MY "TEN SPEEDS"

 

 

 

MY "TEN SPEEDS"

 

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MY "TEN SPEEDS"  

FRAME SET PREARATION

INSPECTING A FRAME SET

FRONT FORK INSPECTION

REAR DROPS INSPECTION

STRINGING A FRAME SET

CENTERING THE STAYS

SIMPLE TEST - STRAIGHT

TEST RIDING - STRAIGHT

WORD OF CAUTION!

 

 

 

INSPECTING A FRAME SET

It is easy to purchase a vintage road bicycle that has a bent frame set without even knowing you are doing so!  I should know.  Even with all of the experience that I have gleaned over the years, it is still difficult to control my excitement when I run across a great find.  My late sixties or early seventies Mercier is a perfect example of what can happen if you don't take the time to be careful.  I should add that the bicycle was in my possession for nearly two years before I noticed the damage. And the damage was pretty obvious once I took the time to carefully inspect the bike.

When in the field and inspecting a bicycle for potential purchase, about the best thing one can do is look CAREFULLY and objectively at the bicycle.  Try to put your excitement aside when taking in all of the wonderful features that that beautiful early seventies French Mercier has to offer.  A dented frame or fork is easy to spot if you take the time to look at every inch of the frame set.  A bent frame is a completely different story.

Dents usually occur in fairly common places.  The top tube is subject to items falling onto it when the bicycle is in storage.  The down tube is commonly damaged by side pull brake callipers.  The chain stays are frequently crushed by aftermarket clamp-on center or side stands.  Seat post lugs and seat stay tops can be gouged by using an improper wrench to tighten up the seat post clamp bolt.  These are all the most likely areas on a vintage road bicycle frame to experience damage.

Look at the tubes - all of the tubes - carefully.  It is even a good idea to run your fingers over the tubing, feeling for irregularities in the frame set. This exercise only takes a couple of minutes to complete and might well help you avoid making a purchase mistake.  Any dent or crack in the frame set is an issue and might well prove to be a deal breaker when it comes time to decide to buy or not.

Take the time to look at each of the bicycle's lugs.  Are they still properly attached to the frame's tubing or do gaps appear in any places?  A gap at a lug might be an assembly flaw or a result of frame damage.

Next, take a look at the components on the bicycle.  Wheels that do not match is a great clue to a bicycle's condition.  Why would they not match?  Is is possible that one was damaged in a crash?  You bet it is!  Particularly if the front wheel is not original.  Rear wheels are often changed out because the spokes broke.  Front wheels are usually changed due to impact damage.  The Mercier's front wheel was not original and I should have looked further when inspecting the bicycle.

Is the rear derailleur bent or badly gouged?  How about the brake levers?  Or the handlebars?  Damage to anything sticking out can be transferred to the frame set itself.

Once satisfied that the frame has not been banged up, step back and look at the bicycle itself.  This is extremely important.  A dented frame set is a snap to fix in a "cover it up" sense.  A bent frame cannot be hidden easily and ride quality will definitely be negatively impacted.

Having a helper, who has a bit of bicycle savvy, will be a great plus when inspecting a bicycle for geometric irregularities.  An assistant will prove invaluable, both with helping to hold the bicycle upright and also with offering opinion input. Input that will either support or deny your your interpretations of the frame set's integrity.

Begin by standing the bicycle as straight up as you possibly can.  Try to stand it up so the front wheel is in alignment with the center line of the frame set.  Now step back and look at the bicycle from all angles.  And I mean look at it with a critical, not loving eye.  This is not the time to be imagining how the bicycle will look and feel once you have invested your time, money and effort into a rebuild.  Hold the bicycle yourself and ask your assistant to step back and have a look.  Compare mental notes.

Look at the bike squarely from the side.  Does the centerline of the head tube line up with the centerline of the fork set?  Does the front wheel appear to be too close to the down tube? In the examples, the blue Mercier has bent forks while the burgundy one does not.  Had I looked carefully when I purchased the blue Mercier, I would have noticed this hard to see flaw.  Had I looked more closely, I would have noticed that the front wheel does not evenly split the distance between fork blades.  Another easy to read clue about a bicycle's geometric integrity.

As you are standing back and looking, consider the handlebars and how they look when compared to the head tube.  Begin by ensuring that the stem is properly aligned with the front wheel.  Do the bars look to be square or at right angles to the vertical line of the bicycle?  Or, if they do tilt one way or the other, go back and ensure that the front wheel is in alignment with the bicycle.  Look again.  If they still tilt, this might be a clue to either bent handle bars or a bent frame set.

There are probably a host of other little things to look at that will be specific to the bicycle being inspected.  The point here is to ensure that you take the time to inspect a bicycle with a critical eye.  Remember, vintage road bicycle frame sets are designed to be light.  They are fragile when compared to most other bicycle styles.  And vintage means old.  Old means used.  And used might have turned into abused at least once in the old bicycle's life.

NEXT - FRONT FORKS INSPECTION

 

 

 

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