Budget gravel bike project is on! I picked up this Trek 750 Multitrack yesterday. It was going for peanuts on ebay but the seller ended up not wanting any money for it at all, which was nice.
It'll need a lot of work, but all the essential components e.g. BB and hubs are in surprisingly good nick. The owner had it since new for 20 years which I found kind of reassuring.
(the weird seat clamp position is because I loosened it off to squirt some WD40 in there. Thankfully I got the seat post moving after a bit of persuasion)
The plan is to do a super cheap budget built to start with, just get it rolling and figure out if I want to commit to a drop-bar build (back problems in the past have put me off drop bars but hoping a more relaxed 'gravel' position and actually doing the pilates I've been talking about will take care of it). If I'm happy with it, I'll splash out on some more boujie parts in time for a trip on the Caledonian way this summer.
Getting the electrical tape off will be a massive faff, anyone have any advice on this? I tried with some nail polish remover and a sharp knife to some success but I think that will take ages. At least the paint looks lovely underneath:
Maybe try heating the tape with a hairdryer? Should make the glue melt a bit and get most of it off hopefully.
Excellent shout thanks! Seems obvious now you say it, as I've seen that done on all the bike restoration videos on youtube but it hadn't occurred to me
Update on the muddy fox: swapped out the tyres for some continental double fighters. My hand was forced this weekend after getting the 3rd puncture in as many rides on the rear tyre. Turns out there was a rip right through the tread exposing about 3mm of innertube to the road, no idea how I managed that.
New tyres look rad in my opinion but clearance under the front guard is toight. Might be looking for new guards if I can't get them to play ball.
Also had to adjust the front brake so took the opportunity remove the cable so I could take the reflector hanger off. I fucking hate setting up these brakes, so let's have a moment of appreciation for the best tool in the world:
Slightly nicer pic of the muddy fox with new tyres from my ride in this morning:
Going to tick this one off as 'finished' for now, except for tidying up the dynamo cables and installing the rear light. Once the Trek is built up I'll switch over to commuting on that so I can strip down the muddy fox for a deep clean and BB/headset replacement, but that won't be for a while
Love it, tyres look great!
Cheers! Loved riding it to work yesterday, picking the gnarliest lines on the towpath etc...
Compared with the 1.75" Paselas, I really noticed the rolling resistance on tarmac but loved being able to fly over the mud/gravel/potholes and have also weirdly found it easier to ride no-handed when I need a stretch. It's definitely a different (slower) beast now but given that I now have the luxury of two bikes I'm happy keeping this one for more leisurely rides and using the Trek for anything where I might want to do more than plod along at ~7mph
Had the day off today so got to work on the Trek. Stripped all the parts and spent a very satisfying hour peeling back the many layers of electrical tape. Didn't know what to expect underneath but I'm reeeeally liking the colour and early '00s font.
Picked up some salsa woodchippers, levers, stem, quill adapter and some very old gravelkings from the good people of this forum, so obviously I had to put them all on and go for a scoot down the street to see how it felt.
So far I've spent £25 on this build but I need to decide what I'm doing about gears before committing to any nicer parts. I really like the 3x7 friction on my muddy fox and doing the same here would satisfy my inner technogrouch and also mean I can keep the derailleurs which are in good condition. However the thought of bar end shifters on these bars seems mad as they're wide enough already and I can already see myself accidentally shifting whenever I try and squeeze through a doorway, etc.. Will probably go for more sensible bars with less flare so I can comfortable use bar ends but willing to be convinced of other gearing options
A few updates after a busy weekend...
First up, the Trek now has a shorter stem, brand new BB and nice clean and shiny parts. Went for the microshift 8s bar end shifters which I'm pretty jazzed about, nice clicky feeling on the right hand shifter in indexed mode. Trying out this specialized saddle which came off a sensible hybrid I had years ago. Just need to reattach brakes, cables and chain and it'll be ready for it's first shakedown ride:
Long term plans for the Trek are to tart it up with some nicer parts and get it ready for a summer of tours and longer rides. Long term to do list:
I also now have two more projects on my hands...
My partner is going back into the office in a couple of weeks time and wanted a bike to lock up at the station. She already has a nice 80s raleigh mixte, which to most people would already be a very serviceable station lock-up bike, however since we took it on some cycling tours last summer it's gained a lot of sentimental value and the though of it getting nicked doesn't bear thinking about.
