So, for the past couple years I've relied on a mountain bike with studded tires and a road bike with skinny slicks, both from the 1980s. Both are fixed gear, which is the best approach to winter riding for several reasons (anther whole blog post, perhaps). And both needed some work this year.
This winter, though, I got a little carried away. I bought some almost new Continental Grand Prix Four Season tires and they're amazing. With strong sidewalls and great grip on slippery roads, I felt like I could ride over anything. I rode on unshoveled sidewalks along busy highways. I rode across Como lake. The tires held up great, but the frame...cracked.
I suppose I'm like most bicyclists who develop a kind of emotional attachment to our bikes. I immediately set out to repair the frame and get it back on the road as soon as possible. The great thing about steel frames is they're repairable as long as you know a framebuilder. My framebuilder of choice is Erik Noren, the founder of Peacock Groove. I think probably Erik has forgotten more about bikes than I'll ever know. Trek, meet Erik. Erik, Trek.
First, I had to sand the paint down a few inches away from the repair on the seatstays, downtube, and top tube. Then, I carefully taped it with masking tape and primed it. I found a rattle can of paint that almost matched the bikes's original Imron pewter grey and I used some vinyl electrical tape to conceal the transition between old and new. Finally, I gave it a few coats of clearcoat and then it was ready to ride.
I still need to add a new Reynolds 531 sticker, a replica I ordered from France. The original was singed off during the brazing.
The Mirada's one drawback was its wide 26"studded mountain bike tires. They ride great on ice but they feel kludgy and slow. And they tend to float on top of fresh snow, making the bike hard to control. Even before my Trek broke, I had been keeping an eye out for a bike that could take narrower 700c wheels and still have room for studded tires.
In early January, my wife found a perfectly good single speed 700c wheelset in a dumpster just down the block from our house. With nice wide rims suitable for studded tires, all I needed was a frame and everything else to build a new winter bike.
The first issue in a 26" to 700c conversion is tire clearance. Will the tires clear the frame? The Mirada passed this first test with maybe 4mm to spare. But, the second issue, the brakes, was clearly a problem.
Due to the difference in wheel diameter, my old V-brakes were now located about an inch below the new rims. There is such a thing as V-brake adapters that would allow them to reach up to 700c wheels, but they're spendy and hard to find. The other option would be to install road brakes using the existing reflector mounts on the fork crown and seatstay bridge. I tried this first with some modern Tektro dual pivot calipers, but they didn't have enough clearance for the tires. So, I grabbed a set of 70's centerpulls that are probably 15 years older than the Mirada and hey presto they worked.
I immediately learned that due to the change in wheel circumference, my gear ratio was far too high, so I ordered a new fixed gear cog on eBay (shipped from Hawaii, poor thing!)
All of which adds up to the idea that old steel bikes are durable, repairable, and adaptable. And affordable, even with occasional repairs--especially if you can find parts dumpsters.