The Simplicity of Vintage Cycles

Vintage Bicycles Done Proper :: Corvallis, Oregon

1983 Lotus Eclair

Not all bikes can be show stoppers. Some were ridden frequently, riddled with character and have the battle scars to prove it. And they shouldn’t have to apologize for that.

1983 Lotus Eclair

1983 Lotus Eclair

I have a guilty conscience when it comes to this well-equipped Lotus touring rig. I have completed project after project as it patiently hung in the shop, perpetually “in-progress” waiting for some love and attention. A new bike would come in and the excitement of the tear down and build up would eclipse anything else, including other inventory. As a lull would hit, I would tinker with the Lotus, cleaning this, fixing that. Then a new steed would arrive and history would repeat itself. Away I would go focusing on the new while the Lotus remained in pieces.

Although not abused, the Lotus shows it was a bicycle that was a rider. Two years after I purchased it, what made me actually sit up and take notice is the same reason that likely held me back from powering through the project with gusto. This isn’t a garage queen. It was a ride that was a workhorse. It isn’t perfect. It has a few small scratches and chips in the paint. But, it was used for its intended purpose and likely, well loved too. Both something to be proud of.

1983 Lotus Eclair

Sometimes showing the battle scars of a soldier and a survivor is appropriate to leave visible rather than trying to cover up every blemish like a Hollywood makeup artist. Most of the bikes I acquire have significant potential to leave my shop nearly as awe inspiring as they day they left the factory floor. Not the Lotus. Although it may not be crystal clear in the photographs, I left numerous imperfections as they were. I felt that trying to cover these up did the Lotus a disservice. Of course, as part of any renovation, chips and scratches were cleaned to bare metal and spot clear coated to prevent further damage. This, along with other cleaning, buffing and replacement of other consumable items left the Lotus in a transformative shape I am overall extremely pleased with. Yet the character was of course aptly preserved.

1983 Lotus Eclair

Lotus Legacy
The somewhat forgotten Japanese Lotus brand has a six year legacy (1981-1987) when it comes to the companies touring line. By 1987 the Eclair had evolved into a juggernaut that could hold its own with the likes of the competitors coming out of its same country of origin. Although, the bigger names such as Fuji and Miyata were developing massive following leaving Lotus lesser known, but still a respected brand within the cycling community.

1983 Lotus Eclair

Dyna Drive Technology
One detail that caught my eye when I first viewed the Lotus was the crankset, which was the essence of Shimano’s Dyna Drive system. Sheldon seems to do a better job than I at explaining what the Dyna Drive system entails. “In the early ’80’s, Shimano introduced a special crank and pedal set, which used much larger diameter threading where the pedal screwed into the crank. This allowed them to build the bearing into the inside of the pedal thread, eliminating the need for a pedal axle. The purpose of this was to improve the biomechanics of the pedal by placing the bottom of the foot below the pedal axis. This was rather a good idea biomechanically, but never caught on. In practice, the pedal bearings turned out to be under-engineered for the loadings they had to deal with.” [Sheldon Brown]

1982 Shimano catalog

1982 Shimano catalog explains the Dyna Drive system

1983 Lotus Eclair

Two-piece Crankset
To me, the crankset is quite beautiful. Built of typical die-cast aluminum crank arms and chainrings things begin getting interesting at the extra crank bolts, near the center of the arm. These bolts aren’t just for looks. The crankset comes in two pieces. The crank arm and the spider. This isn’t the first time this has been done before but, as mentioned above, the look commands some authority plus there is some fantastic functionality here. Not only is one able to swap out crank rings easily but breaking it all apart certainly does help ease the difficulty of a truly thorough cleaning.

1983 Lotus Eclair

Non-standard Pedal Holes
The linchpin to the subsequent failure of the Dyna Drive system was what was intended to excite users to buying the product.  The pedal system posed a major issue as they had no pedal axle. This meant that the bearings were relocated into the part of the pedal which screws into the crank. Shimano’s redesign required an oversized hole in the crank 25mm, or 1″ diameter rather than industry standard 9/16″ to accept the axle-less Dyna Drive pedals. “The theory behind this was to allow the foot to be lower than the pedal axle for better biomechanics. This system was relatively short lived, one reason being that the pedal bearings wore out quickly.” [Shimano]
Not only did pedal bearings wear out quickly but, as mentioned, the pedal hole was non-standard requiring a hard-to-find and expensive adapter to fit ones favorite 9/16″ pedals. The other solution was for the user to simply deal with the issue by keeping the stock Deore clipped pedals on. Cyclists tend to be very particular with both saddle and pedal choices so I can only imagine the frustration and public outcry this setup was fraught with.

