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Favorite Vintage Frame for Modern Road Build

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Favorite Vintage Frame for Modern Road Build

Old 08-12-20, 09:57 AM
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ChrisCranks
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Favorite Vintage Frame for Modern Road Build

What are your favorite vintage frames to use in modern road build projects? Not looking for obscure, hard-to-find, or highly-valuable frames. Asking about your go-to favorites which are semi-widely available via craigslist, etc. and can be picked up for a few hundred bucks or less.


1 - Specifically, what particular makes/models from the 80s, updated with modern versions of entry-level or mid-level components, might perform comparably to a modern frame with similar components.


2 - Looking through these threads I've been really impressed with the build quality of a lot of these bikes from the 80s and how inexpensive they were then, relative to current prices. Was there a golden era where even entry-level or mid-level bikes were built so well they continue to hold up today, 30 years later? Did moving from steel to alloys or aluminum represent improvements in frame construction technology? Or, had bike manufacturers perfected working with steel frames, while the alloy or aluminum frames were available but maybe didn't have all the kinks worked out yet?


I'm a total newbie and currently at that lowest stage of knowledge where I don't even know what I don't know, so I apologize if my questions are confusing or don't make sense.
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Old 08-12-20, 10:19 AM
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Not to discourage you but if cost is a concern you are better off using a modern frame with modern components, and vice versa. Vintage frames require a fair amount of modification to use modern components. You are better off leaving them as they are if cost is a concern, or starting with a modern bike if you want modern parts. Frames before the mid to late 90s used different hub spacing than modern, they had quill stems, the geometry did not allow slammed stems.

Components don't make a bike faster anyway. It's mostly in the rider of course. AFA the bike, things that matter most are wheels, tires and frame.

The question you ask is bit like which flower is the prettiest.
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Old 08-12-20, 11:00 AM
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ChrisCranks Good advice from Salamandrine . My favorite bikes for modern use are Italians, although I usually use vintage parts for vintage frames. Even at $1K to $2k, it is a great deal comparted to nearly equivalent new modern bikes.
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Old 08-12-20, 11:11 AM
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Any of the late 80s Trek road models.
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Old 08-12-20, 11:24 AM
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I have an 89 Specialized Allez I just got finished refurbishing to (mostly) spec I can see it being a nice platform for brifters and I don't think it would take much modifying to make it a nice 9 speed bike - new wheels and drive train. I did a slight mod by adding a compact crank. As Salamandrine noted it might be cheaper and less of a challenge to find late 90s bike that is already 9 speeds

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Old 08-12-20, 11:41 AM
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80's eh? Looks like the whippersnappers are taking over.
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Old 08-12-20, 11:47 AM
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You can also look for the few modern bikes that are built with a vintage aesthetic. I have a lugged Raleigh Record Ace frame with a first gen SRAM Rival kit (silver levers). Looks vintage but with modern running gear. This photo isn't mine but shows the frame.

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Old 08-12-20, 11:48 AM
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Originally Posted by shoota View Post
Any of the late 80s Trek road models.
+1 to those, particularly those with quality tubing such as Reynolds or Ishiwata. The Trek 400-series road bikes get consistently high praise on this forum.

Cannondales are also worth looking for. They can be flexed open for rear wheel insertion if not already 130mm, but don’t try to make that respread “permanent”.

And FWIW, my ‘87 Marinoni, admittedly not close to a low-mid level bike, came originally with 130mm rear spacing. It is a brand worth looking for!

The difference in price is likely to be relatively small between a mid-level used bike and a higher end model of the more common brands - more a function of condition and local market (distorted these days!) And as always, proper fit is much more important than any specific components or tubing spec.

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Old 08-12-20, 12:03 PM
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Old higher end (fully crmo butted frames) Univegas are good at this and don't command the premium that other high end Japanese bikes like Miyatas and Bridgestones sometimes do. Same with old Centurions.
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Old 08-12-20, 12:03 PM
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Welcome @ChrisCranks to Bike Forums! Interesting question, but very well stated and contextualized, thus, a good question. There are a number of '80s steel (and aluminum later on) frames available for less than a few hundred dollars that are excellent platforms for modernization. Our STIs/Ergos thread is proof of that, which from what you've said, it looks like you've found.

In a hot Seattle market, $200-300 gets you a really nice steel frame, and a decent one in decent shape can be had for below $200. Steel was steadily improved over time, but with the Japanese brands coming into the picture, by 1980 or so, quality across the industry had risen and the 1980s saw frames and components continually and noticeably improve in materials, geometry, standardization, and features.

