Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Where's this all headed?

So the big ride 2007 was great and on the ride I get the taste for doing bigger and better rides. On the drive home to Wollongong I start to think about my old bike up on the shed covered in dust and rust and get sentimental about it. Somewhere between Raymond Terrace and the F3 I have this really great idea to get it back into service. Make it my training bike, do some long rides.

I'm thinking at this point of just stripping it down, giving it a clean, a lube and put it back together again. A good plan and a nice project to while away some hours during the semester break from uni.

The project starts, stripping it is easy everything comes away nice and easy and the cleansing commences. While polishing rust off the chrome (with diet cola and aluminium foil) the mind is allowed to wander and my plans for the bike begin to grow. Having been looking at websites like Rivendell, Vanilla Bicycles, Pereira Cycles and other assorted bike porn like Peter White's website, I'm beginning to think about custom frames and fancy Japanese and German parts and begin to mentally improve the aesthetic of the bike with some bright lights, leather saddle and hammered fenders. I happen across some frame building resources, like Little Fish Bicycles and the frame builders forum and decide that I really should try my hand at customising the frame - just a few H2O bosses and cable guides.

Not ever having brazed before I commence a steep learning curve. There's heaps of material on the web but brazing is a tactile skill and its not easy to learn from a book, I complicated things a bit by choosing to use a Bernzomatic MAPP gas torch which was cheaper and easier to get a hold of than a full oxyacetylene rig. There has been plenty of discussion around MAPP gas for frame building on the various frame builders lists which was ultimately helpful but many builders questioned its heat generating properties. Not knowing any better, my first few attempts failed because thinking MAPP was colder I would overheat the metal and boil off the flux cooking the joints and leaving me with a black lumpy mess. I persevered and eventually I get some successful joints. The more I practise the better they get.

The next challenge was finding an accessible source of brazeons. If your in Europe or the States its pretty straightforward, but the closest I could find was in Melbourne at St Kilda Cycles. Still I was going to end up paying more for postage than for the bits themselves and I was impatient to get welding. Ironically after giving up on the web and resorting to the phone book, I found a source of brazeons at Hillbrick Racing in Minto which is literally 10 minutes from where I work, so $20 later we're cooking with MAPP gas. I probably should have spent more time learning and practising, but the end results not too bad and I now make a solid braze with good penetration and a nice shoreline.

Tonight, after a couple of weeks of filing and sanding I laid on the primer (6 coats), so that the Apollo now looks like a lemon. The basic frame now has two rack mounts on the seat stays, two cable guides on the top tube and 3 sets of water bottle bosses. The new bits are visible in the photo and look a lot better with primer on them than I though they would!

I'm planning to finish it off in a burgundy red, similar to its original colour and have renamed it the "APOLLOgy" in deference to my brazing skills and by way of atonement to the original builders of the frame.

I have started a list of stuff I want for the bike, but I must save my pennies for a while so I'll be reassembling with most of the original parts where serviceable and slowly build it up from there. The big priorities for new stuff are a Brooks B17 Special saddle and a Schmidt dynamo lighting system so I can ride comfortably in the dark.

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