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Turning a touring bike into a road bike

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Turning a touring bike into a road bike

Old 12-03-20, 03:25 PM
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zachleft
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Turning a touring bike into a road bike

Is this something people do?

I just picked up this '98 Bianchi Volpe, but I found out it's more of a touring/cyclocross bike after the fact. As far as I can tell it still has all the original parts and components on it, including the tires. Would replacing everything like the crankset and derailleurs to parts more fitting of a road bike give it a road bike feel or would it still ride like a touring bike?

Or would I just better off selling it?

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Old 12-03-20, 03:29 PM
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the 'feel" is from the frame design. a frame designed for loaded touring will not handle like a frame designed for racing or fast long rides

what are looking for in ride and usage?
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Old 12-03-20, 03:40 PM
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If it fits, replace the saddle and keep it as a grocery getter or tourer. And get yourself a road bike.
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Old 12-03-20, 03:43 PM
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Originally Posted by zachleft View Post
Is this something people do?

I just picked up this '98 Bianchi Volpe, but I found out it's more of a touring/cyclocross bike after the fact. As far as I can tell it still has all the original parts and components on it, including the tires. Would replacing everything like the crankset and derailleurs to parts more fitting of a road bike give it a road bike feel or would it still ride like a touring bike?

Or would I just better off selling it?

This can/could be a perfectly capable road bike. While maybe a bit heavy, it likely has good clearance for wider tires and maybe fenders.

This can be an all road bike and if it fits, I would keep it for that purpose even if you're not there yet, all road is big thing right now and this is pretty cool C+Vish version to work with.
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Old 12-03-20, 04:35 PM
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I had one of these. It had a very competent feel, and it was extremely well made. But it is not quick, and I don't think you can make it feel quick. Well maybe, if you put on lightweight, narrow tires. But it will still be heavy. Appreciate it for what it is. If you want a quick bike, get one, but keep this. It's a good one. Mine also had the best paint of any bike I've owned. I'm accident prone, and the paint hardly ever chipped. Mine was a Taiwan-made model from about 1996.
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Old 12-03-20, 04:56 PM
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Lose the racks, change the gearing as cheaply as possible and put high performance tires on it. Way back, I had to go on my regular Sunday ride and my only good road bike was down for maintenance so I pumped up the Conti 28's and jumped on my C-dale T1000. I looked foolish and I ran out of high gears often but it worked.
Realistically, there's too many nice road frames about to not get one and keep the hybrid/touring bikes as they are.
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Old 12-03-20, 05:09 PM
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I would start by looking up or measuring the frame angles and dimensions, to see how far out of the normal range of roadbike geometry you will be.

I use my Centurion Pro Tour as both a road bike and a gravel bike, it's pretty good at both actually, and it is a light 23lbs without using any lightweight parts.
The 73-degree seat tube and 72.5-degree head tube angles do put this one in road bike territory.

Relatively short chainstays also help a lot, 45cm or less should work ok on the road but longer than that will tend to impose slothful acceleration feel and make the front feel heavy.

Last edited by dddd; 12-03-20 at 05:12 PM.
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Old 12-03-20, 07:36 PM
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Maybe drop the rack and ride the bike for awhile and distinguish what it isn't doing for you that you want it to, then you'll get some good help. Dropping accessories, narrowing tires and changing drivetrain are about what you'll want to get going faster, but maybe it's fast enough for you already?

Either way, I might keep it if you're able to pickup another bike without selling this one. Seems like a versatile bike and would be cool with some fat tires, fenders, a b17 saddle and saddlebag. Could be your go to for commuting, groceries, long days in rough terrain, camping or whatever else. If those aren't your things now, they may be later.

Based on the purchase mistake, question and post count here I am assuming (and this is a huge assumption, apologies) you are just getting into (or back into) cycling and/or C+V and I can tell you that not long ago when I was in the same position I passed up (or along) some bikes that looking back I wish I would have kept for their various setups and capabilities.

Heres a cool looking Volpe:



All that being said, if you’re looking for the look and feel of a more traditional racing or sport bike, get one. There’s no reason to not ride the bike you want and you’ll always be wondering and thinking twice if you aren’t. Especially because your average vintage bike can be found and had relatively cheap and easily.

