Wednesday, April 27, 2016

New Old Bike Project - Finished

I don't know if a bike project is ever truly finished, but this one's about there.

Those who have been following the blog know that I've been working on an early '80s Specialized Expedition touring bike. I had earlier reported that it was probably a 1984 model, but now I'm inclined to think it might actually be from '83. I was hoping I could find a rosetta stone for deciphering the serial number on the frame, but learned that there is no such thing for old Specialized bikes. Sometimes a number is just a number, and I suppose it doesn't really matter either way. One clue is that I found a spec sheet from 1984 that lists braze-on downtube shift levers, whereas mine was built for clamp-on levers, which were listed in '83. Otherwise, I don't know if there's a way to tell the difference.

As mentioned in earlier posts, the bike was originally a charcoal gray, but as it came to me, it seemed it would benefit from a repaint. I sent it to Jack Trumbull at Franklin Frames in Newark, Ohio. As long as it was being resprayed, I took the liberty of selecting a different color, and chose this metallic burgundy. My replacement decals came from VeloCals, which were of the peel-and-stick vinyl variety, which is exactly what the originals were as well, so they seemed like a fine choice.

I've had detailed posts about some of the components I selected for the bike, including the saddle, wheels, headset, the brakes, rear derailleur, crank, and pedals. (those are all linked, so you can go back and check them if you missed them).

Here's the bike, in ready-to-ride condition:

Photo taken on a footbridge behind the school where I teach. This was after completing 2 or 3 coats of shellac on the bars. I later did a couple more coats of shellac to get the color closer to that of the Brooks B17. The bike has fenders, front and rear racks, and a generator light system.

I think that the metallic burgundy paint makes the bike look about as nice as any bike can look. Not that there was anything wrong with charcoal gray, but it makes me wonder why the bike wasn't available in this color from the beginning. The color is a great complement to the honey color of the saddle and bars, and looks especially good with all the gleaming silver aluminum and stainless steel components and accessories.
I used SKS Longboard plastic fenders on this build. I do really like aluminum fenders, but I have no problem with plastic fenders IF one makes sure to get the fender-lines nice and even all the way around. That's true of aluminum fenders, too, I suppose - but it takes a lot of conscientious effort to make it happen, and I've seen a lot of plastic fenders installed very badly, with "kinks" where there should have been "curves." The longboards have built-in mud flaps, and give tremendous coverage. On the front fender, the mudflap comes within a couple inches from the ground. One thing about plastic fenders is that they do offer a safety advantage over aluminum and steel versions. Should something get wedged between the front tire and the fender, the plastic fenders will break free and prevent a header. Ultimately, it's hard to fault the SKS fenders, and I think they look great.
Here's my lighting system. The Expedition came pre-wired through the frame for a Sanyo bottom-bracket generator (the generators were sold separately, so it isn't unusual to find these with a wire sticking out behind the fork crown but no headlight or generator connected). I'm pretty certain those generators are no longer made, but I found a NOS one for about $50. They're usually a good bit more expensive, assuming one can find them, so I think I got a pretty good deal. The headlight is a 3-watt Schmidt E6 halogen. A few years ago, those were about the best dynamo-powered lights one could find. Nowadays, with most people wanting LED lights, any shop that still has the E6 halogen lights has them on major closeout prices. I should pick up a few spare bulbs, though. I have a Nitto M-12 cantilever-mount front rack which has an eyelet for attaching a light bracket. I made my own light bracket out of an old brake caliper arm that I found in a discard pile. I cut it off around the center bolt hole, then filed and sanded it smooth.

The lugwork on the Expedition is very nicely done -- long-point lugs, and really smooth and even, gap-free shorelines. By the 1980s the Japanese had really figured out how to make excellent frames on a mass-production scale. I'd mentioned in an earlier post that I believe the frame might have been built for Specialized by Miyata.
The drivetrain consists of the Specialized "flag" crank - changed over from triple to 48/34 double.  With a 13-30 freewheel on the back, I still get a good gear range, and the lows are more than low enough for any riding I'm doing. Bottom bracket is a Shimano UN-52. Front derailleur is a mid-'80s Shimano Light Action that is visually a good match for the Deore at the rear. Specialized Touring pedals complete the picture.
There's the Deore MT-60 rear derailleur and the 13-30 Shimano freewheel on Specialized sealed-bearing hubs. The bike would have originally been equipped with SunTour Mountech derailleurs, which unfortunately proved to be trouble-prone -- the rear derailleur's upper guide pulley also served as an extra spring pivot that got gunked up and wore out and could not be serviced (this was exacerbated in off-road use, which as the name implies the unit was designed for). Assuming that someone got a couple of years of use out of the Mountech before it self-destructed, I imagine that this '87 Deore would have been a logical choice for replacement. Simple, durable, reliable, and good-looking, too.
Close up of the Specialized touring pedals. I buffed these up to nearly-new looking condition on my buffing wheel. Specialized brand toeclips with Christophe leather toe straps finish the package.

