Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Gritty to Pretty: the Lovely Donation Bike!

Refurbished Shogun 400
I am pleased to report that the refurbished vintage donation touring bike - also known as "the roadbike for women who fear roadbikes" - is ready! As often happens with these things, the project took longer than I anticipated. In the end we did not have time to put the bicycle together ourselves, and I entrusted the job to the saintly Jim at Harris Cyclery - which contributed the labor pro bono and donated the remaining parts my build was missing, thus becoming a sponsor of this project along with Velo Orange. My sincere thanks to them, as well as to all readers who contributed parts and funds to this effort. This is not yet the official give-away announcement, as I first wanted to show off some pictures and describe the bicycle in detail. I hope you like it!

Refurbished Shogun 400
So what exactly is this bicycle... It began as a vintage Shogun 400 touring bike that looked like this when I picked it up, but has been rebuilt from the frame up. When I spotted the original bike, I immediately thought it had potential. The early '80s Japanese cro-moly frame with relaxed geometry promised a comfortable, "Rivendell-esque" ride. And, despite the fairly small size (52cm), it looked like there would be no toe overlap, even with fenders. As many know, it is extremely difficult to find a roadbike in a small size, with relaxed geometry and no toe overlap - be it modern or vintage - which is what makes some of these unassuming vintage Japanese frames special. My idea was to start with such a frame and build it up with comfortable, functional components - ending up with an unintimidating "starter" roadbike that a beginner would be able to learn on without undue nervousness or discomfort.

Refurbished Shogun, Nitto Randonneuring Bars
The biggest priority was the handlebar set-up. When women tell me they cannot ride vintage roadbikes, much of the time this turns out to be because the handlebars are uncomfortable - lacking a sufficient "shoulder" area. Those who are new to drop bars often assume that they are all the same, but in fact there are dozens of models, with subtle variations in shape. I chose the Nitto Randonneur handlebars for this bike, which have long, flat "shoulders" and a slight, ergonomic flare to them that most cyclists find extremely comfortable, particularly on long rides.

Refurbished Shogun, Tektro Brake Levers
I also chose modern Tektro short-reach brake levers, which are easy to squeeze from the top, even for those with weak hands.

Refurbished Shogun, Silver Bar-End Shifters
Finally, I chose Silver bar-end shifters, which are much, much easier to use than downtube shifters and less awkward than stem shifters.

Refurbished Shogun, VO Bar Tape
The leather handlebar tape is by Velo Orange. I had never tried it before and was glad to discover that it has a softer, more matte texture to it that Brooks leather tape (which I personally find a little too slippery).

Refurbished Shogun, VO Saddle
Velo Orange Model 3 touring saddle. Saddle comfort is one of these things that is different for everyone, but I have to say that (somewhat to my surprise) I found this one more comfortable than the Brooks B17s I once owned. The leather is very different from Brooks leather, and I cannot speak for its longevity or durability. But for me, there was no "breaking in" period, and no pressure on sensitive body parts. I will soon write a review of this saddle with additional details.

Refurbished Shogun, VO Fenders
Velo Orange hammered fenders, their pattern of indentations resembling a honeycomb. Later I will also post a comparison between the VO and Honjo versions of hammered fenders.

Refurbished Shogun, VO Crankset
Velo Orange also provided the headset and their Grand Cru double crankset. It was exciting when these cranksets came out, because they are classically shaped yet affordable. Personally, I find the looks of chunky modern cranksets rather depressing, so it's wonderful that these are an option. I have not ridden with them except during my test rides of this bike, but I welcome readers who've owned them to provide feedback. The pedals included are MKS Touring pedals, which I have on most of my bikes and love.

Refurbished Shogun, Panaracer Pasela Tires
The wheels are 27" touring wheels from the early '80s - a slightly nicer and cleaner version than the ones originally on the bike. The tires are the puncture-resistant Panaracer Pasela Tourguards. The headset, bottom bracket, chain, brakes, and front derailleur have all been replaced with modern components.

Refurbished Shogun, Original Wheelset
The rear cassette and derailleur are pretty much the only components that were left original. They are in good condition, but the downside is that the bicycle is only a 12 speed - as bikes of its era are. In order to upgrade to a cassette with more cogs, we would have needed to get modern wheels, which was beyond the scope of this project.

