BUILDING THE SEKINE SHT 270
As my Sekine sits today, is a wee ways from stock or original. Though the paint and art are pretty much the way they rolled out of the Sekine factory in Three Rivers, Manitoba back in the mid seventies, the component grouppo has been upgraded. With my interest renewed in the Sekine, I wanted to build it up with special components. Campagnolo stuff is just fine but I had developed quite a liking for the Shimano 600 Arabesque components that frequently stumble across in my bicycle hunting area. These Arabesque components are becoming increasingly sought after and for good reason. The are very nice, wonderfully made and work like a charm.
As found, the SHT 270 was fitted with a Campagnolo Nouvo Record transmission (not original issue either). Today, the entire component grouppo, to the best of my knowledge, is early Shimano 600 Arabesque that I had managed to piece together over the years. The Shimano 600 Arabesque group might have been an unadvertised option, when the Sekine was sold new but I tend to doubt it. That said, I have run across two other similar Sekine bicycles that also sported a full Arabesque grouppo.
The 600 transmission is friction shift only, but very positive to use. I rarely have to trim once gears have been switched. The friction shifters hold their positions without incident so far and look awfully good doing it. These old shift levers have got to be one of the prettiest sets in the world of vintage road bicycles. Available in both braze-on and clamp on styles, their ornate scroll work and intricate embossing is a treat to view. The shifters feel good and the embossing offers a good grip opportunity. All in all, the shifters are just about perfect, from an Old School point of view.
The beautiful embossed scroll work on the shifters is carried through to the derailleurs, appearing in places that one might not even look. To me, this suggests craftsmanship and concern with developing a worthy product. And the Arabesque stuff, in my mind, is indeed worthy all the way. Today, a first generation Shimano 600 Arabesque crank set will fetch more than its Campagnolo counterpart. And I speak from personal experience.
The ornate pantographing and elaborate scroll work on these beautiful components, sets them apart from most others. They function all but flawlessly and look absolutely great doing so. My guess is that these wonderful old components will achieve great collectable value one day. If you stumble across a set, hang on to it or even use it. Properly maintained, this stuff works just great, will last a long time and increases in value as time does its thing.
The Shimano 600 Arabesque crank set continues the grouppo's ornate theme, with this set including the "One Key Release" system or self extracting crank bolts. The W-Cut gears or sprocket teeth were also an unusual offering in the mid seventies. These cranks on the SHT are so little used that the original "W-Cut" sticker is still unblemished. The result of running the W-Cut or machined sprocket set, of course, was a very smooth and almost silent drive train. Needless to say, the lovely Arabesque scroll work carried through to the cranks adds considerably to the vintage appeal of this old road bicycle.
There were two different Shimano 600 Arabesque crank sets available, in the Sekine's day. They were both, in my opinion, modeled after the Campagnolo offerings. The choices were Super Record ring style or Nouvo Record. The set chosen for my SHT - Super Record, of course.
The Shimano 600 Arabesque transmission and drive train absolutely suits the SHT. To me, the look is period correct and beautiful to behold. What I cannot show, is how well this old stuff works. The transmission shifts without incident, and I rarely miss the friction defined sweet spot. Gear trimming is rarely required. To add frosting this this tasty transmission cake, adjusting to the "shift feel" is a none issue. The levers seem to perfectly match the throw of both derailleurs. They are neither too long or too short. They are just right, suiting me and the bike perfectly.
The elaborate scroll work displayed on the components, is repeated on the SHT's beautiful head badge. These ornate and windowed badges were often painted to match the color of the bicycle they were mounted on. To me, a feature like a head badge adds something extra to a vintage road bicycle. Though it might seem a bit silly, one of the things I look for when evaluating a vintage road bicycle is the head badge. Is it there and, if so, is it a nice one?
There are, of course, exceptions to the head badge rule, with some of the cheap plastic ones detracting, rather than adding to the vintage appeal. But, for the most part, a head badge is a welcome characteristic on a vintage road bicycle. My opinion, of course.
