Friday, December 17, 2010

That's how it looked the day I purchased it. I had already removed the quill stem with flat bars -and obviuous retrofit-  the cheap straight seat-post -no saddle though- and the wheels. We'll talk later about the wheels
As can easily be seen the paint job is quite damaged (better don't have a look at the other side) and the decals are made from a frail thin sheet clearly unfit for reuse
At first glance it seems rather a forlorn sight but after some restoration work I hope that "la tua (sua) salute rifiorirà". And yes I like Opera.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Quill Stem

I've recently acquired a third-hand rusty bike to restore. It seems to be a mid quality steel frame labelled TITAN assembled with BH original parts. Is TITAN somehow related to BH? Still don't know but what remains of the original drive train is BH and the lugs seem to be BH too
Anyway let's start with the quill-stem. As you can see it's a single cast aluminium piece  shaped as those old two-piece lugged steel stems from the fifties and sixties. The quill measures 8 cm, the stem 15 cm and the angle shows a neutral 75º. The bar clamp is 25mm securing the bars by means of a single 11mm hex bolt (with a cunning built in lip-groove  to prevent untightening), the expander  is conic not wedged so, after these considerations, I'd dare to date it as a circa 1960-70 stem. The letters BF (not BH) are clearly stamped in both sides of the quill so it must be of French origin.
It has obviously lived a hard life attending to the many scratches unveiled by the clean up (used a mild degreaser). That's how it looks after some water-sanding.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Get rid of that oily mess!

It's two months now since I started trying a new way of lubing the chain. It's called Squirt "dry lube" and consists of some sort of wax based product that efficiently lubes the chain and, that's the big deal, keeps the chain free from that gritty stuff that gets in there and thrives. My first guinea pig was the Romani and after riding it through some dirt trails things seemed to be running well enough. I don't mean the chain was spic'n'spat -perhaps a bit goopy but not more than a fresh chain- and it kept substantially clean. The test results encouraged me to make a second attempt this time with my trusty randonneuse. Same thing: the chain stays clean of the usual oily mess that sticks into the chain-plates. It also runs smoothly and I've found no difference in shifting (I'm on friction shifters, mind it!). The only thing that still remains a mystery is how long will it take before calling for a relube
If you want to make a try thoroughly follow the maker's specifications. Fully delube the chain first (oil and wax don't match). I used kerosene in my fixie and a standard chain-bath degreaser on the Kogswell.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pedal reassembly (Three)

Step one: place a generous layer of grease in both (inner/outer) races. There's no need to use grease sparingly: be generous.

Step two: stick the balls in the grease.  Now comes the question: should you reuse the old balls instead of replacing them for fresh ones? Technically speaking a used ball bearing looses its shape and gets ovalized through normal use. Common wisdom would advise to replace them. I, on my hand, carefully examine them once cleansed and if they look right I reuse them. Anyway this time -and for no special reason-  decided on new balls. I had to visit three hardware stores and overcome the clerk's incredulity ("Sorry Sir but I don't thing there are bearings that small") For three euros I stepped out with my precious tiny ball bearings. (Yes, they actually had them.)
Now the grease should hold the bearings in place provided you are not interested in acrobatics such as throwing the pedal in the air or something
Stick as many ball bearings as there's room for but always leave room for one more.  That allows the balls to run freely on the race.

Remember my speculation about a missing ball in the outer race?. Well, it doesn't hold water now. I placed thirteen balls on this race just to find later that the pedals were not spinning smoothly. Took one ball off and... Voila! Smooth as silk.

Step three: carefully slide the axle into the pedal's body. There's no need to grease it up. It'll get properly lubed while passing through the inner's race "generous" layer of grease.

Step four: Screw the adjusting cone gently with your fingers. No tool needed here. Stop when you feel you have reached the ball bearings. Do not overthigten  in fact don't even tighten it , just stop when you feel you've reached the ball's surface. Then slide the washer (align the lip to the slot, remember) and screw the adjusting hex nut. Tighten it with the fingers.

