Wednesday, June 15, 2011

And so it begins.

Now that the Beast was reduced to a pile of components, it was time to hit the interwebs and see if we could melt us a credit card!

I've written about the choices I've made in an earlier post, but quick recap.

Blast and Powder coat the frame.  In an ideal world, I'd probably keep the original patina, but the patina is accompanied by surface corrosion. Blasting will kill the rust and powder coat, rather than paint provides a tough and durable finish. I wanted something that would pass for a racer, and the team bikes in the 70's were the classic white. So, it was an easy decision until I got to the powder coaters.

"So, which white?"
"There's only one isn't there?"
"No mate, we have 6"

He showed me a collection of soft drink cans that he'd helpfully powder coated.

"Let's go with Arctic White"

A week later, it was back

A quick trip to the bike shop and the cups were pressed back in.

There are a bunch of methods of improvising a stem press, usually involving threaded rod and bronze cups.

All of the instructions suggest the need for to prevent getting them in on an angle, discretion in this case was the better part of valour.

I'd been hooked up with some new bearings, and got me some funky pink grease, so with the aid of another of my purchases, the new repair stand, resinstalling the forks was a pretty simple process.

Another decision concerned bar height. The Beast came equipped with quite a long quill stem, so I felt a bit of shortening was in order.

Five minutes fiddling about with the hacksaw and the stem was an inch shorter. I lengthened the slit up the back, and with a liberal application of grease to both the nut and the bottom of the stem shoved it back into the stearer tube.

Offered up the funky wheels and it started to look like a bike!

Now, to wait for some arrivals.

New Brooks b17 narrow in Brown leather from the UK
New bottle cage, brake blocks and cage mounts from the US
Replica Decals from NSW

Time for a hunt for the sundries needed to finish the rebuild.

New inner and outer cables, plus I discovered that Campag compatible shifter cables fit the Simplex Levers to perfection from  BMCR!

Hoods for the DiaCompe non aero brakes, which I found hiding in the back of a larger LBS on the advice of the gang at Treadly.

A selection of stray nuts and bolts from all over

A roll of Fizzik Leather Bar Tape from Treadly, in a matching colour to the saddle. (I thought about this long and hard, and eventually went with the Velominati and their rules)

I still need to make a decision on pedals, so I have some sexy half clips from the US, a pair of block pedals
or some toe clips off my alloy roadie to choose from. For the moment, its the toe clips.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Take one Stem bolt and Hammer

Now that we'd got the crankset off, it was time for the Bottom Bracket. The Beast is French threaded, which means 'lefty loosey, righty tighty' for both cups. As ever, getting them off wasn't going to be completely straight-forward. Firstly I needed to source a bracket hook, c-spanner, weird looking spanner thing from somewhere. Quick slightly cryptic post on a bulletin board involving the words "what size hammer" and one was on the way to me.

Out came the WD40 and a quick crank off came the locking ring, and cup. A further squirt, and the application of a SUS (Spanner of Unusual Size) and the adjustable cup was off as well.

Starting to enjoy this process now!

Now that the cranks were off and the bottom bracket dealt with, it was time to move on to the seat post and headstem/forks.

I suspected that both follow the example set by the bottom bracket, and resist my attempts to free them. As a precaution, I turned the Beast upside down and let it have it with half a can of WD-40. I then let it sit over night. I'd seriously advise anyone undertaken a strip down of an old bike to do likewise.

Next day, I gave the seat post bolt some love with a spanner and off it came. Foot on the chain stays, grab the seat and twist vigorously. Loud groaning sounds followed, mostly from me. The seat post began to move, and quickly I was standing there holding a saddle, and a seat post much shorter than I expected with an oddly triumphant look on my face.

She wandered into the garage to see what all the noises were about, shook her head and went back to the gardening.

Now was the time for the quill stem and forks.

The Beast has a nice old school Afax quill stem and AVA bars, which are staying, and sports a pair of original seamed forks. In the back of my mind was the notion that 35 year old stems are quite likely to freeze inside 35 year old steerer tubes. Hence the liberal quantities of WD40 the day before.

I loosened the bolt a few turns, then a few more, then took it right out. Vigorous shaking and a bit of swearing later, and yup, it was definitely frozen.