Last edited by polymorphself; 12-03-20 at 08:08 PM.
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Old 12-03-20, 08:42 PM
  #9  
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Originally Posted by polymorphself View Post
Maybe drop the rack and ride the bike for awhile and distinguish what it isn't doing for you that you want it to, then you'll get some good help. Dropping accessories, narrowing tires and changing drivetrain are about what you'll want to get going faster, but maybe it's fast enough for you already?

Either way, I might keep it if you're able to pickup another bike without selling this one. Seems like a versatile bike and would be cool with some fat tires, fenders, a b17 saddle and saddlebag. Could be your go to for commuting, groceries, long days in rough terrain, camping or whatever else. If those aren't your things now, they may be later.

Based on the purchase mistake, question and post count here I am assuming (and this is a huge assumption, apologies) you are just getting into (or back into) cycling and/or C+V and I can tell you that not long ago when I was in the same position I passed up (or along) some bikes that looking back I wish I would have kept for their various setups and capabilities.

Heres a cool one:



All that being said, if you’re looking for the look and feel of a more traditional racing or sport bike, get one. There’s no reason to not ride the bike you want and you’ll always be wondering and thinking twice if you aren’t. Especially because your average vintage bike can be found and had relatively cheap and easily.
On the first Volpe in the thread, I see a few things in the frame that could create a feel that differentiates it from classic road bikes:

The fork does not have a crown, and unicrown design requires longer fork blades. Traditional road frames usually have slim fork blades with forged or built up crowns. I would think the standard fork construction would have a smoother ride, regardless of the rake of the fork.

I can't see angles very well, but I think touring angles and road angles overlap, so perhaps those do not affect the feel very much.

I think this is a 700c bike, and it strikes me the chainstays are nearly horizontal, though not extremely long (45 cm?). But the BB looks high, and perhaps the crank arms are long 175s. More traditional for a not-too-large frame is a BB drop around 7.5 cm, and I guess this is a few cm less. That will affect riding feel, in my opinion.

I also think this has oversize tubes, which are most likely rather stiff unless the walls are quite thin and the steel is heat-treated (Reynolds 853 is a good example) - a costly frame and I know the Volpe is not a costly bike (which does not denigrate its quality!!). In my experience this will certainly increase the stiff feel and the way the bike feels on the road. It's worth it to substitute-in a road saddle that will give a good fit and remove the rack(s) to make weight distribution and pedaling support as road-like as possible, to try it all out.

Based on my experience with supple 650b x 42 tires, I don't think the size of the tires is necessarily detrimental. A supple tire, perhaps a 25 mm road tire from Conti, Vittoria, or Michelin will make a difference. I don't necessarily suggest a supple 700 x 35 or such. Not that it won't feel good, but it won't necessarily feel like a classic road bike.

Gearing, derailleurs, shifting command systems, and brakes don't affect the ride feel here.

OS-tubes can make a wonderful road bike: Columbus XCR or ELOS, Reynolds 853, and other modern tubesets have thin enough walls to match or undercut the flexy liveliness of say Reynolds 531P or a more modern 7-4-7 or 7-5-7 frame. But as I said I don't think this frame has such exotic materials. Bianchi has used such, but not on a Volpe, I would think.

Last edited by Road Fan; 12-03-20 at 08:49 PM.
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Old 12-03-20, 08:49 PM
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That bike will work out great for fast road rides with the added benefit of probably having more durable rims. And a better climbing gear.

Looks like the bike fits you well according to the height of the bars relatively to saddle. As long as your saddle is oriented correctly.

Youll be getting the most out of your bike according to.your needs based on how well you fit if anything.
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Old 12-03-20, 08:56 PM
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I turned my 1983 Specialized Expedition into a straight up road bike, something it was not meant to be. Always looked a little off but it did ride great!

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Old 12-03-20, 10:57 PM
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Put a hard racing saddle on there, and run some 23mm tires at 110psi, and it will feel really fast!
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Old 12-04-20, 07:36 AM
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@zachleft - how tall are you? That is a small frame. Are you 5'5" or so?

My daughter rides a '99 Volpe as her all-purpose road bike. And she's 5'8" using the a larger frame and longer stem. PG
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Old 12-04-20, 12:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Phil_gretz View Post
@zachleft - how tall are you? That is a small frame. Are you 5'5" or so?