Brooks B-17 honey leather saddle - mounted onto a Specialized single-bolt micro-adjust seat post. I like 2-bolt seat posts, but this single-bolt post has a nice, simple look to it, and offers a lot of set-back. The bar wrap, after several coats of shellac, is a good match for the saddle.
My rear rack is an inexpensive no-name stainless steel model - sold under a couple of different brand names, but some people might recognize it as one of the less-expensive racks available from Velo-Orange (Dajia, for $95). I actually found mine from a seller on eBay for about $60. The design reminds me a little of the racks made by Tubus, but at a fraction of the price. The rack only comes in a dull sandblasted finish, which did not match up well with the Nitto rack on the front. I spent a bunch of time with some wet-sanding, using increasingly finer grit paper, then put it on my buffing wheel so it gleams like chrome. It has good adjustability for a lot of different bikes, and I also like the tubular seat-stay struts, as opposed to the flat steel strips used on a lot of other racks.
About racks - I do have a nice pair of early '80s vintage Jim Blackburn aluminum racks, for the front and the rear, that I thought about using. In the end, I chose not to use them because they have no attachment points for lights, which would have left me trying to rig something that works as well as the light mounts on these steel racks. And though the aluminum racks are definitely lighter, steel ones tend to be more durable. I'm hanging on to the Blackburns, though, in case I ever change my mind.

Complete Build Details:

Frame: Specialized Special Series Touring double-butted chrome-moly tubing by Tange in Japan. Size 60 cm. frame, center-to-center. 58 cm top tube. 106.7 cm wheelbase, with 45 cm chainstays. 73-deg. parallel angles. 51 mm fork rake.

Crank: Specialized "Flag" Triple (converted to 48/34 double)
Pedals: Specialized Touring pedals, with Specialized steel toe-clips, and Christophe straps.
Bottom Bracket: Shimano UN-52 square taper cartridge unit.
Derailleurs: Shimano Deore MT-60 rear derailleur, Shimano Light Action (FD-Z206) front derailleur.
Shift levers: SunTour Power Ratchet Bar Cons.
Brakes: Shimano Deore MT-62 cantilever brakes with Dia Compe AGC-250 spring-loaded levers.
Wheels: Specialized sealed bearing hubs with Mavic Module 4 rims. 40 spokes rear, 36 spokes front.
Seatpost: Specialized single-bolt micro-adjust.
Saddle: Brooks B17
Headset: Specialized Channel-Seal, steel.
Stem: Nitto Technomic, 10 cm.
Bars: Nitto mod. 176 "Dream Bars," 42 cm width.

Accessories: Nitto M-12 front rack, Taiwanese stainless steel rear rack, SKS Longboard fenders, Sanyo bottom-bracket generator, Schmidt E6 halogen headlight.

It's apparent that I selected a few more Specialized-brand components than what the bike would have been equipped with originally. I consider them upgrades. According to various spec-sheets I've seen for the '83 Expedition, the bars, stem, hubs, and headset would have been from Specialized. The original crank would have been a Sugino AT-triple, with MKS Sylvan touring pedals, while the seatpost would have been a ubiquitous-in-the-'80s SR Laprade. Derailleurs would have been the previously-mentioned SunTour Mountech. In 1983, the shift levers were SunTour "Symmetric" downtube levers, which were supposed to trim the front derailleur automatically when one shifted at the rear. Those also, from what I've read, had some durability issues. I see my Power-ratcheting BarCons as a period-correct upgrade. When I got it, my bike still had the original Specialized-brand (made by Nitto) bars, but not the original stem. But the bars were badly gouged by a previous owner who must have tried to fit them into an ill-fitting stem. The Nitto bar and stem I chose are good replacements.

I could always do some fiddling with the bike, making small changes and adjustments, but on the whole I think this is fulfilling my vision for a classic '80s grand touring machine. Hope you've enjoyed following the project.


  1. Unimpeachable taste and stellar execution. I have very much enjoyed your process. Happy riding!

  2. The buffing totally makes it.

  3. Well put together!
    So, the million dollar question: How's the ride?


    1. I rode it to work this morning. It's got a good ride. I found that loaded with a front bag, a saddlebag, and a couple of panniers on the rear rack (mostly empty today) that it felt stable, and I could ride it no hands easily -- so it tracks nice and true. It doesn't feel sluggish in changing direction. The ride isn't as smooth as it could be, but I expect that's the tires (Schwalbe Marathons) which trade supple-ness for flat-protection. Some Panaracer Paselas, Rivendell Jack Browns, or some of the new tires from Compass would probably make it feel more springy, but then durability could be compromised. That's a trade-off.