Back went the bolt, tightened until about 1 centimeter of thread showed. Put the Head tube into the vice, apply the hammer to the bolt with enthusiasm, and with a crack the hold was broken.

I was then able to whip out the stem, and pull the forks out.

A quick application of the SUS and the Head Set came off.

Bit of time with the hammer and the screwdriver and the cups were out.

The Beast was ready for paint.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Decisions, Decisions

One of the things you get to do whilst sitting with a component, rag and tub of Mother's Polish is work out where the project is heading.

Lots of polishing equals lots of thinking!

As I have written elsewhere, I originally intended to do a modernisation job on the Beast, new 700c rims, index shifters, new front and rear derailleur etc. As time has passed and I've got to really study the bits and pieces I've stripped off of the Beast, that has changed. Talking to the guys I have contacted on various forums has helped firm up that opinion as well.

So, the new plan, the one we are actually pursuing is to take the Beast and restore it to its former glories, build up something that would, from a distance, in the right light, if you forgot your glasses look like a team replica from the 70's. Having said all of that, although I'm not a fixie kind of guy (I like brakes, and if God hadn't meant us to climb hills, he wouldn't have invented the derailleur) I do like some of the aesthetic that goes with bikes designed to be wedged beneath the buttocks of sweaty Hipsters.

So, here is what we are doing.

Firstly, the paint. The original French Electric Blue has given up the ghost, little bits of surface rust, chips, scratches and sunlight have all consigned the paint to the bin. Where to in terms of colour? Well, with the racer plan in mind, there is only one option. White. Now, simpleton that I am I thought there were only two whites. White and not White. Apparently not.

Contacts from the forums, suggested Central Powder Coaters in Radelaide. For $60aus they will strip and coat a bike frame and fork in any colour you like. They have a lovely little selection of powder coated coca cola cans, you choose the one you like and decision is made! I went for Arctic White, a nice glossy colour.

Saddle next. The original saddle is stuffed, ripped and worn. Sounds like a job for Brooks!  A nice new narrow B17 is on order in Dark Brown. Period correct, and one of those fixie aesthetic bits I mentioned.

Period bar tape or not? Hmm, this one caused some angst. The guys at Star Cycles, used to race Peugeots in the 70's and they were nudging me towards white tape. However, white tape works really well if you have a bike shop or mechanic to change it regularly, I have it on one of my other bikes, and lets say for white, read grey. Then there is the sacred text for all roadies the Rules of the Velominati . Said text makes it clear that saddles should be matched to tape (although conceding that old school is the exception)

A Roll of Dark Brown Fizzik perforated 'leather' tape is has been acquired. Another fixie nod.

Decals next. Potentially the toughest one, where does one acquire decals for a 70's roadie?

Answer, Ebay. This chap has an online store that you should check out if you are doing a restoration, stocking decals for a wide range of period machines, not just Peugeots.

Finally, a little bit of bling is in order to set the Beast off right. Velo Orange stock a nice range of vintage correct bottle cages, in this case one that comes with a set of clamps for downtubes that don't feature a drilled mounting. They also stock copies of the Mafac blocks I need to make sure the Beast will actually stop!

So, shopping list completed, it's time to crack on with whipping out the seat post and to disassemble the steering!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

I hate Cotter Pins

Just so you know!

Feeling flushed with success from the battle with the brakes I wrote about the other day, I turned my attention to the Beast's Bottom Bracket area. Now, I'm not sure if the beast was feeling perverse, or was embarrassed that I was fumbling about in it's nether regions, but it put up something of a struggle.

Step one, removing the chain was pretty simple. The original chain is a bit rusty, but otherwise serviceable. Plan A was to remove it and let it soak in degreaser for a couple of days. With a bit of a clean and some lube it could go into the spares box, where it would sit until needed for the Beast, or because I wanted to re-enact the climactic Brighton scenes from Quadrophenia!

Then we turned our attention to getting the original Crankset off.

If I haven't said this already. I hate Cotter Pins!

Easy to theory, Cotter Pins were the standard means of attaching cranks to bottom brackets for most of the lifetime of the bicycle.

Easy to remove, unless the bike is 35 years old and feeling moody.

