Make no mistake about it, vintage road bicycle frame and fork sets are fragile.

Compared to all other bicycle styles, the road bike frame and fork set is easy to damage.  With this in mind, and knowing that the bicycle in question might well have seen twenty, thirty, or more, years of use and abuse, focus first on the integrity or the frame.  Make sure that, both it, and the forks are straight.  Make sure there are no cracks in the frame set.  Make sure there are no unalterable alterations.

Right from the word Go, I knew that there were frame and/or fork issues with the Giro, when I made the call to get it.  I see this as no big deal, anymore, since I have been successful at straightening out several frame set, over the years, while increasing my skill level and understanding, with each effort.

Begin by looking the frame and fork set over very carefully.  Do not waste your time, or focus, thinking how neat the bike will look, all painted and arted up.  Focus on looking for what should not be there.

There should be no dents in the frame tubing.  There should be no cracks in tubing or lug/tube joints.  The should be no rust pitting.  Check the threads on the bottom bracket housing, asking yourself if they look clean, smooth and useable.  Check all other threaded points on the frame set (luggage rack/fender eyelets for example), again looking to ensure that the threads are not damage.  And, look for anything else that does not look right.  That is a broad statement, but very unusual problems can be associated with a bicycle that is half a century old.  I once found on coated with Malathion, an insecticide, that can be absorbed through the skin.  I was sick for a day or so, after picking that bike up.

Normally, I would begin checking a frame set's integrity, by propping the bicycle in a vertical position, with the front wheel in line, with the center-line of the bike.  Step back and take a critical look at the bicycle, focusing on the line created by the center-line of the head tube.  If that line were extended, would it run evenly through, and parallel to, the imaginary center-line of the front forks?  This will, sometimes, be hard to determine by eye.  Do not trust your eye, if there is any doubt at all!  And, there should always be doubt when a vintage lightweight frame set is the concern.  Be critical now, not after you have spent time, effort and dollars building up a bike with a bent frame or fork set.

It will be a help, to take some pictures of the bicycle, square on, from each side, as well as directly from the front.  Armed with good pictures, you will be able to actually see the imaginary line just mentioned.  You might as well take some more pictures of other parts of the frame set that need to be examined - just in case.

Looking from the side, the Bottecchia's forks looked to be pushed back a wee bit, but looks can be deceiving.  The bottom curve of the fork blades can, and often will, disguise a slightly bent fork set.  At any rate, there was some doubt in my mind about the forks lining up properly with the head tube.  Next, I took a look good, critical look, from the front of the bike.

When looking from the front, look first to see if the front wheel, properly mounted in the drops, fits evenly, and squarely, between the fork blades.  The front wheel on the Pro was considerably off!  Yup, old road bicycles are fragile.  For what it is worth, two other Bottecchias, acquired the same week as the Professional, also sported bent forks.  It is not uncommon!

Needless to say, the forks needed more inspection and measuring, followed by repair, assuming, of course, that repair would be possible.  With that in mind, the forks were removed, cleaned and set up in my Black and Decker Work Bench, which is a pretty decent shop tool for working on old bicycles.  I digress...

The next task to assume it that of measuring the distance between the inside faces of the drop-outs.  This measurement, depending on the bicycle in question, should always be, either 95mm or 100mm for vintage road bicycles.  If the measurement is anything but, then the forks are either spread or compressed.  It is a simple as that, and a very easy thing to check.  The Bottecchia measured between three and four millimetres too wide.

After measuring the drop spacing, I installed a set of Campy Drop-Out tools, hoping to check to see if the drops, at least, were in line.  They weren't!  That, in itself, would automatically mean inspecting and, if required, cold setting the drops parallel again.  Sadly, my Campy tools did not fit the Campy drops properly, but they told me a story, similar to the one I was to hear(see), at a local bicycle shop the next day.  The forks were both bent and twisted.  Time for the right tool, and the right tool I do not own!  But, a friendly local bicycle shop does...

The next day, I set took the forks and front wheel to a local bicycle shop for repair.  Now, there are few people, around my area, who have the slightest idea, of how to cold set vintage road bicycle frame, or fork, sets back into true.  With that in mind, the one shop that still has a fork gauge, allows me to come in and use it, when the need arises.  Without the gauge, I would either have to forget straightening forks, or build myself a fork straightening jig.

The fork gauge tool is a jig, sort of, that the forks can be clamped into.  Once squared up in the clamp, it is easy to see which fork(s) is bent, how much and where.  All one has to do is slide the fork gauge "T" on its rail, clamp in place and then check to see if both fork blades touch.  If not, bend until they do.  In the case of the Bottecchia, the drive side fork was bent slightly back.  The forks were also spread about 4mm to wide.  It took a few tries to gently get the "T" to sit properly into the drops.

With the twist and spread repaired, attention returned to the drop alignment.  Using the Park Drop-Out tools at the bike shop, it was easy to determine alignment, and effect any minor adjustment necessary.  The result, a fork that is in-line with the head tube and also with the center-line of the bicycle.  In other words, the frame set was OK.

With the geometric integrity of the frame and fork checked, repaired as required, it was time to build up the Bottecchia Giro d'Italia for test riding purposes.