuji Supreme. Looks identical to the inherited one I had in high school.

My husband and kids ride MTBs (Trek and Giant) and we have gravel trails nearby, which are okay for a thick-tired road bike and crap for a performance road bike. I want to tear down the Fuji, repaint, and build as a gravel bike. It has rust, so I have to do something with the paint.

I have a couple of questions, if you were building one from scratch:

Repaint: Powder coat or sprayed paint?
Shifting/groupset: Currently has a Suntour 7-GT groupset on it, 12 speed (although I think only 6 work until I fix it). Stem shifters. Dual-pull brake levers. Any of this usable?
Wheels: 27', tires are crap. Can I keep those wheels and just swap tires?

What am I missing? Including a photo of what it looks like now. The drive side photo is fuzzy, as is the picture of it stuffed in the back of my husband's Ford Focus.
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Old 10-28-19, 08:00 PM
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Switching from 27" to 700 will allow for a tires that are wider by a few millimeters. Better for loose surfaces.

Powder coat is better quality than spray, but more expensive. There are powdercoaters near me for $85 up to $250.

Use the shifters and brake levers if you want. Personally I would use higher level components if I were going to spend the time on such a project and especially if I were to spend the money powder coating. But there is no right or wrong approach.

Set a budget and figure out what to change/update based on that budget.
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Old 10-28-19, 08:24 PM
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You can readily purchase 27" tires, but as @mstateglfr states, you can get a better selection of 700c tires, and probably fit slightly larger tires in your frame. A closeup of the brakes might help determine if you'd need to change brake calipers to swap wheels (or you can try some if you have them).

There a lot of minor issues that can pop up with upgrades. Nothing insurmountable.

However, your bike also appears to be a lower-mid quality bike of that era. Hopefully you got it for, say $75 to $150. As you do upgrades, keep in mind that it is not a top of the line racer. You can easily spend much more than the value of the bike. Nonethless, having a bike that works for you is good too.

I probably wouldn't invest in powder coating, unless you can get it done really cheaply, or you end up doing an upgrade that destroys the paint.

Stem shifters still are viable.

A lot of people dislike the brake levers with that extra bar. In some cases you can simply remove the bar, but many brake levers leave a stud sticking out where the lever was. Upgrading brakes levers, and perhaps calipers would be a sound investment. You can buy "interrupter" brakes if you need them for riding on top of the bars. Or, upgrade to a mustache or similar bar at the same time if you wish.

Your current freewheel and crankset should work, Or, you can upgrade. Perhaps a triple crankset to get extra low gears. The new freewheels (or cassettes) shift well with the old friction shifters.
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Old 10-29-19, 10:39 AM
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+1 on a 700c swap. Smaller diameter rim, wider tire for the same rolling diameter. But check the space at the chainstays if you can fit a 35mm+ tire in there.

Of course, 700's also means potentially new brake calipers if the old ones won't reach the brake track on the 700c rim (many will but not all) If you want to keep costs to a minimum, find a 700c wheel set up for a freewheel so that can be swapped over from the old wheel. Be sure to get a wheel with the right spacing to match your frame (should be 120mm I think, maybe 127)
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Old 10-29-19, 11:53 AM
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I think it's promising as a cheap-and-cheerful gravel bike. Other pictures I see online show a decent amount of tire clearance, especially if you convert to 700C. You may even like the brake extension levers for scrubbing a little speed when riding on the tops/ramps.
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Old 10-29-19, 12:02 PM
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I'll be the one naysayer here. A new set of 700c wheels and a paint job would be terrific but you will be out of pocket some $. These 700c wheels from velomine, for example, are a good deal at $125 plus shipping

https://www.velomine.com/index.php?m...p7k128uafk6b54

Plus you'll need to buy tires, tubes, rim strips. Then there is the price of the paint job and any other parts you might want.

For $125 or so, you can buy used a quality vintage MTB that with a change of tires and some repair work (old bikes always need some repair work) will make a fine gravel bike. Old MTBs make great repurposed gravel bikes and quality ones tend to be inexpensive on craigslist ($100 to $150 will get you a good one).
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Old 10-29-19, 12:36 PM
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Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
I'll be the one naysayer here.

For $125 or so, you can buy used a quality vintage MTB that with a change of tires and some repair work (old bikes always need some repair work) will make a fine gravel bike. Old MTBs make great repurposed gravel bikes and quality ones tend to be inexpensive on craigslist ($100 to $150 will get you a good one).
N+1?

