Saturday, August 28, 2010

Seymour Blueskies

As some have already noticed, I recently acquired one more bicycle that I have not yet written about. It is a vintage Trek roadbike - fast and aggressive, with super-responsive handling. Don't ask how I got the bike; sometimes these things just find you. It was in exactly my size, and came along at a time when I had begun to experiment with more aggressive road cycling. I wanted to try a "real" roadbike without spending more money, and here was my chance.

So please allow me to introduce Seymour Blueskies. He is a Trek 610, built in 1982. The lugged steel frame is made with Reynolds 531 tubing, and cro-moly fork and stays. The frame is 52cm, with 700C wheels. It is an interesting blue-gray colour that Trek called "gunmetal"in its catalogues.

The 610 was a higher-end model, and the previous owner built it up with nice components - though over the years they had become somewhat of a medley.

The wheels were handbuilt using Rigida racing rims with a gunmetal finish, a Campagnolo rear hub, a Suntour XC 9000 front hub, and double butted spokes. The drivetrain is Suntour Sprint 9000, with Suntour downtube shifters. The stem is vintage Nitto and the handlebars are ITM. The bicycle also came with a Brooks Finesse Titanium(!) women's saddle.

I have kept all of the components as they were, except for the brakes and brake levers, which we replaced with new Tektros. We also added cork bar tape, installed SKS fenders and a bottle cage, replaced the original clipless pedals with MKS Touring pedals (with Powergrips), and attached my Zimbale bag and a Crane bell from another bike.

I prefer cloth tape on handlebars, but these bars have a weird, squared-off shape to them with a carved-out channel for cable routing. This can all be felt though cloth tape, making the bars uncomfortable to hold without a layer of cork. They are also a bit too narrow for me, and if the Trek ends up being a keeper I would like to replace them with something like Nitto Noodles, or a vintage equivalent.

The reasoning behind the SKS fenders was initially budget-driven, but I am very happy with this choice. They are quieter and less fussy than Honjos; I hardly even notice them. The Co-Habitant hates SKS fenders, because he thinks they are "ugly". I do not find them "ugly";  just more sporty than Honjos - which was exactly the look I was going for here. Incidentally - even with the fenders, saddlebag and waterbottle, the Trek is the lightest bicycle I own.

After a few weeks of ownership, I have also just replaced the original Michelin 25mm tires with 28mm Panaracer Paselas in white. The Michelins that came with it are supposed to be fantastic, but they felt hard as rocks and made for a very harsh ride. The Paselas, on the other hand, feel as if I am riding on a cloud. 28mm tires are probably the widest this bicycle will fit with fenders, and that is fine with me.

Now, for the ride quality... The vintage Trek handles very differently from the Rivendell Sam Hillborne. The best way I can describe this bike's behaviour, is that it wants to go fast and does not like to go slow. At slow speeds the Trek feels unstable and difficult to maneuver, especially when cornering. It took me a few rides to learn how to handle this without panicking, but eventually I got used to it. By the same token, it becomes amazingly stable and precise at fast speeds: Once I exceed 16mph, it seems to magically "relax" and almost floats above the asphalt. Accelerating is easy - almost too easy! One turn of the pedals, two turns - and before I know it, I am flying.  This is great fun now that I am more or less comfortable on a roadbike, but even a couple of months ago I would not have been able to handle this kind of cycling. When riding the Hillborne, I feel that I am exploring - I can go fast, or I can go slow. Riding the Trek, I feel that I preparing for a race - going slow is not really in the cards.

All other factors remaining equivalent (road and traffic conditions, my energy levels, etc.), the Trek is a faster ride than the Rivendell. I cannot tell how much faster exactly, because conditions are never identical on any two rides - but when the Co-Habitant accompanied me, he said the difference in my speed on the two bikes was noticeable. One explanation for this could be that the Trek's handlebars are set lower, but it could also just be that the bike is designed to be a bit racier. On the flip side of the speed advantage, the Trek is not as comfortable as the Rivendell (which is insanely comfortable) and encourages over-exertion - leaving me feeling far more exhausted after a ride. One curious thing about how I feel on the Trek, is that my hands always hurt at the beginning of a ride - but stop hurting as the ride progresses and I pick up speed. This is surprising, because when something hurts at the start of a ride, it typically only gets worse the longer I cycle - so each time I get on the bike I have to suspend disbelief and remind myself that my hands will stop hurting in a few minutes. And thankfully, they always do. I also find it challenging to hold the drop portions of the bars on the Trek (something I have already mastered on the Rivendell) without losing some control of the bike or at least weaving a bit. I am sure this will feel comfortable eventually, but I am not there yet. Just yesterday, I was finally able to use the downtube shifters for the first time - after having tearfully declared that they were "impossible" time after time on previous rides. Everything takes practice.

When I first got the Trek, I was not at all sure that I would be keeping it. We modified it just enough to make me comfortable, and it would be easy to resell this bike at no loss. I wanted to experience a "real" roadbike without the coddling qualities of the Rivendell, and now I have. So what next? Well, I don't know yet, but I don't really want to let it go. It has been bewildering to discover that I kind of, sort of might actually be good at road cycling, and I would like to see this discovery through. Depending on how much time I have in a day for a ride, I take either the Rivendell (for long rides), the Trek (for medium, but fast paced rides), or the fixed gear Moser (for shorter, intense rides) - and together they are helping me understand my potential.

60 comments:

  1. You are so inspiring! Pretty soon you are going to have all us Upright-Bicycle Girls on roadbikes. This just looks like so much fun!

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  2. Very nice. This is very similar to my main ride. A 1982 Bianchi "Limited" SKSs, 28mm tires, a nice old leather "Wrights" saddle, Carradice Pendle bag. One bit of bling I found some old old "Dura Ace" centerpulls. They only made them a year or so, they work great.

    I has Sheldon send me Sora 7-speed double brifters, and I set up a compact double. It is a very versatile gearing, pretty fast (I used it on my one Century) and I used it all the time to go to yoga or pickup a loaf or sixpack at the market.

    It is probably as light, or more, then most of your bikes and though that isn't all important, it can be nice.