Another interesting, but stupid, Sekine feature was the elaborate rear wheel spoke protector. Several inches across, bulky and even garish, the spoke protector is one of the most unusual I have seen. The Sekine name is cut out and appears twice on the plate. Though this is rolling weight added, and does absolutely nothing to improve performance, I decided to keep the component in place.
Believe it or not, Sekine bicycles were remembered in part because of this silly spoke protector feature. The "pie plates" are very fragile, being stamped from thin sheet metal and then chromed. The chrome plating has failed on many of these old plates, leaving really nice ones spread few and far between. And "pie plate" maintenance is a nightmare! The backside of the plate, once allowed to get dirty, is difficult to get clean again. And, you must be careful cleaning it since the stamped edges can be quite sharp. More than once I have experienced a Sekine slice. However, all that said, my SHT 270 proudly wears its original issue spoke protector. And there is a funny story associated with the Sekine pie plate...
While out for a ride, but stopped waiting for a traffic light to change, a woman walked directly up to me. Pointing to the spoke protector, she asked me if I was seeking sex. As I mentioned before, these old spoke protectors really stand out. The lady in question had misread the cut-out letters - SEKINE - on the spoke protector for the word "SEX", I guess. Needless to say, I was somewhat taken aback at her bold question. I was, however, quick to respond with integrity and honesty. Of course I am seeking sex! Isn't everybody? True story!
This old SHT boasts a set of original issue, period correct, Sekine alloy fenders and the tips on these fenders actually matches the "Pearl Gold" frame paint (that's Sekine's own color description). The alloy fenders, though sturdy, are actually pretty light, fit like a glove and work like a charm. I know that fenders are a very "you like-em or you don't like-em" item and, generally, I'm a "don't like-em" guy. The Sekine, however, seems to be able to wear a set of fenders well and benefits, not only functionally, but also aesthetically. I run across these fender sets from time to time. I always put them away for who knows what. By the time I am twice as old, as I am now and half as old as Methuselah was then, I will have the market cornered on original issue Sekine fender sets.
There are no braze-ons on the Sekine, offering an important clue that helps to date this bicycle. Shifters are clamped to the down tube. Transmission cables are guided through two clamp-on cable guides, one at the bottom bracket, the other on the drive side chain stay. And three brake cable guides clamp to the top tube. Though the braze-on mounts are more practical in many ways, I do prefer the clamps. They speak well to the vintage appeal of an old road bike.
This, near complete absence of braze-ons makes for a very clean frame set. And the clean appearance is continued in the appearance of the frame assembly, itself. Though not of high end European quality, the craftsmanship applied to the SHT is very good. There are a few assembly blemishes, but for the most part the entire frame set is very well made and wonderfully finished.
Like any quality bicycle of its day, the Sekine is made from butted chrome moly tubing. Quality stuff. The fork blades and stays blend cleanly into the Shimano forged drops, the rears complete with adjusters. The drop installation is clean, neat and for the most part very well done, but not perfect.
Complimenting the clean appearance of the frame set are the semi-fancy lugs. Once again cleanly installed, they add nicely to the vintage appearance of the bicycle. But they too show a blemish or two, as can be best noticed on the top of the seat stay. The tiny bubble might be a paint run or a bubble of silver solder that was not cleaned up prior to being painted. Either way, it is a flaw and one that should not appear on bicycles of the Sekine SHT's intended quality level. My opinion, of course.
If there is any one component on a road bicycle that is most likely to be damaged accidentally, it is the brake lever. Lean the bike against a wall, the bike slides and the lever suffers a scuff. The bike falls, the lever takes the fall - not every time, but certainly often enough to make finding a pristine set of levers difficult at best. Those on the SHT are not pristine (I already loaned that set out to a friend) but they are pretty nice and even with a set of incorrect hoods, get the job done nicely.
