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Confessions fromFred the Cross-Poser
Aug 7, 2001 10:40 AM
Folks –

So many people seem to be interested in converting an old bike so I though I would stop lurking around this board and tell my story. Please excuse the long post.

First, I do not race. I am mainly a recreational road rider averaging 1,800 miles per year, typically at 20 mph average speed over New Hampshire hills. When I venture offroad, I typically follow old rail lines that have had the rails & ties removed but remain gravel, dirt, mud, and swamps. I found that my Rockhopper FS Comp had a geometry just different enough from my Bianchi Eros to make any trip over 20 miles painful. Hence the need for a cross-like bike.

The bike - a 1983 blue metallic Univega Supra Sport. The frame matched the Eros geometry (58 cm) and was in excellent condition. I removed a lot of stuff: 27 inch rims, Suntour AR shifters/drive/brakes, Sugino cranks, small narrow handlebars, and an unbelievable saddle (ouch!). As part of the rebuilding effort, I reconditioned parts from my first road bike – a 1983 63 cm Shogun 600 (I am only 6ft – the store must have had this 63 cm bike sitting around.). Anyway, replacements are as follows:

· Profile Hammer DB deep drop handle bars (Nashbar)
· Profile white/grey/black bar tape (Nashbar)
· Zoom zero rise stem (Nashbar)
· Shimano 600 6 speed 12-25 (Shogun)
· Shimano 600 170 mm cranks 42/52 rings (Shogun)
· Shimano 600 brakes with old style Tourney calipers (Shogun)
· Campy Super record seat post (Shogun)
· Terry Liberator saddle (Performance)
· Araya 700 c rims (Shogun)
· Specialized S-works Mt Baldy Cross tires 700x32 (Specialized)
· Cateye Astrale Cyclocomputer (Shogun)

So far (36 miles), I love the bike. Its ride is much more compliant that I would have thought from an old chrome-moly battle tank frame with straight seat stays. It rides well on and off the road – the specialized tires are quiet on pavement and still keep their grip on the dirt. The tires get mired in sand much more quickly than the 2 inch fatties on the Rockhopper, but they sure roll much faster on anything else. I also appreciate the scroll work on the old Shimano 600 parts – something you don't see on modern parts. "Fishing" for the right gear using the downtube shifters took a little getting used to, but you get the hang of it pretty quick.

On the downside, the 170 mm cranks, the 52/42 rings, and the 12-25 cogset make the bike way too steeply geared for offroad. Additionally, the old single pivot tourney brakes, though long enough to reach the 700 c rims, are very spongy.

If I continue to like the bike, I will probably spring for upgrading the drivetrain using ultegra/XT parts and find a replacement for those brakes. But for now, with a fraction of the cost of a new cyclocross bike, I can get out there and enjoy trails a lot more with a pretty decent bike. I can't wait to watch the faces of the mountain bikers as I bury them below the horizon.

Thanks for reading!