Thursday, September 17, 2009

Trek 520 Build - Part One - A Bike Needs a Frame and Wheels

Since several of my favourite blog people are doing articles in several parts and I am nothing if not a sheep-like follower and imitator, I'm jumping on the bandwagon. There may be months between the parts of this documentation of my Light Loaded Tourer build, since the restrictions of time and money will make it a very slow process. To see all posts relating to this build, use the "Post Series" link near the top of the sidebar on the right.

On previous builds, I have been asked by people, "so how much did it cost to do?" I could ballpark it, but in all honesty I didn't have any good answer. This time, I'm going to keep track of everything in these posts, right down to the bar tape. I've got a bad feeling the total amount will be more than I ever guessed, but I know I do that to myself by needing to upgrade lots of stuff that probably would have been fine. As such, please don't treat these posts as a "how to build a good bike for cheap", but rather as a "how Rantwick builds a bike he'll love". Also please know that this is not a restoration project. Lots of new bits and pieces that have nothing to do with the original 520 will go into it.

Of course the first step in building up a bike from scratch is getting your paws on an appropriate frame. In my case I found a local classified ad for a "90s Trek 520". The back wheel was trashed and the frame would require a complete re-paint to look nice again. When I got the bike home, a little online research at
Vintage Trek revealed that my bike was actually an 1988 or 89. The serial number puts it in 1989, but the 27" wheels make it a 1988! Anyway, here it is, just as I brought it home:

Double-butted made in the USA lugged steel goodness. Long chainstays. Braze-ons and eyelets for racks and fenders, including eyelets midway on the front fork, two water bottle cages and mounts for the downtube shifters (which you can switch between friction and indexed for the rear).

Like I said, the rear wheel was trashed, and the 6 Speed freewheel cogs showed the signs of a long life spent with the same chain, so I couldn't use it either. The front wheel was OK, but the spokes were grungy with oxidation. I needed some decent 27" wheels if I didn't want to replace the perfectly good cantilever brakes or get into moving the braze-ons. Once again, the local online classified gods smiled on my project: I picked up a pair of Mavic G40s (double eyelet, 36 spoke) laced to sealed cartridge Specialized hubs. They even had nice silver skewers without a mark on them.

Brass nipples, DT Swiss stainless spokes, and 6 Speed freewheel (the original was a 6 speed too) in excellent condition. I didn't measure, but the rear spacing of the bike is a perfect match. It's gear range (12-19) is higher than that of a typical touring bike, and I'm debating with myself about how to proceed. I was intending on replacing the Deore/BioPace crankset (which was also really worn) anyway, so I've been playing with gear calculators to see if I can get touring-style gear ratios by choosing the right crankset. I'm thinking the smaller chainrings of a MTB crankset might do the trick. I know some bike people who would gasp in horror at the notion of using MTB components on a road frame, but I'm way more interested in function than convention. That said, I'm a sucker for a nice Ultegra crankset... obviously I'm still percolating on the matter. Maybe a road triple crankset with no rings off ebay? Buying rings one a time can be expensive. Gaah! Ack! I love this, and I hate this!

Sorry you got dragged into my tortured thought process there. So: A frame and wheels that I really like. What an excellent start!

Build $ Tally:

Used Frame + some parts I will re-use: $80.00
Used Wheelset: $100.00

TOTAL to date: $180.00

This was Part One.

Click Here for Part Two: I Strip and Get Blasted

If you were expecting something funny or interesting to normal people, I apologize. Like I said, it will likely be quite a while before I post on this build again, so come back soon for something more entertaining.


Jon said...

Nice wheelset!

I have a bunch of 6-speed freewheels in my spare parts. I'd be happy to pass one (or three) along if you want a better range for touring. I think the flat-rate box at the P.O. is about $8.50...

Just email me at jjgrinder(at)msn(dot)com, and we'll set it up.

RANTWICK said...

Jon - Hey, that's really nice of you to offer. I'm pretty sure that some of my bike shop friends might extend the same courtesy, so no need to ship across the border, which is sometimes a hassle.

Thanks again, that was very kind of you.

Jon said...

Well, let me know if you just can't come up with anything. I like to keep parts on the road and out of the landfill, as much as possible.

Big Oak said...

I am guessing that even with a MTB crank (I don't know because I don't have one) you will want larger cogs on your freewheel. Obviously the person from whom you bought the wheel with freewheel is either a protege of Lance Armstrong or is now physically incapacitated from trying to turn such small cogs.

Thanks for the link to vintage Treks - I have a 1985 Trek 500 that I've restored (just cleaned actually - I bought it new) that I'm thinking of upgrading with wider handlebars new bar end shifters and indexed rear derailleur. I added up the cost for just these things. Ouch!! You are a brave man!

