Tuesday, March 16, 2010

New (to me) bike

So, back in October when I was wringing my hands about preservation and utility,  I decided to buy an old but not "vintage"  frame and fix it up.

After a bit of deliberation about the peculiarities (weird threadings, odd sized bolts)  of Raleighs, I bought a 70's era step through frame from the nice guys at Metonomy/ Cambridge Used Bikes for $50.  I did a lot of work stripping the paint myself,  and I found that a $1 brass wire brush from Sears, mounted in my drill worked great for that- stripping the paint without damaging the finish.  I was originally planning on taking it to Sugarcoat, which is why I was trying to save money by stripping it myself.   However, instead I ended up taking it down to Plymouth to a guy I originally contacted on Craig's list, and later got good references for from Somervillian.

The bike in its original state was dull silver with 70's typography,and  lots of surface rust spots, but had a solid geometry similar to a complete vintage bike I'd ridden and liked.I'm sure that I took pictures of the bike "before" but I'll be damned if I can find them.  You'll just have to trust me that it looked a lot like a bike that's been abandoned chained to a light post

It's back from the powder coater's and now it's a dark blood red (although in retrospect, I wish I'd gone one shade darker!).  It's going to be my daily ride for a while.  My current plan is to scavenge some of the expensive bits of Robert (the dynohub, the internal geared rear wheel) and add some new parts (the two-eyed rack everyone loved).   The longer term plan is to take Robert for powdercoating and then rebuild him with maybe slightly less high tech parts.

I took advantage of the warm weather a week ago  when it came home to start working on it.
The first thing I did was spray Frame Saver in it.  This is a messy process, and best done outside over a bunch of newspapers.  It seems to basically be some kind of oily goo suspended in a petroleum solvent that allows you to distribute it through the frame.  You spray it in the various holes,  shake and tilt the frame to distribute it evenly, and let it off-gas outside for an afternoon.

Then I cleaned  a bit of the overspray off with an exacto knife.

Next, following Sheldon Brown's instructions,  I screwed in the fixed cup of the bottom bracket.
Then I turned the bike over and applied a liberal amount of Phil Wood's waterproof grease.  I should have probably done this before putting the cup in, because I couldn't get the nozzle of the grease tube in enough to get it on the far side of the bottom bracket shell.  I used a bamboo skewer (very technical tool) to deliver it to the installed cup.

I then plugged the hole with my finger and dropped the ball bearings in, pushing them into the grease with the skewer as necessary.

Sorry for the lousy photos,  I couldn't figure out how to over-ride the camera's focus plane very well, and the macro mode didn't seem to help.

The light was failing by this point,  but the next step was to grease up the adjustable cup and fill it with ball bearings, put the short end of the spindle in the adjustable cup,  and holding them together so that the BBs stay in place, lower the long end of the spindle into the BB shell against the fixed cup BB's.
I got it tightened enough that everything is held in place,  but I was getting a lot of resistance to further tightening of the adjustable cup while still having a lot of play in the spindle, so I stopped.

Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures, but I assembled the headset BB races,  which were a lot simpler.  The headset doesn't turn completely smoothly, so I might have to take it all apart and do a bit more sanding and smoothing- now that I know how easy it is to dis and re-assemble, I won't hesitate if it gives me problems once the handlebars are in.

That's all for now- brakes and brake cables are the next step once they arrive.


  1. oh! it is beyond awesome that you are doing this work yourself. i applaud!

    i'm particularly keen on seeing how this comes out as later this summer i'm going to try re-inventing an old Raleigh myself that looks to be about the same era and style as yours. already, it's neat to see how it looks with the decals stripped down and painted an unorthodox color.

    here's some pictures of my Raleigh, hanging in my Dad's garage:

    style looks very similar, no? only your two tubes are parallel there, where as mine aren't. can't wait to see more pictures of your process!

  2. there can be a few explanations for the headset not turning smoothly:

    - incorrect race seating
    - too much tension on bearings
    - worn races
    - worn bearings
    - bent fork steerer (not too likely)
    - bent head tube (even less likely)

    did you sand the head tube ends before inserting the cups? did you use some sort of a press to seat them, or did you just tap them in?

    does the headset feel "notchy"? if so, does it feel this way all the way around, or only in certain places? if it's consistently notchy when spinning the fork all the way around, that would suggest worn races or bearings. if it only feels notchy in places and then becomes smooth (or loose), that would point to the race seating not being right.

    i had a lot of trouble seating my headset races on my raleigh after having the frame and fork powdeercoated. i ended up using a fine wire brush dremel attachment to brush away all powdercoating around the seating surfaces.

    headsets are generally trickier in this regard, since the cups don't rely on threading to keep them properly seated. BB cups are easier, since the threading guides their alignment. still, BB shells should be faced as well.

  3. Hayley, that sounds like a great project. One caveat is that a lot of what I'm doing might be different though for a bike with a derailleur like the one in the photo, as mine will have some internal gear specific things.

    Somervillain- It's not terrible- I want to get the handlebars on before I re-adjust it because I'm not sure I'd even notice it if I had one degree of separation.
    Scott (the powder coater) re-moved and re-seated the top and bottom races for me, so I can't speak to how they are. I did spend a fair bit of time with steel wool getting the races as smooth as I could, and they seem pretty good to me. I replaced all the bearings, so they're not worn. I could back off a bit on the top nut to see if I have it tightened down too much, but I doubt it- didn't really torque it very high. If it's still bugging me when I get the handlebar on, I'll think about taking the races off and making sure the metal is clean and the races are completely parallel (they look pretty good to the naked eye).

  4. cycler, if you haven't already installed the stem and other parts, i would ward off potential future problems and just remove the cups that scott seated for you and make sure everything is plum with the upper and lower cups (and the fork crown race)... you can't tell by eye, and even a slightly uneven layer of powdercoat along the seating surface can royally screw up a headset. you can gently tap them out with a long screwdriver and rubber mallet. after wire brushing (or sanding) away the powdercoat, i apply framesaver with my finger, then seat the cups.

  5. Very impressive undertaking, looking forward to seeing the finished bike!

    If this will be your main ride, what are you doing with the DL-1?

  6. oh, good point cycler... however, unlike your MacGyver-fabulous-self, I am actually working with a shop that fixes up old bikes to get mine done! Booo! I wish I could accomplish what you're doing, it's tremendously inspirational...

  7. very impressive. Is Robert happy to be a donor?

  8. Whoa! Nice job. Just recently ordered my bike multi tool on-line. Should be doing my own bike service soon.