With the imminent closure of a local bike shop there has been the opportunity to gather some cut-priced parts, and with some careful thinking there have been a few opportunities to upgrade some of my fleet.
With the purchase of this 700C Bontrager alloy rear wheel I had a possible candidate for the rear of my Cecil Walker, currently sporting a heavy steel 27″ rim out of sheer desperation. The original plan was to find a quality 27″ wheel that would take the Shimano 600 series 5-speed screw-on cluster, but that has proved difficult.
The story of Cecil so far had been to compromise for his slightly small size with some minor modifications, while retaining most of the original parts, or closely similar. But the handling was stiff and slow compared with my 90s Shogun.
I hadn’t previously thought about adding more speeds, but I have now taken the plunge and converted to an 8-speed hub and a close ratio 12-21T hyperglide cassette, in the spirit of the original “corn-cob” close ratio 14-18T cluster.
I’m not sorry to see the 27″ wheels go though, as I feel this bike handles much more responsively with 700C wheels. Not only that, with new 25C tyres fitted as well, the dreaded toe overlap has almost completely disappeared !
The biggest problem with this sort of mod. is Cecil’s narrow dropout width, around 120mm and a bit which will require some serious shoe-horning ( I originally thought the freehub was 7-speed, it turned out to be 8-speed ! ).
There are only two ways to make a modern 130mm wheel fit old 120 or 126mm dropouts – ( well, three ways, but I don’t want to widen this frame as I may find vintage wheel parts for it later on ).
First – if the axle spacers allow it on both sides – an equal amount can be removed left and right then the axle shortened by hacksaw. This keeps the wheel central in the frame, but with the space requirements of an 8-speed or greater cassette there isn’t any spare space on the drive side between the freehub cassette and the dropout. The only solution then is to take all the excess width off the non-drive side spacer and increase the dish of the wheel by tightening the drive side spokes and loosening the non-drive side spokes.
This pulls the rim to the centre of the narrower dropouts and then finally the excess hollow axle is sawn off to fit the quick releases. A lot more fiddly, and it requires wheel truing as well.
I hope the extra tension on the drive side spokes that I had to apply to do this is not going to weaken the new wheel long term, but it seems to have worked well so far. With relaxing of the High and Low limit-stop screws, the Shimano 600 Arabesque rear derailleur copes with the extra 3 speeds admirably. The front 600 derailleur requires more trimming adjustments on the go, to avoid it rubbing the ( new ) 8-speed chain on larger chain angles, that’s all.
Considering the reduced width, the wheel dish is probably more like that of a 10 or 11-speed cassette on a 130mm wide hub – pretty severe.
The Dura-Ace down-tube shifters cope well with the 8-speeds ( being friction types — this mod. would have been more difficult and costly with indexed shifting ).
I fitted better brake pads for the alloy rims, in this case Jagwire ‘Pro’ with adjustability for toe-in. These are rather good pads and braking is now smoother, lighter and better modulated. Tyres are Bontrager ‘race’ all-weather 25C
The very narrow Cinelli “Campione del Mondo” handle bars have been swapped for wider Cinelli “Giro d’Italia 64” and at 44mm wide there is more steering control and I can breathe better when in the ‘drops’. I’ve kept the bar tape more toward the ends to increase the comfort and thickness there.
The Modolo levers are difficult to reach from the drops – they are a long way out from the bar and a very old fashioned shape. To be honest, modern levers like the Cane creek SCR-5 would be much more comfortable, but I still want to keep the originals there. I could do with some soft gel hoods for them though …
The stem is a longer Nitto 100mm ‘Dynamic 10’ and helps me stretch out a little more than the 60mm original did.
The saddle is now a Brooks B17 narrow – and this is the best fitting saddle I’ve tried so far on this bike – a keeper.
I don’t mind the black and white rims as the white Halo ‘track’ front highlights the lettering on the downtube and the black tyres and white letters seem to hold the look together at both ends. Not exactly traditional, I know, but it works well.
All in all, a big improvement, and yet this may not be the end-all for Cecil’s alterations.
He’s always been a work in progress.