Okay, I promised a more in-depth posting, so here it is: It's good for the detail-junkie in all of us, I suppose, and I'm CERTAINLY one of those!
The project was originally started as an all-original Trek 450 from 1985. I remember the day this bike came home with it's original owner, the Warbird, back in probably 198...... hmmmm... 89? Something like that... all I know is, my parents had recently moved into a new house, and I tihnk it was around 1989 or so -- se graduated in 1990, so it was before then... that narrows it down. It turns out, interestingly enough, that I had ridden this bike TWICE before I brough it officially into my own stable, which is kinda neat. Of all the garage sale specials I've taken home (the Schwinn World Sport, The Univega, the Purple Hippo), all the quality used frames that I had no clue the mileage and previous experience of the owners (The Bianchi, Trek 720, the Steamroller.), this was a true prize because I actually knew just about everytihng about it, and had ridden it! Ride number one -- I had NO idea what I was doing, the 'Bird had JUST bought it and brought it over to show me, and I rode it down the street and back. At the time my only bicycling exposure was mtn. bikes -- cheap ones -- and bike trail riding. I was in the middle of working on my 1976 Buick at the time, if that gives you any idea. I was interested -- but not REALLY interested. The 'Bird on the other hand was an accomplished cyclist, racer, and century rider. Again, I moan a little - deep inside - knowing what I missed back then, only with retrospect. It's hard to tell what paths we will take in life, but not discovering cycling earlier is something I regret. The Warbird took the bike home, and that was that. Life went on.
A few years later... more like a decade-plus... I HAD discovered cycling, and turns out the Warbird had taken some time off. We both started up training for the MS-150 in the year 2000, and that year my road bike, the first real road bike of mine, the Schwinn Passage (aka The Weapon) was in the shop for some much needed attention --- clearly fledgling, I had not yet learned to turn a wrench yet. On one HOT August afternoon, it was training time, so we headed out, and I borrowed the Warbirds Trek 450, he now straddling a NEW Trek 2100 road missle. The Trek 450 was still in all-original trim, bar tape faded, shifts a little slow between - but still willing, able, and more bike than I knew how to handle. It accellerated down hills, I rode the brakes -- it was just more nimble than the Schwinn I was riding at the time. It took 15 miles to get used to it, and by the time we were headed back north on Switzer for the bike trail head and the last leg of the training ride, I was REALLY getting into the swing of things, hammering along and smiling. It was there that I decided the Schwinn Passage, with it's aluminum tubing, was not quite as good as I'd thought it was. It started my love affair with steel.
Quick as a flash, other bikes started showing up in the stable, *ALL* of them steel. That was my new benchmark, and it had started with the Trek 450. I went thru the Trek 720, the Bianchi, the Univega, the Steamroller, the Surly Crosscheck, The Schwinn World Sport, finally settling on the Kogswell, and ironically and unexpectedly right back full-circle to the one that started the steel craze and convinced me there was simply no other way to roll. Now, the stable is "perfect" -- something I'd said before, yes. -- but now I have the Kogswell fully outfitted for commutes and rainy brevets, able to carry heavy loads well balanced and shrug off the nastiest roads, and the Trek 450 takes up the reigns as "glory bike": steel, no fenders, no racks, no lights -- just lightweight, fast, fun.
So, essentially starting with a dusty all-original bicycle, I knew I wanted to do something special. I began slowly, stripping all the parts off, cleaning, organizing, rebuilding a few parts, and storing others away as collectibles. I spent literally a couple months polishing the frame down, removing old grease stains, chain lube marks that had seeped into the paint layers, and buff marks form being leaned on this and that over the years. You know, typical use kinds of things. The frame, structurally, can't be beaten. The tubing is True Temper RC, one of the gold standards in the frame world, but not as heard-of as the big guns like Reynolds 5-3-1 and Columbus EL tubes. Still, True Temper on a Trek is like Campagnolo on a Bianchi. It's correct. American tubes in the hands of America brazers, in a time when a lot of manufacturers were outsourcing, and having things brazed overseas. Also critical to the mystique of this frameset, Trek was still considered "small" in the bicycle world. They were very good, VERY good, at what they did when many manufacturers were starting to grow too fast and slip a little. Many of the masters were closing up shop already, many of the masterful marques of the 70's had slipped back overseas again, some dissappeared forever. Trek was doing something special, and 1985 was probably the LAST year they really had everytihng right (IMHO). In 1986, the first aluminum Trek, the 2000, showed up on the market. Again, in my opinion, it was all downhill from there. Yeah, yeah -- they took Lance thru the tour. But common. It's steel. 1986 was the beginning of a period of time where cycling forgot about steel. Only now, many years later and thanks to some masterful custom builders tenacity and the persuasion of many have we returned to a time where cycling shops nationwide again have a wide range of choices in ALL materials, including some of the best steels ever drawn. By the way, True Temper RC tubing can STILL be spec'd to a custom frame, if you like. Some of the good stuff just never fades away. I digress.