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  3. nice review of the difference between the trek and the sam hillborne. those old treks are certainly undervalued... true sleepers in the vintage bike community. if you recall, there was a time when i wanted to sell my trek... at first i felt it was too racy, buy as you now know, it is my favorite road bike.

    and pfft to MDI :-). i think the SKS fenders look great on the right bike...and a fast trek is the perfect for them... i should know...i chose them for my trek ;-)

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  4. The drive train is nice on this Trek, it's got mostly high-end Suntour Sprint 9000 derailer/hub/cranks/misc parts, really nice Superbe Pro rings, a nice front derailer and so on. The Campy rear hub is odd, but maybe that's what the guy had on hand.

    I can't say how it rides, but it's super-quiet and the gears seem to shift very smoothly. Maybe it's the road/racing cassette, but, frankly, I think the old-school Suntoor derailer is to "blame."

    There are some more odd things, e.g. someone prepped the fork for a recessed brake but the rear still uses a bolt. It's a good thing I was inside a bike store when I discovered that, messing around and trying out different parts. Also, I am pretty sure these ITM bars were designed for brifters (2 sets of cable guides) while the bike has downtube friction shifters. The old brake levers were Dia Compes which were probably not original to the bike either. Oh, and the stem is a vintage Nitto Young with a pretty decent rise. (How cool is that?) The headset is Shimano 105, so maybe the bike originally had Shimano 105 components as it came from Trek. But who knows.

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  5. SKS fenders are a pain in the butt to install, worse than Honjos, and you can never get them to unwarp. They are always crooked no matter what. We had this discussion in person, but for the record, I don't have to keep re-setting the Honjos but have to mess with these all the time. Yes, I hate them! :)

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  6. ...my love of road/race geometry; described succinctly, and with more eloquence than I could fathom.

    Slow on a road-bike? Twitchy is the only word I could use to describe that feeling ;)

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  7. Thanks Kara, and I hope you are enjoying your exciting new acquisition as well! Looking forward to your review.

    somervillain - The thing about fenders, is that there really isn't much choice. You either go for the Honjo/VO look or for the SKS/Planet Bike look. I wanted the latter, and have heard not so good things about Planet Bike fenders (plus they just look flimsy), so SKS was pretty much it. What I like about them, is that the bike does not feel like it has fenders. I definitely feel the fenders on my other bikes.

    MDI - Thanks for listing the additional components. And yes, I forgot to mention how amazing the shifting on this bike is; I could not imagine that derailleur shifting could be so silent and low-maintenance!

    Chris - Do you know whether those (or any) brifters will work with a 6-speed cassette like the one on my Trek?..

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  8. MDI - I think you mess with them on purpose, so that you can say you hate them! And you are conveniently forgetting about the rattling problem on the Hillborne we spent a month diagnosing!

    Luc - The Rivendell has spoiled me by never, ever being twitchy! Not sure how they do it, but they do...

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  9. Let's see if the SKS fenders rattle after 1500 miles. They are held by like 10 screws each... I can't even begin to imagine putting lock-tite on them, given that I need to adjust them after each time the bike is leaned.

    It's either Honjos or get a kickstand. :)

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  10. A trade-off by not being "as fast" as the Trek, I would suppose... have you considered switching to a set of 700 x 23 (or even 21)?!

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  11. You might consider a cloth tape overwrap. My cross bike has two tape wraps and it is very nice. I hope we shall here more details on the Tektro calipers and how they work. I've noticed the only bikes that stay pure are the ones that are unused and unloved.

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  12. Nice bike! I had a Trek racing bike from around that time. You describe the ride well. It's typical of racing bikes: more stable at high than at slower speeds. If you're riding in group of fast riders (e.g., a peloton), that's a quality you want.

    Treks from that time were nice. The higher-end ones, like yours and the one I had, were built by hand. The workmanship on them showed care.

    So the girl on a loop frame becomes a roadie. What next--bicycle polo?

    MDI: Those bars are indeed made for brifters. I know, because I had a pair like them. The ones I had (which were made by TTT, another Italian company) came with rubber strips that fit into the grooves, underneath the handlebar tape.

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  13. I LOVE the color. Especially if it really looks anything like it does in the the photo showing the cork tape.

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  14. Love your new/old bike - I've got my Ebay scanners set for something similar but British - an old Raleigh, Dawes or Claud Butler. Interested in your Honjo/SKS debate - I've used SKS fenders (or mudguards as we call them in the UK!). I love the look of metal 'guards, and have hovered over the Buy Now button a few times (Velo Orange's metal fenders) but the toughness and quietness of the SKS fenders keeps drawing me back.

    My trust in SKS fenders comes from years of experience, including one notable day, when I was cycling down the towpath when a stick got stuck in my rear fender and the whole rear part of the fender folded up and over itself. The rear wheel jammed and I skidded to a halt. I got off and inspected the fender, thinking it was time for a new one - however the whole thing just bent back into shape and has looked, and worked, fine ever since.

    Hope you enjoy your new, fast and practical bicycle.

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  15. Very nice. There was a very nice similar bike at our coop for several months. I held off buying it or even riding it, and then about a month ago I decided to take it for a test ride. Much to my disappointment, it had finally sold.

    I think you'll continue to like your fenders. I have them on my Bridgestone. They were pretty easy to install and I've never had to adjust in two years of nearly daily riding. Oh, and never a rattle.

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  16. This is an interesting post for me at the moment. I had been looking at a couple similar "vintage" steel Treks to use as a "city road bike" but ended up going with an early 90's aluminum Cannondale road bike instead. I am just starting to get used to drop bars so the Cannondale ended up being a good option to experiment with. I don't know if I will keep it forever, but at the price, it's a good test ride.

    Something I was curious about, have you been able to test a vintage Schwinn Le Tour yet? We have his/her matching Le Tours, 1979 and they are wonderful. I have a similar Motobecane mixte as your Marianne as well but I have to say, there is something about the Schwinn Le Tour model that is just not comparable. Heavier than the Motobecane but not too heavy either. A smooth ride, unlike the Motobecane which is light and twitchy. Comfortable and quiet. I guess that is why the vintage ones sell like hotcakes on Ebay. :-) I'm curious if others have that same opinion or if you had tried that model yet and what your thoughts were. And - also how they would compare with the vintage Trek. Now that I read this post, I am so curious to test one of these older Treks!

