Sunday, June 29, 2008

The 39 Steps - Building the Master

I've done this to a limited degree a few times, but this time I thought I'd do a complete step-by-step build log - especially as I'm inspired by this stunning frame. I'm sure this stuff doesn't interest everybody, but I know it will keep some of you happy for a wee while! Building up a fine Italian steel frame from scratch is one of the jobs I most enjoy, so thanks to Tom for the work...

The famed Italian builder Ernesto Colnago made frames for many of the greatest riders and champions the world of cycling has ever seen. This particular frame is a modern take on his iconic deep red bikes famed for being ridden by the old Soviet Teams of the 70s, and also by 1982 World Champion Guiseppe Saronni.

Saronni wins the 1982 Worlds at Goodwood, England

I'd seen that Colnago were putting out this "replica" frame earlier this year, but it hadn't really occurred to me I'd get a chance to build one, so I was delighted when I pulled the mystery frame out of the box!

Tom has selected Campagnolo Record components, as well as some superb ITM Sword semi-integrated stem and bars and a Colnago carbon seat post and Fizik Arione full carbon saddle. While not exactly a traditional build for a steel frame 80s/90s style bike, I think it's a very cool parts selection. Built up with Tom's training wheels it comes in at just a hair over 8 kilos - not bad at all for a steel road bike!

Building a nice bike from the frame up isn't just a matter of bolting on the bits - it requires a fair bit of prep to ensure that when I do bolt on the bits all the threads are nice and clean. This means the interface between parts and frame is optimum and assists in a clean assembly, but also means that the parts are aligned correctly and are easier to remove for maintenance later on...

Before I did anything, I gave it a quick coat of Pedro's Bike Lust to protect the finish as I move around it with greasy hands. I filed and sanded the seattube to prevent any nasty burrs from catching the carbon post and creating a stress-riser. I then used some Tacx Dynamic Compound and installed the Colnago carbon seatpost and loosely fitted the saddle.

Then I tapped the threads on the bottle cage mounts.

And the gear bosses.

And the drop-out adjusters.

Then the derailleur hanger.

Next it was time to chase the threads of the Italian threaded bottom bracket shell.

And face the b/b shell to ensure the faces are precisely parallel for the Ultra-Torque bottom bracket cups.

Shiny and faced...

Now for the headtube. It's also vital that the headtube be parallel so that the headset doesn't bind. This makes the steering more exact, as well as reducing stress on the bearings and prolonging the life of the headset itself.

I cleaned off all the cutting oil, shavings and dust from the frame, then added another coat of Bike Lust to keep protecting it as I went...

Now, after dabbing some Campag grease into all the available threads and orifices, I started fitting the frame extras. First the downtube cable adjusters.

Then the titanium bottle cage bolts.

The dropout adjusting screws.

The bottom bracket cable guide (self-tapper!).

Now comes the fun stuff! I get to fit beautiful Campagnolo Record parts...I whacked some grease in the threads and installed the UT b/b cups to torque.

I pressed in the Record headset cups - don't worry, I straightened up that top one before I wound my VAR press in!

I fitted the crown race.

I then installed the complete headset and the maximum amount of spacers I might need, factored in the stem clamp dimensions then determined how much of the steerer I needed to cut off. I scribed a line in the steerer to give me a visual aid for cutting.

Next I used my Park Tools steerer cutting guide to give a precise cut. The hacksaw needs replacing, as it isn't Park blue.

I filed the steerer to make sure there were no rough burrs and that the top was as square as possible. After that I drove in the star nut, using my favourite knockrometer.

Next it's the stem. As you can probably see, there are more spacers than aesthetics require but, as I am known to say, you can always cut something down, but you can't cut it back up...We'll lop some length off it once Tom has determined his fit.

I fitted the wheels into the frame, then it was the turn of the semi-integrated ITM Sword handlebars.

I preloaded the headset bearings, aligned the stem with the front wheel, then tightened the stem's steerer clamp.

The stunning Record UT cranks went on next...

Then I set the front derailleur at the right height and set the limit screws as well as I could at this point.

It was the turn of the sexy Record rear mech next, again setting the limits roughly...

Then I sorted out the chain length, shortened it appropriately and joined it using my very cool but soon to be obsolescent (with the recently announced advent of 11 speed...) Campag chain tool.

I fitted the Team CSC Edition Speedplay pedals.

I fitted the brake calipers, front and rear.

Next came the delightfully frustrating and time-consuming task of feeding both brake and gear cable housings through the 'bars. The roughness of the carbon inside the 'bars made simply pushing them through nearly impossible, so I had to use all my Jedi powers to manage it without garking up the housings terribly. And without blowing a gasket! Sussing out the respective lengths of the housings can also be onerous, but over time you start to work out how to assess them correctly without them even having to be fully connected.

Now the cables are all correctly installed, they have been trimmed and capped, and the Ergolevers have been positioned and tightened.

Then I double-check the derailleur limit screws are correctly set, and that the chain won't jump into the spokes, into the seatstay, onto the outside of the cranks or onto the bottom bracket shell.

I then adjusted and indexed the gears properly, doing my best to "pre-stretch" the cables - actually, that should be compress the housings and ferrules, as cable stretch is actually a misnomer...

I then took the bike down out of the stand and aligned and tightened up the saddle. Lastly, I taped the handlebars. Thanks to Capital Cycles for the red Colnago tape!

And here it is in all it's glory. The seat and 'bars will come down once those dimensions are worked out...

Well there you go. I hope some of you managed to read the whole thing! :D A job like this is immensely satisfying, as you get to create a performance machine out of a bunch of boxes of random parts. A build like this usually takes anywhere from 3 to 5 hours (not including taking photos!), depending on how long the frame prep takes and what components are fitted, so I usually set aside a complete working day to account for any unforeseen events.

I hope you enjoyed reading about it as much as I enjoyed building it.

Cheers, Oli


sifter said...

that looked like a lot of fun bro! Thanks for sharing :)

Oli said...

Haha! It was fun - cheers, bro! Thanks for fooling me into thinking someone reads this crap... :D

benny said...

We don't read it, just look at the pictures. Shame about all that carbon stuff on it. A nice polished quill stem and Campag seat post would have set it off. Matching it with a 7 speed Super Record group on it. Ohh the memories..

brettok said...

That thing is sweeeet! I think the new components do it justice, and don't take away from the aesthetic at all...

Delmaine Cycling Team said...

Great work Oli, really cool old school bike with touches of 2008 chucked in to make one sweet ride

Allen O'Leary said...

Thanks for the pics, and I even read it all too, nice build Oli. The only thing I don't like the look of is the bars, but in the end it's the ride that counts, and this looks like it would ride sweet.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant. That was very cool to read about. I'm sorting out my garage this weekend to get my bike workshop started!!

Do you ever come to Auckland and give lessons?

Anonymous said...

Stumbled across your site and its now in my favourites - my first ever bike rebuild is a 59cm Colnago Tecnos and the 39 Steps just became my rough guide before making a start this week ;-)

Oli said...

Cheers, Kerry! Glad you enjoyed it, and glad to be some help...I'm starting Mk II today coincidentally.

Unknown said...

Nice build there, by the way do you know of a painter I could contact for getting a 1999 colnago master frame er sprayed ?

D-Watkins said...

This is epic. Pitty you don't live in the UK. Would get my Master Olympic to you for the same amazing service!