Love the One You’re With

Whenever I ride my 1980’s Guerciotti I am amazed at its performance.  It is more responsive and faster than any of my other bikes, some of which are no slouches in the performance department.  The only reason I don’t ride this bike more often is that 650c tire sizes are limited to fairly narrow widths, and given its racing heritage, it can’t (and doesn’t want to) haul a bunch of stuff.

The frame is built with Columbus Aelle tubing.  The seat stays are small diameter, and the fork crown and seat cluster feature beautiful engravings accented with white paint against the royal blue main color.

I used Paul’s thumbies to bring the shifters up to the bar.  The Tektro long reach brakes worked perfectly for this wheel size conversion (from 700c to 650c).

The frame had no eyelets or braze-ons for racks and fenders.  So, I used zip ties to secure the fenders at the rear and p-clamps for the front fenders and front rack.

In keeping with its Italian heritage, I used a Campagnolo crankset, bottom bracket, and headset when building up the bike.  The crankset’s arms are 170mm, and if I were to replace the crankset I would choose one with shorter arms as to address the low bottom bracket height after the conversion to 650c.

After 5 years of use, all these modifications are still working perfectly – it is a delight to ride and handles beautifully.

 

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.

 

A 1970’s Raleigh Gran Sport and a 1980’s Viner

Simplex Super LJ and Campagnolo shifters

Simplex Super LJ and Campagnolo shifters

Sometimes I purchase bikes that I intend to disassemble.  Often these are perfectly decent bikes, and sometimes very nice ones, that have suffered from what I call unfortunate upgrades.

Recently, a colleague asked me to help him to try out commuting on vintage steel which will be a nice change from his aluminum hybrid. My plan was to take a nice frame and build it up to his specifications.  I purchased this 1970’s Raleigh Gran Sport that had gone through a few prior iterations, both good and bad.

1970's Raleigh Gran Sport

1970’s Raleigh Gran Sport

The frame is full double butted Reynolds 531, with a Reynolds 531 fork, chrome stays and fork legs, with single eyelets front and rear.  There is lots of room at the brake bridge and fork crown for fenders, even with the 27″ inch wheels it was designed for.  So, converting this to 700c and adding some wider tires and fenders should work well.

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The good upgrades included the Simplex SLJ front derailleur and Campy shifters shown at the top, which would have been upgrades from the ugly plastic Simplex models of this era.  The spacing at the rear drop outs is 127 mm so we will have lots of options to consider for the wheelset – either vintage or modern.  Actually, the bike was mostly intact from its original state except for some no name Aero levers (with shifter cables installed where the brake cables should be – yikes!), and some hideous bar tape.  Because the bike looked kind of bizarre and was a bit dirty, it didn’t sell for much.

At the same time I spotted this 1980’s Viner that was even weirder looking,  It sported some 1970’s suicide brake levers, ugly bar tape (again!) and a Shimano 105 headset shimmed into the head tube.

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After just a bit of cleaning, the frame looks great.  It’s an odd color – it looks black sometimes and brown/purple in low light.  It is built with Columbus Cromor Tubing and is in great condition.  These road frames from the 80’s can make nice conversions to 650c or 650b.  It’s my size – 49 x 51.  However, I am going to resist the urge to build it up for myself and will probably keep it in inventory until someone comes along who wants it built up.

There were a few nice surprises with both of these bikes.  The Raleigh’s components were in great shape, and in addition to the Simplex SLJ and the Campy shifters, the prior owner had added a Brooks Professional Saddle (it would have come standard with a B-17).  The original Stronglight crankset has many miles left on it and has the interesting feature of a built in chain guard.  I may use this crankset for my friend’s build since he’s going to be commuting in his work clothes.  The headset and bottom bracket are also original and very nice and will be re-used.

Brooks Professional Stronglight with chainguard Stronglight Bottom bracket

Sadly, the Viner had most of its original Campagnolo parts stripped off.  Fortunately, though, the crankset and rear derailleur were left undisturbed:

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The Viner also had a good wheelset – Maillard sealed hubs on Weinmann concave rims with stainless steel spokes – 36 front and rear.  That seems like a much more robust wheelset than I would have expected, and the wheels will come in very handy for other projects that may come along.  The bottom bracket fixed cup was in really tight.  It is shown above with my removal tool still attached.  Of course, it did help to finally figure out that the BB was Italian, so the fixed cup goes the OTHER way…