Friday, March 31, 2017

Reverse Restomods

This post has been a year in the making, mainly because I kept forgetting to grab photos of the Linus, but I'm sort of glad that I waited. Here are two newer steel frames equipped with vital parts from vintage road bikes, contrary to the usual course of action.

First, this is a Linus mixte I built for my good friend Karen. I got the bike for cheap last summer with a missing rear fender, missing rack, and dented rear wheel. Probably a result of an accident of some sort. I laced the 3-speed Shimano rear hub and spokes into a new rim of the same ERD and kept that wheelset for later.

This might sound strange, but what I actually did here was transplant the entire drivetrain from a 1986 Schwinn Sprint onto this bike. It's a Suntour 2x6 with newer 27" Weinmann alloy rims, all of which were in very good shape.

My favorite part of this creation was the handlebar. The bike started out with a long stem and very wide North Road bars (which also went onto my Schwinn, minus the cruddy twist shifter) that made it feel like steering a boat. To fix that, not only did I add porteur bars and a 65 mm stem to shorten the cockpit for my friend, but I also swapped a pair of SunRace friction thumb shifters between left and right, facing them toward the rider. With this setup, the rider can push down to shift onto bigger cogs, and pull up to shift up with the thumb (or index finger by reaching around the bar, if the bike is in a very low gear). This was my first time trying a setup like this and I liked it so much that I replicated it on another commission shortly after. Much better than mounting them on top of the bar as intended and having to hyper-extend the thumbs. The Tektro reverse brake levers worked very nicely with the long reach calipers that came with the bike.

The Continental Ultra Sport tires and Weinmann RM19 rims that came on the donor bike were surprisingly light, making the bike feel especially responsive and fast on the test ride. A world of difference from Karen's old Huffy mountain bike with derailleurs that didn't even work.

To top it off, I replaced the lone front fender with a set of alloy ones from a newer Schwinn Wayfarer that I parted out. With all of the different parts, This bike looks completely different from the other plum Linus Mixte 3-speed that parks at the architecture school. And, as a relatively inexperienced rider, I found that Karen dealt extremely well with the non-indexed friction shifters. She got the hang of it within seconds and then she was gone.

Next is this Critical 3-speed Urban Coaster I built for my friend Sofia (who I met through Karen), which clearly isn't a 3-speed anymore. This one was completed only a couple weeks ago.  I got the bike slightly-used and again, for cheap, because the shifter wasn't hooked up properly and the owner didn't know any better. I put the 700c Sturmey-Archer AWC wheels on my Schwinn Speedster last summer and stripped the rest of the bike. The bare frame sat in the basement for almost an entire year because I didn't know what to do with it.

This one wasn't quite as straightforward as the Linus. Since the chain stays bulged far outward after leaving the bottom bracket, I had to buy a BB with a longer spindle in order to fit the double chainring I wanted to use. I went from 110 mm to 122.5 and still, that wasn't long enough. After that, I tried putting two rings on the original cranks in place of the single ring and bash guard. The bolts were seized, so I gave up on that. I finally settled on the longest Shimano UN26 I could find, a 127.5 mm unit, and that ended up not only allowing the rings to clear the stays, but also got the chain line right. The rest of the drivetrain is a 7-speed 700c combo from an early '90s Schwinn hubrid.

I was lucky that the front derailleur (meant for a triple) fit just below the curved top tube/seat tube junction, because the other derailleurs I had would have clamped right where the tubes met. Whew. And for brakes, I had a brand new set of steel calipers from when I installed an identical set on my old Ross. Unfortunately, the frame didn't have braze-ons for the cables, and I couldn't swap the anchor bolt and barrel adjuster around to accommodate the step-through frame, so I had to route the rear cable along the down tube, up the seat tube, and back down. I wasn't too satisfied with that.

As for fenders, I installed a pair from a 1971 Raleigh Sprite. They were in pretty good shape, save for a few scratches. I had to drill a hole and add a bracket to attach the rear fender to the brake bolt. I find myself doing this a lot these days. In this case, the bracket was a reflector mount, and the wing nut on top not only clears below the brake bolt, but keeps everything from loosening by itself. Not the prettiest, but functional.

I too was fairly pleased with how this handlebar setup turned out. The stock bike came with an almost-flat handlebar on a very long and tall stem, putting the hands very far ahead and very high relative to the seat. Absolutely terrible, in my opinion. Instead, I swapped those off for a fully-assembled stem/bar/brake lever set taken from another friend's bike that was involved in a collision. Thankfully, the bars were not affected. When they were first assembled, I wrapped up the clamps for the Velo Orange City brake levers beneath the tape, tightening the levers onto the exterior to create a clean appearance. For this bike, I took the headset-mounted stem shifters that came from the same '86 Schwinn mentioned above, and put them on the headset here in place of the spacer.

I felt this was a fairly quirky-looking bike with a strange charm to it. The gumwall tires, Raleigh fenders, Retrospec saddle, and brown bar tape were all somewhat mismatched but at the same time created a sort of color palette ranging between light yellow and dark brown. The loop frame, tall head tube, and porteur bars also give this the silhouette of a bike from the early 1900s. Overall, to my relief, I can tell both of my friends enjoy the bikes more than the previous owners did. As a bonus, I finally did find a home for the Critical frame.