Restoring an old bike ( or several ) for practical use is as much of an ongoing journey as a finished work, as ideas present themselves from both riding and fixing that bike as well as from comparing it with the experience of other favourites from your (or other’s) stable. Can I swap those parts ? Is this stem the right length ? What about the grips ? Ride too harsh ? etc…
The added variable with lucky bicycle finds is the sizing — it is rare to find a cheap or free bike you love that is also your correct size. However, if you are fond enough of that bike there are a few things you can do to make it fit – to a point, of course.
An example is my beloved Cecil Walker early ’80s road bike which is only around 52cm frame size. This bike was obviously made for someone smaller than my average height which makes for some inherent difficulties. First is the ferocious toe overlap, caused by fitting 27 inch wheels to such a small frame. There’s little you can do to correct such a ‘design flaw’ other than fit smaller wheels, but even 700c gives plenty of overlap while losing originality. Particularly when I have effectively lengthened the toe clips with spacer washers to better fit my feet. Here then, it simply comes down to maintaining an awareness at slow speeds.
The quill stem on this bike is a generous length and easily adjusted for height, but is problematic when it comes to forward extension adjustments – i.e. there are none. Modern threadless stems allow easy removal of the bars and changing of the extension length via multiple bolts, but are not as easy to adjust for height. So, the stem stays as is. Otherwise I would also fit wider bars and more comfortable hoods, but again, the Cinelli / Modolo originals look so nice !
I am looking for some old style brown gel grips, but no luck yet.
The original 180mm seat post’s maximum safe extension was too short so I have invested in a new 27.2mm Dia Compe “Gran Compe” alloy post ( which almost cost as much as the original old bike ! ) it’s 250mm with twin bolts , a subtle classic look and works a treat with the B17 titanium. However as the head stem is at max. extension this also means that I will be leaning forward more …
Typically, if you are getting ‘front of knee’ pains on long rides, your seat post may be too short, or the seat may simply be too low – this longer post also allows a more powerful pedal stroke when correctly adjusted. Note that the older fluted seat posts need to have the flutes above the top of the seat tubes or they become little water traps to facilitate the welding together of these parts by corrosion – potentially causing headaches and damage at removal time.
The last recent alteration was fitting the original shimano ‘600’ threaded freewheel. As the 55cm Shogun is more comfortable and has now become the main commuter, the CW can be a bit more serious – though the loss of two bottom gears comes with some regret, even though it makes for a closer spread on flat terrain – bottom gear is now 42x18T – whew, that’s nearing low single speed territory ! The rear wheel is a non-original steel Ukairim/Shimano combo which adds weight, but it’s not easy finding quality traditional 27″ lightweight alloy 120 or 126mm hub width rear wheels these days. “Patience, my son … ”
So, I can’t say that I’m all finished yet, but it’s getting closer.