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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Ive got an 86 Peugeot Mont Cenis in close to original shape, including Campagnolo Victory derailleurs, Mavic Module E wheels, and a helicomatic 6 speed freewheel. My back wheel has broken a couple spokes recently, and after having them fixed, they have broken again. I dont know if they are worth having fixed again. I know they are older as it is and was wondering if it was possible to change out the wheel for another with a 6 speed cassette? If so, does anyone have any recommendations in the $150-200 range? Id be willing to spend a bit more to replace both wheels if it is recommended to do both at the same time. I dont need anything super light weight or aero or what not-- just a nice set of vintage style smooth and reliable wheels with a cassette that will fit and work on my bike. Ill include a couple photos for reference. Thanks in advance!!


photo 3 by coreyrichards, on Flickr


photo 1 by coreyrichards, on Flickr


photo 5 by coreyrichards, on Flickr
 

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Is it the spokes that are breaking, or the nipples? It's a lot more common for the nipples to start failing. In any case...

If the hub is still good you can have those wheels re-built with new spokes and nipples, and re-use the rim unless it's worn out. You should be able to have them rebuilt and stay within your budget. If you need new rims, either buy new old stock (NOS) rims off of eBay or Velocity makes silver rims that look good on older steel bikes. New rims could cause you to go over budget.

If you opt to replace the entire wheel, you'll need to find a rear wheel with an older hub - any front wheel will do. Your bike is (most likely) spaced at 126mm versus 130mm, so a 126mm wheel will fit more easily - although you can squeeze a 130mm wheel in there. (There's a possibility that the spacing is 120mm, in which case a 130mm hub will not fit without a lot of work.) More importantly, your bike uses a 6-speed freewheel (not a cassette). Unless you replace other components you need to stick with the 6-speed set-up - which means finding a hub that accepts freewheels. Bike swaps, Craigslist, and eBay are all place to find a wheel. However, a "used" wheel may be no better than your current set. So, it might be cheaper in the end just to fix what you've got. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Perfect answer, thanks for a detailed and thorough response. Im pretty sure its been breaking at the hub, or at least thats where Im finding the seperation. I will try to have it rebuilt and fixed again, since as you mention, buying used can be as much as a gamble as fixing again. I do know as you mentioned that the freewheel can be a real pain to find, especially being a Helicomatic. Ive already gone through it once and decided to repair for the same reasons as you mentioned. I just ended up with the exact same problem after my 2nd ride after repair that I didnt know if it was worth putting more money into. I appreciate the response laffeaux, thanks!

It is my only geared bike and Im definitely itching to get it back in action. Ive been riding a fixed gear ever since (including on a century!) and miss having some choice of gearing. I also have my eye on a local De Rosa Primato that is haunting my dreams. Fixing the Peugeot is a much cheaper option, buying a De Rosa is a much more fun option ;)
 

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More importantly, your bike uses a 6-speed freewheel (not a cassette).
Just as an aside: the Helicomatic on this bike is actually an early version of a cassette. Once you spun the lockring off with a pocket lockring/bottle opener tool, the rest of the cogs would twist right off the helical splines. When I saw my first Helicomatic, I thought "now why didn't I think of that!"

I do agree that the OP needs to have built or find wheels with a hub that accepts a standard freewheel. This means ditching the entire Helicomatic thing, cogs and all, of course. But most people would agree that "good riddance" is the proper comment to that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
I do agree that the OP needs to have built or find wheels with a hub that accepts a standard freewheel. This means ditching the entire Helicomatic thing, cogs and all, of course. But most people would agree that "good riddance" is the proper comment to that.
That is something I had in mind as well. I know the helicomatic is a weird hybrid that never took off and is difficult to find/not worth replacing. Are there any prebuilt wheel/hub/freewheel combo I can buy that I wouldnt have to put together? Would it be best to contact a local shop to have them build something? I went to a LBS before to have the bike fixed and they didnt seem to be prepared to work on older bikes. I certainly wouldnt mind ditching the wheels and helicomatic setup for something else. I really just dont know where to begin.

