Extreme Bike Makeover: 1980’s Guerciotti

rando conversion

I’ve been riding this 1980’s Guerciotti for several years now.  When I first purchased it, as a frame and fork, I converted it to 650c, and turned it in to a city commuter, as shown in the photo below:

When my Nitto city bars were recalled, and the promised replacement bar never arrived, I decided to convert it back to a regular road bike, emphasizing its slightly garish 1980’s color scheme:

1980's Guerciotti

I really enjoy riding this bike – it is fast and a great hill climber.  My theory about its superior performance is that its small diameter seat stays and the short wheelbase make it fly up hills.  I won’t say whether the bike “planes” as I am not convinced of this theory, although I do find it interesting.  Whatever the case, I can ride this bike over hill and dale and not tire out the way I do on my other bikes.  Converting it to 650c made the handling a little more responsive, with more stability a lower speeds due to the lower trail.  It also lowered the bottom bracket which theoretically stabilizes it on descents.  One problem, though was that the bike was built for racing and so it lacks fender and rack mounts.  I was using clip-on fenders, but those really aren’t adequate for riding through Portland’s winter rains.  So, I decided to try installing full coverage fenders, and to take advantage of its relatively low trail by mounting a front rack so that I could use a rando bag.

fender mounts fender zip tie

In order to mount fenders to a frame with no eyelets, p-clamps normally work pretty well.  The fork was fairly slender at the base but I shimmed the clamps and got them to hold.  The rear mounts were more difficult.  The seat stays on this bike are very small diameter, and even with a shim, the p-clamp could not grip the stay.  Instead, I used 3 zip ties and mounted them to the hole in the Gipiemme dropouts,  with one of the ties serving as a block to the open loop of the stays.

Planet Bike fenders

I like these Planet Bike Cascadia fenders.  They have dual stays front and rear which makes for 4 mounting points at the rear and 3 in the front.  Plus, they have nice long mud-flaps which really help keep your feet, drive train, and other riders drafting behind you dry.  Because this bike uses recessed brake nuts, I needed to find a way to mount the fenders to the brake bridge and fork crown.  On the front, I simply mounted the fender in front of the fork crown, but for the rear I needed Sheldon Brown’s “fender nuts“.  I didn’t want to wait around for a shipment, so I made my own by tapping 6 x 1 mm threads into the 5 mm nut head.  I didn’t tap too far down, and used a short bolt, so that I wouldn’t compromise the allen head at the base of the inside of the nut.

made by Wilken inspired by Sheldonfender spacer

Then I needed a pretty big spacer at the chain stays to make the fender line right (the fenders were designed for 700c wheels) and also to allow enough room for the front derailleur to move freely.  This set-up is a bit “spring loaded” with pressure from the rear fender going toward the seat tube.  If it starts to rattle, I’ll try something else.  The chain stay bridge was not drilled so I fashioned a hook to insert from underneath the frame.

Mounting the Nitto front rack was a breeze.  It is fully adjustable and should fit just about any kind of front end.  Good job, Nitto.

cloth bar tapebar end lights

For the rest of the build, I re-taped the bars with more conservative black tape, using the traditional method of starting at the stem and working toward the bar-ends.  In this way, there’s no ugly electrician’s tape, but you need solid bar end plugs to make it work well.  I have these nifty bar end lights, and although they don’t put out a ton of light, they definitely help others see me while riding at night.  Of course I use a head and tail light as well.

Tektro long reach brakes 2013-11-07 001 011 2013-11-07 002 002

I swapped out the white Tektro long reach brakes (Model R556) for some silver ones, but kept the rest of the build the same, including the Campagnolo Record head-set, bottom bracket, and Centaur crankset.  I am using Shimano shifters and derailleurs in friction mode and this bike shifts quicker and more silently than any other bike I own.

700c to 650c conversion

I am pleased with the bike’s new look and new utility.  Being able to use a front bag (Velo-Orange model shown above) will be really nice.  And commuting through the winter on this bike will be much more enjoyable with the full coverage fenders.

1980 Meral 650b Conversion – Part Three – Fini!

1980 Meralchrome lugsReynolds 531Meral seatpost lug

My Meral 650b conversion is now complete.  In two previous posts, I shared the process of converting this 700c sport touring frame to 650b.  The bike and I have taken a short test ride, and it is going to be my ride tomorrow for a more complete test of its road-worthiness. Today’s test ride revealed that I needed to ditch the vintage Mafac brake levers. They were not effective at stopping the bike when braking from the hoods, and the levers stick out so far from the bodies that I could barely reach them when braking from the drops.  The Mafac Raid brakes had a tremendous amount of flex, and I also had some squealing while braking – partly caused by the flex of the brakes arms.  I was disappointed because I liked the look of the cables sprouting from the non-aero levers (Campy levers shown in this photo)- but function over form must rule when it comes to safety.  I installed Shimano aero levers (perfectly sized for smaller hands), tightened the brakes arms on the Mafac Raid brakes, and that solved the problem, mostly.  The orange Kool Stop replacement pads for Mafac brake shoes are also very hard and smooth, and with the super smooth new rims, there is still some squealing under hard braking.  I have sanded some material off the pads, but the rims will need to break in as well in order to quiet everything down.

