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.

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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:

Panasonic Pro Touring Bike - Before

Before: As a whole it didn’t look too bad, but on closer inspection, there were some rust issues, a lot of grime and wear.
Panasonic Pro Touring Bike - Before

Before: 27″ wheels had to go. I was actually hoping to do a 650b conversion, but to save money, I went with 700c to use the existing post mounts. There aren’t too many vintage frames that make a 650b conversion easy.

Panasonic Pro Touring Bike - Before

Before: Tange Steel; regarded as classic, quality, Japanese Chromoly.

Panasonic Pro Touring Bike - Before

Before: 1986 Handmade Japanese Steel.

Panasonic Pro Touring Bike - Before

Before: Proof that the Bike Gallery has been around for a while.

Panasonic Pro Touring Bike - Before

Before: There were a few rusty places, but all in all I had faith.

Panasonic Pro Touring Bike - Before

Before: I love these old Shimano components. Required a little elbow grease to clean up, but well worth it.

Panasonic Pro Touring Frame - RAL 6027

Had the frame media-blasted and coated with RAL 6027.

Panasonic Pro Touring Bike - Vintage Touring Bike, Randonneuring, Low-trail, RAL 6027

The finished product.

Panasonic Pro Touring Bike - Randonneuring Handlebars Cork Wrapped

Fairly narrow, 42cm, Sakae Randnner Road Champion Randonneuring bars; Wondering if Randnner is actually a misspelling for Randonneur, but nonetheless some nicely decorated bars wrapped with cork.

Panasonic Pro Touring Bike - Randonneuring

Complete with King Cage Iris bottle cages and a DIY frame bag.

Panasonic Pro Touring Bike - Randonneuring, Low-trail, RAL 6027

King Cage Iris bottle cages are perfect to match the lines of classic fork lugs.

Panasonic Pro Touring Bike - Randonneuring, Low-trail, RAL 6027

Love them Tange lugs.

Panasonic Pro Touring Bike - Randonneuring, Low-trail, RAL 6027

The Salsa Minimalist serves as a rack to prop up a large saddlebag.

Panasonic Pro Touring Bike - Velocity Atlas Wheels

Atlas Rims, a new offering from Velocity, make a nice shiny 36 spoke option for touring.
Panasonic Pro Touring Bike - RAL 6027, Velocity Atlas Wheels, Selle Anatomica Saddle

Schwalbe Marathon 38c tires make for a fast ride and tough layer between the road.

Velocity Atlas Wheels Touring Bike

Velocity Skewers have a bit of fancy-pants faux-pearl inlay.

Nitto Technomic Stem

Nitto Techmonic stem for some added adjustability for us lanky folks.

Velo Orange Pass Hunter Rack

Velo Orange Pass Hunter rack serves as a nice prop for lashing thing or a camera bag.

Selle Anatomica Titanico X Vintage Leather Touring Bike Saddle

A brand new Selle Anatomica Titanico X Vintage Leather saddle… I look forward to testing this one for the long haul.

Panasonic Pro Touring Bike - Randonneuring, Low-trail, RAL 6027

A little less than 3/16″ stands between these 38c tires and the chain stay.

Klean Kanteen Reflect

Bamboo tops round out the fanciness on these Klean Kanteen Reflect bottles.

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
  • seely

    Hi from Velocity — we love what you’ve done there. We’ve got a Raleigh Aleyeska and a Miyata 610 that both rode in here today. Synergy and A23 rims, respectively. – seely

  • Wandering by Bicycle

    Another classic 80’s bicycle saved! The finished project looks great and shows you have excellent tastes in both bicycles and beer.

  • Thanks a bunch! Glad I could save one. Cheers!

