Monday, October 26, 2009

Singer Ready to Roll

On a day that never got light I reassembled the Singer. Because of the relentless rain I was not able to take it out to an uncluttered background for photos.
If I get a chance I'll take a better shot.

The mid section.

The control room

This is your stem on Simichrome.

The bike was finally all together. I turned the cranks to check the gears. The vintage Sedisport chain ran through the derailleur pulleys. A faint tick caught my ear. When its rhythm became clear I knew the bike was tossing me a final challenge. After careful scrutiny I found the missing roller on one pin of the chain.

I wasn't about to junk a Sedisport chain in good condition. I really miss those chains and the drive trains that could use them. The Sedisport was the greatest cheap chain ever made, and by that I mean it was one of the best in any category. It could shift narrow-spacing or conventionally spaced freewheels smoothly and it never seemed to wear out. It felt like a worn chain when you first poured its sinuous length out of the plain paper package it came in.

Other chains of the era, the Regina Oro for instance, started out very stiff laterally. Their shifting speed came from that tendency for several links to move laterally together when the derailleur pushed or guided them. If you held one up on its side, it would stick out and droop only slightly. The Sedisport looked and felt floppy. But its flared inner plates (as opposed to Shimano's flared outer plates on the Uniglide chain) and beveled outer plates would easily catch the next cog when the snaky chain was pushed over. Lengthwise, it retained its proper pitch for many miles.

Given a Sedisport in workable condition, I wanted to repair the link. But we expended our stash of Sedisport links long ago. We installed so many, back in the day, that I was able to assemble more than one complete chain for my own use from the links removed for sizing new chains to customer bikes. I knew I had some spare links at home. I just wanted to get this job done so the owner can enjoy some of the beautiful weather that lay in the forecast.

I poured out our bucket of extra chain links, hoping an overlooked Sedisport link pair might lie beneath all the SRAM and Shimano dreck. With ever narrower chains needing ever more perfect riveting, chain repairs require more than just a chain tool and a chunk of leftover chain. We can resection them using the new tool-free connecting links. Those are very handy. In fact, just before Sachs-Sedis disappeared into the maw of SRAM, the last of their chains came in with connecting links. The problem now is that links and chains have to be compatible and don't work with chains of older generations.

No archaeological treasures lay beneath the newer pieces. But then I had a thought. Our chain whips are old. Sure enough, the chains on them were Sedisport. I swiped a link pair from one of them and used it to fix the Singer's chain.

I went crazier than usual on this overhaul because of the unique value of the bike. I would ordinarily take off chain rings and grease chainring bolts in an overhaul, but I would not polish chain rings and crank arms. The TA also uses a six-bolt circle to attach the big ring to the crank arm and a five-bolt circle to attach the other two rings to each other and the big ring. Nothing on the chain rings points obviously to the correct orientation of these to each other to allow the easiest possible tool access to all bolt heads. Also, the chain rings are held apart by ten spacers that have to be kept in place while long bolt assemblies are fitted.

The bottom of the head tube did show some wear from its unfortunate experience with the Edco headset. The Edco was not really well designed. If a better French thread headset were to come along I would suggest that the owner replace the remaining Edco portion. The top cone in the head tube has the same short skirt as the lower cup had. It fits snugly, but not very tightly. It only survived because the top end has a lot less leverage exerted against it.

The bottom headset assembly I installed is okay, given what I had to work with. I beefed up the interface with a bedding compound even though the longer skirt did reach a less deformed area of the tube. The head tube itself is not very thick. You make a bike light by using lighter materials or by using less of a heavier one. Each approach can have its pitfalls.

The Mafac brakes took a quick, high shine with just a little polish. Too bad they're the same crap they always were. But what the hell. Bernard Thevenet won the 1975 Tour de France on a Peugeot with those brakes. Gold anodized no less. Perhaps his reluctance to make them squeal in their well-known fashion contributed to his blistering speed up and down the mountain stages. Especially down.

The 700x28 Panaracer Paselas are such a plump 28 that I had to remove the quick release skewer from the rear hub to coax the axle around the end of the dropout. The chainstay bridge is set a bit far behind the bottom bracket. A 700x25 or a slimmer 28 would slide in at the limit. Once the Pasela is in place it has plenty of clearance all around.

I hope the owner likes it, after all this. I'd been a bit vague in the estimate, just telling her it would easily exceed $300. It did. And it stopped short of the next hundred, but barely.

The value of a bike far exceeds its purchase price if the bike was decent to start with. A really cool custom or semi-custom bike like this has some collector value as well as usability value. But any well-designed frame can be fitted with many configurations of parts to meet changing needs through the years. If a rider learns mechanical skills, acquires tools and amasses parts, the cost of all this goes down dramatically. Even if the rider needs to buy some or all of the skilled labor, the result could be better than a new bike bought for the same amount of money.


getinlost said...

Well done. Your attention to detail and care will I'm sure be appreciated.

cafiend said...

Thank you! I worry when I get caught up in these things that I will lose sight of the bigger picture and obsess on my own vision of success. It is someone else's bike, after all. What seems worth it to me might cease to seem worth it to the owner. I think she'll like it, though.

Rantwick said...

Sweet. Practical work that respected the original, without going too insane. That thing looks great.

Steve A said...

I hope she likes it...

kfg said...

Damn but that's pretty.