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  17. I'm guessing the down tube shifters are friction? I have an older Cannondale road bike that originally came with friction down tube shifters. I swapped them out for indexed shifters with a friction option long ago.

    I have Planet Bike fenders on my Trek. They've been ok so far, but they do rattle a little more than I thought they would. They look ok though.

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  18. velouria, you heard bad things about planet bike fenders? i had heard good things about both planet bike and SKS fenders, with the edge going to SKS. in the end, i went with SKS for my trek for three reasons: 1) i had an opportunity to buy the UK version very inexpensively, 2) the UK version has that lovely mudflap, and 3) the grey plastic with black stripes complement the grey and black theme of my trek headbadge :-). however, i easily could have gone with planet bike cascadia fenders if the price had been better. i have planet bike fenders on two other bikes (well, one of them my wife's bike), and i have been very impressed with them (although the overall quality of the SKS is slightly higher, in my estimation). i had a very similar experience to theeverydaycyclist, in that i had an accident that caused the rear fender to bend back upon itself (i was rear-ended by a motorist). to my surpsise, the fender just popped back into place with a little nudging. if the fender had been aluminum, it would have been toast. in the end, i think the thought behind the design of planet bike and SKS fenders is to make them durable, and durable they are. they are certainly heavier than VO or honjos (the stays are stainless steel, and they themselves are probably about four times heavier than VO/honjo aluminum stays), and initially i was a little disappointed by that, but just like you mentioned, my vintage trek with SKS fenders is *still* lighter than my raleigh comp GS with honjo fenders!

    i'm glad that you've had the opportunity to discover the difference that high-end components make to the overall feel and operation of a bike. even though a bike may be vintage and the components old, high-end components can really stand the test of time and out perform brand new low- to mid-range comps. i notice this all the time: high-end vintage mechs usually operate with more precision and smoothness than new, low-end mechs. but i'm curious: you've mentioned how smooth and quiet the shifting is with the high-end suntour mechs, but how does it compare with your new sam hillborne? if i recall correctly, doesn't the sam have new deore mechs? that line is solidly middle-end, but i would imagine that they compare similarly to vintage high-end.

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  19. Anon 9:06: My commuter-errand bike is a LeTour III from 1979. I converted it to a single-speed with fenders, a rack and baskets. It's one of the most stable bikes I've ever ridden--and I've commuted on Raleigh three-speeds and had the opportunity to ride Dutch-style city bikes.

    I think the wheelbase on the LeTour is a bit longer than that of the Motobecane. I never had the model you're thinking of, but I have seen and ridden it. I did once own a higher-end model, which was a full-on racing bike, so I can't really generalize about Motobecanes.

    Anyway...The LeTour was definitely one of the best-designed bikes of its type and in its price range. They were made in Japan for Schwinn by Panasonic, which was also known for well-designed bikes that erred toward the conservative.

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  20. Put the handlebars on the Hillborne a little higher and you will feel more comfortable riding in the drops.

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  21. Yet another very kool bike. I noticed myself looking at alot of your pictures trough search engines. I am restoring an Batavus Bato bike that I used when I lived in Amsterdam. You've had a lot of parts on your bikes that a really like.

    Good taste!

    Cheers from Holland.

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  22. Gilles Berthoud in France makes and sells
    beautiful stainless steel mudguards.

    http://www.gillesberthoud.fr/anglais/index1.php

    They are heavier but stronger than Honjos.
    I put them on Cathys Gazelle when the original
    ones rusted out after five years of commuting
    and living outdoors (the bike that is, not Cathy)

    John I

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  23. Excuse my ignorance, but how do you know if a bike is "your right size"? I'm 5.5 By bike feels fine, I'm just curious. Thanks.

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  24. Sigh. Someday I will understand WHY this bike should be inherently faster than your Sam. I guess the two big factors would be weight and angle (which muscles are used)? I wonder how the aerodynamics factor compares with those, and if there is anything else about a frame (or maybe wheel size?) that would contribute. I guess I could either try to figure this out theoretically or take your approach - buy and ride LOTS of bicycles until it just makes sense!

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  25. When the Co-Habitant can't stand the SKS mudguards any longer, I've got a set of Gilles Berthoud SS 700 x 40mm with leather mudflap that aren't doing anything. Will fit up to 700 x 32c. Won't crack and break like SKS.

    They were mounted once but not ridden. Everything here seems to be morphing into either 27 x 1¼ or 650B, so I don't need them. Yours (or anyone's) for $35 plus shipping (~$77 new), all hardware included, and save me the trouble of photographing them and putting them in the cyber garage sale.

    You can see pics and info at Wallingford.

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  26. Astroluc - If I end up keeping the Trek and joining some women's training rides that I have been considering joining, I may switch them to the same white Paselas but in 23mm.

    Steve - What I dislike about cork tape is not the texture (if unshellacked, I like it fine), but the padding. I prefer the firmer, thinner feel of the cloth tape.

    Justine - I can safely say that you won't see me playing bike polo (or doing cyclocross, or mountain biking, or triathlons). You can quote me on that in the unlikely event that I falter!

    And re the brifters again: does anybody know whether any exist that will work with a 6-speed cassette? I have not been able to get a straight answer to this, though it seems like a "no" is likely.

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  27. Janice - Yes, the DT shifters are friction, but they are very swift and hassle free.

    somervillain - Re Planet Bike quality, it was mostly word of mouth and comments on the internet. I have heard/read complaints of them cracking and rattling. The SKS fenders are silent and seem to be less prone to breakage. I also don't particularly care for the looks of Planet Bike, so the choice was clear. I also like the black stripes on the SKS, because they seemed to go with my Trek's colour scheme and to suggest, "Look, I know I have fenders, but I remain a sporty bike". For that same reason I did not want the version with the mudflap; to me that feature seems meant for commuter and touring bikes.

