The Finished Product
My wife had been wanting a bike, and I wanted her to have one too since I love riding and always wish she could come with me. The search started on Craigslist for a vintage 3-speed (or whatever speed, really) mixte or traditional diamond frame Peugeot, Motobecane, Raleigh Bianchi, or something Japanese. Of course we didn't find anything we liked 100%. If we found something with good components, it would have to be repainted, or if the color was good, the rest of the bike needed a total overhaul, or it wasn't the right size, and so on. There was really nothing out there, so I decided to just build one to her specifications. She decided on a peach colored 5-speed with copper accents, brown tires, and of course a Brooks B17 Special in Honey with copper rails. The search then turned to finding a donor frame.
New Lease on Life
We ended up with this crappy singlespeed conversion for $30. Everything was in pretty rough shape, and the Pepto Bismol pink paint was really poorly done. I was hoping to salvage the wheels, but they were just too cheaply made. Almost every spoke was loose and some were missing. They ended up getting trashed, unfortunately.
I was able to use the seatpost, saddle clamp, headset, bars, cranks and chainring. We initially used the stem as well, but it ended up being too long.
I thought media blasting would be faster than sanding it. I was wrong. A spot blaster wasn't exactly the right tool for what I was doing, and I would not recommend trying to blast an entire bike frame with a spot blaster, however, I would recommend blasting the joints that are hard to get with an orbital sander or by hand.
After I sandblasted the tight spots, I used an orbital sander to get the paint off the larger areas. Why didn't I use paint stripper? I have done that twice before on bike frames, it was a mess, and I ended up having to sand everything anyway, so I just went straight to the sanding this time.
During sanding I also ground off the non-drive-side cable stop on the downtube, because it was not needed – there won't be a front derailer since it's going to be a 1×5.
I'm ready for the purist hate.
Really though, this is not a rare Colnago that I'm turning into a fixie.
Here I am sanding what I couldn't get with the orbital.
I used two coats of Dupli-Color filler primer and sanded with 400 grit.
I chose Montana Gold "Orange Ice" for the color. I used Montana because I wanted to know how it was to work with. Turns out this wasn't the time to experiment with new paints. It is great paint for graffiti art and murals, but I would not spray a bike frame with it again. It's fairly thick and heavy, so when I used my usual technique of several thin coats, it got rough/gritty in some places due to the thickness of the paint. On the second coat I realized this and laid it on closer and thicker. It turned out fine after I gave it a clearcoat then wetsanded and buffed, but stick with paint made for cars or other metal things.
The aluminum bars were originally white, and after I got the paint off, they weren't smooth. They had fine ridges from being machined at the factory, so I took the orbital sander to it and gradually worked from 220 grit up to 1500, then used a heavy compound on a coarse polishing wheel, and a fine polishing compound on a fine polishing wheel. These were from a Ryobi metal polishing kit from Home Depot, and the kit works very well – I've used it on other projects previously. I used electrical tape on the drill trigger to keep it locked on, and held it with my legs, as you can see. I would highly recommend a bench polisher for work like this if you have the means. But hey, the drill worked and the polished aluminum looked awesome.
The 1×5 setup was pretty easy to get up and running. I used a SRAM chain and found a calculator online to determine the approximate chain length, broke it at that point, fit it up and made the appropriate adjustments. It ended up a little shorter than what the calculator told me, because all derailers are a little different. I chose a vintage Shimano 600 and an unbranded friction shifter meant to be mounted on a stem, but my wife wanted it near her thumb on the bars, and it worked there just fine with a shim made from scrap leather. I had to get a derailer hanger since the bike didn't have one and the derailer didn't either. I picked up one off eBay for $5 and painted it. For cable and housing, don't laugh … I went down to Walmart and bought a Bell cable kit for under $10. This is the third time I've used that kit in a build, and it's totally fine. It includes all the right heads, sheaths and ferrules that you'll need. For a city bike like this, I don't see a reason to spend the money on Jagwire. Just make sure you grease the cable before you put it in the housing.
I always use Velox rim tape on fresh wheels. It took us forever to track down some tires we liked. We finally found the Schwalbe Spicer HS 442 which are really great and were reasonably priced. They're going on Sun M13 rims laced to Origin8 hubs.
Making the Hand Grips
Of course I couldn't just buy leather and copper handlebar grips…where's the fun in that? Seriously though, we looked for some to buy forever, but we didn't like any of them for one reason or another – mostly the color of the leather if the price was right, or the price if the color of the leather was right. I was able to make some myself for about $30. Yeah, you can buy them for that, but we wanted them to be just right.
We got the leather supplies from Tandy Leather here in Dallas. We started with a pre-cut sheet of un-tanned leather. This was actually cheaper than buying a raw piece of cow hide, and had the added benefit of already being perfectly straight on two sides after trimming them to size. Dyeing leather is easier than I thought. You just rub it on there. The color match to the Brooks saddle was pretty right-on. The leather was a little thin, so I doubled it up using Loctite Vinyl, Fabric & Plastic Flexible Adhesive to glue the layers together. I bought a punch kit to put the holes in the leather, and sewed it to the bars with waxed thread.
Now I had to cap the end. My idea was to use 1" copper end caps from the plumbing department at Home Depot, polish them, cut them down to size, glue a cork onto it with Loctite PL Construction Adhesive, and stick them in the bars. I am pretty pumped to say I did exactly those things, and it worked perfectly!
Frame/fork: Unknown steel
Paint: Montana Gold "Orange Ice"
Bars: Origin8 Pro Urban riser
Grips: Custom made leather with copper end-caps
Stem: Win 65mm
Brake Levers: Tektro FL750
Bell: Crane Suzu
Wheelset: Sun M13 36H rims to Origin8 QR hubs (Made by Wheelmaster)
Tires: Schwalbe Spicer HS 442 700c x 30c
Brakes: Campagnolo Chorus
Crankset: Stock cotter pin style
Saddle: Brooks B17 Special – Honey/Copper
Seatpost: Stock Kalloy
Pedals: MKS Sylvan – Copper
Chain: SRAM PC-830
Derailer: Shimano RD-6100 600
Shifter: Unbranded friction shifter
Front/Rear Lights: Knog Blinder 1
Rear Rack: Wald
Basket: Threshold (Target)