Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Nearly finished

Resuming activity after a month pause in my cycling interests (some "minor" health issues not worth a comment).

Well, it's nearly finished. Just some cosmetic touches pending before applying the decals (in fact I still don't have them). The most important change will be swapping the 622x25 by 622x23 tyres. The ride will not be as cushy but I have no option since clearance in the short rear triangle is not even marginal (mind that the originals were 622x20).

How does it ride? Great, no doubt it was designed as a pure racer. This morning I test rode it and my impressions were: fast accelerating, precise handling, good stopping (very remarkable for a machine donning single pivot side-pulls) and quite a comfortable position even for a "middle aged gentleman"

Maybe I shouldn't mention that I nearly crashed the first time I applied hard brakes (the stem screw was not fully tightened and the handlebars rotated "a bit too much").

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Suntour Sprint brake set (part two)

Now the brake calipers. Breaking them down was not difficult though Suntour shows some peculiarities that ,to some extend, takes me back to those awesome  Campagnolo of a "by gone era".

Here they are (if you wish to count them remember to add a missing part I forgot to include in the picture)

The only problem I experienced was trying  to remember the right order to assemble all those tiny parts back into shape.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Taking shape

 Painting the frame implied  reaching "some" compromises between historical accuracy and feasibility.

Mixing the original colours was quite simple, merging  them at the right spot posed some more trouble and avoiding drops was a bit of a nightmare but at last the frame started to fall back onto its original look (or what I guess it was when new).

The fork was another story and here some decisions were to be taken (though a bit reluctantly).
Originally the whole fork was chromed but rust had eaten through it leaving huge gaps on the surface. One option was to have it rechromed but in an attempt to save time and money I opted to give it a more stylish finish. So after lots of polishing I painted it in the front blue colour leaving crown and tips uncoated.

The right chainstay -after painful considerations- was also left in its original condition (just water sanded it as much as I dared hoping not to take away too much chrome and gave a final coat of lacquer) .

 The quill stem was in good condition but its original black paint was obviously not matching the frame colours so it got a fresh layer of blue paint (the logo was preserved)

Finally, the seat stem and the bottle cage underwent a similar process for the very same reason. In this case I opted for a slightly brighter blue to avoid a sharp contrast

Monday, July 29, 2013

Suntour Sprint Brake set (part one)

A pair of fine brake levers that closely resemble the Shimano BL 600 I currently use on my randonneuse. In fact the hand rest is slightly wider and the lever is engraved to prevent finger slipping (it provides a nice feeling but I seriously doubt this is of any use). Hoods were obviously not original (gum hoods don't age well) but the current ones follow quite accurately the lever's body.  The suntour logo is printed on the outer side so there's no question whether which is right and which is left.

Since I had no instruction sheet, breaking them down was a matter of trial and error (as usual). First thing is to locate a small and hidden screw artfully recessed that prevents the lever's pin from sliding out through use (a smart and thoughtful design). Once located in the inside of the lever's body you need a 2mm Allen to unscrew it off.

Now the pin comes out quite easily (just use some kind of rod to press it out from the inside) and the lever falls off.

Next step is to unscrew the tightening bolt so you can detach the body from the handlebar.  In this picture the recessed bolt is shown partially screwed on the pin.

 The tightening system is a bit more elaborate than current Shimano's we are used to but it works just the same.

Now it's time to clean, add some lube on the moving parts and reassemble it the reverse way.

Summing up: a clever design intended to last for ever.
Just a minor drawback: there's no build-in quick release (though none contemporary models had them, as far as I know...)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The bare frame

After an epic struggle against filth and rust, some cleaning, a touch of paint removing jelly, lots of sanding and soft-moderate swearing...

The bare frame: (well, in fact these pics were taken before the final water-sanding process so it's not yet silk-smooth...)

Striping paint of a frame reveals some of the builder's most hidden secrets. Thus, in this case, I can say that the brazing (bronze, not silver) was superb: no appreciable bulges, no bronze overflow, no gaps between lug and tube... a master's work.
Obviously this was not a "normal" production frame.  Moreover, the whole frame had been chromed!  Chroming is an expensive practice (though it is usually more difficult trying to chrome just a part than the whole set). The chromed surface is damaged here and there by rust and... by paint removal (now look, how could I know!!). 

