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Would you go across the USA on a 1983 model touring bike?

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Would you go across the USA on a 1983 model touring bike?

Old 02-01-20, 06:45 AM
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RH Clark
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Would you go across the USA on a 1983 model touring bike?

And if you would, assuming the bike is in "restored" condition what might you service,and what could it possibly cost?

I am planning a tour from Alabama to Colorado on a shoe string budget. I found a 1983 Schwinn Voyager SP in what the seller calls restored condition. I am told all bearings have been inspected and greased and it is in all original condition with zero rust. My thought was to make sure everything was in perfect condition,but I don't yet know what that might potentially cost as I am just now learning bike mechanics. I will be able to do any work myself because I am about to take a series of master mechanic classes through a local non profit bike shop.

I don't really have the money to buy a new Long Haul Trucker, though I would rather liquidate something and buy one than to waste money on a bike that isn't up to the task because of it's age. Basically, I like the idea of a vintage bike, but not at the expense of reliability. On the other hand I do know that anything can break, even on a new bike and I will have the knowledge to fix it when it does. I just don't want to put money into a 1983 bike and wish later that I had bought something new because I end up with just as much money in the old bike because of repairs.
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Old 02-01-20, 07:06 AM
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Old steel mountain bikes make excellent touring bikes, the 26" wheels are super strong and can be loaded up quite high and the frame itself will be much stronger than a typical road bike frame. You can fit drop handlebars easily if the mountain bike is old enough to have cantilever brakes. They also ride better with thick profile 26" road tyres absorbing more bumps etc.

There is some good info here by a company that specialises in world touring bikes it gives you lots of information about how a touring bike should be specified.

https://www.sjscycles.com/thornpdf/th...a_brochure.pdf
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Old 02-01-20, 07:16 AM
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The Voyager SP is a fine bike for touring. Parts are readily available and inexpensive. There are mods you can do that will make it more touring friendly but I wouldn't balk at it if it's a decent price.
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Old 02-01-20, 07:17 AM
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Your Schwinn Voyager is a perfect bike to take on a long tour. Thats about all that needs to be said. Learn to fix a flat tire.
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Old 02-01-20, 07:18 AM
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If undertaking this, I have no reason to think the frame and components would not be up to it. If the overhaul did not include new cables, brake pads, tubes, tires and chain, I advise putting fresh ones one before undertaking the journey. Also, would look at chainring wear and wear on the cogs of the freewheel, as significant wear on these can cause shifting issues and accelerate the rate of wear on a new chain.

As for what to pack for the journey, the Touring Forum would be a great source of advice to supplement what the experienced folks here can offer.
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Old 02-01-20, 07:26 AM
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The Voyageur SP is/was a wonderful touring bike. Does the one you're considering come with its OEM front and rear racks?

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Old 02-01-20, 07:27 AM
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Yes, I would tour cross country on a 1983 bicycle provided it had been fully overhauled by myself or a person that I know and trust. I wouldn't put any faith in seller that I didn't know. I'd want to make sure that all the consumables are new or recently replaced. I also wouldn't tour on it until I had done some long range rides on it to fine tune the position and ensure I'd be comfortable. The last thing you need is to set out on a tour on a new bicycle, only to find out that something like the saddle is uncomfortable.. I might even go so far as to switch out the contact points (saddle, handlebars, pedals) for some "old faithfuls" that I know will be comfortable.
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Old 02-01-20, 07:29 AM
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You'll be fine. This summer I did 1,100 miles fully loaded on my '85 Raleigh Portage from NE Oklahoma to Devil's Tower, Wyoming. I had no mechanical problems. I think the only limitation of 1980s touring bikes is that they predate today's off-road touring (bikepacking) trend and thus can't accommodate the wider tires that make such touring easier. The frames are up to it, but the experience is a bit less seamless on 38 or 42 mm tires than on 2.5" tires.
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Old 02-01-20, 07:30 AM
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Originally Posted by USAZorro View Post
If undertaking this, I have no reason to think the frame and components would not be up to it. If the overhaul did not include new cables, brake pads, tubes, tires and chain, I advise putting fresh ones one before undertaking the journey. Also, would look at chainring wear and wear on the cogs of the freewheel, as significant wear on these can cause shifting issues and accelerate the rate of wear on a new chain.

