Retro Rescue: Shimano PD-A550 pedals

After a bit of a hiatus, for no good reason here’s another pedal refurb!

I picked up a box of tired pedals, that have now sat for a while in my basement, but a drizzly Sunday calls for greasy hands.

First ones on the refurb bench are a pair of PD-A550s, mid 90s clip pedals from Shimano. They should have some clips and straps, but these have been broken and the straps lost. No luck yet finding replacement clips and straps.

Most pedals seem to require special tools to open for a service, but these can be opened with just a spanner.

A neat design, the clip can be adjusted forward and backwards for shoe size.

So let’s get this open! All it takes is a 17mm spanner.

All pedals have small bearings on either side so be careful not to lose them. If there’s still some grease they’ll stay where they are, otherwise they can fall out. If they do they like to hide under things and go farther than you’d imagine!

Here we can see they’re happy where they are, though there’s not much grease down there. All clean, no corrosion.

The races look good, no scoring from being over tightened or from dirty, dry bearings.

Let’s get the bearings out, clean them, remove any grit and regrease them. The grease here looks good, but is probably from the mid 90s.

On closer inspection, the build quality and finish of these pedals isn’t quite up to what we’ve come to expect from Shimano. You can see some artefacts from the casting which haven’t been removed.

There’s a few of these on various parts, including the inner bearing race. You’d normally expect this to be very smooth.

Back to the overhaul, I always clean bearings with some kitchen paper, pretty straightforward. A spot of WD40 helps dissolve bits of grime that can’t be otherwise easily removed. Just make sure to clean it off, or it will contaminate the grease.

Races and spindle nice and clean, time to rebuild!

All in all this took maybe 15 minutes, so definitely worthwhile doing to get the bike ready for the new season. Just make sure not to over-tighten when reinstalling. It’s worth a little patience to find the sweet spot, no wobbling spindle, no crunching bearings. You can feel when it’s just right.

Now I wonder if that reflector is supposed to be bent back like that, or whether it should be perfectly perpendicular to the pedal? Any ideas? Most photos of these pedals don’t show the front reflectors but I think they are original as one NOS ad I saw seemed to have them.

Another job done! Shall I pop these on my mid 90s Colnago?

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Retro Rescue: Scott RC-703 SPD road pedals 

These came on the Colnago Tecnos I bought recently, but I’m pretty sure they weren’t original spec.

American pedals on an otherwise fully Italian road bike doesn’t seem right.

They’re early SPD, so different the modern version of the system and I have no shoes that work with them.

So I have no use for them at all, but can’t leave them dirty and unserviced, right?

Used to seeing daddy fixing stuff, this time my daughter wanted to help out.

Then a bit of WD40 always seems to help…

Transformed! Actually, on camera they look kind of the same…

Oh well, at least we did something “useful” on a rainy Sunday, and hopefully inspired my little one to repair stuff in future 😁

Singapore – wheels, tigers and laksa

In town for work and the F1GP this weekend I caught up with friends and visited a funky bicycle-themed coffee shop in the Singapore heartlands called Wheeler’s Yard

Wooden handlebars anyone? A first for me. 


This place reminded me of Ah Joo, a long-time Singapore vintage road bike collector. I’d love to see his collection one day!

I also had my favourite laksa


And a couple of new Tigers (Black and White!)


And check out the view I had of the slippery start line F1 crash that took out both Ferraris (including Vettel on pole) and a Red Bull car. Incredible! Thankfully no-one hurt…

India does love the bicycle 

I almost bought this Hurricane indian made  gents town bicycle, with rod pull brakes, but… I just don’t have the space and common sense got the better of me.

Still, I did get some “Cycle” brand matches and sandalwood incense sticks recently in Mumbai. They smell so strong!

Not sure of the connection to bicycles though… 😂

Retro Rescue: Shimano Dura Ace PD-7401 pedals 

I recently picked up these pedals for my mid 90s Colnago, so I could use my regular riding shoes and cleats, without changing over the pedals from my regular bike (Lemond Chambery 2007) each time.

