Fork out, more sanding

Partially sanded fork and headset adjacent to head tube of bicycle frame

Yesterday, after having given up previously, I was able to remove Ol’ Paint’s fork from the frame. After stripping the frame at the start of this project I had tried hammering on the steerer tube (actually, on a block of wood placed atop the steerer tube) without any luck. I’d decided to let it be, as I was content that the headset bearings were in fine shape, but then I stumbled across this post. The suggestion involving snipping up an old pair of jeans seemed to make sense (on the second read; although I think an old belt would do the trick as well), but then there was the update by the original poster about turning the frame upside-down and hammering the whole thing down so the steerer tube strikes a block of wood, and that sounded worth a try as well.

Bicycle frame head tube with fork and disassembled headsetPartially sanded fork and headset adjacent to head tube of bicycle frame
After one good bang

I gave the latter technique a try and to my surprise, after the first rap on the wooden block, the headset popped right open. It was stunning how little force was required given that I’d hammered on it before to no avail — leverage!

The headset seems to be in fine shape, but I’m still glad I now have the chance to give it a good cleaning and packing with new grease before reassembly.

With that done, I tackled the sanding with renewed enthusiasm. The parts of the frame I’ve already sanded are rusting quite quickly, so I’ll have to hurry up and get the frame ready for painting. In my mind, it’s all clean shiny steel when the prep is done.

Partially sanded bicycle frame showing recent rust
Rust never sleeps

Partially sanded bicycle frame
Shiny shiny!

But given the time constraints and my skill level, I may now settle for less than perfection. I want to get all the existing paint at least roughed up with sandpaper, if not removed down to the bare metal, before painting. I’m glad to say that my chosen paint is specifically formulated to work on a bare frame or painted, with or without primer.

Bicycle frame showing rust inside seat tube
Rust in the seat tube

In addition to getting the main frame tubes this time around, I began working on some of the detail bits. One priority was the inside of the seat tube, where rust had held the seatpost locked in place. I’d gotten a wooden dowel specifically for this purpose, and wrapped the sandpaper around it before taking it to the inner end of the seat tube.

Wooden dowel and sandpaper in bicycle frame seat tubeRust flakes on workbench next to sandpaper and bicycle frame
Shaking the rust out
Bicycle seat tube after removing rust
A big improvement

With that done I turned my attention to other detail places, such as the brake bridge between the seat stays. The wooden dowel also came in handy for cleaning up the rear dropouts and the bottom bracket shell. With the latter I just have to take care because it’s threaded for the bottom bracket bearings.

Brake bridge with paint sanded off, between two seat stays
Newly shiny brake bridge

Sanded rear dropout, with rust showing on the stays
Rear dropout

Bicycle bottom bracket shell partially sanded
That’s some of the rust knocked out

Finally, I spent more time with the fork, particularly the rounded shoulders. The wooden dowel came in handy again with the lower end of the steerer tube, although it was a tight fit here.

Sloping-shoulder bicycle fork with most paint sanded off
Getting to the crux of the matter

Sloping-shoulder bicycle fork with most paint sanded off
After the wooden dowel had its way

After a couple of hours of work on a number of different bits, I felt I’d made good progress despite not having much energy.

Bicycle frame with large amounts of paint sanded away
Shiny steel light at the end of the tunnel

I brought the various bits of the headset home with me, and had a go at them today with a brush and some degreaser. They all cleaned up fine, which reinforced my impression that this headset can be reused. I thought I saw a model number on a couple of the spacers (which would help with the specs if I had to replace the unit), but it just turned out to be a fairly generic patent number.

Bicycle headset parts and brush in a dustpan
Yes, that’s a dustpan

Brief post-maintenance ride

Snow-capped Fujisan

Today dawned bright and clear, with Fujisan showing off the first snow of the season. I had the day off work, so it was a great chance to wash up Kuroko following the post-typhoon ride and to have a look at the front derailleur issue.

The clean-up was very straightforward. I made use of all the bike cleaning brushes I bought recently, and I cleaned and oiled the chain. Then I checked the shifting, and all seemed fine. I inspected the front derailleur and had a close look at the shifter cables where they run under the bottom bracket (and had been choked with mud during Monday’s ride). All normal.

Finally I pulled back the hood on the shift lever to inspect the cable head for fraying. The cable is in fine shape, but I found that the little plastic cover over the pulley to which the cable attaches had worked loose. It just took me a moment with the screwdriver to tighten it up again. It’s possible that this was getting in the way of the shift lever moving.

Once that was done, I wanted to have a ride to make sure all was in order. I didn’t have a lot of time — I could have done one of my two 60-65km routes, but that would be pushing the deadline as I had someplace to be this evening. So I set out on the Tokyo Landmarks ride with a shortcut in mind that would lop at least half the distance off.

