Garage Sale Find

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I am always skeptical when friends call or text to tell me about a bicycle they discovered at a yard sale.  They assume that because the bike in question looks old (i.e., decrepit, cheap, and utterly worthless), that I might be interested.  But today, my friend Linda alerted me to a box of bike parts at her neighborhood garage sale.  The photo she texted revealed some Campagnolo cranks, but I couldn’t make out the other items.  $40 for all – she said. “Okay I’ll take it”, not knowing what the box contained.

I shouldn’t be too harsh on my various friends’ enthusiasm.  In fact, it is very difficult for a lay person to distinguish between that which is excellent and good and that which should never have been manufactured, the latter of which exists in ubiquity.

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Campagnolo Record high flange hubset – with rare 120 mm spacing on the rear hub – smooth as butter.

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Campagnolo Record front hub – will need some work as the hub doesn’t turn smoothly, but the hub shell is a work of art.

So, discovering that the box contained three Campagnolo Record hubs was a real delight, especially given that the rear high flange hub has 120mm rear spacing, which is now very difficult to find.  Since vintage bicycles have narrower drop out spacing than modern bikes, the rear hub made the whole deal worthwhile, regardless of what else the mystery box contained.

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Various OEM Freewheel removal tools – Campagnolo, Suntour, Atom, Shimano

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Handtools – Campagnolo and Mafac.

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Spoke wrenches.

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Park Chain Tool

Digging further into the box, I pulled out these wonderful old tools, including some freewheel removal tools that I didn’t already have on hand, plus some great Mafac wrenches.  And, it’s always nice to have an extra Park chain tool.

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Campagnolo Record square taper crankset.

The Campagnolo Record square taper crankset, which served as the lure for my purchase, is pretty scuffed up.  The drive side crank arm shows a lot of scratches and wear.  However, the 53/42 rings look like there is still some life left in them, so I may be able to salvage the crankset.  I’ll know more once I clean it up.

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Time Titan Magnesium pedals.

These old clipless racing pedals are dated, so it is doubtful that this item has any value.  However, they are VERY lightweight and I can see why these pedals were at one time popular with the racing crowd.  If anyone reading this wants them, let me know and I’ll ship them to you, for just the cost of shipping.

So, yes, sometimes there are garage sale finds.  Unfortunately, they are all too rare.

Park PCS-9 Portable Mechanic Stand – a Quick Review

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I needed a portable work stand that I could both stow in my shop as an extra stand, and take with me on the road.  As far as portable stands go, I had only previously used the Feedback Sports Pro-Elite Stand at another shop, and while I was impressed with the ease of use of its unique clamp and its light weight, I kept tripping over its tripod base, so I knew I wanted a stand with legs sitting flat on the floor.

I turned to the Park PCS-9 stand, not only attracted by its low price, but because it offered reasonable portability, and well, it’s a Park product so I assumed it would be a high quality item given their stellar reputation.

The company’s product description for the PCS-9 indicates that the stand can hold up to 80 lbs. and its adjustable clamp allows you to clamp all kinds of tubing sizes – up to 3 inches in diameter and down to 7/8 inches.  With its simple 4 metal tubes it folds down to 41 inches in length.

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It took no time at all to assemble the stand.  In use, the low price point became obvious right away.   While it’s very nice to have the fully adjustable clamp, the sleeve in which it rotates consists of a fluted tube, with a molded plastic insert on the clamp side.  To rotate the clamp, you release the tension at the back on the top tube, turn the clamp and then tighten everything back down.

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That’s all fine and good, but if you need to work on even a normal weight bike, the force necessary to keep the clamp from moving under gravity will cause the molded plastic insert to embed itself into the fluted portion of the tube, and then the clamp cannot be moved at all, even with brute force.  This part of the mechanism really needs some kind of bushing or sleeve, to allow the clamp to rotate freely.  So, after tapping out the molded plastic piece several times, which required disassembly of the clamp, I lubricated the pieces with some chain oil, which has helped for now.

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The height adjustment sleeve has no quick release mechanism, so it is necessary to grab a hand tool every time you want to change the height.

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Portability is achieved by these freely swinging base legs, combined with the collapsible vertical tubes which allow for the stand to be quickly folded.  When folded for transport, the legs flop around unless you secure them.  As it turns out, a pant leg strap works perfectly for this task.

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However, if the stand is sitting empty, or with something light like a bike frame, it is very easy to bump the stand over, as the horizontal legs are held in place only by gravity.  Really, Park should have engineered some pins to keep these legs in place while the stand is in use.  I can remedy the problem by drilling some holes and inserting pins myself, which eventually I will probably do.  I will also rig up a quick release for the height adjustment clamp, and contemplate further what to do about the non-freely rotating clamp.

