Wednesday, March 18, 2020


Well, it's pretty much done. The vintage Sequoia is built, adjusted, fine-tuned, and fully rideable.

I love starting a new-old bike project. But I always feel a little bummed when it's finished. Oh, there's the feeling of completion, the satisfaction of riding it, and admiring it of course - but I love the whole project of putting a new bike together. Choosing colors (if it's getting new paint), picking out the components, assembling it, and fiddling with every little detail until it's "just right." For me, the preparation, the choices, the shopping, and the building, are as much a part of the fun as the riding and the ogling. Is it just me, or do others feel the same way about that?

Sometimes I think I should turn it into a business - building or renovating old bikes for other people. In fact, I often wish I could do exactly that - essentially open a bike shop. However, I have this feeling that I'd hate parting with the bikes once I was finished with them. Anyhow, it's just a dream - not likely to become a reality.

I've got some pictures of the completed Sequoia to share:

(my back yard hasn't really started to green up yet). A nice overall drive-side view. I really like the proportions of the Sequoia. There's something really "balanced" about it. I was able to get my bars up nearly to the level of the saddle - without having a gangly amount of stem showing - and I have the classic "fist full of post" showing on the seat post.

I'm pretty happy with the colors of the saddle and bar tape. The brown saddle has just a bit more "red" to it than what I seem to be able to get into the bars, but the saddle may darken a bit as it gets used.
I think the choice of "aero" brake levers was a good one here. I still have the cables from the BarCon shifters hanging out there, but it looks "cleaner" than it would if I also had cables running out the tops of the levers. I thought about running the shifter cables all the way up to the tops of the bars, but decided that was too many bends and would impact the shifting.

I've been debating whether to do another coat of shellac on the bars. One more will give them a little more of a leather-like shine - but might also make them a little darker than I want them to be. Decisions, decisions.
'80s vintage Specialized cranks are such a nice-looking example of the style of that time. This pair appears to have never been used. SunTour Superbe pedals have sealed bearings and replaceable cages (and I have a spare set of cages). Bottle cage is from Velo-Orange.

I really wanted to use an '80s vintage Specialized sealed mechanism headset on this (I have one, new-in-the-box), but the stack height was just a bit too much for the fork steerer. Dangit, why did people back then cut fork steerers down for only the shortest possible headsets?

The SunTour Cyclone M-II derailleurs are a great complement to the frame. This long cage version handles my chosen gearing very well.

When it comes to restoring bikes like the Sequoia, I figure a person has a lot of leeway in choosing components. I mean - yeah - one can always build a bike up however they want, making it as modern or retro (or mix it up) as they wish. But at the same time, I like to fit a bike with components that seem the most suitable to the era it was built in, as well as how they'll fit with the way I'm going to use the bike. And some bikes just scream for certain kinds of components. For example, a '70s vintage Italian racer just wouldn't seem right without the full Campagnolo Nuovo Record gruppo - am I right? But these early Sequoias (and their stable-mate, Allez) were available a couple of different ways. They were sold early on as framesets, to be completed by their owners, or by individual bike shops. For that reason, it isn't unusual to find them equipped with whatever their owners or the shops saw fit. Shimano 600 was a popular choice for components back then -- I've seen a few that were equipped that way. They were also sold by Specialized as complete bikes - often with a mix of different parts (though predominantly SunTour). Many of the complete early bikes were sold with Superbe derailleurs (with a now-rare long cage version in the rear). For mine, I went with early '80s Cyclone for the derailleurs and hubs, and Superbe for brakes and pedals. If I could have found a long-cage Superbe derailleur in condition as nice as that Cyclone, I might have used it - but the Cyclone is no slouch. Most of my components are consistent with an early '80s bike. The main exceptions are the aero levers (DiaCompe did make aero levers when this bike was made, but mine are the second-generation version from a few years later) and the crank (the "S" logo marks it as mid-late '80s, though otherwise it looks almost exactly like the earlier version). And my Brooks saddle is modern production - but then, have they changed in 100 years?

Here's the complete parts breakdown:

Frame: 1982 Specialized Sequoia, 62 cm. Repainted by Franklin Frames.
Wheels: SunTour Cyclone sealed bearing hubs with Araya rims, 32 mm Panaracer Gravel King tires.
Crankset: Specialized ST-4, 50/36 chainrings.
Bottom Bracket: Phil Wood, 108 mm.
Rear Derailleur: SunTour Cyclone M-II, long cage.
Front Derailleur: SunTour Cyclone M-II.
Shift Levers: SunTour BarCon.
Freewheel: Shimano 600, 13-28.
Brakes: SunTour Superbe with DiaCompe AGC 251 aero levers
Pedals: SunTour Superbe, with Specialized toe clips and Soma Fab. straps.
Bars: Nitto mod. 176, 44 cm
Stem: Nitto Technomic Deluxe, 100 mm
Seatpost: Sakae-SR Laprade, 26.8 mm
Saddle: Brooks B-17, antique brown
Headset: Tange Levin
Chain: SRAM PC-8


  1. Hi Brooks,

    Thanks for sharing your Sequoia build. It looks very nice. It’s always a bit of a letdown to finish a project, isn’t it?