Those that came with the Colnago were made by Scott and weren’t compatible with my cleats. Also I suspect not original spec. I can’t imagine Colnago using Scott pedals when everything else on the bike was Campagnolo.

From the seller’s photos, I assumed these were regular, well used, Shimano SPD pedals.

Of course, as soon as I opened the box, it was apparent they were something else, and some googling showed they were mid 90s, top of the line, Dura Ace, Look-compatible pedals.

It seems this was one of the earliest quick release clipless Shimano road pedals, pre-dating road SPD, using technology developed by French company Look, based on ski bindings.

Shimano took inspiration from Look’s pedal design, and presumably then improved on it for SPD. Once I find some compatible cleats, I would be interested to test how they compare.

The pedals were pretty scruffy when I got them, so the first thing was a quick clean. A bit of degreasing as well to get rid of the oily spots, trying not to get any WD-40 in the pedal spindle.

It’s best not to dissolve the grease that’s already in there. Particularly as the pedal spindle can only be removed with a special tool, which I don’t have.

The pedal body has a small panel which can be removed with two torx T10 bolts.

Inside is simply a steel axle around which the cleat lock mechanism sits held in tension by and large special shaped spring, connected to the tension adjustment bolt accessible from the underside of the pedal.

This looked clean enough that no maintenance was really required. There is a very small gap between the cleat lock mechanism and the pedal body, through which small bits of road dirt and water could get in. That said, the outside of these pedals suggests they had a hard life, yet the inside is remarkably clean, so it works well enough.

I would like to degrease and regrease the spindle, though without that tool for the octagonal lock nut, it’s not really possible to do so. It turns freely enough, maybe not as fast as I would like, but it’ll do for now.

Overall this is a neat, simple and modern design and it seems things haven’t changed much, as modern pedals are essentially identical.

Anyone know what cleats will work with these?? I’m keen to try them out.

Velobrico Workshop: 1999 Colnago Tecnos Soft Paint

After looking for a number of years, an opportunity presented itself and… I just bought my first Italian bike!

Here’s the photos from the advert, mostly looking complete and in sound condition. 

The Tecnos is a steel framed road bike, made by Colnago in the second half of the 1990s and I understand to be the lightest steel frame they ever built. The tubing is made by Columbus, with a special alloy, made only for this bike. 

I presume this was one of the last frames to be made in Italy before work was outsourced to the far east. The frame is painted in Colnago’s Art Decor style, a somewhat psychedelic, vivid paint scheme, done entirely by hand. It’s really something special. 

On getting it home, for once I managed to contain my excitement and took some close-up photos before I did anything to it, though I was itching to get to work!

Non-original saddle. 

The bell really adds to the look, and the reflective tape on the head tube. 

A little cable housing rub on the head tube. 

Damaged chrome on one fork leg, not good.

Rims are sound and true, no cracks. 

Really nice lug work. 

Lovely brakes. 

The other fork is fine. 

Some pretty spectacular paintwork. You either love it or you hate it!

The paint was a surprise. I expected it to be glossy, but it’s actually a matt, soft, slightly tacky finish. Quite unusual and I have never seen this before. 

Chain rings are good, no shark teeth. 

Quick release put in the wrong way round. 


Cleats that don’t work with my cycling shoes. 

I spent the rest of the day washing it, removing stickers, the bell, the saddle bag, the lock, and various bits of sticky tape. 


…and servicing the gritty and grimy rear derailleur, cleaning the chain, adjusting the saddle, brakes, installing some new Michelin Classic tires and switching out the pedals to Ultegra SPDs for a test ride. 


Some blue grease, to go with the blue frame 😁. 

As there’s still some more to do, I’ll keep the photos for another day, but I took it for a shakedown ride on Sunday and it greatly exceeded expectations. 

