The €100 Hybrid to Gravel/Cyclo Cross Conversion. Cheap, Good, Light, Pick any 2.

Humble beginnings

This is how I found her.

This is how I found her. Neglected, rusty, abandoned. And my size. I couldn’t resist those puppy eyes.

Wrong colour.  I’m not picky but that was really the wrong colour.  Wrong size.  I could have adjusted it with parts to make it work but it’d never feel ‘right’.  I’m not in a rush.  My growing stable of bikes and parts is getting used plenty.

I’m always on the lookout for a new bike and I’ve recently taken a fancy to building a gravel/cyclocross bike.  On the cheap.  I figured I have enough spare parts to build such a bike but I needed the right frame.  Ebay and local listings provided some hopefuls but there was always a snag. And so many times I had to rethink my wishes: 26″ or 700c?  Aluminium or steel?  Nice frame but bright pink?  How much for delivery costs?  So after passively looking for the right frame or bike to convert I finally found the Trek frame on a local listing. €15 the seller wanted.  Just a 20 minute drive away.  It was strangely cheap.  But I was enthusiastic enough to investigate.

This is how I found her.  Spot rusted in parts.  The wedge of the quill stem was jammed in the steerer.  Bottom bracket was stuck.  Headset seized. stripped, naked and neglected.  Mmm, this is going to take a lot of work to fix.  And man, it was heavy!  But even though I’d been adverse to Treks since a famous phoney cyclist that cheated to win the Tour 7 times used to ride one, I saw the potential to make a really nice ride out of this old gal.  I had to have it.  In the end I cycled over there to pick it up.

A spare frame

A spare frame

Researching the frame on a vintage Trek site I surmised this was a circa 1999 European model Trek 700 Trekking based on the popular Multitrack model.  Same hi-tensile steel frame and cro-moly seat tube, hi-tensile steel fork and similar original parts.  The only differences I could make out were the brazed-on bosses for a rim dynamo.

Stripping her down was not easy.  I was not looking forward to wrestling with the cranks and bottom bracket.  After leaving some decent penetrating oil to soak in for a day the bolts came out quite easily.  But the threads to hold the crank extractor where encrusted with prehistoric crap.  I prayed that they weren’t cross-threaded.  After some vigorous cleaning I managed to get the extractor in and the cranks popped off.  Same treatment for the bottom bracket.  It came off with a little fight and when extracted it looked like the shell had been filled with mud.

The fork was another matter.  I kept the old quill and stem bolt just so as I could use it to hammer the wedge free.  Hammering, penetrating oil, waiting, more hammering, more oil.  No go.  A week passed and whenever I had time I had a go.  In the meantime I made my own headset cup removers, headset clamp and fork crown press.  Did I mention this took a lot of time?  When I finished the cup remover I finally got the headset cups off and the frame was now naked and ready for a good clean.  Inspecting the fork from all angles I noticed the inner diameter of the steer was narrower towards the bottom.  Bingo, I got it.  I was hammering from the wrong side.  My hammering was causing the wedge to go further into to the narrower bottom part of the steerer.  I inverted the fork, screwed in the stem bolt from underneath the fork and with on sharp blow from my hammer the wedge was freed!  Success!  Finally.  Time for a beer and some sleep.

I had ordered a bunch of weirdly sized parts for the frame.  A JIS 27mm crown 30mm cup headset, a 26.4mm seatpost (which turned out to be 0.2mm too narrow), new cantilever brakes, a new swan neck brake cable tensioner and QR skewers.  €70.

While waiting for the new parts to arrive I was eager to see the bike built up so I stuck the old headset and stem back on and added some old parts I have.

Getting there

Frankencross with spare parts for fitting

Frankencross with spare parts for fitting.

It was actually rideable but only for short distances as the retaining bolt from the rear canti cable was missing so I only had a working front brake.  And the headset was totally shot.  I packed the crap out of it with grease just for the fitting.  I had lots of 9 speed parts lying around gathering dust so I thought, why not?  Added an old plastic ATAX(?) seatpost (surprisingly comfortable) and a Selle Italia Turbo saddle.

Just for a laugh

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29er tyres have the same 622 ETRTO circumference as 700c tyres

Parts started to arrive and I put on the new JIS headset, the new brakes and the seatpost.  Whilst researching for a decent all rounder gravel/cyclocross tyre I discovered that I could put a 29er tyre on the 700c Mavic CXP22 wheels I had planned for the bike.  I popped on an old Schwalbe 622-57 on there just for laughs.  The tyre fit on surprisingly snugly.  I pumped it up to 1.7 bars and popped (or wedged) it onto the forks.  The tyre was so wide it could not turn. -10mm clearance!  I think I could manage to get a 1.8″ tyre on there but I will either go for a UCI max of 33mm or go for a 38mm/40mm.  My research tells me that the frame was originally fitted with 38mm tyres.  Mavic and Sheldon say CXP22 rims could accept up to 32mm but my limited experiment show that at least a 57mm tyre will fit!

