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Building vintage gravel-type bike

Old 04-08-20, 09:12 AM
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Daven27
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Building vintage gravel-type bike

Hi there,

I am planning to build a gravel-type bike using some retro frame. Bike will be used mostly for home-work-home commuting and of course road/offroad trips.

I'm not very experienced with this so I would like to ask you a few questions.
1. Would you suggest me looking for a frames from race bikes or maybe use some MTB frame? I've been looking for some retro race bikes frames like from Gazelle, Raleigh, Miyata, Bianchi etc. and from MTB bikes mainly Trek series 7x,8x and Longus. I came to idea of converting MTB after seeing a Trek 830 converted into gravel bike.
2. Would a 21 inch frame be suitable for 191 cm (6'3") height or should I look for something bigger?
3. If I will buy some vintage frame will modern equipment suit it or it's not guaranteed?
4. I'm mainly looking for steel frames especially made from cro-mo or Reynolds 531 is it a good choice? I don't mind bike be a little bit heavier for more comfort of riding.

If you have any more tips for me then they would be gladly appreciated, thanks!

Last edited by Daven27; 04-08-20 at 09:44 AM.
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Old 04-08-20, 09:24 AM
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This thread should have a lot of examples and inspiration:
https://www.bikeforums.net/classic-v...nversions.html
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Old 04-08-20, 09:25 AM
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Welcome to the forum. You could browse through the many posts on Eroica bikes. There are many there who have already done just what you are looking to do. You might find some inspiration in those posts.

Your 21 inch frame sounds too small for a 6 foot 3 inch rider. I would be looking for a 25 inch frame!
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Old 04-08-20, 09:26 AM
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If your new to this, and want tires fatter and more comfortable than 1 1/4 inch, then go MTB. Much of modern MTB is not backwards compatible. I'd go vintage race bike with clearance for 28mm tires.
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Old 04-08-20, 09:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Daven27 View Post
Hi there,

I am planning to build a gravel-type bike using some retro frame. Bike will be used mostly for home-work-home commuting and of course road/offroad trips.

I'm not very experienced with this so I would like to ask you a few questions.
1. Would you suggest me looking for a frames from race bikes or maybe use some MTB frame? I've been looking for some retro race bikes frames like from Gazelle, Raleigh, Miyata, Bianchi etc. and from MTB bikes mainly Trek series 7x,8x and Longus. I came to idea of converting MTB after seeing a Trek 830 converted into gravel bike.
2. Would a 21 inch frame be suitable for 191 cm (6,3") height or should I look for something bigger?
3. If I will buy some vintage frame will modern equipment suit it or it's not guaranteed?
4. I'm mainly looking for steel frames especially made from cro-mo or Reynolds 531 is it a good choice? I don't mind bike be a little bit heavier for more comfort of riding.

If you have any more tips for me then they would be gladly appreciated, thanks!
At 6'3", you'll definitely want a 25"/64cm frame, for road bikes. Subtract maybe 4-5cm for a mountain bike. Depends on your inseam and proportions.

MTB if you are on the heavier side, don't care much about going fast, and don't want to worry about breaking it.

If you like to go faster, a vintage touring bike or early bike boom road racing bike will make a fine gravel bike. Either way. Typically they have 72ª parallel frames with a fairly long wheelbase. Specific examples may vary.

Modern equipment will fit, but sometimes a little adapting is required. Obviously threadless headsets will not work on a 1" threaded steer tube. Main difference is the rear triangle hub spacing. Vintage was either 120/5spd (~60-70s) or 126/6-7spd (80s-early 90s). If you want to use modern 11 speed or whatever, you'll have to respace the frame. This is doable but takes some skills and attention to detail.

Nothing wrong with vintage equipment, BTW. Some things are better now, some not as good. Put some new rubber, brake pads and clipless pedals on a vintage bike, and it becomes a pretty practical machine.
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Old 04-08-20, 11:08 AM
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For your height, a 21" vintage MTB frame should fit the bill. You could find a 22" frame, but larger than that is pretty rare. I have seen some early 80's schwinns as big as 24".

