Josh has an old bike and wants to make the gearing lower. He knows the methods but is not sure if it is possible to do. We run through the options available to him, or anyone else who wants a possible easier time on the bike with smaller gears.
Question: I have a 40 year old Peugeot road bike with the typical alpine gear setup.
What would be a reasonable cost way to get lower gears? Is there a way to change the small chain wheel to a smaller number of teeth? Would a conversion to a triple crankset be possible? Would a new bottom bracket be needed with a longer “axle” due to the tight spacing of the current chainwheels? (small chainwheel is very close to the rear stays.) Are wide range freewheels available for this bike?
You have already thought of the answers to your problem. Changing the freewheel would be the easiest and probably the cheapest method. Your problem is the availability of freewheels to fit your bike.
You don’t say how many gears you have, but I guess on a 40-year-old bike that it would be five-speed, with quite a narrow rear axle. I doubt there are any freewheels around, try e-bay, but I think you will be disappointed.
Changing the rear wheel probably isn’t an option as the back end of the frame will be a bit narrow for a wider axle, you take a chance and widen the rear ends, this is a job for a frame builder, and there is always the chance of damaging the frame.
What Should You Do?
So we are left with the option of fitting a triple chainset. You will need to change the bottom bracket for one with a wider axle.
The inner ring will hit the chainstay of the frame if you try to use the old one. There are many cheap triple set up’s available, so don’t worry about the cost, look around, and you should find a chainset and matching bottom bracket either in the bike shops or on-line.
You have to be careful with which size bottom bracket you have; normally, they are either English or Italian thread size or width. Your problem could be that with an old Peugeot, it could be of French dimensions.
These are very difficult to find, probably best if you take the bike to a good bike shop to check the size and fit the bottom bracket, they will do the job properly or tell you that it cant be done.
It might be a good idea to keep the old Peugeot as a collector’s item and buy a new bike for riding.