MY "TEN SPEEDS"

 

 

MY "TEN SPEEDS"

 

 

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MY "TEN SPEEDS"

 

SPECIAL SPECIAL - INTRO

THE SPECIAL SPECIAL FIND

THE SPECIAL'S EVALUATION

TEST BUILD THE BOTTECCHIA

BOTTECCHIA FRAME REPAIR

BOTTECCHIA RESTORED 

RESTORED AND REVISED

 

BICYCLES OF ITALY

 

TEST BUILDING THE SPECIAL SPECIAL

With the Bottecchia cleaned up, it was time to put the bike into the stand, to see what was, and wasn't, working.  At the very least, I had to open up the bottom bracket, wheel hubs, headset and, freewheel.  But, before disassembly, the bike would be operation tested in the stand.  Does the bike shift OK?  Do the brakes actually squeeze the wheel rims?  Are the handlebars, steering stem and and saddle post tight?  Do the tires hold air?  Are the wheels true enough to ride?  Do the tires look unsafe to use?  Do they hold air?  Is there any obvious frame or fork damage?

There is a common element in all, but one, of the above concerns.  The transmission operation is the one item, in the list, that is not safety related.  Everything else, has something to do with keeping you safe, while you test ride the bicycle.  Please trust me, when I suggest that you check the bike over, very carefully, and thoroughly, before setting off.  An early eighties Olmo Grand Prix, purchased from a bicycle shop, taught me this valuable lesson - the hard way!

Normally, when preparing a bicycle for test riding, all that is required is to check the bike over.  Ensure that the brakes are working.  Ensure that the wheels are properly secured, in the drops.  Ensure that the handlebars and steering stem are tight.  Check the saddle post and saddle attachment points.  Are they are tight.

Those are your main concerns, but other things can signal unsafe also.  With the primary items checked and adjusted/repaired, as required, go over every nut and bolt on the bicycle.  Make sure everything is good and tight.  Look and question what you see.  If you don't understand something, stop and learn until you do.  This is much better than crashing!

Finally, if the tires look good and hold air, pressurize them and the bicycle is ready to be test ridden.

All of the above items were skipped, at the onset of building the special Bottecchia Special.  One would ask why?

The purpose of the test ride is to make sure the bicycle rides/tracks properly.  Riding a vintage road bicycle, that has a bent frame or forks, will become immediately noticeable.  The bike will want to pull one way, or the other.  The bicycle will feel unstable.  And, without riding the Bottecchia, I already knew that the bicycle would not ride well at all.  The frame and/or fork set were bent!

Almost from the moment I looked at the bicycle, I got the feeling that the fork was out of alignment.  Closer inspection revealed a front wheel that did not sit, evenly, between the fork blades.  And, viewed from the side, the forks looked as if they were angled backwards, ever so slightly.  Strangely, the forks did not look bent all of the time, when viewed from the side and this perplexed me.

Needless to say, there would be no use test building the bicycle, only to discover what I already knew.  With that in mind, I stripped the bicycle down to the bare frame, with intent to measure the frame and fork set, following which, both would be straightened out, if possible.

Sadly, as the bicycle came apart, it became obvious why the fork did not look bent all the time.  The lower bearing fit, where the cup presses into the lower end of the head tube, was worn or stretched.  Either way, the lower bearing cup was loose, but not horribly so.  I hoped that it would not be an issue.  Stupid me!

The frame set, itself, looked to be OK.  Neither the top, nor down tubes looked to have suffered trauma.  That, at least, was encouraging.  The frame measured a wee bit off.  Using a trusty two by four piece of wood, and years of training, the stays were put back into true in short order.  That left the forks problem.  I do not have a fork gauge.  And, with that thought, and the Bottecchia's forks tucked into my back pack, I jumped onto my Peugeot Poor Boy and headed off to one of the local bicycle shops, to straighten out the forks.

As it turned out the forks were not bent, all that badly, and repair was pretty easy to implement.  I did, however have to relieve one of the drops that was poorly finished.  That done, the eyeball did its thing, considering the wheel position between the fork blades, and all was thought to be well.

With the forks straight, I decided to test ride the bike without doing anything to repair the sloppy bearing cup fit.  But the preparation for the test ride would be absolutely minimal...

Shifting was going to be an unnecessary luxury on the test ride Special.  With that thought, I cut a chain to run from small ring to middle cog, hoping for a reasonable chain line.  Since all I wanted to do was ensure the bicycle rode well, a single gear would work just fine.  The Campy transmission need not be mounted for this purpose.

But the bearings were all properly packed and adjusted, in accordance with sound mechanical principle.  And the brakes were installed properly and set up the way they would be for a final build.  The handlebars, steering stem and other components were all properly installed, adjusted, as required and left unadorned.  Handlebar tape and brake hoods would do little to improve the way the bicycle rode.

At this point in time, I had decided that I would, somehow, get the Bottecchia road worthy, and final build worthy, and without enlisting the services of Mickey Mouse.  With that in mind, and being in need of a decent wheel set, I decided to prepare what, I hoped would become, the final build wheel set.

The Bottecchia was originally fitted with high flange Campagnolo Nouvo Tipo hubs, laces to alloy rims, but I was not sure which rims were appropriate - Fiamme or NISI.  Remember, the wheels did not match on the "as found" bicycle.

In the end, it made little difference which rim set would be correct.  I happened to have a lovely set of Fiamme alloy clincher 27" rims tucked away, robbed from who knows what, and those rims would be the ones to use.  And, to add frosting to the cake, the Fiamme rims were the narrow model.

With the wheels built and installed, the Bottecchia Single Speed test bike was ready to ride.  Would the bearing cup be an issue?  I would know soon enough.

Well, the bike rode like crap!  It wiggled all over the road, offering not a shred of confidence to the rider - me.  This was what can sometimes be called a deal breaker when a restoration is concerned.  Sometimes the ultimate value of the bicycle in question, once restored, will not be worth the effort or the amount of cash that must be invested.

But I really like this old Bottecchia and felt that one more effort was in order to salvage the old bicycle.  I would use a Loctite product to secure the bearing cup and then test the repair over an entire riding season and through the four seasons that can wreak havoc with some vintage bicycle features.

NEXT - REPAIRING THE SPECIAL'S FRAME

 

 

 

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