As to modernizing, say we're looking at Shimano road groups: Claris, Sora, and Tiagra. All those new groups have the new Shimano STI hood shape, with all the cables running under the bar tape. Hollowtech II cranksets that employ a standard English-threaded (BSA) bottom bracket that is super easy to install and will last for a long time. The derailleurs employ standard cable pull (minus Tiagra, which uses 11-speed pull for a 10-speed system, but I'll stop it there), and the wheels are your normal 100mm axle in front and 130mm axle in the rear. 8, 9, and 10-speed cassettes are common enough and affordable.

The era of bikes that will provide the most similar features like two bottle cages, near wide enough rear spacing, and perhaps 27.2mm seat posts is the mid-'80s and later. As to their comparability with modern frames/bikes, that's a bit apples and oranges. You'll have to specify which modern bikes or rather, bike types as there are many. The '80s had a number of types as well, though several were in their 'proto' form. There were no disc brakes then like there are now (rim only), and rear spacing was 126mm (you can squeeze a 130mm axle back there without much fuss--it's really a non-issue and I and a bunch of us do it on steel and even (gasp) aluminum).

Examples of good frames: late '80s Treks (as already stated), all Cannondales from 1983 (when they started making frames/selling complete bikes), upper end 1985+ Schwinn race bikes (because they finally got 27.2mm seatposts), if you can work with the old semi-common standard of a 26.8mm seat post, then all the mid to late '80s Miayatas (912, 710, 1000, 610, later 914s, etc etc), Centurions (like Ironmans, which there are plenty of), various Specialized Allez and Sirrus models....

Steel bikes will always be heavier than their modern (usually) alloy equivalent. It takes effort and money spent to take a frame and build it up yourself or to have someone else do it. It can be and is very rewarding, but for a person new to it, it's not a Sunday afternoon sort of thing. You also won't get the advantage of the "package deal" as far as price goes, buying parts a la carte vs. a whole entire bike. We would have to know your approximate budget and likely your mechanical aptitude and willingness to get a better gauge on where your expectations lie relative to reality. We've all come from knowing zero about bikes at some point. That was certainly the case for me, and I have some pictures and stories to prove it.

Others should be along shortly to give more examples of available frames.
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Old 08-12-20, 12:19 PM
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Originally Posted by USAZorro View Post
80's eh? Looks like the whippersnappers are taking over.
Ah, the torch has to be passed some time. The '80s were a fulcrum point--the height of lugged construction (in production bikes) while also its swan song (pre-TIG), the focusing of bicycle types (road, sport, tour, all around, etc) while the birth of new ones, the beginnings of indexed shifting and the creation of full-range groupsets and frame feature standards still used today. If any era has the ability to reach as far forward as it does or can, it's the 1980s. Every decade stands on the shoulders of the past decade, but much in modern bikes can trace certain origins to that decade. The start of the dominance of Dura-Ace with 7400? The origins of the 'workhorse' 105 group in 1050? The beginnings of the Goldilocks price/performance/pretty Ultegra groupset with 6400-era 600? It's where they all started, and that's how we get more C&V'ers!
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Old 08-12-20, 12:30 PM
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All good stuff here. Would only add the inclusion of Tenax framed Schwinns from 1987-89, specifically the Super Sport and Tempo models. Buy it as an inexpensive complete bike today, sell the group and wheels off for half the purchase price and a modern rim braked group slides right on there. 26.6 seatposts, but there are nice ones out there by Nitto and Shimano.

Cost. Most recent 105 group I looked at was $534. Figure another $300 for a good wheelset, $175 net for the frame, maybe $200 on tires, bars, stem and such. That’s a nicer $1200 bike than you’ll ever find in a store, much of it new. If you have to farm out the labor, it’s less of a deal. However, if you shop around and buy used, you can carve off a big chunk of that final estimate.
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Old 08-12-20, 01:35 PM
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I'm a total newbie and currently at that lowest stage of knowledge where I don't even know what I don't know, so I apologize if my questions are confusing or don't make sense.
Based on this comment, I will jump in.

First, listing the dozens or tens of dozens of decent bikes from the eighties or nineties would be almost useless. Almost. Rather than seek a list of bicycles, learn about what makes a vintage road bicycle a quality bicycle. Thinks like butted alloy tubing, forged drops (front and back), Quality components and if the component set is matched, that is a good indication of quality.

Tubing type is indicated with decals or stickers on quality bikes. Columbus, Reynolds, Vitus, and a variety of others are indicative of a good machine...


Forged drops, not the entry level pressed steel ones, are indicative of a quality bike. It is a quality bonus if the rear drops have axle adjusters...


Quality components, Campagnolo, Shimano, Mavic and many others are indicative of quality...