Step one, pop the nut off the pin, crasp crank firmly in one hand, strike threaded end of pin repeatedly and with increasing force, with firstly a rubber mallet, then with hammer, finally with paintstripping invective.

Step two, retire to house for first aid and sympathy.

Step three, consult Sheldon, then Zinn.

Step four, ahhhhh yes, the interwebs!

Youtube is full of helpful videos, usually prefaced with introductions like, "I'm a Workshop God and you are an idiot, I will now show you how to master the job that has been frustrating you!"

These are often videos shot on someones phone, in a dodgy basement somewhere.

Anyway, suggestion number one from Sheldon was the metal pipe method.

Basically, you slip a piece of metal tubing over the non threaded end of the pin, making sure that the tube is long enough to reach the floor. This transfers the force of your blows to the floor and protects the frame, crank etc.

Half a litre of WD40 later I was ready to wail. Unfortunately, end result, one beautifully mushroomoid cotter pin, still firmly in place.

Method 2 from Youtube. Place a large nut or other metal object over the non threaded end, jam the lot into a vice and tighten. On the video the pin released with a satisfying crack.

As people keep telling me, real life is not like the movies.

Method 3, we can skip over. Basically, heat the beasts regions with a blow torch. Mmmm, me, naked flame and a bike soaked in WD40, yeah, not so much.

Method 4, the "drill baby drill" method. Who would have guessed that Madam Fruitloop (Sarah Palin to the rest of you)  herself would have a slogan that works for bicycle restoration? Basically. find a sharp (yeah otherwise you will be at it for weeks) drill bit smaller than the diameter of your pin. Turn the crank until you are facing the non threaded end. Drill into that, making sure you keep it centred, until you are about halfway through.

A quick tap on the other end with a hammer, and out came the pin.

Wander around to the other side of the bike and repeat.

Off came the cranks

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Shiny Things

The first parts to be really revived on the Beast are the wheels.

Whilst I have been whacking away at gummed up nuts and bolts, or attacking rust with various toxic chemicals, the wheels have been in the care of Star Cycles here in Oz. They managed to find a set of NOS Wolber Superchampionship rims in their warehouse. They'd obviously been there a while as they had a hand written tag on them, but were mostly still in their original wrapper.

The Beasts original hubs were in good if shabby order, so the plan was very quickly hatched to have those laced into these lovely rims. So far as I have been able to learn, they were made by Wolber, a tyre company with competition use in mind, tying in nicely with the plan forming at the back of my mind to build up something that would pass for an old school racer.

The rims responded beautifully to a polish and buff using my new favourite product, the aforementioned Mothers alloy and chrome polish. The rims and the rusty, buckled old wheels then went off to the shop.

We waited

Waited a little more

Then this picture lobbed in my inbox.

That was quickly followed by this one

I had visions of having to fumble about with a rag between the shiny new stainless steel spokes to clean up the hubs, but the boys at the shop had put them on their buffer for ten minutes or so, and the results were evident. So, now the Beast has two lovely handbuilt wheels, not telling you what the price was, but its good! 

Then we got to decision time, the Beast rolls on 27 inch wheels, a bit unsual in the modern world, but tyres are still available. My decision was between retro gumwalls or all black, 1, 1 1/4 or 1 1/2 inch width. 

The guys at the shop mounted up one 1 inch and one 1 and a 1/4 inch gumwall (oh yeah, we quickly got down to gumwalls after a quick play on google images )

"I reckon the 1 inch is the way to go" I said

"Cool, that's what we thought" they said

Quick switch of a tyre and we ended up with this.

Cue the wukka wukka guitar!

Original Shimano front and Normandy quick release hubs, with NOS Wolber Rims, gumwall 27 by 1 inch tyres, stainless steel spokes and new skewers.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The battle of the brake bits

The next step in the process was to push on with the tear down, reducing a proud if shabby bike to a heap of components, which could then be dispatched for refurbishment, disgarded or replaced as needed.

So, to work on the brakes.

Peugeots of the period were equipped with Mafac racers. These were a French product, centre pull and alloy. Opinions vary radically as to their effectiveness. For every die-hard there is a big proponent of "bin em and start again". The "bin em" method could lead to a better stopping ride, but has its own issues. For reasons known only to themselves, Peugeot chose to make the mounting bolt and corresponding hole for the front brake, horizontal, the rear vertical. This tends to limit the options when it comes to replacements. Replacements would also need to be quite long reach.

