I stumbled across this bike on EBay. I was looking for a Le Tour frame to replace the frame on my 1976 Le Tour II, that has a bent frame near the headtube, and stumbled across this one. it was listed with no reserve, a starting price of $0.99, and local pickup only. So I swooped in with 20 seconds left on the clock, bid 10 bucks, and won the auction for $3.25. How can you go wrong?
Drove out to the guy's house, picked up the bike, and brought it home. The paint is pretty bad, but the frame and fork were stright. The tires were shot, but the tubes held air. The cables were missing the cable tips, and were frayed. the chain was rusty and had a bunch of stiff links. The drive train was gunked up with dirt and grease from too much WD-40 (don't ever put that stuff on a bike chain). The rear rim had a couple of blips from someone hitting potholes without enough air in the tires, and it was aalso missing a kickstand, but all the pieces were there though. From looking it over, I wasn't sure that I wanted a blue bike for myself, and alothough everything was in decent shape, the paint was a bit too gone for my taste. So I decided to rebuild it.
This version of the Le Tour was made with 1020 carbon steel and not of cro-moly, so the weight is a bit heavier than bikes of the latemid to late 80's. The components on my bike don't match the specs I'm seeing in the catalogs, and could have been replaced, or swapped in the factory. The hubs are speced as Schwinn large flange hubs, which usually meant they were the Schwinn Approved Normandy hubs, but in this case they are Shimano HC-110 large flange hubs. They look like Campy knockoffs, but just about all large flange hubs looked like Campy knockoffs. The HC-110 hubs are probably my favorite cheap hub. Although the materials are the same to what was readily available, they might have had tighter tolerances because they always seem to feel just a bit smoother to anything else when you get them adjusted right. They polish up really nice too. The derailleurs / shifters are Shimano, and standard for the time period. Dia Compe center pulls, and an SR crankset / ??? chain / Shimano 5 spd 14-28 freewheel.
Upon disassembly, the crank spindle was not pitted, which is great, because they're becoming very hard to find. The chain was badly rusted and stretched. The brake calipers were binding due to lack of lubrication. The wheel axle cones were what I come to expect every time I disassemble a quick release hub, they were pitted. I'm certain this is due to someone adjusting the bearings off the bike and eliminating side play, and then installing it on the bike and cranking down on the quick release, unkowingly tightening the bearings further. The headset was OK as well as the derailleurs. The parts list included two axle sets, handlebar tape, a kickstand and a new chain. I had a spare set of brand new 27" tires from years ago that were in reasonable shape, so I got to work.
First thing is to clean polish and wax the frame. Cleaning off the 30+ years worth of crud does help it look better, even with the crappy paint job. Next, get the fork and bottom bracket cleaned up and installed, followed by the crankarms. Then the derailleurs get cleaned up, polished, lubricated and put back on. Followed by the brake calipers, which get disasemmbled, polished, put back together, lubricated and installed. next come the wheels. First the wheels get disassembled by removing the tire / tube / rimstrip, then taking out all of the spokes. The hubs are rebuilt and polished, rims polished, and spokes cleaned up. I then relace the wheels and have an opportunity to oil the threads on all the spokes. Check the dish on the rear wheel against the frame (the frame alignment can be off, and dishing the wheel to the frame instead of the truing stand helps ensure the back brake will stay centered). Mount the tires / tubes / rimstrips, cleanand install the freewheel, and put the wheels on the bike. At this point, I grease the stem bolts and install the stem & handlebars, align / clean / polish / lubricate & install the brake levers, grease the seat post / binder bolt and reinstall the saddle, and oil up the pedal bearings, grease the threads and throw them on. Next step is to grease the brake and gear cables, and install them. Last, adjust the derailleurs and check the toe-in on the brakes and make sure the calipers are centered, and throw on a couple rolls of handlebar tape.
When the bike was done, it looked much better. I jumped on it for a test ride, and immediately discovered that the teeth on the 5th cog were gone, and the freewheel needed replacing. Other than that, the bike felt fantastic. I limited my shifting to 1st-4th & 6th-9th,and it rode great. I've since replaced the freewheel, and trying to figure out what to do with it, I'm planning on seeing if my nephew needs a bike, or maybe just flip it on Craigslist. Total cost, including the bike came to $45. IMHO, these bikes are a bargain for that price. They ride decent, the components are better than adequate, you can find them cheap all day long, and chances are no one is going to try and steal it. My only real knocks against them are the weight, and the steel rims. The weight isn't really that big of a deal, just a bit heavy when you hang it in the garage. The rims aren't that big of a deal either. If I was going to keep it, I could pick up a pair of CR-18's for $45, and still be under a hundred for a decent ride.