22 November 2016

How To Turn Your Touring Bike Into A Racer

In one of my early posts, I talked about a Romic Sport Touring bicycle I had in my youth.  For a time, it was my only bike, so I did my "fast" riding, touring and even my errands on it.

"Fast" riding included everything from actual races to informal contests with riding buddies that ended with one of us buying the other beer and/or lunch.  Sometimes the later were part of vigorous club rides; other times, they were training rides that turned into impromptu competitions.  "Touring" could mean anything from a day or weekend ride to a longer trip with panniers and a handlebar bag.  

The Romic had a geometry and build that made it suitable for many different kinds of riding:  rather like Arielle, my Mercian Audax.  I did my first European bike tour on it, with the first pair of wheels I had built for me:  Campagnolo Nuovo Tipo hubs, Super Champion 58 clincher rims and Robergel Sport spokes.  I also had a pair of tubular (sew-up) wheels with those same hubs and Super Champion Arc en Ciel tubular rims, which I used for racing and "fast" rides (the planned ones, anyway!).  

In addition to switching wheels, I would  move the adjustment screws on the dropouts:

If I wanted to ride faster, I would move the screws inward to bring the wheel closer to shorten the wheelbase.

Now, many new frames come with vertical dropouts

which don't allow for any adjustment.  So, if you have a sport touring bike and want to shorten the wheelbase, you're "shitouttaluck" as we used to say in my old neighborhood.

Or are you?  Apparently, someone came up with a way to shorten his wheelbase:

At least, that's how an e-Bay seller in described his 1978 Motobecane Grand Jubile's encounter with a sewer grate:

"Good condition for its age but frame suffered an impact (hitting a sewer grating) which caused the wheelbase to be shortened slightly."

Hmm...Maybe the next time someone steals a pedal or wheel or saddle from one of my parked bikes, I'll tell myself that the thief did me a favor by lightening my bike.  I'm sure that will help the bike (and me) to go faster! 


  1. Am I the only one who has ever wondered why grates are in the roadway at all!? Let alone lined up with direction of traffic. saw someone bend a wheel hitting one like that on a corner! Grates just make the roadways effectively so much narrower as the roadway always breaks up round grates first!

  2. One day a customer came into our shop asking to have his front brake adjusted- he said it just suddenly went out of whack. We were very busy in the back, so the boss grabbed some tools and attempted the task. i looked out from the workshop and noted his vain attempt to get the pads low enough to hit the rim, his reddening face, and his silent cursing. i casually walked up and, looking over his shoulder, remarked offhandedly, "The fork's bent, boss" and sauntered back to my workstand.
    i'll always treasure the memory of the look he shot me.

  3. Recently a local master frame builder told me that the purpose of the dropout adjusters was more for altering the head angle than shortening the wheelbase.

    Who knew?

    i'd always assumed they were for fine-tuning the position of the rear derailleur or for centering a wheel that wasn't quite dished properly.

  4. Coline--I have wondered the same thing. Worst of all are the grates with slats in the direction you are riding.

    Mike--That bike shop story is priceless. And what the frame builder said is interesting. Maybe it's the real reason why moving the screws can change the handling of the bike, if ever so slightly.