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Building up a Surly with old-school parts?

Old 02-23-21, 05:48 PM
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Building up a Surly with old-school parts?

Since the '80s I've been riding gear from the '80s. My latest bike is a museum-quality Fuji Touring Series III that was barely ridden when I scored it on the 'Bay. In some ways it is the perfect bike, but like so many great bikes from that era it can't fit wider tires--forget about touring on a plush 38mm or 42mm tire in fashion these days. Which means the bike pretty much remains a pavement tourer.

So I'm sniffing around at today's new bikes. The Surly Cross-check seems like a nice all-rounder. My question is how many folks buy the frame and build it up with vintage parts? To keep costs down, I would even consider cold-setting the rear dropouts so I can keep my nice 126mm wheelsets. Then of course, there's the matter of mounting a low-Q crank on a frame designed to accept fat tires. I dunno--is this all more trouble than it's worth? How many "retro" Surly build owners out there?
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Old 02-23-21, 06:07 PM
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why buy a new frame, then cold set to fit narrower hubs
you're unlikely to find replacement parts for on tour?

got old skool parts? buy a lightly used or nos frame off ebay
for prolly a quarter the cost of a new frame, and then build
up with your vintage components.
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Old 02-23-21, 06:23 PM
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Originally Posted by saddlesores
why buy a new frame, then cold set to fit narrower hubs
you're unlikely to find replacement parts for on tour?

got old skool parts? buy a lightly used or nos frame off ebay
for prolly a quarter the cost of a new frame, and then build
up with your vintage components.
Well, when you're running a Phil Wood rear hub, you don't have to worry much about needing parts. But getting a used Surly is worth considering (even if I kind of crave a new one, since my last new bike was in 1989).
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Old 02-23-21, 07:00 PM
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Get a nice 8 speed wheelset, you could still use older parts. Shimano Deore and a set of barcons would work.
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Old 02-23-21, 07:29 PM
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I can't imagine why you would want to go with a freewheel type hub, the newer design freehub type hubs are much stronger and less likely to have an axle failure.

Get a Shimano M756 or M756A rear hub. Or, the Deore equivalent. I do not know if you can find a 36 hole version for rim brakes any more but the disc version hub can be had in 36H and can certainly be used in a rim brake bike. Good price, solid, cup and cone with quarter inch steel balls and a steel axle, will last a very long time if kept in adjustment. Use an 8 or 9 or 10 speed cassette.

And I do not understand why you would chose friction over indexed rear shifting when it is readily available.

I built up my new titanium Lynskey in 2017 with eight speed cassette on a M756A hub, triple square taper crank, bar end shifters (rear indexed, front friction). Is that old enough for you? I had to use disc brake, as the frame was disc and not rim brake version. And quality cup and cone bottom brackets are nearly impossible to find, so I used cartridge bottom bracket.
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Old 02-23-21, 07:33 PM
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Some people just like vintage bikes, myself included. For touring I want modern, but for a road bike I prefer 6 speed friction shifter on the downtube with a nice Columbus SLX Italian frame.
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Old 02-23-21, 08:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
I can't imagine why you would want to go with a freewheel type hub, the newer design freehub type hubs are much stronger and less likely to have an axle failure.

Get a Shimano M756 or M756A rear hub. Or, the Deore equivalent. I do not know if you can find a 36 hole version for rim brakes any more but the disc version hub can be had in 36H and can certainly be used in a rim brake bike. Good price, solid, cup and cone with quarter inch steel balls and a steel axle, will last a very long time if kept in adjustment. Use an 8 or 9 or 10 speed cassette.

And I do not understand why you would chose friction over indexed rear shifting when it is readily available.

I built up my new titanium Lynskey in 2017 with eight speed cassette on a M756A hub, triple square taper crank, bar end shifters (rear indexed, front friction). Is that old enough for you? I had to use disc brake, as the frame was disc and not rim brake version. And quality cup and cone bottom brackets are nearly impossible to find, so I used cartridge bottom bracket.
I do have indexing, actually--a 7-speed Shimano Ultegra shifter mounted to a Shimano bar-end pod. Works perfectly. I only floated the idea of keeping the 126mm spacing because I don't want to throw out perfectly good equipment (and a Phil Wood freewheel rear hub is plenty strong). That said, I may just have to make the wheel switch but keep what other parts I can.
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Old 02-23-21, 08:19 PM
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Look I get wanting to use Phil Wood stuff, it is Phil Wood Stuff but I would stick with a 130mm spacing which Phil Wood makes (or go 135) You can still run a ton of old school stuff quite well. My old XT 8 speed derailleur is rock solid even through some really bad shifting and poor maintenance plus it being pretty well used before me. It is probably my favorite derailleur and one I wish I had bought stock in back in the day (but I didn't know geared stuff back then and knew little about bikes).
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Old 02-23-21, 08:29 PM
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A crosscheck is set at 132.5mm in back. I get that Phil hubs are a holy grail for some, but it seems odd to coldest a frame inward 7.5mm just to use an old freewheel(no matter how nice it may have been 35 years ago).
To each their own though and building from a frame makes for some fun customization.