As for what to pack for the journey, the Touring Forum would be a great source of advice to supplement what the experienced folks here can offer.
I won't have any problem replacing the freewheel, chain, and cables if it hasn't already been done or needs it. I just want to make sure that there isn't a potential very expensive issue because of it's age that I am not aware of because of my currently limited mechanical skills. The bike has new tubes and tires and I will test ride it. I am told it operates like new and has been serviced in a bike shop.
I'll put a few bike packing trips under my belt before going on an extended stay but I am 51 years old with literally hundreds of tent camping trips under my belt, just not on a bike yet. I'm new to cycling, but not as green as a June bug in the camping, hiking, survival aspect. Not that I'm not willing and eager to listen to all advice.
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Old 02-01-20, 07:31 AM
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I agree that the frameset is a fine choice. I’d just be vigilant to check that components aren’t on their last legs or set up poorly. Last thing you want is for your rear derailleur to shift into your spokes under load on a steep hill in the rain.
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Old 02-01-20, 07:36 AM
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Originally Posted by cb400bill View Post
The Voyageur SP is/was a wonderful touring bike. Does the one you're considering come with its OEM front and rear racks?

It only comes with original front rack. I'm told the derailleurs, shifters, crank, and such are original.
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Old 02-01-20, 07:45 AM
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I'd hit that...
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Old 02-01-20, 07:49 AM
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I've not toured more than a weekend or a 300k brevet, but what about wheels? If I go long, I want wheels that I am intimately familiar with and 700c.
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Old 02-01-20, 07:55 AM
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My take is that, in terms of durability, the Schwinn would certainly be up for the job. Assuming the fit is excellent, your 1983 Voyageur isn't really all that different from buying a modern Long Haul Trucker. There are a few things to think through, however.

My brother and I rode from Seattle to South Carolina in 1996. I was on a new BLT designed by Bruce Gordon, and my brother rode a used late 80's Novarra Randonee. The BLT was great, and from a functional standpoint both bikes were great.

A few things I would pay most attention to: wheels, tires and drivetrain. A few key points on the wheels. According to the original specs this bike was equipped with freewheel hubs, 5 speeds (!) and 27" rims. If it has original wheels, this is workable, but there are a few things to be aware of.
Tire choice is important for a tour like this. On the Randonee, somehow we had a rear tire that was really not up to the task. We were dealing with multiple flats a day, and in Eastern Washington and North Dakota, bike shops were few and far-between. If the bike still has the 27" rims, this will dictate your tire choice. There are some good options, but nowhere near as many as if you have the more conventional 700c size. Another question is - what is available for 27" tires at bike shops these days? You will want to start the tour on new or nearly new excellent quality tires. At the time, Continental Top Touring tires at the 28 mm or 32 mm width were ideal. Others may weigh in on the best current choices, especially in the 27" size. I would encourage you to go as wide as you can. The tires you can run will be dictated somewhat based on whether you use fenders. On that topic, if I were to do it again I would definitely have fenders. We didn't, and it made the rainy stretches all the more unpleasant.

Assuming you are doing this as a fully-loaded self-supported tour, given the likely weight you will need to carry, the quality of your wheels is worthy of attention. I once toured (Oberlin, OH to Vermont) on an early 90's Giant ATX 760 mountain bike, and the 32 spoke rear wheel really wasn't up to the task. I also made the mistake of putting too much weight in the rear panniers.

If it has original wheels, it has a freewheel hub in the rear. I am actually surprised to see it was spec'ed with only 5 speeds in the rear - 6 was definitely the convention by 1983. One clear advancement that came later in the 80's is the move from freewheel hubs to cassettes. This moves the drive-side bearings further outboard on the rear hub, and makes for a stronger more durable set-up (less likely to bend or break an axle). I would consider upgrading to a used cassette wheelset, shimano exage, lx, 105, or better, ideally with 36 spokes. You would probably be able to run a rear hub that has a 130mm width (conventional to all road bikes since the late 80's). I'm assuming this bike has 126mm rear spacing, and in my experience, running 130mm hubs is doable. Not true of 135 mm hubs, however.

In terms of drivetrain, you want to start a tour like this with a fresh chain and a freewheel or cassette that is new or nearly so. Finding a good new or newish wide-range freewheel isn't the easiest task. Alternatively, if you run different wheels, a 7 or 8 speed wide-range cassette is much more common.