Anyway, the frame is now ready for the paint job. I will try to reproduce the original colour pattern to make the restoration as precise as possible (this bike was ridden in real pro races!)

Just one problem arising: the chromed for was not painted, just chromed, and if one is to be true to the bike's original look, well... anyone knows where to apply for re-chroming? (lower price tag first, remember)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A late 80's Contini

Last week I received an unexpected present: a Contini equipped with a full Suntour Sprint "gruppo".
The bike had obviously lived a hard life stocked in the wrong place for years and was not roadworthy  but... according to its last owner it had been ridden in the Tour de France before being passed onto his brother (a former amateur racer). The man had no real interest in the bike but it still held some sentimental value to him and did not wished to see it laying in the junk yard so it was offered to me on adoption ( At first I was a bit reluctant since my lovely wife had seriously warned me against further additions to my stable).

Contini, don't be mistaken by the italian reminiscence, was (and it still is as Goi-Contini) a Spanish maker with a long trajectory in the cycling history (some say they a had a close relationship/partnership(?) with Colnago). It seems they quit making racing frames in the early 90's but I've been unable to find any records of serial numbers to accurately date the bike.

The frame was in fairly good condition, no bends, no cracks, just some rust showing up here and there under a thick layer of filth. The seat was cracked, the chain was hopelessly rusted, the rear wheel out of true and the front one totally unusable since one of the hub flanges had been somehow thorn off.  But, all in all, bringing this Tour-de-France-ancienne back to life seemed a promising prospect.

Dating the bike proved to be a bit more difficult. The paint scheme was original (same colours inside the steering tube and bottom bracket shell) and the aerographic  merging between the two main colours could be easily traced back to the late 80's or early 90's. Even the bar tape (too worn out to be reused) displayed the word Contini.

The lugged frame design is remarkably square: 54cm seat tube (c-t)/54cm upper tube (c-c) the later squeezed into a rhomboidal section in the middle (maybe an attempt to add some stiffness)

The one-bolt anodized quill stem was unmistakeably from the late 80's and the shift levers (oh boy,  I nearly fainted when I recognized them!!) were those legendary Suntour "power rachets" first introduced in 1986 as part of the Sprint and Superbe gruppos (Sun Tour top of the line models). Unfortunately they never made it into a market that was insanely throwing itself into an indexing frenzy. So, assuming, this Sprint gruppo was the original specification the current bike can be dated as a 1986-1988 model (this is consistent with the rest of the aforementioned details )
The pedals are a pair  of forlornly stuck  Rossignol, the very same model overhauled in a previous post in this blog.

No cable braze-ons on the top tube, the rear brake casing run inside the  tube (and rusted in, making its removal an ordeal!)

I found lots of moving details: carefully reinforcing bosses for bottle cages, an engraved (and painted) lugged fork (with the typical dog-leg bend of the 80's), chromed drop-outs, the maker's brand engraved here and there, a curved brake bridge, dust caps, brazed-on cable guides, an elegant seat cluster bolt... Judge by yourselves...

In summary, a carefully designed and artfully build machine. One of the last of a glorious era that deserves a full restoration.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Nigra sum...

Last Sunday I had no time for a long ride so made up for the lack of distance with elevation gains. Took a spin to Montserrat, the holy mountain; a nine km climb with quite a constant grade and an elevation gain  a tad over 600 meters. It makes for an average 6.7%, not bad...

After a 50 km approach route (including getting hopelessly lost in Terrassa) and some 600 more meters gained I arrived into Monistrol de Montserrat, a small town whose main merit is holding the junction that leads up to the holy mountain. The ascent was basically uneventful but for some intimidating buses charging up the road with their full load of tourists.

Some two km to the finish passed St. Benet Abbey, actually a nunnery that is getting some unexpected renown mainly due to one of its residents: sister Teresa Forcades, a physician specialized in inner medicine and epidemiology and, of course, a theologian.

