From An $80 Junker to a Shiny Vintage Touring Bike
I’ve always admired the lust-inducing photos of vintage, quill-driven, lugged randonneuring gems, beautifully documented within the pages of sites such as Lovely Bicycle. So I decided to attempt and give one of these old steeds a shiny second life.
A fairly common obstacle that most cyclists face is how to adjust their bike to use for something which it’s not exactly intended. A mountain bike for commuting, a road bike for gravel-grinding, etc. Sometimes it’s just a swap of the tires. But, everybody needs a somewhat dedicated bike to get around town, grab groceries or just take a long tarmac joyride. The Troll works pretty well for most of those scenarios, but it’s built for long loaded multi-terrain adventure. I needed an asphalt-loving thoroughbred in my stable, one that could wisp around corners and move swiftly enough to make my eyes water. And the more bikes the merrier, right!?
I also really wanted to get my hands dirty and see what these steel classics are all about. So I put together a list of possible vintage touring bikes (see bottom of post), mostly 80s models, and started the search. It took two or three weeks scouring Craigslist before I found a couple options that seemed promising. This rusty and neglected 1986 Panasonic Pro Touring eye sore wasn’t really the ace on the list of candidates, but it was eighty bucks; if for no other reason, I could have fun sipping a cold one and tearing it apart.
Ultimately, the frame perfectly matched my intentions. Classic Tange steel, well defined lugged construction, low-trail geometry, nice lines and plenty of bosses and mounts. Not to mention a list of salvageable parts that included brakes, handlebars, cranks, derailleurs and a seatpost (which happened to be a bear to remove). While the Pro Touring is perfect for around town and rando rides, it is also very capable of touring abroad, if asphalt is the primary path of travel. The only downfall to this frame, as well as others on the list below, is that, in the words of Surly, Fatties DON’T Fit Fine. 38Cs fit with less than 3/16″ on either side of the rear chain stay. It’s tight, and I think 40Cs would be risky. I guess I’ll need a Straggler if I want to try some of the new 41c Knards, or some of Bruce’s Rock n’ Roads… but again, the more the merrier.
The restoration wasn’t easy, and I probably prolonged it a bit in order to provide myself a nightly escape to the garage, drink a beer or two and get my fingers greasy. After the first few rides, I am loving this bike. I’ve never been one to take road rides for the sake of riding roads, but I must say that I’m enjoying some long routes through quiet farmland in the Eastern North Carolina fall. Here are some before and after pics, captions with build details and some general bikeporn:
Lugged Steel Oldies but Goodies
Here is a list I kept of well-regarded steel frames from the 70s and 80s that have low-trail geometry and could have a nice second life as a randonneuring bicycle. Most have well placed bosses and nice lugs. Some are much better than others and some are highly sought after:
- Bridgestone RB-T; T-500; T-700
- Centurion Pro Tour; Elite GT
- Centurion Elite GT
- Fuji Touring Series
- Kuwahara Caravan
- Lotus Odyssey
- Miyata 610; 1000
- Nishiki Continental; Cresta GT; International; Riviera GT; Seral
- Panasonic PT-3500; PT-5000; Pro Touring; Touring Deluxe
- Raleigh Portage; Alyeska; Kodiak; Super Tourer; Touring 18
- Schwinn Paramount P15-9 Tourer; Passage; Voyageur
- Specialized Expedition; Sequoia
- Takara Overland
- Trek 520; 620; 720
- Univega Gran Tourismo; Specialissima