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Diving head deep into CycloCross–CycloCross for Newbies from a Newbie

November 30, 2013 Leave a comment

I dread the winter. The turbo trainer beckons, any goals I didn’t make will go unfinished, and those that I did meet are now in the past. Usually by the time September comes around I am done and already adding the pounds (again!).

This year decided to do something a bit different. I had heard from a few folks that cyclocross is both super fun and super hard and seemed like a great idea so was keen to try it out. I had seen Cyclocross on TV and eye balled some of the cross bikes in the stores but never thought much about it until the weather started to turn nasty and I wasn’t ready to hang up my cycling shoes yet.

Naturally you need a specialized bike. Well you don’t and a Mountain bike is fine but like all of these things if you don’t look the part you get ostracized by most. It’s a pain and I see it on group rides, triathlons, and time trails. When the (bicycle) rubber hits the ground however it doesn’t really matter as much as we think it does. Getting a Cervelo P5 is not going to make me that much faster than having a P2. But there is a class of rider who will talk at hours about this or that component and since this level of equipment devotion also translates into training devotion they using do pretty well so it seems like it’s the gospel when its not. Still I didn’t want to have the hassle of having Mr. Awesome say “dude..you need a disc carbon super bike at least, Joe can set you up with one for $5000”.

But I had no such specialized bike and not a lot of cash or time either. So I wasn’t going to get a Cyclo Cross racer for 2 races. But a cyclo cross bike is awesome for commuting and winter training as well. This resulted in my decision to rebuild the Fiori Napoli into a Cyclo Cross bike as per this 4 part series. All in all it costs me about $450 to get the bike into some sort of race trim.

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In my neck of the woods there is the Eastern Ontario Cyclocross Series. Starting at the end of September thru to the end of November there is pretty much a race each and every Sunday morning. The price is awesome as well, about $20 a race including Insurance. You can get more info here: http://cyclocross.org/

I signed up for the Almonte round while the bike was still being put together. That wasn’t great or smart. It was together but untested by the time Saturday rolled around. I had only done a quick 2k ride late the night before just to make sure things didn’t fall out. Seemed ok but not optimal. I arrived in the parking lot with little confidence in my steed! I took it out for another short run and the handlebars slipped and were clearly not tight enough!!

Anyways after some frantic last minutes bolt tightening I felt it was about as good a bike as it was going to be at this point and headed to the start line.

Here are a few things they don’t tell you and I think you have to find out yourself or pester somebody about it.

1- It’s a pain to put numbers on your shoulders and you need an extra person to help with that

2- You can recce the course before the race starts. And that’s required as the course has many many turns and hills(!)

3- You should take you water bottle holder off

4- Its all about the start, the race is mostly over by about 300 meters in at least in terms of where you will be slotted position wise by the end

Those are just before the race, during the race lots more to take in, things like getting over barriers, riding up hills, riding back down them all while trying to keep to the course. All this with mud out to trap you.

Some of the folks here are pretty serious but I was just doing it for fun so started at the back and away we went. There were a few pinch points early in the 1st lap which caused short delays but within 1/2 lap everyone was pretty spaced out.

That was best as I was just learning how to ride this bike and this type of course. Garmin showed the course outlined in the park.

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This was soon after all the leaves had fallen and the course was covered in the little buggers. With my brakes not been properly set up and with the leaves soon braking was almost not available. After about 2 and bit laps my lack of preparation bike wise started to show with an alarming lack of brake grip then a sloppy crank started to rear its ugly head, I clearly had not tightened it enough. Eventually it just more or less fell off! Luckily just around the start line!

With the bike parked I enjoyed watching the other folks finish their race.

Took the bike back to the home workshop and gave myself a bit more time to fix it up before the next race.

This time it was in Perth Ontario and my son decided he wanted to join as well.  So piled both my new/old Cyclocross bike and his mountain bike into the mini-van. Felt a bit more organized this time but again decided to start off at the back.

PerthCC1There was a much more serious pinch point early in this race where it became pretty much single track and basically after 300 meters was already 2-3 minutes behind!

But I was racing better and also with the brakes working better and the leaves that had fallen and caused havoc in the previous race non existent I was able to get down to the business of riding this thing. Stayed with a group of folks for a while but lost time at every barrier. I need to practice that next year.

By the 2nd lap I was into my own pace and all the riders were well spaced out.

 

 

It did get a bit lonely on the hills towards the end!

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But I finished it. Not last but almost last. And lots of fun.

Track was very varied as this map shows.

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Up next was my son and he seemed to be enjoying himself in the u13 class.