Good Luck!! Keep us posted.

To quote the venerable Red Green, "if the women don't find you handsome, at least they'll find you handy".

RANTWICK said...

In terms of max and min gear inches, there are some really nice MTB cranksets that would closely match the range of the original bike, at attractive prices.

However, I am beginning to think that the freewheel I have should be replaced... more range on the rear = more flexibility for my crankset choice. I'm also pondering whether I should go for a 7 speed freewheel and just friction shift... decisions, decisions!


ChipSeal said...

freewheels can be changed out in a few minutes. When cycling in California in my youth, soon after the earth cooled, I zipped around on my "Pineapple cassette" until we planned a hill climb ride, and I would slap on a more generous cassette.

It is all weighing the various trade-offs and settling on the solution that seems best to you. Aren't bicycles great!


Steve A said...

New bike and I don't even have to be the one spending the money! Kowabunga!!!!!!!!!

As I recall, it's flat locally. Set that close ratio cluster for town riding and get your wide ratio set for when you're touring. Chip speaks wisely.

RANTWICK said...

Message received... for a minute there I was letting a low-cost component drive my thinking about a much higher cost one! That's all backwards, man!

Around town, I know my existing fixed commuter will remain my #1.

Rat Trap Press said...

You've already bought a wheelset, but I had found info on Bike Forums where people are using Dia-Compe 981, Tektro Oryx, or Shimano BR-MC70, cantilever brakes to convert from 27" to 700c.

Good luck on your build.

RANTWICK said...

RTP - Yeah, I did that on my very first build, since decommissioned. I have a tekro canti (not an Oryx), a full "frog leg" style, CL520 on my commuter. The slots looked like they might be long enough, but when I mounted them on the trek frame they couldn't swing the 700c. I knew it might be doable with different brakes, but then these nice wheels presented themselves. I sure didn't want to gamble and buy new brakes that "should" work only to find they wouldn't do it, so these wheels made me happy.

GreenComotion said...

Hey Rantwick,
Nice project to be working on!

In your post you mentioned, "I know some bike people who would gasp in horror at the notion of using MTB components on a road frame, ...".

I think my Co-Motion has RaceFace Deus crankset with Chainrings - 46-34-24.

I just wanted to add my CAN $0.02.

You may also check for spare parts. racks etc.

Good Luck with your project!

Peace :)

RANTWICK said...

Hey, thanks Chandra. Even though I've decided to switch out the freewheel, there's a very good deal on a MTB crankset I've got my eye on. Good MTB cranksets seeem inexplicably less expensive than comparable road ones.

cafiend said...

Parts is parts. Use anything you can get to work together.

Rear spacing on that frame is probably 126 mm. Current road spacing is 130. A 7-speed freewheel might present some problems. The change to 130 spanned the era of 7-speed and the more complete transition to freehubs instead of thread-on freewheels.

Steel frames are easily reset to 130 if you so desire.

Rear hub axles for thread-on freewheels can be more prone to bend and break because of the unsupported length on the drive side. This mainly became a problem with MTBs and the proliferation of speeds leading to the need for more space on the drive side.

Always shift in friction just to declare your independence from the control of a single manufacturer.

RANTWICK said...

Cafiend - I like you. I've kind of missed friction shifting since it fell out of popularity... all you need is a good ear! Since the derailleur that came with the bike appears to be in good working order, I'll have my choice between indexed and friction, but I get you on how it frees me up.

GhostRider said...

Cafiend speaks words of wisdom! Friction is the way of the future...I have three bikes set up to run friction so that I can use the hodgepodge of old parts floating around in my shed, and it's not a handicap in any way.

+1 for considering a cold-set for the frame, though. A good tourer should have pretty wide-range gearing. Of course, you can mostly get that by using a triple up front and a wide-range 6 speed freewheel.

Also, good job of saving a vintage Trek. I have a 1984 Trek 460, and I love it.

RANTWICK said...

GR - "Friction is the way of the future". You're funny. If bike manufacturers start making friction shifting a "new" selling point, I'll roll my eyes and twitch a little.

RANTWICK said...

GR - As has been pointed out, swapping freewheels is easy, and given Cafiend's observations about stress on the axle, I'll stick with a six.

I'm thinking I'll just get the bike together and adjust freewheel choice after some use. I'm likely to be quite pleased with just about any triple chainring configuration, since after riding the highway on the fixed gear, all that gearing choice is bound to seem like lots to me!

I know I may change my tune if I really start loading the bike heavily, but that isn't in the cards for now.

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