  • Nice. Thanks! You guys have a lot to choose from… all great offerings! I am really digging these Atlas wheels, very shiny and have a nice retro feel that matches the bike well…

  • Barefoottx

    Very nicely done, although the original bike is not a 1984 model. The 1984 Pro Touring did not have mid fork eyelets and had a red paint scheme. I think you most likely have a 1986 model:

    You can tell for sure based on the serial number:

  • Very well done “save” on your 1986 Pro Touring model! We’ve shared it with our other social network followers in hopes that they might find some inspiration to save their own after seeing what can be done.

  • Good catch… I am not quite sure how I convinced myself it was an 84… Thanks! Corrected.

  • Thanks… I corrected the year. Great catch!

  • PT-3500

    Beautiful job! I ride a 1988 Panasonic PT-3500 that I’ve had since new. Over the years, I’ve also swapped out things like the 27″ wheels for 700c and the downtube shifters for Suntour barcons. Every time I think about retiring it and picking up something else, all it takes is a short ride to remember why I love the bike so much. Best of luck to you riding and may you enjoy this bike for many miles to come.

  • Thanks. Hopefully it will last a while… I framesaved it, so hopefully that will help!

  • seely

    Matt, our GM, is talking about Atlases to revive his Alyeska a bit.

  • paul evans

    Caught my eye with the rims . I am an oldie who remembers eyelets on rims , as soon as I saw those I just knew I had to resurrect an old pair of Arraya rims. Love the build and the color is spot on.

  • Thanks! I love the look of those rims. They seem well built as well…

  • tim

    Amazing job. Catching the fever for a restore!

  • Benjamin Tod

    Hey I just got a 1980 Schwinn Super Le Tour and stumbled upon your rebuild. That looks amazing, definitely provided me with a lot of inspiration. First time bike owner here and it’s really appreciated.

  • Thanks! Good luck on your restoration!

  • jjones

    This is awesome! I’m currently working on a 1984 Fuji Pro Touring Restoration right now and I wanted to know how you got the brakes to work with the 27″ to 700c conversion. Did you just use the same canti’s that came on it and did you have to get special pads, or did it all work out perfectly? Thanks again! I’ve really been inspired by this! Going to post mine when I’m all done as well!

  • Thanks! Yes, I just used the cantis that came on the bike originally… there is not much difference between the wheel sizes, and the brakes are adjustable enough to make it work without issue. Send me a pic of your restore when you are finished, I’d love to see it!

  • Austin Tx

    You youngins’ wanting to restore an older bike should think twice before you swap 700c for those 27″ wheels. Aside from the unnecessary costs, the larger wheels take you farther with the same effort and preserve the original geometry of the bike as it relates to the ground you ride it on. The smaller wheels also lower the bottom bracket and reduce cornering clearance…not good People commonly believe that there isn’t good tire quality or size availability but that isn’t true. Panaracer, for one example makes 66tpi tires in 7/8″. 1″, 1 1/8, 1 1/4. Thats 22mm, 25mm, 29mm, and 32mm to some folks. Personally I ride the very nice Kenda 630mm x 35mm (27″ x 1 3/8″) to experience the vintage ride of vintage bikes. What did yo’all think…everything about vintage bikes was cool except the wheels?

  • Thanks for your comments, but I would do it over again for two reasons: 1. Great wheels; 2. Shwalbe touring tires that can be replaced on the road in most of the world. Keep in mind that this is a touring bike and wasn’t just renovated for the sake of vintage renovation…

  • robert

    What type of deraillers did you go with and why?

  • On the front, I used the stock Shimano derailleur. On the rear, in order ti keep it simple and inexpensive, I picked up a cheap Shimano Deore LX 8spd (I think—I am on a tour in Africa right now using a different bike, and can’t quite remember). Hope that helps!

  • Michael Viglianco

    I almost got a Bridgestone T700 off of Ebay last week but I mistakenly thought that 27″ was 650b and was not as interested in going with smaller wheels. I’m glad I re-read this prompting me to clear up the differences between them all.