Refurbished Shogun 400
Here is a close-up of the bicycle's colour: an unusual champagne-lilac that I personally find very attractive.

Refurbished Shogun 400
The frame has been left original - frayed decals, rust spots and all - and I want to make it very clear that at heart this is still a vintage bike that looks its age, despite the updated components.

Refurbished Shogun, Carradice
I received a Rivendell "SaddleSack" as a donation from one of my readers, but I think this bike works better with a Carradice. So I will let the recipient choose - either the SaddleSack, or one of my own Carradice bags, as shown here. I will soon post a review of the SaddleSack (pictured here).

Refurbished Shogun, Carradice
And so that's it, in a nutshell. To my eye, this bicycle looks modestly beautiful, which is what I was aiming for. It is fairly light and is easy to carry. It is not "fast" by modern roadbike standards, so please don't expect to race or join paceline rides on it. Neither is it a bike for a tour of the Alps, since the gearing is somewhat limited by current standards. It is really meant to be a low-key, introductory roadbike for those with no athletic background, for those who want to explore nature while getting a bit of exercise, and for those who don't want to wear lycra and be all "serious" about roadcycling. If you've been unable to ride roadbikes in the past, this bike may be a good alternative to the ones you've tried. It is friendly. It is stable. There is no toe overlap. Lots of room on the handlebars for moving your hands around. Brake levers are easy to reach and easy to squeeze. Frame geometry is relaxed and won't hurt your knees. Having ridden the bike myself for a bit, it handles as comfortably and easily as I hoped. I've even ridden it in a dress and sandals, and it was great - just a really easy-going, "smell the flowers" kind of bike. Bicycles with drop bars are not for everyone - but this is as unintimidating of a way to try one as I can offer. I will announce the contest rules and timeline in the coming days, and I hope this bicycle will find the right owner.

I want to express my thanks again to Velo Orange, Harris Cyclery, and the generous readers who have contributed to this project: Justine, G.E., Neighbourtease, Spindizzy, Cedar, Somervillain, and others!

46 comments:

  1. This really turned out beautifully! I absolutely love the frame color.

    I also love how this post also acts as an instruction manual/tutorial for a beginner wanting to build up this type of bicycle for herself.

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  2. Oh my gosh! I can't believe how great the Shogun looks!! I love that you were able to keep some of the originality of the bike (in love with the frame color, by the way), and still upgrade components so that it will be a wonderful ride for a lucky lady out there. I literally can't stop smiling. Congrats on getting the project finished, too. I'm sure it's been quite a challenge, but the results are so beautiful.

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  3. While a beautiful refurb IMO It is still missing a key safety item..... a chainring guard to keep pants legs outta the chain!!!!!

    Still all in all a very nice effort.........

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  4. MelissatheRagamuffinAugust 30, 2011 at 2:11 PM

    Where do you get those hammered fenders and are they expensive? I'd consider putting those on Miss Surly but the black plastic ones I see at LBS are just ugly.

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  5. The Shogun looks really fantastic! Beautiful job! As someone completely new to road cycling, totally intimidated by it, but who really wants to explore outside of my new city (Seattle), I am looking forward to trying my best to win this. This will be a great bike for someone, and thank you so much for the time and energy you and your sponsors invested in it!

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  6. Gorgeous renovation! Love the color especially! Thanks for all the reviews of the different materials that were selected.

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  7. Beautiful restoration. I had a VO Grand Cru crankset but wasn't very happy with it. I cold-set my rear triangle to 135mm in order for it to accept the Rivendell Phil Wood hub, and the wider spacing caused the chain to be out of line in all but 4 speeds, due to the narrowness of the crank. Something people need to be aware of if they are thinking of using the crank on a newer or updated bike. Since you kept the original wheels, I bet the crank works great on the Shogun.

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  8. The bike looks great! I can't wait to win it! :D

    How wide are the tires? They look on the thinner side. Also any hints as to what the contest will be?

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  9. YEOW! I can't believe how great it turned out! It's just gorgeous in every way. That honeybomb fender? Unhh! It's so good that it hurts!