If you are concerned about crank arms clearing chainstays, but use a long enough square taper BB. Push it out as far as you want, really. There is no rule that says a square taper crank must be run at X spacing.

I have a 5 year old Black Mountain MC frame that used to be my gravel frame and is now built up for commute/weekend camping. Its designed to clear up to 50mm tires and has a 35 year old crank mounted with whatever the designed BB spindle length is. Works fine. And if I needed more space, I could just get a BB with a slightly longer spindle.

it also has brakes that are about 33 years old, plus shifters and a rear derailleur that are over 20 years old.
So while it isnt a retro Surly, it certainly has some retro parts.

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Old 02-24-21, 06:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Fuji1986
... I only floated the idea of keeping the 126mm spacing because I don't want to throw out perfectly good equipment (and a Phil Wood freewheel rear hub is plenty strong). That said, I may just have to make the wheel switch but keep what other parts I can.
I get it on the Phil hub, but what made the Phil hub famous was that the standard freewheel hubs of that era were not strong, the Phil was a standout because it was.

But now there are plenty of other hubs out there that are quite strong too. I mentioned above the quarter inch steel ball bearings and steel axle hubs that I prefer for touring on a derailleur bike, there were lots of strong options but this is the option I chose because it is reliable and if something failed, most any bike shop has the cone wrenches needed to fix it.

Once a year I go to a local swap meet (except this year), I see old Phil wheels there, a couple decades ago I would have lusted over them but not now.


Originally Posted by veganbikes
... My old XT 8 speed derailleur is rock solid even through some really bad shifting and poor maintenance plus it being pretty well used before me. It is probably my favorite derailleur and one I wish I had bought stock in back in the day (but I didn't know geared stuff back then and knew little about bikes).
I have bought several M739 or similar XT derailleurs off Ebay or at swap meets, have a few spares now. Have them on three different bikes. I agree, they work well and look nice with a subtle simplicity to the design compared to some of the newer ones.



In the photo I put modern ball bearing jockey wheels on this one. Some of the ones I bought used did not have the stock jockey wheels or sealed ceramic bushing. Will likely change the jockey wheels on a few other bikes later.
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Old 02-24-21, 06:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Fuji1986
Well, when you're running a Phil Wood rear hub, you don't have to worry much about needing parts. But getting a used Surly is worth considering (even if I kind of crave a new one, since my last new bike was in 1989).
you don't? are you shirley?
i had phil 48-spokes with 7-spd shimano megarange
on my heavy-duty tour bike.
was able to replace the rim in alice springs, airlifted from adelaide.
finished the tour, but much later found the axle was slightly bent
and needing replacement.
so sure, not likely, but (**)it happens.
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Old 02-24-21, 04:16 PM
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Regarding modern hubs, how often do you have to service them? My problem is I've gotten more lazy with bike maintenance; I simply no longer feel like overhauling my bikes every year. I haven't touched my Phil hubs in 20 years; I haven't touched my Mavic hubs (formerly on my race bike) in 30 years. They just go and go. I kind of like that.
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Old 02-24-21, 05:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Fuji1986
Regarding modern hubs, how often do you have to service them? My problem is I've gotten more lazy with bike maintenance; I simply no longer feel like overhauling my bikes every year. I haven't touched my Phil hubs in 20 years; I haven't touched my Mavic hubs (formerly on my race bike) in 30 years. They just go and go. I kind of like that.
My cup and cone hubs, if I feel any play in the bearings, I open them up and look inside. If everything looks good (balls are shiny, no rust), I add some grease and re-assemble and adjust. If anything looks bad, take out the bearings, clean everything, reassemble. If the bearings are not shiny because something got in there or a bearing cracked, that goes beyond the scope of this simple answer.

Hubs that use sealed cartridge bearings, you will know when it is time to do something, unfortunately. There are some good youtube videos by bike shops, Park tools, etc.

Freehubs, it depends on brand and model but that generally is not something that is considered user serviceable. I replaced one freehub on a used wheel that I bought instead of trying to repair it. I think some people might remove a freehub to try to add grease to them, I just keep using them.

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Old 02-24-21, 07:53 PM
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Which museum would that be?
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Old 02-24-21, 09:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Fuji1986
Regarding modern hubs, how often do you have to service them? My problem is I've gotten more lazy with bike maintenance; I simply no longer feel like overhauling my bikes every year. I haven't touched my Phil hubs in 20 years; I haven't touched my Mavic hubs (formerly on my race bike) in 30 years. They just go and go. I kind of like that.
You haven't touched your hubs in 20 and 30 years?...maybe crack the Phil hubs open and take a peek(then add new grease) before you build an entire touring bike based on a single hub.
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