I am 6' 2" And my 20" mtb frame is good. It also depends on the geometry, for example most mtb frames have a very long top tube and were equipped with long reach stems, giving a further reach and you really have to look at the numbers differently than a vintage road bike.
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Old 04-08-20, 11:22 AM
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After seeking the kind of bike I like to ride, coupled with tractor like durability, all of which is supported buy a soft ride, go mountain bike...


...to this. All I had to do was swap stem, bars, brake levers. I should have built it many years ago. The indexed bar end shifters were icing on the cake...
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Old 04-08-20, 11:42 AM
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Pick up an old cyclocross bike.
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Old 04-08-20, 12:11 PM
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I am 6'4" and my vintage road bikes that I ride are all 25" frames. Many of the 70's and 80's frames and some newer ones can easily do a 32 mm and sometimes up to 38-40 mm. I find this is adequate for pavement, gravel, and easy trails. At my height I find vintage mountain bikes with their 26' wheels feel small to me and always feel like the front tire is under me and not in front.
For mountain biking I ride a 29er. I used to ride 26 in wheels but find the 29er is better for us tall guys. I don't think you can find a vintage 29er as they have not been around that long.
So that is a tall guys perspective.
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Old 04-08-20, 01:03 PM
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Woah, thank you all for responses I'm really surprised for the amount of help and feedback I've got! So I've looked at the market and it's really hard to find 25" frame in a sensible price. Most of the offers on ebay are from US and unfortunately shipping costs are always 2-3x times higher than the value of the frame itself. Therefore I must stick to the 21"-22" MTB frame or just hunt for some local offers here in Poland for bigger one.

Is it worth getting Reynolds frames instead of regular CR-MO ones? Is the weight difference/comfort noticeable? And somebody asked here for my weight I think I'm on the lighter side for my height weighing ~81kgs (179 pounds).

I might come up with more questions as my search progresses, thank you again.
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Old 04-08-20, 01:07 PM
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Mountain bikes give you nice fat plush tires and tend to be priced well. Ditto goes for quality hybrids; the price tends to be right and you can get a pretty fat 700c tire to work on most of them.

Vintage road bikes (think 70s era which often come with center pull brakes) give you that retro cool look and can take a pretty fat tire (you likely top out at 35c). 650b conversions are also a possiblity.

Or you can find one of a very rare breed, a vintage bike designed for gravel and mixed surfaces. The Bianchi project bikes and Bridgestone XO series provide two examples.
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Old 04-08-20, 01:29 PM
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Head down to your local bike kitchen or co-op and sign up for a bike repair & maintenance class. In addition to teaching you how to work on bikes, they will also have the tools and possibly frames/parts for your project.

Good luck,
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Old 04-08-20, 02:41 PM
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Bianchi cross bikes from late 1980's to early 90's--early Volpe, Axis or Equinox will be relatively light, well designed, should clear 35 to 38mm tire.
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Old 04-08-20, 02:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Daven27 View Post
Woah, thank you all for responses I'm really surprised for the amount of help and feedback I've got! So I've looked at the market and it's really hard to find 25" frame in a sensible price. Most of the offers on ebay are from US and unfortunately shipping costs are always 2-3x times higher than the value of the frame itself. Therefore I must stick to the 21"-22" MTB frame or just hunt for some local offers here in Poland for bigger one.

Is it worth getting Reynolds frames instead of regular CR-MO ones? Is the weight difference/comfort noticeable? And somebody asked here for my weight I think I'm on the lighter side for my height weighing ~81kgs (179 pounds).

I might come up with more questions as my search progresses, thank you again.
Welcome! If you sign up as a paid member, you’ll have access to the Classic & Vintage sales sub forum, and as a bonus, you won’t get any ads! You could then start a WTB post. You might want to post a few “Hello” messages to get your post count up to permit PM’s. And ask lots of questions. We like to think of ourselves as a friendly, helpful bunch, especially when we are spending some else’s money!

