1980s road bikes make for pretty alright gravel bikes, as evidenced by Tom’s Lotus Odyssey, the bike he shared with us for Readers’ Rides today! Let’s check out what Tom did to make this bike more capable below…
Submitting for consideration my cherished early 80’s Lotus Odyssey, now in its third distinct iteration. My name is Tom, and I’m a professional mechanic in my mid 20’s who spends much of my free time breathing new life into vintage bikes. My feet are currently in Denver, CO, while my head is still in the rolling hills of Vermont. As was the case with my father’s rebuilt 1989 Trek Antelope that garnered quite a few views here, this frame also has a paternal connection and played no small role in my becoming the mechanic and lover of bikes that I am today.
Towards the tail end of my senior year of high school in western Massachusetts, my dad recognized that I needed a reliable, competent, yet understated bike to serve as my primary mode of transportation around Burlington, Vermont, where I was to spend the next four years at college. He found this used Lotus at our local bike shop with a build kit not far off from stock- a 3×5 downtube, friction shifted drivetrain, Shimano 600 side-pull brakes, etc.
I often reminisce about that first iteration of the Lotus, because despite being so far from “modern,” I was young enough not to know any better. To my 17 year old eyes, the bike wasn’t missing this or that, it simply existed in its pure state.
So when a few of my best friends pitched the idea of bike touring 230 miles from the Canada-Vermont border all the way south to the Vermont-Massachusetts line to celebrate graduation, it was of course the Lotus that got the call. To no one’s surprise, I friction shifted, side-pull braked, and pannier-toted myself the entire length of the Green Mountain state without any trace of an issue. This was my first taste of self-supported bicycle touring, and it was a critical moment in my life.
Over the next four years, my desire to spend time on the Lotus waned as I went to college, fell in love with mountain biking, got a lightweight road bike, and began to focus more on what this 30+ year old bike lacked, rather than what it provided. As a result, it spent lots of time locked up outside in the unforgiving Vermont seasons, its rusted chain and now seized bottom bracket and stem protesting with every ride to and from class. During this time, I began volunteering at our local bike non-profit, Old Spokes Home, to which I eventually donated the Lotus. Due to its rough condition, it sat in the basement of the community shop for the better part of two years, patiently awaiting what would become its second phase of life.
After graduation, armed with a degree I have yet to use and a new appreciation for the vintage bicycle, plus a full time job at Old Spokes, I reclaimed the Lotus from that brick basement with a vision of a single speed gravel bike. Those years spent outside had done the bike no favors; even stripping it down to a frame proved quite the challenge. The quill stem had become one with the steer tube, but a sawzall fairly quickly rectified that.
I knew the seized bottom bracket outmatched me, so when I asked my dear friend, former co worker, and general wizard of the greater Burlington area, Rob (and his acetylene torch), for help, he offered to braze on canti posts in an effort to help the frame realize its gravel riding potential.
We’d like to thank all of you who submitted Readers Rides builds to be shared here at The Radavist. The response has been incredible and we have so many to share over the next few months. Feel free to submit your bike, listing details, components, and other information. You can also include a portrait of yourself with your bike and your Instagram account! Please, shoot landscape-orientation photos, not portrait. Thanks!