Wednesday, March 30, 2016

What's Better Than A New Old Bike Project?

Is there anything better than getting a brand new frame to build up -- or maybe (as in this case) a great old frame, just back from the paint shop?

My new old bike. Just returned to me from Franklin Frame in Newark, Ohio. A new or freshly painted bike frame even has a great smell to it.

The anticipation is tremendous -- opening up the box, and pulling the meticulously wrapped frame and fork out. Then bit by bit, carefully peeling back the wrapping, to reveal the glossy, freshly painted frame inside.

Metallic Burgundy -- a favorite of mine. Next I need to put on the restoration decals, recently received from VeloCals.
So, you may be wondering, what is it?


It's a 1984 Specialized Expedition. One of the nicest loaded touring bikes of its time.

Specialized bikes of the early '80s had minimal graphics. "Expedition" on the down tube, a stylized "S" on the head tube, and a couple of tubing stickers. Nothing more.
The way I understand it, the Specialized Touring tubing was a custom tube set made by Tange in Japan to Specialized's specifications. The tube dimensions or wall thickness for the main triangle are reported to be similar to Columbus SP -- 1mm/0.7mm/1mm.
These early '80s Expeditions were designed by Tim Neenan, who was Specialized's frame designer at the time. He also designed the sport-touring Sequoia model (another great bike!) and the first Stumpjumper. Neenan is now the man behind Lighthouse Cycles, which today makes updated custom-built versions of both the Expedition and Sequoia.

As far as I know, the Expedition was only available in a charcoal gray metallic, which was a really common bike color in the early '80s. People often picture garish neon colors or "Miami Vice" color schemes (like coral pink and turquoise) when they think of the '80s, but the early part of the decade was actually much more subdued than that. My example had some pretty dull and tired paint, worn through in some places, and some surface rust poking through in others. Since I actually plan to get a lot of use out of it, and it is not a particularly rare or collectible bike, I decided a repaint was in order. And in that case I took the liberty to choose a different color. The metallic burgundy is, I believe, a timeless color for any bike -- and with the reproduction decals in place, it's hard to believe that the bike wasn't available in this color originally.

Through posts on one of the bike forums by both Tim Neenan and Specialized's Bryant Bainbridge, I'm surmising that the bike's frame may have been built in Japan by Miyata. That company made frames for Specialized for a year or two, but according to Bainbridge, Miyata wanted more control over the production specifications than the folks at Specialized were willing to relinquish. Frame production was later spread out to other, smaller Japanese builders (I believe Toyo was one of them, which today makes some frames for Rivendell). After the dollar crashed against the Yen in '86 they had to start sourcing bikes from Taiwan. Those were nice bikes, but the workmanship on the Japanese-built frames was second-to-none.

Some Before Pictures:

Oddly enough, bikes never look very good in the snow.


Not a great picture, but you can get a sense of just how tired the paint was looking.
The bike, as I found it, had obviously seen a fair amount of use, but even after 30+ years still had many of its original components. Based on spec sheets from the time, the original components would have included:

Crank: Sugino AT triple
Wheels: Specialized sealed bearing hubs, Mavic rims - 36 front/40 rear
Brakes: Shimano Deore MC-70
Headset: Specialized sealed bearing, steel
Handlebars: Specialized, made by Nitto

Some parts that had certainly been changed over the years include the derailleurs, shift levers, saddle, and stem. I believe the seat post may also have been changed. It was the same model as originally specified (SR Laprade -- ubiquitous in the '80s), but the tubing dimensions and everything I can find about the Expedition tells me it should take a 26.8 mm post, and the post that the bike came with measures in at 26.4. My suspicion was raised when I loosened the seat lug binder and the seat post slipped right down to the head all on its own. That, and the binder ears appeared to be more "pinched" than what seemed to be prudent.

