Servicing an old bike – revisited (now with second opinions)

Last June year I took my bike to Cycledealia in Hitchin for a pre-Paris service. It needed a new chain, and also a new cassette. The mechanic there declared that he wouldn’t be able to replace the cassette on such an old bike so just gave it a general tune-up and reassembled it as it was. (You can’t have forgotten about it, I did, after all, write about it here.)

Of course the bike did get me to Paris fine. This year I was lucky enough to have  the loan of a fancy-schmancy road bike to ride to Paris, and I’ve spent a good few months on and off pondering and researching the possibility of buying a new bike for myself. Perhaps I may have mentioned it. (The latest one that’s caught my eye is this from Charge.)


When I go out on my old bike, I love it.

Old Faithful

And what do I need anything super-light for anyway?

So today, just thirteen months after it was rejected by the guy in Cycledealia, I finally took it elsewhere for some other opinions. Only this time I knew what I wanted. New chain, new cassette, and possible new chain rings, too. You see, I want to change the gearing to something a little more road-friendly. For those mechanically-minded of you, it currently has a triple on the front (48/38/28) and a seven speed cassette on the back (13-30). Around town I frequently find myself in the highest gear (48-13) with nowhere left to go, so I want smaller cogs at the back and possibly larger ones – or a wider range – at the front.

Highway Cycles is where I bought the bike back in 1993, so that’s where I rode first.

Not possible, was his verdict. They could replace the cassette, yes, but only with a 12-28 because that’s now “the only one Shimano make to fit a bike like this” and putting larger chainwheels on “won’t be possible because of the shape of the frame.” And he promptly tried to sell me a Trek hybrid. Thanks. But no thanks. I left feeling a bit flattened. Bugger, maybe Cycledealia were right all along.

But still I had other places to try.

Marshalls Cycles wasn’t open when I arrived. It should have been. But before I’d left, along came one of the mechanics, waiting for the owners to open up shop, so I grabbed him for an opinion. Shouldn’t be a problem at all, he reckoned. Heck, they might even have at 11-28 cassette in stock. Generally more positive. Seemed reasonably keen to help, and a nice guy to boot. But the shop wasn’t open yet so he couldn’t actually check. And I’d have to book it in for them to look at as they’re very busy at the moment. Still, I rode away much more encouraged.

And then I went to Scuffwheels in Stevenage’s indoor market, where Alex’s eyes positively lit up when he saw my bike. This guy was really enthusiastic, extolling the virtues of my Reynolds CroMoly frame and the general build of the bike,  and – most importantly – completely and utterly confident that he could do pretty much exactly what I was wanting. And he must be doing something right: after only eight months in business he’s about to move from his stall in the indoor market into a proper shop unit in the Town Centre – something he’d not expected to be doing until three or four years.

Once he’s moved in, I’m planning to take it to him and hoping he’ll work some magic.

There is one other guy working locally who I’ve not visited yet. Revolution Cycles was started by Carl in an industrial unit in Stevenage and has recently moved into a shop in Knebworth. I’d emailed Carl this morning, and since all my visits this morning have exchanged several emails with him. He’s asked a few questions and offered a lot of useful advice which will help me decide what to do even if I still end up taking it to Alex. But perhaps I ought to let him take a look before I finally decide.

I did like Alex, though. Despite (or maybe because of?) his extremely religious t-shirt.

4 thoughts on “Servicing an old bike – revisited (now with second opinions)

  1. !@n

    Even if the cassette can’t be replaced because of it’s old size, a new back wheel isn’t too expensive and will give more cassette ratio options. I wouldn’t change the size of the chainrings. Or chsnge them at all unless theyre worn out.

    1. Trevor Post author

      They’re borderline, Ian. One mechanic said I could “get away” with not replacing them, another said no need at all. Why wouldn’t you change the sizes?

      1. !@n

        Wouldn’t change sizes because you should be able to get any gear ratio you will actually need/use by your choice of cassette. If you’re interested in gearing you should see Sheldon Brown’s (R.I.P.) pages on the subject-including a cool ratio calculator.
        If you change chainings you’ll get into changing front mech and possibly length of bottom bracket axle to clear tje chainstay (for bigger rings). they’re also blinking pricey!

        1. Trevor Post author

          Aye, I’ve been looking at Shelden Brown. Had varying opinions on changing the chainwheels, but Alex at Scuffwheels certainly didn’t think it would be a problem. (And shouldn’t involve changing mech, just moving it up a little to take the larger circumference.)

          Still much to consider!

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