These are just a few thoughts. My take is that the Schwinn is awesome and totally up for the task and in fact was designed for long-haul touring. I have a 1985 Trek 620 that I would take on a long loaded tour without hesitation. In many cases, the newer tech on modern bikes is actually less well-suited to touring. For example, STI shifters (Brifters) are not fixable on the road, whereas bar end or downtube shifters typically have a friction shifting option (or are friction only as the 83 Voyageur was) which is by far the most dependable choice.

Last edited by gmvelo; 02-01-20 at 07:59 AM. Reason: cleaning up poor phasing
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Old 02-01-20, 08:16 AM
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Originally Posted by gmvelo View Post
My take is that, in terms of durability, the Schwinn would certainly be up for the job. Assuming the fit is excellent, your 1983 Voyageur isn't really all that different from buying a modern Long Haul Trucker. There are a few things to think through, however.

My brother and I rode from Seattle to South Carolina in 1996. I was on a new BLT designed by Bruce Gordon, and my brother rode a used late 80's Novarra Randonee. The BLT was great, and from a functional standpoint both bikes were great.

A few things I would pay most attention to: wheels, tires and drivetrain. A few key points on the wheels. According to the original specs this bike was equipped with freewheel hubs, 5 speeds (!) and 27" rims. If it has original wheels, this is workable, but there are a few things to be aware of.
Tire choice is important for a tour like this. On the Randonee, somehow we had a rear tire that was really not up to the task. We were dealing with multiple flats a day, and in Eastern Washington and North Dakota, bike shops were few and far-between. If the bike still has the 27" rims, this will dictate your tire choice. There are some good options, but nowhere near as many as if you have the more conventional 700c size. Another question is - what is available for 27" tires at bike shops these days? You will want to start the tour on new or nearly new excellent quality tires. At the time, Continental Top Touring tires at the 28 mm or 32 mm width were ideal. Others may weigh in on the best current choices, especially in the 27" size. I would encourage you to go as wide as you can. The tires you can run will be dictated somewhat based on whether you use fenders. On that topic, if I were to do it again I would definitely have fenders. We didn't, and it made the rainy stretches all the more unpleasant.

Assuming you are doing this as a fully-loaded self-supported tour, given the likely weight you will need to carry, the quality of your wheels is worthy of attention. I once toured (Oberlin, OH to Vermont) on an early 90's Giant ATX 760 mountain bike, and the 32 spoke rear wheel really wasn't up to the task. I also made the mistake of putting too much weight in the rear panniers.

If it has original wheels, it has a freewheel hub in the rear. I am actually surprised to see it was spec'ed with only 5 speeds in the rear - 6 was definitely the convention by 1983. One clear advancement that came later in the 80's is the move from freewheel hubs to cassettes. This moves the drive-side bearings further outboard on the rear hub, and makes for a stronger more durable set-up (less likely to bend or break an axle). I would consider upgrading to a used cassette wheelset, shimano exage, lx, 105, or better, ideally with 36 spokes. You would probably be able to run a rear hub that has a 130mm width (conventional to all road bikes since the late 80's). I'm assuming this bike has 126mm rear spacing, and in my experience, running 130mm hubs is doable. Not true of 135 mm hubs, however.

In terms of drivetrain, you want to start a tour like this with a fresh chain and a freewheel or cassette that is new or nearly so. Finding a good new or newish wide-range freewheel isn't the easiest task. Alternatively, if you run different wheels, a 7 or 8 speed wide-range cassette is much more common.

These are just a few thoughts. My take is that the Schwinn is awesome and totally up for the task and in fact was designed for long-haul touring. I have a 1985 Trek 620 that I would take on a long loaded tour without hesitation. In many cases, the newer tech on modern bikes is actually less well-suited to touring. For example, STI shifters (Brifters) are not fixable on the road, whereas bar end or downtube shifters typically have a friction shifting option (or are friction only as the 83 Voyageur was) which is by far the most dependable choice.
I appreciate the well thought and written post. The bike has the original wheels 36 spoke front and 40 rear. I was told it has never been wrecked and wheels have been inspected and trued at a local bike shop. I asked if the wheels were out of true for some reason and was told that whatever truing was necessary, it wasn't enough to tell just by spinning the wheel on the bike. I completely agree on a new freewheel and chain. That has been my thought all along on any used bike I might ride across the country.