Another thing that was changed - questionably - was that someone installed a mountain-bike style quick-release seat post binder bolt. I say "questionably" because such a bolt is totally inappropriate on this type of bike, and it was a terribly bad fit for the type of seat lug binder ears. Between the ill-fitting bolt and the slightly-too-small post, it's lucky the seat lug wasn't irreparably damaged.

Regular readers know that I've had a number of posts in the last few months about various components that I've been gathering. If you haven't guessed, many of those will be going onto this bike in the next few days. Those include:

Specialized "flag" crank


Specialized touring pedals

Shimano MT-60 derailleur

Shimano MT-62 brakes

Brooks B-17 saddle



Upcoming posts will take a closer look at more of the components I'll be putting onto the bike, and eventually, pictures of the completed package.

Stay tuned!

25 comments:

  1. i am green with envy! Beautiful bike. Still looking for one for my fleet...

    i'm wondering, was it spec'd for 27" or 700 wheels?

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    1. The wheel size was a concern for me, as I wanted 700c, and converting from 27" to 700c can sometimes be complicated when a bike has cantilever brakes. So much depends on selecting the right brake, with enough adjustment (not just for pad height, but also for angle) and the rim width, and it can become an issue of trial and error. The Expedition was designed for, and equipped with 700c wheels. That was unusual in the early '80s, so Tim Neenan and Specialized had some good foresight on that detail.

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    2. My Univega was built for 27" wheels. i found that Tektro 872's had enough adjustment to make the switch to 700c without the headache of going to a frame builder. i don't think the 872 is still in production, but sometimes they appear on the Really Big Auction Site.

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  2. A labor of love befitting a true retrogrouch! Very tastefully done. As a relative neophyte, I have never seen those reinforced mid fork braze-ons that stick out. Do they go all the way through or is the sticking out compensation for them not going through? Also, are you using a freewheel hub? (forgive me if that question is sacrilegious)

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    1. I think I've seen those fork bosses like that on maybe one other bike model, but don't ask me which one. I'm not sure what the purpose was in having them stick out, but they are NOT drilled through the fork blades. Maybe it was to affect the position of the rack? Or maybe it was to avoid weakening the fork? No idea. Maybe I should email Tim Neenan to ask.

      I will be using the original wheels, and that means a freewheel hub. I have a couple of nice old 6-sp. freewheels with large sprockets around 30 teeth or so, which is plenty for most of the riding this will see.

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    2. I think the bosses were made as they were to make it easier to install "low riders", which were being re-discovered by American touring cyclists at the time. At least, that's what I would think if the holes are threaded.

      It's funny that they make me think of the lamp brackets that were common on British bike forks.

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    3. i have a Univega from that era -quite possibly from the same frame maker- that has the same fork bosses. The original decals labelled it "Specialissima" although i've seen other Univegas with that name that were quite different (no cantilever bosses, etc.)

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    4. Justine - funny you mention the lamp brackets, because I'm contemplating using one or both of them for attaching lights.

      Mike - The Univega you have is another nice bike - well sorted out. Univegas were also built by Miyata in Japan, as I believe this may have been.

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    5. Brooks--The great minds think alike! ;-)

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    6. I have the same bike, also repainted. I got it on ebay about 15 years ago. I was looking for a Voyageur SP, and came across this bike for a song, with all original components and a scarred looking paint job. I sent it to be powder coated in orange and it looks fantastic. For some reason the bike manufacturers all seem to think that a touring bike is supposed to look drab and I've never quite figured out why. Even today, they all come in colors like grey, black, olive drab. I get a ton of compliments for the color scheme of mine.

      As for the front rack bosses, they were specifically designed for low riders, as someone pointed out. They offer plenty of clearance so you can adjust the angle and get them level AND perpendicular to the ground. If they didn't stand out, they would be canted inward with the angle of the blades.

      A couple of years back, I loaded up the front panniers (no rear bags) and rode the Blue Ridge Parkway on this bike. Screaming down the mountains at 35mph, the bike was steady as a rock.

