Sunshine Pro-am Hubs vs. Ofmega Gran Premio

Front hubs – Sunshine Pro Am on the left.

Rear hubs, Sunshine Pro Am on the right.

I recently needed to build a wheelset for a bike with 122mm rear spacing.  That meant that I could re-use its original Sunshine Pro Am hubs (spaced at 120mm on the rear), taken off the original tubular rims, or select a NOS hub set of similar quality and from the same era (mid-1970’s).  This might expand my hub choice options, because I could probably more easily locate a 126mm rear axle set, which the rear dropouts can easily accept without having to spread the rear triangle.

I ended up locating a 1980 NOS Ofmega Gran Premio 6200 hubset, with low flanges and 32 holes front and rear.  I had previously restored a few bikes that featured Ofmega components, so was familiar with Ofmega’s quality.

Ofmega Gran Premio 6200

Both sets were similar in weight, with the Ofmega set being only slightly heavier, probably due to the longer rear axle and fewer holes in the flanges. To verify my initial impression of the quality of Ofmega components, I researched the history of the company and discovered that its beginnings are murky at best.

According to VeloBase, the Italian component maker was founded by Mario and Dino Perotti sometime in the 1960’s, when they obtained patents for various bottom bracket designs.  It is posited by the disraeligears site that Ofmega had a relationship to the OMG Company, which in turn may have included the Gnutti brand in its portfolio.  By 2006, Ofmega appears to have finally shut down, although the exact date and cause of its demise is unknown.  For better or for worse, Ofmega is best known for its colorful and strangely shaped rear derailleurs, which evoke derision or amusement, depending on your perspective.

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Sunshine/Sansin’s history is similarly opaque.  I had believed that Sunshine was somehow part of Maeda and SunTour, but I wasn’t sure.  After a number of failed English language Google searches, I tried searching on Yahoo’s Japanese search engine, and came across a Wikipedia post (in Japanese) that I used Google translate to read, then took a picture of the brief entry, shown above. This confirmed that Sunshine was indeed a division of Maeda industries, a company with a very long history going back to 1912. This lead me to focus on what Maeda was doing in the 1970’s when my Sunshine Pro Am hubs were made.

From there I discovered that Howie Cohen of West Coast Cycles (and creator of the NIshiki brand in cooperation with Kawamura of Japan), was instrumental in encouraging Japanese component makers to bring high quality bicycles and components to the US market. Howie has passed away, but a website dedicated to his work lives on.  Howie had personal relationships and went cycling with many of the leaders of Japan’s cycling industry, and successfully convinced them that Americans were sick and tired of riding our heavy one speed balloon tired clunkers.  He turned out to be right.

I ended up deciding to re-use the bike’s original Sunshine Pro Am hubs, which I built using Velo Orange 650b rims.  I had a set of Grand Bois 32mm tires that I had originally planned to use for another project which never materialized.  The tires were relatively easy to mount, although it did take a few inflation/deflation attempts to seat the tires correctly on the rims.  As you can see from the above photos, the highly polished V-O rims look quite fine.

I’m glad I went with the Sunshine hubs – this is my new (old) 1975 Centurion Pro Tour, converted to 650b.  I will share more about the conversion in an upcoming post, but let’s just say for now that I am having a blast riding this well-handling and beautiful old machine.

A Meral for Town and Country

Bicycles with 650B wheels are nicely suited to a relaxed riding style.  The wider rims and greater clearances on the bike’s frame allow for plump, comfortable tires.  Often, vintage 650B bicycles are set up as city style bikes, with minimal gears and an upright position for the cyclist.

My recently acquired early 1980’s Meral randonneuse cried out for a 650B conversion.  It was built with Vitus 788 tubing around a set of narrow, 700c rims.  The bike as originally configured had a high bottom bracket and minimal tire clearances. These elements would normally indicate an ideal bicycle for a 650B conversion. Still, I wasn’t sure if I would be successful converting the bike, because the brake clearances were odd – with the front brake having less reach than the rear brake. In times past, competitive oriented bicycles were sometimes built with more brake reach in the rear than the front, and that was so that a shorter reach and therefore stronger brake could be used at the front end.

The rear brake reach on this bike is greater than the front by more than several millimeters.  When it came time to install the Mafac Raid long reach brakes, this fact made me concerned.  In order to have the rear Mafac Raid brake pads contact the new 650B rim, I needed to angle them down slightly, which is not ideal.  There are other options for dealing with brake reach problems, including installing brackets (a la Sheldon), and filing some material off of the caliper arms, to allow the brake pads to sit a bit lower.  None of those options appealed to me.

Vintage Mafac Raid brake calipers with V-O squeal free pads.

I decided to ignore the problem for now, as the front brake reach was perfect for the conversion to 650B, with plenty of room to position the brake pads correctly.  I am using Velo-Orange’s smooth post “squeal free” pads for this set up – and they are working perfectly and as advertised.  Since the front brake provides 70% of a bike’s stopping power, I haven’t noticed any issues involving the angled rear brake pads.  Meanwhile, here are some photos of the rest of the build:

Brooks leather grips, Tektro vintage style levers, V-O thumbies, Campagnolo shifter

Velocity A23 650B rims

Shimano Tiagra hubs

Meral custom steel fenders, wine cork spacers

Meral custom steel rack, with mounts for front flashlight.

