Steve Maas, Long Beach, California, USA
As I was riding through a Long Beach residential neighborhood one day, I noticed an incomplete, small-frame bike set out beside the street in a pile of trash. My bicycle radar locked onto the words Dura Ace on some of the components. I pulled a quick U-turn, looked at the bike, found the owner, and asked if he intended to discard it. Yes, he did, and told me to take it if I wanted it. He also scrounged around in his garage a few minutes and found the wheels, and gave them to me as well. Mavic MA40 rims and Shimano 600 hubs, hardly worn. How nice!
I called my wife, who met me with the car and took the thing home. I continued on my ride.
The frame was clearly far too small for me, 46 cm, one of the smallest frames with ordinary, 700C wheels I've ever seen. Still, it was beautifully made, although significantly deteriorated from sitting in a garage for perhaps fifteen years. It seemed like a nice substrate for some painting experiments I had planned. I decided, as I tooled across Long Beach, that I'd restore the thing first and decide what to do with it later. Then, a dozen miles or so later, I saw my friend Sarah in her BMW Mini. I yelled, she stopped, and immediately I got an idea.
Sarah, you must understand, is the perfect person for miniature machines of transportation. She is something well below 5 feet tall. So, it occurred to me that she might want the bike after I finished it. I offered it to her, and she accepted enthusiastically. I did warn her that it might be some time before it would be ready.
As usual, I started by photographing the bike extensively with a digital camera. This has two purposes: first, to document the bike, and second for this page. Here's what it looked like. (Click on a thumbnail to see a larger version; use the back button of your browser to return to this page.) The frame, as shown in these pictures, has been cleaned somewhat; as I received it, it was covered by a thick layer of garage-grunge.
Once I stripped the paint, I could see that this was an especially nicely made frame. Very well finished off--better than a lot of Colnagos I have seen, perfectly aligned and neatly brazed. The finish of the parts, like the seat lug and brake bridge, are first rate. The dropouts and the right chainstay were chromed, although the chainstay chrome was too rusted to be restored.
I used this frame as an opportunity to try using a water-thinable epoxy paint, which has a reputation for being extremely tough. It is made by System Three, but is available from a number of sources. Large quantities are available in primary colors, but many organizations mix it to provide a wider range of colors. I got mine from Nelson Hobby, which also provides considerable information for using it.
The manufacturer makes the point that the paint must be thinned ~30% for spraying. Getting the thinning, air pressure, and spray density right was tricky; you need to thin it quite a bit (at least with my sprayer) and spray fairly heavily to get a smooth coat, but then drips can form easily. I started with a primer coat, which I sanded smooth, being careful not to go through the paint and down to the metal. I found that the paint did not adhere to the chrome of the fork well, as have some paints I've used. I had to strip the fork, sand the chrome heavily with emery paper, then repaint.
In the end, I didn't try to get the blue coat glossy. I sanded it smooth and used clear coat to get the gloss. Sanding was first with 320 grit, then 1500, and finally with automotive polishing compound. It did create a smooth, although not glossy, surface.
It's obvious that this is very tough paint. I've already whacked the frame a couple times without chipping it. I'm impressed.
I didn't try to reproduce the frame artwork accurately. Instead, I chose a font that was similar to the original and made simple logos for the headtube and downtube. That's really enough, in my view, for such a small frame; lots of graphics would detract from its appearance. For a fairly ordinary piece of manufactured hardware, I don't feel any great responsibility to try to keep it original. And, frankly, I think that the original artwork, with its garish yellow stripes, is pretty ugly.
I used an older Epson printer, the C60, to do the graphics. I found that the Epson inks simply don't adhere well to the decal material. The printer lays on the ink heavily, even if you set it for light printing, and the ink tends to run irregularly along the edges. Perhaps some experimentation with colors and density might help, but the inks are, fundamentally, not very dense to begin with, and only look really good on a white background. My ancient HP printer did better, but the resolution just wasn't good enough for many purposes. I don't know if the HP inks are fundamentally better, or some other variable is responsible for the superior results.
Most of the bike's components came from from my parts stash; I used only the rear derailleur, crank, bottom bracket, brake levers, headset, stem, and bars from the original frame. I cleaned and reused the original stem. Someone had replaced its wedge with one that didn't fit, so I had to make a new wedge and machine the stem to fit. The levers had some corroding chrome accents. I ground the chrome area off with a Dremel tool, and repainted the areas with black enamel. I think they look nice now.
I used a set of Shimano two-sided pedals. These came on my Masi but were really not appropriate for it. I had to repaint the black frames and derust them a bit, finally replating the derusted areas with nickel. The crank was in pretty good shape; just a little pitting, which came off with polish. I put a set of early 90s Shimano 600 brake calipers on it, and Shimano 600 indexed shifters and front derailleur. The freewheel is a Shimano HG 6-speed SIS unit, and works perfectly with the shifters. The parts are a bit mixed in terms of the era they represent, but they still look OK to me.
The handlebar wasn't bad, once cleaned; the bar tape had protected it somewhat. I used white bar tape, which, along with white cable casing, picks up the accents. I wish I had a white seat to put on the bike, but instead I used a nice, black, leather-covered Vetta. The seat is specifically proportioned for women riders.
I didn't want to use the wheels as I received them. I had to unlace them to derust the rim ferrules, so I rebuilt them with a set of Specialized cartridge-bearing hubs that I've had for some time. The hubs are in nice shape and look good. Derusting the ferrules took some time. I decided to sand them and nickel plate. This should keep them from rusting at least a little while. But, with 36 holes, it's a tedious task.
Putting it all back together wasn't very difficult. This is one of only a few bikes with indexed shifting I've built, but getting it all working is easy; it's just necessary to use Shimano SIS components, and all should be well. Almost all Shimano parts work together easily. You can even mix road and mountain bike components in many cases.
I think it all looks pretty nice.