Velo Orange mudflapCardiff saddle

But there were some successes, also.  The Velo Orange leather mud-flap looks fabulous and  will really help keep the drive train and my feet dry during Portland’s downpours.  And, the Cardiff saddle proved to be far more comfortable than any Brooks I have ridden – it is comfortable now and I won’t need to endure the thousand mile break-in torture of a typical Brooks saddle.  The copper rails are lovely to my eye, and with the extra long seat rails I was able to get the saddle exactly where I wanted it.

T.A. crankset2013-03-22 001 2013-03-22 009

I decided to use Shimano derailleurs for now, and they are working fine.  I needed an extra long cage on the rear derailleur in order to handle the 3 chain rings up front – the SLX was sitting in the parts bin but I’ll probably replace it at some point.  It’s hard to see the gorgeous chrome dropouts in this photo – but they are beautiful as is everything about this Meral frame.  The T.A. triple crankset has 160mm crank arms, which I chose to help deal with the problem of toe overlap common on smaller frames.  I like the feel of my cadence on these shorter arms (I usually ride 165mm or 170mm).  The outer chainring on the crankset had a serious wobble, so I disassembled the crankset to straighten it out in the vice.  When reassembling, I managed to over-torque one the the crank arm bolts even though I was only going up to 70 in lbs.  I had to order some new fasteners (you can get some from Velo-Orange, or on E-bay), and I have them torqued very low now until I can get the specs on these small fasteners.

2013-03-22 001 2013-03-22 004Reynolds 531

Here is the “smooshed” Mafac brake hanger – working fine – and here are the Ticino bags on the completed bike – they look pretty decent.

Before starting any conversion, it’s important to check the clearances on your frame for:  chainstay and fork clearance for the new wheelset, fenders, and clearance and proper chain line for the crankset and BB you are using.  Below, my clearances were good, but I had to do a little more work to clean up the fender-line and to level the Ticino rack (whose stays are not adjustable).

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How does it ride?  As beautifully as it looks – comfortable, yet lightweight (27 lbs as pictured, including the heavy rack and saddle).

Here is the build list:

Frame and fork:  1980 Meral with Reynolds 531 tubing on frame and fork (49 x 51), chrome fork, frame chromed and then painted, lugs, chainstays and dropouts are chrome.  Geometry:  74 deg HT, 74 deg ST, fork rake 50 mm (approx).  Originally designed as a 700c sport touring bike with eyelets for fenders, but no rack mounts.

Nitto Technomic stem (sanded to French size); Nitto Olympiad bars, Shimano brake levers, Shimano 600 headset (French), cloth bar tape

Shimano bar end shifters in friction mode, Huret modified DT clamp, Shimano Ultegra front derailleur; Shimano SLX rear derailleur; Shimano 8 speed cassette 11/30, TA bottom bracket, TA triple crankset 48/40/28, Sram chain, Lyotard pedals

Cardiff leather saddle with copper rails, Campagnolo seatpost

Mafac Raid brakes, Mafac brake hangers front and rear

Ticino rear rack, Ticino canvass panniers

Hammered aluminum fenders (no brand but never drilled or mounted – an Ebay purchase) – mounted with Velo Orange stays and hardware, Velo Orange “plum” mudflap, Velo Orange constructeur bottle cage

Velocity Synergy 650b wheelset with dishless rear wheel and sport hubs; Panaracer Col de la Vie 38 mm tires.

Meral 650b Conversion, Part Two

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My 1980 Meral 650b conversion is well underway.  I needed hardware for the aluminum fenders, which I ordered from Velo-Orange.  I wanted to use their Constructeur rear rack, as it mounts to the fenders, but this item is currently out of stock, so I decided to try out an Electra Ticino rear rack with a similar appearance.  It is more securely mounted to the seat stays (using P-clamps, since the frame lacks rack mounts) and will probably hold a lot more weight.  The stay mounts are NOT adjustable, however, and I just happened to be lucky enough to have the rack be reasonably level.

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The Mafac Raid brakes look great, but I still haven’t made up my mind about the brake levers, which I might swap out for Mafac’s instead of Campy.  As with any frame-up build, there are many surprises and dead ends to be dealt with.   The TA crankset looks great – it has 160 mm crank arms which I chose to help reduce toe overlap that is common on smaller frames – however, the largest chainring is bent and needs to be adjusted back into plane.  I really like seeing the Shimano shifter pods on the old Huret clamp, specially modified to take these pods.  I used a Velocity 650b wheelset that I purchased from Rivendell.  The rear wheel is dishless, thanks to the placement of the drive side spokes on the same side of the rim as the non drive-side spokes, which should contribute to a long-lived wheel.

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Because this is a smaller frame, there’s not much room at the seat stays for the brake hanger.  Plus, the seat lug on this bike did not match the seat post bolt used by Mafac.  I decided to “modify” a Mafac brake hanger by bending it slightly and installed it askew, but not too much, by adding a longer seatpost bolt (which I will replace later to clean up the look).  I wanted to use some French pedals, even though I had tapped out the TA crankset to English threads, so I cleaned up these beautiful old Lyotard pedals which have English threads.  Later I will install the toe clips and straps.  There’s lots more work to do including installing the “plum” front fender leather flap (a la Velo Orange), installing the leather bar tape, inserting the new Kool Stop Mafac brake pads into their holders, fine tuning the shifting and braking, and checking the ergonomics.  But, it looks good so far, I think.

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