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Unfortunately despite having ridden the course a number of times before he got mixed up a on a few corners and basically cut half a lap out once. I had him stop to let the boys he had jumped ahead catch back up to him. But he said it was a hoot and wanted to come back next year “Except can I get one of those real cross bikes” And so it begins Smile

Categories: bicycling, racing

Old Road Bike to Cyclocross Series–Part 4- Putting it all back together

November 19, 2013 11 comments

This is the fourth and final part of a four part series on how to convert an older 1980 Roads bike to a more modern commuter or even Cyclocross bike.

With the frame repainted and the rear triangle stretched, the parts are received and ready to go so time to put this bike back together.

There isn’t an official order you need to do things in but a few things naturally should be attached early. I started with the bottom bracket and crank.

This FSA MegaEXO bottom bracket slides right into the BB part of the frame without any hassles. First I threaded it on by hand.

 

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Then used my Bottom Bracket tool to tighten. This is a steel bike so not as concerned in terms of torque.

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With the Bottom Bracket now installed it was a simple case of putting the cranks on and tightening the non-drive side bolts.

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The crank spun up nicely and perfect fit.

Next up I decided to mount the rear brake, this was pretty simple. This bike was “new” enough to have proper modern mounting holes and the brake slid right in. Front brake would have to wait for the fork.

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Next up was the seat post and seat. I didn’t even take the seat off the post, and it went right back in. I cleaned up the clamp bolt and tightened it. Already the bike was starting to take shape!

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Now I started with some of the tricky bits. Headset I needed to make sure I repeated the order of how I took stuff out and I also cleaned and repacked the bearings with grease.

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Then reinserted the steam and man handled the handlebars into place.

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The handlebars didn’t seem to want to go all that well and really had to enlarge the opening in the stem, but still scored the handlebars a bit more than I wanted to.  There still hasn’t really been any change in front fork hub width so naturally the tire just slipped right in here.

Next up time to see if my enlarging of the rear triangle worked. I took the wheels I was planning on using here and eased them between the stays. While my system may have looked scientific to figure out the width I did mostly eye ball it. But lo and behold it fit with just a tiny bit of suggestion!

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With the rear wheel now attached I added the rear brake. Again as the fork was set up for allen bolts this just slotted right in.

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Also added the pedals which were some I had on my Mountain bike in the past and would work great here on the Cyclo Cross bike.

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And slapped on the bottle cage.

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Up to this point most of the tasks flew by and I was making a lot of good progress. These next few items took quite a bit longer.

It was time to add the derailleurs. The front derailleur was brand new. Took it out of its box.

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In order for it to be attached to the frame I needed to put the problem solver on. I knew I would have to adjust this so didn’t tighten it.

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Then attached the front derailleur again loosely. There is this cool plastic “alignment” graphic that allowed me to adjust everything based on how teeth lined up with the graphic.

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Once that was correct you tear the little piece of plastic off and presto, its aligned at least with the height needed.

The rear derailleur was new as well and took that out of its box.

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Attachment was pretty simple, it just screwed right into the drop out of the frame. Can’t say it enough, 25 year old frame, new part, bang just fits. Standards are awesome.

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It would be fully adjusted once I have the cables installed.

The shifters were also brand new and unpacked those. Lots of cables and bits

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The shifters were a bit tricky to get onto the handlebars. I loosed the screw that keeps it tight a bit but it wouldn’t fit.

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Had to back it waaaay off until it seemed like the ring would fall off, then it slipped over.

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Moved it up and over to the desired location (again just eye balled this a bit, you may want to be a bit more precise). Mostly you want the top of the shifters to be in line with the line of the top of the bar.

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Before I started all the cabling I also fitted the down tube bosses adapters.

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Also installed the Cyclo Cross brake levers across the middle of the handle bar.

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Cabling took a lot of time and I wanted to make sure I had both the right cable and sleeve lengths and that the routing didn’t impede the handle bars etc. I found the front brake the hardest and you have to make sure the cable doesn’t go thru too many tight loops. Getting the tension right was often a bit of a trial and error process. I do admit I had to take the tape off again, readjust how the cables fitted into the shifters and redo the tape. In the end it was all together tested fine.

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Adjusted the derailleurs and brakes. Front derailleur and rear brake were simple, rear derailleur had to work with the screws a bit but not nearly as hard as I thought it might be. Front brake again was a bit of a issue but in the end it was working fine. Crimped the cables and that was it. Ready for use. I have ridden this bike and now raced it twice in Cyclocross races. A bit heavy but still very comfortable ride. Has all the drill holes for fenders so may look to take as this will replace the Diamondback over the winter in the office.