For it’s price point – about $140 – you might say that you get what you pay for.  On the other hand, I think it would be easy to address these problems during manufacturing, which would probably add at most only $25 to the price.  That would still make it highly price competitive with other similar products.  In its current state, I would hate to recommend it to anyone but an experienced mechanic who can work around its shortcomings.

Book review – Lugged Bicycle Frame Construction

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I have recently been considering getting some brazing equipment so that I could make repairs to frames that have minor failures, rather than sending out to a frame builder for this service.  Having taken UBI’s lugged frame building class a few years back, I had a general idea of what I might need, but didn’t want to go any further until I re-familiarized myself with the topic of brazing.

I found Marc-Andre Chimonas’ book, Lugged Bicycle Frame Construction, on the evil empire (Amazon) website, with what appeared to be some favorable and thoughtful reviews by actual readers.  When the book arrived, I immediately delved into it and have now read if not studied much of the book.

It is written with a dry, understated wit, with an emphasis on the science of frame building.  There are numerous zingers in the text, hidden amongst the tables and formulas.  Consequently, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.  The author is a physician (which he describes as his “day job”), a writer (of both technical manuals and fiction), and a frame builder.

After reading just the first few chapters, I began to seriously question the idea that anyone can take a frame building class that lasts only two weeks, and from which an actual frame is produced.  Whether that frame is safe to ride may be another thing altogether.  My own frame has several flaws that can probably be corrected, but more on that later.

The book is logically organized and takes the reader through introductory concepts such as nomenclature, frame geometry, measurement and sizing protocols and includes helpful tables for determining angles and lengths for different sized riders.  He naturally recommends smaller wheels for smaller frames, and there is a good discussion of toe overlap and bottom bracket height.  He states his opinions about frame geometry as if they were facts, and that may irritate some readers, but I found it refreshing.  For instance, recommended BB height is 25 cm for pretty much all types of normal road riding.  This is a lot lower than you will find in production bikes.

Another interesting concept that I found both helpful and puzzling was the idea of controlling the variables in frame building.  He differentiates between “operator controlled” variables and “outcome” variables.  Outcome variables are the result of the frame builders operator controlled variables.  But, he describes outcome variables to include BB drop and toe overlap, which in my mind are operator controlled.  At any rate, what is clear is that frame design is a highly complex  undertaking, and one that is aided by software.  He recommends using excel and offers a link to a useful frame design spreadsheet, which is available on the author’s website.

There is a quick trigonometry and metallurgy review (which the author calls optional), and then the theory turns into fabrication as the author goes through chapters on frame parts, tools, mitering, torches, brazing technique, and lug modification.  Again, the author doesn’t hesitate to state his recommendations, even down to a specific brand or manufacturer of a particular tool.  For me, someone who didn’t take shop class in high school, the specific advice is extremely helpful.

After digesting many of the chapters, I decided to drag out the frame I completed 2 years ago but never finished filing or painting.

My frame with front-center at 59 cm - a little shorter than I wanted.

My frame with front-center at 59 cm – a little shorter than I wanted.

I built this frame for myself, designed around a 650b wheel size.  I wanted enough front-center distance to allow for fenders and decent sized tires.  The book uses a formula to determine an ideal length.  I plugged my numbers into his formula and found that I won’t have toe overlap with this frame, so that is a relief.  I did have to use a longer than usual (for me) top tube length to get this much front center distance (combined of course with all the other measurements).  That means I’ll use a short reach stem when I eventually build the bike up.

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One of the things that troubles me about my frame is that it was built so hastily and with so little actual knowledge.  Well, after reading the brazing chapter I think I have reason to be concerned.  I remember having a lot of trouble sanding enough material off the top of my fork blades, and off the inside of the fork crown so that the legs could be inserted without a lot of force.  After hours of filing, I still wasn’t happy, but ran out of time so just brazed the fork legs into the crown even though the fit was tight.  This is definitely a no-n0 – there needs to be enough room for the silver to flow into the joint.

Here are some other details of the frame I built.  Using this book as a resource, I will be able to correct the other two (known) mistakes on the frame.  I may decide, however to build a new fork.  And, I now know what kind of equipment to purchase and how to use it safely, so I am looking forward to being able to do my own small repairs.

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Nice looking BB

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Mistake on the seat stays – they are out of alignment

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Drive size DO not yet cleaned up and filed – you can see I got the tubes a bit hot.

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Aaack! Seriously out of whack shifter bosses – the jig probably got bumped when I turned away to get more silver.