On tires,I will do my research but my beginning research shows I can get Schwalbe Marathons 27X1-1/4 inch, which I was thinking are good touring tires.
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Old 02-01-20, 08:17 AM
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In terms of preserving your shoe-string budget, I would recommend loading your bike to the gills and find some hills to ride as soon as weather allows. Determine whether the gearing is low enough for your anticipated load and your level of fitness. Because of compatibility issues, changing one piece of the drive train can cascade into having to change several. Sourcing cheap, not-worn-out used parts to keep that cost down takes time, so the sooner you know whether your gearing works, the better.
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Old 02-01-20, 08:24 AM
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The consensus that this is a fine touring bike that is up for the job--assuming you have overhauled it, replaced the consumables, and checked out the wheels--is right. This is a fine long distance machine.

That said, I might rule this bike out for the reasons @gmvelo gave. The bike has 27 inch wheels and 120 OLD rear wheel (5 speed freewheel). Quality 27 inch tires are available and so are replacement 27 inch alloy rims and 5 speed freewheels. Just keep in mind that 27 inch tires will not be easy to find on the road so carry a spare and that it can be tough to switch this to 700c if you decide to do this down the road.

I'm with Bonzo Banana . If I were looking for a quality touring bike on the cheap, I'd give a long hard look at a vintage MTB (one with a rigid fork). The wheels are pretty stout on them and there is a lot to be said for a fat tire when touring (say 26 x 1.75). Plus they have lots of gearing. The one downside to a vintage MTB is that the flat bars are good for offroad control but not so great for comfort on long distance. There are ways to fix that. You could do a drop bar conversion but that is a lot of work and can cost some money. The cheapest solution by far is a trekking bar which kind of looks like a drop bar squished flat. It's easy to do and all the existing parts on the MTB (brake levers, shifters) will work just fine. Plus vintage MTBs--even high end ones--tend to be inexpensive. This is my 1992 Trek 1992 with a trekking bar. I use it on mixed surfaces but it would make a fine touring bike as well. I like bmx style pedals as you use any shoes you like:


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Old 02-01-20, 08:40 AM
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Sure I would, but only if it was strapped to the back of one of my Cadillacs.

Those old touring bikes are fine and would make . Just take lots or spare tubes and a few tires. You shouldn't wear out much else, maybe the brake pads, but they are small. That's going to be a long shoestring in this era.

Myself, um, no. I'd take my Pro along on a cross country drive, and ride it each morning, but pedaling across the country, not for me. Now, a drive in the 1968 drop top along old US 66, That I'd do.

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Old 02-01-20, 08:43 AM
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Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
The consensus that this is a fine touring bike that is up for the job--assuming you have overhauled it, replaced the consumables, and checked out the wheels--is right. This is a fine long distance machine.

That said, I might rule this bike out for the reasons @gmvelo gave. The bike has 27 inch wheels and 120 OLD rear wheel (5 speed freewheel). Quality 27 inch tires are available and so are replacement 27 inch alloy rims and 5 speed freewheels. Just keep in mind that 27 inch tires will not be easy to find on the road so carry a spare and that it can be tough to switch this to 700c if you decide to do this down the road.

I'm with Bonzo Banana . If I were looking for a quality touring bike on the cheap, I'd give a long hard look at a vintage MTB (one with a rigid fork). The wheels are pretty stout on them and there is a lot to be said for a fat tire when touring (say 26 x 1.75). Plus they have lots of gearing. The one downside to a vintage MTB is that the flat bars are good for offroad control but not so great for comfort on long distance. There are ways to fix that. You could do a drop bar conversion but that is a lot of work and can cost some money. The cheapest solution by far is a trekking bar which kind of looks like a drop bar squished flat. It's easy to do and all the existing parts on the MTB (brake levers, shifters) will work just fine. Plus vintage MTBs--even high end ones--tend to be inexpensive. This is my 1992 Trek 1992 with a trekking bar. I use it on mixed surfaces but it would make a fine touring bike as well. I like bmx style pedals as you use any shoes you like:

If I had the money, I would buy a new Surly Ogre. I consider my fitness excellent for 51. I often ride between 15-30 miles on my Trek Marlin 5 MTB, though 5-10 is closer to my daily. I do 5 miles on the elliptical sometimes when weather is too bad to ride. I'm 6'2 170 lbs. I am balanced enough and strong to ride up hills beside my wife, talking to her, while she is very slowly walking her bike. I live in the Appalachian foot hills and haven't found a hill yet I can't slow down on and climb at a slow restful pace as slow as a slow walk. That's however on my MTB 3X7. Not sure how that translates to this touring bike though as far as gearing. My MTB is around 50 lbs with my gear.
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Old 02-01-20, 08:47 AM
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Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
That said, I might rule this bike out for the reasons @gmvelo gave. The bike has 27 inch wheels and 120 OLD rear wheel (5 speed freewheel). Quality 27 inch tires are available and so are replacement 27 inch alloy rims and 5 speed freewheels. Just keep in mind that 27 inch tires will not be easy to find on the road so carry a spare and that it can be tough to switch this to 700c if you decide to do this down the road.........
I'm with Bonzo Banana . If I were looking for a quality touring bike on the cheap, I'd give a long hard look at a vintage MTB (one with a rigid fork). The wheels are pretty stout on them and there is a lot to be said for a fat tire when touring (say 26 x 1.75). Plus they have lots of gearing. The one downside to a vintage MTB is that the flat bars are good for offroad control but not so great for comfort on long distance. There are ways to fix that. You could do a drop bar conversion but that is a lot of work and can cost some money. The cheapest solution by far is a trekking bar which kind of looks like a drop bar squished flat. It's easy to do and all the existing parts on the MTB (brake levers, shifters) will work just fine. Plus vintage MTBs--even high end ones--tend to be inexpensive. This is my 1992 Trek 1992 with a trekking bar. I use it on mixed surfaces but it would make a fine touring bike as well. I like bmx style pedals as you use any shoes you like:
Normally I share the sense that any bike equipped new with a 5 speed freewheel also is 120mm in the rear, but I have a hard time imagining a bike like this in 1983 was built with 120 rear spacing. Wasn't 126 the standard by 1983? If it is in fact 120, that limits your upgrade potential without having the rear drop-outs spread.

I totally agree about older mountain bikes as a great and affordable starting point for a touring rig, but you need to watch out for a few things:
in the 90's, even when rigid forks were still popular, mountain bikes weren't necessarily built with braze-ons for racks and fenders. The angles also steepened, so they were less stable. Also I would encourage touring with either old thumbshifters or bar-end shifters. Rapdifire shifters do fail, and it is a real bummer when you are out on a multi-day tour. I've done a drop-bar conversion on an early-90s Stumpjumper, and I love it. I mostly use it for mixed terrain/gravel riding, but I could see doing a multi-day tour on it for sure. The diversity of tires available at the 26" size is a huge upside, and limitations around tire width become so much less of an issue.

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Old 02-01-20, 08:51 AM
  #21  
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Looks like a Superbe Tech rear derailleur. Those are beautiful but not the most reliable units out there. They take a very unique cable routing.

+10 I am not trusting the seller on maintenance unless he is a personal friend. So I would count on doing everything with bearings, cables and housings, plus tires and brake pads.

+100 Old school rigid frame MTBs are also a great options. I had friends recently do CA to South America on rigid frame MTBs. Just aim high, get one with XT components or similar. The 950 above is a great example. A higher end vintage MTB might cost you $25 more (if you are an avid shopper). For that additional $25, you might get a bike that originally sold for $900, versus one that originally sold for $250. The higher end model will have better everything: frame, wheels, components, etc.


FWIW on touring bike weight: I met a guy riding from Washington, DC to CA, on a Surly Long Haul Trucker. He was fully self supported. He weighed his bike, WITHOUT food or WATER, and with all his gear it weighed in at 95 pounds. Guy was 65 years old, a riding machine for sure. Surely he could have trimmed his packing down, as he had full camping gear. Someone touring via motels could cut the weight.

A bare touring bike might weigh 3 pounds less than a bare vintage rigid frame MTB. So you are not going to save much weight at all going touring bike. The addition of trekking bars or even drops would give you a lot more hand positions, which would be a must for me.