    Re derailleurs & shifting: Don't get me started... I love the Silver friction bar-ends on my Hillborne, but I would call the shifting on that bike fussy and high maintenance. The Co-Habitant tells me it has to do with having a triple and that it can't be helped - in other words, this is as good as a triple can get. I remain skeptical. The main issue, is that when switching gears it takes (in my view) way too much time and effort to get the gear stable and to stop rattling. Either the rear derailleur rubs, or the front rubs, but something always rubs -and I have to fiddle with it attempting not to go mad while climbing a hill and trying to maintain speed. I have gotten better at doing all of this quickly and was *almost* convinced that this is just how these things are... Until I learned how to use the DT shifters on the Trek and discovered how magically simple and hassle-free its shifting is in comparison. I know that the Trek is a double and the Riv is a triple, but can that really be all there is to it?

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  28. Justine - Thanks for that feedback on the Le Tour. Mine does say made in Japan. It's comforting to know I'm not the only one with that impression of this particular model. I like it so well I am thinking of hunting for another to use as a touring bike. Out of all our bikes, the Le Tours are the ones the LBS guys have asked if we're interested in selling. I've already modified my Le Tour with Velo Orange Tourist bars and a rack as well and my intention was to use it as a shopping/errand bike too. The Motobecane is the same frame size of my Le Tour if measuring from crank to top seat tube, but my feet hit the front wheel on sharp turns and this does not happen with any of my other bikes. This must be the shorter wheel base you are referring to. This discussion about the Trek does have me interested, although it is sounding like it wouldn't be a good fit as a touring bike.

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  29. Triples: To an extent, I'll agree with the Co-Hab. Triples make it harder to maintain an optimal chain line, but it's not impossible. Have you tried adjusting the BB cups so that all three chain rings fall comfortably within the excursion limits of the FD cage? (I'm assuming these are the Sugino cranks that Rivendell sells.)

    As far as the RD goes, again check the limit adjustment. Some RDs require overshifting and trimming, particularly as you shift up. I'm an advocate of friction shifting, but it gets more finnicky on 9 and 10 sp cassettes (read: takes practice, sometimes a lot). I prefer to keep it to 7 or less in the rear.

    Brifters for 6sp: Won't happen with Shimano. I recall seeing an article somewhere (Campy Only?) on how to modify Ergo shifters for 6 and 7 speeds. If the Ergo shifters have no other advantage over the ugly Shimano brifters, being able to do field maintenance and modify them give them the edge. If you just want indexed shifting, SunTour made DT shifters for 6 and 7 speeds that can be run either indexed or friction. They also made thumb shifters which could be bar mounted near the brakes. Most of these were for MTB, but IIRC they did have a couple of models in the road line-up. Finally, there are adapters that allow you to convert DT shifters to thumb shifters. The Paul Thumbies won't accept the SunTours, but I think there are some that will.

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  30. velouria said "I remain skeptical."

    i would. how many triples has MDI owned? between me and my wife, we have three triples in our collective stable. two are at or near the top of the line (1980s triple deore XT friction on my shogun and 1990s triple deore LX indexed on my wife's specialized) and the shifting on the rear derailleur is smooth and silent on both. my wife's LX is indexed and a little newer, and extremely quick-- a click of the shifter, and the shifting is just about instantaneous-- and smoother and faster than the 1980s shimano 105 double drivetrain on my trek 560. by contrast, my old cannondale has a lower-end suntour triple drivetrain, and it is clunky, slow to shift and makes a cacophony of protest in the process. given that your sam has new mid- to high-end components, i'm surprised to hear your characterization of the shifting...

    on the other hand, with a triple, there is more limitation on the range of rear gears that can be used by both the outer and inner chainrings-- the inner should not be used with the smallest rear cog and the outer shouldn't be used with the largest, since the chainlines may be considerably off. but the shifting from one rear cog to an adjacent one, regardless of which chainring is being used, should be swift, silent, and smooth.

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  31. somervillain - I think it is more a matter of perception. The Co-Habitant thinks the shifting on the Rivendell is smooth, silent and excellent; he would not describe it in the negative way I did. And while I agree that it is infinitely smoother than, say, my 1981 Motobecane was, I still fuss with it. The gears do shift smoothly and very quickly, but often I need to continue to make micro adjustments after the initial shift to prevent barely audible noises from the derailleur rubbing. They are not anything like the rickety, tractor-like noises on the Motobecane. But even soft noises bother me when I feel that the gear is not in its perfect place.

    What Phil wrote above about overshifting and trimming works, and I often end up doing that. But I define that as high-maintenance.

    Phil - I will investigate the BB cups, thanks. As for the shifters, I was specifically curious to dry the "brifter" style; am not a fan of thumb shifters on a roadbike.

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  32. Velouria,

    I think you'd be better off to try riding a bike already set up with 8/9/10 speed brifters or Ergo levers and see if you like them. I still think it's possible to modify Ergo levers (but I couldn't find the article with Google) by limiting the number of "clicks" available, but I think that would be a one-way mod, i.e. not reversible. If you are comfortable with friction shifting (and you seem to be), why change?

    My experience with indexing on the rear (the front is a waste even though all modern gruppos include it) is that it's like a British roadster from the '50s or '60s. As long as everything is in tune, it's great and just hums along. But when it starts getting a little out of alignment as the cables stretch or things like the retention spring in the shifters start to go "soft", you'll miss the ability to trim your shifts on the fly.

    If this is for the Trek, which is 2 x 6, I'd go with bar cons and stick with friction shifting. I don't see any advantage to indexing a 6-speed rear. The bar con adapters that Rivendell sells will accommodate those SunTour levers, IIRC, or you can go for the original SunTour racheting bar-cons, which show up on eBay frequently.

    As far as the rubbing/noise goes, derailleur drive trains are like automatic transmissions - they work because there is a certain amount of "slop" built in. An automatic transmission won't shift at all if the slippage is engineered out (ask the engineers at Rolls Royce). Some derailleurs shift better than others but all will eventually wind up needing to be trimmed as the components are used.

