Thursday, March 28, 2019

New Bikes for the Retro-Kids: Update

One of the new bikes for my daughters is just about finished - nothing left but a few final adjustments. We had a beautiful spring morning with clear skies and brilliant sunshine so I took the bike down to the Cuyahoga Valley and an old Akron landmark for some photos.

This bike started out as an early '80s Centurion LeMans, with a nice-looking lugged steel frame in the mixte configuration. I got it as mostly just a frame and fork (it had a headset and bottom bracket - neither of which I reused) for about $75. It was powder coated in a purple color picked by my younger daughter.

The bike has a classic look and great proportions. 

Here you can get a look at the unicorn head badge I installed. You can also see the basket is resting on a little Dia Compe ENE rack which attaches directly to most Dia Compe (and Weinmann, I presume) center pull brakes. One thing I have to point out is that those little racks are a PAIN to install. For one thing, the brakes have to be completely disassembled to attach the rack, but worse, (learned after installing two of these in my time) I've found that they cannot simply go on without a fair amount of modifications - including some drilling and a lot of bending, etc. 

I used Esge/SKS plastic fenders. The tab for attaching the fenders to the fork crown will often hit the headset unless it's either bent or set off a little from the crown. I think this was a pretty nice solution, and the bolt was plenty long enough to make it possible. I installed the locking nut for the brakes and got the brakes set up first, then put the fender tab on behind that and finished it off with an acorn nut. This way, the fenders can be attached or removed without messing with the brake at all, and it has a nice, finished look.

Plastic fenders look pretty good when they're installed right. They're also light, durable, quiet, and cheap. 
Drive train shot. The crank is an '80s vintage Sakae with 34/48 rings. Derailleurs are 3rd generation SunTour Cyclone from the mid-'80s. The wheels were built by me - vintage Suzue hubs with Sun CR-18 rims. I used a new old stock SunTour 6-speed freewheel, 14-28 teeth. Some will notice that I was able to attach the rear brake on the middle set of stays which gives a nice straight cable run for the Dia Compe center pull brake. 
Bars are Velo Orange Left Bank model with a Kalloy stem. I like these Tektro brake levers (FL750 "City Bike" levers - also available from Velo Orange) - they have a simple design, a deluxe look, and are high quality. Shift levers are vintage Shimano EM thumb shifters. They have a fine ratcheting mechanism, very similar to the SunTour power ratcheting levers - but are a bargain price for new old stock examples.
Brooks C17s (the short nosed "ladies" model). I managed to find a pair of these for about half-price. For some reason, the S-model must not be very popular because I never see the regular version for under $100. Go figure, but it worked out well for me, so no complaints. I'm using the regular version on my commuting bike and like it well. Seat post is an inexpensive Kalloy.
The Mustill Store is one of the oldest buildings in Akron - it was an old grocery store and butcher shop beside the Ohio & Erie canal. Lock 15 is right in front of it, and it was a regular stop for canal travelers in the 1800s. It is now a museum.
I'll have the second bike done soon - but in the meantime, if you want to look back at the earlier posts on the projects, look HERE and HERE.


  1. I'll wager your daughter will treasure her father's attention to detail. Make her swap a rear 'tube on her next ride. Pass the know-how!

  2. That is some very lucky daughter. You could have trawled bike shops for something new and never come up with something so marvellous. I hope she takes to two wheels like her father. One more to go.

  3. The best sorts of parents pass good values on to their kids. You are doing just that: You are imparting fine aesthetic values as well as the joy of cycling!

  4. Fantastic bike!

    I have the linear pull version of those Tektro levers and love them. A word of warning, however: it is possible for the cable to pop out of the brake lever, leaving you without a brake. It happened to me, but I noticed it within a few meters and at a slow speed.

    I was able reproduce it, and figured out that it happens if you pull the lever and then the cable or brake becomes jammed. Then, when you release the lever, the cable stays in place as the lever moves backwards. Because the levers have a beautiful open design, there is nothing to hold the cable-stop in place and POP!

    In my case, I was at an intersection and pulled the levers. While I was waiting, I accidentally sat on the exposed cable on my top tube, jamming it. When I released the lever at the green light, the cable disengaged. Maybe this can't happen with the cable routing on a mixted frame.

    But just so you know...I think suddenly loosing a brake (even if not in the middle of an intersection) could be quite frightening to a young rider.

    1. interesting - i'll have to look at that. Thanks.

    2. I zoomed in on the picture and noticed that it looks like the short pull versions use road cable stops. The long pull versions i have use mountain style stops. I wonder if road cables are more secure?

      Also, the Mafac levers these are based on certainly must have used road style cables. If these do work better that's another antipoint for progress, i suppose.

  5. Looks great. I have built up several bikes for my two, now both in their thirties. We used to the hand me down bikes for quite a few years. I also love Velo-Orange, great go to place for the bits for vintage bikes.