My daughter rides a '99 Volpe as her all-purpose road bike. And she's 5'8" using the a larger frame and longer stem. PG
I'm 5'9". It's a bit small on me right now due to the stem, which I'd def replace if I end up keeping it. And I think the slightly upward sloping top tube factors into that as well

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Old 12-04-20, 01:47 PM
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I just set one of these up for a buddy as a gravel bike. That's what it excels at.
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Old 12-04-20, 01:56 PM
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The Volpe is a fairly competent road bike. I use mine for road rides as well as gravel. It's not the lightest frame, but it is by no means the heaviest. It has double butted tubing, so that means it's fairly light. It was designed for road/cyclocross/sport touring, so it does not have a stiff, heavy, unresponsive frame like a touring bike. The chainstays, although not the shortest, are definitely shorter than a touring bike and those who have used Volpes as touring bikes have complained of heel strike on panniers. Those chainstays will make it less twitchy than race bikes. That year's model came with 46/36/26 tooth chainrings. Switching to something like 48-38-28 will give you a bit speedier bike. The cassette is 11-28 teeth which is just fine for road riding. Really, the only things you need to do to make this road bike into a Road Bike is switch out for skinnier tires, get rid of the rack and get a racier saddle. It's not a race bike, but it IS a road bike, and one of the most versatile of that era, and the inspiration for many subsequent gravel grinders and all-road bikes.
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Old 12-04-20, 02:06 PM
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FYI, just weighed my 58cm 2006 and it came in at 27 lbs. including very un-racelike things such as barcon shifters, 38mm tires, a pump, and bikepacking bags holding some miscellaneous crap.
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Old 12-04-20, 02:26 PM
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what some others said --
drop the racks
your raciest saddle
your raciest pedals/shoes
23 or 25mm tires

Ride like you stole it.
Then tell us what you decided.

Short of wearing your fastest looking racing kit, or painting it red = not much else you can do.
what is the big chainring?
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Old 12-04-20, 02:31 PM
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I don't know how if the OP's Volpe was designed and intended as a loaded touring rig, so this may not apply.

In my experience, a purpose-built loaded touring frame, unloaded, will never have the same liveliness of a racing or sports touring frame. The touring frame is intended to carry a load, and that is when a good one really comes into its own. I have an early 1990s Trek 520 (which I need to dig out and put to work) that feels livelier and is more fun to ride fully loaded - it feels okay but kind of blah unloaded, That Volpe may be the same way
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Old 12-04-20, 02:49 PM
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Originally Posted by bikingshearer View Post
I don't know how if the OP's Volpe was designed and intended as a loaded touring rig, so this may not apply.
It was marketed as a cyclocross/sport touring bike
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Old 12-04-20, 03:17 PM
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Originally Posted by wintermute View Post
It was marketed as a cyclocross/sport touring bike
And it seems badly suited to cyclocross. It has cantilever brakes so that makes it cyclocrossy. A sport touring bike is a funny term which, to me, means lowly enough not to be a real competition sport bike and yet not a real touring bike, either. So it's in between in many ways.
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Old 12-04-20, 04:44 PM
  #22  
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With regard to overall chainstay length, wheelbase, and frame angles, many a late-'70s through '80s touring bike is just a decade or two's prior Tour de France (or similar) race bike. At least it looks that way to me.

I had a 1983 Specialized Expedition, a full blown touring bike that was incredibly, if not effortlessly, fast. With full touring gearing. I have a 1974 Schwinn Paramount P15 Touring that will speed up or slow down as much as you want.

Your Volpe's chainstay length looks to be around 43-44cm. And as others have said, the frame lets you know what kind of bike it is, or doesn't mind being. It's also the motor/person riding it and the power they can generate to explore the "performance envelope" of the frame-as-a-bike. Getting out of the saddle can let you know a frame or bike's willingness to "play" or "dance" or generally want to rock back and forth as you work to get extra leverage to climb or accelerate.

What would I do?

1) If you have a full blown road bike, swap its wheels and tires over. Fast tires on boat anchor heavy and flexy wheels will not tell you the whole story, just like racing slicks on semi truck tires will not reveal full handling potential. The tires (sidewall, specifically) presently on your Volpe look pretty worn out, and that is going to affect performance and feel.