$50 for new road tires and tuning the road bike.
$150 for the MTB to join the family off road.
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Old 10-29-19, 02:08 PM
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It's hard to tell from the picture, but a few things come to mind:

Downtube cable stop adaptors allow for converting a downtube shifter boss to be a standard cable stop. Either kind serves the same purpose. Just buy the one that is appropriate. This will open up a world of shifter/brake options if you find the vintage gear range to be insufficient. Modern brake/shifters (brifters) like Shimano Sora/105/Ultegra or SRAM Apex/Red etc... & the like can allow for much lower gears than their vintage counterparts.

A brass bushing 1 inch inside diameter by either 1&1/8 or 1&1/4 outside diameter will allow for a conventional front derailleur to fit on the vintage small diameter seat tube. Fashioning a bushing is as easy. On many vintage bikes the derailleur itself often had a cable stop integrated into the clamp. Modern ones do not. Drilling a hole in the center of the bottom bracket and tapping for an M5 bolt for a cable guide is a simple task if you are so inclined & your bike needs. I think modern derailleurs are worth the effort.

Many here mention the freehub & buying a new 700c wheel set. Your frame spacing is probably not 130 or 135mm. You have a steel frame, so driving in a 130mm wide rear axle is doable with no ill effect. You could get the frame "cold-set" to make wheel installation easier, but it wouldn't be required.

Freehub axles are stronger than freewheel axles. Either works fine. Freewheel hubs can be found on any department store bike. So, they are cheap & plentiful. Freewheel hubs tend to bolt on instead of quick release like freehubs. Potentially useful if you have horizontal dropouts. Freehubs have many more speeds available (8-11 gears). Freewheels are usually about 7 speeds.

A rear derailleur that matches the speed of whatever shifters you decide should either bolt right into the existing derailleur claw. There are also new claw style derailleurs available. The thing to look out for is the claw nut may/may not have an interference issue with the chain on the smallest cog if using a modern freehub cassette. 8 speed Claris or 9 speed Sora is probably the safest bet if you go freehub.

As far as brakes, center-pull brakes, I've always found to be weak & spongy. Compressionless kevlar reinforced housing offers a welcome improvement in ability.

There are better sidepull caliper brakes available from Tektro. I don't remember the model number off-hand. But if the center-pulls don't reach far enough, the Tektro's would be an improvement. Someone here can make a more authoritative recommendation.

There is, of course, the option of not doing anything at all. 1&1/8 inch tires are about 28-32mm wide as it is & not all terrain needs granny-gears. So gravel may pose no problems at all as-is. So, enjoy a few rides to see what, if anything you think could/should be improved.

Good-luck.

Last edited by base2; 10-29-19 at 02:32 PM.
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Old 10-29-19, 02:17 PM
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Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
I'll be the one naysayer here. A new set of 700c wheels and a paint job would be terrific but you will be out of pocket some $. These 700c wheels from velomine, for example, are a good deal at $125 plus shipping

https://www.velomine.com/index.php?m...p7k128uafk6b54

Plus you'll need to buy tires, tubes, rim strips. Then there is the price of the paint job and any other parts you might want.

For $125 or so, you can buy used a quality vintage MTB that with a change of tires and some repair work (old bikes always need some repair work) will make a fine gravel bike. Old MTBs make great repurposed gravel bikes and quality ones tend to be inexpensive on craigslist ($100 to $150 will get you a good one).
Perhaps the OP has a co-op nearby. A used set of 6-speed 700C wheels might be found cheaply.
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Old 10-29-19, 02:32 PM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
Perhaps the OP has a co-op nearby. A used set of 6-speed 700C wheels might be found cheaply.
Sure, the choice between the OP's bike and a vintage MTB turns on (1) cost and (2) the suitability of the bike for the kind of riding the OP wants to do. The odds are pretty good that the vintage MTB will cost less (no paint job needed and new wheels not needed) and the OP will be able to easily run a 26 x 1.75 tire (or larger) which is a fine volume tire for gravel riding.
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Old 10-29-19, 02:34 PM
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Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
Sure, the choice between the OP's bike and a vintage MTB turns on (1) cost and (2) the suitability of the bike for the kind of riding the OP wants to do. The odds are pretty good that the vintage MTB will cost less (no paint job needed and new wheels not needed) and the OP will be able to easily run a 26 x 1.75 tire (or larger) which is a fine volume tire for gravel riding.
I agree that an MTB would work better "out of the box" but the OP already bought the Fuji.
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Old 10-29-19, 02:39 PM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
I agree that an MTB would work better "out of the box" but the OP already bought the Fuji.
Oops, I missed that the OP just bought the Fuji; I thought it was a bike the OP had in hand already and was considering whether to fix it up or not.

