Secret weapon

Bicycle frame in vice with paint largely stripped off
Roloc easy strip disc in a power drill
Secret weapon

Last weekend I got back in the workshop with Ol’ Paint. After a couple of months of wearing myself thin (not really — but I may have given myself a case of pitcher’s elbow) trying to sand the paint off, I decided it was time to break out the secret weapon. The Duropeak Roloc Easy Strip Discs made a tough job quite a bit easier.

It wasn’t all touch-a-button-and-done, even with the power drill. It required a bit of force, so I mounted first the fork and then the frame in a vise for the work. (For the frame I clamped a wooden dowel in the vise and then mounted the seat tube over that.) Even so, I think that an extra pair of hands would have made the job easier. It needed two hands on the drill, and at times I was using one hand to hold the fork or frame in place. I ended up wedging the frame against a conveniently located drill press. (If this were the sort of thing I’d be doing on a regular basis, I’d have a proper frame stand with clamp set up for it. As it is, I need my frame stand at home for Kuroko’s drivetrain upgrade.)

Bicycle frame in vise with paint partially stripped
As far as I’d got by hand

Other things I lack at the workshop are a proper video camera and tripod (as well as lights and an assistant), so what follows are just a bunch of before-and-after shots.

Bicycle fork mounted in vise before drill stripper
Fork before
Bicycle fork mounted in vise after drill stripper
Fork after

I spent a good long while on the fork, with its crannies and curves, and am pretty pleased with the results: not 100% paint-free, but much closer than before.

Bicycle frame in vise with paint stripped from top tube
Cleaning up the top tube

Seat post and top tube juncture before stripping
Seat post and top tube juncture before

Seat post and top tube juncture after stripping
Seat post and top tube juncture after

Detail of down tube showing swirl marks from paint stripper
Detail showing swirl marks

Detail of chainstay stripped of paint
That’s a clean chainstay

Bicycle frame in vise with most paint stripped off
Two secret weapons later

Creating false expectations

Rebuilding Ol’ Paint is inspired by watching the work of countless restorers, most recently the paintwork of Velove Bicycles.

Having said that, Ol’ Paint’s new paintwork is going to be very simple: a single coat of semi-matte. No primer, no filler, no stencils … and certainly no fade.

Taking stock

Bicycle drivetrain

It’s taking longer than I expected to strip the old paint off Ol’ Paint. Meanwhile I decided it’s time to take stock of all the parts to make sure nothing is missing (and in the meantime to clean up my study).

Bicycle wheel with tubes and tires in the box
Wheel and tires

First up are the new wheels for Ol’ Paint.

  1. Rims Alexrims DM18 26″ x 32H
  2. Hubs Shimano Deore HB-M6000 (front) and Shimano Deore FH-M6000 (rear)
  3. Spokes DT Swiss Pro
  4. Tubes Conti Tube Tour 26 Slim
  5. Tires Continental GrandPrix 28mm
Bicycle drivetrain
Drivetrain

For the drivetrain I’m going with SRAM Apex 1, despite its reliance on what some have called The Worst Crankset in the World.

  1. Crankset SRAM AM FC Apex 1 GXP 170 42T
  2. Cassette sprocket SRAM PG1130 11SP 11-42T
  3. Rear derailleur SRAM AM RD Apex 1 1X11SP long cage
  4. Bottom bracket SRAM AM BB GXP Team English
  5. Chain SRAM PC1110
  6. Trigger shifter SRAM AM SL Apex Trigger 11SP
Bicycle saddle, seat post, pedals, handlbar, stem and grips
Everything else

For the rest, I went with a mix of things I’ve tried or seen elsewhere, and then the Shimano Pro line for the remainder.

  1. Saddle WTB Volt Pro Cromoly
  2. Seatpost Pro LT
  3. QR skewer brand X
  4. Pedals Xpedo XMX24MC
  5. Handlebar Pro LT
  6. Stem Pro LT
  7. Top cap FSA
  8. Bar end grips Lifeline
  9. Brake levers Shimano Deore BL-T610
  10. V-brakes Shimano Deore BR-T610

The Xpedo pedals (and that’s probably the most unfortunate brand name in cycling, if not of all time) are really too nice for this bike, but I saw them on Fearless Leader Joe’s hand-built Chapman bike and fell in love with their looks.

Bicycle drivetrain components
Kuroko drivetrain

Last up is yet another drivetrain upgrade for Kuroko. The 34T large sprocket will drop my lowest climbing ratio yet again, from 25 gear inches to 23 or a reduction of 6%. (Compared to the original low of 32 gear inches, it’s a 27% reduction.) The change requires a swap of the rear derailleur to a newer model, and while I’m at it I may as well swap the front to match. With all new bits (except the crankset, of course), replacing the chain is a no-brainer even though it’s not really required. It might be a good time to swap out the bottom bracket as well for the fully integrated model from bbinfinite, but at the moment the existing bearings are working fine. (And if it ain’t broke … )

  1. Front derailleur Shimano 105 FD-R7000-B
  2. Chain Shimano 105 HG-X11
  3. Cassette sprocket Shimano CS-HG700-11 11-34T
  4. Rear derailleur Shimano 105 RD-R7000-GS
  5. Bottom bracket bbinfinite BB86-PF-RD

Now it’s all just awaiting a rainy day for me to tackle the project. Hmm … wonder if we’ve had any of those recently.

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

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

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.

Building a wheel

Bicycle rim, hub, spokes and nipples

I haven’t had time for a few weeks to get back to sanding down Ol’ Paint. But I’ve been looking at the growing pile of schwag in my den and decided today was the day to build a wheel. There are a lot of guides available for wheel-building, but I found this video to be very clear.

(OK, it’s a bit verbose and the background music sucks, and he tends to over-explain things. But I found the basics to be very clear.)

I laid out all the necessary bits in preparation. It’s a 32-spoke wheel, so that means four groups of eight spokes each.

Bicycle hub with 8 spokes inserted and key spoke selected
This one’s the key spoke

Wheel and hub with eight spokes inserted
First set of eight done

Bicycle rim and hub with first 16 spokes inserted
Second eight on the opposite side

View of label on hub through valve hole in rim
Confirming the hub label shows through the valve hole
Using a spare spoke to guide the nipple into position
Using a spare spoke to guide the nipple into position

Bicycle wheel with three-quarters of the spokes inserted
One final set of eight

Wooden desk with laptop, four spokes and nipples, and a glass of sparkling water
And then there were four …

Fully laced bicycle wheel with spokes still loose and bent
Ready for tightening

With the wheel fully laced, I was ready to tighten the spokes. As recommended in the video, first I tightened each nipple so no threads showed on the spoke. Then I went around the rim again, tightening each spoke two turns, then one.

Laced and tightened wheel on floor with spoke wrench and tension gauge
One built wheel

I finished for the moment by going around the wheel and checking each spoke with the tension gauge, tightening as needed. I’ve got all the spokes close to their final tension, within a tick of each other. And that’s where it’s going to remain until I’ve done truing the wheel (which will not be for a while yet).