I lucked into a fantastic bike about 6 years ago, a Fuji 1987 Design Series road bike. This was their top of the line road bike, and all components were top quality Campy parts. It fit my wife Tuckie perfectly, and was her road bike. We went on some fun short rides, and she never did longer rides or group rides on it. She didn’t ride it enough to get used to using the clip-in Speedplay pedals, and one time she didn’t get a good push off from a stop, and fell over onto the pavement. She broke her fall with her hand, and ended up with a broken bone in her wrist. This was exactly what the bike looked like, but it was not quite as pristine as this one:
The picture below shows the down tube Campy shifters. Our bike was the same color, same saddle, same components as this bike, but the paint was not as perfect as this one.
While recuperating from the broken wrist, Tuckie rode a mountain bike with flat handlebars, and got used to having all the controls on the bars. She never really got used to the down tube shifters, nor riding with hands on the brake hoods, as road bike riders of the 80s did. I talked to a friend of mine who owns a bike shop, and looked at his new road bikes with flat handlebars. They also had wide rims and heavy tires, and cost upwards of $1500. I wanted the light weight and speed of a road bike, just with flat handlebars. He said don’t try to convert the old road bike, as it would be a money pit, and would require a different axle and derailleurs, and I’d never find the right size parts to do the job. I had a love for the old bike, and I wanted to try to make it work.
So my project was to make a few changes to the Fuji, to take advantage of the light frame, and nice road wheels, and keeping the Campy brakes. The tasks were thus:
replace the drop handlebars with a flat handlebar, complete with shifters and brake levers
put on a granny gear for getting up the mile and a half long hill to our house
possibly make it indexed shifting, but I knew there was a low probability of that
I had a pair of brand new brake levers, so that was easy. I bought a pair of Suntour thumb shifters on ebay. With those components I put on the flat handlebars, and replaced the down tube shifters with shifter cable stops, as shown below.
The flat handlebars, with brake levers, new grips, and the Suntour thumb shifters, are shown below.
That was the easy part. To add a granny gear, I would need a different axle with a longer end on the drive side, and a triple crankset, with pedals. I’d also need a long reach derailleur to take up the extra chain slack when using the granny gear. The chances of getting all these components to fit correctly was pretty small, and would likely be costly but I had two secret weapons. First secret weapon: We have a bike co-op in Boise, the Boise Bicycle Project. They have a good supply of bike parts, and I found an axle with sealed bearings that fit my bottom bracket, and would likely accommodate the extra gear of the triple. We also found a long reach Suntour rear derailleur, and also a front Suntour derailleur. It was coming together, against all odds. The triple crankset we found is shown below, after I added a 40 tooth chain ring to replace the 48 it came with. Cost of parts, about $50 for the axle, triple crankset, derailleurs, platform pedals, and flat bar, $40 for the thumb shifters. Second secret weapon: expert advice and coaching by two BBP mechanics, Yon and Michael. Wow, those guys saved my butt every time I turned around!
So the bike came together nicely, and every thing actually works. We found that the thumb shifter had an indexed setting for a 6 speed cluster, and since the rear cassette was a 6 speed, and the Suntour rear derailleur was compatible with the Suntour index thumb shifter, we had 6 speed indexed shifting! Awesome, and an unexpected result. So the bike ended up looking like the picture below. I also put on platform pedals, which Tuckie wants to use. Now maybe we’ll get a gel saddle, and do on some rides when the weather gets better.