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Categories: bicycling, Mechanical

Old Road Bike to Cyclocross Series–Part 3- Gathering the Parts

November 18, 2013 1 comment

While the frame was in the shop getting sandblasted and repainted time to look at what I would use to rebuild it.

As per the tear down I would reuse the headset, stem and handlebar to handle the front end. The seat post and seat I was keeping so good there. Wheels I was using some wheels I no longer use from my Diamondback. And I had the FSA Gossamer crank and megaexo bottom bracket from the cervelo.

That still leaves a few important bits including

1. Shifters: With the widening of the rear triangle I could now use modern integrated shifters

2. Derailleurs: Front maybe I could have kept but it was pretty rusty and since I needed a new one on the back made sense to buy both as a package. Also included here is a ten speed chain.

3. Brakes: The old ones were shot and I wanted something a bit more modern to bring this relatively heavy frame and bike to a full stop.

4. Cyclo Cross brake levels. I have noticed that a lot of the fast riders don’t actually have these but I think they are an interesting idea so decided to add that to the mix.

 

Shifters

First off whatever shifters I was going to get I was also going to pick up the corresponding derailleurs as well so this was going to be my main decision. Integrated shifters are one of the most expensive components on a bike but also I knew I wanted better than Sora or Tiagra so it was either 105 or above in terms of Shimano, Apex or above in terms of SRAM and Veloce or above in terms of Campagnolo. This was going to be a bit of commuter/cyclo cross bike so didn’t need high end stuff, just good quality that will last.

Checked lots of sites but again Chain Reaction and Ribble in the UK have by far the best prices.

In terms of the shifters I was most likely to get here is how they stacked up.

Shimano 105: I have these on two bikes now and they work great and no big issues. Over at Ribble these were selling for $212 before shipping and duties. That was within my budget but a little high.

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SRAM Apex: I have only used SRAM once, while on a rented bike in Las Vegas, but I did a lot of climbing that day and it was fine. I wouldn’t have any problem with these. Ribble had them for $252, again before shipping and duties. Hmm Pricy for a brand I don’t know a lot about.

 

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Campagnolo Veloce: As stated in the past in general I like campy and have a lot of there stuff from the past and now have a Veloce crank on my Cervelo which has worked great. Punched veloce shifters in to the search and got a price back of $109. What? Yep almost 1/2 the price of the Shimano and even a better deal over the SRAM shifters. Did some research and folks seem to like them. Decision made.

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With the drop down shifters no longer used I picked up a couple of adapters to attach to the downtube shift bosses and route the cables properly.

Derailleurs

With the decision being made on the Veloce Shifters, time to look at the derailleurs. Veloce front and back derailleurs combined were just a bit over $100. So looking at it from a price perspective I got free derailleurs compared to Shimano or SRAM shifters.

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Ordered these and they were on their way. With everything I had to pay ended up at around $220 CDN!

Also needed a front derailleur adaptor as I wanted a derailleur I could move between bikes so got a Problem Solver Front Derailleur Adaptor.

I just picked up a good ten speed chain (SRAM in this case) for these derailleurs as well.

Brakes

Next main thing was the brakes. The original Modolo brakes were pretty shot but they were long reach and I found it hard to find modern brakes with long reach. Eventually settled on some Tektro R359s, which from what I can tell have maybe been renamed R539. These were pretty cheap ($40 for the set) and seem pretty decent but one thing I didn’t like was that the adjuster was a simple off/on one so adjustment was going to be a bit tricky, but price was right in my mind and seemed like it would work fine for what I was looking for.

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Cyclo Cross Levers

Lastly wanted to give the bike a true Cyclo cross feel and so ordered some Tektro RL720 levers as well. These cost about $25.

With all the pieces either cleaned up from the old frame or bought and delivered time to mate the new repainted frame and the parts to remake the bike!!

Categories: bicycling, Mechanical

Old Road Bike to Cyclocross Series–Part 2- Stripping and repainting the frame

November 11, 2013 2 comments

This is part two of a four part series on how to convert an older 1980 Roads bike to a more modern commuter or even Cyclocross bike.

In Part one I stripped all the parts, kept the ones I needed and stored the rest. Now its time to make sure the frame is still good and to repaint it for rebuilding. I decided the keep the fork as is but process would be more or less the same.

