What to consider when buying new wheels for an old bike?

by S1lver   October 24, 2012  

I've got a mildly dilapidated Peugeot Premiere from 1986 and I'd like to get it running and on the road.

I've been trying to find out what the restrictions are between wheels and drivetrains. For example, I'm guessing I can't just buy a new pair of wheels and fit the old cassette to the new rear wheel? From what I can gather, the hub needs to match the groupset you're using...

The hubs on the Peugeot are Maillard and the drivetrain is all branded as Sachs Huret (I realise I've just contradicted myself there but you get where I'm coming from, hopefully..)

I've tried, in vain, to find the answer to this question online and inside 'Zinn and the art of road bike maintenance' but still haven't managed to shed any light on it. So I thought I'd try here.

Any help would be really appreciated and I apologize if this is a stupid question.

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If it's that old, you may well be dealing with a screw-on freewheel rather than a cassette. Saint Sheldon, as is to be expected, has a page about it: http://sheldonbrown.com/free-k7.html

posted by steff [81 posts]
24th October 2012 - 18:46

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I think the Maillard freewheel (possibly the Helicomatic, as per my 1984 Raleigh Record Sprint) isn't the same fitting as other freewheels so be careful what you buy if replacing it, and if so it would require a different tool to remove and fit. Modern cassette type is different again, they slide onto a splined hub instead of screwing onto a thread. It's a bit of a minefield. Sheldon's site is a good place to start, and retrobike.co.uk forum folk may also shed some light.

Hub width is a factor in wheel choice - frames of that vintage often have 126mm OLN*, modern road bikes 130mm, CX and MTB 135mm and track-only fixed wheels 120mm. Front wheel should be much more straightforward.

Fortunately, any 6/7/8 speed chain will work. I'd recommend SRAM PC850 or KMC Z82 for inexpensive but good quality chains. Count the number of links in your existing chain and use the same number in the new one.

Your Huret will be friction gears (not indexed) so you could change the number of sprockets on the back and the rear shifter should still work if it's in good order. New cable inners and outers are invariably a good idea, note that brake and gear cables on current bikes have differing diameters so are not interchangeable, I don't know if this was the case back then.

* OLN = over locknut width, the external width across the hub or between the rear dropouts on the frame.

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posted by Simon E [1902 posts]
24th October 2012 - 21:23

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do you want to replace the wheels completely? if so the easiest route is probably some nice looking new wheels (say halo's retro, http://halorims.co.uk/products-details.php?id=WHHARSF&type=all&c=X) with an 8-speed cassette. your dropouts will be 126mm but i've never had any trouble getting a 130mm wheel in an old steel frame.

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7252 posts]
24th October 2012 - 22:56

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As Dave says, if you're buying new wheels anyway you shouldn't have a problem - it's 2mm either side. If you want to do it really properly you could spread the dropouts to 130mm (Sheldon Brown has a page on this too).

Also, don't assume you need to replace the derailleurs or shifters. If the rear mech has enough overall range it should be ok and if the shifter is friction rather than indexed it should work too. If you do go for a thread on freewheel on your old hub, shimano make a 14-24 6-speed one that gives a nice range in 2-tooth jumps. I used one of these with an 8-speed chain on a Gazelle Champion Mondiale of about the same age as your bike.

posted by msw [125 posts]
25th October 2012 - 9:43

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This is all really helpful, thanks. And those Halo wheels look really nice. Solves the problem of finding some wheels that actually look right on the bike.

Thanks to you all. This is what I'm finding nice about trying to get this bike up and running. I'm learning loads!

posted by S1lver [12 posts]
25th October 2012 - 18:36

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