So yeah the above advice (700c wheels and the fattest tires that fit) is good if sticking with the Fuji.
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Old 10-29-19, 03:25 PM
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I'm right in the middle of the same conversion now myself. I went with 700c wheels (because I already had a set) and an going to see how a 9 speed will work with my old low end frame (stamped drops). The saving grace of this frame is massive tire clearance, it came with center pull brakes so those are nice for clearance, and an alloy seatpost.

My advice is to spend as little money as possible on this. If you're thinking of spending more, get a better frame. In the C&V forum there's a good list of 27" tires still available, try to find something in 1-3/8" if it will fit. Odds are this already has good enough clearance.

Also lookup the C&V threads from the "Clunker Challenge", which is about getting bikes ready in the cheap.

For me my total cost is about $250 for my project. This doesn't include all the extras I had lying around or the wheelset. You could probably pickup a gravel specific bike used for around $500.
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Old 10-29-19, 03:32 PM
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Originally Posted by base2 View Post
It's hard to tell from the picture, but a few things come to mind:

Downtube cable stop adaptors allow for converting a downtube shifter boss to be a standard cable stop.
The bike already has downtube cable stops. It has stem shifters, not downtube.

This will open up a world of shifter/brake options if you find the vintage gear range to be insufficient. Modern brake/shifters (brifters) like Shimano Sora/105/Ultegra or SRAM Apex/Red etc... & the like can allow for much lower gears than their vintage counterparts.
The shifters have little to do with it, since they're friction and can work with all kinds of setups. The big questions are the derailleurs and the cogs.

Long-cage derailleurs circa 1980 usually have fairly reasonable capabilities anyway. For instance, long-cage SunTour road derailleurs from that era can usually clear a ~34T cog and wrap ~36 teeth of chain.

If significantly more capability is desired, one cheap approach that works great is to bolt a basic Shimano MTB derailleur to the bike.

A brass bushing 1 inch inside diameter by either 1&1/8 or 1&1/4 outside diameter will allow for a conventional front derailleur to fit on the vintage small diameter seat tube. Fashioning a bushing is as easy.
If it's 28.6mm, FD clamp mounts are still readily available.

On many vintage bikes the derailleur itself often had a cable stop integrated into the clamp. Modern ones do not. Drilling a hole in the center of the bottom bracket and tapping for an M5 bolt for a cable guide is a simple task if you are so inclined & your bike needs.
The Fuji most likely has bare cable all the way from the downtube cable stop to the FD, and is unlikely to require a stop at the bottom bracket.

I think modern derailleurs are worth the effort.
Modern FDs make sense if you're trying to use indexed front shifting on a matched (i.e. FD+crank+shifter) setup. Otherwise, I wouldn't bother buying a new FD unless I'd tried the old one and it didn't work well.

As far as brakes, center-pull brakes, I've always found to be weak & spongy.
Some of them were made with fairly low mechanical advantage, and of course they're susceptible to the same steerer shudder that can affect centerpull cantis, but the ones I've tried haven't felt especially spongy. Even the cheap Weinmanns with dried-out 40-year-old pads on chromed steel rims had a surprisingly confident bite...

The OP's bike doesn't have centerpulls, though, it has single-pivot calipers. These nearly always are both weak and spongy.

If the OP wants to change brakes, one challenge would be that the old frame doesn't use recessed-nut brake mounting.
If a switch is made to 700c, the brake pads will need to be lowered by 4mm in order to reach the new rims. This is most likely doable, and it's easy to check whether or not it can be done.
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Old 10-29-19, 03:39 PM
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Fuji Rebuild

Originally Posted by TriBiker19 View Post
Bought a CL bike. 1982 Fuji Supreme. Looks identical to the inherited one I had in high school.

My husband and kids ride MTBs (Trek and Giant) and we have gravel trails nearby, which are okay for a thick-tired road bike and crap for a performance road bike. I want to tear down the Fuji, repaint, and build as a gravel bike. It has rust, so I have to do something with the paint.

I have a couple of questions, if you were building one from scratch:

Repaint: Powder coat or sprayed paint?
Shifting/groupset: Currently has a Suntour 7-GT groupset on it, 12 speed (although I think only 6 work until I fix it). Stem shifters. Dual-pull brake levers. Any of this usable?
Wheels: 27', tires are crap. Can I keep those wheels and just swap tires?

