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Cyclocross and Gravelbiking (Recreational) This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like :The Dirty Kanza". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

Vintage bike to cyclocross

Old 07-18-19, 05:17 AM
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JJam2112
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Vintage bike to cyclocross

Is it possible to take a 80s steel bike and customize it to make it a cyclocross bike? If so what are things needed to make it like that? Or are there specific cyclocross frames ?
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Old 07-18-19, 06:10 AM
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Vintage cross bikes are not that common. Bianchi made a few models and you can find those. You could use a touring bike as a "cross" or "gravel" bike. You could take a vintage MTB and that will certainly work for gravel. There is a whole thread in C&V on modding a vintage MTB with drop bars (which some racers did as well back in the early days of mountain bike racing). A lot of older racing bikes (as in the 70s) can take a fairly fat tire since back in the day, people raced on really bad roads (sort of like the TdF is starting to do now). One of my favorites (but again not that easy to find) is a Bridgestone XO 1 or some of the XO 2s and 3s as well. These bikes have road geometry but are designed around 26 inch wheels. In the 90s if you wanted a fat tire, you used a 26 inch wheel. My '93 XO 2 is a fine gravel bike with 3 x 8 gearing and 26 x 1.75 inch tires:

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Old 07-18-19, 06:22 AM
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Originally Posted by JJam2112 View Post
Is it possible to take a 80s steel bike and customize it to make it a cyclocross bike? If so what are things needed to make it like that? Or are there specific cyclocross frames ?
As mentioned, cross bikes from that time are rare. In addition to the ideas above, if you find a quality 700c wheel hybrid from the early 90s(Univega, Schwinn, Nishiki, Bianchi, Trek, etc) they will work well as a starting point for a retro cyclocross or gravel frame. All the geometry from then is going to be different from modern geometry, but its a workable option. This is how I got hooked on gravel and actually how my brother in law did too- my Univega and his Trek had room for 41mm tires, so a smaller cyclocross tire would have fit great with plenty of room for mud.
These hybrids are often relatively inexpensive too- even the ones with higher level tubing.
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Old 07-18-19, 07:11 AM
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Biggest issue in doing so was typically brake clearance with larger tires. It was not uncommon around here to have a shop braze on cantilever mounts to a steel bike to make it a touring or off road setup.
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Old 07-18-19, 08:53 AM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
As mentioned, cross bikes from that time are rare. In addition to the ideas above, if you find a quality 700c wheel hybrid from the early 90s(Univega, Schwinn, Nishiki, Bianchi, Trek, etc) they will work well as a starting point for a retro cyclocross or gravel frame. All the geometry from then is going to be different from modern geometry, but its a workable option. This is how I got hooked on gravel and actually how my brother in law did too- my Univega and his Trek had room for 41mm tires, so a smaller cyclocross tire would have fit great with plenty of room for mud.
These hybrids are often relatively inexpensive too- even the ones with higher level tubing.
+1
This is an early 90's Trek hybrid with a drop bar conversion. Nothing special but a great gravel bike with triple chainring and canti's




These are 32's so 35's or even larger would fit. In a diamond frame I could see it being a "one bike does all".




A 70's era Apollo FG with the same 32 tires on. The old original 27 inch wheelset older road bikes came with, when converted to 700c, allows a bigger tire. They don't fit past road caliper brakes but that just means you need to deflate the tire a bit when mounting and fully inflate when on or get some quick release tabs.



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Old 07-18-19, 09:11 AM
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I've been having a lot of fun with an old touring bike, an '85ish Univega Gran Turismo. In the past couple years I've ridden it with drops and flats, single speed, fixed, 1x and now 2x10. It's a little lighter than a cheap hybrid frame, can squeeze in 43cm tires (on "narrow" rims), and has horizontal dropouts for drivetrain flexibility. It's got a bit more bottom bracket drop than a hybrid frame, making it more comfortable on long gravel rides, and I haven't had a problem with clearance on rooty or muddy singletrack. It's become my favorite (and now only) bike. I had a local framebuilder add some CX-style cable routing, and now it's even better.
My recommendation: find a mid-80s touring frame.


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Old 07-18-19, 09:56 AM
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Since pics are the name of the game-
- the first is a Univega hybrid I converted to drop bar to ride for a couple years as I developed a sense for what I wanted in a more modern gravel bike. While I wouldnt want to go back to the 3x7 friction shifting, it worked great and allowed me to figure out what gear range I wanted for my ability and location. It was too small, but I made it work!
- the second is my brother in law's Trek hybrid. I think its a '93? Has the same geometry as the 520 touring frame that year and used beefy True Temper tubing. He still has it set up as 3x7 because he hasnt taken the time to modernize it.

Both fit 40mm tires.