You mentioned living in Poland. Let us know what would be similar to our Craigslist, and areas that you would consider useful/accessible to include in helping with your search.

As to tubing, Reynolds, Columbus, Tange and Ishiwata are manufacturers of great bicycle tubing found on many excellent vintage bikes. Miyata/Koga Miyata started making their own in 1981 (I believe) that was comparable. Their Splined Triple Butted tubing was similar in concept to Columbus SLX.

For your goal, don’t use bike weight as a major criteria, especially as someone who would benefit from a big frame. They will always weigh more! A really good bike weighs what it needs to weigh! However, as others’ noted, pure touring bikes are often made from heavier gauge tubes that can decrease responsiveness when they are unloaded.

I ride big (62-63cm) frames and they are quite comfortable, and I’m similar weight at 175. As you’ve already surmised, the ability to take fat (32-42mm) tires, makes a significant improvement in comfort, although my Tange-framed 1979 Miyata (pre-STB) on 28’s is almost as good as the SLX-tubed Marinoni that uses either 700-32’s or 650B-38’s. What is more noticeable is that the Marinoni has a special feel, hard to describe - lively and responsive come close - that enhances every ride.

The differences between dimensionally similar bikes have more to do with the geometry subtleties and construction details of the frame. Frame tubing wall thickness chosen by the maker probably is the biggest contributor. At one time I had three nearly identical in design concept (all sports touring) bikes, set up very similarly. Their feel differences were noticeably different, even with the same wheels and tires. I’ve also had two racing bikes, both 70’s Masi Gran Criteriums, that were dramatically different in their stability characteristics.

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Old 04-08-20, 02:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Daven27 View Post
Woah, thank you all for responses I'm really surprised for the amount of help and feedback I've got! So I've looked at the market and it's really hard to find 25" frame in a sensible price. Most of the offers on ebay are from US and unfortunately shipping costs are always 2-3x times higher than the value of the frame itself. Therefore I must stick to the 21"-22" MTB frame or just hunt for some local offers here in Poland for bigger one.

Is it worth getting Reynolds frames instead of regular CR-MO ones? Is the weight difference/comfort noticeable? And somebody asked here for my weight I think I'm on the lighter side for my height weighing ~81kgs (179 pounds).

I might come up with more questions as my search progresses, thank you again.
Welcome aboard, glad you found us.

You came to the right place, we will help you drill down till you get there and beyond.

Many Reynolds frames will get you there, that being said, I would look for stout Cr-Mo that are plentiful.

Reynolds C+V frame's were not the model for this and may not hold up to it although plenty have, I wouldn't use any that are particularly cool or special/iconic.
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Old 04-08-20, 03:11 PM
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You don't really say what kind of rider you are. If your only concern is getting home and to work on a durable bike then the mountain bike might be a good idea. But if you love to ride on the road and appreciate the responsiveness of a road bike then it is a bad idea.
As one who now loves the gravel with a fast responsive road machine I would recommend, depending on your skills or your friends skills, getting a 70's "sport touring road frame" and then do a 650b wheel conversion. What this approach gives you is fun responsive road, gravel-road riding and wider tires. Putting the smaller 650b wheels on a 70's sport tourer allows you to run much wider tires than the bike was originally design around.
There are caveats for the process and choices but there are lots of resources on the web and how to do it.
My 80' Bruce Gordon 650b conversion


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Old 04-08-20, 04:05 PM
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I think you should just look for the original "Do All bike" a late '80s Bianchi Volpe or even any of the late '80s early '90s Bianchi Cross bikes.

The '86 and '87 are my personal favorites as they still have a crowned fork. All the Bianchi cross bikes come with full ChroMoly frames good tire clearance and and lots of brazeones, they even have 2 extra ones!