Step five: check adjustments. If everything has gone right the pedal should:
a) run smoothly as silk
b) show no side-to-side movement (hold the axle end with one hand and try to pull in-and-out the pedal's body)

If the pedal is not running smoothly unscrew the hex-nut and the cone a bit and recheck. If the pedal's too loose unscrew the hex-nut and thighen a bit the cone.
Repeat this double checking till you feel satisfied. If so hold the axle with the 15 mm wrench and use an 11 mm wrench to tighten the hex-nut. Now, remember to re-check the spin (some times you are not aware of your own strength!)

Step six: screw in the dust cap (make sure it won't come loose) , remove the excess of grease. and you're all set!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pedal's Anatomy (two)

Step one: unscrew the dustcap. In mid to high quality pedals the dust cap is made from steel or aluminium, it's intended to seal off the inner parts from moist and dust. The thread should provide a good enough labyrinth seal to keep the greased ball bearings clean.
Some makers claim that a specific wrench is needed but if you are a bit handy any pair of pliers will do.  Anyway, I'd just advice you to put a strap of cloth between the plier's jaws and the piece to be removed, it does not improves the grip but prevents damage to the surface of the  cap.
When the dustcap is removed  the pedal's "dark side" is unveiled.
(note: the dumbell is just a support used to take the picture)


Now we can see an hex nut blocking our way . This nut is intended to block the pedal's inner mechanism to the desired adjustment. To remove it we must use a 12mm hex wrench while holding the other end of the axle with a 15mm pedal wrench (the one used to
attach/remove the pedals).
Removing the hex nut exposes a small blocking washer (the type with a lip that run's into a slot cut through the axle's thread) . Pry out the washer with a small flat screwdriver to gain free access to the adjusting cone. Use your fingers to unscrew the cone.  This pic shows the cone, its upper part looks like a second hex nut but its underside is conic (trust me)

Now we can see the ball bearings. There are twelve of them but it looks like there's room for more (probably it is not the first time this pedal's been overhauled and perhaps some bearings rolled away forever  while in it)

Removing the ball bearings without losing one or two of them requires mastery but it allows us to examine the ball race . I use a magnetized screwdriver and then shake off the hanging bearings inside a pot with kerosene (it's a great degreaser that leaves an oily protecting film over metal pieces).
Now comes the most delicate maneuver:  carefully pulling out the axle exposing the inner bearing race (the inner cone is built in the crank's end of the axle's body). Mind that there's a full set of ball bearings (that for any unknown reason tend to roll out and get forever lost). Same cleaning process than with the outer bearings.

It's time to examine the races, they must be uniformly smooth with no pits.

As I mentioned above, when extracting the axle don't forget that the ball bearings of the inner side tend to fall down. Be careful. There were thirteen of them (it supports my theory of the "missing bearing")

 So this is it. You can see the  assembling order all the components of a Rossignol platform pedal.

Assembling process in a next post.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pedal Breakdown (one)

 Let's start with the the toe-clips. These ones are made of steel and show a classic design (no identification mark, sorry).

They get attached to the pedal's body by means of a three bolt-and-nut system (that's nothing new under the sun, either). The most interesting feature is the three slotted adjusting system that gives a full centimetre of fore-aft tuning.
I'd dare to say that these toe-clips are the originals, probably sold as a pack with the pedals. If you look carefully at the middle picture  you will notice a hollow triangular shape that exactly matches the pedals front contour.
The triangular upper piece is obviously intended to sandwich the pedal and....if you look carefully you'll notice an interesting detail: see the two holes in the front of the pedal? Well, if you have small feet you will obviously pull the toe-clip backward and pass the forward fixing bolt through the  second-rear hole (the front one gets covered by the toe-clip itself). All right then, take a close look at the front of the pedal and you will notice a mark in the aluminium around this second hole. My deduction? The former owner took a smaller shoe-size than me and did not like bolts coming loose! (elementary, my dear Watson)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Pedal overhaul

This is a Rossignol platform pedal. I rejected them for fixed-gear riding due to a small design flaw: the back tab is not properly angled making it a bit difficult to turn the pedal and slip in one's foot.
This pedals equipped my mid-seventies Olmo till I replaced then for a pair of MKS-track. The body is made from aluminium and the maker's label is clearly visible.
I'll start putting it apart in the next post.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

More on graphics

These are down tube decals.
The upper one is the original from my frame. The lower one (not that well preserved) is from a frame allegedly built in the the early eighties. The type and casing are very similar (probably the same) and the ribbon displaying  the World's Champion Colours is quite typical in cycling frames.