    Since you have a triple up front (48/38/26 or similar, I assume) why not take the wheel to Harris and see if it can be fitted with one of their wide range 7sp cassettes? You don't really need a 3 x 9 anyway, since there's a lot of repetition with that front chainring spacing.

    SunTour made some of the best shifting long cage derailleurs ever manufactured. Scour eBay for a V GT Luxe, Vx GT or a Cyclone GT. The first two are relatively cheap; the Cyclone a bit more expensive. Get something like a SRAM PC 870 chain (I think Harris sells those, too) for 5/6/7 speed drivetrains.

    Those changes *should* mitigate the noises in the rear if the RD is aligned properly. Want to talk about a better approach to the Sugino triple ;-)?

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  33. The noises are in the front. The rear is 8-speed and shifts fine.

    The problem is that the front derailer cage is very sculpted and has grooves and paths for everything. It's thin and rubs if you even look at it wrong.

    I've since adjusted the angles inside the front derailer a bit and we noticed some modest improvement.

    To truly solve it, the bike would need a front derailer with a big football goal for a front derailer cage.

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  34. The above was re: Hillborne.

    The trek has a 6-speed rear and indeed shifts like a dream. The front derailer has a nice wide cage and is tolerant of 4 rear derailer shifts before it starts rubbing. (The Hillborne is unhappy after 2.)

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  35. MDI,

    Check out what Sheldon has to say about those "sculpted" MTB FDs. Here's a thought. S**tcan that FD and get a reliable double with wide cage excursion - a SunTour Compe V or Spirt (that's the real spelling) or a '70s era Campy NR. Swap the Sugino chainset for a set of TA Cyclotouriste rings and a set of cranks with a 50.4 BCD (TA Pro 5 Vis, Stronglight 49 series, Stronglight 45 Competition cottered, cool factor off the charts - and there's a Sugino that works but the model escapes me at the moment). Of course, that will likely mean a BB swap.

    If you have to have a triple, set it up as a half-step double plus a granny (e.g. 46/42/28). The double FD will handle the range so long as the cage excursion is at least 18-19mm. The SunTours have an excursion of 25.4mm. You'll spend most of the time on the double and the half step will give you more usable gears. Then you can drop down to the granny for big hills and big loads.

    If you don't really need the triple, set the Cyclotouriste rings up as "compact double" for the real world, say a 48-46 with a 28 or 30 inner ring. Now you have a host of FDs that will work. And FWIW, there's a seller in the UK right now who has 8 of the TA344 double BB axles for sale at a BIN price of 7 quid.

    I've had a Sugino FD triple set-up and it required constant tweaking. Part of the problem was the MTB FD (an early '90s SunTour XC Expert). It takes a little effort and a little dosh, but the TA approach is just mo' betta. If you don't want to haunt eBay for the original rings, Mike Kone at René Herse in Boulder has the newer rings with the laser-etched logos plus the necessary hardware.

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  36. That's a gorgeous bike. I agree with Kara - you make road cycling seem so appealing. I can't imagine being bent over that far, but I guess that's where the fast cycling comes in.

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  37. MDI, i'm a big TA fan and start drooling whenever i see TA cranks. however, before swapping the entire BB and chainring set, it's worth finding out what the chainline is like with the current setup and taking it from there. also keep in mind that, while TA cranks are indeed tres cool (i've got a TA 1/2 step + granny and also a double hanging in my basement waiting for the right bikes to adorn, and you're welcome to see them to get an idea if they'd work), i suspect it won't help with the FD problem... switching to a wider profile FD may be the first order of business. also, that TA344 BB probably won't work-- the bearing raceways are ramped to work with french-threaded cups. besides, TA cranks can work with any modern BB spindle; only the length is the relevant parameter here, so swapping to a TA BB won't gain you anything. better to stick with a modern sealed cartridge BB.

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  38. This is totally a thread hi-jacking.

    I am working on a bike now that's getting a Shimano Deore XT shadow derailer that hangs under the 8-speed cassette. That thing is amazing. It shifts smoothly and looks quite good--literally sitting like a shadow under the cassette. Very handy for someone who keeps walking the rear derailer into things.

    At some future point I may swap out Hillborne's rear derailer for the Deore XT shadow and at that time may get a wider cage front derailer to ease the rubbing sounds.

    I think the triple on the Hillborne has distinct advantages the way we have it set up, and going to a double is not necessarily going to be better than just going to a wider front derailer. It's also significantly cheaper to not have to replace BB, cranks, rings, FD and just replace the FD alone.

    Shifting focus back to the Trek, it's got Shimano SIS/Friction bar ends I picked up cheaply sitting in a box and waiting for me to swap out these downtube shifters for a racier set-up. But Velouria may end up keeping DT shifters, who knows...

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  39. MDI - I am all for eventually swapping Hillborne's current derailleur for the Shadow, which I agree is amazing. And you are right that I might just keep the DT shifters on the Trek, since I seem to be fine with using them now. I think you should install the Shimano bar-ends we scored on your Motobecane in place of the stem shifters you hate.

    Phil & Somervillain - I used to think I'd want TA cranksets on my new bikes, but after having attempted to buy one for the custom mixte we are building I've reconsidered. There is something off about the quality of the chainrings. I have been very happy with the feel of every Sugino crankset I've tried, so they no longer look quite as ugly to me as they once did.

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  40. "There is something off about the quality of the chainrings."

    I'd be curious to know what your experience with the Cyclotouriste rings has been that leads to this statement. TA first made the the CT rings in the late '40s and continued until just recently (2007, IIRC). I've never read any stories of ring failure under normal use.

    The small BCD coupled with the built in "spider" formed by the outer ring and the reinforcement given from the way doubles and triples are constructed make the set-up much stronger in practice that the weight and thickness of the individual rings might suggest. Because of that the rings can be spaced closer together than most other cranksets leading to the lowest Q factor available - less stress on your knees and hips. That should be particularly important to you since studies have shown that female athletes are anatomically more prone to things like ACL injuries.