Once you have developed an understanding of what makes a bike a good bike, take the time to find one. Yard Sales, Kijiji, Craigslist, Ebay, Bike Forums and the like will offer a lot of choices. With patience, you will find a bike - I all but guarantee it. You want to really have a lot of luck, deliver flyers seeking a vintage bicycle. I used to deliver 200 on a winter morning and, by the time I got home (before I had a cell phone), there would be messages on my phone. It worked every single time - for me...


Once you find a bike that fits, buy it, refurbish it ensureing that it is road worthy and safe to ride. Then ride it for a while. Any vintage bicycle will need, at an absolute minimum, re-lubrication, brake pads and cables. Those are, pretty much consumables.

After you have ridden the bike, decide if you really do like it. If so, upgrade away but it ain't always inexpensive.
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Old 08-12-20, 01:41 PM
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Originally Posted by randyjawa View Post
Based on this comment, I will jump in.

First, listing the dozens or tens of dozens of decent bikes from the eighties or nineties would be almost useless. Almost. Rather than seek a list of bicycles, learn about what makes a vintage road bicycle a quality bicycle. Thinks like butted alloy tubing, forged drops (front and back), Quality components and if the component set is matched, that is a good indication of quality.

Tubing type is indicated with decals or stickers on quality bikes. Columbus, Reynolds, Vitus, and a variety of others are indicative of a good machine...
Exactly. That's the most sensible answer for a newbie. Learn what makes a good bike a good bike. All the major bike shop brands had a range of bikes that went from cheap heavy utility bikes to top end racing or touring machines. Brand difference is almost irrelevant, especially when spread over decades. The goal should be to find a quality frame or bike that is well suited to your needs.
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Old 08-12-20, 01:52 PM
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I think the main difference in brands is value- if you're looking for a good cheap project frame, you probably don't want to look for a Bridgestone as those have historically been higher priced compared to comparable frames of the time period.

Univega, 80s Schwinn, Panasonic, and older store brands like Nashbar/Novara/Performance had good quality Japanese steel frames at low prices due to lack of brand cachet. You do need to be able to check for quality steel tubing, though.

If you're CL/classified searching, I frequently find that searching for tubing companies themselves give good results - search "Tange" "Ishiwata" "531" etc and browse through the results.


Just as an example, searching "531" locally gave this Trek Elance which would be great for a project frame.
https://seattle.craigslist.org/est/bik/d/bellevue-trek-400-elance-225-inch/7174945492.html


Last edited by sheddle; 08-12-20 at 02:02 PM.
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Old 08-12-20, 04:44 PM
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Having retrofitted a few 80s and 90s frames with modern components, I can say that certain features of the frame are important, particularly the presence of downtube shifter braze-ons (if you're going to run Ergos or STI) and 130mm rear spacing for 8-speed on up rear clusters. Personally, I'm also usually looking for a frame in which I can run the widest possible tire, and that's often limited on 80s frames given the race-ish/skinny tire ethos of the era. One way around that, however, is to convert to 650B sized wheels. I did that on this 90s Lemond with a Shimergo drivetrain (Campy Veloce 10-speed ergos, 8-speed Shimano drivetrain):

Untitled

And also on this 80s Holdsworth:

Untitled
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Old 08-12-20, 05:13 PM
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Don't just consider road bikes. Rigid framed MTBs are relatively easy to find, and many are also inexpensive. They often have many fittings and are versatile with respect to tire clearance - even if you need to run smaller rims on them. There are enough decent tires now that you don't sacrifice much speed on pavement, yet still be able to take some jaunts off it.

There's a rather lengthy thread in this forum asking people to show their drop bar mountain bikes. Several years ago, I decided to give it a try as I already had the frame and some of the parts already on hand.

It started out as a 199? Giant Iguana with a bad paint job and stock parts. This is what I ended up with. It's a versatile bike that, while a bit on the heavy side, is close to bombproof with 2 x 10 gearing and great braking. I could load it up and take it down the C&O again - which I did once before it's conversion - and it would be easily up to the task. I could also take it on the Blue Ridge Parkway, or one of the local greenways. It's like riding on marshmallows that don't slow you down.




The main drawback is that it has a bit of a "dead" feel to it.


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Old 08-12-20, 05:22 PM
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A lot depends on what is available in your local market. Montreal, for example has had a lot of local frame builders. Marinoni bikes and frames can be found all over the place. I have a very nice Limongi with full Mavic components that was given to be. I own a beautiful Gilles Bertrand touring bike, and of course, Guru was a local product when they were still around. A friend of mine probably still has the steel Argon 18 he bought years ago. I also have a nice Miyata 914 that I was thinking of turning into a single speed after I had stopped using it as my commuter years ago. I know a guy who probably has a dozen Marinonis in his basement, he used to buy a new one almost every year. If you want to find a good bike to upgrade, look for the bikes that were most popular in your area 20-40 years ago
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Old 08-12-20, 05:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Salamandrine View Post
Not to discourage you but if cost is a concern you are better off using a modern frame with modern components, and vice versa. Vintage frames require a fair amount of modification to use modern components. You are better off leaving them as they are if cost is a concern, or starting with a modern bike if you want modern parts. Frames before the mid to late 90s used different hub spacing than modern, they had quill stems, the geometry did not allow slammed stems.

