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! 

Oh yeah

Finally the wait is over. I bought my first Italian bike. 

And what a bike! 

Can’t wait to pick it up…

Carnival!

I recently took the family to Basel carnival. 

It’s an annual festival and local public holiday in Basel, Switzerland. 

Great fun and complete madness as the city dedicates itself to making noise, mischief and silliness for three days. It’s great to see the typically reserved Swiss let it all loose.

There are parades with “waggis” (people in fancy dress wearing clownish masks) throwing sweets to children, flowers to ladies and other random stuff to anyone they fancy (alcohol, bananas, potatoes…) as they travel through the city on floats, usually with some political theme (Brexit, Trump and Erdogan predictably popular lampooning targets this year), followed by drummers and flautists.

But mostly there’s confetti. Bags and bags and bags of confetti. Kids chase after random strangers, stuffing it in clothes, down jumpers and in hair. It fills the streets like snow. 

It’s great fun and I expect to find bits of confetti in my pockets for some time yet!

Velobrico Tinkering: Dynamo lights

Though I have absolutely no experience with dynamos, nor any real idea how they work, last Sunday I decided to tackle the non-functioning rear light from the Tigra ladies’ bike.

This bike has a dynamo installed, even though it is not such an old machine. I was recently told that in Germany it is illegal to ride a bike with battery powered lights. I’m not sure if that is true, (German cycling laws here…) as it does sound pretty nonsensical, though I’m pretty certain you are allowed to ride in Switzerland with whatever lights you want.

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Once I figured out how to engage the dynamo so it would work from tyre rotation (this seriously took me a few days of prodding and pulling to figure out), the front light functioned fine but the rear refused to shine.

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First, I removed the plastic housing and checked the bulb. Filament looked ok. Checked continuity with the multi-meter, all good. Screwed it back in. Crossed my fingers. Nothing.

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Then I had a look at the wiring. The dynamo has two wires coming out of it, one for the front light, another for the rear. Not sure how this can make a complete circuit, but I guess that’s not necessary for DC power. The bulb socket seems to be connected to the mudguard itself, so presumably being grounded is sufficient for a DC circuit. My lack of electrical knowledge is by now apparent.

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The wire hanging out of the bottom of the dynamo seemed loosely connected, but I noticed a spring-loaded connector in the bottom which holds it in place just fine. The wires head into the rear mudguard, then follow a crimp in the side until exiting through a hole in the rear, into the light fitting. This wire is then connected to another metal clip, basically wedged into a bent flap, held in place only by the “springy-ness” of the metal itself…

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The wire going into the rear light fitting looked a bit corroded, so I took it out, sprayed some white vinegar on it (helpful for oxidation), dried it, rubbed it with some steel wool. The copper colour shone nicely, so I “re-twizzled” the strands, rubbed the metal clip with the steel wool and reinserted the wire. Crossed my fingers. Tested it it again. Nothing.

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Then I removed the bulb and filed a tiny bit off the bottom to ensure good contact. No joy.

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I now removed the wires from the dynamo and did the vinegar, steel wool and “twizzling”. Crossed fingers. Tested again. Nothing.

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Not to be deterred, I removed the bulb again, and found bits of spider eggs or some other insect leftovers. Blew those out. Another round of vinegar, steel wool, scraped a bit with a screwdriver, dried it, sprayed a bit of WD40 on it.

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While I was at it, I sprayed a bit of WD40 on the metal clip and the wires at the dynamo. A bit of WD40 often works wonders.

Screwed the bulb back in. Crossed my fingers. And it worked!

A well earned cup of tea followed. If only every Sunday were so productive!

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Velobrico Workshop: Tigra ladies’ bike

Another stray joined the workshop recently. 

Actually, as you can tell from the photos, this was a while back, when there was still sunshine and no snow!

Tigra is a historic Swiss manufacturer (I understand they disappeared in 2001, bought by Villger, another Swiss brand), which adds another local bicycle to my collection.

This one was left by the bins with flat tires, lots of cobwebs and wrongly adjusted this and that. Nothing major missing though (like saddle, wheels, pedals, handlebars etc.), so all it needs is a little TLC.

I love the frame colour. It’s a really electric blue-green aquamarine which almost looks cromovelato. Really nice. The pictures here don’t do it justice.

The lugged steel mixte frame has the usual mistreatment scratches, but from being badly stored rather than well ridden. The “Tigra” decal from the down tube has disappeared, but the lettering is faintly visible.

I haven’t done any research, but judging from the components I would say this is an early 90s bike. STI shifters. Shimano STX hubs, no-name aero rims. The pedals seem to have been replaced relatively recently (these are the Decathlon urban flat variety, cheap but decent pedals).

Gear shifters and brake levers were oddly inverted, which must have made braking tricky. Gears didn’t shift correctly (WD40 sorted that). One tire pumped up fine, the other needed a patch. One wheel needed a bit of truing, but nothing major. Re-greased the hubs and gave it a wash (after taking the “before” photos for once!)

With very little effort, this middle-aged lady is back on her feet. I bet she’s glad I rescued her!

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Not bikes, but architectural salvage!

It might not be bike-related, but it’s too cool not to share.

 

$_57 (1)A friend of mine has the only remaining illuminated sign from the facade of the now defunct Hürlimann brewery in Zurich.

As you know from the blog, I love reviving things that have a history, and architectural salvage is all about that.

The sign has been stored since it was removed from the brewery, and has a few age-scars as you would expect given its vintage, but it’s a truly unique object.

I’m currently selling it for him, so please share with anyone who might be interested. It would be great for this unique object to go to a good home!

The sign is very large, heavy and currently located in Switzerland, so bear that in mind if you want to bid!

Now imagine what a unique Christmas present that would make for someone…

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