Last summer, I set aside my 1987 Panasonic MC 7500 frame, after transferring many of its components to a 1989 Bridgestone MB3. I rode the Bridgestone through the summer and fall, but found myself riding it less and less, and ultimately it sat unridden since last December. Although that frame is similar in size to the Panasonic, its geometry is slightly different, with a longer and sloping top tube and shorter chain stays.
You can see the slight differences in frame geometry in the above photos. The Panasonic is a more traditional frame, with more of the rider’s weight closer to the front end of the bike. For commuting and all-round riding, I like having the weight more evenly distributed, especially given that I haul stuff primarily on the rear rack.
While frame size issues can often be overcome with the right mix of handlebars, stem, and seatpost setback, when a bike isn’t ridden, there’s usually a reason, and sometimes no amount of tweaking the components will solve the problem.
The Bridgestone didn’t make me smile. So, with anticipation, I brought out the Panasonic frame from storage and began the process of bringing it back to life. I first did a complete inspection of the frame and fork, cleaned all of the threaded surfaces, applied clear touch up paint where needed, and washed the frame. Then I polished and waxed it (with several coats), and also treated the inside of the tubes with WD-40. Then it was time to build it up.
I had some inspired moments, deciding to use some period correct Shimano cantilevers, which offer much better modulated braking power than the new Tektro’s I had previously used. At the rear is a U brake, very fiddly to set up, but the Dia Compe set installed there works fine, so long as I set the pads very close to the rime.
I also decided to go with a double crankset, instead of the single chain ring I had always used when riding the bike previously. Wanting to keep the weight down (smaller riders benefit greatly from weight savings) I selected a Shimano Crane long cage rear derailleur, along with the drilled Stronglight crankset that I had been using with the Bridgestone. Velo-Orange porter bars, SunTour bar mount ratcheting shifters and a 6 speed Shimano freewheel finished out the build.
I reinstalled my hand built 26” wheels, which have a V-O rear hub and Quando front hub, both with cartridge bearings, laced to SunRims CR18 rims, which have held up well (although the rear Quando hub failed prematurely a few years back, replaced by the V-O hub).
I’m riding the bike this summer without fenders, because I’m researching some different fender options. As I was getting under way for my first test ride I suddenly remembered that riding a bike with cantilevers, sans fenders, can be a safety hazard. This is because if the front brake cable fails, the straddle cable can get caught up in the tire and fork crown and cause an endo, with related potentially dangerous injuries. So, I hastily installed a tire saver to hopefully prevent disaster, even though my cables are all new, just in case. A reflector bracket will also work for this purpose.
My first test ride on the new build was a delight. This machine has carried me through cold, rainy winters, and has hauled a lot of groceries and garden supplies. It’s a beautiful but well used frame, made with double butted Tange tubing, and featuring lovely chromed rear stays. It’s 80’s color scheme is very visible, especially with the bright orange donor fork that replaced the original fork long before the frame came into my stable. The bike is a good friend, and it does, indeed, make me smile.