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  1. #1
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    700C VRC "type/inspired" expedition/gravel/touring build help.

    Hi. I've been lurking on these forums for a log time now soaking in all the pics and builds.

    I'm trying to put together a bike out of VRC-era components (actually just older stuff I can get for dirt cheap). Not trying to restore one of the more collectible brands, or ruin a classic by modding it too much.

    I want to build a bike for gravel touring, taking dirt shortcuts while commuting, lots of road miles in between.

    I saw a few pics of old CX bikes and I've also come across a few CL ads for for Trek bikes that had 700c wheels but were basically mountain bikes, basically old early 90's hybrids with knobbies.

    I'm not looking for a modern rigid 29er, I want the horizontal top tube type frame, steel, rack mounts. But I do want t fit some fat rubber on it. (as well as higher pressure commuter tires/slicks)

    I plan on repainting it and totally piecing it together. Does NOT have to be VRC-correct, Though I plan on using mostly all old parts.

    So I'm wondering if anybody knows any model numbers/names for durable bikes that had 700c's but a lot of clearance for tires (not actual road bikes). I read on a vintage Trek site that the old Treks could fit fenders and 40's while other bikes of the era couldn't. I figure Trek is less collectible and wouldn't be such a travesty to repaint and totally de-original-ize it. Mainly I just need to find a frame, the rest of the components I keep running into. I'll probably harvest from thrift store donor bikes.

    Most of the bargain deals are posted by people who just see their item as a rusting old bike and they only know the brand and model from the decals. I'm trying to figure out what brands and models might fit the specs.

  2. #2
    ish
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    Diamondback Overdrive (the old one, not the cheap re-release)
    Bianchi Project 3, 5, or 7

    But good luck finding either. There are also some 26" frames that easily convert to 700c, like many of the old Bridgestones.

  3. #3
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    I'll start compiling a list of models to look for. Thanks. Yeah I saw a Bridgestone over in the trail pic threads rollin on big hoops. Gotta remember to take a measuring device with me to swap meets and garage sales...

  4. #4
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    Don't discount 70's touring and sports touring bikes. Long, stable, room for fenders and 40's, durable and plentiful. Damn near any thing made in Japan from the mid 70's to the mid 80's will do.
    Zip ties? Not on my bike!

    Want:
    650B rims or wheel set. 80's vintage 32 or 36 x 135mm

  5. #5
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    Here in the Mid-West there are a lot of Trek 520 touring bikes around. Many lugged, and some came with full DX groups, (besides the bar end shifters), and were really decent rigs. I happen to have one in bits I am going to put back together for gravel riding. It will take 40's easily, and should prove to be pretty nice. We'll see.

    But that's another good one to look for.
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    Weren't those late 8o's Trek Mountain bikes designed to run 26 knobbies or 700c road wheels with calipers? Those would be abundant and cheap. Or did I hallucinate this?...
    Vintage-Retro-Pragmatist

  7. #7
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    Yeah, I'm kinda thinking the Trek is the way to go unless I luck my way across something considered to be better at a yard sale, because I'm looking for bargains, to completely rebuild/paint. The 520's seem to be the one Trek model people kind of see as "valuable", and they usually know what they're selling. I've seen a few "Multi Track" treks that have the bigger rims.

  8. #8
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    I'm running 700x40c WTB All Terrainasaurus tires on my '94 Trek 520. Great setup for a mix of gravel, roads, and even some occasional singletrack.
    Warning: may contain sarcasm and/or crap made up in an attempt to feel important.

  9. #9
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    Check out this thread:

    "Performance" Hybrids/Early 700c MTB's

    I have a '93 Diamond Back Overdrive I might part with. PM me if you are interested.

  10. #10
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    looking for 20-21" P team

  11. #11
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    There's something about pure road bikes that don't quite instill off road confidence in me. And it could be just appearance and I'm being prejudiced. Touring bikes may be a bit workable, and would have the mounting points. I'm with Tom on the simplicity thing, and that's kinda how I wanna build up this bike. I used to be a full sus/remote lockout type guy. But now I feel that simplicity trend in my self. I love feelin' myself. Don't we all.