What am I missing? Including a photo of what it looks like now. The drive side photo is fuzzy, as is the picture of it stuffed in the back of my husband's Ford Focus.
We have done a few of the buy, powder coat, slap new wheels and parts on restorations, though none for the express purpose of using on gravel. The three we have re-done have all originally had 27" wheels however. We converted all of them to 700c. We were working with mid to late 80's C'Dale ST series bikes. I haven't tested the limits on what size tires I could stuff in there, for sure a very comfortable 32 of most makes...maybe something that measured out at 34, tops. That may or may not be your cup of tea for the gravel/conditions you encounter, and perhaps your Fuji will be more generous than my vintage c'dales.

I did do a "modern" 2x9 drive train on my last one. I had all the parts from upgrading other bikes over the years, so was out little $$ on that front. Powder coat was the most expensive. The tires pictured are 700 x 28 compass. The rim is an older style 17 internal width, so I didn't get a ton of "growth" out of these tires like I have with my other compass brand tires, in fact, I'm pretty sure these have only measured out at 27 wide. They are comfortable enough for what I use the bike for, which is lightly loaded touring. They would probably do crushed gravel MUPs, otherwise, I'd definitely want a bigger tire.
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Old 10-29-19, 07:07 PM
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Originally Posted by HTupolev View Post
The bike already has downtube cable stops. It has stem shifters, not downtube.
I know that. What I don't know is if there is a tack-welded stamped steel plate to geet the cable stop band from moving or if there are down tube shifter boss'

he shifters have little to do with it, since they're friction and can work with all kinds of setups. The big questions are the derailleurs and the cogs.
But she may wish to upgrade to brifters. If so, the parts are available.

Long-cage derailleurs circa 1980 usually have fairly reasonable capabilities anyway. For instance, long-cage SunTour road derailleurs from that era can usually clear a ~34T cog and wrap ~36 teeth of chain.
That's good to know. But if she wants to upgrade because BIKES! or pull ratio complications with something new, then options exist.
If significantly more capability is desired, one cheap approach that works great is to bolt a basic Shimano MTB derailleur to the bike.
Exactly. But there are limits & potential for interference if going the whole hog, say a 2x11 or similar is installed. My fix has always been to braze on a hanger, so the hanger nut can be eliminated. But I'm not making that recommendation. Only suggesting more sensible less trouble prone options.

If it's 28.6mm, FD clamp mounts are still readily available.
But if there is complications, say a tube diameter of 25.4, for example, the brass bushing solution works well.

The Fuji most likely has bare cable all the way from the downtube cable stop to the FD, and is unlikely to require a stop at the bottom bracket.
I wasn't saying it needed a stop at the bottom bracket. I was saying if it was cabled to the derailleur & the derailleur had the stop intigrated to the clamp there was there's a fix.

Modern FDs make sense if you're trying to use indexed front shifting on a matched (i.e. FD+crank+shifter) setup. Otherwise, I wouldn't bother buying a new FD unless I'd tried the old one and it didn't work well.
Which is the whole reason I was passing on "lessons learned" for the most likely upgrade scenario the OP might be tempted to make. The whole meaning behind he post, actually.

Some of them were made with fairly low mechanical advantage, and of course they're susceptible to the same steerer shudder that can affect centerpull cantis, but the ones I've tried haven't felt especially spongy. Even the cheap Weinmanns with dried-out 40-year-old pads on chromed steel rims had a surprisingly confident bite...

The OP's bike doesn't have centerpulls, though, it has single-pivot calipers. These nearly always are both weak and spongy.
Agreed. Photo perspective. Sorry. Personal braking standards. Neither is really all that great. I still standby the better housing recommendation.

If the OP wants to change brakes, one challenge would be that the old frame doesn't use recessed-nut brake mounting.
If a switch is made to 700c, the brake pads will need to be lowered by 4mm in order to reach the new rims. This is most likely doable, and it's easy to check whether or not it can be done.
Hence the croud-sourcing recommendation for the right model should she choose to change.

Last edited by base2; 10-29-19 at 07:36 PM.
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Old 10-30-19, 12:46 PM
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Originally Posted by TriBiker19 View Post
Bought a CL bike. 1982 Fuji Supreme. Looks identical to the inherited one I had in high school.