Ginkgo trees line bouldevard at Meiji Jingu Gaien
Meiji Jingu Gaien

Tokyo tower rising over trees in park
Tokyo Tower
The emperor’s enthronement ceremony finished yesterday, but there were still policemen on every corner. At one stoplight I was choking in the fumes of three armored blue buses idling along the curb (and a VW minibus right ahead of me). I know the coppers had their minds on security more than anything, but I still took care to obey all the traffic laws and — as far as possible — avoid drawing attention to myself.

I was traveling light. I’d taken off the saddlebag and tire pump to clean Kuroko and hadn’t put them back on. I was also carrying only one water bottle. That probably adds up to about 1.5kg at most (including the spare innertube and bike lock that I carry in the saddlebag) so it doesn’t make a huge difference in performance. But Kuroko did feel more nimble and unencumbered with those bits left out.

Imperial Palace and moat
Imperial Palace

Chidorigafuchi
Chidorigafuchi

Usually when I go this route, after passing the Imperial Palace I turn off through the financial district and head southeast to Tsukiji and Tokyo Big Sight. Today I just kept on the street that follows the palace moat until I got to Kudanzaka and Budokan.

No mechanicals!

Sum Bum lotion and cream
Sum Bum lotion and cream

After the cleaning up and tightening of the little cover under the shifter hood, Kuroko behaved beautifully. Once or twice the shift lever stuck for a moment, but I just gave it a stronger flick and over it went. I’ll have another look to make sure there’s nothing binding.

I also remembered to put on sunscreen today. I was only out for two hours, but the sunshine was very bright. I recently got some heavy-duty lotion and cream from the US, and I used that on my face and neck today (with my usual local stuff on my arms and legs). It seems to have done the job as I arrived back home as pale as when I set out, and I didn’t use my mask at all.

GPS map of today's ride
Abbreviated Tokyo Landmarks route

Christmas in October

Shipping box containing various Sram bicycle component boxes

Some long-awaited components for Ol’ Paint’s rebuild arrived today. Ol’ Paint was originally a triple: three chainrings on the front and eight cogs on the back. But as a central part of the upgrade, I wanted to convert her to a 1x: a single chainring with an 11-speed cog. After some research I decided on the SRAM Apex 1 line. Then the only problem was that no one who listed the parts would ship to Japan.

With some more searching I found the required bits through a Rakuten shop. When I ordered they quickly responded that the parts were out of stock and it would take more than a month to receive them. Knowing that I would still be in the process of prepping the frame for painting, I agreed to wait. And today, it all arrived.

Sram 11-speed shifter
Flat-bar shifter for 11-speed derailleur

Sram 11-speed rear derailleur
SRAM Apex 1 11-speed derailleur

Box for Sram crankset
This last box must be …

Sram Apex 1 crankset in box
SRAM Apex 1 crankset

Sram 11-speed chain
The finishing touch: 11-speed chain

I’d already received the rear cogs and the bottom bracket bearing set quite some time ago. I’ve got the brakes, handlebar, stem, pedals and seatpost. The hand grips arrived earlier today. About the only thing missing now is the saddle, which is also on back order, and perhaps a few cable housings (depending on the color I choose to go with the new paint). I’ve even got the wheels built and am in the process of truing them.

I’ve got the next four days off work, but — sad to say — I don’t have access to the workshop where Ol’ Paint’s frame awaits.

Fork in the road

Bicycle fork with most of the paint sanded away

I had some time before starting work today so I got some more sanding done on Ol’ Paint. I concentrated on the fork, which had more than its share of dings and rust.

Partially sanded bicycle frame with rust reforming on the sanded areas
Rust never sleeps

It’s been less than two weeks since I last worked on the bike, but rust is already forming again on the parts I sanded off. I decided to ignore that for today. When I’m done with the whole bike I’ll go back over it again, this time with a finer grit. It should go a lot more quickly.

Bicycle fork before sanding
Let’s get started

Rusty bicycle fork dropout
Rusty dropout

Bicycle fork with one side sanded nearly clean
After just a few minutes

Bicycle headset with some of the finish sanded away
I didn’t think to protect the headset

Bicycle fork showing rust and scratchingBicycle fork with most of the paint sanded away
From rusty and scratched to clean in … about 45 minutes

In all I spent about 45 minutes getting the fork to this stage. I’ve saved the hardest parts for later: the bendy bits and the tight corners.

Bicycle fork with most of the paint sanded away
Saving the hardest bits for last

Almost like I’m a real bike mechanic now

Park Tool truing stand

I debated with myself for months whether I needed a wheel truing stand. Is this something I really want to do myself vs having a professional do it right? Is it something I’ll be doing often enough to justify the expense? And more importantly, do I want to explain to Nana why there’s another bike thingamajig taking up precious balcony space?