This is a landmark frame. The pinnacle of Trek design, the best tubes of the day, all coming together. Shimano had some of their best on this bike, too. The 600 series was the predecesor to today's Ultegra group, back when there was no "105" and Dura-Ace was really, honestly, for racers only. 600 was the best the end consumer gould get, unless they wanted to pony-up for Campy, and for many that was too expensive. Trek wanted competitive spec, however, and interestingly the crankset on this model was NOT Shimano. In an effort to help bridge the gap between the Japanese and Italian offerings of the day, the aspiring racer could get Ofmega. Ofmega was a small Italian firm that was quite successful at being the "value alternative" to Campag stuff, while generally having more quality and less weight than the OTHER "value alternative" Campag knockoff, Zeus. As opposed to being rather blatant and made in Spain like Zeus, Ofmega was true Italian, and offered products that were compatible with, but different enough from Campagnolo as to make them a genuine choice. Back in the days before indexing was king, however, you could nearly get away with any combination of parts and have a good bicycle. So, if you wanted the mystique and raciness of the Campy stuff, but couldn't afford Super Record cranks, you got the Mistral from Ofmega. Same 144mm bolt circle, so you could get the ultra-strong Campag chainrings later on, and they'd bolt right up. Shimano's 130mm BCD was still considered "odd", but they DID have a smaller inner chainring, something that would catch on in a few years after 1985. At the time, however, real cyclists rode BIG gears. 144mm BCD meant a 53 tooth outer ring, and a 42 tooth inner ring. These are numbers that would make most cyclists today cringe, especially considering the comeback of the "compact" 110mm BCD cranks, and common arrangements of 50/36t ringsets. 53/42 is HUGE, make no mistake. Also, 53 is fairly commonplace today, on "racing" bikes - but in 1985 all Shimano could get you was 52 teeth. The bigger Campy sets were truly for racers. Shimano was only 1 tooth away, but numbers always talk. They'd catch on by the end of that decade. Without digressing too much more, this was truly marketed and sold as a RACE bike.
So, let's get to it: What was there originally, and what's there now:
Originally, showing Trek's notion of a good spec meant a variety of good parts from many suppliers, the original stem came from Sakae (SR) in Japan. Forged, not the fanciest finish, but strong and functional. All the top bike had these kinds of stems, save for the flash Italian jobs with full Cinelli equip. Sakae was the best bang for the buck. Sadly, this is one area where Shimano was really an innovator, and I really wish it had one of those. Check out Peter White's website under stems for a picture of one, truly a masterpiece. I digress again. The only drawback for Sakae was weight and length. Biometrics and a more upright randonnuering position on the bike were not really important when designing a good racing stem in the mid-80's, so this stem's quill is short. So short, that even with ample steerer tube left over in the headset arrangement, the handlebars were still about four INCHES too short for me. TAlk about low and aero! Again, in step with the massive crankset spec, cycling was perhaps a more manly affair than it is today - or maybe just one more suited for those familiar with pain and struggle. Truly, the more flat you could get your back, the more power you could put down, and stems of the day reflect that.