    Also in that TR interview in a previous paragraph to the gravel bikes/road bikes thing, he was talking about carbon frame failures. Granted, there's not much carbon in the 80's road bikes that are available at the Goodwill. But the race-oriented, faster-at-the-cost-of-being-less-burly aspect of true road bikes kinda keeps me away from them.

    In that thread Frog mentioned (thanks for that) there was something about "true big wheeled mountain bikes", as opposed to marketing mistakes, comfort hybrids, etc. I guess I see myself riding this bike on rougher terrain, loaded with camping gear, etc. All the vintage road bikes I see for sale look as spindly-legged as the tall alien at the end of Close Encounters, like they're just gonna snap. Maybe they won't, but riding over ruts and bumps with loaded bags, it would mess me up seeing a twig of a frame under me. Seeing that alien messed me up too when I was a kid, BTW.

    Specifically, I want to build up something to ride from Flagstaff to Sedona on the fire roads, and from San Diego out to the Anza Borrego desert (down banner grade). So it's lots of road, and then deserty, scraggy, pebbles and bumps. Basically I pretty much ride to deserts, then ride AROUND IN the desert. It's usually very flat, no drop offs, but very choppy/washboard fire roads, loose sand patches, etc. And to get there I'm on the asphalt for many miles.

    I could swap tires once I get out to the whhhilderness. But I guess the (totes currently popular) term "Gravel" isn't exactly right. "Distance Expedition" is probably what I'm doing.

    I really like the Bianchi Project (3,5,7) mentioned. Never actually ridden one, but I just searched'em and checked out pics and specs and those seem great. The optimist in me thought there might be a similar type of bike made by a less-collectible classic/retro era company that I would actually be able to find. But it seems more likely that I could just find a frame menat for 26" tires that happens to fit the 700c's.

    I'm currently commuting on a rigid/slicked 26er, (100 psi kenda kwests) it rolls smooth but just doesn't feel right for more than 20 miles or so on the pavement. Even on some of the crappier roads around San Diego county it hits those bumps pretty hard. But it's a modern geometry XC MTB...Perhaps with the oldschool geometry, a classic 26" frame would be comfy for 60 miles of asphalt.

    I don't wanna get too OT, the reason I posted in this forum was because I always see MTBs from the 80's and 90's for CHEAP. And treasure hunting is part of the fun. I wanna paint it up with a period-style paint job...ok maybe not period style..bad choice of words..."era-appropriate". And I wanna get all nostalgic lookin at the stem and brakes and thinkin about how bikes used to look like that when I got my first mountain bike. But I want to actually ride it, something I can use all the time.

    Before I get ultra-flamed, I bow to all of you, who have desirable classics and know more than I do. I'm here because I'm curious (famous last words).

  12. #12
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    700C VRC "type/inspired" expedition/gravel/touring build help.

    Quote Originally Posted by Guitar Ted View Post
    Here in the Mid-West there are a lot of Trek 520 touring bikes around. Many lugged, and some came with full DX groups, (besides the bar end shifters), and were really decent rigs. I happen to have one in bits I am going to put back together for gravel riding. It will take 40's easily, and should prove to be pretty nice. We'll see.

    But that's another good one to look for.
    The lugged Trek 520 and 750 from the early '90s is perfect. I had a 750 that I used for 'cross racing and as a trail bike in the summer. Could fit 45mm tires. Was the bike that sold me on big wheels off road.
    mtbtires.com
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  13. #13
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    You've mentioned cheap at every post, we get it already. There's a difference between cheap and inexpensive. At the distance you want to do and the location you want to do it in, just don't go too cheap or you're going to be stuck somewhere with no spare parts in sight. There are deals out there. Keep your eye out for those hidden gems.

    Everybody have mentioned some great candidates. Stay patient. I have faith that it'll happen.

  14. #14
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    Haha, cool, I gotcha, it's not cheap if you want it now, off ebay, from a collector, the idea is to find one of those good ones as a gem at a garage sale, etc.

    Yeah I don't wanna get picked by buzzards next to a ****ty bike.

    Gonna add that 750 to the list. I'm liking some of the builds I see. nice to know what tires fit which frames, something you can't easily tell from ebay pics.

    Thanks all.

  15. #15
    gobsmacked Moderator
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    I also totally pictured buzzards. We want pictures! What great trips.

