Oh- hello there, how are you?

It’s been a while…

I thought you might deserve an update. My bike project has been a bit on and off since the last post, and I can’t remember each step to report back. After the last thing I wrote I think there was a bit of a lull in the proceedings while I worked out what new parts I needed and got them in, and then Winter came (again), and I stopped. At some point at the beginning the Summer I had a bit of a burst, and got so carried away, and pleased that I was actually doing it, I decided not to spend any time blogging about my progress, just to focus on getting it done. That was working really well for a while, but the spare time I had to work on the bike was diminishing, as I had to spend more time on the preparations for our wedding at the beginning of September. So, again, I stopped.

And that’s how it stayed, until yesterday when once again the Sun inspired me to get down the bike shop and get the last bits I needed. I had to make sure the front derailleur I took from my old bike was properly working (I’d had to get a special shim to get it to fit onto the frame) and get a seat post that would fit (I’d had two that I bought online that didn’t fit. They are made with diameters in increments of 0.1 of a millimetre, which is why I realised it was much safer to go to my local bike shop and get one that i could test), and, finally, the pedals.

And, with some uneventful fitting,

I. Bloody. Finished.

And here it is.

Finally, I have a new bike

Finally, I have a new bike


Click on the close ups to see its beauty:

Dare I say it, but the whole project isn’t actually over. Some of the components I have used could do with being replaced, e.g. the chain is from my old bike and wouldn’t come any cleaner. And at some point, before it gets too wet, I’ll have to face up to the fact that I am going to have to strip it down again and get it a real paintjob that will actually wear well and protect it.

But, for now, I have a bike that works, and I built it myself. Yes!




I’m sure you’ve been on the edge of your seat since my last post left you with half a headset installed, so sorry about that.

As I mentioned in the last post I had done some research, and plenty of people have written on the internet about how simple it is to fit a headset with a threaded rod, a few bolts and some washers. Taking this advice I went to the DIY shop and got myself the pieces I needed.

Once home I set up my bike in the workmate, and hoped this would be as easy as I had been led to believe.

Pleeeeaase work!

The largest washers I could find were actually a bit small, so I made some larger plates out of what I could find, which unfortunately was a piece of misleadingly named hardboard.

Having just gone through the photos I took I have realised that I don’t actually have any showing the setup I finally used, I imagine this is due to the maddening amount of tinkering I had to do to get it to work. I won’t go into it now, I think I’ve blocked most of it from my memory.

Some of the equipment

As you’ve guessed it wasn’t as easy as I had hoped, and did end up taking hours, rather than minutes.

Stationary cone going on, with green grease oozing out.

But I got there, and breathed a sigh of relief when I topped out the headset with the final pieces. This was the moment of truth, as because the frame is second hand it has had a different headset on it in the past, so the steer tube was cut to fit that one. It was perfectly possible that it would have been too short for my headset- disastrous.

In fact it is slightly the wrong size, but too long rather than too short, so can be cut to fit, or I think I could put a spacer in the gap to fill it, which would be better if it works.

Headset all fitted, but with a slight gap

Headset. From above.

Next up- sorting out all that damaged paintwork….

After what seemed like absolutely ages, the painting was done and I was ready to fit the headset. The question was whether I was going to attempt it myself or go to a bike shop where an actual bike mechanic with the proper tools could do it for me pretty painlessly.

I have really wanted to do the whole thing myself from start to finish, and I found loads of instructions on forums on how to do it yourself, and the simple DIY shop equipment people use to do it. My main problem was that I couldn’t see how I was possibly going to get the crown race- the bottommost part of the headset- to fit where it is supposed to on the fork crown. (To see what I’m on about you may want to look at the photo of the headset diagram in the Headset post.) I was just examining the forks when it struck me that they already had a crown race fitted- it had never been removed from its previous incarnation, and not noticing I had sprayed over it.

My new crown race next to the old painted-over one on the forks

I did a quick test to see on the off chance whether I would be able to just keep it there and use that, but the bearings from the new headset didn’t quite fit, so I was going to have to remove it. It was pretty easy to do, but I wanted to be careful not to damage the forks so took my time.

Secured and ready for removal

Slowly but surely

Off it pops

Buoyed by this revelation I slipped the new crown race on and tried to work out how I was going to fit it snugly over the fork crown. Most of the things I read involved a piece of plumbing tube over the steer tube of the forks and whacking it with a mallet. This applies equal pressure all the way around the race cone to make sure it stays straight as it goes on. I didn’t have any tubing, but I did have some electrical tape with a perfect sized spool, so I put this next to the race cone on the steering tube and secured the forks in my Workmate. Rather than hitting it from the top I inverted it and used a wood block to hit it from the underneath.

It was after some going at it with the mallet that I decided it wasn’t happening. Back to the drawing board. I found out that despite being a standard 1″ threaded headset, there isn’t actually a standard for the diameter of the fork crown, more a range of standards depending on when and where they were made. It can range from 26.4mm to 27mm, and evidently my headset has a 26.4mm internal diameter, and the frame has a 27mm diameter. Not the end of the world, as it is possible to mill down the fork crown to get it to the correct size to fit, but clearly this would involve more specialist tools that I don’t have.