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  10. I agree, most all modern components are hideous, and why so much black and carbon weave! I love the retro looking stuff VO is doing now.

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  11. wow...compliments the bike turned out really cool! I bet the people who constructed,sold and even those who bought this in the late 70's-early 80's never dreamed a bike could look so good;-)
    for fear of going off-topic, I've noticed a lot of bicycles (not just yours) feature bar end shifters where the cables seem to come away from the bar only half way to make a loop and continue to the gears. I´ve always found it more elegant to the bike´s styling if the cables continue to follow the bar to the top ( like aero/brake cables do) and only then follow their way. any ideas why this is?
    (feel free to delete this and/or use it as e new topic for your lovely blog!)

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  12. Would you consider offering a few test rides for local readers interested in trying out this sort of bicycle?

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  13. I really can't wait for this giveaway!! That bike is a Beauty!!

    Dom

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  14. Anon 5:16 - Yes! Local readers, feel free to drop me a line at filigreevelo at yahoo.

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  15. droooool.......
    I'm with Anon 5:16, would love to give it a ride!
    Will talk to you this weekend about it maybe :)

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  16. Love it! You did a wonderful job!

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  17. neighbourtease - I keep meaning to write a post about what makes vintage roadbikes problematic for many women. I must have a couple dozen emails by now that all say the same thing about the handlebars and brake levers!

    Lauren - The tires are 27"x28mm (which are really more like 30mm).

    cycler - sure! Though I have a feeling you'll have other things on your mind this weekend : )

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  18. That bike looks great and ought to be really sweet for somebody. I wondered how it was coming.

    If you decide to do another I'd be happy to dig around some more to see if I had anything useful to throw in the pot. I have a 19" mid 80s Centurion in a nice blue/lavender that needs a new home. Nice bike, similar quality to your Shogun but almost perfect paint. Maybe that's how I can get shed of it...

    Spindizzy

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  19. I had a Shogun 600 with Shimano 600 Arabesque components, it was a huge improvement from my micro sized Gitane with sew-ups. I think the frame had better drop outs than the 400 but The tubing was probably same at least in the main triangle. Really great bikes I wish I never sold mine.

    For I prefer a silver finish on components to a black finish that gets scratched up, but when its hot and sunny and you have sweat in your eyes you will probably be happier to have shiny or matte black than silver components.

    I'm not sure I agree about newer cranks being clunky. Getting on some old bikes recently I was reminded that you can wack your ankle bone on the old non tapered crank arms. I find the Sugino RD2 cranks are a happy medium. You can put 38t small chainring on those.

    I like the velo-orange stuff but I haven't been happy with the execution, I ordered fenders one pair was missing mounting hardware, a 650b pair seemed quite large (I now use them on a 700c wheelset) My porteur bars were asymmetric as was my leather saddle. I'm not trying to rag on them. They seem to be doing well. I hope the quality control improves.

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  20. Peter-Jan, I wondered about this too. I second the request for a post.

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  21. I absolutely LOVE the frame color. Weimaraner Greyish. Lucky duck who gets that "grey ghost"!

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  22. Weimaraner Greyish : )
    I hadn't made that connection (not a dog person!), but yes the colour does resemble the shade of their fur. A bit more lilac though.

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  23. Peter-Jean and DFD - My understanding is that there are two reasons the cables are routed that way with bar-ends:

    1. You typically want to minimize the length of shifter cables; they function better that way.

    2. It's nice to have at least parts of the handlebars with no cables routed along them.

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  24. Beautiful, Veloria! It will make someone a great ride. I finished my Shogun restoration (except for the saddle) of the one I found too big for me. Later this month, my BF and I will be riding around rural Washington with him on the Shogun, but honestly... I keep "test-riding" it as it is just beautifully comfy and smooth to ride. They are lovely bikes!

    Here's the link to our Shogun resto, which is similar to yours:
    http://rideblog.wordpress.com/2011/07/31/shogun-is-nearly-done/

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  25. snark - The type of handlebars and brake levers shown in the pictures on your post are of the type many women find uncomfortable. I really do need to dedicate a post to this, as it's hard to elaborate in more detail here. On the other hand, you had something Nitto Noodlish on your previous roadbike and still found that bike uncomfortable, do I remember correctly?