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    7. Forgot to mention this. I seem to remember reading in bicycling magazine in the early 80's that the Allez, Seqouia, Expedition and Stumpjumber were all made of Ishiwata. Hard to prove or disprove, since the decal doesn't say. Perhaps speculation on their part.

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  3. Also, just checked out Tim Neenan's Lighthouse website. So much wisdom! Thanks for pointing the way.

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  4. Wow, wow, wow. I have long been a fan of this model. I am super excited at the prospect of watching you build this one up.


    Also, I love the metallic burgundy/ honey leather combo. That combo looks so nice on a classic steel bike.
    I'm assuming that you're probably going to stay vintage, but I will throw out something for you to think about: Those new Tektro/TRP RRL brake levers w/ the gum hoods and drilled levers would look nice on this. I have them on several bikes, and they feel good in-hand, work great, and don't look too anachronistic on the old birds.


    Wolf.

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    1. Thanks, Wolf. I do love the look of tan brake lever hoods and drilled levers. The Tektros are pretty nice (especially for the price) but I have a nice NOS pair of Dia Compe BRS levers that match the age of the brakes and are a set I like a lot. I've used similar ones in the past. Black hoods but I'll get over that.

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  5. Beautiful frame. It looks great with the new paint. Love the metallic burgundy.

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  6. I love the color, and the saddle will look amazing with it. I can't wait to see the bike.

    You are right that the workmanship on those made-in-Japan Specialized bikes (and other Japanese bikes of the time like Miyata and Panasonic) were "second to none." One thing that was really nice about Specialized at that time is that they would spec their Japanese bikes with non-Japanese components (such as Mavic rims) when it was appropriate.

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  7. Franklin Frame is just about 50 minutes from me; located in the middle of nowhere. I stopped in last summer (got lost) to have a dented bottom bracket fixed, and threads chased on an old frame I was building up. Interesting one man shop. We talked about lugs and stuff for an hour. Beautiful color choice on your frameset:)

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    1. Yeah - Jack's a good guy. He's done other work for me in the past. His prices are pretty reasonable. I'm surprised you got him talking for that long though. He's struck me as a man of few words.

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  8. Here I am trying to tour in Japan and you are throwing up eye candy, shit I have enough on my plate trying to find a place to sleep and eat and you do this to me . It's like giving me 4 cups of coffee before bed.It'll haunt my dreams tonight, especially putting one of the latest Brooks saddles on the beast ( three to date I rate as rubbish). Don't know what it is about the recent ( last 10 years) of Brooks saddles but the leather definitely ain't coming from cows in Australia , it's as tough as it gets , studs popping out and the flyer I am riding with at the moment has a nose piece that is askew. Find something old , unloved and bring it back to life to butt will love you.

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  9. A wonderful repaint. I like that color too. Your expedition looks much like the 1983 Miyata 1000 I once had. Rest assured you will enjoy the Expedition. I will look forward to seeing the finished bike.

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    1. Now that you mention it, I think the Miyata 1000 might have been available in a similar burgundy color. And if I'm correct about it, there's a good chance the frame might have been built by Miyata, so there would be at least a familial resemblance.

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  10. Just to get you excited about your build, here's my touring buddy's immaculate Expedition on a tour in the Sierras from several years ago:
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/24722971@N05/3694892823/in/album-72157621053287922/ Enjoy. They are lovely machines.

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  11. Justine is correct: those lower bosses are for installing Blackburn Low-riders, Bruce Gordons, or other low-center-of-gravity front racks that help center and stabilize the load at the hub axle. I am still using my 1970s Low-riders on my Peugeot UO-18 mixte town bike and LOVE the way they handle heavy loads (10 pounds of oranges, gallons of paint, etc.)...

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  12. I look forward to seeing your Expedition all together! I've always wanted one but never had an Expedition, just a couple Sequoias.

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    1. It's done -- the 4/27 post has pictures of the completed bike! http://bikeretrogrouch.blogspot.com/2016/04/new-old-bike-project-finished.html

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