My husband and kids ride MTBs (Trek and Giant) and we have gravel trails nearby, which are okay for a thick-tired road bike and crap for a performance road bike. I want to tear down the Fuji, repaint, and build as a gravel bike. It has rust, so I have to do something with the paint.

I have a couple of questions, if you were building one from scratch:

Repaint: Powder coat or sprayed paint?
Shifting/groupset: Currently has a Suntour 7-GT groupset on it, 12 speed (although I think only 6 work until I fix it). Stem shifters. Dual-pull brake levers. Any of this usable?
Wheels: 27', tires are crap. Can I keep those wheels and just swap tires?

What am I missing? Including a photo of what it looks like now. The drive side photo is fuzzy, as is the picture of it stuffed in the back of my husband's Ford Focus.
Here's some inspiration for you.

Retro roadies- old frames with STI's or Ergos
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Old 11-10-19, 12:09 AM
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Back in 2016 I built this '73 Raleigh Super Course as an Eroica bike. It was built from an abandoned bare frame, essentially a blank canvas. Eroica rides always include big hills and gravel sections, so gearing is important. I went with a Sugino AT triple crank, 52/40/32 and a Shimano Megarange 34t six speed freewheel, shifted by Suntour VGT Luxe and Cyclone II derailleurs and bar end shifters. 700c wheels and Pasela 28 tires (larger tires would fit, maybe up to 32mm) give a great ride on pavement, and on dirt/gravel. Besides completing Eroica, its been on several gravel fire roads, including crazy steep climbs. Even with modern Koolstop pads, braking can be a challenge with the Weinmann centerpulls. I had it painted with automotive paint, but would probably go with powder coat for durability, next time. Here's pictures ftom last Thursday's ride over Sulphur Mtn from Ventura to Ojai, CA. 45 miles total, 14 miles of fire road, and 3200' of climbing.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/k6z1j1j794KnYhiz7


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Old 11-11-19, 08:25 PM
  #19  
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Originally Posted by Slightspeed View Post
Back in 2016 I built this '73 Raleigh Super Course as an Eroica bike. It was built from an abandoned bare frame, essentially a blank canvas. Eroica rides always include big hills and gravel sections, so gearing is important. I went with a Sugino AT triple crank, 52/40/32 and a Shimano Megarange 34t six speed freewheel, shifted by Suntour VGT Luxe and Cyclone II derailleurs and bar end shifters. 700c wheels and Pasela 28 tires (larger tires would fit, maybe up to 32mm) give a great ride on pavement, and on dirt/gravel. Besides completing Eroica, its been on several gravel fire roads, including crazy steep climbs. Even with modern Koolstop pads, braking can be a challenge with the Weinmann centerpulls. I had it painted with automotive paint, but would probably go with powder coat for durability, next time. Here's pictures ftom last Thursday's ride over Sulphur Mtn from Ventura to Ojai, CA. 45 miles total, 14 miles of fire road, and 3200' of climbing.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/k6z1j1j794KnYhiz7
That's pretty close to what I'm going to be doing. There's a 50 mile option instead of the 77 mile ride. The total gain for the 77mi at 9000'. Here's the map. The gain at mile 20-22 looks brutal.
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Old 11-13-19, 05:34 AM
  #20  
GrainBrain
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Originally Posted by francophile View Post
Just tossing this out here. Donated my pedal wrench to a friend and had to replace mine. Stopped by BTD and noticed (for gold members) they have these Kenda K161 Cyclocross tires for $12.97/ea and free shipping if you order 2 pairs.

Link to tire (gold members login to see your discount): https://www.biketiresdirect.com/prod...rosscyclo-tire

Here's what they look like (full album here, and rebuild thread here) on a recent rebuild for the same friend who got the pedal wrench (mid-70s Moto GT)



So I snagged this from an older thread on 27" tires. Right now you could snag these tires for $20. I'd go that route myself, maintenance the original wheelset. Swap on the Shimano mega-range 14-34 freewheel if your freewheel doesn't go to 34t. Those are pretty cheap. New chain, cables and housing would set you back maybe $30?



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Old 11-13-19, 12:18 PM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by GrainBrain View Post
So I snagged this from an older thread on 27" tires. Right now you could snag these tires for $20. I'd go that route myself, maintenance the original wheelset. Swap on the Shimano mega-range 14-34 freewheel if your freewheel doesn't go to 34t. Those are pretty cheap. New chain, cables and housing would set you back maybe $30?​​​​
Original thread on the topic, since it's tangentially related: 27 x 1 3/8" tire options?
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