For its replacement I chose Nitto's Technomic. It has all the same elegance the original stem had, the 117 degree drop to align with the top tube, and the smooth 26mm clamp with single, purposeful fixing bolt. Perhaps not as elegant as Nitto's Technomic Deluxe, this model does have more rise to it, and I was able to get the handlebars up to my preferred 1" below the saddle line height. A good balance of power and ultra-long distance comfort, and the extra bit of silver rising aboe the headset looks good, too. Surprising, and to the solid, bomb-proof reputation of Sakae, even though this new Nitto stem is about 5 inches longer than the Sakae it replaced, it's still lighter. I'm thinking of keeping the stock stem in the glovebox of the car, for personal protection.
Atop the stem is my trusty Cateye Micro-Wireless computer. Keeping with the front end, the next issue was the handlebar. I like a wide bar for randonnuering, and the first problem with the stock bar was the width. The tape measure read an even 40cm, which for me is too narrow. After removing it from the stock stem, it was also clear that this was a CHUNK of steel. Heavy, but forgiving with regards to road vibrations - but probably only a function of sheer mass. FActor in the fact there are no "ergo-bends" in the bar -- not a deal-breaker for EVERYone, but it is for my hands -- and the decision was made. I shopped for a decent deal, based on what I had available to me. Unfortunately, Easton stopped making the venerable EA50 and EA70 series of regular-old 26mm road handlebars. They have all gone to oversized 31.8mm clamp sizes for newer bikes. I slowly see that I am out-moding myself with each passing year of progress on the modern bicycle market: finding parts that look correct and fit to these older style stems and frames is getting harder each season. I took what I could get, and the closest match to the Easton bars I like so much was Salsa's Pro-Road bar. Of course, and again unfortunately, it's only available in modern black. So, I get a little clash up front between stem and bar, but it works for me and makes it "mine". Some wonder why I didn't match to the Nitto stem and get a Nitto silver aluminum handlebar. Well, I've been there; my problems start with the design of the bar being sleeved, as in there is a center finishing sleeve that is squeezed onto the actual handlebar itself, in Nittos' case about a 25.8mm bar has a sleeve around it that give it the 26.0mm clamp surface. It looks AWESOME, make for a great bar with regards to diameter with finishing tape and the etched logos -- it's all very nice. BUT: that sleeve tends to loosen over time, and I don't know if I'm too aggressive a rider or use my uppoer body to assist on standing climbs or what, but I eventually always ended up with an audible CLICK from the sleeve/bar inteface. Once it started clicking, nothing I tried would remedy it. So, I went back to less fancy handlebars that are uniformly 26.0mm, with no sleeve at the center. The stem clamps the bar itself, and all is quiet. If anyone makes a one-piece 26mm road drop handlebar that looks as good as Nitto's two-piece, I'd consider it. Until then, black it is. It works, and more importantly than anything else, it fits my body:
The headset is the only original thing on the entire bicycle. It's perfect, and there is simply nothing wrong with it. It's a old Tange Levin model 1" threaded headset in good old CHROME. THE REAL, pre-EPA chrome that just SHINES. Made in Japan, and even with the original ball bearings and races intact, it's smooth and solid. I cleaned out the old grease, packed in new, and reassembled. I was also thrilled to find online that Tange still makes the Levin headset, in 1" and 1-1/8" sizes, threaded. Some things just never need a re-design, and this is one of them.
My dream headset is probably a Chris King no-logo chrome model - but I don't think the shine is quite as nice as this piece, and until this one shows signs of wearing out, I'm not changing anything.
The brake levers that original came on the bike were Dia-Compes, as were the brake calipers. Brakes in those days came in sets with the levers and the calipers packaged together. In a time where most drivetrain items and such were indeed interchangeable, the one area where you couldn't get away with it was brakes. Lever pulls, cable diameters, sometimes the quick-releases (still to this day for Campy) were in the levers instead of on the calipers. If you ran Shimano calipers, you ran Shimano levers, and so on. In this case, the levers were badly worn, machanically perfect, but the hoods were ripped and had lost a lot of their original cushion. A shame, really, because in vintage white gum with high-rise "non-aero" brake cable fitting, these levers were pretty unique, and would have been an interesting conversation piece. Sadly the
calipers are utterly forgettable, which I'll get to later. So, the
levers, being worn out and not really comfortable, had to go. In their place, my new standard the Cane Creek BRS-5 levers, with Campagnolo "Ergo" style hoods and ramps, and Shimano-style levers for easy reach and pull. Simply PERFECT brake levers, if there is such a thing. Quick releases in the handle, AND at the wheel make getting big tires out a breeze - but that's not really an issue for this bike.
