|Steel feel with no sacrifice|
Hardy Menagh 7/15/10
You may have gleaned, from reading some of the other pages on this site, that I'm fond of steel-framed touring bikes. If you staunchly advocate aluminum or CF, read no further. I have nothing against lightweight frame materials (some of my best bikes are aluminum) but this page is for those who like the feel of real steel.
For a few years, I'd been searching craigslist for a good-quality steel touring bike. The Ross Eurotour on this site has been my daily workout bike for a few years. All that's left of the original Ross now, is the frame and fork which, although lugged, are heavy cheap seamed steel tubing. Still, it's a comfortable ride when you're solo, moving at a pace that's compatible with the bike.
When riding with friends and their modern road bikes, the Ross' shortcomings are quite evident. It's sluggish on hills, doesn't have a granny ring for the steep ones and you really notice the extra weight you're hauling. Like the Peugeot UO8 on this site, the Ross offered a stable comfortable ride. Unlike the Peugeot, It also fit me perfectly. Neither bike was a likely candidate for doing lengthy rides, without some serious costly upgrading and that just wouldn't be practical given the quality, or lack thereof, of the frames.
I knew nothing about mid-1980's Nashbar bikes when I saw this one on craigslist. It had a double-butted Cro-Moly frame, a triple crankset and it was my size. It also had 27" wheels, which I like on a touring bike. After getting my questions about components answered by the seller, I went to look at it.
I could see that, in spite of the brand new tires, the Toure MT had been a beater bike for some time. It was dirty and had black dried oil, crusted on the drive parts. All of the bearings except for those in the headset and pedals, were sealed and worked smoothly with no play but the headset needed servicing and was slightly loose. The rear wheel had a broken spoke but, like the front wheel, was reasonably true with no dents or blips*. The saddle was a Selle San Marco, which had a chunk of foam torn out of the nose. The blue, non-woven fiber tape was dirty and tattered on the aluminum handlebars, which had a thin chromed, engraved sleeve over the center section.
The Japanese frame was nicely lugged. I could see from a few places where the paint had been scratched off, that the frame had chromed rear dropouts. The fork was also entirely chromed under the paint. I learned later that the frame was made for Bike Nashbar by Maruishi. The company has an interesting and troubled history including investigations of fraud committed by company executives in 2004. A search will get you the whole story.
I noted that the frame and fork had front and rear rack mounts. I also noticed that the left (front) shifter slid slightly in a slot in the housing, as I moved the right (rear) one. It seemed to be self-trimming. Due to a cam mechanism in the shifter housing, as you upshift the rear derailer, the front derailer moves slightly to the right, keeping the chain from rubbing on it. Downshift the rear and the front moves slightly to the left. I love clever gadgetry if it's useful but I wondered how important this innovation was. On most of my bikes, if the front derailer is adjusted properly, trimming isn't really an issue unless I crosschain excessively, which I don't do.
It's a helpless feeling when you start to believe that a bike needs you. I could see through the grime that this could be the bike I'd been looking for. I sighed, laid out the cash and brought it home.
The Repair & Refit
I set about disassembling, cleaning and lubricating it.
The Nashbar Toure MT had a 5-speed SunTour 14-28 freewheel and a compact triple crankset for a total of 15 speeds. I intended to convert it to 21 speeds by replacing the freewheel with a 7-speed 13-28 freewheel. I was aided in this operation by a shim located between the freewheel and hub. Just by removing the shim, I could have probably put a 6-speed freewheel on the hub with no further changes. To make it work with a 7-speed, I only needed to add an extra axle nut next to the spacer on the right side of the axle and adjust the nuts so that the axle ends were even. There was still enough axle to sit in the dropouts and the rear triangle didn't even need cold setting. Everything just fit with no trial or error.
The rear derailer hanger was bent inward slightly. I straightened it. The SunTour Mountech rear derailer seemed to be functional when I cleaned it but when I re-installed it, it wouldn't wrap the chain properly. I found out, with some searches that the Mountech model was defective from the start, having shipped with a bad seal which led to highly accelerated wear and rapid failure. If a Mountech rear has been used at all, it's either broken or just about to break. I substituted a low mileage Shimano long-cage derailer that I had on hand. The Mountech front derailer worked smoothly and only needed cleaning and lubrication.
I had planned a short 8 to 10-mile ride, just to check the derailer adjustments and make sure everything else was working perfectly. This short test ride turned into about 35 miles. The bike was a pure pleasure to ride. It was absolutely non-fatiguing. The wheelbase on the Toure MT, is tighter than the Ross and Peugeot bikes I mentioned and the steering is a little more responsive. Paradoxically, it's also the easiest hands-off bike I've ever ridden. I rode it continuously, hands-off, for about a mile and a half on a low-traffic road, easily guiding around pot-holes and debris. I can only describe the ride as "flowing" and yes, trimming the front derailer when shifting the rear, was not necessary.
Original Specifications (as far as I know)
Frame: Brazed lugged double-butted Cro-Moly steel. Front and rear rack mounts. Bottle bosses, down tube, over and under. Cantilever brake braze-ons. Chromed fork and drop-outs.
Crankset: SR Sakae CR, 170, triple, 50-42-28. SunTour cartridge bottom bracket.
Pedals: SR SP-100 alloy quill.
Hubs & Wheels: Quick-release SunTour sealed-bearing alloy hubs, Araya alloy 27 x 1-1/8 rims, Presta valve, 36 stainless spokes front, 40 rear.
Freewheel: SunTour 5-speed 14-28.
Derailers: SunTour Mountech.
Shifters: Suntour Symmetric, friction down tube.
Brakes: Dia-Compe 981 cantilever.
Brake Levers: Dia-Compe.
Headset: Tange Levin.
Stem: SR Custom.
Handlebars: SR, Sakae Custom, Road Champion drop.
Tape: Non-woven cloth fiber.
Seat Post: SR Laprade.
Saddle: Selle San Marco (Possibly not original. At least some Nashbar models from this year, shipped with Vetta saddles).
Weight: 26 lbs.
*Update 8/24/10: It's possible that the original spokes on the wheels that came with this bike have a defect which cause them to break at the head. See this thread on bikeforums.net You can also read about what happened when I tried to take this bike on a century ride.
Copyright © 2010 Hardy Menagh