New Guy with a vintage road bike....restore/upgrade or start from scratch?

Discussion in 'Road Cycling' started by acuradriver, Jul 3, 2014.

  1. acuradriver

    acuradriver New Member

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    Hi everyone!

    I'm fresh off the block as far as cycling/bicycles go. I am a mechanic by hobby and profession, and cars for the last 5 years is all I've known. I'm extremely mechanically inclined, but ironically I know nothing about bikes or the workings of them. I've kind of gotten burnt-out modifying and working on cars, and I'd like to switch over to a different hobby for awhile. Long distance cycling by say the beach or somewhere scenic seems very relaxing and a way to get some needed exercise.

    My budget is open, but I wanted to gear my topic around an interesting bicycle I've had for many years. I have a 97 year old grandfather who is a WW2 vet, and about 10 years ago he gave me his old road bike. Don't quote me but I "think" it's a 1985 Schwinn Le Tour. When he retired, he put 60 miles round trip on it each day for 5 years until he couldn't do it anymore. The bike has a LOT of sentimental value, and it would be really cool to see it endure and live on. Ideally, I'd like to upgrade it to more current running gear and freshen it up some, but I am really unsure if it's worth it. While it's all there, it's in a general state of neglect and disrepair. Here's a pic: It's pretty much as it was the day he stopped riding it in 1991.


    [​IMG]

    Like I said, if would be awesome to see me get it updated, maybe out of those faded vintage colors (maybe the frame powdercoated) update wear items and get some use out of it.

    What do you guys think, Yay? Nay? Go a different route? Let me know!
     
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  2. mpre53

    mpre53 Well-Known Member

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    I have a Super LeTour of the same vintage. Mine has a 6 cog freewheel. While the common wisdom is that a 7 cog set will fit on an older bike with 126 mm spacing on the rear drop outs, I couldn't fit one on mine. It's possible for a guy who knows what he's doing to cold spread the drop outs to 130 mm, but it was advised against it because it has a cheaper Columbus Tenax frame. You also have 27" wheels, and finding good, light wheels in that diameter is hard. Most modern wheels are 700C wheels. Whether you can use them depends on whether you can lower your brake calipers a few millimeters. I would just ride the bike as is. Whether it has a 5 or 6 cog freewheel on the back, you can still find new ones for less than $15 online. You can also use an 8 speed chain on a smaller cog set. New freewheel, new chain, and if the tires are good, that's about it, except for the cosmetic stuff like powder coating and new bar tape. You probably have a good Suntour Cyclone rear derailleur, and friction down tube shifting isn't that hard to get used to. Put the money you'd spend on new wheels, cold spreading the frame, new shifters, new front and rear deraileurs, new crankset, and so on towards a new bike, and keep that one as a spare and for a nice Sunday retro ride. You probably also have a decent Sugino crank on there. I think they came with a 52/40 set of rings.
     
  3. alfeng

    alfeng Well-Known Member

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    FWIW. I am a BIG fan of steel framed bikes ...

    Since you are mechanically inclined, your biggest hurdle will probably be acquiring/accessing the appropriate tools AND deciding which components to choose-and-use ...

    FYI. I have probably re-spaced the dropouts on close to a dozen steel frames ...

    • While you may read the suggestion to use a 2x4 (or, other "external" leverage), I believe that the key is to use ONLY your own upper body strength & pull on both dropouts with without external leverage .... if you use external leverage, then you will eventually have to check that the two dropouts are equidistant from the frame's center line AND correct accordingly
    • if you pull on both droputs simultaneously, then there is a 99.9% probability that the stays will spread evenly so, exert whatever you deem to be about 30 lbs of force
    • measure the change may only be 1mm-or-less OR seem to be nothing the first time ...
    • repeat until you achieve the desired separation 130mm is the current standard
    [*]the actual dropouts will need to be squared/aligned
    • I recommend that you sandwich the dropout (one-at-a-time) with some small pieces of scrap wood & tweak the dropout with a medium size adjustable crescent wrench OR a regular "home" size pipe wrench using about 5 lbs, of force steel is actually a relatively SOFT metal!!!
    • gently repeat as necessary until the two dropouts are as close to parallel as you can make them you may get it on the first try

    The ONLY frames which are impractical-or-difficult to re-space are made with really cheap & heavy steel tubing (generally, pre-1970 ... probably, the current-and-recent crop of department/big-box store bikes ... basically, I think that a frame with stamped steel dropouts will probably be difficult to respace).

