It’s Always Something

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F. Fiol rear rack

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F. Fiol front rack

Last Thanksgiving, in pre-holiday mode, I got on my 1980 Meral and rode to my local grocery store to stock up on a few supplies needed for our holiday dinner. One of the nice things about being a vegetarian means not carting around a 20 lb turkey.  However, I did discover that veggies can also be quite heavy.  When I loaded them into the panniers I had thrown over these modest F. Fiol front and rear racks (which mount only to the fenders and not to the frame), something bad happened.  The bike went nowhere.  The rear rack sunk down into the fender, and moved the wheel out of its dropout. I had to dismount and carry the bike to a sidewalk where I could troubleshoot the problem.  Unfortunately, the rear fender had altered its position so significantly that I could not ascend back home. I had to call for help.

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Blackburn rack

Once I had the Meral back at my shop, it became clear that I needed to replace the F. Fiol rear rack with something more robust.  Racks are very tricky, as most mechanics know, and it can be challenging to find the right rack to work with your bike to provide the utility you need.

I eyeballed a number of racks that I had on hand, and decided to go with this Blackburn rack which I had previously taken off a 1980’s Miyata touring bike.  It’s very strong and has a number of useful features.

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Nitto clamps

The rack fit perfectly to the frame, and was level without any modifications needed.  I used P-clamps to mount the rack stays to the seat stays (because this frame has no rack mounts).  I used these Nitto clamps, pictured above, which were leftover from another project.  These clamps are very robust, and protect the frame’s paint.  Even so, I taped the frame underneath the clamps with electricians tape, just in case.  Because…things can go wrong.

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Broken seat post bolt, removal slots created with Dremel

As I was putting the frame into the work stand, I managed to break the seatpost bolt head right off.  That might be one indication that I’ve put this frame in the shop stand too many times.  The ensuing panic finally resulted in relief when I took my Dremel and cut screwdriver slots into each side of the remaining bolt.  It took quite a while to rock the bolt in and out using a screwdriver and vise grips, but I finally got it free.   Yeehaw!

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Brake hangers – Surly and Problem Solvers.

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New seatpost bolt.

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Smooshed Mafac hanger.

I had contemplated changing my “smooshed” Mafac rear brake hanger with a different application.  Unfortunately, nothing else was suitable.  It is challenging to mount a rear hanger on a smaller frame.  The Surly hangers would have been perfect, except they were too long and didn’t allow for the requisite 20 mm of clearance above the Mafac straddle cable.  And, the Problem Solvers hangers were too thick at the seatpost mounting ring, so could not be used with the Meral seat post clamp.  (Problem Solvers is great resource and worth checking out.)  Fortunately, the Mafac hanger works just fine.

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Beautiful new T.A. 44-28 chainrings

Now that the bike was in the shop stand, it was time to think of other modifications that I had been contemplating for this bike.  I had been using a T.A. triple crankset with 48-40-28 rings.  The big ring had a massive wobble that I had corrected a few times by smashing it between two planks in my vise.

I decided that it was time to go with a smaller big ring, and convert the crankset to a double.  T. A. cranks, with their tiny bolt circle diameter should only be used with smaller chainrings, because the small diameter bolt circle can cause the big ring to flex under load.  So I sourced these beautiful new rings – a 44 and a 28, and converted the drive to a double.

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Shimano ac-7speed cassette – 11-28

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Acceptable chain line

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Simplex Super LJ front derailleur

Changing out the front rings meant an evaluation of the rear cassette.  I decided to use a 7 speed Shimano 11-28 cassette, to help adjust the resulting chain line.  The Simplex Super LJ is very happy with this double chain ring set up, and was designed to shift rings with large teeth differences.  Now, we’ll see how this works out on the road.

A 1970’s Raleigh Gran Sport and a 1980’s Viner

Simplex Super LJ and Campagnolo shifters

Simplex Super LJ and Campagnolo shifters

Sometimes I purchase bikes that I intend to disassemble.  Often these are perfectly decent bikes, and sometimes very nice ones, that have suffered from what I call unfortunate upgrades.

Recently, a colleague asked me to help him to try out commuting on vintage steel which will be a nice change from his aluminum hybrid. My plan was to take a nice frame and build it up to his specifications.  I purchased this 1970’s Raleigh Gran Sport that had gone through a few prior iterations, both good and bad.

1970's Raleigh Gran Sport

1970’s Raleigh Gran Sport

The frame is full double butted Reynolds 531, with a Reynolds 531 fork, chrome stays and fork legs, with single eyelets front and rear.  There is lots of room at the brake bridge and fork crown for fenders, even with the 27″ inch wheels it was designed for.  So, converting this to 700c and adding some wider tires and fenders should work well.

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The good upgrades included the Simplex SLJ front derailleur and Campy shifters shown at the top, which would have been upgrades from the ugly plastic Simplex models of this era.  The spacing at the rear drop outs is 127 mm so we will have lots of options to consider for the wheelset – either vintage or modern.  Actually, the bike was mostly intact from its original state except for some no name Aero levers (with shifter cables installed where the brake cables should be – yikes!), and some hideous bar tape.  Because the bike looked kind of bizarre and was a bit dirty, it didn’t sell for much.