  16. #16
    ish
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    Well, he says cheap in every post and everyone is mentioning expensive Trek touring frames. So, no, people aren't getting it.

  17. #17
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    They don't have to be expensive. Somebody picked one up for $35 a month or so ago.

  18. #18
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    Yeah, I was thinking there might be something with similar geometry to the above-mentioned classics/semi classics that was cheaper only because it was a less collectible brand. But the deals are out there I suppose. Nobody is going to put "cheap old retro 700c mountain bike for you yo rebuild as expedition tourer - $40" in their CL title... so that's why I was curious about model names. Finding something good for cheap is even better. It's probably not gonna be on ebay or CL though.

    Videos will be taken of all upcoming trips.

  19. #19
    ish
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    I look forward to the OP's $35 Trek touring bike find in his size, 5 years from now.

  20. #20
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    Gonna be the best day evarrrr

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Moon Rocker View Post
    Gonna be the best day evarrrr
    good luck!

  22. #22
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    Gravel touring is the new fixed gear. Will someone cover the streets of NYC Soho w/ gravel please?

  23. #23
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    Miyata Quickcross can be had under $100.00 usually. I paid 35.00 for the first one , and $80.00 for the second one after my son allowed the first to be stolen. They have a aluminum main frame with a steel forks and stays. If anybody sees a green 54cm frame with Suntour barends, canti's Rolf Vector wheels. Campy levers.................... please advise.

  24. #24
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    I'm converting my 96 Bontrager Race to 700c wheels with cross tires. Project in the works, stay tuned! And "cheap" way to do this is my target.
    Parts: Shimano bar-end shifters, Salsa cross bars, 1" Surly fork, Kelly stem...

  25. #25
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    700C VRC "type/inspired" expedition/gravel/touring build help.

    Quote Originally Posted by KDXdog View Post
    I'm converting my 96 Bontrager Race to 700c wheels with cross tires. Project in the works, stay tuned! And "cheap" way to do this is my target.
    Parts: Shimano bar-end shifters, Salsa cross bars, 1" Surly fork, Kelly stem...
    Brakes?
    mtbtires.com
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  26. #26
    gobsmacked Moderator
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    They make some brake adapters like these from Mavic: Mavic 700c Brake Post Adapter | Urban Velo

    And maybe some Paul V's could fit?

  27. #27
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    Old school Canti's: Avid tri-align (tall) in back, several other canti's to choose from on the Surly cross check fork. Leaning towards Ritchey. Tektro road lever & cross levers.

    The Avids "should" work, they line up ok (by flipping the holders "upside-down") but we'll see when it's all together. I didn't want to have the brake post moved, or do anything to the frame that wouldn't allow me to put it all back to the original 26" flat bar condition.

    In the rear: I had a "donor" 135mm axle (shimano) to replace the 130 (road) wheel set i'm using. I didn't want to "clamp squish" the rear triangle.

    It's been interesting so far, mixing and matching parts from my basement. Ever try to fit a 9 speed cluster on a 7 speed free hub? If you unbolt the last cog (Sram cassette), you now have a 8 speed, with 9 speed spacing, that fits a 7 speed free hub. I have 9-speed shimano bar end shifters.

    Does it work? Don't know yet, it's not completed!

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by shiggy View Post
    Brakes?
    Add BB height to that question.

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    So you used the 135mm axle in the road hub with 5mm of washers added? Or you used the entire 135mm hub?

    I'm probably gonna go with the (non spider-arms) Sram stuff for the cassette (for customization). I'll probably use a modern hub/freewheel but I wanna do a goofy 11-36 deal (as discussed in elsewhere) either 9 or 10spd, not sure...trying to get away with a 1x setup, but loaded up climbs I may need those rings up front so maybe not.

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by girlonbike View Post
    They make some brake adapters like these from Mavic: Mavic 700c Brake Post Adapter | Urban Velo

    And maybe some Paul V's could fit?
    I considered Pauls. The BMX ones are typically the ones used. And V-problem solvers. All items I'd have to buy.

    Mavic adapters: Searched high & low. Some shops remembered them, others thought I was nuts. I still may buy them down the road, but for now, I may get away without them.

    Thanks for the suggestions!