My overwhelming first impression was how smooth it is. Very little road vibration, smooth shifting, everything is tight. At speed it just flies with very little effort. Gearing ratios are little odd, and didn’t give us much range as I would’ve expected for a triple chainring, though climbing was no problem. Steering is very precise, without being twitchy and nervous. I had never ridden Campagnolo before, so the shifting took a little getting used to, but it has a good, positive, clicky feel.

It’s amazing how well this 18 year old bike rides, a real cracker. 

https://www.strava.com/activities/1074740028/shareable_images/map_based?hl=en-US&v=1499594298

Watch this space for updates and photos of the finished project!

BMC Fourstroke FS04 (update 3)

You may have been wondering what happened to the BMC mountain bike restoration project I started a while back.

Like many projects it got to the “nearly finished” stage and sat there for a good six months causing a nuisance to the family. 

Good news that it’s now moved on to the “basically finished” stage…

It was cleaner, but is now dusty from riding. So apologies for the photos, but it’s great that it’s rideable!


On an earlier test ride, I noticed the left pedal crank creaked on the downstroke, which it didn’t on my first test. This suggested a worsening issue, so I inspected further.

Anything other than a smooth bottom bracket/crank is bad news. A lot of torque goes through there, plenty to cause damage pretty quickly if not addressed. 

I found an allen key large enough to remove the pedal cranks, and discovered a Shimano Octalink bottom bracket. This is the first Octalink system I have owned, with all my older bikes having square taper BBs. 

I also found the non-drive side (left) mating splines to be slightly chewed at the end. Apparently this is common with Octalink systems, and happens when the crank arm isn’t perfectly aligned, prior to screwing the crank arm bolt back on. So, as I had never removed it, this damage was done by the previous owner, though it seems odd it didn’t creak on the first test ride. 

In short, the crank arm is toast and needs replacing. The BB itself is in good condition and runs smoothly, so is perfectly reusable, but as Octalink is no longer common, finding replacement crank arms was an issue. Basically I could only find a new Alivio set which would be fine, but for the fact it wouldn’t add to the overall look of the bike. 

After a little cogitation, it dawned on me an alternative might be right under my nose…

Some time ago I rescued a binned Steppenwolf hardtail MTB frame with some components still attached, including XT cranks and a more modern external bearing BB. Why not see if it’s the same width as the octalink BB?

Lo and behold it was, so I would theoretically be able to replace a Deore LX crankset and Octalink BB with an XT crankset and modern external BB, at no cost. Not bad at all and 100% eco-friendly.

One problem. Don’t have the right tools! 

As systems evolved, so the tools needed to work on them change. Though this a consequence of welcome technological innovation, it poses something of a challenge for the home mechanic.

A regular crank extractor tool doesn’t work with an Octalink BB. To remove a BB on a vintage bike you need a hook spanner, an Octalink BB needs a BB removal nut thingy (like for a cassette but bigger), and an external BB uses another type of large spanner with slotted splines. Consequently, you often need different tools to work on various bikes. 

The bike shops near me aren’t really set up for the home mechanic, so buying tools is interesting and expensive. Apparently, in Switzerland, folks like to get other people’s hands grimy instead of their own (which probably makes sense).

As I quite enjoy grimy hands and torn knuckles I set about looking for tools and stumbled across a sale on Chain Reaction for an 18 piece toolset, for 50CHF delivered, including some tools I had already, everything I needed for this job plus a couple of extras. Pretty good deal, and arrived within a week. 

Once the package hit the doormat, like a child on Christmas morning I ripped it open and within 20mins had replaced and upgraded BB and crankset and chainrings to higher spec parts. Great!

The toolset is made by X-Tools, and though I was hesitant about quality given the price, I am quite pleased. 

The “new” drive train all works perfectly and it’s always most satisfying to complete an long term unfinished job.


So the moral of the story is, if you can salvage used parts, do so. You never know when you might need them and they’ve often got lots of life left.

Secondly, always invest in (quality) tools. Even if technology changes, and you only use them a few times, they pay for themselves quicker than you think.

Also, that which is new today will be vintage tomorrow, so there will always be more bikes to work on!