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  26. V, I should clarify that I couldn't ride the Shogun I'm giving to my BF for a long period, even if it actually fit me, without pain. The Shogun is more relaxed and stable than my Panasonic was, but no road bike will ever be comfortable for me due to my disease.

    That said, if I were learning to ride a road bike all over again, the Shogun would be a better choice (assuming it fit me properly) than the Panasonic was, simply because it's more relaxed to ride and therefore less "scary" in its handling. The bike is also, though I can't explain why, more capable of dampening road noise than the Panasonic. It must be the Cr-Moly versus the Tange tubing, I guess.

    For what it's worth, I don't find the brake levers hard to use at all. My hands have all sorts of issues, but pulling the brake levers isn't one of them. I've owned bikes with both short-reach, and longer-reach levers, and didn't find either made a difference to me. What does scare me on my Shogun is the friction dt shifters: they are totally nerve wracking. The Panasonic had indexed shifters, which I was less scared of, and which became pretty intuitive very quickly: just a quick click and go. With the friction shifters, you have to ease them into position, and therefore take your hand off the bars longer. My BF, being a guy, thinks they're more like driving a stick vs. an automatic, so he likes the friction shifters just fine.

    The handlebars on the Shogun seem wider to me than the ones on the Panasonic, which were really, really narrow, but I can't be sure, as I sold that bike quite a while ago. I haven't ridden any distance on any other road bars, so I can't comment on whether these are more/less comfortable than others would be. The bar shape was irrelevant in the end to me, as it's the posture itself that I can't do.

    In general, I think most women can learn to ride a bike like yours pretty easily. You have created the perfect beginner set-up: it has shifters that are easy to use, it's more upright than most older road bikes, the geometry is relaxed, and that tubing is smooth-riding. No clips or cages on the pedals also helps when you're starting out, as you know. Your bike is perfect for a beginner. The one we made isn't really a bike for someone nervous about road biking, and that's reflected in the build. You did a great job in putting yours together!

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  27. That's a great looking bike. I just did a similar quick and easy restoration job on a old road bike, although no-where near your standard. It's relaxing to ride, especially compared to my 'proper' roadie. It's really liberating not feeling the pressure to go fast all the time. And I love the downtube shifters - so tactile compared to modern integrated levers. There's a thread about it here: http://www.bicycles.net.au/forums/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=43058. Love your blog.

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  28. What a great idea and a beautiful build. You're so right about some of the middlebrow bikes of this era, they are quite underrated. An even more budget build would be the Shogun Metro SE: TIG welds and unicrown fork make it slightly less lovely, but still a nice, light frame. In its favour the Metro also has cantilever brake bosses on fork and seat stays. But same idea: get a well-made, inexpensive frame and put nice things on it. Like nice mudguards! It's amazing what a pair of hammered Honjos, or in this case VOs can do for a bike. I get people who know nothing about bikes admiring mine: http://tinyurl.com/3fg2m7z


    BTW the original crankset looked quite nice and serviceable, was there a practical reason you replaced it with the VO set? b

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  29. Beeeeautiful work! Whoever gets that bike will be very lucky!

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  30. Very nice build, and I think it'll serve its eventual owner quite well. A few points to clarify: The "27" touring wheels from the early 80s" probably don't accept a cassette at all. More than likely, they take a thread-on freewheel. If it is indeed a cassette hub, shimano units are easily swapped out; at most, you'd need a hyperglide freehub body plus a 7speed cassette. If it's a suntour (and, it wouldn't be from the early 80s), then you're probably S.O.L, although spacing wouldn't be the problem.
    It is more likely that this is a freewheel hub, and unless it's an ultra-six freewheel mounted on a 120mm OLD hub, you can generally swap out a 6 speed freewheel for a 7speed without any worries about spacing. (You may run into trouble if the smallest cog on the 7speed interferes with the stays. In either case, I agree that it isn't "worth it" to swap out the 2x6 drivetrain, but it is possible without any major updates or headaches.