  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by Moon Rocker View Post
    So you used the 135mm axle in the road hub with 5mm of washers added? Or you used the entire 135mm hub?

    I'm probably gonna go with the (non spider-arms) Sram stuff for the cassette (for customization). I'll probably use a modern hub/freewheel but I wanna do a goofy 11-36 deal (as discussed in elsewhere) either 9 or 10spd, not sure...trying to get away with a 1x setup, but loaded up climbs I may need those rings up front so maybe not.
    Axle with spacers.

  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fred Smedley View Post
    Add BB height to that question.
    I know, and steering angle, trail, geometry, etc.

    I'm just going to built it up, see how she handles, and if it's a train wreck, simply convert it back.

    Speaking of BB, I used an OLD Tioga with adjustable lock rings on both sides so I could get the 46/36 rings (Ritchey, square taper) to clear the chain stay, and adjust the chain line. The Syncros sealed unit I was planning on using didn't work. Again, all parts form my "basement box".

  33. #33
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    700C VRC "type/inspired" expedition/gravel/touring build help.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fred Smedley View Post
    Add BB height to that question.
    With 'cross tires, not an issue. The overall diameter is similar to a 26x2.1 tire.

    The Crosscheck fork could be a problem because of the shorter A-C. Steepens the frame angles significantly.
    mtbtires.com
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  34. #34
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    I am clueless when it comes to measuring geometry and then doing an in-brain virtual simulation of how it would actually handle, which is why I was interested in big wheeled mountain bikes as opposed to converting a 26er frame to use 700c's. I figured the bike designers would have figured everything out to work well, toe overlap, steering, etc. But then again there's plenty of old bikes that handle pretty bad in stock form. Add to that my "amazing" skills and balance...

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Moon Rocker View Post
    I posted in this forum was because I always see MTBs from the 80's and 90's for CHEAP. And treasure hunting is part of the fun. I wanna paint it up with a period-style paint job...ok maybe not period style..bad choice of words..."era-appropriate". And I wanna get all nostalgic lookin at the stem and brakes and thinkin about how bikes used to look like that when I got my first mountain bike. But I want to actually ride it, something I can use all the time.

    Before I get ultra-flamed, I bow to all of you, who have desirable classics and know more than I do. I'm here because I'm curious (famous last words).
    Sounds good to me.
    A garage full of steel frames means happiness.

  36. #36
    Harmonius Wrench
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    Quote Originally Posted by girlonbike View Post
    You've mentioned cheap at every post, we get it already. There's a difference between cheap and inexpensive. At the distance you want to do and the location you want to do it in, just don't go too cheap or you're going to be stuck somewhere with no spare parts in sight. There are deals out there. Keep your eye out for those hidden gems.

    Everybody have mentioned some great candidates. Stay patient. I have faith that it'll happen.
    And then there are the bikes that are so "cheap" they are almost free.

    Oh yeah.....did I mention that my Trek 520 was given to me by a guy and it happened to be my size?

    Sometimes you aren't even looking and they find you instead.
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  37. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by Guitar Ted View Post
    And then there are the bikes that are so "cheap" they are almost free.

    Oh yeah.....did I mention that my Trek 520 was given to me by a guy and it happened to be my size?

    Sometimes you aren't even looking and they find you instead.
    That's great and exactly what I was trying to get across, GT! It's so great when that happens. There are so many great candidates for relatively reasonable amount of cash outlay out there on CL, at yard sales, etc.

    The days of eBay deals are behind us.

  38. #38
    CS2
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    Quote Originally Posted by girlonbike View Post
    The days of eBay deals are behind us.
    Sadly.
    A garage full of steel frames means happiness.

  39. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by Moon Rocker View Post
    I'm currently commuting on a rigid/slicked 26er, (100 psi kenda kwests) it rolls smooth but just doesn't feel right for more than 20 miles or so on the pavement. Even on some of the crappier roads around San Diego county it hits those bumps pretty hard. But it's a modern geometry XC MTB...Perhaps with the oldschool geometry, a classic 26" frame would be comfy for 60 miles of asphalt.
    I ride a 26er on slicks and find it handles best at lower pressures. You really don't need 100 psi to roll smoothly; 50-60 psi will feel just as smooth if not smoother. And there's really no difference in speed.