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Old 07-18-19, 09:58 AM
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just ride it & put some good tires on it.

back in the day, 27" wheeled bikes typically took 1, 1 1/8, and 1 1/4 tires. The latter are 32mm tires - so plenty of clearance on the typical '80s bike.

(touring bikes will tend to have low bottom brackets - but you can live with that).
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Old 07-18-19, 10:32 AM
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I did my first season of CX on a late 80s Trek 660. All I did was jam in the largest tires I could fit, which were "30mm" (but really more like 28mm) Kenda knobbies. It worked awesome for dry September races. Muddy November races, not so much.

As others have mentioned, if you can find a frame built for 27" wheels, you can get some decent clearance with a 700c wheelset. You'll need long reach calipers or top-pulls. It can be a fun project; it can also be a headache.
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Old 07-18-19, 10:52 AM
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Thank you all for the very helpful. I do like the challenge of building my own from a vintage frame. As far as wheel base clearance, what is the minimum I should be looking for in order to put on bigger gravel wheels and tires?
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Old 07-18-19, 02:34 PM
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You'll want a frame that can take 700x35 tires because that's mostly what's available in clinchers. As has been mentioned, most frames that took 27" tires will work. A bike that came with centerpull brakes will likely also give you the best clearance this side of cantilevers.

Here's are pics of a 1977 Gitane Gypsy Sport that gave me my first taste of SSCX.



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Old 07-18-19, 03:40 PM
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If I were you I'd use a 90s 26" mountain bike rather than a 70s road bike. Yes, you can fit a relatively wide 700C tire in many old road bikes, but I personally would not want to be limited to 32mm or 35mm for a gravel bike. Much nicer to put drop bars on a 26" mountain bike and have the option of running 2" knobbies or slicks. Here's my gravel bike (1999 Schwinn Homegrown):



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Old 07-18-19, 04:40 PM
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Originally Posted by JJam2112 View Post
Is it possible to take a 80s steel bike and customize it to make it a cyclocross bike? If so what are things needed to make it like that? Or are there specific cyclocross frames ?
Yes.

There are all kinds of 80's/90's drop bar MTB conversions that might work for CX - a little heavier than a road bike but lots of clearance for wide tires and most of these MTBs have canti brakes that are good as-is or can be upgraded. The trick is getting the right stem/drop bar combo so that it is comfortable. Gevenalle shifters are a pretty slick component that will work on this type of bike. Check out this thread:

https://www.bikeforums.net/classic-v...nversions.html

As others have mentioned some of the 90's hybrid bikes will work also. The Trek Multi Track allows for wide tires and has canti brakes - originally spec'd with upright bars so a drop bar conversion would be needed. The frames are pretty decent - a bit lighter than an MTB frame. Multi Tracks can sometimes be found on CL for $100 - $150.

https://www.gevenalle.com/product/cx2/

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Old 07-18-19, 04:56 PM
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Awesome thanks everyone. I知 enjoying these pictures of everyone痴 bikes and projects. Keep sending them if you have them. I知 getting lots of ideas.
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Old 07-18-19, 05:22 PM
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Originally Posted by JJam2112 View Post
Awesome thanks everyone. I知 enjoying these pictures of everyone痴 bikes and projects. Keep sending them if you have them. I知 getting lots of ideas.
Just curious what you're wanting to do with it: are you actually wanting to race CX or you just wanting to ride gravel?

UCI regulations limit max tire width for CX to 33mm, although as far as I know USAC doesn't have a max width and I've never been checked at the local cat 4 races.

If you're not planning on doing any UCI CX races then go crazy
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Old 07-18-19, 06:42 PM
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Originally Posted by JJam2112 View Post
Awesome thanks everyone. I知 enjoying these pictures of everyone痴 bikes and projects. Keep sending them if you have them. I知 getting lots of ideas.
Here's a Multi Track for sale - $155 - North Jersey. The photos show how this bike might work for you.

If you measure the top tube length and compare it to the measurement on a road bike that fits you, you'll have some idea re: the practicality of converting to drop bars. Looks like this bike would work with a standard drop bar 1" quill stem and suitable bars - maybe a 90mm stem. You could take it to a bike shop and try different stem lengths/heights before buying the stem. Most bike shops have lots of old quill stems suitable for the purpose.

It comes with indexed grip shifters - 7 speed I think - if you keep the rear der. after converting to drops you'll probably need to run it using a friction shifter. However, the rear spacing on this bike is probably 130mm and it has a cassette. You may be able to upgrade to 9 or 10 speed without too much trouble - new RD, shifters, cassette, cables - maybe $200. The wheels are 700c - ok quality, but you may want to upgrade - figure $225 for a new set of good machine-built wheels.

