I’ve been riding my Puch Cavette II quite a lot recently, and I have it pretty well dialed in, I think.
So I thought I’d detail the modifications I’ve made to make it road-worthy.
The changes have been relatively few, since the bike, as purchased, was in remarkably good shape for a 30+ year-old low-to-mid-grade bicycle.
Still, there have been a few things I’ve fixed, or at least changed.
Here’s the bike as it stands now:
One of the first things I did was to remove the original brake levers, and replace them with a used set of Shimano 105 levers (as shown here). I’ve been quite happy with that change. The levers have a better ergonomic feel, and the cable routing is much cleaner.
I ended up keeping the rubber grips on the handlebar drops, and wrapping the rest of the way up with foam tape. Looks strange, I know. but the rubber’s comfortable, and I was able to wrap the rest of the distance thicker because of it.
I also replaced the stock front and rear brake cable hangers. The originals were plain-jane units, and worked fine, except that there was no quick-release mechanism on the brakes themselves. So it was extremely difficult to remove a wheel without letting the air out of the tire.
I found some old-stock Shimano Centerpull Brake Cable Hangers on eBay, and these units integrated a quick-release into the hanger itself. Just rotate a lever, and it provides about 1/4″ of slack. It’s an elegant solution, and works great.
When I got the bike, it still had its original tires, and they were in reasonably good shape. But the 30+ year-old rubber didn’t last long on gravel roads. I suffered a couple flats, and visible cracking on one of the tires before deciding to retire them
I went with the cheapest 27″ tire I could find, a C637 “Super HP” from CST (Cheng Shin Tyre). These only cost me $7 each online, plus shipping. Time will tell on their ruggedness, but they seem to be fine — fast-rolling, and comfortable. The tires are labeled as 27″ x 1-1/4″, but measure closer to 1-1/8″ width (about 28mm).
I also swapped out tubes, opting for a Presta valve instead of Schrader. The tubes appeared to be sufficiently rugged around the stem, so I opted not to use a gasket or hole size adapter. So far so good. I also would have preferred threaded stems, but the tubes I received were long and non-threaded. Again, it hasn’t yet been an issue.
For a tail light, I removed the stock rear reflector, and replaced it with an XLC Ultra LED 1/2 Watt Tail Light.
This appears to be a Planet Bike SuperFlash clone — very similar mechanical characteristics, similar optics. I ran a SuperFlash for several years (before losing it on my southwestern trip), and the XLC is pretty much the same, except way cheaper. Perhaps not as bright, but pretty good.
I mounted it on the rear reflector bracket, using a little trick. I took a short section of PVC pipe, and wrapped it with some old inner tube, then used the tail light mounting bracket on that. Basically, the PVC functions as a seatpost, for mounting purposes. Simple, cheap, and weighs almost nothing.
I also use a reflective safety triangle suspended from the seat bag. This functions as a backup for the tail light, and is very visible during daylight as well.
The seat bag is an old Serfas MTB-2 Medium Seat Bag that I happened to have on hand.
“Carrying stuff” is another area where I’ve had to get a little creative.
The bike has no water bottle braze-ons, so I used a Minoura water bottle mount (BH-95X) to add a water bottle cage. This works reasonably well. Still not sure how I’ll handle summer rides, though, when more water capacity will be needed…
The bike is also lacking rack mounts on the seat stays. I could get a clamp-on unit, but with the goal of keeping this bike as unencumbered as possible, I’m trying to avoid adding a rack.
What I came up with was an approach I’d used back when I was riding a mountain bike — a fanny pack. The one I had on hand is a JanSport Waist Pack, which has two compartments — a small one in the front where I store wallet, phone, and lip balm, and a larger main compartment which can hold a bit more, such as a camera and snacks:
The fanny pack is light enough, and rides low enough, that I can’t even feel it’s there after a short time.
But I still had a problem.
Often, on rides I like to stop at a grocery store to pick up a few things — it saves a trip by car. But I had nowhere to carry extra stuff.
For a few rides, I slung the plastic grocery bag over my handlebars. Worked for small items, but hardly elegant.
Then I dug up an old drawstring backpack I’d gotten as a promotional giveaway from a local company:
It’s lightweight, and comes with nice reflective striping. And even better, it rolls up into a compact little bundle:
Rolled up, it fits snugly into the bottom of the large fanny pack compartment, with plenty of room left for other gear.
And unrolled, the backpack actually holds quite a lot:
That’s a loaf of bread on top, and various groceries underneath. That load was actually a bit much — about 13 pounds — which is more than I’d care to carry on my back for long. But for the 6 miles home from the store, it was manageable.
I also added a Park Tool PMP-5 Frame Pump, which I purchased used off eBay. Fits perfectly and holds securely against the seat tube. I might eventually move to to the top tube, and add a second water bottle to the seat tube. If I do that, I’ll need to add a strap of some sort to keep it from slipping down, since the Puch frame doesn’t include a pump peg.
How much have I spent bring the bike (mostly) up to snuff? Not counting the items I already had on hand: $14 for 2 new tires, $8 for 2 new tubes, $12 for new brake hangers, $10 for pump, $4 for handlebar tape, $1 for water bottle mount, $15 for brake levers, $12 for tail light … so about $76. Not too bad.
So what hasn’t changed? Frame, handlebar, brakes, cables, wheels, drive train, shifters, kickstand, front reflector, seatpost.
What would I still like to change?
- I’d like to get a set of better wheels. Aluminum alloy. But should I stick with 27″ or switch to 700c? And should I stick with the freewheel, or switch to freehub/cassette? Are the inexpensive mass-produced wheels (I found some for about $25 each w/o freewheel) worth it, or should I hold out for better quality? (Switching to 700c would necessitate new tires, too … blah.)
- I’d like to improve the shifters, changing from the stem-mounted shifters to bar-end shifters. Even used ones, though, are quite expensive. Still hoping to stumble across a deal somewhere.
- If I really end up riding this more, fenders might be in order.
- Lighter handlebars would be nice.
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