I had the option to just send this to the auto body shop I was using and have them sandblast it and paint it, but I wanted to see if there was any issues with the frame before I committed to the painting. I didn’t want or need to sand the paint completely away but wanted a quick way to get most of the paint off. I used a commercial chemical paint remover I bought at the local hardware store for about $10. You cover a portion of the frame with it, wait about 15 min then the paint is flaky and can be scrapped off. Slick.

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Did the frame section by section and within a few hours had it more or less down to the bare frame.

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This allowed me to look over the welds and the overall condition of the frame. It was pitted here and there and the bottom bracket seemed to be the worst rust wise but the rust was superficial so was pleased.

Then off to the Auto body shop for final light sandblasting and painting.

I didn’t want to save the graphics per say. This was going to be a bit of a junk yard dog but I did want to keep the type of frame tubing known. Thanks to ebay was able to source from here in Canada a nice original Tange sticker that matched the one that was on there.

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The dude at the auto body shop was pushing Viper red this week and I agreed. Two weeks later the frame was ready for pick up!

And it was stunning.

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Some choice shots of the various lugs and sections.

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The last thing I needed to do was expand the rear triangle to fit the 10 speed drive train I wanted to upgrade to. There are a few rules for this. 1 do NOT do this on a carbon or aluminum frame. 2 don’t worry about being too fancy. Steel is a movable metal and quite frankly you can just yank the rear triangle apart. I decided to at least do it a bit slowly and used a simple combination of screw and two butterfly nuts.

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Expanded it a bit over a couple of days (you could do it faster but I decided to take my time) and lo and behold when I was done it fit a new rear wheel no problem. No going back now so on to gathering the parts for the next installment.

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Categories: bicycling, Mechanical

Old road Bike to new Cyclocross Series–Part 1–Stripping the parts

November 6, 2013 4 comments

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This is the first of a four part series on converting an old mid 1980s road bike into a fairly decent modern Cyclocross or commuter bike

Stripping the old bicycle

So to get started I had to strip the old bike and save what could be reused and decide what needed to be replaced. Some parts could be reused, others had to go. Also needed to make sure everything could be removed before I proceed any further.

I use a work stand and it was one of the better investments I have made as I use it over and over again.

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The Fiori Napoli was I think a bit of a mid range bike for this interesting line of bikes that came out from Norco in the mid 1980s. I think Norco was trying at the time to compete against companies like Miele which had bikes that were seen as a step above the usual department store fare and had a flare of questionable Italian pedigree.

The Napoli has a few odd graphics considering what it was. Other than the name and a few parts it had little to do with Italy but the frame displayed a lot of Italian flare.

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For one the frame was built from good quality Tange Infinity steel tubing from Japan. That was one reason I wanted to reuse it.

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Hard to see in this shot but there is even a small “Japan” at the bottom of the seat tube so the frame was very “confused”.

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And besides the brakes nothing else is remotely Italian. But yet this is marketing and it adds a bit of flare to the bike.

But this is about the future so time to do the strip.

Removed the wheels and put there in a corner. The rear probably won’t use again (its not wide enough…more on that later) but front is still good and could be reused.

The brakes are older Modolo Speedy’s. Modolo was reasonably high end stuff so while these brakes simply don’t work anymore they are worth keeping. Removed all the cables from the bike and these in turn popped off fairly easily. I placed them into the keep box but not to reuse.

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Anytime you remove a seatpost from an old bike you have to worry about it being rusted into place. I was pleasantly pleased to see that this wasn’t the case with the seat post here and pop out it came. I will reuse this and the bolt that is used to keep it in place.

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I am going to rebuild this up with modern combined shifters and 10 speed so the derailleurs can be removed.  The rear is a nice Campagnolo mid 80s Victory which was on the old Gardin and certainly a keeper, but not for this bike. Broke the chain and threw it out, may have been the original?

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The front derailleur was a suntour cyclone model and was pretty seized at the seat tube. I don’t expect to reuse this so simply needed to get it off. Took a bit of effort and used a screw extractor in the end but it popped off.

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Cranks were next and they were stuck..hard.  Can’t say I have heard of Sakae before but turns out this was the parent company of Suntour. Typical parts bin stuff here with a different vendor for each component it seems.

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The non drive side I was able to extract after a bit of pulling but the drive side was simply unable to budge. I pried and I pulled. Finally I just applied plain old hammer power and pounded the thing out. It was ruined but I didn’t plan to reuse (needed a 10 speed crank) so that was fine.

Downtube shifters were a bit seized as well, which was surprising as they tended to shift fairly well. Had to pry these off. I won’t reuse them.

