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.