Friday, August 31, 2007

Waiting for Hubs

For my birthday my wife bought me a beautiful NOS set of Pélissier hubs and some nicely-designed, brand new in-house fenders from Vélo Orange. I'm waiting for them to arrive so I can measure them and order my spokes. Due to the almost outrageous price of spokes these days I will not be buying double-butted spokes from DT Swiss or Wheelsmith. Of course stainless is the only real choice so I will be buying Union spokes which I think are of moderate quality. But heck they'll be better than the period-correct high tensile steel spokes anyway. Oh and about those hubs: if you haven't read the history of Henri Pélissier check out the Wikipedia article.

On a side note, the other day I helped a guy lug a bunch of bikes to his house in the trunk of my old Volvo. In return he gave me a really nice 700c wheel with a near-perfect Helicomatic hub and freewheel, and stainless 14 gauge spokes. Not sure what I'll do with it yet, but it's a nice piece.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Nevr Dull

When you pick up some cool vintage bike parts the first thing you want to do before you put them on your bike is make them look as good as they can. A lot of times that means you've got a nice old aluminum or chrome part and it's not looking its best. I've done a lot of polishing of old parts, first for my 1969 Alfa Romeo GTV car (yes heresy, a car on a bike blog) and now for my vintage Peugeot, and the sweet mixte frame I recently sold on Craigslist. After I picked up those nice Super Champion rims I needed to polish them so I turned to the product which provides the name for this post. Nevr Dull. Bad spelling or not, it does a fantastic job of shining up any old aluminum or chrome part. Even things which you might think are destroyed.

I know a lot of people talk about Simichrome for polishing bike parts and I've never used it so I can't compare, but Nevr Dull is available in pretty much every city and town in the US and Canada, right off the shelf in most auto parts or home improvement stores. It's pretty economical and 1 can lasts a really long time. And those Super Champions look good after about 30 minutes of polishing. The top one has been polished lightly and the bottom one is as it arrived.

I didn't have to use this trick on the Super Champions because they're in good shape, but if you have some aluminum with some scratching you can use 320 or 400 grit sand paper to remove the scratches, finish off with a bit of 1000 grit and then use Nevr Dull to smooth it out and it will look as good as new. Those MAFAC Racer brake levers on the mixte needed a bit of work. After the treatment they looked as good as new.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Super Champion

I went down to the Recyclery today to their every-so-many-months bike swap. I was looking for a couple of things: new full hoods for my Mafac Racers and a decent set of rims to lace to some Pélissier hubs I'm eying from Vélo Orange. I struck out on the Mafac hoods, but I found a beautiful pair of vintage Super Champion Model 58 aluminum rims in great condition. I picked them up for $15 and now I need to order my hubs and get to wheel building.

Super Champion was a French manufacturer that made some of the nicest aluminum rims of the era and they came as factory equipment on everything from mid-range to top of the line bikes from all over Europe. As always Classic Rendezvous has more information on this great manufacturer. This particular set was hardly used and will make a great accessory for my vintage Peugeot.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sweet Mixte Single-Speed

I recently built up a Peugeot mixte frame to sell. It's on Craigslist at the moment, but I was so happy about how it came out that I wanted to put some info up here on it. The number one thing I tried out on this one that I had never done before was I bought traditional white cloth tape and shellac'ed it in the traditional manner. I wonder why people stopped doing this. Wow does it look great. Everyone who has seen it so far commented on how great those bars look. If you're thinking about redoing a set of bars, this is really a good way to go. And it was cheap, too, another plus. I understand from other riders that you can just re-shellac the bars at any time afterward if they start to get worn. That's a much better solution than buying new cork tape at $14 and this looks better!

I took all the single-speed gear that had come with my green Peugeot before I put the gearing back on, and set this bike up that way. These mixtes look good as single-speeds I think. Better than the diamond frames anyway.

Also a trick, for any of you who are converting a Nervar or Stronglight cottered crank to a fixie or single-speed, if you turn the bottom bracket spindle around, you can get a perfectly straight chain line. Better functioning and it sure looks nice.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Garage Sales

I've sometimes gone to garage sales looking for bike finds. This last weekend I was out for about an hour hitting sales as I saw them in the St Johns neighborhood of Portland. I picked up a nice tap and die set but was striking out on anything cycle-related. I decided to hit one more sale before heading home and it was a gold mine! I had been looking for a decent bike rack to carry my bike and my wife's. On craigslist they have been too much money. I picked up a newer Yakima rack and one "raptor" bike tray (the kind where you don't have to remove the wheel) for $45. I need to find another tray for cheap, but for now I can tote my Peugeot wherever I like. Here's to garage sales.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

My Peugeot UO8

Peugeot made a lot of bikes, particularly in the 70's and 80's. There was a whole range of bikes, and somewhere near the mid to low end of the pack was a great bike with light touring geometry called the UO8. A lot of people got in to cycling on this bike, and my Dad was one of them. I always loved that bike growing up and finally when I was in high school my Dad gave it to me when he bought a new Trek. But it was near the end of its life at that point and I only had it until I went to college. Its parts were sacrificed at some point to keep other bikes going (we had a few) and that was the last it was seen.

Well I recently decided to get back into riding a bike. I have a job where I can commute by bike now, and so I decided to seek out a nice UO8 just like my Dad's. I found one on craigslist that fit, looked right and was in beautiful condition, but it had been converted to a single speed. It's a 1971 or so as far as I can tell. I bought it anyway, because it was the nicest one I had seen. I rode it as a single speed for awhile, but it's no way to commute up a big hill out of the Willamette River valley. So I decided to put it back together. I had most of the original parts, but they were scruffy compared to the frame and so I decided to cheaply upgrade it to decent parts, using period, or almost period parts wherever possible. Off came the steel cranks and cottered bottom bracket. Off came the Shimano BMX freewheel and chain. Here's the equipment list now:
  • Mafac Racer brakes (came with bike)
  • Mafac Racer (sweet) 'drilled' brake handles (came with bike)
  • Wrights W3N leather saddle (very nice seat) (came with bike)
  • Rigida steel rear rim (came with bike)
  • Schurmann steel front rim (came with bike)
  • Normandy high flange hubs (came with bike)
  • TTT long stem (came with bike)
  • Vittoria Zafiro tires (came with bike)
  • Nervar Star lightweight aluminum cranks (
  • Campagnolo Nuovo Record 115mm Bottom Bracket (
  • Campagnolo Nuovo Record Front Derailleur (French tube size) (
  • SunTour VGT Luxe rear derailleur (local guy)
  • SunTour Perfecte freewheel with 14-32 spread (The Recyclery)
  • SunTour down tube shifters -- just like Rivendell Silvers (Citybikes)
  • MKS Sylvan Road pedals (River City Bikes)
  • MKS toe clips and ALE straps (Bike Central)
I briefly had a beautiful pair of Maillard platform pedals that I picked up on vacation in Boulder, CO, but promptly lost a dust cap and that was that. If you have a dust cap for those, I still want to put them back on my bike. :)

Things left to modify are: aluminum wheels (this is a priority) and a Stronglight aluminum roller bearing headset. I also want to pick up a Zéfal Lapize pump to go on those nice brazed-on pump pegs. A friend gave me a nice set of Belleri aluminum handle bars which I'll swap on when the tape wears out.

It's a blast to ride, and even with those heavy steel wheels and steel headset it weighs in at only 26 pounds, which is pretty good for a 62cm bike with straight gauge tubes!