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Next up was the handle bars and shifters. The tape, almost just carpet tape, came off in bits and pieces. Then the brake levers were removed and again they won’t be reused. The handlebars are Nitto Olympiad. Nitto seems to be a well regarded Japanese company still in existence today and I liked these overall so will keep them. Ended being a pretty tight fit to remove from the stem and they got a bit scratched up but then put aside for later use.

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I love these older style stems. This one was Nitto as well and was a bit abused looking. You can change the height in about 2 minutes and not 100% why we went away from them but it was easy to loosen the bolt but it was seized in tight and needed a bit of hammer time too to get loose. But it works and I want to keep using this one so into the reuse pile it went.

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Now I was down to two parts that needed a bit more effort and finesse. The headset and the bottom bracket. I had not removed a headset before so needed to refer to the internet on this one. As usual Sheldon Brown’s links were the best. Here is a nice photo from that page.

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First loosen and remove the upper locknut

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Then removed the race up and unscrew it up and over the fork

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Then pull the fork down. In the end was pretty easy. I will reuse this fork and also decided not to restore it as I like the chrome look and I think it would have been expensive to rechrome it. It’s a bit rusty but works fine. Will need the headset as well so that will be rebuild and reused.

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Now for the bottom bracket. This is one area that is still relevant size wise today and meant I was able to reuse this frame. It’s English thread and even today most bikes come like that. So I can upgrade to a new bottom bracket and crank no problem. Also its Shimano, so yet another vendor!

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Using my trusty bottom bracket tool removed the ring around the non-drive side.

The bracket end itself uses a special pin hole process to remove and there are specialty tools to remove it.

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Or you can just use some needle nose pilers(!)

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Once loosened you can hand crank it out and the spindle is exposed.

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Pull the spindle out.

Now the drive side, since it is cranked tight with every rotation of the crank, is usually stuck harder than hard and that was the case here. Again you can buy specialty tools for this or you can use these:

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An adjustable wrench, a pulley remover, a washer and yee trusty hammer.

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Use the washer and the pulley remover (I think its called a pulley remover?) to press the wrench into place, make it as tight as possible. Then take your hammer and do your best Thor impression. If you are angry about something this is good therapy.

Pow…the bottom bracket with give.

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Then you can unscrew it by hand

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And remove this inner thingee. I may use this bottom bracket on an older bike someday but not this one so we won’t see it again.

And there you have it. I had the frame completely stripped of all its parts and ready to be cleaned for repainting. And that is part 2.

Converting a 1980s road bicycle to a cyclocross bicycle

November 6, 2013 2 comments

There is nothing better and relaxing (within reason!) than working on something tangible and seeing the successful fulfillment of your plans. In that vein I used to do a lot of Motorcycle restoration but got out of that for a number of reasons. 1st off was the cost, every piece was expensive, unique and took a lot of time to source. Then there was the complexity of just getting the darn thing to start. And if you did manage to get it back together and working you then needed a safety, government registration and insurance (if you can get it, insurers are a bit leery on classic bikes) then gas to keep it going, as well as the occasional speeding ticket(!). I still have a few projects that I just abandoned after a few years of effort.

Then I rediscovered biking and loo and behold, you can work on those as well. But you don’t have any of the problems of Motorcycle restoring. Parts are fairly interchangeable (despite some folks who grumble), cheap(ish) and you can try out your bike as soon as you think its ready. Often you pull stuff off one bike and you have it laying around and thus you can use that on another bike (try that between a Ducati and a Honda!).

In the last two years I sold my track bike (Kawasaki EX500), my cruiser (Yamaha Virago) and just have the Ducati (800ss..not giving that one up!) but still had the tinkering bug. As it happened Cyclocross season was coming up and I did NOT want to stop competing. But I needed a Cyclocross bike. And I needed it cheap. My eyes fell upon the old rusted Fiori Napoli I had inherited from my brother. It had a lot of clearance for tires and while it would not be perfect for Cyclocross it would do and it would also make a great winter bike (I have grown attached to the Diamondback and didn’t want to make it suffer thru another winter) so it became my new project.

Here is what I started with. Drop tube shifting, 6 speed drive train, old brakes with little in terms of stopping power, rusty frame. Rolling up my sleeves I got busy.

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4 weeks later I had this..a newish modern 10 speed steel “almost” cyclocross bike with already one race under its belt.

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In this series I will go over the 4 main steps and what I did in each. These 4 steps were as follows.

1- Strip old parts off the bike and figure out what can be kept

2- Strip and repaint the frame

3- Get new parts where required

4- Put it all together

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