I was ready to surrender and take it down to the bike shop to get them to do it for me. I called the local shop to ask how much they would charge to fit the headset, and warned them that there would be some milling of the fork crown involved. They told me they would charge around £30 for the fitting, and with regards to the milling, it would be about another £5er- it probably just needed a bit of filing down.

Filing down? Well I can do that! Right, so with my spirits back up again I set my forks back in my workbench and got the files out. Thinking about it, how hard can it be to file off 0.4mm anyway?

Forks protected, secured and ready for filing

Hard, as it turns out. I had to make sure I took off an even amount all round to keep a constant diameter. I had to make sure the 5mm hight of the bit I was filing stayed constant, flat and at 90˚ to the perpendicular. Which, incidentally, I had to ensure I didn’t remove any of with the file. Because removing too much of the diameter would have bee fatal I had to keep stopping, grease up both pieces and try to drive the race on, and because it needs to be a snug fit I had to give it a good go to get on each time. I think it was getting on for a five hour job in the end, certainly not what I had anticipated.

…still filing

The block-o-wood-and-mallet method

Crown race: fitted

Finally I managed to get it on, although I had maddeningly damaged some of the paintwork on the underside of the forks and along the tubes, despite my precautions.

Damaged paintwork

I went to bed slightly dreading the next task of fitting the two cups of the headset onto the frame.

If you’re an avid reader of this project, why wouldn’t you be, and you have a good memory, you will be able to cast your mind back to the post when I got my frame delivered and wondered how I was going to route the gear lever cables.

Musing about my gear cables

As you can read in that old post rather than having braze-ons (this means any piece fixed or welded to the frame for a purpose) to guide the cables, my frame just has little brackets on the downtube for mounting gear levers. After worrying about how I was going to drill holes in them for the cable to feed through I decided to go online for some help. I found out on cyclingforums.com that Shimano actually have a solution for this very problem- cable stops that fit onto the brackets on the downtube so that the jacketed cable can go from there up to the handlebars. They niftily call them Braze-on Down Tube Cable Stops with Barrel Adjusters, and here they are:

Braze-on Down Tube Cable Stops with Barrel Adjusters

Like a lot of things on this project, I hadn’t really thought about the fact I might need to get some specialist tools. I actually have a pretty good toolkit, so I found it a bit annoying at first that I would need to buy more, but actually they are pretty inexpensive on the whole, at least the ones I have found out about so far have been, so it’s not too bad. It does make it feel like just another thing slowing the whole project down though.


Here are my latest bits and pieces. The smaller of the two black hex section things is for removing a cassette from the rear wheel. This is used in conjunction with a chain whip, which is the long blue handled tool with a bit of a chain on the end. The chain whip wraps round the cassette and holds it still while you use the cassette remover tool to unscrew it from the hub of the wheel. This is the theory- I’m yet to use them.

The other of the two black similar looking tools is a bottom bracket tool which, self-explanatorily, is used to install and remove the bottom bracket- the part that fixes the chainset and pedal cranks to the frame.

Bottom Bracket and CassetteTools

Chain Whip

I also got a tube of grease, which is for general use on any moving parts, like the bottom bracket, headset, wheel hubs etc, and needs to be applied when constructing the bike.

Tube o lube

I’ve been going through my older posts, looking at what I was talking about at the beginning of this project, and noticed that I said the headset wasn’t something I was going to be able to get excited about.  Well it’s come to the stage where I need to start thinking about it, so I did a bit of research, and it turns out people do get pretty excited about them. My frame and stem/handlebar setup means I need the old style 1″ threaded version, rather than the more modern 1 1/8″ type.  The more I looked into it the more I cared about what I ended up getting.  I was surprised to see (although I suppose I shouldn’t have been) that prices range from about £12 up to £60, and probably beyond, I imagine. This bike was never intended to be either top of the range, or completely budget, although buying parts over a period of time is clearly a good way of spreading the cost.

I quite fancied the Stronglight A9, it looks good (I’m aware that sounds a little odd, but in comparison to others it has a nice retro look) and everywhere that sells it on te internet describes it as ‘popular’.  It costs more than I was hoping to spend though- around £30, so I looked for an alternative.  I found a make of headset called Tange, and saw in some forums that they are regarded as a good budget version of the more expensive brands like Shimano and Campagnolo.  There are several models in the range, so once I had looked into which one was the best I could get for the best price (not forgetting postage costs) I opted for the Tange Levine for £16.99 +p&p.