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The swan neck front brake cable tensioner bolt is made for a recessed bolt fork hole and was too short to fix on this fork with a nylok bolt.  I had two options.  1/ find a longer 50mm x 6mm bolt or 2/ drill out the fork to 8mm to accept the recessed style allen/hex bolt. In the quest for keeping the cost as low as possible, I went with option 2.  It worked perfectly and all is snugly in place.  Braking is well adjusted and powerful.

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Fitted brake cable tensioner using spare cantilever pad concave/convex bushings as spacers to clear the lower headset cup.

I used an old long cage 9 speed Campagnolo Xenon (rebranded Mirage) that I used only twice.  I paired this with vintage plastic Campagnolo Mirage 9 speed ergo shifters and a shimano 5600 9 speed cassette and an old but unused 9 speed KMC chain.  With some fine-tuning it all works sweetly.  All brake and gear cables are campagnolo specific.  Don’t ever use Shimano cables on Campagnolo parts if you want to avoid heartache.

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Hack!

I used gel super glue on the cable ends to avoid crimping, crushing and flaring.  Works a treat.  The gel version is supposedly shock resistant.  Time will tell.

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Weird ass 29mm outer diameter seat tube.  I fashioned a thin shim from a discarded R3db*ll can.  So far it works a treat, and it’s probably the best use of the product.

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The rest of the parts I just happened to have around because of upgrades to other bikes.  A Triple crank Shimano FC-R553, 50/39/30, 105 Triple 5600 front derailleur (made for 10 speed), A520 SPD pedals, old 25mm Specialized All Rounder tyres (for now), some very nice black rubber Cinelli cork ribbon, Avid Shorty 4 brakes, Specialized saddle, some generic QR skewers make up the rest of the bike.  I bought a set of 30mm Schwalbe CX Pros but I’m thinking of returning them to get a set of 33mm Clement BOS tyres.  If only I could find a retailer than has them in stock!  Anyway, I hope this was interesting or helpful if you’re trying to do a conversion on a budget.  I had a lot of trouble but a lot of fun building this project up.  She rides great on the flats.  It’s just (as I expected) harder to wind up speed on the hiller parts down here, but that’ll pay off next Spring :).

Here are some more pictures…

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Vintage 3ttt Competizione bars – love the curve of the drops.

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A Deda Logo stem on a 1″to 1 1/8″ stem adapter

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The Frankencross

The Frankencross

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And now for something you don’t see everyday…        

This is apparently a WWII Afrika Korps ‘folding’ paratrooper single speed. I can’t vouch for how it might ride on such narrow tyres over sand dunes fully loaded. Front brake is a steel rod that presses on the outer thread of the tyre itself while the rear looks like a coaster brake. ‘Nirona’ is the only visible brand on the museum piece.  Top tube and downtube clamps apparently allow the bike to be assembled after dropping into enemy territory whilst on mission. Probably weighs more than my Canyon but less than a Panzer. 

The Nobel Prize and Bikes, the Highest Common Denominator

I heard about these brave Afghan ladies a few years ago and I applaud their bravery in the face of Taliban extremism and misogyny to do what we in the West take for granted.

Now I’ve learned they have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.  Even if they don’t win the prize itself, it’s a testament to how their daily struggle has touched a chord with the rest of the world.  It’s already a symbolic victory for women and cycling. I think I’m gonna break out ‘The Kite Runner’ again.

http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/02/news/afghan-womens-team-nominated-for-nobel-peace-prize_396238

I Don’t Like the Word Cyclists and Niether Should You

I don’t like the word ‘cyclist’.  Nor ‘driver’ nor ‘pedestrian’.

It objectifies and isolates a ‘separate’ group of people. Oscar Wilde once said ‘to define is to limit’ and in this case he is so right. I have clocked up over 2,000 kilometres of cycling in the last 12 months. And over 33,000 kilometres of driving in the same period. How would you categorize me? Cyclist? Driver? Father? I am all of those and they are not mutually exclusive.

Highest Common Denominator

It’s not just semantics, we are all people and each of us have the right to choose the mode of transport we wish to use. And we collectively forget that we are people when we define one group versus another.  Once you start drawing lines and putting up flags, we’re setting up a warpath.  Let’s defuse the situation by getting rid of the noun and using descriptors.  These guys have the right idea:http://www.citylab.com/…/dont-say-cyclists-say…/385387/

Pro or Hater, it’s oh so easy to be entrenched in one side or another.  The conversation between cycling associations, road safety authorities and the public should be civilised and steered toward safety for all road users, be it in motorised vehicles, bikes or on foot. I think the vector of universal safety is a good vessel to carry the new language of ‘people who *’ replace * with either drive, cycle, walk… fly, bounce, skip, dance, moonwalk etc.

Forget the ‘haters’, ahem, ‘people who don’t like other people who cycle’ and start a positive conversation – between people. Between equals.

The Bike Shop that Time Forgot

Last summer a friend inherited a long abandoned bike shop/garage/carpentry/metals shop/blacksmith and invited my father-in-law and myself to take what we wanted before he dumped the lot.