Might as well talk about the brakes to round out the front-end discussion on the Trek. Hands down, brakes are the third in line as the most expensive thing you can buy for a bike. Drivetrain, wheels, then brakes. Shocked at the high prices of the new Dura-Ace calipers, my dreams of making this an ALL Dura-Ace bike will be put on hold for a while. I leaned more towards the inexpensive-but-good side of the table for now, just to get the thing rolling, and at $18.00 a PAIR, I got a steal. Of course, we DO get what we pay for, don't we? Well, it's not ALL bad. For these clampers I turned to my friends at Tektro. They make a LOT of brakes for the original equipment market for manufacturers from Cannondale to Cervelo, and their stoppers are good. You never have to think about them, they aren't too flashy, but not too light, either.
The trade-off is a little extra, as I mentioned, weight, and possible not quite as wickedly mechanical as a Shimano or Campy dual-pivot caliper.
Still, it stops the bike. In the case of these Model 420s, however, they really ARE low-ball. They must have been take-offs from a stock bike, as the front has a little scuffing, but it's not too bad. The pads were utter junk, however, and I have found this to be true of ANY brake, at almost any price. Only the new Ultegra and D/Ace 6600/7800 series calipers come with really good pads. Campy's stock pads are "okay", and Tektros are junk. What do you want for $18 a pair? Mechanically they are tried and true dual-pivot short reach road brakes, not unlike a good Shimano Sora level. The trade offs at this low price point, besides the pads, is the lack of a quick release at the caliper. This is where the aforementioned Cane Creek brake levers saved my skin. I can still spread the pads and get the wheels out without issue, but I knew that going in - which is why these brakes ended up in the shopping cart. The first thing I did, however, and you'll notice in the shot: the brake pads are NOT stock Tektro. Without even rubbing the casting wax off them, I removed the stock pads and put them in the recycle bin. In their place are Shimano BP-6600 cartridge pads filled with Kool-Stop salmons in the front, and all-weathers in the back. If the pads make the brake, these brakes just jumped up a few price points, and the stopping power is more than adequate. The stoutness of them, and the slightly flawwed finish do have me putting brake calipers BACK on the "wants" list, tho. I am searching the globe for a reasonably-priced set of Dura-Ace BR-7700 (old 9-speed) calipers. On the used market, they seem to be fetching around $50 a pair, which isn't bad. For now, tho, this bike stops on a dime -- but there is an opportunity for an upgrade here.
The seatpost, also replaced. The original Sakae SR post is long gone, removed by the WArbird in lieu of a Bontrager post of substantial length, to accomidate his post-high school growth. When he brought the bike back out in 2000, there was not enough adjustment in the original post for him to get the seat high enough, and so it was swapped. It was also too short for me, oddly, as most of the racing seatposts of the day proved to be. Like their stems, Sakae's seatposts were quite stout, even for being so short - 180mm in some cases, compared to the 250mm minimum of today's road posts. The Warbird, for contrast, had a 400mm seatpost designed for one of those wildly sloped compact frames. He's TALL. I am not. So, I swapped out the Bontrager and used the Thomson seatpost that still had my trusty Selle Italia Flite Trans/Am mounted to it, from the Cannondale I had. Again, the only problem is the color being black. The Cannondale was black, so I never thought about it. I don't think it's a huge problem, but with all the rest of the silver on the thing, a black seatpost looks "off". Another opportunity for an upgrade, probably a silver Thomson, maybe a Nitto Model 65 seatpost, in the future.
