From An $80 Junker to a Shiny Vintage Touring Bike

I’ve always admired the lust-inducing photos of vintage, quill-driven, lugged randonneuring gems, beautifully documented within the pages of sites such as Lovely Bicycle. So I decided to attempt and give one of these old steeds a shiny second life.

A fairly common obstacle that most cyclists face is how to adjust their bike to use for something which it’s not exactly intended. A mountain bike for commuting, a road bike for gravel-grinding, etc. Sometimes it’s just a swap of the tires. But, everybody needs a somewhat dedicated bike to get around town, grab groceries or just take a long tarmac joyride. The Troll works pretty well for most of those scenarios, but it’s built for long loaded multi-terrain adventure. I needed an asphalt-loving thoroughbred in my stable, one that could wisp around corners and move swiftly enough to make my eyes water. And the more bikes the merrier, right!?

I also really wanted to get my hands dirty and see what these steel classics are all about. So I put together a list of possible vintage touring bikes (see bottom of post), mostly 80s models, and started the search. It took two or three weeks scouring Craigslist before I found a couple options that seemed promising. This rusty and neglected 1986 Panasonic Pro Touring eye sore wasn’t really the ace on the list of candidates, but it was eighty bucks; if for no other reason, I could have fun sipping a cold one and tearing it apart.

Ultimately, the frame perfectly matched my intentions. Classic Tange steel, well defined lugged construction, low-trail geometry, nice lines and plenty of bosses and mounts. Not to mention a list of salvageable parts that included brakes, handlebars, cranks, derailleurs and a seatpost (which happened to be a bear to remove). While the Pro Touring is perfect for around town and rando rides, it is also very capable of touring abroad, if asphalt is the primary path of travel. The only downfall to this frame, as well as others on the list below, is that, in the words of Surly, Fatties DON’T Fit Fine. 38Cs fit with less than 3/16″ on either side of the rear chain stay. It’s tight, and I think 40Cs would be risky. I guess I’ll need a Straggler if I want to try some of the new 41c Knards, or some of Bruce’s Rock n’ Roads… but again, the more the merrier.

The restoration wasn’t easy, and I probably prolonged it a bit in order to provide myself a nightly escape to the garage, drink a beer or two and get my fingers greasy. After the first few rides, I am loving this bike. I’ve never been one to take road rides for the sake of riding roads, but I must say that I’m enjoying some long routes through quiet farmland in the Eastern North Carolina fall. Here are some before and after pics, captions with build details and some general bikeporn:

Panasonic Pro Touring Bike - Before
Before: As a whole it didn’t look too bad, but on closer inspection, there were some rust issues, a lot of grime and wear.
Panasonic Pro Touring Bike - Before

Before: 27″ wheels had to go. I was actually hoping to do a 650b conversion, but to save money, I went with 700c to use the existing post mounts. There aren’t too many vintage frames that make a 650b conversion easy.
Panasonic Pro Touring Bike - Before
Before: Tange Steel; regarded as classic, quality, Japanese Chromoly.
Panasonic Pro Touring Bike - Before
Before: 1986 Handmade Japanese Steel.
Panasonic Pro Touring Bike - Before
Before: Proof that the Bike Gallery has been around for a while.
Panasonic Pro Touring Bike - Before
Before: There were a few rusty places, but all in all I had faith.
Panasonic Pro Touring Bike - Before
Before: I love these old Shimano components. Required a little elbow grease to clean up, but well worth it.
Panasonic Pro Touring Frame - RAL 6027
Had the frame media-blasted and coated with RAL 6027.
Panasonic Pro Touring Bike - Vintage Touring Bike, Randonneuring, Low-trail, RAL 6027
The finished product.
Panasonic Pro Touring Bike - Randonneuring Handlebars Cork Wrapped
Fairly narrow, 42cm, Sakae Randnner Road Champion Randonneuring bars; Wondering if Randnner is actually a misspelling for Randonneur, but nonetheless some nicely decorated bars wrapped with cork.
Panasonic Pro Touring Bike - Randonneuring
Complete with King Cage Iris bottle cages and a DIY frame bag.
Panasonic Pro Touring Bike - Randonneuring, Low-trail, RAL 6027
King Cage Iris bottle cages are perfect to match the lines of classic fork lugs.
Panasonic Pro Touring Bike - Randonneuring, Low-trail, RAL 6027
Love them Tange lugs.
Panasonic Pro Touring Bike - Randonneuring, Low-trail, RAL 6027
The Salsa Minimalist serves as a rack to prop up a large saddlebag.
Panasonic Pro Touring Bike - Velocity Atlas Wheels
Atlas Rims, a new offering from Velocity, make a nice shiny 36 spoke option for touring.
Panasonic Pro Touring Bike - RAL 6027, Velocity Atlas Wheels, Selle Anatomica Saddle

Schwalbe Marathon 38c tires make for a fast ride and tough layer between the road.
Velocity Atlas Wheels Touring Bike
Velocity Skewers have a bit of fancy-pants faux-pearl inlay.
Nitto Technomic Stem
Nitto Techmonic stem for some added adjustability for us lanky folks.
Velo Orange Pass Hunter Rack
Velo Orange Pass Hunter rack serves as a nice prop for lashing thing or a camera bag.
Selle Anatomica Titanico X Vintage Leather Touring Bike Saddle
A brand new Selle Anatomica Titanico X Vintage Leather saddle… I look forward to testing this one for the long haul.
Panasonic Pro Touring Bike - Randonneuring, Low-trail, RAL 6027
A little less than 3/16″ stands between these 38c tires and the chain stay.
Klean Kanteen Reflect
Bamboo tops round out the fanciness on these Klean Kanteen Reflect bottles.

Lugged Steel Oldies but Goodies

Here is a list I kept of well-regarded steel frames from the 70s and 80s that have low-trail geometry and could have a nice second life as a randonneuring bicycle. Most have well placed bosses and nice lugs. Some are much better than others and some are highly sought after:

  • Bridgestone RB-T; T-500; T-700
  • Centurion Pro Tour; Elite GT
  • Centurion Elite GT
  • Fuji Touring Series
  • Kuwahara Caravan
  • Lotus Odyssey
  • Miyata 610; 1000
  • Nishiki Continental; Cresta GT; International; Riviera GT; Seral
  • Panasonic PT-3500; PT-5000; Pro Touring; Touring Deluxe
  • Raleigh Portage; Alyeska; Kodiak; Super Tourer; Touring 18
  • Schwinn Paramount P15-9 Tourer; Passage; Voyageur
  • Specialized Expedition; Sequoia
  • Takara Overland
  • Trek 520; 620; 720
  • Univega Gran Tourismo; Specialissima

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