    2. Beautiful! Now you need to load up and tour first chance you get! For tyres, i'd recommend Pasela PT 700 X 35 -there should be enough clearance. i've found the Paselas to be very comfortable and durable with very good puncture resistance. Also, i had a couple of older Sanyo generators that produced an overvoltage that blew out lamps- although that could have been a fluke due to poor maintenance or old age. i don't recall if the E6 light has overvoltage protection or not.

      Again, nice work!! Don't just ride that bike- ride the hell out of it!

    3. 700x35 will fit. I've got 32s on there now, but there's room to go a little larger.

      About the generator -- I think the E6 does have some overvoltage protection, though I could be wrong. I'm kind of viewing the generator as an experiment, though. I like the idea that the bike was designed for it, but if I decide at some point that I'm not satisfied, I can always remove it and go with something else. Unlike some of the newer generator systems and lights, I don't have a lot of money invested in it.

      I did use it this morning, and the light isn't as bright as with the best new LED lights. But it gets light outside a lot earlier now, so it was hard for me to tell if that would be a problem. I did not notice the drag to be too bad when in use (and there's no drag whatsoever when it's disengaged). Anyhow - it's an experiment, and I'll see how it goes.

    4. I am using Panaracer TServe 35mm. They measure 36mm on a 22mm rim. They're probably not a quite as supple as Compass tires but they are comfortable and fairly light enough and so far very durable. I like them.

    5. Another vote for the Panaracer T Serv tires. They are foldable, light and very responsive.

      I'll vote AGAINST the Paselas. I thought they'd be a good choice in gumwall, but they felt dead to me.

  4. That bar tape really is a good match for the saddle.

    The bike looks great, and I'm glad to hear it's such a nice ride.

  5. +1 for the Pasela PT 35mm tires, I have found them to be plush and durable. Can you tell us more about the bb generator? How does it mount and how do you engage/disengage it?

    1. The generator mounts just behind the bottom bracket and clamps into place onto the stays. Like those old "bottle" type of dynamos, it is driven by the bike tire -- but unlike those, which can damage the sidewall if not set up properly, it doesn't scrub the side of the tire, but runs off the middle of the tread. There's a lever on the side of it that either moves the drive wheel away from the tire, or against the tire.

      If you were really agile, you might be able to flip the lever while moving, but it's much easier to do while stopped (though you don't need to dismount the bike to do it). I've seen a few old French constructeur bikes that used similar generators but they put an extra shift lever onto the back of the seat-tube (like the ones that would normally mount to the downtube) so one could engage/disengage the dynamo "remotely" and on the fly.

    2. Another vote for the Paselas. They offer a good combination of toughness and suppleness.

  6. Very nice! I have an '86 Schwinn Passage setup almost identically (In spirit, if not actual components.) I would seriously consider swapping out the bottom bracket generator for a front dynohub, and use one of the modern LED front lights if you actually plan to do a lot of night / early morning riding. When I first set my bike up, I used a Soubitez bottom bracket dynamo that by all accounts is the equal of your Sanyo. It generated plenty of power for my B&M IQ Cyo Premium headlight, but also plenty of noise, and a decent bit of drag. The drag wasn't horrible, but it probably knocked .05-1 MPH off my cruising speed. I finally bit the bullet, and bought a Shimano 3N80 front dynohub. It's fantastic -- I run the front and rear lights all the time now for safety, as I can't discern any difference in drag on/off. (I average about .5 mph slower on this bike than my mid 80's race bike, despite full fenders and a ~12 lb. weight disadvantage when it's front bag is loaded.)
    As for the light, the IQ Cyo Premium puts out a ton of light, but more importantly, it puts it all on the road in a nice rectangular-ish wedge just where you need it. I would rate it about 70-80% as good at illuminating the road as a modern car headlight headlight, and probably 2x better than any rechargeable LED headlights I've tried. (The rechargeable lights are available with crazy brightness, but they're all pretty much round beams, that wind up over illuminating the near field and/or blinding oncoming traffic.)

  7. Thanks for the step-by-step and all the details. It was a pleasure to follow. I admire your vision, patience, and follow-through. If the bike rides and performs as well as it looks, and as the specs would suggest, it must be a lovely ride. Enjoy.

  8. Very beautiful bike! I've never had nor ridden a touring bike, but it seems that is a smooth and nice ride. Cheers from Colombia!

  9. Brooks, you've succeeded most admirably. I agree with you completely regarding that color. As to the SKS fenders, my experience has been that yes they do have a safety feature but only after the fender has broken loose and wrapped itself in a knot bring the bike to an immediate halt. I really, really think that you did a beautiful job with the Expedition. The Specialized Expedition deserves it.