The drivetrain is a mix of good Shimano stuff, divided between what I had on-hand, and what I had to go out and scrounge for. Old 9-speed Shimano stuff is getting hard to find in NOS condition, or even gently used condition. The 10-speed stuff took over SO quickly, and much of the 9-speed production stopped immediately at the factory. The market didn't hold onto it for very long, as many that were nervous about the new tne-speed stuff snatched it up for future projects. I took what I could get. Returning breifly to the crankset discussion of earlier, it was clear that the Ofmega was a unique and classic arrangement, but it had to go because of the obsolenscense of the 144mm BCD chain-ring. Yes, as the 80's became the 90's and true racing bicycles yielded a little to more recreational pursuits (at least between Greg Lemond wins, and the Lance Era), the chainrings and freewheels of the day followed suit. Shimano's 52/42 racing arrangement yielded to market pressure by offering a 53 tooth large ring for racers, and using their smaller 130mm bolt circle they offered a 39tooth ring for easier climbing. Campy followed suit, as their model ranges were far to race-oriented for the new reccie scene. They reduced their bolt pattern to 135mm, which is where it remains today - barely squeezing in the teeth for their 39-tooth answer to Shimano's set-up. Eventually, the 42 tooth inner ring on road bikes would dissappear. As Campy gave up on the 144mm bolt circle, Zeus in Spain was filing for bankruptcy amid many Campagnolo-brought patent lawsuits, and Ofmega began to lose money as well. The 144mm chainring is a VERY hard thing to find these days, mainly a holdout for track racers -- many standing Keirin rules called for a 144mm bolt circle, and that stuck. So, the market DOES offer the 144mm circle, but you can usually only find REALLY expensive track chainrings, no pins or ramps for easy shifting. So, back to my Ofmega crankset, and the badly worn chainrings (to Warbirds credit, as to THIS DAY I have never seen a truly worn out chainring besides these). I had to do something else, just to make upgrades possible in the future. I opted for a full drivetrain rebuild up front. The square taper bottom bracket came out, and in went one of Shimano's Octalink V1 105-level models. Why 105? The last 105 group is SO good, it's silly. It's only detriment is weight, and the grams are so miniscule between 105 and Ultegra that Shimano had to physically make the appearance of the Ultegra better than the 105 stuff, to make aethetics a consideration. Only Dura-Ace is markedly lighter, but it's cost prohibitive -- and if I thought finding old 9-speed cranksets in general was difficult, finding Dura-Ace 9-speed cranks specifically was impossible. The dream may someday come true for a full-D/A 9-speed period bike, but it won't happen right now. The choice was 105 for the bottom bracket and the crankset for now. For $40, I couldn't complain, as there isn't a single mar anywhere to be found on the crankset. It's out-of-the-box perfect with brand-new chainrings, 53x39. It's modern, but not the garrishness of the new 10-speed stuff - which just looks weird on a frame like this one. 9-speed it is, and it's pretty. The pedals are Shimano, also, the PD-A520 series single-sided SPD road pedals. SPD means toughness, and I can ride with my sandals or my racing shoes and not have to swap anything. And, they are lighter than anything the Look crowd can offer. Plus, I don't have to change all my shoes -- one pedal platform for me. The front derailluer was also updated. This is one area where the 2002-era 105 stuff shines, and compared to the Shimano 600 original front derailluer, it's light-years ahead. Today's derailluers are light, quick, and accurate. The front derailluers of yesterday are the bane of mechanics everywhere. Springs are too heavy, adjustments too narrow, and cages too wiggly. This was a no-brainer.
The same was true for the shifters. I kept things period-correct by sticking with downtube shifters. Since I'm a huge fan of bar-ends, the transition between bikes is not a big deal at all. I rode on STI's for a while, and they are nice - but I like the feel and ability to trim of the bar-end/downtube sets. Plus, they look cool. It's funny how much today's modern reccie-racers obsess about weight on the bike, and STI levers on one of the heaviest things you can add to a bicycle. When I took my old ULtegra STI levers off and swapped in the bar-ends on the Kogswell, I simply couldn't believe how chunky those things were. It's a downgrade (to some) in functionality, perhaps - but a serious upgrade in weight to go backwards a step. How fast do you REALLY need to shift? Well, for me, this stuff works, and for this bike it looks right. In keeping with the eventual full-D/A theme, I sought out the good stuff for this one, and found a set of NOS 9-speed Dura-Ace downtube shifters. Perfect! The Shimano 600 shifters that came off were perfect, but the original friction-only setup was giving the Warbird a few problems as I remembered, namely auto-shift: when climbing out of the saddle, the natural sway of the frame was enough to slacken the cables to the point the rear derailluer spring could begin to take up that slack to a greater degree than the old lever with it's worn friction washer could hold back, and CLUNK...auto-shift. Even tighted down quite a bit, there was not any grip left in those old levers -- so they were removed and tucked away. The Dura-Ace levers look nearly identical, and actually weight MORE than the old stuff, but that's in large part to the SIS indexing assembly these new models were made with. Indexing will make for faster shifts at the downtube, and will also serve to lock the gearing in place, so autoshift is a thing of the past. The cam-like action of the front derailluer shifter, in contrast to the constant ratio of the original shifter, makes for lighting fast front-end upshifts, too, which explains why Lance always ran a front downtube shifter on this racing bikes, all the way up until Shimano 10-speed came out. Look at the old photos closely, and you'll see it. STI can't beat the downtube shift when it comes to the front chainrings, and Lance knew it. A quick reach down, and he was GONE. I feel a slight kinship with the past by running downtubes, and at the same time a connection to recent racing history. There will always be a story there when someone asks my "WHY downtubes?"