As well as wanting her new bike to be unattractive to thieves, she also wanted something she could use for touring this summer, with a wider range of gears and fatter tyres than her mixte. Ideally, we were looking for something more or less identical to my trek, but in a smaller size, however nothing was coming up on ebay/gumtree. She found a rattle-canned steel 26er (also a trek) with an 18" frame, which I was worried would be a bit on the large and heavy side, but it definitely ticked the 'unattractive to thieves' box. We went to look at it anyway and found that the frame itself was a good fit but she needed a much shorter stem and upright bars. No idea what the tubing is but weight-wise it's somewhere between my very heavy 80s muddy fox and lightweight 00s trek. Anyway, she liked the bike and I liked how much tinkering it would need so it was a win-win.
While we there, I spotted this knackered old steel folder/shopper and immediately loved the look of it. I don't need it really, but told myself it might be handy to have a runaround for going to the shops and locking up at pubs, so I asked to take it for a test ride. The rear brake is more or less just there for decoration, and the rear wheel had plenty of play, but it was so much fun to ride. A voice in my head was saying "buyitbuyitbuyit", and the seller was happy to make a deal for both bikes (still paid way too much for the folder but it brought the price for the MTB down to a steal)
Got started on the trek MTB as soon as we got it home. Seems like it was a lovely bike once, nice shimano mountain LX derailleurs, biopace chainring and some really cool deore integrated thumbie/brake lever thing with fake leather 'hoods' on the levers. Looks like the left hand thumbie had a prang and is missing the dust cover, super seized up too. Right hand thumbie worked nicely but wasn't mounted to the brake lever anymore so assuming it broke off and was bodged back on. Annoyingly I rounded off the bolt on the makeshift bracket so that thumbie is staying put for the time being. BB, headset and rear hub were fine, front hub needs a service. I liked the trek logo stamped on the top of seatstay as well. Think we'll leave the rattlecan job as it is but there were some tempting specks of bright blue poking through and we did discuss seeing if we could sand it back to the original paintwork somehow, a job for another day anyway
The straight bars and long stem made for a very weird riding position for my partner who is used to her upright mixte. I had some swept back bars from my old fixie in my parts box and an adjustable quill stem which came off my trek. She really liked this setup and I think it's got a cool 'klunkery' look to it, I actually think the nerdy stem really suits it. Swapped the pedals and saddle for the one that came with my trek as well, much more appropriate.
As much as we're both really into the agricultural vibe with those tyres, it will be getting some marathon pluses soon. I'm not sure if I'll be able to revive the deore thumbies but I have some grip shifters in the parts box which my partner is more used to anyway. Ordered some tektro v brakes as well. All very sensible decisions, as much as I'd love to spend ages looking for the 'right' retro parts, she needs to ride this next week so it's getting built up with what we have for now
Haven't really done much with the folder. I've had this suede saddle knocking around for ages, I really like it but haven't had anything to put it on so tried it out with this bike. Think I prefer the saddle it came with though, like sitting on a battered old chesterfield sofa. When I got it home I realised it has a 3-speed internal gear shimano hub, with the piano wire cable like they used with those weird old positron rear derailleurs. Now I'm not sure whether I can be bothered trying to sort the play in the hub, or just sack it off and go single speed with some BMX wheels. I also found out the frame seems to have once had internal cable routing which I thought was pretty funny, especially that whoever had it last clearly couldn't be bothered with keeping it that way.
Finished my partner's Trek yesterday. New tektro v brakes, grip-shifters from my Trek, old Pasela tyres from my muddy fox. She really likes it, being able to spin up hills in the granny ring and trundle along off road seems to be a revelation. Definitely a 'function over form' bike so not the most exciting build, but I'm very pleased that my bike tinkering obsession has finally proved useful for someone else.
Fitting the rear brakes made it very clear that the rear wheel was misaligned. It had a weird selection of spacers/washers which looked like an attempt at a ghetto 're-dishing'. Had a go at truing and dishing it properly which worked a treat, hoping the wheel doesn't explode while she's riding it though.
My brother also saw the above photo and pointed out the the forks look weird and sticky-outy (what's the technical term for that?). I hadn't noticed at first but since he said it I can't unsee it and now I'm pranging that these forks have had a bash in the past and will snap as soon as my partner goes over a speed bump. Any ideas?
Nice, it looks like you got your hands on one of the older 950/970/990s from 1990 which are very nice lugged frames. I do agree the forks look a little odd compared to mine from a year later - photo for reference. Great work on the MF too, and those multitrack frames are a bit of a hidden gem for a cheap gravel build. 700c, wide clearance and canti bosses - spot on!
