One of the winter projects I’m currently working on is quite different than the majority of my vintage bikes. For one thing, there’s almost nothing that needs to be done to the frame. Aside from a few minor nicks and scrapes, the finish is excellent… and I was fortunate enough to locate an automobile touchup pen in almost the exact shade of pearlescent green metallic. How incredible is that?
I’ve been debating about a dedicated touring bike for a while now. The road bikes I ride regularly get the mileage because they fit me and they are comfortable, they’re relatively light weight and are well constructed, and fast. In short, they’re good road bikes for my everyday purposes of day riding and training.
But I don’t know that I’m confident taking any of them for extended, multi-day, long-mileage touring. With the exception of my Centurion Super LeMans (which is a sort of sports/tourer anyway), I don’t have the option to easily mount racks and panniers. None of the road bikes have sturdily-built wheels with high spoke counts and hubs that are intended for carrying an overland load, mile after mile, day after day. Road gearing – especially with some of the rear clusters I use – is really intended for speed, and the only road bike I own with a triple crankset is the ’08 Cannondale Synapse. Even though it has a granny ring and gearing suitable for climbing, adding luggage would prove to be challenging.
There are several modern frames built specifically for touring, and others that are marketed as “touring” bikes – but which can’t stand up to scrutiny when it comes right down to it. But given my proclivity for classic and vintage bicycles, I decided to research frames from the mid-80’s that had been constructed for the purpose of touring. I figured that this would give me the lugged steel frame that appeals to my personal aesthetic, yet would be modern enough to have a decent range of climbing gears and the drive train componentry to support them. The Miyata 1000 and the Trek 620 stand out as touring bikes favored by many C&V enthusiasts. A friend of mine has a Mercian King of Mercia, a relatively rare and incredibly fortunate estate sale acquisition. The 1985 Schwinn Voyageur gets very high marks among C&V fans also, and I liked the way it looks as well as the spread out geometry on the large frame that I ride.
I was fortunate to locate a 1988 model on Craig’s List. (Actually, the frame is a 1987, but was not painted and built up until calendar year 1988, so the components match the ’88 Schwinn catalog. Therefore, it is a “1988.”) Although the bike was clearly in terrific condition, I initially gave it a pass; I kind of had my sights set on the relatively unattainable Mercian. However, I kept thinking about the Voyageur, and eventually made an offer. The owner countered with an acceptable figure and I wound up with a new mare in the stable.
I’d never ridden on BioPace rings before and was generally very alarmed after my first shakedown ride. The oval chainrings were just freaky! I was convinced that something was amiss and went to the bike forums for an answer.
The bike forums are really great for getting answers to general, as well as obscure issues. But beware! When one ventures into the forums with a well-abused topic, one should be prepared for no end of ribbing. My question about the BioPace rings was met with general derision (mainly because most of the responders had themselves already asked the same question and been similarly rebuked) – one person even called me a “rube.” (Which pissed me off at the time.) However, I also found the answer to my problem, ironically provided by the bike-fascist who referred to me as a rube. It seems that BioPace rings have to be correctly phased – sort of like timing on a car – or the pedaling will be weird and the mechanical efficiency that might have otherwise been gained would not be achieved. I pulled the crankset, realigned the chainrings, and took it out for a spin. Major difference!
Although the foam grip was period correct and probably original, I decided to remove it and wrap the bars with brown Salsa tape. It’s much more attractive, I prefer the narrower diameter of the bar sans foam, and I think it will harmonize better with the honey-colored Brooks B17 Flyer I will mount and break in next.
Velo-Orange ran fluted chrome fenders on sale for half price and I ordered a set. I have a Blackburn rear rack and old Cannondale lowrider front rack, along with front and rear panniers that need installed. However, I’m considering a porteur style front rack with a randonneur-inspired handlebar bag instead of the front bags. Decisions, decisions! Fortunately, I’ve got a couple of months of winter to nail down the final build.
Update. The thing is, the frame turned out to be just a little too big for me. I’ve since arranged to trade frames with a Bikeforums.net member from Massachusetts. Arriving early next week is a Shogun 2000, which should fit my personal geometry a little better. I hated to see the Voyageur switch hands so quickly, and before I could ever give it any type of adequate workout, but it became clear after a few shorter rides that I need to be a few inches taller to comfortably accommodate the ride. I’m excited about the Shogun, however, and will post my thoughts about it as I build it up with the components removed from the Voyageur.