    For your intended use, I'm not sure there's a big need for 700c wheels. In fact, they can be a disadvantage. That's why pro cyclist opt for tubulars when they race over cobbles and want to run at 60 psi (Tech Gallery 2012 Paris-Roubaix). Same formula for cross racers when they're looking for 30 psi off road. And tubular rims and rubber are a bit pricey.

    So why not stick with the 26-inch platform? Not only is it cheaper but they're designed to run at ideal pressures and there's no clearance issue when you want to use big rubber. And aside from shorter head tubes and flatter top tubes, there's nothing special about old school geometry--the angles are virtually the same as today's bikes. The one real difference is frame/fork material: steel vs aluminum.

    Food for thought.
    Joe
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  40. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by joeinchi View Post
    And aside from shorter head tubes and flatter top tubes, there's nothing special about old school geometry--the angles are virtually the same as today's bikes. The one real difference is frame/fork material: steel vs aluminum.
    Gasp!

    (I did enjoy your post though. )

  41. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by girlonbike View Post
    Gasp!

    (I did enjoy your post though. )
    Ha!

    Clearly, I was only commenting on the geometry. Not the unsurpassed ride that only a classic cromoly mtb can deliver. That's right, steel is real!

    '94 Marin Bear Valley
    Joe
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    Yeah obvs 36 spoke 26" is the supposed strongest (everything else being the same). Then There's that thing about exotic remote locations not having 29er or 700c tires. I have considered keeping the 26 for touring. But gotta have that older geometry mainly non sloping top tube for slightly bigger frame bag clearance (minor difference, honestly this is mainly visual/vain for me.) But I do want the long chain stays and steel construction, Fender and rack mounts. I also looked at some current steel 26er MTB frames. Not much out there for under $420 (surly) as well as 26" specific touring frames, pricey and usually custom. But yeah oldschool xl size long wheelbase steel 26" mtb.... worth considering.

    I was also thinking that 700c/ 29er would smooth out rutted fire roads a bit more than 26's since this is gonna be rigid. ... is it hype? Maybe but I've read other posts where people say 29s with rigid is smoother than 26 with rigid.
    Last edited by Moon Rocker; 03-10-2013 at 10:07 PM.

  43. #43
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    I'd tend to agree that 29s roll smoother over rough terrain than 26ers of the same width. The challenge, though, is finding a frame/fork on the cheap which will accommodate wide 29s. If you buy an older hybrid, e.g. Trek MultiTrack, you'll probably only have clearance for 35-37mm (or 1.38"-1.46") tires.

    You'll need to run those at around 50 psi to minimize squirm but then you'd limit their ability to absorb bumps. On a rigid fork, that might be a bit harsh. With a 26er, however, you can use 2" tires, run them at 30 psi and get a much smoother trail ride.

    While there were a lot of great suggestions for a 700c option, you might want to look at some older steel 26ers, too. Plenty have a large main triangle/flat top tube with all the rack and fender mounts built in. And, like you mentioned, you can get a lot of the parts to do a pretty cool build for little money.

    Something like this '91 Trek 800, perhaps.
    700C VRC "type/inspired" expedition/gravel/touring build help.-anquetil63dsc00372.jpg

    Or this 820, currently for sale on Chicago CL for $100
    700C VRC "type/inspired" expedition/gravel/touring build help.-trek-820.jpg
    Joe
    Chicago, IL

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    Yeah certainly easier to find. So today I did 50 miles (47.something says Strava) on the 26 aluminum frame with the slick and skinny kendas at 100psi. There were a couple times I wanted slightly higher gears. That's another thing I figured the larger wheels might be like having one higher gear. ..I know the difference can't be much, adding 2" of tie to a 26" rim brings the outer diameter pretty close. Mainly what I noticed was just cramped feeling, and having to get far back over the saddle to tuck in the wind. That's just the short frame I guess with the 110mm stem. But also the hands/wrists ached afterwards. .. really wanted more give up front. There were riders passing me on road bikes. .. but that's obviously their fitness. Still I kinda feel undergeared... so sorry if this has been asked but are the classic mtbs geared about the same toward the top end? (I'm guessing 6 or 7 speed cassettes aren't as low of course, no 34) I keep reading about this touring triple thats a few teeth bigger on all rings than a regular mtb set. Yeah. ...man.... It's just cosmetic but those classic mtbs just have a nice look to them. .. kinda just want one to stare at. And sometimes that helps me wanna ride it. ..tarded I know. I've seen a few on CL for San Diego. .. The Treks are priced right.... People seem to be hip to the value of the collectible brands.