Here is my Sizzling Peach '86 Volpe pretty much stock as the owner sold it to me, unfortunately the Texas sun was not kind to the paint.


After several makeovers this is how she is currently fitted out. Pretty much everything but the seat post and cantilevers have been changed


The '89 Equinox is pretty much perfect (well for a shipmano equipped bike) with the Prestige frame and mix of Deore XT and 600. I was lucky enough to score this example with about 100+/- miles on it.


If your really lucky and you make a sacrifice to the Bianchi and Columbus Gods you might stumble across a MAX OR framed gem like my Boarala
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Old 04-08-20, 04:14 PM
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There are some older touring frames with canti brakes that would make a good gravel commuters. Trek 520, Univega Gran Tourismo, Miyata 618 gt and triple cross, Specialized Sequoia, and Fuji has a few. They won't take crazy large tires, but 32's should fit on them.
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Old 04-08-20, 04:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Daven27 View Post
Woah, thank you all for responses I'm really surprised for the amount of help and feedback I've got! So I've looked at the market and it's really hard to find 25" frame in a sensible price. Most of the offers on ebay are from US and unfortunately shipping costs are always 2-3x times higher than the value of the frame itself. Therefore I must stick to the 21"-22" MTB frame or just hunt for some local offers here in Poland for bigger one.

Is it worth getting Reynolds frames instead of regular CR-MO ones? Is the weight difference/comfort noticeable? And somebody asked here for my weight I think I'm on the lighter side for my height weighing ~81kgs (179 pounds).

I might come up with more questions as my search progresses, thank you again.
there are not bigger frames over the border in Germany?
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Old 04-08-20, 04:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Bianchigirll View Post

Better powerwash that front wheel...
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Old 04-08-20, 05:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Dfrost View Post
Welcome! If you sign up as a paid member, you’ll have access to the Classic & Vintage sales sub forum, and as a bonus, you won’t get any ads! You could then start a WTB post. You might want to post a few “Hello” messages to get your post count up to permit PM’s. And ask lots of questions. We like to think of ourselves as a friendly, helpful bunch, especially when we are spending some else’s money!

You mentioned living in Poland. Let us know what would be similar to our Craigslist, and areas that you would consider useful/accessible to include in helping with your search.

As to tubing, Reynolds, Columbus, Tange and Ishiwata are manufacturers of great bicycle tubing found on many excellent vintage bikes. Miyata/Koga Miyata started making their own in 1981 (I believe) that was comparable. Their Splined Triple Butted tubing was similar in concept to Columbus SLX.

For your goal, don’t use bike weight as a major criteria, especially as someone who would benefit from a big frame. They will always weigh more! A really good bike weighs what it needs to weigh! However, as others’ noted, pure touring bikes are often made from heavier gauge tubes that can decrease responsiveness when they are unloaded.

I ride big (62-63cm) frames and they are quite comfortable, and I’m similar weight at 175. As you’ve already surmised, the ability to take fat (32-42mm) tires, makes a significant improvement in comfort, although my Tange-framed 1979 Miyata (pre-STB) on 28’s is almost as good as the SLX-tubed Marinoni that uses either 700-32’s or 650B-38’s. What is more noticeable is that the Marinoni has a special feel, hard to describe - lively and responsive come close - that enhances every ride.

The differences between dimensionally similar bikes have more to do with the geometry subtleties and construction details of the frame. Frame tubing wall thickness chosen by the maker probably is the biggest contributor. At one time I had three nearly identical in design concept (all sports touring) bikes, set up very similarly. Their feel differences were noticeably different, even with the same wheels and tires. I’ve also had two racing bikes, both 70’s Masi Gran Criteriums, that were dramatically different in their stability characteristics.
I'm not sure if this would be helpful because most of the websites with local offers are unfortunately only in Polish.

