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I have an early 80s Schwinn Prelude. I need to replace the rear wheel.

The question at hand is should I spend $300 on a pair of NOS (new old stock) Superbe Pro hubs, which have the original 126 mm spacing it came with, or should I respace the rear dropouts to accommodate a modern spacing (130 mm). I like my current gear ratio as well as the classic downtube shifters. I could be convinced to modernize to bar shifters and 8-10 speed cassette but I'd like to see what my options are.

The fundamental question is as follows: is a vintage high end component set better than a mid range modern set (eg. Tiagra)? Specifically the hubs and bearings?

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    Bearings is one area where high-end is always high-end. The other advantages of going modern may outweigh this though. – JoeK Apr 27 at 6:18
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    Do you value period correct restoration or are you building just a rideable bike? – ojs Apr 27 at 7:07
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    Why do you need new hubs in the first place? If the old ones are really broken I’d go for a modern 130mm freehub. Freewheels are prone to bent axles. Shimano cup&cone hub bearings are solid and will last many kilometers when properly adjusted and re-greased from time to time. – Michael Apr 27 at 8:29
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    Do you need to replace the wheel because of the rim or because of the hub? If the rim is has gone bad you could build a new wheel with a new rim (and spokes) and keep the hub. You may just want to refurbish the hub with fresh bearings and grease. – Carel Apr 27 at 8:49
  • Joe K what would be the advantages and disadvantages you're referring to? No period accuracy isn't a big deal. I'd rather have a new hub that works fantastically than a vintage one that's just pretty good. Long story short the wheel got bent badly, took it to an LBS and the idiot there threw the whole thing away instead of building a new wheel around the hub. The wheel he replaced it with is complete garbage that you could find on bike from Target. I've probably spent more money repairing it then it cost in the first place. So yes I need a whole new wheel, hub included. – Ben King Apr 27 at 15:20
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If period correctness is not an issue, a modern cassette hub is the better choice. The problem with old freewheel design is that it puts the drive side bearings in the center of the axle where the weight of the rider can bend or break the axle. Modern hubs either put the bearings to the end of the axle or use an oversize axle that can take the load. Other benefits of modern hubs are that because the freewheel mechanism is part of the hub, you don't have to pay for new one when the cogs are worn out, cassettes are easy to replace because they don't tighten themselves when riding and finally, there are lots of affordable decent quality cassettes to choose from.

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