10 Speed Dreams – Part 3 “Ten to the Dozen”

Since swapping out the steel rimmed wheels for a pair of period 1987 Weinmann rims on Maillard hubs my ten speed has inadvertantly lost ‘essence’. Problem is, my ten-speed is now a 12 speed.

The original 5 speed block - plenty of room betwixt bottom cog and dropout.

Ten-speed has become a generic term (especially in the USA) for a low end road bike of the 70s and 80s, rather than a category of bicycle defined by its number of available cogs. However, the ten-speed purist might baulk at the thought of this upgrade – or indeed the idea of any kind of upgrade. Indeed, my purist streak was troubled by the swap from 5 to 6 rear cogs, but my tight-arsed streak won the day – I was buggered if I was going to buy a freewheel remover to take the lovely old Maillard-Huret 5 speed freewheel off the old wheels and put it on the new wheel.

The wheel swap also threw up a few minor technical challenges, which caused a few delays but in doing so, deepened my knowledge of old bicycle lore. My Peugeot is of 1987 vintage, at which point most low to mid road bikes had moved to 6 speed and the corresponding 126mm rear hub over-locknut dimension. Genuine 5 speeds of the 60s and 70s ran on 120mm spacing (like modern track bikes). However my Peugeot, being the entry level road bike of its day, was downgraded to 5 speed to save money, but ran on a 126mm axle setup, meaning that there was a healthy gap between the smallest rear sprocket and the rear dropout – enough room for a fender nut and bolt.

However, moving to 6 speed meant a wider freewheel block had to fit into the same space, meaning that the chain fouled the fender bolt when on the smallest 14t sprocket. After a little cussing and head-scratching, I found a solution – replace the wide nylock nut with a narrower one and pop a spacer washer behind the allen head bolt of the fender nut, buying me the few mm I needed to allow use of the 6th sprocket.

With new wheel and 6 speed block installed - tighter clearance between 14t sprocket and dropout but just enough with narrower fender bolt.

It’s funny how tiny little issues like this can render a bike unrideable!

Another delay to getting the new wheels on was finding a rear quick release of the right length. Buy a standard QR skewer for a rear wheel these days and it will be the right length for a 130 or 135mm hub and won’t have enough thread to wind down to the right width for an older 126mm hub. However, after a bit of online searching, I found an aesthetically appropriate QR with enough thread on the skewer to do the job, and after trimming the excess skewer off with a hacksaw, the upgraded twelve speed was ready to ride.

The result? The bike is now a full pound lighter, I’ve got quick release wheels, slightly tighter gear ratios, no more annoying buckaroo antics from the back wheel and vastly superior braking. Despite my purist reservations, I’m happy with the outcome.

As a footnote here are a few links which helped me with this task. Sheldon Brown was, as always, the go-to resource for archival knowledge on ‘obsolete’ technology, and the excellent Old Ten Speed Gallery has given me the feeling of not being alone in my ananchronistic ‘other life’. You’ll lose a few hours in both sites. Enjoy.

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