As you can see in this lady frame the aforementioned characteristics are also present. This particular bike also dates from the eighties.

I presume that Romani went out of business in the late eighties or early nineties but the transfers in their most modern-looking frames are more stylish so I'd dare to say that the shown bicycles are a bit older, probably from the seventies.
By now I've not been able to collect more data from the web but I'd say that Romani was a small company specialized in mid to high quality frames some of which were labelled under other names. Was Romani a mere "cadreur"? No, I think he made both things: frames and full bicycles.

To finish this post let's have a look to a late Romani frame (circa 1988). See how the graphics are more elaborate?  The casing is different, the headbadge is new but it still retains de "R" in the fork crown. The rounded cable stop and the chainrest are clearly visible and the lugs are also the same. It's a true Romani no doubt

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Still searching...

Searching the web I've found this pic of a Romani decal from the 80's. This must be their last art design before going out of business, I presume.
As you can easily see the the graphic design of the replica transfers on my bike looks older (70's? 60's perhaps?)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Random thoughts on tyre levers

See those tyre levers? They look alike but...
The upper one is a vintage tyre lever made from aluminium. It was presumably made forty or fifty years ago somewhere in Europe (Italy or Spain I presume). The finish is neat with smooth edges and the spoon shaped end was thoughtfully designed.

The lower one is a fake vintage lever made from steel in China. It weighs more than the whole set of three aluminium ones. The finish was crude and required some filing to round up the prickly edges.

Do they work the same? Well, to some extend , they do but... tyre removing is a bit easier and safer with the aluminium one.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Searching for the origins

I'm trying to trace the origin of the frame. There is little information available on the web.  Anyway I've been able to make of a few data:
- it seems that the premises were originally located in Parma (Italy)
- They were probably run by two siblings: Rodolfo & Gaetano
- They produced road and track frames. In the early seventies there was some export trade to Canada and the States.
- There is no business  currently running  in the original address.

And that's nearly all but for one detail: I've found Romani bicycles being still made in Spain but I suspect it's a mere coincidence. Anyway I'm trying to contact those guys

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

More on pedals

So that's how they look after some refurbishing. I've painted the dust caps in black to match the pedal's body. After a through clean up and a touch of grease they spin smoooothly.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pedals & toeclips

I'm not satisfied with the current pedals; a pair of well preserved platform Rossignol that perform finely but are a pain to catch  in the air and get the feet in while moving (that's a minor drawback, I know but...)
So, I finally made my mind to replace them by something more-of-less period correct. After some rummaging trough my secret vintage depot I found a pair of Spanish Olimpic Integral worth a make-up. Restoration process coming soon...
Oh, by the way, I also have the original toeclips (Aspa Especial Profesional it reads)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Master's touch...

I've just finished up the bike. The transfers are gorgeous a true Master's Touch.

All in all, the whole process has taken roughly above two weeks of irregular dedication  (suffering and frustation included) but as the bard sung : "all's well that ends well"

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Test ride

Went for a thirty km mostly flat test ride. Everything worked flawlessly.
No comments on the bike; nobody seemed to notice the vintage look. Oh, well...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

And Guardian Angels sung this strain...

Good Lord! It looks like riding the Union Jack!  The late-sixties italian frame has ended up as a mid-fifties english bike!
I knew I should have painted it green (don't take a family ballot unless you are sure to win!)
Not yet finished, though.  Perhaps tomorrow I'll go for a test-ride.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

And now, Ladies and Gentlemen....

Mind that the lacquer overcoat is still missing... and yes I considered pinstriping,  it could be period correct but this is an italian frame, a pure racer. Had it been a french or british frame...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Headstrong? Me?

Well, yes I'm a bit of a headstrong and I think that this time the results of my perseverance are worth the time spent.  I've achieved that thin-not-to-glossy look (maybe I'll even skip the final glossy overcoat)  The pitting in the seat tube is the rust-damaged surface, not been able to hide it.
Tomorrow we'll see what happens when I rip the masking tape off unveiling the contrasting parts (head tube, rear bridge and dropouts).
By the way, today I've had the privilege of admiring the "avant-première" of the transfers. Good Damn Craftmanship, boy! They even look better than the originals!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Blood, Sweat and Tears.