Plenty of other opportunities to spend money on upgrades - hard to know where to stop! Crank set, BB, handlebars, seat, Could easily spend $600 or more making this bike what you want it to be (plus the cost of the bike)

What's your budget? Might be better to spend more $$ buying a used gravel bike that is closer to exactly what you want. ??


https://newjersey.craigslist.org/bik...935285154.html



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Old 07-19-19, 07:11 AM
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Yes currently not planning on racing CX, but that may change depending how much I like it

Originally Posted by ksryder View Post
Just curious what you're wanting to do with it: are you actually wanting to race CX or you just wanting to ride gravel?

UCI regulations limit max tire width for CX to 33mm, although as far as I know USAC doesn't have a max width and I've never been checked at the local cat 4 races.

If you're not planning on doing any UCI CX races then go crazy
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Old 07-19-19, 07:22 AM
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Has anyone put on bigger wheels and upgrade the cassette? Do you have to widen the rear? If so how did that go?
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Old 07-19-19, 08:01 AM
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Originally Posted by JJam2112 View Post
Has anyone put on bigger wheels and upgrade the cassette? Do you have to widen the rear? If so how did that go?
I assume you mean bigger tires -- there really aren't bigger wheels than 700c/29-er. (Well there are some 36" wheels out there but those are extremely niche.)

If you have an old hybrid like a 90s-era Trek Multitrack the rear spacing is 130mm. That's pretty much the standard road bike hub width (although that might be changing with discs but that's not really relevant here.) Pretty easy to find hubs in that width, no real good reason to widen the rear.

If you're working with a 80s-early 90s rigid steel MTB the rear spacing is probably 135mm. Even with the 26" wheels that they all had. Again, that's a common standard. Even if you swap in some 650b or 700c wheels in there (a common modification but the details and specifics are covered elsewhere) you won't have to worry about the width of the rear dropouts.

However, if you do have to mess with the rear spacing for some reason--like you're trying to stuff a 135mm hub into 130mm-spaced rear, and it's a steel bike, sometimes* you can get away with just squeezing it in there by hand. Steel is flexible.

*not always though, but it's worth trying first before you go to the effort of cold-setting.
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Old 07-19-19, 09:06 AM
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Originally Posted by JJam2112 View Post
Has anyone put on bigger wheels and upgrade the cassette? Do you have to widen the rear? If so how did that go?
I am guessing you mean bigger tires. If so, there is no reason to widen the rear drop out spacing. Just use whatever tire size still allows for some frame clearance in the conditions you will ride.
If you actually mean bigger wheels as in a wider drop out spacing, yes that happens often- going from 126mm to 130mm or from 130 to 135. Its quite common and the best plan is to cold set the rear triangle(so pull it to permanently set) and then take it to a shop to have the dropouts realigned. That will make the change stay and ensure everything is square as it should be.

Upgrading the cassette...yes that also happens quite often when modernizing older bikes. If a new drivetrain speed is used, then a new matching cassette will be used. Not at all a big deal- the cassette just needs to have the correct number of cogs to match the shifters, and the derailleurs need to be compatible with whatever speed your shifters and cassette are.
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Old 07-19-19, 09:14 AM
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Here's the same Univega in it's newer incarnation, with Sora/Deore 9 speed and 38c Panaracer Gravelkings since this photo was taken. I have 4,900 miles on it now. Wouldn't mind something lighter but it goes wherever I need it to go.

Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
Since pics are the name of the game-
- the first is a Univega hybrid I converted to drop bar to ride for a couple years as I developed a sense for what I wanted in a more modern gravel bike. While I wouldnt want to go back to the 3x7 friction shifting, it worked great and allowed me to figure out what gear range I wanted for my ability and location. It was too small, but I made it work!
- the second is my brother in law's Trek hybrid. I think its a '93? Has the same geometry as the 520 touring frame that year and used beefy True Temper tubing. He still has it set up as 3x7 because he hasnt taken the time to modernize it.

Both fit 40mm tires.

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Old 07-19-19, 06:07 PM
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It's more of a gravel bike, but here is my 1990 520 with cowbell bars and STI shifters. It has room for 42mm tires at least, but it's serving as my road bike with 35mm slicks.



I've converted a couple of early 90's mountain bikes with drops (950 and Stumpjumper), but they were not as comfortable as the 520 or my modern Vaya.
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Old 07-19-19, 11:08 PM
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Nice what would be the main difference in converting to a cyclocross vs a gravel bike ?
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Old 07-19-19, 11:56 PM
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Originally Posted by JJam2112 View Post
Nice what would be the main difference in converting to a cyclocross vs a gravel bike ?
Gravel bikes typically have a more relaxed geometry.
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Old 07-20-19, 01:23 PM
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Originally Posted by JJam2112 View Post
Nice what would be the main difference in converting to a cyclocross vs a gravel bike ?
Geometry( bottom bracket drop, stack height, etc) and tire clearance at times.

But with what you are wanting to do- you will pretty much take whatever geometry the frame has and make it work for your intended purpose.
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