At the same time I spotted this 1980’s Viner that was even weirder looking,  It sported some 1970’s suicide brake levers, ugly bar tape (again!) and a Shimano 105 headset shimmed into the head tube.

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After just a bit of cleaning, the frame looks great.  It’s an odd color – it looks black sometimes and brown/purple in low light.  It is built with Columbus Cromor Tubing and is in great condition.  These road frames from the 80’s can make nice conversions to 650c or 650b.  It’s my size – 49 x 51.  However, I am going to resist the urge to build it up for myself and will probably keep it in inventory until someone comes along who wants it built up.

There were a few nice surprises with both of these bikes.  The Raleigh’s components were in great shape, and in addition to the Simplex SLJ and the Campy shifters, the prior owner had added a Brooks Professional Saddle (it would have come standard with a B-17).  The original Stronglight crankset has many miles left on it and has the interesting feature of a built in chain guard.  I may use this crankset for my friend’s build since he’s going to be commuting in his work clothes.  The headset and bottom bracket are also original and very nice and will be re-used.

Brooks Professional Stronglight with chainguard Stronglight Bottom bracket

Sadly, the Viner had most of its original Campagnolo parts stripped off.  Fortunately, though, the crankset and rear derailleur were left undisturbed:

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The Viner also had a good wheelset – Maillard sealed hubs on Weinmann concave rims with stainless steel spokes – 36 front and rear.  That seems like a much more robust wheelset than I would have expected, and the wheels will come in very handy for other projects that may come along.  The bottom bracket fixed cup was in really tight.  It is shown above with my removal tool still attached.  Of course, it did help to finally figure out that the BB was Italian, so the fixed cup goes the OTHER way…

 

1970’s Peugeot Mixte Porteur

peugeot-mixte-531-porteur-1Here is a a 1970’s Peugeot Mixte frame made from Reynolds 531 tubing that I purchased from a French seller several years ago.  My goal in building the bike up was to recreate a Peugeot PR65, whose photo is shown below, and whose style is evocative not only of Peugeot’s legacy and its consistent focus on women riders, but also of that amazing decade known as the 70’s. 1978_11 The PR65 Mixte model seemed to exist only for year or two.  I love the porteur bars and the cable routing, not to mention the super nice components. 1978_10 This 1978 Dutch Peugeot catalogue reveals that the frame was built with Reynolds 531 7/10 butted tubing and Nervex lugs, brazed below 600 degrees using silver, with brazed on cable guides.  Components included a Stronglight 48/38 crankset weighing 650 grams, which is lighter than modern day Ultegra and Dura Ace cranksets.  The rear derailleur was a Simplex SX410T with a 30 tooth cog capacity, and the front was a Simplex LJA302. L1010522L1010523L1010536

I decided to go all out and use Simplex Super LJ derailleurs front and rear.

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This frame’s Reynolds 531 transfers were in excellent shape, and the bike shop sticker from the shop where this bike was first sold is up in the Pyrenees, on one of the Tour de France routes.  Drop-outs are by Simplex, and the fork is fully chromed underneath the paint.  No model number is indicated on the frame, and I am not aware of any other mixte frames that Peugeot built during this era with Reynolds tubing.

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I used vintage Mafac Racer brake calipers, and a Pivo stem mounted with new Velo-Orange porteur bars. I had to spread the clamp a bit.  The shifters are Suntour ratcheting bar ends, which are great to use with these bars because they are close at hand.  Believe it or not, I used Raleigh’s steel brake levers because they feel much more solid and sturdy than the flimsier Weinmann and Dia-Compe levers of this era.

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peugeot mixte 531 porteur 008The wheelset is an early 80’s Shimano 600 set, with Wolber Super Champion Gentlemen 81 rims, and I managed to find some NOS Bluemels fenders complete with front mudflap.  I don’t want to talk about the hours spent installing and adjusting the Velo Orange front porteur rack.  Let’s just say that a certain amount of pain was involved.  The tight clearances also made it necessary to carefully adjust the fenders to avoid rubbing.

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I ended up swapping out the Zeus crankset shown on the left post with this Stronglight, which has smaller chain rings and is better suited for the kind of riding I do.  I have had fun commuting and grocery shopping on this bike.

Small Ortlieb panniers fit fine on the Velo Orange front rack.

Peugeot PR65

After a rainy ride the bike stayed dry and clean thanks to the Bluemel’s fenders.

It takes a little while to get used to hauling a front load, but after a few rides, it starts to feel natural.  Now that the bike has been thoroughly test ridden and vetted, it’s time to put it up for sale.  It’s hard to properly price a bike like this.  Many hours went into creating it, and many dollars went into the parts, and most importantly, I hope is the value of the creative process.  But, the flood of low-priced Chinese-made bikes in the U.S. has created an expectation gap among bike consumers, and there is a real lack of understanding about why it is possible to buy a cheap bike from their LBS, and what the real cost of that cheap bike may be.  But, that rant is for another blog post.

More photos can be seen on this FB Album.