    BECAUSE the frame belonged to your grandfather & has sentimental value, I would probably NOT have it powder coated unless the paint has significant signs of age and/or damage/rust.

    I think that Campagnolo shifters function better ...

    • Aesthetically, the jury is still out as far as I am concerned with regard to the current "style" (V3) of Campagnolo shifters ...

    Campagnolo shifters can function with almost any drivetrain with only a very limited number of provisos ...

    On eBay, a new pair of Campagnolo shifters is less expensive than an equivalent, new pair of either Shimano or SRAM shifters.

    You will need downtube cable stops (if you can weld, then you can just put some cable stops on the tabs that the "aero" downtube shift levers are attached to) + new cable housing + new cables + the Campagnolo (?) shifters + possibly a Shimano (or, Campagnolo) rear derailleur.

    Here are pics of my mid-80s OLMO after I re-spaced the rear dropouts & when I was trying to figure out a new "identity" for the bike ...
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    I finally decided the "black" components didn't suit my aesthetic sensibilities for the particular frame, so this (below) approximates how the bike currently looks ...
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    That is, trivial (i.e., lacking a functional advantage) changes still occur and/or are pending with each season to suit my aesthetic sensibilities of the moment (!?!) OR once-in-a-while for practical reasons (i.e., the handlebars are now Cinelli 66).

    So, WITHOUT addressing the wheel/tire size, you can add Campagnolo shifters + a rear derailleur (if necessary) + a 7-speed SunRace Freewheel which will typically fit on a vintage 126mm rear wheel + 9-speed Shimano chain for ~$200 +/- if you buy the parts on eBay.

    Additionally, you will need an adequate chain tool + a 5mm Allen Wrench which has a 4" shaft to install the shifters (T27 Torx with a 4" shaft if you opt for the current Campagnolo style shifters) + 3mm (?) Allen Wrench if you get some downtube cable stops which are designed to fit on braze-on bosses AND you will either need to borrow a tool to remove the existing Freewheel OR you can have a shop remove it OR if it is un-moveable/damaged, you can grind off the cogs & outer portion & use a pipe wrench to remove the core which is threaded onto the actual rear hub (brutal, but sometimes that's what it comes down to ... one time, my LBS did not have the specific Freewheel removal tool that I needed & I subsequently deemed the particular Freewheel not worth re-using/salvaging).

    Of course, you could spend many times as much if you opted for high-zoot components OR if you opted for a more complete updating and/or if you were to buy the components from a local brick-and-mortar shop (unless you live in-or-near Springfield, IL).
     
  4. acuradriver

    acuradriver New Member

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    Thanks for the feedback so far! The partial reason why I wanted to powder coat the frame was the fact that the badging and stripes along the top rails are really faded. The paint on the frame is all there but dull. If I do this, I'd like to make it as new looking and driving as possible, without destroying what made it what it was. I am definitely upgrading to new running gear as suggested. If I wanted to restore the cosmetic aspects (although there will be several aspects of course) how would I go about it to keep the look?
     
  5. Scott2468

    Scott2468 Member

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    That is a nice looking old bike.

    I also did a resto on an 30 year old steel bike. http://www.cyclingforums.com/t/499092/abeni-bicycle

    As it has sentimental value, my vote is to keep it original. Just take it slow. Dont make big changes in a hurry and then regret it later.

    If you want an every day commuter it is probably cheaper and easier to get something already setup. You can learn & gather tools as you go.
     
  6. adenough

    adenough New Member

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    Grandfathers bike? How lucky are you? If it is still roadworthy I would service it and ride it as it is. It's got be full of memories. I would never get it resprayed. 27" wheels roll much better than 700c. I ride both. There was never a real need to change over to 700c. I ride this 1985 beauty on a regular basis. Totally original.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  7. oldbobcat

    oldbobcat Well-Known Member

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    Decent bike, but not really special. Make it work nicely and personalize it. If you decide to go overboard, do it as a hobby, not an investment.
     
  8. Froze

    Froze Well-Known Member

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    That is a nice looking bike, it's great you have a bike that your grandfather enjoyed.

    I disagree with all the comments about spreading the stays and put more gears in to make it more modern. First of all that bike is not a bike you'll be racing with, it's a vintage bike that should be left unmolested to retain its originality as your grandfather rode it and as it should be remembered to be. You could easily put in a 7 speed gear cluster and should not have to change a thing except a washer and redishing the wheel, if however the LBS says it needs to have the stays spread to except a 7 speed then just get a 6 speed cluster and call it a day. Like I said you won't be racing it so having 5, 6, 7, or 8 gears in the back won't make a lick of difference.