All right, to be sincere I was not pleased with the paint job. So I've spent my last holiday hours sanding (hand-sanding), re-priming and... well, does anyone still remember the  thin-coated finish of frames in the  fifties? (paints were thinner those days). To make it short: I'm trying to devise a method to reproduce that vintage-look. It's being quite time-consuming but here come the first results. Just look at the white parts (and take into account that the lacquer overcoat is still missing)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Got a scratch!

Got a scratch in the paint!!  Who is to blame for it? Better don't ask... but... Woe betide he/she who dares to approach my unfinished frame!
All right, I'll take this as a chance to water-sand it all over again ans spray a new layer of paint.
Still waiting for the transfers.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Frame painting

So here it is the paint job. The head tube still lacks the final touch up. No transfers for the moment..

Frame priming

This is the result after five layers of white primer and some water-sanding . The surface was smooth enough but I was unable to achive a fully polished look.

Frame makeover

After a couple of months of pasionate love with fixed-wheels I was not going to resign myself to something resembling an entry-level steed. So I decided to spiff it up a bit. The question was to restore or not to restore the frame but after holding a family ballot the decision was clear: the frame would be repainted in navy blue (with the front tube in white). Scraping the old paint turned out a good decision since I found unexpected rusty spots under it and, in the other hand, I could appreciate for the first time since the frame was welded the craftmanship of the welder. The lugs appeared finely thinned with no stress-risers and the welding (brass not silver) was smooth with no signs of overheating. A fine frame well deserving a new painting.

Finished up

So here it is: the finished up bike. Looks gorgeous (provided you dont take a close look at the paint). The botom bracket tended to come loose so I brought the wholw bike to a mechanic in Barcelona to have it rethreaded. In just a few hours  the odd french-thread was turned into a proper english-thread.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Assembling a fixed-wheel

It was mid-June when I finally made up my mind to assemble that heap of pieces into something similar to a bike. First of all I want to state that I had not the sligthest experience in fixed riding but a bike is a bike and a fixie is a bike with less mechanical complications than an ordinary bike so, theoretically, it should pose very little problem even to an unexperienced fixie-builder.
The first task was to retrieve the frame for my parents's garage. I found it in a corner under some layers of dust. It happened to be an old Romani , in fact it was New Old Stock from a closing down bike shop. After some clean up the frame seemed to be in good condition but for some rusty spots and a partly scratched paint. There was no fork though but some time ago I'd managed to get the last gracefully raked steel fork from another bike shop. It was polished steel and more or less matched the "champagned" coloured frame.
Installing the head set was a cinch

Friday, July 2, 2010

My conversion to fixed gear riding

I cannot tell how it all began. To be sincere I've never been interested in fixed-wheels. Some time ago I read Sheldon's article on fixies but it arose no real interest in me. There were too many odd things about it: Why should anybody wish to renounce to multiple gears? Who would like to strain his tendons unnecesarily? , Is coasting really that bad? What's a "misthycal connection to the bike"?  Nevertheless, something unadvertedly  got ingrained in my brain since a month or so before BPB the idea of a fixed-wheel conversion started to turn over and over in my mind. Well, maybe it was that guy I saw walking a neatly repainted old frame what triggered it all. Yes, perhaps I got stunned at its elegant simplicity.Two weeks ago I finally stopped beating around and went straight fort it.  There were , though, some hurdles to overcome. First one: wife persuading (I'd already been firmly told  "no more bikes welcome" and I'm not going to detail how I did it; suffice to say that... I did it). Second one: the budget. How much was I intending to spend? Fortunately there was an old Romani frame (sorry, no fork) that I got for free from a bike shop and there were lots of spare parts roaming around the garage. I only needed to invest some money in specific missing parts like a track hub and a chain set. Where could I get these oddities? After some web search I found  three or four promising shops in Barcelona. One good day I took a day off and visited one of them. No need to say that I stepped out poorer but happier.  Now I had all the pieces around but with BPB looming I opted to put any fixie delusions aside.