Components don't make a bike faster anyway. It's mostly in the rider of course. AFA the bike, things that matter most are wheels, tires and frame.

The question you ask is bit like which flower is the prettiest.
with respect this has not been my experience. in order to go modern with my 85 team miyata, the only mod i had to do was cold set the frame to 130mm in this case I had a LBS/Frame builder do it, but i have done the same before using the sheldon brown method. The only other mod i can think of is nutted to recessed brakes and this is another very simple one......drill out back brake hole of fork, put rear brake with long recessed nut on the fork, put front brake with nut on rear.

but over all the nicer the frrame the nicer the end result

here is 85 team miyata with 105 5800 11 speed, compact crank and 30mm tires

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Old 08-12-20, 05:32 PM
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Try an older Litespeed titanium frame, makes for a nice old/new ride.
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Old 08-12-20, 06:24 PM
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You did not define in Post #1 , para 1 what you define as a 'modern' bike.
Maybe i missed another post as I didn't read every one.


Perhaps another way to look at this is:
The frameset may influence the choice of which group you choose...
You may never know until you have the frameset in hand.
Case in point.
Acquired a frame that, upon inspection after receipt, had a top tube a cm shorter than the shortest I told the seller I would tolerate.
Ship it back?
The 14cm stem was toooo long for a solid feel. 13 is my limit on these large frames.
But a 'modern' group,Campagnolo9/10, has nice rounded hoods that allow a more forward placement of the hands. Voila, a solution worth trying, when mated with a longer reach h'bar. The resulting cockpit is very comfortable thru a range of riding positions.
first pic shows rounded hoods that fit the palms of my hands.
lack of shifter bosses resulted in a clamp-on
also clamps for front derailleur cable routing
so an older frame can be made to work.

13cm stem and traditional bend - Cinelli Giro

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Old 08-12-20, 07:36 PM
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Let's all give ourselves a round of applause, as we BF C&V'ers have performed yet another Blow The Single-Post OP Out Of The Water job! "Hey man, are you ready for an AVALANCHE of answers??? 'Cause we're gonna give it to ya!!"

I mean this, of course, in good fun. Excellent answers. Post on!
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Old 08-12-20, 08:15 PM
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Haha RiddleOfSteel . It is a well-deserved round of applause. I fully expected my post to be ignored, being a noob who just created an account today. I figured I would be buried by other, more interesting discussions.

Thanks to everyone responding today and all those who offered suggestions about the specific bikes they would recommend. I really appreciate you taking the time to help educate a new rider and show off your bikes. I think randyjawa and Salamandrine made great points about how I should really be approaching this problem - by learning more about frames and bikes in general so I can identify the good from the bad for myself. The information in this thread and throughout the forum, in addition to your specific examples of high quality bikes, gives me a great head start to reverse engineer the characteristics of a high quality vintage bike.

In all honesty, I know I'm not ready to take on a project like this, but I'm starting the process of getting smart on the subject. I'm searching Craigslist in my area and seeing hundreds of Huffy and Schwinn ads, and not as many ads for bikes that might work as both an inexpensive bike to have fun with now as a noob, and also has the inherent style and potential that might make it worthy of a capital investment to create a bike I could continue to ride as my skills improve. Now I have a much better idea of what kinds of things to search for or keep an eye out for as I scroll through the ads. I can only hope to find some gems out there like you guys clearly have found.

Lastly, I appreciate the discussion around whether updating a vintage bike or buying something newer would be more cost effective, especially for a beginner. To be clear, I'm approaching cycling as a new hobby, not just for the fitness or the function, but also to have another set of toys to tinker with and obsess over for fun. Considerations like cost and the effort required are definitely important, but I'm excited to invest a little money and pick up some new skills as I learn while doing. I'm expecting to make many mistakes along the way and I'm probably not following the easiest path to acquiring a quality bike, but I know the journey will be fun and the end result might actually be rewarding. Thanks again!
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Old 08-12-20, 08:22 PM
  #24  
Wildwood
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oh, find a frame that takes recessed brake mounting. That can be a pain.
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Old 08-12-20, 09:06 PM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by USAZorro View Post
80's eh? Looks like the whippersnappers are taking over.
80's?
Ah, to be in my 30's again...
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