Retro Rebuild – part 2

When last we left our hero he was sitting in an arm chair sipping the vino tinto and munching on peanuts. You never see that on the back of a bottle of wine: would go well with a cranky man shouting at Jeremy Paxman on the telly and eating peanuts.

I mean who eats gamey meat or a cheese plate on a Monday night?……….

The bike re-build:

At the end of part 1 all the hard stuff was done. The sanding was finished and the painting was done.

The lacquer coat (clear gloss) went on next and this was a 2-coat job – just to finish out the can really.

This coat is very soft and could do with a few days in a warm atmosphere. This will be your bedroom or the shed – depending on how stable your relationship is with the opposite sex. I was able to leave it in the front ‘good room’ as my wife was already using it to store boxes of crap that should be in a landfill so I knew there was no comeback (let he without sin cast the first stone and all that).

Now, when it comes to bolting back on the bits that turn the frame into a bike you can be as geeky or an laid back as you want to be.

I decided to see if I could restore the old parts – the gears, chainwheel, the back cog, the brakes. This was because I didn’t want to be spending heaps of money on parts – and because I realised that the big bike stores only sell stuff to people who treat their bike like a set of golf-clubs: overly expensive and under used.

The other reason I decided to re-use the old parts was because I knew I could get them back into decent shape with a bit of sanding and polish.

If you’ve ever had to polish your boots (scouts, army, public school – I was scouts) or are an expert at gentleman’s one-handed art pamphlets then the elbow grease required to sand away all the crud will flow easily.

You need a cabinet finishing paper – somewhere about 160 grade – fairly fine – to get the real crud off and then when you’re down to a dull metal finish you can use something like auto-sol to bring back a dull lustre – at least that’s what I did and I was pretty happy with it. Old enough to look authentic and clean enough to make it look like someone cared.

I knew I had to get some parts for the bike so I decided to go two routes:

Local Bike Store for wheels, tyres, tubes, brake and gear cables and cable housing and all the other tiny bits like cable end crimp-ons and housing endings.

My LBS is a place called the bike shed (behind Nancy Spain’s pub in Cork) and they are great at sorting you out for all the stuff you need but don’t know the name of. They don’t suffer from any bike snobbery and think that idiots like me are great for doing up old bikes (at least that’s the vibe I got :-)).

I then spent more time than was necessary to search on-line for handlebars, brake levers and pedals. In the end I kept it simple and ordered from who had all the things I wanted – €12 is about my price point for a set of handlebars.

A note about tyres and wheels:

I the olden days a racer came with 27 inch wheels and took 27×1.25 inch tyres. You can still get them but they are not the snazzy-jazzy jobs you see on the lads out on a Sunday morning. They are using what are known as 700c wheels. These will fit your old racer but they are 4mm shorter on the radius (making the wheel 8mm smaller on the diameter). If your brake callipers don’t have enough adjustment (how much you can slide the brake blocks up and down) you may end up not being able to reach the rims of the wheels to apply the brakes. This could mean you end up having to ditch the old callipers and buying a special set of callipers for people who buy the wrong set of wheels (you).

I was so proud of my restored callipers that I couldn’t buy the newer wheels so I waited about 3 weeks to get a set of the older 27″ wheels. They were the most expensive bit at about €70 for the set. They do come with aluminium rims (which I’m told is good).

Now, to rebuild it – Take out you camera phone and start slowly. Like your first date: take it handy, don’t rush into it. I think the order I re-built was:

  • forks – clean the bearings, cups and grease (not oil) them.
  • Add the stem (the bit the handlebars are stuck onto) and do the same with the bearings and top nuts here.
  • Add the brake callipers (no cables or pads)
  • Add the wheels – I had put the new tyres and tubes on at this stage and had got the LBS to swap over the freewheel.
  • Add the handlebars
  • Stick the brake levers on to the handlebars – don’t be afraid to adjust them
  • Add the bottom bracket and cranks (clean, grease and get your tightening right)
  • Add the pedals
  • Stick on the rear dérailleur – cleaning that was the most satisfying thing I have done with a toothbrush in a long while. It went from a useless piece of metal to a smooth running mechanism over the course of an evening. Grease the springs.
  • Ditto with the front dérailleur. It is really helpful if you’ve a photo of how high up the stem it was clamped on.
  • Thread the chain through – buy a new one – they’re cheap – even in a place like halfords and close it up – sounds so easy. There’s a knack to it.
  • Start cabling the brakes and gears. the brakes are easier so I started with them to get some practice on cutting the housing (it has a tendency to crush with the crappy cutter I was using) and setting the tension on the cables.
  • Adjust the gears so the levers do what they’re supposed to do: Go to you-tube and watch someone else do it. It is easy if you know what you’re doing and impossible otherwise.
  • Add the bar-grips: I went with the tape you wrap hurleys, tennis racquets and hockey sticks with – it’s €3.00 a pop and comes in pink. I taped it off with black insulation tape.
  • Add the saddle and lights (and bell if you want).

Both my daughter and my wife have cycled it since the re-build and they both agree that it runs well and is a comfortable (and fast compared to all the mountain bikes people cycle these days) ride.









All that said I have had one realisation: women’s cycling as a sport will always be hampered by their inability to use the gears on a bike.

10 speed – a waste of 8 gears.


5 responses to “Retro Rebuild – part 2

  1. There is a crying need for a bike nct!

  2. great read i have to say Richard, your daughter will be proud, and the total end cost was?

    • The total cost? About twice what I told my wife it cost.

      the wheels – €70
      Tyres – about €20
      Tubes – €8
      Brake blocks & cables etc about €15
      Hadlebars – €12
      Grips – €3
      Brake levers – €12
      Pedals – €10

      €150. If I’d salvaged more parts it would have been cheaper but I’m OK with that cost.

  3. Significant cost all the same but considering we pay 100+ for a pair of runners its relative, the real value here is the memories ye all have from the experience, good weekend R

  4. €100 for a pair of runners? Got to you’ll never pay full price again.
    True on the memories. I also like the idea of keeping things going and repairing them. You learn something, you avoid our ‘chuck it away’ society and, as you said, you have great memories.

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