Vintage Bicycles Done Proper :: Portland, Oregon
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.
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.
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.
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.
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]
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.
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.
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.
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
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)
Chain: KMC Z50
Hubs: 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
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