This Townsend Olympian is the first bike I owned as an adult, and the first bike I did any significant work on. Bought on Ebay for less than £20, to date every part except the headset has been changed (some more than once). You might ask why I’d spend my time and money building up a bike that was crap in the first place – I can give two half-decent reasons: getting a setup that works well for me, and knowing I can try new things, learn, making mistakes along the way without risking damaging a nice frame. The bike originally came fitted out with cheap chrome steel parts, but with a frame that’s just the right size for me (if rather heavy). I originally set it up for commuting, with mudguards and a rack, but as I only ride for pleasure on nice days now these have been removed.
I wouldn’t dream of boring you with all the modifications I’ve made. Highlights of my current setup include mismatched Shimano 105/Mavic wheels, a white Selle San Marco Rolls saddle, fluted ITM seatpost and 110 mm Kalloy stem (I’m considering going longer).
I run a Stronglight Impact 48-34 compact crankset. This is an excellent, well-priced crankset that looks right at home on a steel frame. For now I’m pairing this with a custom “seven of eight” speed 16-30 cassette. I’m only using seven sprockets because the 16 tooth will not work in the first position as it would not engage the freehub splines. I added a 2mm spacer in place of the first sprocket so that the lockring will hold the cassette tightly in place (which it does very well, even though the spacer is not knurled to engage the lockring). In this way, by sacrificing a sprocket, it is possible to have almost any size cog in ‘first’ position (the derailleur becomes the limiting factor) . Some may find the 16 tooth first cog laughably low, but I’m trying to encourage myself to spin at higher cadences – Miche makes Shimano compatible first position up to 17 or 18 so I’m thinking of getting a 15 to pop on. I’m far from finished fiddling with this bike. [For more on cassettes see Sheldon Brown]
Projects for the future include installing STI brake/shift levers (I have a pair already but haven’t got the cables/stops etc yet). I’m thinking about respraying the frame, although I haven’t decided what colour yet – and while I’m at that I may as well switch out that old headset too!