If I was going on a tour myself, I'd add a front and rear rack and take my Cimarron. All the bikes I own, this continues to be my go to bike. I recently upgraded my Cimarron with parts from a donor bike, a 1990 Shogun, mainly Deore XT. The Cimarron was pretty much a slap wore out garage sale find.

Pretty much ANY vintage touring bike you find will be in better condition than where my Cimarron started, so sure, I'd have no problems touring on that Schwinn you are considering.


88 Cimarron 2019 Version by wrk101, on Flickr

As acquired (it was a lot worse than it looks in this picture!!)

1988 Cimmaron LE as found by wrk101, on Flickr

Last edited by wrk101; 02-01-20 at 09:57 AM.
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Old 02-01-20, 08:52 AM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by RH Clark View Post
If I had the money, I would buy a new Surly Ogre. I consider my fitness excellent for 51. I often ride between 15-30 miles on my Trek Marlin 5 MTB, though 5-10 is closer to my daily. I do 5 miles on the elliptical sometimes when weather is too bad to ride. I'm 6'2 170 lbs. I am balanced enough and strong to ride up hills beside my wife, talking to her, while she is very slowly walking her bike. I live in the Appalachian foot hills and haven't found a hill yet I can't slow down on and climb at a slow restful pace as slow as a slow walk. That's however on my MTB 3X7. Not sure how that translates to this touring bike though as far as gearing. My MTB is around 50 lbs with my gear.
Heck ride the Trek Marlin 5 across the country. It's a hardtail right with mounts for a rear rack? The suspension fork is a mixed bag for touring but with a backpacking style front bag you can get some weight up front.
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Old 02-01-20, 08:57 AM
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Only thing I would add to consider is, if the bike has a loose bearing bottom bracket, is to use a cartridge style sealed unit. In general I like the older style BB, but that’s because I have regular access to my workshop for maintenance on it. If I’m on the road a long way from any bike shop or tools, I’d want something to withstand the worst of the elements.

Disclaimer - I’m not generally a long distance bike tourer, but I think about it lot.
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Old 02-01-20, 09:00 AM
  #24  
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I Warm Showers hosted a trio of young folk who were riding from Brooklyn to Burning Man. One of them had a new Surly Disc Trucker. The other two had 80s vintage touring bikes. They all made the trip.
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Old 02-01-20, 09:22 AM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by gmvelo View Post

If it has original wheels, it has a freewheel hub in the rear. I am actually surprised to see it was spec'ed with only 5 speeds in the rear - 6 was definitely the convention by 1983.

In terms of drivetrain, you want to start a tour like this with a fresh chain and a freewheel or cassette that is new or nearly so. Finding a good new or newish wide-range freewheel isn't the easiest task. Alternatively, if you run different wheels, a 7 or 8 speed wide-range cassette is much more common..

Many people seem to forget that touring on a 'ten-speed' (2x5) was the norm back in the '60s and '70s. Only later did triple cranksets become popular and therefore 3x5 gearing. My '84 Univega Gran Tourismo along with it's twin-by-another-name Miyata 610 were specced with 3x5 drivetrains, so that was not all that unusual - even in 1984. I rebuilt the like-new Univega with a 6-speed SunTour Winner Ultra-spaced six-speed freewheel to give a few more gearing options (3x6) for now 18-speeds.


One thing you might want to check is this gearing chart https://www.gear-calculator.com to play with your crank and rear cogs to tweak your gearing for more choices in your preferred cadence. Ride some hills as part of your training to get a feel for what you'll need. Like-new 6-speed freewheels come up for sale quite often, or pastorbobnlnh could put together a reconditioned custom freewheel that suits your needs.


I'd take either of my two vintage triple-crank steel bikes on a cross-country tour without hesitation ('75 Fuji S-10S or the Univega). Both ride on 27" wheels, too! The ubiquitous Pasela PT works quite well in 27x1-1/4 (or 32mm if you prefer its width in Metric conversion) on these bikes with adequate room for fenders, too! The 27x1-1/4 Marathon HS420 are very heavy at 660 grams each. The Paselas in the same size are 410g for wire bead, and 350g for folding. That 250-300 gram difference is over 8-10 ounces per tire! All that is rotating weight! A folding Pasela would be a good choice to carry as a spare for peace-of-mind out in no-bike-shop Rural America...
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Last edited by Cougrrcj; 02-01-20 at 05:15 PM.
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