I am considering taking a look at that De Rosa Primato. Im worried its a bit too big, but it seems to be a pretty good deal right around 1600. Im sure it would be a great bike ready to ride that should last a long time. Im just not sure I have 1600 to drop on a bike that potentially wont fit me. Any idea how a 61cm De Rosa Primato would run size wise? Im clocking in a hair over 6' with pretty short legs/long torso. (edit for reference- the Peugeot is 59cm and its a pretty solid fit, though I dont think I could deal with much/any higher stand over).

Thanks for the replies and Id appreciate any other suggestions for a reliable fix for my current bike :)
 

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I'd go on ebay and buy a decent freewheel-threaded hub and a 6-speed freewheel. The over-locknut dimension of the hub should match your frame spacing, which almost certainly is 126 mm. Then I would take the hub and the old wheel to someone who's good at building wheels. They don't have to know anything about old bikes—a wheel is a wheel. You might have to ask around a bit to find out who in your locality is the best at building wheels and in which shop they ply their trade.

I rode 58 cm (center-to-center) traditional steel bikes for many years. I'm 5'10" and also have a long upper body. I always thought these bikes all looked a little big for me vertically, but fit me perfectly horizontally. It's possible that the 61 cm will fit you the same way—looking a little too big (meaning not enough seat post showing for today's style requirement), but actually fitting you well horizontally. Just a thought, though, not a hard and fast recommendation. I think fitting someone over the internet is sketchy, at best.
 

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Perfect answer, thanks for a detailed and thorough response. Im pretty sure its been breaking at the hub, or at least thats where Im finding the seperation. I will try to have it rebuilt and fixed again, since as you mention, buying used can be as much as a gamble as fixing again. I do know as you mentioned that the freewheel can be a real pain to find, especially being a Helicomatic. Ive already gone through it once and decided to repair for the same reasons as you mentioned. I just ended up with the exact same problem after my 2nd ride after repair that I didnt know if it was worth putting more money into. I appreciate the response laffeaux, thanks!
We might learn something if you tell us which side of the hub is breaking spokes. If it is the left (non-drive) side then there might be insufficient overall spoke tension so spokes get "worked" every turn of the wheel as they go slack. If it is the drive side then the odds are good that the wheel needs to be rebuilt. The old rule of thumb (and still very valid) is that if you break one spoke it could be a fluke, if you break two then the wheel needs watching, and if you break three the wheel needs to be rebuilt.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
We might learn something if you tell us which side of the hub is breaking spokes. If it is the left (non-drive) side then there might be insufficient overall spoke tension so spokes get "worked" every turn of the wheel as they go slack. If it is the drive side then the odds are good that the wheel needs to be rebuilt. The old rule of thumb (and still very valid) is that if you break one spoke it could be a fluke, if you break two then the wheel needs watching, and if you break three the wheel needs to be rebuilt.
It broke on the drive side of the wheel the 2nd time, though I dont remember the first time. I imagine that side must get more force exerted on it. Either way, I think it would probably need to be rebuilt before confidently riding it for long distances. Im a big guy, 6' tall ish and 180-185lb I like steel and high spoke wheels for reliability and durability. Im not a super fast rider but I dig distance. One point of worry on the new used De Rosa Im looking at is its Campagnolo Shamal 12 spoke wheels. They just dont scream durable to me at my size. I thought that would probably be an easy swap with newer componentry if need be.
 

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If you're rebuilding it do not bother using the old hub. If and when you need to replace the sprockets you'll be SOL finding anything anywhere. Either buy a threaded hub off Ebay or invest in a cassette hub and have the frame respaced to 130. Helicomatic hubs were novel at the time but the execution was cheap. As a result they were not particularly robust and died a deserving death as product.
 
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