Overhaul of a Classic American Road Bike

by michelle bontrager in


Meet the future; the future mode of transportation for this weary Western world. Now I’m not gonna make a lot of extravagant claims for this little machine. Sure, it’ll change your whole life for the better, but that’s all.
— Bicycle salesman in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 1969
 American Made, Troy Michigan

American Made, Troy Michigan

Kmart Kamp

Andrew is one of our neighborhood customers who has an infinity for old steel road bikes. Ethan always manages to rebuild his various bikes into rideable machines. This month he brought in his latest yard sale find, a Kmart bike made in Troy Michigan, for Ethan to assess. This steel road bike of dubious age was missing it’s front wheel but otherwise was mostly intact.  Pure Kmart Kamp.

 vintage bike, vintage chain ring size

vintage bike, vintage chain ring size

Top Tube Index Shifters

After talking to Andrew about the possibility of getting the Kmart bike rideable again it became obvious that he was invested in this project. Understand that there are always vintage road bikes to be found, many of much better quality than Andrews latest find. This particular bike featured a specific component that struck a chord with Andrew, the hard-to-find top tube shifters. This type of shifter was available in the 1970s and hasn’t seen service for over 35 years.

Pros of the vintage shifters

  • Indexed shifters are nearly bomb proof

  • easy to maintain

  • aesthetically pleasing

Andrew’s first road bike featured such shifters and when he saw this Kmart bike at the yard sale happy memories of riding around with his friends as a young man flooded over him. He was immediately inspired to revive this bike one more time.

 Shimano top tube shifter saved

Shimano top tube shifter saved

 added an ergonomic handlebar and stem

added an ergonomic handlebar and stem


The Kmart bike had been neglected for so long that it would take a complete overhaul, easily a two day project, to get it on the road. The stem and handlebars had to be changed from narrow drop bars to a more ergonomic hi-rise bar. Other notable components that needed to be replaced included:

  • Front Wheel

  • Bottom Bracket

  • Brake Pads

  • Oury Grips

  • Chain

  • Seat post

  • Saddle

  • Cables and Housing.

The entire cost was $250 in parts and $250 in labor. The result is a reliable steel bike that will provide Andrew with many more years of riding with top tube shifters. Is it advisable to invest $500 in an old Kmart bike? In this case yes, the frame and fork are solid, the drive train and brakes are smooth, and it will bring happiness to our neighbor. A bike often represents more than its actual worth it represents a time, a place, a memory.

 Andrew’s favorite type of shifter, indexed top tube shifter by Shimano

Andrew’s favorite type of shifter, indexed top tube shifter by Shimano

People for Bikes’ summary of reviving vintage bikes.
Of course we see it as all pro in this case!