I have a 40 year old Bottecchia (entry level model) that I took for ride yesterday after letting it sit for 20 years. Just inflated the tires and oiled the chain and off I went.

The tires and brake pads obviously need to be replaced and I was thinking of getting some cross tires for some dirt road and short trip riding, but yesterday's ride reminded me how bad the old derailleurs were and the huge gap between gears.

Some components had been upgraded (wheels, cotterless crank) but I'm wondering what gear clusters I can use without changing wheels.

I'm also open to other ideas ... other than making it a fixie.

  • 2
    More information about the bike could lead to more helpful advice, along with pictures if you have them. Jul 15, 2011 at 4:36
  • I'll try and post a picture this weekend. Its a straight steel frame with nice chromed lugs. It originally came with low end campy components but I replaced the crank and derailleurs with inexepensive Suntour and had the wheels rebuilt with Weinmann Concave rims and the brakes are center pull Weinmanns.
    – Mitch
    Jul 15, 2011 at 14:12
  • 2
    Best Upgrade for that bike is to be in a climate controlled museum.
    – Moab
    Jul 15, 2011 at 18:25

4 Answers 4


Bottechia frames from that period use an italian threaded bottom bracket. I assume also down tube friction shifters?

The simple answer is that you can upgrade the bike all the way to current standards, if you are willing to spend the money. But it is not what most would consider to be cost effective to do so.

Upgrading the rear freewheel beyond a 7 speed cluster isn't likely to work, without new wheels, and if you only upgrade to a 7-speed freewheel, you will need to change your chain to match. Changing your chain requires changing your derailleurs, both of them, preferably, although you might get away with leaving the front derailleur.

If you spend the money to go that far, a whole new bike kit, which should be possible to make work on the frame, isn't that different in price, depending on your choices. A SRAM Apex Kit should cost around $1500 dollars, including new basic wheels, and current standard wide range gearing.

But if you want to keep the original wheels, you will be very limited in how far you can change things.

  • I already have a decent road bike and the this frame is straight steel, nothing fancy, so there isn't much reason to spend too much money on it. It does ride pretty nice and has some decent 27" wheels (Campy/Weinmann Concaves). Will it be hard to find a 7 speed cluster and chain that will fit?
    – Mitch
    Jul 15, 2011 at 14:05
  • A seven speed freewheel is common enough. But you will have to change the freewheel, chain, chainrings (most likely), and at least the rear derailleur, if you want it to shift cleanly. Quite possibly the front derailleur as well, since it will be a wider spacing than a seven speed requires, and will allow the chain to overshift in both directions. It will be difficult to keep the chain on the rings up front if you don't change the derailleurs.
    – zenbike
    Jul 15, 2011 at 14:20

Back 40 years ago there was the whole French/Italian/English divide in bike standards, so it's really a crap shoot. You might find that the rear hub takes "standard" old-style freewheels, but you're limited to 5-speed unless you put in a longer axle (not out of the question) or find a "compact" 6/7 speed freewheel (likely scarce as hen's teeth). I suppose you could put in a new BB cartridge and have 3 chainrings, but the BB standards were the least "standard" of anything back then.

  • I remember having a tough time finding a cotterless crank when I replaced it but that was before the internet or ebay. It's now a Sugino square drive crankset with english or italian threading.
    – Mitch
    Jul 15, 2011 at 13:58

The bike I use out of my stable of 5 road bikes & 1 recumbent tricycle for touring (mostly 5 day trips) is a rebuilt 1975 Raleigh super course. This came as a 10 gear bicycle which I immediately put on a triple crank. It now has 21 gears. 16 years ago when Shimano cluster cogs were on their way out I bought enough in the proper tooth sizes to last me 20-30 years (chainrings are still available) so I can not really advise what to do. The shop in Madison, WI. is out of cogs. Harris Cyclery (which is for me a local shop) still lists on their website a few freewheels.

My tricycle is my only pedal powered vehicle that is completely up to date with 9 speed cluster & hyperglide. I learned to friction shift in the late 60s. With indexed handlebar end controls I feel I have the best system, brifters are expensive & not necessary.

As far bottom brackets are concerned until Phil Wood sold his company I had an open account there which made his products more affordable. I always used Phil bottom brackets. I have 4 of his, 1 conventional one & the swiss mountain drive for my 54 gear tricycle

  • Loose Screws is another great source for older, hard to find parts: loosescrews.com
    – Gary.Ray
    Nov 28, 2012 at 13:03

As Jacek says...My main ride is a 1972 Cilo/Swiss roadster with a Columbus frame. Nice frame, nice Shimano 600 components.... But sub-par with other bits. Nasty steel crank, nasty Malliard wheels, Sort-of-OK Weinemann brakes.

I have...

Spread the frame to accept a contemporary Shimano 7-speed wheel. (looking for a nice 8-speed) Replaced the front wheel similarly. Replaced the crank with a contemporary 39-52 aluminum item. Replaced the rather beat-up brake levers with Shimano items. So now, I have a nice, smooth-riding vintage steel-framed bike. Use it almost daily.

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