2) If you don't want to swap wheels--those rims look like MA2s, which do quite well by themselves--make sure spoke tension is up to snuff. Soggy wheels = soggy ride.

3) Remove the rack. Tires and/or wheel swap, plus rack removal will drop weight noticeably. I've always noticed it when I've done the same on my bikes. Plus it will look "lighter" and less encumbered.

4) Your saddle is also likely heavy (relative to sport/race saddles), so if you have a lighter, racy variant, then that will help. When out of the saddle, having less weight greatly reduces the slow, pendulum feel that a heavy saddle creates when rocking back and forth.

I have long thought that doing such things to, well, any frame, will give you a good idea of its true character or essence. Some frames-as-bikes are picky as to their ability to accept and work well with go-fast components. Others are plenty happy with a wide range of things. Some bikes want to be thoroughbreds, others are happy as draft horses, and others still as trail riders/grocery getters.

The experimentation is fun, especially if you have extra bikes to swap parts from. It's free, monetarily, and only costs your time. We, as a BF community can only speculate and suggest so much--but you have the bike (and presumably, other components) to carry it out. Always good to find out for yourself.

My 1974 Paramount in fairly period-correct 27" wheel composition. Very nice, smooth, etc. Heavy wheels and tires (among others) masked a quick frame:


Many component compositions later, a Shimano Ultegra Di2 (electronic shifting) setup along with a light saddle and 1431g Dura-Ace wheelset (all ported over from a road/race frame/bike) made this touring bike quite light (21.x lb or so) as well as incredibly responsive. Tires are "33mm" Soma Supple Vitesse examples that weigh about 270g. It shows you/me/us the brilliance of such a "strong" and versatile frame, as well as what components can really do for a bike.


The Paramount as it stands now, is a 700C (Mavic MA2) bike in touring form, same Soma tires, but a 3x10 with indexed bar-end shifters etc. It is still plenty quick.
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Old 12-04-20, 05:53 PM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by zachleft View Post
Is this something people do?




This is a very versatile bike. Maybe lose the rack and replace the big chainring to a 50. Wide tires do cushion the bumps but at proper inflation don't hurt your speed significantly especially on rough roads. The handling should be sporty enough to handle club rides admirably. If your going racing then yes, you got the wrong bike otherwise give the bike a chance to do several things well.

Last edited by Cycle Tourist; 12-04-20 at 06:07 PM.
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Old 12-05-20, 01:05 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by RiddleOfSteel View Post
Many component compositions later, a Shimano Ultegra Di2 (electronic shifting) setup along with a light saddle and 1431g Dura-Ace wheelset (all ported over from a road/race frame/bike) made this touring bike quite light (21.x lb or so) as well as incredibly responsive. Tires are "33mm" Soma Supple Vitesse examples that weigh about 270g. It shows you/me/us the brilliance of such a "strong" and versatile frame, as well as what components can really do for a bike.


The Paramount as it stands now, is a 700C (Mavic MA2) bike in touring form, same Soma tires, but a 3x10 with indexed bar-end shifters etc. It is still plenty quick.
Damn that thing is looking sweeeet after all the changes. You really don't see enough nice black vintage bikes.

Love all your suggestions and I think I'm going to do a few swaps tomorrow. I've got a 1990 trek 1420 as my main right now so I'll probably take the wheels (25mm) and saddle off that to test out.

I took the volpe out for a ride to the post office today and it felt like I was riding on sponges. Not sure if that's the age of the tires showing or just the contrast between the 30mm tires vs the 25mm I'm used to riding. Probably little of column A, more of column B.
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Old 12-05-20, 01:27 AM
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It can be a number of things, including however you're feeling that day. I certainly know that some days I feel like a slug, and others I am ready to sprint and climb like I'm going for Strava records (I don't use Strava, BTW). And you know, if it ends up being that the Volpe is not happy to go faster than it wants, that's ok. It's being what it was meant to be. But it is fun (and totally ok) to try some contrarian things with them. I mean, electronic shifting, carbon/aluminum wheels, and a quill stem adapter for modern bars on a frame from 1974? That's straight up heretical!
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