1980’s Viner City Bike Conversion

1980's Viner

A few posts back I featured this Viner that I had purchased with the intention to disassemble it and keep the frame on hand for a potential build.  Well, I kept looking at the frame and couldn’t help thinking how much fun it would be to convert the bike to 650c (from 700c) and to build it into a city bike.  A city bike in Portland, Oregon is not the same as a city bike in other cycling hubs across the globe.  We have hills here, we have bridges, shockingly little cycling infrastructure, and hence relatively fast commutes compared to more laid back cities such as Amsterdam.  The ideal city bike in Portland (at least for now) is a bike that is nimble, fast, and lightweight.

Tektro Long Reach Brakes, Terry 650c tires

Tektro Long Reach Brakes, Terry 650c tires

So, I built the bike back up, keeping as many of the original components as would make sense for the build.  However, once I got into the project I could see that the only components that should be kept were the original crankset (Ofmega Mistral with Campagnolo rings), Shimano Italian threaded bottom bracket,  Shimano 105 front derailleur, Atax stem, and Shimano 105 shifters.

During the time I was working on the bike, I heard from a reader who asked me how you can tell a real Viner from a fake one.  Well, I was surprised that anyone would even try to fake a Viner, but apparently this has happened.  After doing some research I found an informative blog that helped to clarify this point:  all real Viner’s have their bottom brackets stamped with the seat tube length ( in cm) on the underside of the BB.  This is how you can be certain that you are riding a real Viner vs. a fake.  This Viner has “49” stamped on the underside of the BB, and it is a 49 cm frame.1980's Viner

The success of converting a bike from 700c to 650c depends on the original frame geometry.  A bike with a lot of BB drop, and with a shallow head tube angle can present more of a challenge than a bike that has a steep head tube and not so much BB drop.  Also, a bike with very little fork rake combined with a slack head tube angle can also present a challenge when converted to 650c.  Unfortunately, this little bike had all of those frame geometry problems.  It’s a small bike that should probably never have been built for 700c tires.  To shorten the top tube a very steep 74 degree seat tube angle was used, combined with a slack 71 degree head tube angle, and very little fork rake at 45 mm.  The result:  a bike with more wheel flop and trail than is ideal in my opinion.  However, converting the bike to 650c IMPROVED the wheel flop and trail numbers substantially – going from a wheel flop factor of 21 to 19 mm and a trail measurement of 69 to 58 mm.  I did this frame a favor by converting it to 650c.  Some vintage Viners (all of which were hand-built) feature very fancy lugs with cutouts.  This frame is simpler, but all of the finish work is outstanding.

Beautiful finish work on the seat lug, Columbus Cromor tubing

Beautiful work on the seat lug, Columbus Cromor tubing

Columbus drop-outs, fully chromed chain stays

Columbus drop outs, fully chromed chainstay

I used a Shimano Deore XT rear derailleur in case the new owner of this bike wants to use index shifting (which works fine with the Shimano 105 downtube shifters and this derailleur) and/or larger cogs in the back.  With the 42/52 rings, lower gearing in the form of larger cogs for city riding can be helpful.  The cassette I installed is 12-30, giving a low gear of 34 inches for this wheel size.  If the new owner wants to convert the bike back to a road bike, all that is needed would be to swap out the bars and levers for road-type equipment and possibly change out the cassette.  Here are some photos of the rest of the build:

Omfega Mistral crankset with Campagnolo rings 42/52

Ofmega Mistral crankset with Campagnolo rings 42/52

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Mavic CXP33 black rims with silver sidewalls

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Nitto Northroad bars with Lizard Skin red white and blue grips and original Atax stem

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Ultegra hubs with 32 holes front and rear

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Ofmega Mistral crankset – considered one of the nicest cranksets ever made

One of the nice things about this Viner is the color of the frame.  It is seemingly black – but also purple/brown in low light.  The black Mavic rims with the silver sidewalls seemed to be just about perfect in highlighting the frame color.  I had fun building up this bike, but I do NOT want to have too much fun test riding it – I have too many bikes in my stable already.


7 thoughts on “1980’s Viner City Bike Conversion

  1. As usual, a superb build. Whoever ends up with that bike will be one lucky rider. Looks like there is plenty of room for fenders, although the lack of eyelets complicates things a bit. Those Tektro long-reach brakes are a great innovation in cycling, much better than, for instance, the introduction of 11-speed cassettes and carbon fiber derailleur bodies.

    • Thank you, Tom. Now all we need are some wider 650c tires! These Terry’s are pretty good commuter tires but it would be nice to see some more options available in this rim diameter.

  2. Lovely, I would be interested, but overwhelmed with my influx of tiny road bikes that need to be turned into 650B or C. They are high quality frames, but none in fine shape like that frame so I will either have to repair rust or repaint or leave it be. As for fenders, you can use P clamps, and there are many eyelit adaptors which you set in with the hub skewers. VO has them, PDW has spare ones for their full metal fenders.

  3. It’s a nice bike. Light and fast for simple city riding.
    What do you think about an option like a small Carradice saddle bag?

    • Hi Laurent,

      That would be nice. You wouldn’t want to put a front bag or basket on this bike due to the high trail and wheel flop geometry – but a Carradice would be just about right!

  4. This is a beautiful conversion. Can I ask what model of Viner this is? I have a Viner frame that looks that for sale near me and I would like to find out more information about it, like whether it was originally a high end race bike or mid range sports bike.

    • Hi Roy, I don’t know what model the Viner is, but since it’s built with Columbus Cromor tubing, which is seamed and although butted with relatively thin walls, the seam adds extra weight and is therefore not the top of the line tubing. This bike also does not have the fancy lugs seen on some Viners. I actually prefer to work with quality mid to upper mid-tier bikes as they tend to have better geometry, longer chainstays, and more clearance. That makes for a nice all-rounder.

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