After rebuilding Kuroko’s rear wheel a time or two, and faced with the task of building a new set of wheels for Ol’ Paint, the answer to the questions was a resounding “Yes.” (At least for the first two questions — as for the last one, let’s see if Nana just gives this blog a thumb’s up without reading it, as usual … )

Professional Wheel Truing Stand TS-2.2
Professional Wheel Truing Stand TS-2.2

After looking around a bit, I found a good price on this Park Tool stand and placed the order. After waiting nearly a month for word of delivery, though, I got notice it was out of stock. So I had another look, and this time I came across another Park Tool unit, but this one was a bit more compact, and cheaper — in fact, designed for the home mechanic. Plus it was available for delivery within a couple of days. Sold!

Park Tool TS-8 Wheel Truing Stand in the boxPark Tool wheel truing stand -- opening the box
One heavy box

The box, when it arrived, was much heavier than I expected, and I soon found the reason why: the uprights are made from 4mm steel plate and the base 5mm. That mass keeps the whole shootin’ match from wobbling or tipping over while truing a wheel. (There are holes in the base to allow screwing it down to a workbench, but that’s not an option for me.)

Wheel truing stand parts laid out on wooden floor
Massive steel bits

The stand went together quickly enough, although I soon discovered I didn’t have an 11mm combination wrench. I made do with an adjustable wrench, but it was a tight fit.

The other tool that goes with a wheel truing stand is a dishing tool, which makes sure the rim is centered between the lock nuts. I was debating whether I needed one of these as well, but as this helpful how-to video demonstrates, all I need to do is turn the wheel around in the truing stand to achieve the same result. And when I got the stand together and put Ol’ Paint’s new front wheel in for a spin, I found that, indeed, the rim (hitherto only trued according to spoke tension) was centered between the hub flanges and not the lock nuts.

I haven’t actually started truing (or dishing) the rim yet, but I’m all set for the next rainy day!

Replacing a spoke (again)

Measuring spoke tension with a gauge

With the typhoon clean-up in progress throughout Tokyo, I thought this would be a good chance to fix the broken spoke. In addition to simply replacing it, of course, I wanted to make sure that the break wasn’t caused by hub damage.

Tools needed to remove sprockets and change spoke
Tools at the ready

Inner hub flange showing no damage where spoke broke
No damage on the inner flange

Outer hub flange showing scratching
Some scratching here from the earlier failure

The spoke appears to have broken right near the head, so I had a close look at the hub flange. The inner flange, against which the spoke pulls, shows no marks. There’s a shallow gouge on the outer flange from the original mangling when the chain came off into the spokes, but it felt pretty smooth to the touch.

Bicycle wheel with tire removed and rim strip partially removed
Tire and rim strip off

Broken spoke lying alongside a replacement
You’d better straighten up, young man!

Bicycle hub after broken spoke is replaced
Checking the spoke / flange interaction

To replace the spoke I had to remove the rear cassette, and then the tire, tube and rim strip. With those items out of the way, I threaded the replacement into place. Then I checked the fit of the spoke head in the flange carefully. As expected, it doesn’t touch the gouge in the outer edge of the flange at all.

(And yes, that’s still English mud there on the hub … )

Measuring spoke tension with a gauge
Checking the tension

With the spoke threaded in and properly tensioned, it was time to check the wheel trueness. The truing stand I ordered hasn’t arrived yet, so I popped the wheel into the bike frame and used my index finger to eyeball it.

With the wheel more or less true, all that remained was to remount the tire and inflate it, put the wheel on the bike a final time and check the shifting and braking. All done in almost less time than it takes to say (or it would have been, but the tire pump took a few tries to get a good seal on the valve).

Bicycle wheel and pumpBicycle wheel with tire fully inflated
Time to pump … you up!

And we’re done. I put the tools away and washed up. From the weather forecast, it may be Thursday or Friday before I have a chance to ride to work. And after that, there’s more rain forecast for the weekend.

Integrity in bicycle blogging

To tell the truth, though, I bodged this repair the first time around. I took a look at the spokes adjacent to the broken one and came to the exact opposite conclusion than I should have about the spoke’s direction. I didn’t discover my mistake until I was giving this blog one final proof.

Bicycle hub with replacement spoke fitted -- backwards
Some mistake, surely …

I did the whole thing over, and this time I got it right (and took the picture that appears further up the page showing the correct orientation).

Picking up the dropped ball

Partially sanded bike frame on a wooden work table

It’s been nearly two months since I started sanding the old paint off Ol’ Paint. In my defense, this is the busiest time at the office.