1983 Lotus Eclair

Other than the quirky Dyna Drive setup, the rest of the Eclair was extremely straightforward and standard for this vintage of touring bike. The frame was clearly built strong with the long haul in mind, components were matched appropriately and although obvious use was shown, she had survived the test of time with grace. It is clear to me that the purest essence and desire of the Eclair is to be loaded up, be it with daily commuting gear or packed down for a multiday journey and ridden for miles and miles.

After taking far too long to getting this incredibly capable touring rig back on the road, life has once again been breathed into her and the open road finally beckons.

1983 Lotus Eclair

Nearly vanished, remnants of the Eclair logo still remain

1983 Lotus Eclair

Color: White and navy blue
Frame Size: 53cm (C-T) seat post & 54cm (C-C) top tube
Frame/Drop-outs: Tange double butted Mangaloy 2001 steel
Fork: Tange double butted Mangaloy 2001 steel
Drop Bars: Specialized I
Bar Wrap: Fizik Superlight in Metal Blue with black tape
Stem: SR
Headset: Tange Seiki
Saddle: Avocet Touring I
Seat Post: Sakae SR
Crankset: Shimano Deore Dyna Drive; 50/45/34; 170mm
Front Derailleur: Shimano Deore
Rear Derailleur: Shimano Deore
Shifting: Shimano Deore (downtube)
Brake Levers: Tektro R200
Brake Calipers: Dia-Compe 960
Cable and Housing: Shimano and Clarks
Freewheel: 6-Speed Shimano (30/26/23/20/17/15)
Sunshine Gyromaster
Wheels: Ukai; 27″ x 1-1/4″; 36h (F) and 40h (R); Sunshine skewers
Tires: Panaracer Pasela; 27″ x 1-1/4″
Pedals: Shimano Deore Dyna Drive; Sakae SR clips
Special Features: Double eyelets front/rear; Brazed-on mounts for a rear rack; Two bottle mounts; Chainholder

1983 Lotus Eclair

© Josh Capps and The Simplicity of Vintage Cycles. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Josh Capps and The Simplicity of Vintage Cycles with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

10 comments on “1983 Lotus Eclair

  1. Nola Wilken
    April 27, 2014

    What a nice and one of a kind bike!

    • Josh C.
      April 27, 2014

      Thanks for the comment, Nola! It is a nice, little rider for sure!

  2. adventurepdx
    April 27, 2014

    Looks like a beaut, weird pedals and all!
    But when you say “I have a guilty conscious” I think what you mean to say is a guilty conscience. 😉

    • Josh C.
      April 27, 2014

      Whoops! Thanks for making me conscious of my blunder!

  3. SeattleO
    June 21, 2014

    Beautiful! Nothing beats an old touring rig. I usually prefer Suntour, but I have a weakness for early Deore. That crankset is spectacular.

    • Josh C.
      June 22, 2014

      I’m 100% with you. Although, the second generation Deore drivetrain I’ve been running on my commuter now for the last year’ish has certainly proved its worth.

  4. Earl Knight
    February 6, 2019

    Wow! That’s my bike that I have hanging in the shed now… so many miles on it… now so many cobwebs…lol. Have never been able to part with it and now I’m psyched to get her some new rubber and hit the road again!

    • Josh C.
      February 6, 2019

      Lotus made a fine bicycle, Earl. And I have a feeling that a wipe down and some new comsumables (tires, brake pads, maybe a chain) are all that’s standing in your way between miles of enjoyable riding. Jump on those repairs now because spring is just around the corner!

      • Marc A.
        September 25, 2019

        Earl sold me his Eclair—(found it on craigslist) after being shipped from Vermont and being fitted with new tires and brakes, it is ripping up the roads of Butte County California

      • Josh C.
        September 25, 2019

        Coast to coast transaction! I love to hear you acquired this, Marc, and that you are bringing some new life back into that lovely vintage steel.
        Enjoy the ride!

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