    In response to Court's comment above: you can probably solve your chainline woes with a BB with a longer spindle. The thing that freaks me out about the VO crank is that it's $200, and i cannot fathom how/why anyone would buy it when you can get Suginos for so much cheaper.

    regards,
    -rob

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  31. Screech-- the 27" wheelset indeed has a freewheel hub. The rims are Araya 16A, single wall clinchers, 36/40h, laced to Suzue sealed bearing hubs. The rear hub, being 40h and using oversized bearings, should be plenty strong for touring.

    I think the build came out very nicely, and should be a perfect and reliable first touring bike for someone wanting to experience road cycling for the first time.

    Snarky-- regarding the ride quality comparison between the panasonic and the Shogun, it's hard to say if it's the tubing or other factors like the tires or even the riding position. It's possible the two bikes even have the same tubing (chromoly is a steel formulation, Tange is a brand of tube manufacturer, and supplied most Panasonics and Shoguns with their tubesets). The Shogun's might be thicker gauge.

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  32. Melissa - you can find the VO hammered fenders here. The 700C size will also usually fit 27" wheels.

    Court - That is good to know. I have not tried this crankset on a newer bike.

    screech/somervillain - Yes re the wheels.

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  33. Looks great...one consideration for the future. Bikes that have 27" wheels are perfect for this type of updating (back-dating??), because you can usually switch over to a 700c wheel (slightly smaller diameter rim) and use a long-reach caliper. This provides more clearance, allowing the use of wider tires (and more selection), while maintaining the same geometry/handling. Other than the added expense, which may have been your limitation in this case, it's usually an improvement on all fronts.

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  34. What a beauty love the "modern" but still retro upgrades. I will chime in on the Freewheel, there is actually an option for a wider range than the standard 14-28t of that era. IRD makes defiant freewheels in a six speed with a 13-32t or 14-34t option or even a 7 speed if you have the rear hub spacing for it. At $40 more expensive than a 14-28t FW but less expense and hassle than switching to a freehub. The IRD is something I am considering for my late 70's Miyata 912 to get me up some hills a bit easier.

    Great job on the Shogun someone will be very lucky indeed to get it.

    http://store.interlocracing.com/fr76and5sp.html
    RR

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  35. Thanks for explaining about the bar end cable set-up,
    I already suspected the reason was that shorter cable lenght will make them work better,although on my Guerciotti cycle-cross bike the shifters work perfect with the alternative set-up as mentioned. of course running gear cables under the bar tape is more easy if you route your
    brake cables the non-aero way as I have, with both the brake and gear cables running under the
    bar tape it makes your bar feel oversized and 'bulky',so I can understand that its not a popular option;-)

    all in all, I still love your set up and the bike in general, someone will be very happy with it!

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  36. Cable runs from bar ends taped like this are for as smooth a run as possible with minimum friction shifting.

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  37. Thanks V, re: the bar end shifter cables. I look forward to hearing more about handlebars and brake levers.

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  38. OMG I want a bike just like this so badly! I wish I could fit a 52cm frame, but I require a 49cm frame! I have been wanting to build a touring bike though, and I will definitely use this cockpit as inspiration. If only quality vintage road frames in my size were easier to come by at a reasonable price!

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  39. Hey anon 8:52, if you are interested in paying the shipping from Va. I might have just the 49c bike for you. I promise you can afford it if you can give it a new home. jon.redbarn@gmail.com

    Spindizzy

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  40. Love the dreamy color and applaud your componentry choices. I've switched to bar-end shifters on my touring bike, too, and find they're far more comfortable on the wrists than the twist-type.

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  41. Now me being a guy that to me for some reason I find to be one of the prettiest colors I have seen on a frame. Velouria y'all did a great job on the old bike turned out just lovely. Me personally I just dig old bikes like that.
    Cheers
    Jim

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  42. Just beautiful! I can't wait to enter the contest. Imagine that, a small size road bike. I never thought I'd find one my size. I hope I win, I'm going to try hard.

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  43. What a pretty bicycle! It will be a very lucky person who wins.

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  44. Beautiful bike - and good luck to all the entrants!

    I have a 27" wheeler waiting for some attention also and am gazing at those fenders with interest - they really finish it off well :>)

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  45. Do you know how long the top tube is? I have slightly unusual proportions, which work well with the frame size providing that the top tube isn't too long.

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