  • A lot of people are converting old steel bikes to 650b (I think Rivendell even makes one). I’ve read people saying it’s the sweet spot of sizes for road/touring. There are only a few that can easily be converted though. I think most of the 27″ models can be easily converted to 700c…

  • austex

    They all can be converted…it’s only 4mm difference. But don’t do it, it’s a waste of time and money.

  • Andy

    First off, great build!

    I’d agree with Logan that 700c is the way to go nowadays. Options are limited (and quickly shrinking) for 27″ tires. Panaracer makes great stuff, but options man! The outer diameter difference is negligible as well, if you can run 700c with larger tires (32 and up) you get pretty close to 27×1 1/4.

    Just my 2 cents, but I ride a tourer with 26″ wheels so…

  • Thanks Andy! I actually just realized I missed that comment you were responding to. I do think I have about the same rolling diameter, if not bigger, with those Schwalbes… Cheers.

  • ivan

    Did you attend some bike manufacturer seminar on 29ers to come up with that “larger wheels take you farther with the same effort” bulldinky? Do you realize the typical MTB 29er tire has more rolling resistance? Geometry also stays the same if both wheels are equal. You could put 12″ wheels on both ends and the geometry would still be the same. And ground clearance between 700c and 27? Negligible.
    Seriously, were you drinking when you wrote that? I’ll bet you also believe 11 cogs goes faster than 10.

    Sincerely, someone who has been in the NYC bike business for 30 years.

  • Guest #2

    Good points Ivan, but wow! You are an asshole. You don’t have to be so combative.

  • Stan Berry

    Very cool bike! I’m looking into getting a frame of mine powder coated and I’m having a hard time finding any information that’s really any helpful about preparing steel frames for powder coating. I was wondering what preparations you may have done, referring mostly to the bottom bracket, eyelets, headset, and other things like that. I’m concerned about the threads getting coated over. Where I live there’s not really a place that specializes in bike painting. They mostly do snow plows and other commercial jobs so I’d like to do all I can do to make sure the best job gets done on my bike. Thanks a lot, I really enjoy the hell out of your website!

  • littleblackangel

    This is a beauty!

  • Michael Teague

    This is absolutely beautiful. I’m currently finishing my ’80’s Falcon touring bike and am about to build up a Fuji road from the same period for my lady. This has given me so many ideas. I went with 700c on the Falcon and I’m flying. Love it.

  • Thomas Skadow

    Nice project. I am fixing up a Trek 520. A painter (local bike restorer) said not to use powder coating as it is too brittle and will chip very easily. Just wondering if anyone has experience with the durability of powder coating.

  • Jeff Carroll

    Thomas, I built a TREK 520. I had it powder coated at Groody Bros. in KC. I’ve had it for 2 years with no issues. Here’s a link to the build.
    This TREK has a fantastic ride. I can ride it comfortably all day long. It’s my favorite ride. I’d love to see pictures of yours when you are done.

  • reidun


  • bbushman

    This is stunning, Logan…thanks for sharing! I’m a newbie to cycling, started out for some commuting and fitness, and I just put my 2000th mile on a 2015 Trek FX. But as I’ve been doing more 50+ mile rides and experimented with bike packing, I’ve been considering how to get into a dropbar tour/gravel bike without spending a ton of $$. Which is a long way of asking- how much did you spend on this conversion when all is said and done?

  • Thomas Skadow
  • EKryski

    Could you post a full parts list if you had a chance sometime? Thanks.

  • Ryan S

    Inspired by this post and others I purchased a 1986 Schwinn Passage (probably Panasonic built) last fall, almost done with the refurb. Thanks for the cool post

  • Donna

    Where did you buy the bike. I looks very close to one that was stolen from me in 20011

  • Doug Auwarter

    Beautiful build! I can’t believe it took those 38c tires. My 80s road bike is a Vitus 979. 28s barely fit – even closer than 3/16! Really, very nice job!

  • Ron Beland

    Not my experience wiith three powder coated 80’s restored bikes. The finish on all three seeem much more durable than the original paint.

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