Retro rebuild – part 1

For anyone who thinks 1983 isn’t retro you’ll be disappointed by this post.

I’ll get onto the running in the next post but I’ll tease you with the fact that annual ‘renewals’ to the running shoe I normally use mean that I am now in the realm of ‘low heel drop’ and minimalism whether I want it or not. Still, I’m so average that I don’t care as long as it doesn’t tick off some of the remaining injuries I still have to collect on my running injury bingo card before I can shout HOUSE.

OK, 1983.

This post is about restoring a 1983 Raleigh 10 speed road bike. If you come from where I come from this would be called doing up a bike. My daughter (10) would call it pimping the bike and my wife would call it a waste of bloody time and money.

Old ‘n new




So, what do you need for this sort of project (apart from an imbalance of ambition over ability)?

In no order you need the following:

  • An older sister (left handed if possible) who was the apple of your father’s eye. If she is academically gifted this will help.
  • A shed
  • A winter of crap TV like x-factor, strictly come dancing, celebrity this and that – you get the picture.
  • Some tools – an Aldi bike tool kit and some spanners -if you don’t have these then a vise-grips is the most basic thing you’ll need. A can of WD-40 as well.
  • A boiler suit, old clothes, an old radio and a dust mask – these things will put you in the mood – think of it as the scented candles and sexy underwear. And they stop you spraying chemicals up your nose.
  • Some sand paper – 60 & 100 grit to sand down the bike and some water paper for cutting the paint before spraying on the lacquer and some 160 – 200 grit paper for cleaning up the rusted aluminium.  If all that sounds complicated just think of it like this: the lower the number the rougher the paper. Water paper is just paper that you are supposed to use with water – it stops you ruining the paint.
  • Some white spirits and rags to clean the sanded bike.
  • A camera phone – to photograph all the stuff you take off so you can reassemble it.
  • Access to You-Tube – if you get stuck someone somewhere has put a video of it on You-Tube to help you.
  • A local bike store who won’t laugh at you (well, won’t laugh in your face).

Once you convince your wife that re-building a trashed bike is good for your child and somehow good for you your main challenge is going to be hiding the actual cost of it from her.

If you’ve ever fallen through the front door at 4 in the morning after a kebab and a gallon of beer and countless other shots and chasers and told your wife the next morning that you made it home around 2 AM and only had a few with the lads and walked home for the fresh air then you’ll be able to pull off the type of lying needed for this sort of thing.

This bike is for a 10 year old daughter and a wife who is just slightly over the 21 years. As such it isn’t going to be all bike-porn like all the London/Tokyo/NewYork fixie tattooed BoHos. There’ll be no carbon bits and matching rims, hubs and brake levers. It’s more of a fix-up to enjoy some old ‘racer’ cycling back when a 10-speed was the iPad/Beats by Dr. Dre/Ear expanders/teenage tattoo of it’s day.

If I was doing this for myself then I’m sure there’d be a fair bit of the matching group set (the gears to the non-cyclists) and colour coded bar end tape.

The reason you need a left handed smart older sister is because although the bike will be in rag order (see last post) it will basically be unused. This means that despite everything being covered in a layer of rust and crud the mechanicals are all still fine – no worn cogs, brakes work and so on. This makes restoration more about sanding, scrubbing and polishing rather than sourcing older parts and their replacements.

The simple way to approach this sort of task is to start out with high ambition but low expectation. That way you’ll never be disappointed.

First thing to do is to strip the bike down to the frame. That sentence might take between a day and a fortnight to achieve depending on how able you are. If you’re unsure just google your problem. Someone has done it before and will fix you up.

Save everything (it is better to have the option to restore older parts that to trash them and have to buy new parts)  and if you think you’ll lose stuff just have a few sandwich bags handy to pour the ball bearings or pedal spindle (known as the bottom bracket to all bicycle people) into. This will help you with stuff like brakes and front dérailleur parts.

Some parts will need a special tool or two. the pedal arms (know as the cranks) need a special tool called a crank puller to get them off. I had this from my Aldi tool kit but if you’re stuck you can drop by you local bike shop – that’s what I did for the 5 speed freewheel at the back (called a cassette these days).

I let my 10 year old decide on the colour scheme which was a bit of a mistake in the end as the bike turned out to be canary yellow (to match her docs) with cerise pink and black detailing. Still, it’s her bike so all I can be blamed for is the execution.

Once it’s stripped to the frame just sand down all the rust and rub the dust off the frame with some white spirits and a rag. Sanding can be as big or as small a job as your obsessive compulsive disorder allows it to be. You can go for a full bare metal strip down or just a light roughing up of the existing frame. It’s your call and both approaches are fine.

I went for something in between just to get the rust off.

Hanging by a thread

Next you prime it – this is just a coat of a neutral paint (often with a specific rust inhibitor in it like zinc) that will smooth out the surface and presents a nice clean surface to the finished colour.

Painting – just think of yourself as a garden shed banksy and you’ll be fine. Lots of smaller coats is better that one heavy coat – like in running it’s all about the layers.

I painted the pink areas black first then I covered the areas to be black with some packing twine. All a bit elaborate but I was curious to see if it would work.

the twine




The paint – I just went to the local art store where the graffiti artists go and picked up some colours for about €5 a can. The colour selection is almost too good -you’d be spoilt for choice. whatever paint you choose you’ll need a top-coat of some clear lacquer to stop the paint being damaged but normally the supply shop will have this as well.

I’m sure you could go to the local panel beaters and they’d make you up a pot of the colour you want and then you’d but a compressor and spray gun and at that stage I’d be drinking a glass of wine in front of the telly. Too much hassle and a bit too aspergery for me.

Do a few coats – 2 as a minimum. 4 is loads

All this farting about with twine and different colours does pay off in the end and you come out with something like this:

Allow to dry for 3 days……

Before you get to that stage you have to give the bike a gentle rub down with the wet paper to fix up all the orange peel spray paint you applied so the top clear coat will look smooth.

I brought it in from the shed and was allowed to let it sit in front of the stove for a few days as the one thing the other blogs (mainly American) don’t tell you is that in our climate the paint will never dry.
OK, I’m off for a glass of vino tinto to balance out the ying of my running today. Balance is very important people so always remember to counter all your good deeds with less good ones.

Next post will be the re-build.


One response to “Retro rebuild – part 1

  1. Good project. When you’re done there my once new Raleigh Grand Prix is hanging in the shed. Might go the new groupset though.

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