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New chain set, do I need new shifters?
Hi there,

I've got an old Peugeot road bike, it's seen better days, but I'm trying to get it back to a reasonable standard.
My main problem is the gearing, I live in a very hilly area and the 52/42 double on the front with a 5-speed on the back (14/24), doesn't allow me to get to the top of the hills without getting off and walking.

I'm looking to buy a new triple and this would obviously mean a new dérailleur, the problem is I have down tube shifters and the guy at my local bike shop has told me they're not compatible with an indexed dérailleur. so I'd then be needing new shifters as well as and that goes way over the budget I have to sort out the gearing.

I'd just like to know if theres any way I could make it work without getting new shifters.
And if anyone has any cheap ideas how on what i should do then it would be much appreciated.

Cheers, Jobe
Non-indexed (friction) shifters ARE compatible with indexed derailleurs, you just aren't going to have indexing. If you wanted indexed <i>shifting</i> (clicks into place), you would need new shifters, derailleurs, freewheel, and chain. You'd also probably have to mess with the rear axle a little. But I don't think you'd have any problem with the shifters on a triple in general.

To just put a triple on the front, you would need new front & rear derailleurs, the new crankset, and a new chain. There's a possibility you would also need a new bottom bracket so the new crank sits in the right place, but maybe not.

Ultimately, it depends on how radically you need to change the gears. If you just need to go a little lower, you might be able to find a 39 tooth chainring for the front. Then you wouldn't have to change anything else and you would get 7% decrease in lowest gear. If you can't find a chainring, you could get a double crank with chainrings that are better suited to your riding.

The easiest change is to swap the freewheel. You could probably go to at least a 14-28 in back. (http://www.bikeman.com/FW5005.html) That would give you a 17% lower gear. You may be able to use the same rear derailleur, but check carefully how it handles the big-big combination before you ride it. Might also need a new chain but that's something you may want to replace regardless.

Note that you probably can't put a 6 spd or 7 spd freewheel on that bike without respacing your axle, redishing the wheel, and spreading the frame. None of these are major issues, but they would need to be done to get beyond 5 speed.

If you think a fairly moderate lowering of the lowest gear would do it, I'd say try the free wheel first. Remember that a 1 tooth change in the back makes a much bigger difference than 1 in the front. Look for a smaller chainring for the front if you need a bit more. Then look for a compact double or go to a triple if you really need a big jump.
Thanks for all that,

You've given me a lot of options to play with.

Putting a smaller chain ring on seems as if it would be the cheapest option, but i i think that would still leave me having to get off halfway up the hills, so I'd prefer to lower the gearing more.

The thing is, I was intending to get the new triple much, much smaller, 42/34/24, so i thought that that would lower the gearing a lot and then job done, i think that would be fine and if not then I'd have doubts as to whether i should continue the cycling :p

When you say i would need new front AND rear derailleurs, the new crankset, and a new chain, would there be any possibility of just getting the front deraileur and crankset for now, buying the new rear deraileur and chain at some time in the future when i have some more money? or would this be dangerous or otherwise bad? if i were to buy the other stuff at a later date I'd probably be replacing the free wheel too and from what i've heard its best to do chain and free wheel at the same time, but i dont have money for it all in one go.

Thanks again
If you put a triple on with the same rear derail you will have trouble in the extreme combinations (sm-sm and lg-lg). A "long cage" rear derailleur is needed to be able to handle the broader range of gears you'll end up with. You might get away with it, but I suspect you'll have trouble. The chain might be ok since you're going to a compact triple.

Changing the freewheel would probably be the cheapest option, and 17% is going to be very noticible. I would first check if you can get a smaller chainring for your existing crank (there are lots of incompatible sizes and you'll probably need to take it to a shop to get it measured. Though preferably a shop where they know what they're talking about. Look for the old guys!) If you can get one, I'd do that and the freewheel first. But again, I don't how extreme you need to lower the gears.

I'd also say that if you haven't been back on a bike for very long, you're going to get much stronger fairly quick. You may be surprised how soon you'll be able to climb hills that seemed impossible. Don't get frustrated just yet. Wink but of course, only you know what would be right for you. I'm just talking from an "ease of conversion" perspective.
Well, I'm going to have a look at the bike shop tomorrow after school to see what they've got in terms of a new freewheel and I'll see what they could do about adding a smaller ring.

However, the triple is still calling to me, so if it should work to some degree, I'm gonna go with the triple for the moment, with a new front deraileur and bottom bracket and i'll try to keep it away from the sm-sm, lg-lg until i can get the new rear deraileur, free wheel and chain.

Thanks for all the advice and suggestions and the encouragement to keep it up, I'll think of that next time lactic acid is coursing through my legs Smile

Hm, older Peugeot road bikes sometimes had Stronglight cranksets. They have a bolt circle diameter (122mm I think) that is basically not available any more, so just changing the chain ring is probably not an option. I'd go with a compact crankset (35?-50), they are still available for tapered square axle bottom brackets. This will probably work with your current front derailleur / bottom bracket combination. When looking at a triple crank set, check that it fits on the frame with some clearance and that it works with the bottom bracket. I'd also say that a triple road crankset is low enough for almost everything, except if you go riding off road.
Also note that on an older French bike, the bottom bracket will have French threading (or maybe Italian). Sourcing a new bottom bracket will be difficult for French threaded BB-shells.

Front derailleur: I don't know if you can get front derailleurs that fit on an old steel frame. The seat tube diameter used to be much smaller in the olden days.

As for the rear: get a cheap rear wheel and a new cassette + chain. You can (if you change the rear derailleur) even get a mtb cassette (e.g. 9sp SRAM 11-32). The 9 speed cassettes work like a charm with a friction shifter (on my Peugeot road bike with a Stronglight crankset (45-54), I'll probably upgrade to a compact crank set + "new" front derailleur, mine is broken). You'll have to respace the frame though. Look at
http://www.sheldonbrown.com/frame-spacing.html it is easy to do.
Consider two things: If cost and "down time" are issues I sense that buying a used bike that is already outfitted the way you need it may be the better way to go. You would not be the only person who has been discouraged by major climbs in your area--I suspect that there are other discouraged riders in your area. I know there are in mine! I have seen excellent deals on craigslist for complete 21/24/27/30-speed road/mtn bikes for the price of a decent crankset plus freewheel alone. You would get the added benefits of indexed shifting and try-before-you-buy. The downside is that you don't get to build your own bike. Some things to think about

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