Thursday, January 26, 2012

Randonneuring- The revival of cyclo-touring. Part 2-Progress and observations

Part 2 of my Randonneuring bicycle build.

I didn't want to leave any of my diehard followers in suspense about the progress I have made with my ten speed to rando-touring machine build. Here are a few observations that I have made in the process.

I had purchased a 9 speed freewheel to replace the original 5 speed paperweight on the bicycle. I ended up having to go with a 7 speed freewheel with a granny gear mega chainring for the hills. The rear triangle and the axle length of my hub would not take the extra two gears needed for the 9 speed conversion. So for anyone considering buying the Sunrace 9 speed freewheel, this will not work on an old bike like this, even with a larger axle and the rear triangle cold set. Even at the 7 speed level, I had to add a 2mm spacer to the axle to prevent the chain from hitting the frame on the smallest cog. Nine speed freewheels are designed for modern mountain bike frames that accommodate a rear axle of at least 135mm. The same also goes for the riser stem that I originally purchased to replace the short racing stem on the bike. Schwinns from the 70's will not accept a standard 1" quill stem for a threaded headset. The actual size of the stem is .833, or 21.15mm in tube diameter, as opposed to the standard diameter of 22.2mm. Fortunately for me, a local bike shop happened to carry both the stem and the freewheel that I needed for this conversion. 

I had to replace the chrome Shimano 400 rear derailleur with a more modern long-cage derailleur to accomodate the mega range gearing on the bike. I opted with the Shimano Tourney derailleur since it is what is most commonly used on mega range, freewheel setups. To my surprise the derailleur looks quite durable. There are not as many plastic parts as advertised on the reviews, and I believe it can take a beating through the gravel as long as the bicycle does not fall on top of it.  It already came with the claw-style dropout hanger, so there was no need to get a hanger converter for it. It was a quick swap, and the bolt that holds it to the frame was coated in Locktite which gives me confidence about it's sturdiness. 

I also replaced the 25.4mm diameter, crotch killing steel seat post with the same diameter suspension seat post. When working with seat post diameters this small (may I remind the reader that 25.4mm is now the norm for most BMX seat posts) suspension seat posts tend to have their mechanical flaws. One such flaw is lateral looseness on the saddle, or commonly referred to as "the wobble". Some suspension posts wobble and some don't. It is a defect that is so common that I have decided to keep my somewhat wobbly seat post. In a non racing, off roading kind of situation, a slightly wobbly seat will not matter as you ride along a bumpy and unpaved trail. If it does give me any problems in the long run I can just replace it with a non suspended post with an integrated seat clamp and spring loaded saddle. But for the moment I will stick with my current setup.

I have also swapped out my Serfas Secca tires for a pair of good looking Panaracer Paselas. I have yet to test their durability, and I do not know if this is a downgrade from the kevlar lined, puncture resistant Seccas. What I do know is that these tires look fatter and slightly more knobbier than the street slicks I had on previously. The Serfas tires now hang in the corner of my garage as a backup set or for if or when I decide to go fast on this bike again. If punctures become a problem in the future I'll throw some tire liner to give a little added protection to my tubes. Since there are no goat heads or similar thorns in the area of Texas where I live, I don't see punctures as being an issue. I keep a high PSI on my tires and hardly get pinch flats or flats from riding over glass. I ride through country roads often, and I can't remember the last time I had a flat. 

I replaced the Schwinn Sakae Road Champion handlebars for a set of slightly wider Nitto Olympiade handlebars that I had lying around. With the added height of the stem and added width of the handlebars, the bike is taking on a more comfortable and stable geometry. 

I am still waiting on my Shimano Tourney thumb shifters to complete my touring ride and these should be arriving in the mail shortly. I'm sorry I have yet to post pictures of my build progress, but I think I'm going to have to post pictures of the finished product since I am so close to finishing. Stay tuned for article 3 of my Randonneuring ride- the finished product. I will also try to post youtube video of riding footage and how to's for anyone interested. 


  1. Nice to know 25.4 is the standard size in BMX now. You just made my life a lot easier!

  2. Glad I could help Russell. I highly recommend upgrading the old seat post to an integrated suspension or non-suspension post. My suspension seat post is still holding up fine and I have no complaints so far.