Shortly after that (and getting over a couple of merciless ramps) one stumbles onto a deceiving road sign welcoming you to Montserrat.
Ignore it: there is still one more agonizing km to climb through the car park till one finally reaches the abbey .

After dodging hordes of tourist (Russians and Yanks mainly) I parked the bike by the small  convenience store just opposite the main entrance and failed in my attempt to get a sizeable bottle of cola (the ones they were selling were just to big and I was not thirsty enough. Filling the bike's bottles with "carbonic waste overs" is not a good option...)

So I frugally sticked to plain water and walked the bike to the main square leading to the Basilica of Santa Maria de Montserrat.

Before returning home took a pic of the road.
Quite a nice climb, isn't it?

By the way, got lost in Terrassa again.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Fòrum Area

Today I took a spin into the furthermost area to the north of the city. It's known as the "Fòrum area" mainly composed of new land gained to the sea where  " The Forum of the Cultures" was held in 2004.

The access from home is mainly through the "Parc del Besós" a long dedicated bikepath following the river.
It starts at the bridge of Montcada (which takes you north into the road to "La Roca del Vallès", a popular route for roaddies). Turning towards the sea you take a pedestrian lane for a couple of km (the pic is taken there) that  leads you to the bike path. Turning opposite you can easily reach a dirt trail pointing inland.

This bike path is to be avoided on weekends least you want to improve your dodging abilities (newborn cyclist, bike path warriors, skaters, children, hikers, whole families five-a-breast, or any combination you like...) 
Today "traffic was thin" and was able to ride uneventfully to the sea.

First thing one encounters is a well maintained park and a beach ( "platja del fòrum") today obviously deserted.

Following to the south one rides  into a marina ("Port del Fòrum") displaying some interesting ships.  Cars must pay an entrance fee (a parking fee I suppose) but bikes simply skirt the barrier .

Let me show you two of my favourites (refurbished fishing ships with lots of charm. The black one proudly displaying the Maltese cross of St John; the red hulk is from Gibraltar ).

At the end of the marina you can choose between hoping the bike up an endless tram of stairs or show your cornering skills while pedalling through a twisting ramp into the main explanade of the "Fòrum". On one end someone put up a gigantic solar cell panel (not the only one in this area) that provided a fine temporary shelter from the persistent drizzle that was slowly
soaking me up.

As soon as the skies cleared a bit, me and my unfendered fixie rode past the amphitheatre ..... 

... and crossed over the marina through the bridge that leads straight into the aforementioned "Parc del Besos" (enjoyed a privilege bird's eye view on the decks below)

 On my ride back I noticed -to my  dismay- that it had rained quite heavily on the bike path... I was unfendered.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Easter Rides

Showing some pics from my Easter Rides.

         Santes Creus abbey at last! (after fighting strong head and side winds that sent me wobbling side to side).
A nice ride though. Lonely roads and the sky holding. The wind, on the other hand, had dried up the tarmac from last days rains (which is a plus among "cautious" descenders like... me)

This time I was riding my "summer bike": a heavily modified mid-70's Olmo.
No fenders as you can appreciate (I'd have "appreciated" them quite a lot in last season's rainy 300 brevet)

Quiet and isolated hamlets scattered among endless vineyards and olive tree fields.
I noticed that the bell towers display an  identical design in this part of the country.

Montserrat Chapel: an architectonic marvel worth a visit in the midst of... nowhere. (well, in fact its located in the outskirts of Montferri)

Calafell Castle. A partially preserved fortress never taken by assault.
It's build on a rock (difficult to mine) and the way to the main and only entrance is quite steep.
A medieval fair is held there in September.

Make no mistake; I didn't ride that far...
It's just  a XIXth century slightly scaled-down copy of Seville's famous Giralda.
The place: l'Arbós

Another interesting church in the small hamlet of Clariana. It was build in the mid 70's in some sort of "Russian orthodox" style.
Quite a remarkable building. (In fact, is the only remarkable feature in that place)
I attended Easter Sunday's Mass there (donning a more "appropriate" garment, of course).

More on castles. This is Castellet (in catalan: little castle).
A charmingly preserved medieval town by Foix damp.