It was January, 2012, when I found this frame and fork at the Madison Bike Swap. And what a bargain it was: $10 for the frame; another $3 for the fork. She was pretty dirty and there were a few marks on the frame, but I could see past that. She had good bones.
I found it right when I arrived, so I had to carry it with me for the entire time I was at the swap. As I wandered up and down the rows of tables filled with spare parts, people asked if I was selling. “Why no,” I replied.
“Nice find,” they responded.
Back home, it was time to get to work. Step 1: cleaning. Three hours, some rubbing compound, and a little elbow grease and she was shining. There were a few minor dings, but that doesn’t bother me. It shows the bike was ridden, and that’s a good thing. (That’s the result, pictured above.)
Now it was time to start collecting parts…and this is where the real fun began.
Have you ever tried to find a seatpost for a vintage Peugeot? Trust me, it’s not easy. An online search turns up some information on 24mm posts, but when contacted, no one came through. I searched on forums and through social media. No luck. The search was on.
In May, 2012, we were in New York, wandering the streets drinking morning coffee, and happened upon a bike shop that looked interesting. You know those shops where the windows are a little dingy, there’s tons of random stuff visible when you peer in, and even more when you enter? There were boxes of parts scattered around the shop floor and my spider senses tingled. Could there possibly be a 24mm seatpost among the treasures? Behind the counter sat a guy that looked like he spent a lifetime in that shop. And he had. When asked if he had such an elusive seatpost, he got up, went straight to one of those boxes and came up with not one, but two. I took them both. It would work, but would require an old-school saddle clamp. I grabbed that while we were there.
I kept collecting parts: some I had; some from friends; some purchased.
By August, 2013, I finally had everything I needed – or so I thought.
There were still a few finishing touches: the @baughblabs custom chainring guard had arrived, so he drilled the chainring and installed them on a vintage Campagnolo GS crank that I found.
We were ready to build. Finally. I say “we” because I was going to pretty much stand and watch him build it. Like a skilled ER nurse, I would hand off tools with precision when he requested. (Hey, that’s important too).
Nothing went as planned, and the small things were getting to be somewhat comical.
Although I loved the way it looked – and the irony didn’t escape me – the vintage Schwinn fork didn’t work. It was really set up for a 26” wheel, so long reach brakes were too long and regular road calipers were too short. An online fork purchase and a few days wait for delivery: problem solved. BUT… the threads on the steerer tube weren’t long enough, so the tube had to be threaded further – resulting in a minor scratch to the fork crown. A @baughblabs custom paint job fixed that.
We scratched the top of the bars getting them through the stem. This year’s Madison Bike Swap, a quick $10 purchase, and voila, no more scratched bars.
The wheels – a generous contribution to the build from a good friend – weren’t going to work for this; they were set up for a 28+ tire. After all this time, aesthetics mattered. New wheels weren’t in the budget right now. I was disappointed, but knew this was important. The build was going to wait.
@baughblabs surprised me with a set of new wheels complete with his prized vintage Campy hubs, and built by Lou at The Pony Shop in Evanston with tied and soldered spokes. Pure old school and perfect for this bike.
Last step, throw a chain on and go. Well, sort of.
We tried installing a new 3/32” pitch chain, but it had been so long since we bought the 44 tooth front chainring, we forgot that it was for a 1/8” pitch chain. A quick trip to The Pony Shop and that was fixed. Between the dropout and the gear ratio, it needed a half-link to fit. Another minor delay.
Time for the saddle – a new Brooks that I purchased for this bike. Bar tape. Flip-flop pedals. And…
Holy smokes. Could it be possible?
Last night – 888 days from the day I purchased the frame – she. is. finished.
All that’s left is the shake down cruise. But that’s another story.
Stay tuned for part two next week.