03 December 2016

What Have We Here?

Am I a tease if I actually follow up on something I hinted at?

I ask because a few days ago, loyal reader Coline accused me (in the lightest of spirit, of course) of teasing when I mentioned, briefly, a possible upcoming project.

Well, I think I am going ahead with it, at least during Christmas recess.  (I won't have much time during the next couple of weeks, what with my students' final papers and exams!) I made a mental commitment, more or less, today, when I took another look at this estate sale pick-up:

"Retrogrouch" has praised the lugged-frame Treks with Ishiwata tubing.  I'm guessing this one is from 1981 because it's the last year this model came without brazed-on cable guides or water bottle mounts.  Also, that was the year some Treks began to sport contrasting panels on their seat tubes.   When I get a chance, I'll check the serial number against databases.

Anyway, aside from some scratches and chips in the paint, the frame looks to be in good shape.  I could find no misalignment or rust, and no signs of crashes or abuse. In fact, I think that this bikes owner didn't ride it much after making some changes to  it.

One of those changes is the stem:  No Trek (or for that matter, any other bike) with a 56 cm (22") center-to-center seat tube ever came with a stem that had such a short extension!   To be fair, the bike has a longish top tube (also 56cm), but even I, with my short arms and torso, would ride a longer stem than that.

Another is the seat, I think.  Most Treks of that period came with Avocet saddles.  This seat, whatever it is, doesn't look like one.  Whatever it is, I have to wonder whether this bike's owner actually rode with the seat post mounted backward.  Hmm...Maybe that person is even more of a "no arms" than I am, or simply wanted to sit as if he or she were on a Laz-e-Boy.

Then there is this freewheel.  It's s SunTour Pro Compe, of very good quality, but the 34 tooth large cog much more than I'll ever need unless I take another loaded tour of the Alps (or some other mountain range).  I might hold on to it, which would mean holding on to the chain.  Which leads me to this question:  How much life does either have left?  Perhaps, if I could find some cogs, I could rebuild the freewheel:  those old SunTour freewheel bodies are practically indestructible.

And I am surmising that the SunTour VGT rear derailleur is a replacement.  This bike probably came with a VXs, as the shift levers and front derailleurs are from the Vx series.  Also, the bike's original freewheel was more than likely had 14-28 or 13-28 freewheel, which the VxS could handle, but the VGT's extra capacity is necessary for the larger freewheel.

Even if I don't use the 34 tooth cog, the VGT is a keeper, whether for this bike or some other.  So, I am glad for that change and for another I didn't notice until I got the bike home:

The original headset was probably a Tange  that was commonly used on mid- to upper-mid-level bikes of that time.  It looked like the company's Levin model--which looked like a Campagnolo Record from about five feet away--without the logos.  At least, I know that this Stronglight headset wasn't original equipment.  I'm pretty sure this is their early roller-bearing headset, which tried--like just about all quality headsets made until 1985 or thereabouts--to look like Campy's products. (Later Stronglights had a sharper, more "aero", shape.)  Even if it's a regular ball-bearing headset, I won't mind:  I've always had good luck with Stronglight stuff.

But I found the biggest surprise of all on the rear wheel:

Can you believe it?  A Phil Wood hub!  This is one of the earlier version, with a three-piece steel shell.  The bearings are as smooth as the more modern Phil Woods on my Mercians.  This hub is definitely a "keeper", except...

It's a 48 hole model.  I would love to keep and  "as is", as it probably won't die.  A Super Champion 58 rim is laced to it.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, my very first pair of hand-built wheels included a pair of SC 58s.  They totally deserved the reputation as the best non-racing rims of that time.  Again, it's something I'd prefer not to change, except...

It's a 27".  The tire, as good as it is (a Specialized Turbo) won't last forever, and there aren't many quality tires available today in that size.  The wheel seems true and round.  

The front wheel, however, is not. And there is not much tension in the spokes:  I think whoever built it didn't re-tension it.  It's the one that would have come with the bike:  a Rigida 13-20 rim laced to a Sansin hub.  Not bad stuff, but I think the rim and spokes won't survive a re-tensioning and re-truing.  And, really, I don't want to buy another 27" tire, rim or wheel. I suppose I could ride a 700C front with the 27" rear.

So I'll probably build a 700 rear wheel, too. The question is whether I want to use the Phil Wood hub, which would mean taking the current rear wheel apart and buying a 48 hole rim.  Or I could build a 36 spoke rear wheel on another hub I have.  

I am leaning toward building the 700C rear wheel on whichever rear hub, not only because it's easier to find 700C tires, but also because the bike would fit that much better.  As it is, the frame, with 27" wheels, is exactly at the upper limit, size-wise, of what I can ride.  The 700s, which are about 5cm smaller, would give me a bit more breathing room.  Also, they would add to the already-ample fender clearance the frame and fork offer.