    1. I guess that fender experience is one of those "advertised vs. reality" deals. To be honest - I did have one get caught once and act exactly as it should. It popped out and sort of "folded up" but not in a way that jammed the front wheel. I was able to get it back sort of into shape and pop the stays back in place to get home, though it sure didn't look the same after that.

  10. Excellent build... thanks so much for documenting this process. I've learned a bunch and have a renewed appreciation for 'vintage' specialized components.

    The frame is larger than I had thought... out of curiosity, how tall are you?

    1. I'm 6' even. I generally feel best on frames that are about 60 - 61 cm tall. Funny how that changes, because back in the 80s I would have mostly gone with slightly smaller -- like 58. Though those were mostly racing bikes, and everyone always said to go smaller. Nowadays, that would really hurt my back and neck.

  11. Oh man Brooks when I see gems like this I get all warm and squishy. What a lovely thing. Have a soft spot for Expeditions. It's the only long trail tourer I would sell my first born for. Here's my touring buddies:
    If you're looking for a less harsh ride I'd go with the Pasela wire bead over the PT's. Vittoria Randonneurs are also good if you run them around 60. There IS a big difference once you convert to Compass "Blah Blah" Passes though. They'd be good for pavement but if you hit dirt with camping loads the Paselas would be minimum given the sidewall issues with Compass tires. Now go out and scratch it up (slowly).

  12. Beautiful! Funny thing about those Blackburn racks (the ones with the built in front eyelets) - they were fit to each frame size. If the rack is not original it's hard to find one that fits and is level. I like your build!

  13. How'd you mount the Nitto front rack on your Expedition? My rack is threaded all the way up, and the mounting hole in the fork is similarly threaded. This means that I have to spin the entire rack in order to screw it into the frame, but about half-way through the process, the tombstone part of the rack gets blocked by the canti posts and prevents any further progress.
    Did you drill out your fork hole?

    1. Hi Kevin -- yes, that threading made it a challenge to install the rack. There may be certain styles of racks for which the threading in the fork crown would be an advantage -- the old Jim Blackburn ones from the '80s, for example. In any case, I did drill the hole out -- I don't recall what size drill bit I used, but it was just enough to remove the threading without really enlarging the hole any. I did that before I sent the frame/fork for new paint, though if you're careful, I can't see any reason it couldn't be done on a fork with paint you wanted to preserve.

  14. Beautiful bike! I picked up a nice 1985 Specialized Expedition late last year in about 75% original condition. Original owner had replaced SunTour MounTech rear derailler to Shimano 7-spd XT, SunTour Superbe shifters to Shimano 105 index/friction, and (ugh) Suntour Superbe brake levers to aero Shimano 105. I'm just now finishing up a restoration/relube/repair/replace consumables and doing some road-worthy maintenance. I bought some new brake shoes (Kool Stop dual compound) for the original Shimano BR-MC70 cantilever brakes. Installing the rear shoes was easy. then I got to the front and quickly realized the 'extra' long Kool Stop shoes wouldn't clear the fork when opened. Other than mounting the shoes backwards (these are longer in the rear, shorter in the front) which defies the engineering that went into the shoes, I was wondering if you found the same clearance issues and if so/not what replacement shoes did you use? Thanks

    1. The brake shoes I used on this one weren't the KoolStops. They were made by Aztec (and are no longer available, but I had a bike's worth). They were similar to the kool stops but not as long. I have noticed that the long kool stops can interfere with the fork, but I have trimmed them with a razor blade to help.

  15. Thanks Brooks - trimming is one way to handle the problem for sure. I really like that color you chose to paint yours (and the paint job as well). Can't wait for the snow to melt and take this bike out for a maiden voyage.

  16. hi Brooks,
    i am in the process of securing one SE 1984 to rebuild for coming touring, i believe originally this SE is equipped with 26 inch wheels. May i ask your advise, if 700c wheels can be adapted? if yes, any effect on the existing cantilever brakes to the braking surface since 700c is higher.
    Also, it needs a bottom bracket, what is the actual dimension to source for please. English 1.37 x 24T x length???
    Really appreciate if you could reply me.


    1. I was not aware that Specialized offered that bike with 26-inch wheels -- If so, then it's news to me! I've only seen them with 700c wheels. But if that's the case, can you put 700c wheels on a bike made for 26"? I strongly doubt you can make such a large change work. Going 27" to 700c (or the other way around) no problem. Going from 700c to 650b is do-able if you can get long enough brakes. But 26" (559 mm) to 700c (622 mm) is a big jump in rim diameter. And even if the wheels will fit in the frame without hitting the fork crown or seat-stay bridge, I am not aware of any adapters for cantilever brake posts that would let you make such a large change.

      About the bottom bracket - yes you need an English threaded bottom bracket - but the length is much more dependent upon the brand and model of crank than it is on the frame. You'll need to find the right fit the spindle to the crank -- not to the frame.