Hoods and handlebar tape are two relatively perishable items. Both are usually in a state of "completely shot" by the time a seventies something bicycle gets to today. I was lucky to have at least a set of Shimano hoods that were a pretty good, but not perfect, fit. It was also fortunate that I had tucked aside a set of vintage appearing handlebar tape. With the not quite right hoods and phony vintage tape installed, the result was both comfortable and presentable.
Wheels sets are the second most likely component to be in poor mechanical condition. Maintaining wheels requires "know-how". It is that simple. Now the "know-how" is in not that difficult to learn, but few people ever take the time to do so. As a result, the most challenged part of the bicycle, the wheel, receives the least attention. Don't be surprised if wheel hubs contain worn cups, cones and bearings! Don't be surprised, if the wheel rims are out of true, dented or sporting flat spots here and there. And don't be surprised if the spokes are seized, making any effort at truing impossible.
Do be surprised, if you stumble across an absolutely mint set of original issues wheels, complete with the little rubber booties on the quick release skewer levers. The wheels that I had originally selected for the SHT were very nice but they could not compare to the factory issue set that I found and installed later. The wheel set that my Sekine runs today was removed from an identical, but much larger, bicycle shortly after I had completed the SHT build. The second and larger Sekine's frame set had been compromised by the previous owner. He had drilled holes in the down tube for some reason. Those holes destroyed the frame set's value, in my opinion. But the wheel set was almost mint!
The controls for the SHT consist of Sakae Custom Road Champion pantographed handlebars, supported by an embossed SR steering stem. Most Sekine bicycles sported this control combination, as did many other emerging bicycles in the mid seventies. The entire look achieved, for the front of the Sekine, is pure vintage. The beautiful ornate Sekine "Medialle" head badge, backed by the Pearl Gold paint and framed in a circle of alloy and vintage bar tape is a pleasure to view.
Two upgrades are planned for the control center. New and proper hoods will find their place on the Sekine, one day. And for next season, the control cables are all slated for replacement. Though the newer style Teflon coated cables and nylon lined casings are considerably more expensive, they do work a great deal better. I like my bicycles to work perfectly. And perfectly, often and even usually, does cost more.
The second part of the control center, the saddle had to be something that was period correct, comfortable and aesthetically pleasing. The standard issue Brooks B15 or its counterpart, Belt, were not it! Both of these saddles were standard issue in the Sekine's day. I happened to have a Brooks B15 and mounted it initially. The 15 is a wide saddle and I found it to be very uncomfortable - unusual for a Brooks saddle.
I had found an early to mid seventies Raleigh Super Course at the dump one day. I was pretty excited until I noticed the frame set was bent, and bent too badly to warrant cold setting (bending it straight again). The bicycle did, however, have a really nice Brooks B17 "Narrow" saddle mounted. That lovely and comfortable saddle now sits atop nonstandard SR Laprade indexed alloy seat post. I find the old post and separate saddle clamp set-ups to be less than acceptable for bicycles that I ride. The older system seems to slip, or move around, and I never know when the clamp will fail. And it will fail! I do have an original issue seat post for the Sekine, made by Belt, but the post is in sad condition. I am, however, on the look-out for a better one and I am pretty sure that one will come along one day. Until then, the SR will have to do.
I did try running the Old School pedal set-up for a ride or two. Forget it! I just do not feel comfortable with the clip and strap system. The feel is anything but positive and I feel unsafe knowing that I cannot release as quickly as I can using my clip-in shoes and compatible pedals. With that in mind the Sekine's present mountain bike pedals do look out of place but I will live with it, both figuratively and perhaps literally.
All in all, my mid seventies Sekine SHT-270 is a pretty nice bicycle. Certainly not the sort of steed that will replace a full blown Cinelli for collectable value or ride, but a nice bicycle none-the-less. The one thing that cannot be shown is the ride offered by this fine old Canadian made bicycle. And the ride is just great!