However, until I could remove them, all discussion of new brakes was a bit speculative. Out came the spanner,s and let's look at the cabling and see what we need to work with.  

So, the Beast is turned upside down, the old quick releases released, and away we go.

The brakes were attached with a single bolt, big slug of WD-40, quick twirl with the spanners, and off came the bolts. The levers force is transfered to the brakes through a cross wire, running from the type of one side of the brake to the other. There is a pretty little piece of alloy that hooks under the cross wire. Dislodge the top end of the cable from the levers, and plenty of slack appears, quick twist and the cross wires are released. Bit of hard core wiggling of the brakes and they are free as well.

Decision time, keep or bin. In the end, rightly or wrongly, I have kept them as part of the originality strategy. Hopefully, new rims and modern brake pad compounds will increase their efficiency, as will new cables. As I wrote in a previous post, there is little or no likelihood of me screaming down Ventoux or tackling the Strade Bianche on the Beast. So, hopefully within the parameters of this being a cruiser, we should be all good!

The next step was to strip off the old pads, partially disassemble the Mafacs and give them a clean. I can't remember which forum it was on, but I came across a reference somewhere to this stuff called Mothers Polish.(Please don't think of this as a product placement!)  Its a cream which you wipe on to Alloy, Chrome or Steel and then buff up with a soft cloth. Ten minutes work and you have the component you see above. 

I managed to source some new pad blocks from Velo Orange which will hopefully fit the existing shoes, but might have to resort to hacking down some brake cables to replace the cross wires. Replacement wires seem somewhat scarce.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


The way people respond to something always interests me. This little endeavor is a case in point. I am blessed with a very tolerant partner, who raised an eyebrow, expressed her doubts that I would finish the project then went back to reading Salt by Mark Kurlansky.

Friends who are in to bikes have responded in a number of ways. The one who is always ripping bits of this bike or that bike, was all "can I play too!" the other one who believes it has to be made in a Taiwanese Factory with stickers applied by an Italian, was quite encouraging as well.

The response I found most interesting was from the guy with the shed full of bikes, who seems to equate the Beast with the desire to recreate outdoor plumbing and the long drop toilet. Lots of "Do you know how horrible those seats are?" and "Why would you want something that old? I'm trying to get rid of my old bikes"

In truth, I'm not sure who is right; him or me. I suspect in our unique ways we both are. I for one, wouldn't be tackling a Sportive or anything on it, and I sure as hell won't be tackling any big climbs on the Beast. I have an image in my head of this as more of a cruiser, a social bike. Put on the replica jersey, or don the Tweed and join a social ride, that kind of thing. The Beast is also a "Boy Project" its a practical, intellectual and creative outlet, and I am getting a great deal of pleasure from it as such. Whilst I have been riding for many years, I've tended to put maintenance into the "Let's pay us a bike mechanic to look after it" category. I find the notion of taking to my Carbon Avanti with a Hammer, which I've had to do with the Beast somewhat intimidating. Maybe I'm wrong, but my modern bikes also feel as if they are more complicated than the Peugeot.

Making contact with other enthusiasts, playing about in old LBS' hunting for sources and information is all part of the thrill.

To use something of a Buzz Phrase, I'm looking at this project 'Holistically

Part of what appeals to me about the Peugeot, even though I keep referring to it as the Beast at the moment, is its beauty as an object. I've always wanted a Peugeot, (Yes I am that weird) and originally planned to take the frame from this, and update it heavily. Then once I got in close and looked at the way the components are styled, rather than designed from a functional/rational stance, I came around to the idea of keeping it and restoring it. Had the paintwork been in better condition, I would probably already be riding it, but yeah. I've spent several pleasant hours pouring over old catalogs, and raiding archive image collections, partly because of research, but also because of the romance of racing in the 70's. Anyone who has ever ridden, ever tackled a hill, ever felt the thing moving about underneath them at high speed cannot help respect these athletes.

Spend an afternoon with Stars and Water Carriers or A Sunday in Hell, trying to understand Merckx' drive, or marvelling at the old school machinery and woolen jerseys, and I think you'll get where I'm coming from.