Yes, I am thinking about fenders.  And, possibly, a Velo Orange Porteur handlebar with bar-end levers (like I have on my Mercian mixtes) and a nice, tasteful wrapping.  

Whatever I do, I'll try not to do anything gross.  I'm not looking to do a period restoration or anything pedantically "retro", but  I will try to keep in the spirit of the bike, if you will:  a good sport-touring machine from the era before mountain bikes.  I promise not to use neon-colored "V" shaped rims or cranks that look like starfish designed by Salvador Dali.    And I'll try to resist the temptation to turn this into a single-speed or "fixie".  At least, I won't let it become a "hipster fixie".

P.S.  Yes, that rack came with the bike. It's an original Jim Blackburn, made in the USA.


  1. Ha! Hope your head stops spinning with all the possibilities. Mine has not resolved how to deal with my older bikes from 70's, especially 27 1/4 inch wheels with 120 mm hubs ... Change wheels and perfect Campag brakes will not reach!

    Bet your project is finished before I have even worked out what to do...

    Looking forward to some interesting posts to come.

  2. Forty eight spokes! I was running forty and people thought me strange...

  3. Whoa! I just started building up a 1982 Trek 613/614 frame that I bought last month on eBay.This frame has the Reynolds 531 main tubes with Ishiwata stays and fork. Not planning to restore to original parts, just stuff I have sitting around. Definitely will use a 700 wheelset that I have with a Suntour freewheel hub. Mine is blue too - wierd.

  4. "those old SunTour freewheel bodies are practically indestructible." VERY true! Just make sure you've got tools for them...

  5. Coline-- I might re-build the rear wheel (with the Phil Wood hub) as a 700C, since the front wheel and the rear tire have to be replaced anyway. I admit that 48 spokes is overkill, but I'd like to use the PW hub.

    The brakes on the bike look like they have some downward adjustability. So, I hope they will reach the 700C wheels. If not, I guess I'll have to switch brakes.

    Chris--Amazing! I think our bikes have the same geometry, more or less. Like you, I am not planning to restore to original parts, and will use stuff I have.

    Steve--They don't make 'em like that anymore, eh? I think I have a SunTour remover somewhere.

    1. Looks like you have Dia Compe G brakes. These will work with 700c rims.

    2. Chris--They are indeed Dia Compe G's. As long as they have enough reach for 700C wheels, I'll probably keep them and replace the pads and cables.

  6. I am excited to see how this project develops!
    The old Treks are just so great. I have a 1980 5xx frame** (w/ same Ishiwata tubing as yours) that has undergone a few different builds while in my care. It is probably the best "all 'rounder" I've got in my stable. My only gripe, if I'm being whiny about it, is that I can't get much wider than about 700x32 tires in it.

    **I bought the frame from somebody and while the original "Trek" and Ishiwata decals were still attached, it had no model# decal. I ID'd it as a 5xx frame through the serial number. The curious thing is that it has Campy dropouts.


  7. Looks like a perfect candidate for 650B conversion. Those early Treks usually have a smaller amount of trail than most, good for running a front bag. Throw on a set of long reach Weinmanns or Tektros and you would have a very nice budget rando machine.

  8. Wolf--As I recall, some of the Trek 5xx series frames from the early '80s came with Ishiwata tubing and Campy dropouts. At least, the sport/racing Ishiwata models had Campy dropouts.

    The funny thing about Trek is that, back when our bikes were made, only serious cyclists knew about it and some of their frames were really nice. Now that even people who haven't been on a bike since the Johnson administration know about Trek, their bikes are so generic and soulless.

    Phillip--I've thought about that, too. Of all the bikes I've owned (at least within the last 20 years or so), this might well be the best candidate for 650 B conversion. One thing that might stop me from doing it is that I'd have to buy some more parts. If anything, I'd like to use stuff I already have.

  9. If you change your mind....

  10. Finds like that are very nice. You've got a lot there that you'll be able to keep/use - and the parts you decided to replace are probably good enough that you can get a few bucks on eBay to help cover some of the cost of parts that fit your needs better. Congrats.

  11. Brooks--I really feel I lucked out with this bike. I'll probably keep most of what came with the bike, at least for the time being. (A pair of those ubiquitous cheap black pedals came with the bike. They're not in the photos because I took them off and put them on my LeTour, which needed a new pedal.) As for the rear wheel that came with it: I don't know whether I'll keep it, try to sell it as is or de-lace it and sell the hub. I think 48 spokes is more than I'll ever need unless I build a tandem (very unlikely) or a bike for an around-the-world tour that would take me away from civilization for five years.