  45. #45
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    Wow, 50-miler! Nice.

    - Hand and wrist ache and sliding back on the saddle definitely suggest a cramp setup. If you haven't moved your saddle back, make sure to try that. Also, make sure it's either perfectly level or tipped up just a bit. Once you start spinning, the downward leg extension will push your butt against the saddle and slide you forward little by little. Often that leads to extra hand pressure. A level or upward tilt keeps you in place.

    - Classic mtb gearing is similar to current mtb's--designed for climbing not top end speed. The 34-tooth cog is nice for epic climbs (and if you need it) but most have a 28-tooth cog paired with a 22-24 granny which will get you to most places.

    - If you want to improve top end speed, you could switch cranksets. I have a 28/38/48 FSA on my bike but I only use the big ring to blast downhill at unsafe speeds. I had to swap bottom brackets, as well, and went from the standard 110mm spindle length to a 118. The crank manufacturers spec the size but you need a little wider platform so that the bigger ring clears the chainstay. You may need a new front derailleur, as well, but you can get by if you know how to tune.

    You're right about tire diameter and gearing, of course. A 2" 26er has virtually the same circumference as a 700c with 23mm. And like you wrote, fitness level is really what allowed those roadies to get by you. Minimal body fat and an aero riding position don't hurt, either, but getting your bike to ride more comfortably--have I mentioned lower tire pressures?--will allow you to focus all your energy on spinning those cranks.

    Here's a quick piece on rolling resistance and recommended pressures: Bicycle Tires and Tubes
    Joe
    Chicago, IL

  46. #46
    CS2
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    Quote Originally Posted by KDXdog View Post
    ISpeaking of BB, I used an OLD Tioga with adjustable lock rings on both sides so I could get the 46/36 rings (Ritchey, square taper) to clear the chain stay, and adjust the chain line. The Syncros sealed unit I was planning on using didn't work. Again, all parts form my "basement box".
    Sounds like a nice basement box.
    A garage full of steel frames means happiness.

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    Ok Thanks for all the input. I've been scoping a lot of bikes. One thing I see come alot are Stumpies and Hoppers. The real classic examples are usually restored and going for max coin. I've been looking into some 90's ones that are going for less money. I have a few questions. Do any of you historians know when specialized introduced 24 speed drive trains and threadless steering? And when did aluminum take over as the principal frame material?

    There's a lot of good NOS 8 and 9 speed stuff out there and I figured it might be best to get a frame with 135mm spacing so I could be throwing parts on it for years to come. I know I could coldset/ change out freehub etc etc. OR do you all have an easy time finding quality 7 speed parts? And is that enough range for loaded up hills? Perhaps it just means using all the gears more often.

    With the steering... on CL pics I can just tell that its a threadless system...it might be 1" though. ..I like the height adjustability of quill stems but feel more secure with the threadless...but I would think parts (forks and stems) for a 1" threadless system would be harder to come by, where as if I found a 1 1/8" frame I could pretty much use anything modern as long as it wasn't a sus fork over 80mm travel.

    I saw one that was 24 speed, threadless yet steel frame... However it was made in Taiwan. I'm wondering if the Window of time where bikes were still steel but with 8 speed cassettes was the same Window of time where bike companies were shifting production over seas (and therefore these frames aren't as good as older US/Japanese frames or current "got it figured out with precise robots" industry standard reliable Taiwan frames).

    I know you guys know more about it than I do.

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    You might want to check out Trek antelope 830

    My bike started out with this.. 26er..





    And ended up with this.. 700c..








    More pics here on our local thread.. pardon the dialect used on some of the posts.. i'm from Manila..

    Req Info: Old school. Rigid Commuter 3x1.

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    That's a nice repaint and chrome... but that original green/purple is pretty awesome!

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    I like your disc brake adapter.

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