    One could argue that the Pro 5 Vis/Cyclotouriste set-up is the best crankset ever made for the non-racing cyclist. I would certainly argue that. ;-)

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  41. phil: i agree, i don't see anything inherently "off" about the pro 5 vis rings, except that the versions with the narrow BCD for the inner rings (i keep forgetting the names associated with the various inner ring BCDs: one was referred to as "cyclotouriste" and the other "randonneur") were sometimes described to flex more under heavy torque.

    another obstacle that some pro 5 vis owners encounter is FD compatibility. since the Q factor is so low, as you state, the clearance between the crank and the outer ring is so tight that it precludes use of modern, sculpted FD cages (it also makes installing a chaingaurd or chaincase very tricky). it's also common to see FD cage scratch marks along the inside edge of the crank arm. but with a narrow FD, i think they are among the nicest cranksets ever made... and certainly among the lightest! (and with a single ring crankset, as on my jeunet porteur, the FD issue becomes moot).

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  42. Maybe it's the more recent laser-engraved TA rings, but the ones I bought (and returned) had poor machining on the inside, very rough edges. I would describe them as partially finished.

    While I did not see any issues with the teeth themselves, the difference in overall feel & quality where the "modern" ring attaches to the "vintage" TA "spider"/crank was quite upsetting. Unfortunately, going fully vintage and scouring E-bay, etc, is out for us at the moment.

    We are, of course, familiar with TA's strong reputation among vintage-aware cyclists. As far as narrow Q goes, and the respect TA cranks get, well, I am sure it is well deserved.

    ---

    On a different note, I wonder how the new-ish VO TA-style cranks will fair after a bit of riding. They are too new right now for anyone to really tell. This could be a fun future project for retro bikes that look perfect except for modern cranks.

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  43. What MDI said. Obviously, I love classic components. But I draw the line where chasing after classic looks/mythologies will compromise quality or performance. Probably the biggest example of that, is that I do not like non-aero levers and would refit even the most precious vintage bike with aero if I were to ride it. As for TA cranksets - if I could get my hands on NOS vintage ones the quality of which equaled or exceeded Sugino, I would be all for it, but we were not able to find any. Sadly, my schedule does not allow me to do the whole ebay thing and have time for this blog, so I prioritise by choosing the latter.

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  44. I have a theory, why your hands hurt at the start, and then stop hurting after a few minutes, on the Trek. Could it be that you're tensed up, a little cautious on the "new" bike? Then once you get into your stride you relax?

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  45. Somervillian - the two styles are Cyclotouriste and Criterium. Both fit 5-pin crankarms with 50.4 mm BCD. The mounting holes for the inner rings on the outer ring are set closer to the attaching bolts (~70mm I think) on the Cyclotouriste rings. The mounting holes on the Criterium are situated near the outer circumference. While a triple is possible with the Criterium rings, the "granny" ring can't be a small as in the Cyclotouriste. I'd guess a 36t at most.

    I'm not sure what you mean by narrow BCD, but I would expect the Criterium rings to exhibit flex if any did because of the lack of reinforcement to the outer ring's "spider" due to the attachment points of the inner rings being so close to the outer edge of the outer ring.

    Modern MTB FDs are a problem, which is why Sheldon and others have suggested a standard double FD with the half-step + granny set-up. The two SunTours I mentioned will work fine, show up cheap on eBay all the time (I just picked up a NOS Spirt for $12.99) and are also top normal, which means you'll shift in the same direction both front and rear.

    MDI - I have two Cyclotouriste/Pro V combos. One dates to the late '60s and has the familiar foil applique crank arm logos. The other is a recent (2005) version that's laser etched. I bought those cranks and a 44T track ring from Mike Barry in Toronto before he retired. The road CT rings I bought earlier this year from Mike Kone (46/42/28). They don't display any of the problems you experienced. (I just went downstairs to the shop and checked.) My digital micrometer teels me that the newer rings and the 40-year-old ones were made to the same spec. Possibly the ones you saw came from a bad run. There are knock-offs out there, too, like most everything else.

    Speaking of knock-offs, your mention of the VO cranks brings up what I consider an increasingly bothersome ethical problem with their products. Most of the items under their house brand represent the design work of others that they have copied in Taiwan. It appears legal (although I'd be curious to know what Toei thinks of the constructeur cable hangers, for example). But it leaves me very uncomfortable.

    Velouria - Mythologies? I sense in attempting to respond to your queries about drivetrain noise I've gotten on the wrong side of both of you. I apologize if my enthusiasm for older things (that perform well) is an affront. After all, I'm an older thing myself.

    I'll just say that some classic components are overrated and some outperform anything made since. Some modern components aren't what they are cracked up to be either. Lots of folks doing a lot of different things with old and new bikes and components these days. It's all (mostly) good 'cuz they're riding. All I ask is one respect the integrity of the frame. Some modern builds on classic frames I've seen fail to do that.

    As far as eBay and time goes, are you aware that you can save searches and they will be run every day for 6 months with the results delivered to your inbox? But that wasn't what that comment was about, was it?

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  46. The drop bar on my daughter's trailer bike has dual grooves, as well, for brake and shifter cables. That "bike" has only need for one of those four grooves (right brake lever runs to a brake I installed for her), so I cut lengths of cable housing to fill the three remaining grooves, and taped the housing into place with electrical tape before wrapping the bars. They're still a little lumpy at the transitions where the housing lengths end, but the profile is far more normal everywhere else. Just a thought, in case you hadn't tried that...

