Saturday, August 27, 2016

From Obsession to Possession: 1986 Schwinn Passage

CL Photo
I mentioned in the last post that although I had missed out on a screaming deal on a 1986 Schwinn Passage there was another on CL in my size but I wasn't enthusiastic about it due to both price and some changes that had been made, mainly the brake levers and rear derailleur were not stock.  Also it appeared that the bike had some work done on it; tires, cables, bar tape etc and I was thinking of something more down at the heels with a price to match that I could bring back to life.

Mid 80s Fuji Touring Series III Ebay
I found a Mid 80s Fuji Touring Series III on Ebay that I put in a half hearted bid on, had I had the ability for local pickup I would have bid more but it was in NY with a $80 shipping charge so I capped my bid at $60 and it sold for nearly $100.  Still pining for Mid 80s Touring steel,  I checked on the Passage to see that it was still on CL, I checked the date and saw it had been on there for nearly 25 days so I decided to make a below asking offer but not too below, about a 20% discount. My offer was accepted and it was less than what I would have paid for the Fuji had I won the Ebay bid and had it shipped.

Deal Sealed
Its more than I would pay for a project bike but not a lot more than I paid for the Motobecane Grand Touring and in part the GT is why I got this bike.   Yes most of it was driven by my recent fascination with vintage touring bikes but I also have a hankering to ride a vintage bike and as a Super Clydesdale these days I am frankly concerned I might break the GT.  And while breaking any bike would be sad breaking a bike I searched and searched for would be doubly sad.  I also figure a touring bike with stouter tubing and a 40 spoke rear wheel is up to the task.  The GT is really more sport road bike than touring bike.   And who knows if I start riding then maybe I can drop down to a mini Clydesdale and ride the GT without fear of breaking it.

Well what about using your Handsome Devil for longer rides you say? thing is its set up as a 1x9 bike right now with a low gear of about 28 gear inches (see Sheldon Brown's Gear Calculator for some bike nerdery) and a reasonably fit person could ride hills with that, I am, however,  neither reasonable nor fit so hills are a non starter.  Unfortunately I live in a hilly place so a 5 block, fairly flat,  ride to the famers Market is the extent of my pedaling these days.  Enter the Passage and with some tweaks to its  current chainrings I can drop it down to about 20 gear inches, the lower the number the easier it is to spin the gear and grind up hills.  And while I could just convert the HD to a triple and add a front derailleur I like it as 1x9 and for roughly the cost of those new parts to make it a triple I got a whole Vintage Touring bike instead!
Changes coming to the Chainrings
You will notice that the biggest two chainrings are close to the same size; 50 and 46 tooth respectively, and you see that alot on older triple crank bikes.  That always baffled me until I read an article by Sheldon Brown about half step gearing and now it makes more sense, in the days of 5 speed freewheels it was a way to get more gear choices in the sweet spot of cruising speeds.  If you have ever been on a flat or slight incline or riding into the wind and you just can't find the right gear you will understand, with the half step gearing you got finer slices of the pie so to speak so you could find that just right gear to spin and you still have the granny to bail out when you hit the steep stuff.  Well thats all fine but I want range so I envision chucking the 50T ring, moving the 46T to the outside and getting a 36T middle ring a 24T baby ring to get way down low in the granny gears. At some point anyway.

Ok enough about gear theory this bike has cool touring stuff.  Its got Dia-Compe 960 Cantilever brakes
Cantis scare me a little bit as I have had a hard time adjusting them but I figure this is an opportunity to research, practice, learn a new skill and conquer that fear, or I can always cop out and go with V-brakes like I did with the Handsome Devil.

The Passage has Huret rachet levers that came stock and I look forward to trying them out.
I've got down-tube shifters and I know how to use them
Its got braze-ons for a rear rack - it was designed for a blackburn rack and came stock with one but that has been lost to time..

And something I always appreciate engraved handlebars- so classy.
Sakae Custom Road Champion
One thing about spending a bit more is this bike had actually been worked on in the last year, at least for replacing consumables like tires, cables, brake pads-Kool-stops!- and bar wrap, and so (in theory) its rideable.
new rubber from Specialized
And that is what I intend to do for whats left of Summer and into fall -ride it.  I am going to resist my urges to strip it down to the frame and make a bunch of changes, its going to be my longer than 5 blocks non grocery getter bike.  I am going to start by driving it to the dead flat Alki trail in the mornings and doing a leisurely flat ride of 7 miles or less, about the extent of the flatness, but you have to start somewheres.  

Columbus tubing
As I am sure the sharp eyed among you spotted it has some rust spots that need to be dealt with and it could used a good waxing and I'll only know if the bearings are greased if I open them up.  I'd prefer gum walls and there's room for 27x1 3/8 tires, and maybe I'll track down a Huret Duopar Rear derailleur to get back to stock,  and put a wider range 6 speed FW to replace the 5 speed and pie plate, and shine up all the alloy parts, and I'm not wild about the levers or their position or the handlebar or the bar tape color and.. blah blah blah.  There will be time for a tear down in the dark short days of winter, for now, however, I just plan to ride it.  I put it in the stand and tightened a shift cable here and a brake cable there made sure it shifted ok,  and took the opportunity to swap the (Nashbar?) retro cheap saddle for a WTB Rocket V I got a deal on a while back.
New Saddle and the ability to carry a few tools for the inevitable adjustments
The plan for tomorrow morning is to check the tire pressure, load it on the rack, drive to the flat lands and then take the Passage for a spin and generate a smile or two.

As always ..Ride.Smile.Repeat.  I certainly intend to.


  1. cantilevers will drive you crazy and then start working seemingly by themselves. That's a cool bike. If I ever buy another vintage bike it will stay stock...probably.

  2. Thanks Tim Joe, while I would like to stay as stock as possible I reserve the right to go with non stock parts when & if it makes sense. I did go for a ride yesterday so I'll have a post about my observations soon