I started writing this post a while ago, but had no image to post with it, and in the meantime my headset has arrived. Here is the little beauty:

Tange Levine CDS, polished chrome

I read in a few places I may need to take my frame to a specialist to fit the headset. I’ve had a look at it and placed it on the frame to see how easy it will be to do it myself. I need to wait until I have completed the spraying of the bike (its final coat currently drying as I type) before I can properly have a go at fitting it, but I have to admit I am a bit skeptical. From my little experiment I think I may have to do a bit of grinding on the forks to get the crown race cone- see the diagram below- to fit snugly. I’m also concerned as it’s likely that the steer tube, the tube connected to the forks that goes through the head tube, will be the wrong length. Apparently this part is always trimmed to length when a brand new bike is built, and seeing as different headsets have different ‘stack heights’, (or ‘heights’ in layman’s terms…) it seems unlikely that mine will all be perfect in length. Let’s see.

Headset assembly instructions. Simple.

I know i said I was going to post a photo of my 8-speed cassette when it arrived in the post, but it wasn’t all that to look at.

It was very greasy and pretty gritty too when it arrived so I decided to take it apart and give it a clean, which also gave me a chance to have a good look at it and try to understand how it works a bit.  I’m not sure how much I learnt but I noticed there are channels and patterns on the side of the cogs which I think must help the chain shift between the gears.



And put back together

I also noticed that the piece that goes on the end seems to require a special tool to tighten it.  I’ve heard I’ll need one to fix the bottom bracket to the frame, and this one looks like it will be similar.  I think that may be one of the next things I need to look into.

Whoo!  Finally a day I had free when it didn’t rain!  I found myself some clear matt protector for the top coat on the frame, so set up a new spray booth to make the most of the dry weather.  Actually there had been a bit of a shower just before I set it up, hence the Heath Robinson umbrella precaution at the top.  Luckily it wasn’t needed, I think if it had rained I’d have had to stand there with a secondary umbrella underneath it.  I chose a more sheltered site this time, as I wanted to reduce the likelihood of gusts of wind that made the spraying tricky last time.

Spray Booth #2

Before I started spraying the main frame I had to repair the dink in the paint on the forks.  I rubbed down the area where the chip was to smooth it over, then applied a tiny spot of primer before respraying the ice cream colour.  I’d forgotten the problems I’d had with the spray cans the first time round, so I just about managed to cover the area before the can of paint finally gave up the ghost.  The spot is still a bit visible, which is really annoying, but it is on a fairly inconspicuous bit on the back of the forks, so I’m going to have to put up with it, and try to ignore it.

Respray as good as it’s going to get

I then started to apply the protector.  It was a bit tricky, with it being clear was hard to know where I’d sprayed, but I got a pretty good coverage, and got the second coat on within an hour.  So it’s had two coats so far, I’m going to have to wait till it’s completely dried, then make a decision as to whether to give it more coats.  I think I may well do- I’ve spent way too long making it look good to risk it all chipping off as soon as I start riding it.

Top coat drying in the dappled sunshine

Alright so I realise it’s been May for a while now, but the wettest April for years put the dampeners on finishing my spray job on the frame.  As did the fact I’ve needed to concentrate on finishing various other projects over recent weeks.  Evidence of this should emerge soon here.

I haven’t yet chosen the lacquer I am going to use, but I have been looking into various other components I will need, making sure I get the correct things and that they are compatible.  I have bought a new cassette from ebay, it’s only 8 speed, but has a range of 11- 28 (this is the number of teeth on the cogs, the smallest has 11, the largest has 28) which seems to be fairly good in comparison to others I’ve seen.

I have been using cyclingforums.com to ask questions and get advice. Lots of knowledgable users on there keen to help out people like me.

Sadly I am away from home at the moment and don’t have a photo of the cassette to post.  While I know it won’t make the prettiest looking photograph, it would have cheered this otherwise text heavy post, and half the reason for me keeping this record is for the photos.   But seeing as it’s been a while since I’ve posted I thought it important to keep the momentum going.

Just for the sake of it- here’s a photo of my spray booth that I didn’t post before.

Ma booth

I’m hoping to be able to get back on the build when I get home, fingers crossed.

Just a very quick post this one, I thought I should show the evidence of the chipped paint on my forks.  I haven’t researched it yet but I am assured by Little Gemm that there is some matt lacquer out there somewhere, so things are looking up again.

Forks dink

You can see that the paint has come off right down to the metal.  And it only fell from leaning up against a box onto my clothes-hanger-and-string hook.  I’m a bit concerned about getting this smooth enough to respray it.

I don’t think this is going to turn into a general cycling blog- there’s enough of those out there, but I saw two articles this week that I think are worth a mention.  The first is this article about the incredibly ignorant and narrow minded views of the boss of Addison Lee, the minicab company, talking about cyclists.

The other is a far more upbeat story to finish on, about Tommy Goodwin who rode 75,065 miles in one year.  This isn’t just an incredible feat, but he managed it in 1939/40 without the advantage of modern cycling technology, or even decent roads to cycle on.

Actually, one more link courtesy of Little Gemm the granny square queen, who has offered to make something along these lines for me when I’ve built the bike.

What do you reckon?!