    One of my favorite parts of a project is to sit down with the frame in front of me, and then writing down a proposed parts list in a notebook.

    I still have the parts list for the Basso Gap that I built in Chicago back in 1985!

    Only 2 style comments:

    1) SR Laprade seat posts aren’t up to the quality level of the rest of the parts; I always regarded them as a cost-saving item on factory bikes.

    2) That handlebar tape is a bit dark, don’t you think? How about starting with yellow or orange cloth as a base color, and then adding several coats of shellac?

    Just my 2 cents. Keep up the good work!

    Jacob Russell

    1. there were different quality levels of SR Laprade seat posts (the clamp area was the main difference - the cheaper ones had stamped steel cradles, while the nicer ones had aluminum). But mainly I included it because they were really common on bikes in the early 80s (in a wide price range, too). And I don't think they look bad at all - in fact, I think the NOS one I used here looks pretty decent.

      Handlebar tape - well - I've started with yellow, and it really matches the honey color Brooks very well, but doesn't seem to get dark enough for the antique brown. I don't think the orange would get brown enough either. I've gotten a good match to the antique brown leather doing exactly what I've done here - but in this case, I think the natural variation of the brown leather saddle is a little different (more reddish) than on others I've had.

  2. I reluctantly gave up building-up bikes a few years ago due to age and the realization that I just didn't ride enough to justify 4 road bikes (steel, aluminum titanium, and carbon fiber). All of this is to say that I very much enjoy your posts and live vicariously thru your build projects. Thank you for making the effort to maintain your postings; I hope you realize that you bring enjoyment to a lot of people!

  3. So, you are thinking about getting into the bike business. Why did the Wright brothers invent the airplane? To get out of the bicycle business.

    1. Not really thinking about getting into the bike business -- that's a hard way to make money these days. But aspects of it sound very appealing sometimes.

  4. Truly beautiful without falling into the showy end of things. I would like to ask what you think of using strongly butted spokes such as Sapim Lasers in 'period' builds? To my eyes thinner spokes always improve the aesthetics of high-spoke count wheels.

    1. Well, I didn't build the wheels in this case - but I think they were probably original equipment on a pretty nice bike from the same timeframe. But I agree about the look of thinner spokes. For a vintage bike, I might not go with extremely butted spokes - but I'd use something consistent with what was available. In this case, I think 14/15 was certainly available.

    2. My favorite spokes for older wheels with Campy hubs are 15/17 ga butted. Straight 15 ga are much easier to find. Lasers are too expensive for my tastes. Most Japanese hubs were drilled for 14 ga spokes. I recently built a tandem wheel with Sapim spokes that had a single 12 ga butt and a 14 ga shank out to the threaded end. They built up very well.

  5. Very nice. Builds can become a little predictable. Keep the Laprade seatpost. Little details like that keep a bicycle from becoming "ordinary".

    1. Thanks, Gunnar. It's funny - I did not expect that seat post to be a controversial choice. I picked it mainly because they were everywhere on bikes in the early 80s (in a wide price range, too), and would have been "original equipment" on bikes like this. Also, I don't think it looks bad at all.

    2. I agree. SR Laprades were nice seat pillars. They were basically Campag SR knock offs at a quarter the price.

  6. Looks like it really came together beautifully. Where do you stand on mixing in non-period correct parts on builds like this? I find the newer aero brake levers--like Tektro--much more comfortable. The older aero levers with the smaller bodies just don't seem to fit my hands as well. In that same vein, what do you think about putting something like a centerpull brake on a frame like this Sequoia when it would've initially be built for sidepulls?

    1. About mixing "non-period correct" parts - I'm not against that. It's just about what a person wants for a given bike. In this case, I wanted things to be of the same (or at least within a few years) period as the frame - but I've got other bikes that are more of a mix of vintage and new. The bikes I recently built for my daughters are a good example. I have some vintage parts on them, but also some modern-production parts. However, I really want modern parts that at least have traditional designs and materials. I'll use modern sealed bearing hubs, for example - but I'll still want them to be "silver" finished aluminum. I'll use a modern crank if it has traditional styling (like the ones from Velo-Orange) - but I wouldn't use a modern crank with bloated-looking proportions. I've got some of the modern Tekto aero brake levers on one of my bikes, and they do have a nice shape/feel to them - and the look is consistent with a vintage bike. That's where I am on mixing old and new.

  7. All of those bikes are beautiful. The Sequoia is lovely, but I don't know how anyone can top the green-and-red Mercian Superlight.

  8. What a nice build, understated and very appealing. Chuckled at your "fist full of post" comment, that's what I like to see also on bikes from this era.

    Thanks for publishing these articles - entertaining and informative for so many of us!