The rear end is a similar story, and starts with the original rear wheels. The original Matrix rims were shot, and the old 6-speed rear freewheel was a boat-anchor. Time for upgrades all around. The wheels came from my Cannondale, one of the things I held back for myself when I sold it off. The now timeless Mavic Ksyrium, probably the most successful wheelset Mavic has turned out, and arguably the most successful aftermarket wheelset PERIOD. Strong, light, aero, and with bomb-proof and field serviceable hubs, these wheels simply can't be beat as the perfect jack-of-all-trades and master-of-a-few category. Silver finish, period appropriate, and light, light, lighter than original. Plus, the 9-speed cassette slides right on. Again, 105 specd perfectly for the rear cassette, the grams game being second to value and strength. 12-23 teeth is the perfect (for me) performance gearset, and versatile enough for brevets, too. The rear-D is another carry over, and one of the parts that I have had the longest, longer than I've had ANY of my bikes. Originally the very first upgrade part I bought for the Schwinn Passage, it travelled to the Bianchi, then to the Kogswell, and now to the Trek. The bearings have all been rebuilt and it's smooth as butter and VERY quick between shifts, the perfect match to the D/A shifters. Note the very cool and Trek-exclusive inside-chainstay cable routing! The chain is A SRAM, my standard go-to, Model PC-991-HP. Super, Super strong and lightweight - but not ridiculously so. Makes the shifting snappy, and cruising is effortless and quiet. Love this chain, and it's worth the extra money.
Overall, the bike came out better than I expected. The paint still needs some work, but it's got a story to tell, and some of the marks, like in the fork shot at left, I just can't worry too much about touching up. The frame is not in any danger of collapse from rust, as it was always stored inside, and just to be sure I gave the frame a through coat of Frame Saver internally. It's solid, straight, and strong. Again, immensely excited for some mileage on her, as the weather has really closed in here lately. More "wintery mix" forecast for the next 48 hours or so, so we'll continue to dream a little, and wait for the roads to clear properly for a maiden run on this steed. It's one of those things about old Treks, and good bikes in general; the Kogswell, as nice as it is, has gotten dirty, has the fenders and the history of sloppy conditions now. The Trek, I know it's seen some epic, epic rides -- the 300K from 2002 that I had such an ordeal on in the heavy rains and cold temps, the Warbird was also on that ride, on THIS Trek -- so you know it's been wet, etc. It's just like a new pair of shoes, tho. I can't take a maiden ride on it and get it all sloppy. The parts are still so shiny -- it has to get dirty gradually. Yeah, that's it. Seriously, one of my finishing touches on ANY bike is reflective tape. You can see it on the wheels in the very top full-bike shot. I do a lot of night-time riding, and it's just essential. I got out the sciccors and the reflective tape roll, and sat down behind the Trek in the garage, ready to apply it to the seat-stays, facing to the rear. I carefully trimmed the tape to length and width, and held it up to size it. I stopped. I couldn't do it. I put the reflective tape away. It's not that I will never ride this bike at night or anything, no... but those thin, sexy seat stays -- in red.... I couldn't do it. Still haven't. Probably won't. Reflective ankle bands will be plenty. It's RED, man... putting stickers on it.... it's just.... I dunno.... WRONG.
What a bike.