80s Norco Magnum GT Road Bike

It’s Spring in Edmonton and the bikes are multiplying in the Tuckamoredew household. This latest arrival was the result of an uncharacteristically instant decision on my part. Normally, I delay and loudly agonize over any bike related purchase until my wife tells me to buy it or be quiet. While most of my purchases come via Kijiji classified ads, this time it was from Pinkbike.  I usually only check Pinkbike for parts and not complete bikes, particularly not road bikes. Any road bikes listed are usually quite new and are typically at least $1000. This is well outside (think astronomical distances) my budget for casual bike purchases. However, on impulse I checked and spotted this nice vintage road bike listed for $75.00.  After a quick flurry of electronic communication with the seller I had agreed to buy the bike and pick it up early the following morning. The seller was a second year university student who had bought the bike to covert to fixed gear but decided instead to stick with his trials mountain bike. This was fine with me as this bike is in such good and original condition that it would be a shame to fixify it.

What did I get for $75.00? Quite a decent mid 80s road bike with nice components:

  • Tange Mangaloy double butted tubing
  • 700c Araya alloy rims (schraeder drilled) with Suzue 36-spoke cartridge bearing hubs
  • Sugino Super Maxy triple crankset with drilled chainrings
  • Suntour  ratcheting downtube shifters
  • Suntour ARX derailleurs
  • Dia-Compe side-pull brakes with drilled levers.

It was the drilled chainrings and cartridge bearing hubs that caught my attention in the sellers ad. They are pretty much identical to the components on my much loved ’83 Nishiki Continental. At the very least, I thought, I would be able to use this bike for spare parts for Nishiki-san. As it turns out, the bike is in excellent shape and except for the decrepit tires it’s in good riding condition. I haven’t taken it for a long ride yet because of the shabby tires but the short neighbourhood jaunts I have taken have shown it to ride light, very  smooth and fast. It handles nimbly and stops quickly. It is, unfortunately, perhaps a tad small for me. Not so small that I won’t ride for a while before making up my mind if I’m keeping it.

Mangaloy was Tange's brand name for a manganese-molybdenum steel. Quality wise it lies between Hi-Ten and Chromoly. Its chief virtue compared to chromoly was that brazing temperature wasn't as critical and was therefore better suited to automated manufacturing.

I'm always unreasonably impressed by cartridge bearing hubs in older bikes.

I like these factory drilled chainrings, though they aren't quite as fantastically improbable as the real serious cases of drillium. Doubtless, they are sturdier.

I have Suntour ratcheting thumb shifters on my winter bike and they are as nice as friction shifters get. I have a couple of sets of these ratcheting downtube shifters in my parts box but I'd never got around to installing them on a bike. The small amount of riding I've done on this bike indicates that they are also very nice, as expected.

I'll be replacing the hoods and electrical tape bar wrap.

This is the worst bit of paint damage. Otherwise, there are only minor scuffs and scratches.

Norco, based in British Columbia, is currently  the ubiquitous Canadian brand with bikes for all ages, of many types, at a range of prices. Although they’ve been around since 1964 there’s not a lot of information online about their early days. They seem to have been involved with a number of Japanese manufacturers before they ever marketed bikes under their own brand: my ’83 Nishiki Continental has a decal that reads “Designed by Norco”. This Magnum GT is likely from only a year or two later and definitely has similarities to the Continental. Norco acquired the Japanese bike company Sekai in 1983 and later phased out the brand in favour of their own. I have found pictures online of several Sekai Magnum GT bikes and they are unsurprisingly nearly identical to this Norco bike. The GT apparently stands for Grand Touring and some of the bikes seem to support this. This one however isn’t a convincing touring bike except for the triple crankset. Whatever it is, I’m enjoying it so far and I’m looking forward to getting some new tires on it so I can rack up a few kilometers. This may be my best bike score to date. I do wish it was a little bigger, though.

I like the old Norco head badge.

Somebody was a little extravagant with the cable housing.

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10 thoughts on “80s Norco Magnum GT Road Bike

  1. I rode my old Peugeot bike last year and nearly fell off reaching down for the gear shifts. Modern brakes and gears are wonderful. It’s nice looking at a bike presented as being quite old which I would have bought new when I was 45!

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    • Shifting technology has certainly come a long way and do I like the integrated brake/shifters on my 2008 Kona Jake. On the other hand, I appreciate the mechanical simplicity of friction shifting vs indexed. The downtube shifters definitely took some getting use to, though.

      I’m definitely measuring age on my personal timescale here. I was about 15 years old when that bike was built so it seems like an old one to me.

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  2. The brake cables are ridiculous but it looks like a lovely machine. I love the thumb shifters and quill stem. If my bike maintenance abilities improve sufficiently I would love to buy and restore such a bike. Looking forward to seeing photos after you’ve applied your skills

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  3. Very cool bike. I owned a Norco Montery SL back in the late 80’s. I think it was around an 84 0r 85 vintage bike. It was a sport touring bike with an all CroMo and had the ARX shifting system. I tossed it in the dump years ago – which I kinda regret now. I know this is affected by the mists of time, but I recall that bike riding like a dream. It felt like I could ride it all day. I got into mountain biking in 89 and stopped riding the old road bike – if it had a tripple like your GT and a proper deraileur hanger I may have kept it and used it for touring. As it was I just slapped racks on the mountain bike and suffered.

    I’ve love to add an old retro lugged steel 80’s sport tourer to my collection. 🙂

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    • Thanks for commenting. I rode that bike quite a lot last summer and even though it’s a tad small for me I’ve decided it’s a keeper. It’s very zippy and rides, as you say, like a dream. Keep an eye out on Kijiji or other classified sites and you will eventually find that vintage bike. If you have a local bike co-op you could visit them, too. We often have lovely old road bikes for sale at both Bikeworks locations here in Edmonton.

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  4. Picked up one of these last night. Looking forward to doing a bit of a restore on it but it really doesn’t need much. Do you have any updated pictures of this one?

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  5. I used to race a Norco Magnum SE back in 1987. It had the same norco style decal you have on the SE. My guess is the one you have is the touring model (based on the triple front chain rings). They are sweet rides.

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