Proper tools for the job

My initial go at sanding off the paint was so frustrating that it was difficult for me to get back to it. So when I realized I would have time opening up today for this, I checked online to see what sort of sandpaper I should be using. The answer was clear: aluminum carbide with a cloth backing. I was able to find some for immediate delivery, in #80 and #240 (but not in #120, which I thought would be a good starting grit).

Bike frame, sandpaper, chemicals and green tea on a wooden work table
Ready to get started

As soon as I got to work today with the higher quality #80, the results spoke for themselves. Previously I’d gone through several sheets of generic #120 just to get a few rust spots cleared up and a couple of decals eradicated. Today, by contrast, I was taking out much larger areas of paint, right down to the bare metal. I continued to concentrate on areas of rust, or where I’d scraped off emblems.

Rust-pitted chainstayChainstay with rust and paint sanded away
Down to the bare metal in minutes

I was still going through sandpaper — I went through four sheets today in something like an hour and a half. But the paper is not that much more expensive, and I have a lot more to show for my effort.

A ludicrous number

As I worked, I kept finding more decals, and even another emblem. This bike has a ludicrous number of decals and emblems! The last one I found (so far!) was the chainstay protector.

Autodesk decal on chainstay
There’s a decal right there!

Chainstay with decal scraped away
Decal B Gone

Bicycle frame showing glue left over from emblem removal
Leftover emblem goop

Scraping glue off bicycle frame
Putty knife to the rescue

Bicycle frame after scraping away emblem glue
Ready for more sanding

Damaged emblem on bicycle forkBicycle fork after scraping off emblem
Last emblem falls prey to putty knife

Remains of the chainstay protector
Remains of the chainstay protector

Safety warning on bicycle fork
Do not remove this label!

Chainstays with most rust and paint sanded away
Making real progress on the chainstays

Rust spots on the bottom bracketBottom bracket sanded clean, showing serial numbers
I’m not going to file these off

After working an hour and a half, I called it a day. The workshop was open for another half hour, but I was giving myself a headache from the effort. Overall, I’m quite pleased compared to how things were going back in August.

Chainstay after scraping and sanding protector off
More chainstay cleanliness

Partially sanded bicycle frame standing on work table covered with paint sandings
A good day’s effort

Partially sanded bike frame on a wooden work table
Definite signs of progress

Kuroko, meanwhile

GPS bike results for morning and afternoon commute
To and fro

I thought I’d have a nice easy commute to and from the workshop today. I didn’t even put on cycling shorts, although I did wear my helmet and cleats. But the mechanical gods had other ideas. Just as I reached the top of a hill on the way home, with about 5km to go, I heard a pop and then some sproingy noises. I stopped immediately and investigated. Sacre bleu! Another broken spoke. I twisted it around its neighbor so I could continue on my way home.

Rear bicycle wheel with broken spoke
Can you spot it?

What’s going on here, anyway? I certainly wasn’t overloading that spoke (apart from asking it to carry me up that hill … ), and it wasn’t a case of the chain coming off the sprockets. It’s no doubt some combination of the thinner gauge spokes I used when I rebuilt the wheel following the last disaster and my own amateur status as a wheelbuilder. There’s also the possibility the hub is damaged from the initial spoke incident and that’s notching the new spokes. I’ll have a close look at it — if I decide that’s the cause, I may just order a whole new wheel from the maker.

Easy swap: new thru axles

Detail of rear axle showing DT Swiss logo
Old and new thru axles side by side
Old and new

One nagging issue with Kuroko has been the rear thru axle, which tends to work itself loose. Sometimes this happens mid-ride, and the rear wheels starts to wiggle a bit in the frame.

Having the rear wheel loose, even a bit, can cause missed shifts and rubbing brakes. It can be a bit difficult to sort out these issues, though, if you’re already dealing with shifting and brake issues from other causes. I’ve had it on my mental checklist for some time now to check the thru axle from time to time, before each ride and during rest stops. It just happened again during yesterday’s ride.

I’d been looking for replacements for some time, and was surprised the wheel vendor didn’t stock them. The reason is that different frames have different drop-out widths, apparently. Anyway, the only place I found the original parts was Alibaba and eBay, so I started looking for compatible items from other makers. A lot of vendors offer the axles but their websites can be surprisingly vague on specific measurements. I finally found an axle I was pleased with on a site that was clear about the specs: DT Swiss.

Replacing the axles was a matter of a moment’s work — they’re made to be easily removable, after all.

Detail of front wheel with old axle
Out with the old

Detail of front axle showing DT Swiss logo
Done with the front

Detail of rear wheel with old axle
Out with the old

Detail of rear axle showing DT Swiss logo
Done on the rear

With that done, I put Kuroko back on the stand and ran through the gears a couple of times. Like butter. And that’s it for today. I’d thought about riding but the Halfakid begged off. The threat of rain seems to have evaporated. But in the end Nana said she needs me at home today.