This project was loads of fun, thanks to the beauty and quality of this vintage Meral bicycle.  The custom fenders and rack were a perfect match to its new Town and Country personality.  V-O’s thumbies worked well for this build – they can be used with just about any type of shifter so are more adaptable than their Paul’s competitor.

I used a lower end 650B wheelset that I will not purchase again, and I consider the wheels as a placeholder for now.  Probably I will build the ideal wheelset for this bike when the time comes, and will sort out the lighting options at that time.  Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy these photos of this amazing vintage bicycle which now has a new lease on life.  I have included the specs and full build list at the bottom of this post.

A view from the back – with a tiny vintage reflector installed on the custom fenders.

Original Brooks Pro saddle.  Through the frame brake cable routing for the rear brake.

Campagnolo shifter on the seat tube braze on – intended for a BB mounted dynamo. Nicely executed seat cluster.

This gorgeous custom Meral steel rack can also be installed at the rear of the bike.

The drive train is a single 42 tooth drilled ring up front, with a 7 speed cassette at the back, controlled with a vintage friction Campy shifter.

The specs and build list are as follows:

Frame and fork:  Early 1980’s Meral with Vitus 788 steel tubing, 54 cm ST, 56 cm TT, through the frame brake and dynamo wiring, 2 rack mounts on the seat stays, 2 rack mounts on the fork, bottle cage mount, shifter braze-ons, ST dynamo braze-on, 127 rear spacing.

Drive Train:  Vintage Sugino crankarms and Sugino drilled 42T ring; new 7 speed cassette, vintage Lyotard pedals, Shimano SLX rear derailleur, original T.A. bottom bracket, replacement T.A. spindle of shorter length, V-O thumbie with vintage Campagnolo friction shifter.

Braking: Vintage Mafac Raid long reach centerpull brakes, new V-O smooth post pads, new Tektro vintage style levers, new blue color matched housing.

Wheelset & Tires:  New 650b wheelset: Shimano Tiagra hubs on Velocity A23 rims (purchased from Harris), tires and wheelset are placeholders for now.

Saddle and Seatpost:  Original Brooks Professional saddle, original JP Routens slanted seatpost clamp.

Bars, stem and headset:  new Soma Oxford handlebars and Nitto Technomic stem (sanded to French 22.0 steerer size), original French Stronglight headset.

Accessories:  Original Meral custom steel fenders, original Meral custom steel front rack, new V-O bottle cage.

Ready for a leisurely ride wherever you want to go.

A Velo-Orange Shipment

I order components from a variety of sources, but one of my favorite suppliers is Velo-Orange.  Even though its founder, Chris Kulcaycki, sold the company earlier this year to two of his long time employees, I haven’t noted any negative impacts on the quality and variety of products offered.  I think the company is well positioned amongst its competitors, namely Compass Bicycles – Boulder Bicycle – Rene Herse (all owned by Compass Bicycles/Jan Heine), Rivendell (Grant Peterson), and Harris Cyclery (Sheldon Brown’s shop), as a purveyor and innovator of bicycle frames and components for cycling enthusiasts, and especially for those who appreciate the quality and reliability of steel frames, comfortable, wide tires, and retro-inspired components.

My haul today included some of the parts needed to complete the 650b/city bike conversion for the early 1980’s Meral Randonneur bike I recently purchased.  In my box of goodies was a full length chain guard, Velox rim strips (more on that later), V-O thumb shifter mounts (competing with Pauls’ Thumbies), Tektro brake levers, and a new KMC 8 speed chain.

I also ordered an extra 8 speed chain (you can never have enough chains), as well as my favorite brake pads:  V-O’s non-squeal smooth post pads, which work really well with Mafac long reach brakes.

I also use these bake pads on any bike with cantilevers – they really are almost 100% squeal proof and provide excellent stopping power.

But what prompted this order was the extraordinarily bizarre experience I had attempting to mount a set of Grand Bois 32 mm 650b tires to the Velocity A23 650b wheelset I had purchased from Harris Cyclery for $289.  Yes, that was the price for both wheels, which feature Shimano Tiagra hubs.  Well, you get what you pay for.  I purchased these wheels as a placeholder to see if a 650b conversion would really work for this bike, so that is why I went with the cheapest offering out there.  The downside was discovering the the holes drilled in this narrow rim end up partially on the upper edge inside the rim where the tire’s beads need to mount.  Installing the necessary narrow rim strip meant not covering these very sharp edged holes completely, which I knew would lead to flats and blow-outs later on.  I tried installing a wider strip, but that interfered with the Grand Bois tires’ beads.  Many swear words ensued at this point.  Finally I took to the internet to see who else had experienced this problem.  Turns out – everyone.  The best advice I read was to use three narrow rims strips on each rim, carefully positioned to cover the holes without interfering with tire mounting.  We will see how that goes (subsequent blog post forthcoming!).

Meanwhile, I am looking forward to setting up the other components, such as these very elegant Tektro brake levers.  Using 32 mm tires means that I will be able to re-install the lovely custom stainless steel Meral fenders.  It will also be interesting to try out the full length chain guard for this build which I envision with a single chain ring up front, as well as to experiment with V-O’s version of Paul’s thumbies.  Stay tuned.