Friday, September 13, 2013

The Phoenix Bike Project - part 1

It's been very quiet here for the last several days but that's only because my day job kept me very busy - not because there was nothing exciting going on to write about.

I mentioned several months ago that I happened to have a nearly complete Ultegra 6400 group - parts that I removed from my old road bike I left in Europe, after moving to the U.S. While the frame and rims of that bicycle were not usable anymore, the rest of the components were in an excellent condition - they were just begging for a new life in a new road bike.

The parts list is quite impressive, I think:
1. Ultegra FC-6400 crankset with 53/39T chainrings
2. Shimano bottom bracket, BB-UN72
3. Shimano FD-6400 front derailleur, braze on mount, 2 speed
4. Ultegra RD-6401 rear derailleur, 8 speed
5. Shimano 8 speed Hyper Glide cassette, 12-21T
6. Ultegra 6400 28-hole hubs
7. Shimano 105 threaded headset
8. Shimano BR-1055 short reach caliper brakes
9. Shimano SL-BS50 bar end shifters
10. Ultegra 6400 brake levers
11. Shimano 8-speed chain
12. ITM Goccia 100mm quill stem
13. TranzX 27.2mm seatpost
14. Selle Italia Flite Titanium saddle
15. Look clipless pedals
16. road drop bars
Technically, I don't need another road bike. In fact, because of the hilly area I live in now, a 53T chainring and a 12-21T cassette would make the bike nearly useless. My idea was to build something more usable such as a bicycle based on a vintage steel frame, which would make use of most of these components, but geared much, much lower to allow me riding these hills with ease. After some calculations I figured out that the solution is simple - lose the largest chainring and leave the 39T single ring in the front. Then, replace the cassette with a new 8-speed, 11-34T one. This combination would give me a very nice range from 93.3 to 30.2 gear inches.  Obviously, I would need a new rear derailleur as well, to handle that 34T sprocket.
Then, I thought that since this bike isn't going to be a speed demon anyway, I should probably plan for a slightly more relaxed riding position. I am thinking that Soma Sparrow bars should work pretty well with road brake levers and the single bar end shifter.
Soma Sparrow bars in the configuration that I plan for my new/old bike (Source: Google Images).

Except the front derailleur, I would probably have to put away some of the other components from my list as well. Look pedals would be useless. I would go with some simple platform pedals instead. I am not sure about the saddle either. Flite is a very nice and lightweight racing saddle, but I would prefer something more comfortable on this bike.

However, all those things are just details. The biggest problem was the frame. After a lengthy search on Craigslist (where people usually sell whole bikes, not just frames) and Ebay, I finally purchased a vintage 56cm 1986 Univega Gran Rally frameset in ugly pink color. I probably overpaid quite a bit, but I didn't want to hunt for the perfect  frame forever and $50 more or less didn't matter so much at this point.

What does matter is that the frame is nearly perfect for my project. It fits the bottom bracket, cranks, headset, stem, brakes and hubs I have. The only component that doesn't fit is the seatpost. Gran Rally needs a 26.8mm seatpost, I think and the one I have is 27.2mm. Fortunately, seatposts are not expensive to replace.
The frame (and fork) is pretty nice (except the color!). After a quick check, it looks like it is going to fit 700x32c tires easily and that's the size of tires I would be planning for. The minor issue is lack of any fender or rack mounts but this is understandable - it is a road bike frame after all. I measured the frame weight at 2.23kg and the fork at 0.81kg. Clearly not the lightest and honestly I don't know why it's so heavy if it's supposed to be made of a triple-butted Cr-Mo tubing.
My "new" Univega Gran Rally. God, this color is ghastly!

I have been looking at this frame from all angles for some time and as much as I like nearly everything about it, its color is just plain ugly. I don't know what they were smoking there in Japan to paint their frames this ugly pink. Oh, wait. The frame is from late 80's - that explains it! Everything was crazy colorful back then:
My Univega must have been previously owned by one of these guys!

Anyway, I did some thinking on how to get rid of this color and replace it with something more XXI century, without emptying my wallet. After much debate, I decided to strip the paint (good I have access to a large bead blaster) and replace it with... nothing. That's right. Bare carbon steel with lugs. Call me brave or stupid, I think that may work. The steel tubing will surely develop a dark grey tarnish quickly and some rust as well, but that's the look I would like much better than the original 80's pink. The only protective layer I would use is some linseed oil applied with a rag and a brush. I will likely use this bike at good weather only, so it may never get wet (No fenders - remember?). And even if the frame was painted, I am not sure I would enjoy using it in winter months anyway. Knowing how much our roads in New England get salted every winter, I am only happy to ride my cheap Schwinn clunker at that time. Also, no plans on storing it outside. Fortunately, at both home and my work place I have a parking spot inside the building.

The plan is set and the full list of components for my "new" bike looks like this:

headset: Shimano 105 (removed from my old bike)
stem: ITM Goccia 100mm (removed from my old bike)
handlebars: Soma Sparrow 560mm
seatpost: Kalloy SP-267 UNO 26.8mm
saddle: Selle Italia Flite Titanium (removed from my old bike)
bottom bracket: Shimano BB-UN72 (removed from my old bike)
cranks: Shimano Ultegra FC-6400 175mm (removed from my old bike)
chainring: Shimano Ultegra 39T (removed from my old bike)
chain: KMC X8.93, 8 speed
pedals: Kore Rivera Thermo
rear derailleur: Shimano Alivio M430
cassette: Shimano HG-41, 11-34T, 8 speed
hubs: Shimano Ultegra 6400, 28H (removed from my old bike)
rims: Mavic Open SUP 700c, 28H
tires: Continental Contact 700x32c (I had already one of these lying around)
brakes: Shimano 105 BR-1055 (removed from my old bike)
brake levers: Shimano Ultegra 6400 (removed from my old bike)
shifter: Shimano SL-BS50 bar end, 8 speed (removed from my old bike)
chainguard: Velo Orange Alloy, 38T

The cost of the entire project adds up to just a bit over $600. Obviously, you may wonder at this point: "Does it even make sense?". My own old/new bike costs me more than some decent offerings found on Craigslist. If I simply wanted another bike, I could have just bought something second-hand. But on the other hand, building my own bike is a part of fun (a major portion of it) and this way I can customize everything exactly the way I want to. And in my opinion, this is worth a higher price.

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