    J

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  47. phil:

    let me clarify my comments about narrow BCD and TA chainrings. i've had a chance to go through my database of used and NOS TA chainring sets that i have in my inventory (yes, some may say i have a TA fetish). i can never remember all the different designations in my head, but here is what i've gleaned:

    the TA "cyclotouriste" chainrings use the venerable 50.4 BCD outer ring, but with an 80BCD pattern for the inner rings. this 80BCD (what i was referring to as "narrow") is what allows a small granny ring to be fitted. there is another iteration of the 50.4 BCD outer ring called the "randonneur" which has a wider, 116BCD pattern. this doesn't allow fitment of a small granny gear, but i think it still allows for a triple setup with perhaps a 30-something tooth inner ring. then there is, as you mention, the "Criterium" variant, which has an even wider BCD, at about 150-something (154? again, can't remember as i haven't looked at my database since last night). the criterium pattern was used mostly for racing doubles, since the smallest inner ring is about 45T or thereabouts.

    clarifying my earlier comment re: flexing, i had read that a shortcoming of the "cyclotouriste" version with the 80BCD inner rings was that the outer ring would exhibit more flex, since the inner ring attachment points (and by extension, reinforcment points)(80BCD) were closer to the center of the ring, unlike the "randonneur" (116BCD) and "criterium" (154? BCD) attachment points.

    i'm also curious about velouria's experience with the new production run TA chainrings. perhaps harris cyclery got hold of a bad production run... but i think it is a little unfair to make a blanket statement about the quality of TA chainrings without qualifying the impression or having more firsthand experience with the brand. as for the the "mythologies" comment, well, i don't think it was intentioned as dismissive of vintage parts having any substantial merit beyond aesthetics of historical value, but i do think it may be interpreted by some that way, suggesting that the pursuit of vintage parts has no value beyond the desire for period-correctness-- essentially historical merit only. but as you said, phil, there are some components that still surpass their modern rivals in terms of performance, feel, durability or other tactile quality. and conversely, there are some vintage components that are worthless crap and command exorbitant sums of money... presumably for historical or mythological value (reynolds 531 frames come to mind here). so, i think velouria's mythologies comment may be rooted in this idea, that there is some vintage junk out there that people are willing to sell their unborn children for, but i think it might have been miguided as it pertains to TA chainrings.

    but i can also understand velouria's aversion to ebay and not having the time to wait for those elusive "mythologies" to appear. some people just don't like to scour ebay. that's fine. ebay happens to work well for me, and i've developed a routine for how i acquire parts that works with my schedule (i use the notification system that you mentioned... i've scored lots of things that way)

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  48. Ultimately, I think it is "to each their own" and we cannot objectively say that to chase one vintage idea is misguided and to chase another is justified. You disliked a couple of Reynolds 531 bikes that you have ridden and liked one that is not Reynolds 531, and so now your subjective experience has made you decide that Reynolds 531 is not worthy of its cache. I happen to like my Reynolds 531 bike, but I have no idea how much, if at all, that's related to its tubing. Either way, every opinion is biased and depends on personal experience. After seeing the TA chainrings that were available and comparing them to Sugino, the choice was clear for me and I could not pretend that I was not seeing what I was seeing, despite of TA's reputation.

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  49. Somervillian:

    I was going to bow out of this on the agree to disagree principle, but your 531 comment got me. ;-) All 531 frames? That's an exceedingly broad brush. And which 531 - triple-butted, double butted, plain gauge, 531 main triangles only? In my experience, it's not that it's Reynolds 531 that drives up the price, it's who brazed it. While some regularly overpay for Raleigh 531 production frames, Peugeots or a Falcon Eddy Merckx from Ernie Clements production line, an AS Gillott, a Southhampton Rotrax or a Rattray Scot is quite a different matter. Pretty much every desirable frame made in Britain's pre- and post-war Golden Age is Reynolds tubing, with a smattering of Accles and Pollock here and there. You are dismissing a host of beautiful craftsmanship. And that's before we discuss the French constructeurs who used Reynolds.

    I haven't seen anyone give up an unborn child for vintage junk. Most junk doesn't get sold. And a lot of decent desirable stuff isn't moving either because of poor pricing strategies on eBay.

    What I have seen is those pay a premium for names with cachet - the cult of Masi comes to mind - when an equally good frame and fork with much lower name recognition can be had for less (all the British frames named above, for example). But that's true in any hobby. Pre-war Western Electric 300Bs command outlandish prices, while there are many triodes for far less that can equal the sonics in the right circuit and system. But if a Masi or a WE 300B is what the buyer is set on and he has the wherewithal, then more power to him (and it is almost always a him in these instances).

    Part of the problem is the rather loose use of terms like "vintage", "rare", etc. If one relied only on eBay, one might think vintage meant "greasy, dirty and badly used". One might also think that anything predating the last vernal equinox also qualified. I'll not deny that it takes time to separate the eBay wheat from the chaff. And I can understand perfectly why one may not enjoy the processor feel it too burdensome.

    But...no, that's a good place to leave it and go have a late lunch.

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  50. velouria: okay, i'll agree with that... i think everyone has bias, and i guess your experience with the TA rings has shaped a bias for you, just as my reynolds 531 experience has for me. "to each their own"... here here!

    phil: oy, just as i thought i was going to bow out as well... velouria said, "so now your subjective experience has made you decide that Reynolds 531 is not worthy of its cache[t]". and, i said, "presumably for historical or mythological value (reynolds 531 frames come to mind here"

    neither of these statements suggest that to i think 531 frames are junk. rather, i think they are monetarily overvalued with respect to other lightweight steel alloys like chromoly. and on ebay, any rusted, bent frame with a reynolds sticker will sell for 2-3 times that of an equivalent non-reynolds frame. and i disagree about buyers buying into the builder. sure, a 531 frame from a well respected builder will fetch a small fortune, but i see everyting from little-known builders to bike-boom mass-produced 531 frames fetching far more than comparable chromoly frames. perhaps those buyers are in fact buying into the legend of tours de france winners on their 531 frames. i guess here, mythology and history do play roles in the collector's psyche, and this is borne out on biking forums, where people admit to buying into the cult of reynolds 531 despite not being able to tell the difference between other steel alloys. whatever, but i don't really get it. i do know that reynolds tubing was used in bikes of various levels of build quality. the french bike-boom bikes, for example: many were full 531 DB, yet the build quality ranged from excellent to abysmal... going to the extreme of force-fitting bent, poorly mitered tubes onto the jig. yet, these frames will fetch a small fortune at auction (rusty peugeot PX10 with mid-range comps for $800? raleigh supercourse with only "half" a reynolds frame and low end comps for $400? mid-80s trek 400 with "half" a reynolds frame and mid-range comps for $480? these are not just asking prices... these are prices that bikes have *sold* for... why is this?)