Main workshop view 1

Main workshop view 1

The place was huge.  No electricity.  No safety warnings.  Piles of tools, canisters, toolboxes brimming with hardware and unknown treasures perhaps?

Main workshop view 2

Main workshop view 2

Main workshop view 3

Main workshop view 3

I was very glad I brought my iPhone and my work gloves.  Everything seemed to have a layer of vintage sawdust and dirt.  Rusty nails protruding at every corner of the shop reminded me to let my eyes adjust to the darkness.

The owner seemed to have been multi-talented but very unorganised.  Metal forging tools mixed in with motor and bicycle tools and carpentry stock.  My father-in-law is quite the handy man too and he was also having a good rummage around for tools and hardware. We looked at the mezzanine just above us and wondered what surprises might wait for us up there but the rickety old ladder and skeleton floorboard make us consider otherwise. Count your blessings Steve, we’re lucky enough to have been invited this far to help ourselves to whatever we fancied.

On the drive over I imagined finding NOS Gitane or MASI frames, I would have been delighted with a nice PX10 or a Motobecane, or perhaps pristine Campagnolo C-Record or Mavic SSC groupsets in their boxes by the pallet?  This was the view that greeted us when we arrived…ulp.

Carpentry stock

Carpentry stock

Where the main workshop was dim and greasy/dusty, the courtyard was overgrown with metre high weeds.  Car parts here, bathtub there, pile of old doors by the side, I spotted a bike and then the fun began…

Young girl's bicycle 24" wheels single speed

Young girl’s bicycle 24″ wheels single speed

This is a small part of bike related hardware that I could rescue. It was a real time capsule, fit for any bike museum. I have another 40 kilos of saddles, cranks and mud guard to sort through when I get a chance.

Le Parisien - I cannot find any information about this brand.  Perhaps it was a relabelled own brand?

Le Parisien – I cannot find any information about this brand. Perhaps it was a relabelled own brand?

ITM handlebars

ITM handlebars

atac stem 70mm

atac stem 70mm

small 'afa' toe clip

small ‘afa’ toe clip

small 'Ganolo' toe clip

small ‘Ganolo’ toe clip

Some gear shifters.  A lot of French Simplex stuff.  And a SunTour and Shimano set. It’s nice to observe the evolution of the elegant Simplex design.  The SunTour is a curiosity to be.  I never came across the SunTour Power Shifter – no relation to the current Campagnolo ‘Power Shift’.  You can make out the tiny spring/rachet the clicks on the knurled cog.  Interesting and simple design, a precursor to SiS or Accushift.

Rare SunTour Powershift gear lever

Rare SunTour Powershift gear lever

Shimano 600 Arabesque band on 70's

Shimano 600 Arabesque band on 70’s

Elegant 50's Simplex gear lever

Elegant 50’s Simplex gear lever

Simplex gear levers and lever stops

Simplex gear levers and lever stops

Some nice usable front derailleurs:  The Campagnolo Gran Sport was a nice find.

Campagnolo Gran Sport band-on front derailleur view 1

Campagnolo Gran Sport band-on front derailleur view 1

Campagnolo Gran Sport band-on front derailleur view 2

Campagnolo Gran Sport band-on front derailleur view 2

Simplex front derailleur 1

Simplex front derailleur 1

Simplex front derailleur 2

Simplex front derailleur 2

Simplex front derailleur 3

Simplex front derailleur 3

And there were even some nice rear derailleurs worth saving.  At the very least as an ornament or a museum piece.  The ‘Delrin’ plastic Simplex Prestige rear derailleur was really a disaster.  Everything was made of plastic.  The yellow logo is the original colour but it just looks like jaded plastic.  How apt.

Simplex Prestige Delrin

Simplex Prestige Delrin

This is an early 50/60’s Huret – this one actually belonged to my father-in-law and came off his ‘Jacques Anquetil’ bike but it seemed apt to add it here. I’m just passively looking for the right frame to use it on.  It’d go nicely with the 60’s Simplex gear lever I mentioned above.

50/60's Huret rear derailleur

50/60’s Huret rear derailleur

And the dark horse of the find, a titanium Huret Success rear derailleur, super light and pretty rare.  The brown stuff you see on the joints is actually sawdust caked on grease so it ought to clean up nicely.

Huret Success Titanium rear derailleur model 2470 stamped 2380 (week 23 1980) 175g view 1

Huret Success Titanium rear derailleur model 2470 stamped 2380 (week 23 1980) 175g view 1

Huret Success Titanium rear derailleur model 2470 stamped 2380 (week 23 1980) 175g view 2

Huret Success Titanium rear derailleur model 2470 stamped 2380 (week 23 1980) 175g view 2

Huret Success Titanium rear derailleur model 2470 stamped 2380 (week 23 1980) 175g view 3

Huret Success Titanium rear derailleur model 2470 stamped 2380 (week 23 1980) 175g view 3

And there’s more to come, I still have a 40Kg bag of vintage goodies (and duds) to sift through whenever I get the time.