AH that's a lovely build, the carradice + front rack combi is a real winner
Cheers for the info and nice words! My half-arsed googling suggested it was a singletrack from that era but it's good to have a specific year for it. Advice from various people is not to worry too much about the bendy fork, but I'm keeping my eyes peeled for a suitable replacement for peace of mind. The 'burner Trek' (name coined this weekend) is also in need of new chain, cassette and chainrings, so it's proving to be a bit more work than the tyres, tubes and cables job I was hoping for...
Finally had a chance to ride the MF for fun rather than commuting this weekend - went to visit my parents in Cambridgeshire so took the opportunity to shred the gnar pootle around some Fenland bridleway with my dad and his very fancy bike.
Found the source of #UKGravel:
Rode some really fun #actualgravel:
Crossed some bridges with toight clearances:
And considered how, when you really think about it, modern gravel bikes are just retro MTBs with drop bars etc etc etc
Decided on impulse to get off the stressfully crowded train at Broxbourne on the way home and take the Lea river towpath back to Tottenham for a lovely golden hour ride. The bag on the front is a restrap duffel bag that they make for Wald baskets, but the side straps worked really well with this rack so I'm glad I'm able to keep using it without the basket. Still haven't sorted the dynamo cables but I refashioned the light bracket so it at least sits under the rack now, looks kind of meccano-ey which I'm into. At least the new cork ergo grips are enough of an update to justify spamming this thread?
Such a beautiful bike and lovely writeup, great thread!
Ta very much! It was actually your Marin that inspired me to look for a 90s/00s steel hybrid for my budget gravel conversion, definitely a personal favourite forum bike :)
Talking of which, I finished cabling up the Multitrack last night. Did an absolutely terrible job, cut the shifter outers way too short and not really sure I've put the inline adjusters in the right place along the cable. But it was good enough for a test ride to the shops and I've got to say I am very excited about this bike. So light and nippy compared to the Courier!
I've now committed to a tour on the Caledonian way in June so I'm not going to be too precious about finishing this. High priority upgrades are a new cassette, possibly chainrings, tyres and clipless pedals + shoes. The handlebars/stem/saddle I can live with until I find something nice enough that it's worth recabling etc, although with those bar ends on the woodchippers it's got a bit of 'baby giraffe taking its first steps' gangly look...
this looks ace! lovely job.
woodchippers always look a bit odd in photos, but riding them is worth the sacrifice i find.
Thanks! Yeah I know what you mean, tbh the looks aren't really an issue for me, definitely not a good enough reason alone to change them. The shifters just feel reeeally far away, but then I used to ride a bike with down tube shifters so I'm sure I can get used to it. If it really bugs me then I'm thinking the nitto randonneur bars look like a good compromise
Though also ...
good point well made, although these woodchippers are 25.4mm clamp size and so are Nitto randonneurs (I think?), so I actually have plenty of nice quill stem options e.g. nitto dirt drop or similar. (also I'm undecided on these VO stems, first I thought they were cool but now I'm thinking the bolt situation is a bit fugly? that said they're nicest looking option I've seen for using 31.8 bars on a 1" threaded headset)
Cheers mate, means a lot, and you really took it to another level!
I have some of the Nitto Randonneur bars but I don’t think I’ll actually use them. Hit me up if you want them! Bikes both look sweet.
Lots of progress made on the Multitrack this weekend. New cassette from on here, gave the rear wheel a bit more attention as I kind of rushed the truing/tensioning when I replaced the broken spokes a while ago. Took it for a quick test ride round the park and realised the brakes were doing bugger all so spent a while getting the pads just right. I've read and re-read that sheldon page so many times but still haven't quite got my head round what 'mechanical advantage' actually means.
Fitted some new 38mm gravelking SKs, and had a first attempt at wrapping the bars, wasn't aiming for perfection as I'm likely to be swapping bars/recabling before it's finished. Had to go for the slightly less 'aero' cable routing option for the shifter cables as I'd cut them too short to run along the bar.
Trip to the pub yesterday called for an inaugural towpath ride into hackney:
Trying to be objective about what works and what doesn't is tricky. I'm extremely jazzed about how this bike turned out, given that it's the first bike I've worked on with no help from an LBS it feels like a nice accomplishment. I loved riding it, so much lighter and nippier than the muddy fox, fast on roads but still super comfy on the unpaved bits of towpath.
But, it is loooong. I guess that's what you get for putting drop bars on an upright hybrid frame? but I did feel quite stretched out riding on the hoods and finished up a 40 min ride with a slightly sore upper back/neck. Going to try out a shorter stem, this one is 90mm so not sure how much shorter I can do without getting some weird handling. Also thinking that the Nitto bars from @TheConCon666 might help a bit as I believe they have a slight rise?
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