Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Gathering Parts - Wheels and Tires

With my Specialized Sequoia frame off at the painters, I'm taking time to go through my parts for the build. My next few posts will be dedicated to that subject, and it seems to me that wheels are a good place to start.

I found a set of complete vintage wheels that seemed like they'd be the perfect match for my project - '80s vintage SunTour Cyclone hubs with Araya 700c rims and stainless spokes (32 front and rear). They were used, but appeared to be in good condition: the hub bearings felt perfect and smooth, the rims appeared to be in excellent condition, and the wheels ran true. The hubs looked a bit dull/tarnished - but with a bit of elbow grease, I was able to make them look suitable for a freshly restored frame.

I suspect these wheels were original equipment on a pretty nice complete bike from the period. Telltale signs: plastic "pie plate" spoke protector under the freewheel, and CPSC-mandated plastic reflectors attached to the spokes. Obviously those items are now in the trash.

The Cyclone sealed bearing hubs were very similar to hubs sold with the Specialized brand in the '80s - and both brands were made by Sansin. As usual, the screen-printed labels were a bit scratched up. The rear one doesn't look too bad, but the one on the front hub was unreadable, so I removed what was left of it when I did my polishing.
The SunTour quick release levers looked about perfect when I got the wheels.
The Araya rims appear to have an anodized finish, with double eyelets at the spokes (a nice touch) and look great. They would have been a popular rim on many higher-end Japanese-built bikes in the '80s.

My first instinct for tires was the Panaracer Pasela - a great all-around road tire at a great price. But then I found a good price on a pair of Panaracer Gravel King tires, which made them only a few dollars more per tire. The Gravel Kings have a slightly more supple casing, and a fine file tread. Haven't tried them yet, but my first observation is that they were a little harder to get mounted. I had to get out the Kool Stop tire jack to get the last couple inches of bead over the rim. That sort of thing sometimes makes me a little nervous, as I worry about what happens if I get a flat out on the road. I have a small VAR tools tire jack that's packable, so I'll have to remember to keep that handy just in case. Otherwise, they mounted up straight and even all the way around - like all the Panaracer-made tires I've used.
Stay tuned for more. . .


  1. Wow, those look like they’re in fantastic shape!

    I have found that the effort required to mount a tire is inversely proportional to the effort required to seat the tire’s bead. Easy on, easy off - I’m going to need the soapy water and high psi to get the bead to seat without a hop. Need the tire jack and SNAP! the bead is seated perfectly the first time.

    Looking forward to the final build!

  2. The tire bead will stretch over time, and it'll be much easier to get on and off next time. I love Paselas, but I think you'll find the Gravel Kings are in a whole other league. Congrats on finding the great old wheelers!

    1. I have observed sometimes that tight tires get a little easier to get on/off after time. The mini tire jacks are still a nice item to pack, though. Your comment about the Gravel Kings is something I've heard from others, too - part of the reason I considered them.

  3. Great looking wheels. I have/had a few wheel sets with the old Specialized sealed hubs. In fact I still use the hubs from my 1983 Stumpjumper, now rebuilt for a Raleigh 20. They are still as smooth as they were in 1983. Wonderful hubs. Are the Cyclone hubs sealed cartridge as well?

    I've found the Gravel Kings hard to mount the first time also. They do get easier though after a few remounts.

  4. Ooh, vintage Araya rims! Very nice choice! I've had a couple sets of Araya rims over the years, and the bike came OEM with 26 x 1.5 HEs when new. I've managed to source some NOS replacements in the past but no such luck this time. The rim is showing wear in the brake track and needs replacing. I think I'll go with new Araya rims.