    what velouria was referring to (i think) was not that i categorically hold 531 in low esteem. she was referencing a conversation we had in which i mentioned that my tru-temper chromoly trek has the smoothest ride of any of the four lightweight steel road bikes in my stable (two reynolds 531 DB framed bikes, both with 531 forks/stays-- a raleigh comp GS and a french-threaded jeunet 630; a tru-temper RC1 chromoly trek; lastly a tange 2 DB shogun touring bike). of all of these, the two that are the closest in terms of dimensions and geometry, as well as tire size, are the raleigh and the trek. the trek frame has a wonderful feel to it: snappy and responsive, yet wonderfully supple and composed over bumps and washboarded road surfaces. the raleigh, by comparison, feels harsh and unsettled. granted, there are so many other variables that can contribute to these qualities (tires, rims, spoke tension, headset and hub adjustment, saddle, handlebar alloy and wrapping... those are the immediate variables that spring to mind). so, while it's impractical to do a direct comparison by swapping out all the comps from one bike to another, i have come to the very unscientific conclusion that i like my tru-temper chromoly trek better than my 531 raleigh. but it will probably never be worth as much as the raleigh, since the raleigh has that cachet that the trek will never have.

    will i continue to pursue reynolds 531 bikes? sure, but not because i think they are the "holy grail" of frame material or because of any cult value. i have to treat each one individually, and i certainly won't shell out a premium just to have the sticker.

    so, no, i wasn't dismissing reynolds 531 frames as junk!!!

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  51. All 531 frames are "worthless junk?" So why did every postwar Tour de France winner, pre-Eddy Mercx (and a few after him), ascend to the podium after riding Reynolds-tubed bikes?

    As for TA Cyclotouriste or 5Vis cranksets: As much as I want, in my heart of hearts, to ride anything that's vintage and/or French, sometimes there are good reasons why the old is superseded by the new. Some claim they're the most versatile cranksets. True enough, but I don't see my bikes with a 64-26 combo, at least not in the forseeable future. And I don't want to assembe or dissasemble so many bolts.

    If you're going to get a TA crankset, go for the 1990's-early 2000s Alize or Zephyr. They're beautifully made, and would look as right on a vintage bike as a modern one. More important, they have standard bolt patterns: 130 BCD (the same as Shimano road cranks) for the Alize and 110 ("compact" road or old-school mountain bike cranks) for the Zephyr. And, they were both available as triples, with the smallest ring having the industry-standard 74 BCD. It allows the use of a 24 tooth chainring, which is even better than the Cyclotouriste's 26T.

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  52. justine, see my comment before yours. i *never* said all 531 frames are "worthless junk"!

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  53. Crap. It's like quicksand.

    Somervillian - you said, "...there are some vintage components that are worthless crap and command exorbitant sums of money... presumably for historical or mythological value (reynolds 531 frames come to mind here)."

    That's pretty dismissive in my book, but I'll cede a qualitative difference between "crap" and "junk". I don't think that that Reynolds is the Holy Grail and, in fact, have frames of Deddacai and Columbus around and, if everything falls right, will add a Japanese cromoly frame in the near future. But like Justine, to dismiss something as overvalued or worthless simply because it is made from 531 is a bit over the top (and I realize that you've walked that back a tad. ;-))

    You gave the same examples I gave for lower end Reynolds frames, but are you sure these bikes are being bought at those prices solely because of the Reynolds frame transfer? There are aging Boomers like me for whom a PX-10 was their first real bike. Perhaps they are willing to overpay just for that trip into nostalgia. Silly? To be sure, but I doubt the 531 sticker has anything to do with that.

    It seems like a case of blaming the messenger. Even if there are those who overpay for that 531 transfer, that's hardly to be blamed on the tubeset. Rather, it's the lack of an informed buyer or, to borrow for what I hope is both the first and last time from Alan Greenspan, a case of irrational exuberance.

    Justine- I understand your objections and respect them, although it's only been about three years since the Pro 5 Vis and Cyclo rings ceased production. Since they stayed in production long past the introduction of the Zephyr and Alize cranks, I'm not sure "superseded" applies.

    My point about the versatility of the Cyclotouriste rings is not that you can have a 64T outer ring. It's that you can set up an outer ring in sizes more useful to most cyclists than the industry standard 52 and 53T rings. Outer rings from 42 to 46T are arguably more useful to recreational and commuting cyclists that a 53 x 12. You can also set up half-step doubles, which the offerings from the major groupset makers don't allow.

    You can do these things with Zephyr and Alize cranks too, but I would argue their aesthetic appropriateness on a frame from the '50s or '60s with other period-correct components. They would be fine replacements for '80s era SR cranks, for example, or on a bike with C-Record components. But I have trouble with the terms "vintage" and classic" when you move into the era of indexed shifting, clipless pedals and all the rest.

    Standard bolt patterns would be important if you plan to mix in rings from other makers. So that can be an important consideration. The bolts don't bother me.

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  54. The embedded link doesn't seem to work. Cut and paste below.

    http://bulgier.net/pics/bike/Decals_HeadEmblems/NOT_BuiltWithReynolds531.html

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  55. ha! good one. i saw one of sheldon brown's personal raleigh twenties last year at the larz anderson bike show, and it had one of those decals!

    maybe i should get a set of those for my trek ;-)

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  56. Congratulations, I have been busy,but had time to catch up on your blogging and I see an old TREK found you. It was inevitable. I have been riding one since I bought it in '86.
    They are great road bikes. I used mine for every thing for years.

    Marc

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  57. Somervillan: Your comment hadn't yet been posted when I submitted mine. Sorry!

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  58. I just wanted to say that I have recently acquired a 1983 Trek 600 which I believe is quite similar to your Trek, an I have the same exact thing with my hands. They hurt until I've been riding for about 20 minutes, then suddenly the pain disappears. Even if I stop and grab a drink at the convenience store and get back on, I still seem to be fine, just not in the first minutes on the bike. Are you still experiencing this, or did you find some way to alleviate it?

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