Over the winter the Trek project progressed slowly but steadily to what you see pictured here.
I have added new hand built wheels, handlebars, fenders and a rear rack to the bike making it nearly complete. As I start new projects I find it useful to make changes one or two at a time and live with them for a while. In the case of this Trek, which is my main commuter and all around everyday rider, I’ve learned a number of valuable things about configuring commuter bikes:
650B wheels – While still somewhat of a novelty on road bikes the 650b wheel size is a great choice for updating an older frame like this Trek since it provides plenty of clearance for bigger tires and fenders and a slightly lower center of gravity and stand over height which makes the bike better suited to urban commuting and light touring. Pairing the new wheels with Gran Bois tires significantly improved the ride quality and enjoyment of the bike, no doubt in part because of the pleasure I derive from riding wheels that I have built myself.
I can’t say I notice a huge difference in the soft sidewall of these tires but they are no certainly no worse in terms of ride quality or traction than other tires I have used and as I discovered when I had a flat the other day they are “no tools’ easy to change…
The fenders are from Gerard Berthoud and while the look is nice the finishing quality is just OK. They are well suited to this bike aesthetically but the Handsome Mud Butlers and the Velo Orange fenders I have used previously have better finishing quality and between these two the Mud Butlers have a better hardware kit that makes mounting considerably easier.
One of these days soon I am going to splurge on a set of Hondo’s and then I should be able to make a definitive comparison of all the major metal fenders on the market. For now the Mud Butlers are my favorite.
Although I rode them for many months I never really got comfortable on the Nitto Mustache bars that I originally mounted on this bike so I made the switch to the Nitto Albatross handlebar which I think is just about perfect. The quality of all Nitto bars is top notch and these are super stiff and light in addition to providing a much more comfortable rise and riding position. I think if I were converting an MTB into a rando bike or doing more trail riding the Mustache bar might be a great fit but on this bike the upright position makes more sense.
I’ve left the drive train in tact keeping the beautiful Rally detailers and cranks but I have switched out the brakes to Tektro 559’s, which match the look of the Campy derailleur and have the extra reach necessary for the 650b wheels.
I stuck with new Brooks Cambium saddle which is my absolute favorite and wrapped the bars with some sporty Serfa tape that matches the look of the bike, with the addition of a Crane bell I think of this as a randonneuring inspired classic commuter.
Rather than building to a budget I simply set out to build the best classic commuter and light touring bike I could build. The net cost of which is comparable to modern bikes of similar quality. I estimate that I could build something very similar to this bike, customized as desired, for around $2000, making it price competitive with offerings from the likes of Rivendell and Shinola that use similar quality frames and components.
Comparing this to a bike built around a cheaper Taiwanese built steel frame from the likes of Surly, All City or Handsome (all of which I own or have test ridden extensively) I think the lugged steel frame wins out both in terms of aesthetics and ride quality and for some that justifies a higher price point while the modern frames would surely win out on strength for those applications where frame strength matters such as fully loaded or adventure touring, cyclocross racing or urban riding for those who are hard on their bikes. Such applications would also dictate different choices in the components and configuration department but I think I could net out with all around bikes built to a similar, or even lower price point as this one for those applications.
I already have a Limited Edition Handsome Devil Frame waiting in the wings for just such a build
So, the lessons learned here for me are many. First and foremost is that the “classic” Rakish Ride built around a Trek or other bike boom era high quality lugged steel frame represents the pinnacle of what I want to build today. I think that taken as a whole this bike could be compared to Rivendell or Shinola bikes at a similar price point and win out for certain riders based on it’s “vintage” cool factor.
For others the value of a brand new Frame from a “lifestyle” brand or a turn key bike configuration would be a better choice. To be perfectly honest, I would love to be riding a Shinola Runwell and as I imagine it is about the only bike I could enjoy as much as this one that I have built up myself, mainly because it is just so perfectly set up and the aesthetics are absolutely first rate. Hats off to my friend Sky Yeager for what she has accomplished with the Shinola bikes.
For me the next step in the progression will be learning to build my own frames and a few years from now that may very well be the basis of what I am doing but for now those of you who are interested in this type of bike based on a vintage steel frame please reach out to me with any questions or requests you might have. I’d be happy to build you one or, since making money is not one of my objectives in building bikes (yet), I can help you build your own if that is your thing.
I have become pretty good at chasing down classic frames and components at good prices and am building up a stockpile of them with a view towards more builds and experimentation in the coming months and years. Next up is another old Trek converted to a minimalist urban commuter and an old Astro Daimler Mixte frame with some beautiful lug work. Note, this bike is now for sale.