    In some instances you can upgrade the wheelset to 700c (assuming it has 27" wheels) IF the brakes will adjust to reach the 700c, some bikes will but others will require new brake calipers which if that is the case with your's again don't do it just leave it 27, there are still 4 or 5 really nice 27" tires on the market you can get for it.

    I do agree however not to have it powder coated. Vintage bikes are worth more with their original paint job intact. I know you said your bike is a 85 Le Tour but that paint is either a gunmetal color which if it is a 85 it should be a Super Le Tour which would have Suntour Cyclone components instead of Suntour ARX; or it's an 84 Le Tour in what they called a warm silver color with ARX components.

    Anyway, doing all the conversions to modernize it goes against my grain, just an opinion of course, and you could find yourself in a money sink hole that will quickly exceed the value of the bike. If you want a racing bike with modern components then save the $600 or so it will take to modernize it and look for a 5 year old racing bike.
     
  9. dhk2

    dhk2 Active Member

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    I've kept first "adult" bike, a 1973 Raleigh Gran Sport, and it's still all-original, rust spots and all. Last time I had it out to ride, I had to replace a fraying shift cable, but that's the only thing new on the bike other than the tires and brake pads. It's not worth much to anyone else, but it's the bike I did my first century and race on, so it's special to me.

    So obviously another vote here to keep it all original. No updates or repaint jobs, which will only detract from the antique and sentimental value. To most every potential buyer, it's just an ordinary old clunker bike not worth very much, but it's special to you because granddad rode it just the way it is today.
     
  10. alfeng

    alfeng Well-Known Member

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    Quote:
    Originally Posted by adenough .
    Grandfathers bike? How lucky are you? If it is still roadworthy I would service it and ride it as it is. It's got be full of memories. I would never get it resprayed. 27" wheels roll much better than 700c. I ride both. There was never a real need to change over to 700c. I ride this 1985 beauty on a regular basis. Totally original.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    Beautiful bike!
     
  11. alfeng

    alfeng Well-Known Member

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    FYI. Replacement decals can often be found on eBay ... the cost varies widely.

    • Cyclart (Vista, CA) can reproduce frame decals -- I think that the cost is a minimum of $40. THEY can respray a frame, too, to original spec (or, presumably, however you want it to look) at a considerable-to-me cost
     
  12. Froze

    Froze Well-Known Member

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    Cyclart is a very expensive place to have a bike repainted, the average cost according to their website is $1,000! Depending on where you live your LBS should have a contact for someone who can paint bicycles for a lot less money, I know my LBS has a contact that averages $250 plus decals. Keep in mind that replacement decals are made of vinyl, vinyl is quite a bit thicker than the original thin water transfers, there isn't any place around that I know of that makes replacement water transfers except for just a very few handful of bike brands and models.
     
  13. zena333

    zena333 New Member

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    On the back of your enquiry about revitalising an old bike of sentimental value ....
    I have a (reportedly bespoke hand-made) Carpenter bike, dating from 1928 (its number is punched into the frame, so can be identified, as numbers were given in sequence). Some parts are in good condition, though the leather seat is in shreds. Is there a market for bikes like this and if so, who would be interested ?
     
  14. oldbobcat

    oldbobcat Well-Known Member

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    A 30 year-old LeTour is a decent old bike but nothing special. My advice is, restore it to good riding order using as much original equipment as possible. That would mean new cables, pads, bar tape, tires, and tubes, and overhauling the bearings. Upgraded saddle and pedals might make it more comfortable and fun to ride. And ride it, and enjoy its old-style class and sentimental value without going overboard.

    The mods that are being suggested here will not add to the market value of the bike, and you will still be riding something that is a lot more expensive and not as responsive as a new midrange road bike. I've got an old bike, too, that's pretty much frozen in time for 1980 except for the saddle and pedals. I enjoy riding it, but when I want to go long, hard, or fast, I ride my newer bike.
     
  15. Damien Lee

    Damien Lee Active Member

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    I've got a bias towards vintage bikes so take this as it may. I recommend that you restore your vintage bike and just enjoy it. While technology in bicycles has advanced tremendously, that doesn't mean that older bikes are not enjoyable to ride. Even 20-30 years ago, bikes were already pretty impressive and had enough features to satisfy most ardent cyclists. If you eventually tire of it, then you know it's time for an upgrade.
     
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