Our craigslist example is www.olx.pl, www.gratka.pl
Ebay-like auction service: www.allegro.pl
I live in Gdynia which is in Pomorskie voivodeship (similiar to USA states).
Well it's still possible to just use search engine with some brand names and maybe something interesting will pop-up. If you need help PM me, thanks.

This is what I found so far:
1. Raleigh Pursuit 25" frame, not sure if it's CRO-MO, propably regular steel (Raleigh 18-23 Steel Tubing that's what seller wrote). Very cheap around 70 pounds including shipping.

2. Some Bianchi unfinished project. Unfortunately frame seems to be 22".


3. Gazelle Reynolds 531 24" size


4. Same as above but 23"



5. Koga Miyata Roadrunner 23"


6. Some Raleigh Reynolds 501 22,5"


7. Univega Alpina 5.7 size 21" but I believe it's MTB frame?


8. American Eagle Concorde 21"


9. Trek 830 complete bike for around 100$ which could be a good base for future modifications and it's located in my city. 21" frame


+ Lots of interesting frames from this seller, unfortunately all in Polish, I can help with translation.

https://www.olx.pl/oferty/q-rama/?se...e%3Ato%5D=1000

That's all I could find for now, as you can see it's hard to find interesting 25" frame, will keep searching.

Originally Posted by repechage View Post
there are not bigger frames over the border in Germany?
Yes I'm going to look into ebay.de soon!
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Old 04-08-20, 06:24 PM
  #22  
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Reading this thread is making me think of several really nice mountain bikes I gave away to friends because they were ‘outdated’. A couple of really light hardtails, one 853 and the other Scandium would make great drop bar project bikes.
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Old 04-09-20, 04:33 AM
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If you get a chance to own an early eighties Bianchi Touring, go for it. I have been riding mine, over the incredibly rough roads in Jamaica, each winter, for several years now.,,


The bike has great solid ride quality and yet remains nimble when "look out, avoid the bloody pothole" suddenly crops up. I fitted (had no choice) a set of 700c x 38mm tires to the bike and loved the improved comfort they offered and at little expense to performance). All in all, a great bike to ride. I don't worry much about how she looks but I really should get around to replacing that broken spoke, in the rear wheel)...
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Old 04-09-20, 06:27 AM
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Old mtbs are great if you don't mind smaller wheels, ride them myself. But something else to look out for are early 700c hybrids.
I'm planning to start on this 1990 Giant Innova. I think I'm going modern groupset but that could change. It'll take a 700c 45c knobby, has not to light full cro-mo frame but strong and comfortable ovalised down tube. Should look like a current bike when finished.
Also planing on drop bars. This old hybrid has a shorter top tube to make it comfortable. Old mtb's don't.


Last edited by jbchybridrider; 04-09-20 at 06:32 AM.
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Old 04-09-20, 06:56 AM
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fraba 
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Join Date: Jan 2019
Location: Longueuil, Quebec, Canada
Posts: 179

Bikes: 1973 Raleigh Super Course - c.1988 Colnago Master Piu - 2004 Devinci MoonRacer - 2014 Cervelo P3 - 2018 Open New Up

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Hi and welcome to BF!

A lot of good stuff from fellows before me. I jus want to add pictures of a gravel bike I recently built for my son. Vintage frame with modern (Mavic wheels) and not so modern components (Shimano 105 9-speed). The frame is a Norco Monterey SL (modest Tange no 5 butted) from the mid 80s. It was originally fitted with 27 x 1 1/4 tires. By putting 700c wheels, I could easily fit 32mm tires and for more agressive gravel riding, 35mm would also easily fit. For smaller gearing ratio, I could also fit a Shimano XT 9-speed rear derailleur (yes, it's compatible!) with an 11-34 cassette. And the relatively slack geometry is good for gravel riding too.

It was really fun to build and it rides very good too. Hope it can inspire you. One thing to keep in mind is that compatibility can sometime be expensive. I am thinking about the downtime cable stop adaptor which cost about $30 alone!

Cheers!





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