Circa 80s Novara Strada steel road bike to gravel grinder.
The bike I am starting with is a 1985 Novara Strada Steel road bike. The bike was gifted to me by my friend Marc. He bought it for very cheap and it wasn’t the right size for him. Marc knew I loved bikes and decided to graciously donate the bike to me when he was moving out of state.
So what would a mountain biker do with this circa 80s road bike? Well I have a full suspension rig for the summer and fall and just recently I built up a budget fat bike for the winter…what about the spring? Here In Anchorage, Alaska the spring time is notorious for gross weather. The winter snow build up is melting and it wreaks havoc on the local single track. Making them really unsuitable for fat biking or mountain biking mainly due to the damage you could cause, creating ruts and blowing up features. So typically we have a moratorium period, where the trail maintainers don’t open the trails till usually late April to early May. So here’s where the Novara fits, most of the roads, dirt roads, and fire roads are good before the trails. That sounds perfect for a gravel bike, let's do that!
So Gravel bike, how do we do that? Gravel bikes are basically the same as road bikes, but just with bigger tires, right? Okay, so step one bigger tires. The biggest tire that I was able to fit on it were 700x32c Panaracer gravel kings, it originally had 700x25c’s. But the brakes weren’t going to fit, I could’ve bought longer reach rim brakes, but I thought doing a disc conversion would be more fun, especially on a bike that absolutely has no purpose having them. After finding a pair of $40(USD) Scott Syncros disc wheels off facebook marketplace, that solidified this plan.
It was at this point that I realized I have a full on resto-mod of a bike that I am building. So what other unnecessary things can I change? Lets add a 1x drivetrain, I opted for the Advent X 10 speed derailleur and cassette, for the shifter, I'm going to keep it old school by reusing the downtube shifter. I’m currently planning on reusing the original cranks and original 42t Shimano Biopace oval chainring. I had no idea that oval chainrings were being made almost 40 years ago. Along with all of the previously mentioned gear, the rest of the parts were sourced via my LBSs pull off bin, haggling my friends, or my own spare parts bin.
Getting the bike to its current status has been challenging. The biggest hurdles so far have been getting the disc brake tabs on, solving my front disc clearance issue, paint stripping and gun bluing. Before getting tabs on I had to figure out what to do with the front fork, the brake disc was rubbing. After consulting with a mechanic (Brother-in-Law), he suggested just clamping down the fork on a vice to oblong it, just slightly. This might be the sketchiest thing I’ve done so far, but it worked.
For the tabs I was able to enlist the help of a coworker that has had some experience in welding. Together we went to our local Auto hobby shop and rented out the welding bay and got to work. After some trial and error, and some repeat visits, we eventually had both tabs on. Success!
Finally, for the finish of the bike. Ever since I saw OldShovel on youtube build up the resto-mod steel Voodoo Hoodoo that he gun blued, I wanted to do that. Well, I tried. I’m not super impressed with how mine came out, a lot has to do with my prep, I was rushing. There is a very real possibility that I'll end up getting it powder coated.
We finally made it to the first round of voting, and after 3 updates I would say I am approximately 75% complete with my bike. There's still lots of little things left for me to do and if you vote for me, you can see this bike grow into something special!