n+1, this time a steel one.


Retro Guru
Hi All,

Recently impulse-bought a frame on evilbay - a nice shiny restoration candidate came up for sale locally and caught my eye. As an added bonus, the frame builder's name is the same as mine :p
Here's the thing - I've never owned a steel framed bike in my life. Had some steel BSOs when I was a kid, but this would be my first "real steel" frameset, so any advice is welcome.

I believe the frame is from 1980s. It shows some nice maker's marks on the lugs, internal routing for the rear brake cable, DT shifter mounts. Cosmetically, paintwork is trashed, but the frame is fully chromed, and most of the chrome is in quite decent nick. Rust seems to be light & surface only. The frame seems to have rather tight clearances, so fits more of a "summer bike" profile (36cm from axle to brake mount; I can just about fit 28mm tyre up front, but the rear is more at home with a 25mm).

As this was an impulse-buy, I don't have a clear plan for the frame yet. The extremes are as follows:

The wall art approach: Build it up with shiny retro components (campy?), hunt down parts on ebay for months, spend a fortune, take it out for an eroica ride once a year. Even with best intentions, realistically, I will probably spend the rest of the time keeping the bike in the shed and licking the chrome, as I probably won't be picking it over my current modern ti summer bike that often.

The practical approach: Build it up with whatever I can find, retrofit full guards and pannier rack, and use it for commuting to work a couple times a week, about 45 miles a day. This means stuffing the frame with modern parts, quill-to-threadless adapters, riser stem, potentially bastardising the dropouts with new braze-ons for guards & rack (if that can even be reliably done on 0.6mm thin-walled tubes?). I can probably even go down to 650B wheels if that helps create guard clearance. Single speed set-up's fine, plenty of spare parts in the parts bin.
The main advantage is that this little beauty will gain a new life & will be clocking at least a 100 miles a week.
And I can still reasonably quickly swap modern components for caveman stuff like friction DT handles for the eroica. And I get to sell my current commuter that, to tell you the truth, I'm not really that fond of.

I'll list my thoughts soon on treating the frame internally and externally for your comments and suggestions. But for now, I'd welcome any advice on turning racing frames into rack & guard equipped commuters, either temporarily, or by permanently modifying the frame (braze-ons? drill & tap an M5 hole in the "Cham-pag-nay" dropouts, anyone?). I've seen tubus QR-mounted rack kits and SKS raceblade "reacharound" guards, but would prefer a more solid solution. The idea of fixing a rear flat with cold fingers, in the rain & in the dark, while the rear QR carries the temp rack & guards mounts is rather depressing. And I'd rather have full guard coverage (think PDWs, but I don't think they will fit with sufficient clearance, even with a 23mm tyre).

Technical questions:
How do you call them adjuster bolts in horizontal dropouts? (mine are buggered & might need to be drilled out).
Is there an easy way to check the rear triangle alignment? The dropouts appear slightly bent.
I would be grateful for a link to a good practical guide on cold-setting a 126mm frame to 130mm - assuming that it's a better way of fitting a 130mm rear hub into a 126mm spaced frame, rather than just spreading the sides & forcing it in.

In the meantime I'm going to hit the gym - the frameset is a bit of a boat anchor at about 2.6kg - a kg heavier than my carbon frameset and half a kilo more than my ti+cf bike. I think I need to man up and build some muscle if I want to join the steel bike club.


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Retro Guru
Right, a bit of googling suggests that them horizontal dropout adjustment bolts are called "Horizontal dropout adjustment bolts".
Removed the bent & rusty ones. Is there any reason not to fit a simple M3 bolt as a replacement? And perhaps even try bodging a mudguard mount onto it?

Rack wise, it looks like I can try a QR mount to see how it works, without bastardising the frameset. Some racks (tubus Fly) seem to mount onto the brake bridge, so no need for new anchor points. There should be just about enough space for my feet when using the current panniers.

Some internal frame treatment advice would be appreciated. The frame is currently contaminated on the inside with dirt, old grease, oil and coppaslip, so my thinking was:
1) Give the insides a good rinse with white spirit to break up the oils.
2) Tinfoil everything that I can reach.
3) Soak the insides with liquid rust converter solution (any suggestions?).
4) Potentially, further soak the insides with some rust-proofing snake oil (any suggestions)?

I'm sure I've got a 3-speed internal gear SA hub somewhere in the shed, so might build a new wheel and use a DT-mounted switch. That will be more than enough gearing for the commuter.

Ideally, I'd stick to the elegant lines of a 7-shaped quill and retro handlebars - any suggestions on lightweight alloy "compact" drop bars to look for on ebay? From what I read on Sheldon's website, there was no one single standard for stem clamp size, so I need to hunt down a quill/bar combo?


Retro Guru
I use GT85 to treat the inside of frame tubes. Allow it to dry and it seems to protect from rust. I wouldn't be drilling and tapping the dropouts for M5 as this would weaken them. There are a number of options for fitting guards to the frame without eyelets, race blades, crud guards etc. But I agree it's best to avoid racks and guards that attach to the QR skewer. I've had eyelets brazed onto dropouts before so this may be something to consider. The dropout adjusters are helpful for aligning up the rear wheel when refitting. Hope this helps.


Retro Wizard
Sounds like a fun project. You can get dropout screws from ebay for not too much. But a can of Plus-Gas. It works much better than anything else for freeing things up and hopefully you can then remove any broken screw remains in the dropout. There definitely isn't room to tap for a fatter screw.

Consider using a saddlebag instead of panniers. A Carradice Camper and a Bagman support works well and sves faffing with racks and p-clips to make up for absent dropout screw holes. It also solves the problem of heel clearance.


Retro Guru
Dropout screws are out, but I'll run a 3x0.5mm tap through just in case.
Rear triangle slightly bent, but the wheel can be centred with the said screws. Is straightening a steel frame a straightforward broom handle job, or something that should only be done by an experienced frame builder?

This is some fancy gas pipe, I must say.


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Retro Guru
Panniers are a must have, unfortunately. Laptop, charger, notepad, change of clothes, extra warm layers (x2), waterproofs, extra tubes, torches, lunch, dinner + snacks.
I used to carry a lot more, but then made a sensible decision to only take the bare necessities.


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Retro Guru
Now, paintwork. That's the real problem.

Ideally, I'd like a racing green & yellow design + original chrome. Inspiration pic attached. Add detailed lugs & maker's marks, some nice decorations.
Questions to anyone with extensive painting experience:
- What's the best way to strip old paint without damaging the original chrome layer?
- Is it safe to sandblast thin-walled steel tubing? If the thinnest butted parts are meant to be 0.6mm, say, less 0.1mm rust, 0.2mm sandblasting - there's bugger all tube left to support my fat behind.
- I hear powder coating is durable, but doesn't look like a million bucks and can be quite heavy/ might cover up the lugs details with a thick layer of "paint".
- Is there any way to preserve the original chrome if I'm getting the bike painted professionally? If I'm doing it myself, I can mask & hand sand, so should be OK.
- How durable are modern paints? The lacquer & paint on my 2018 Kinesis comes off if I look at it the wrong way. Almost as bad as old diy rattle can stuff. I've heard that new environmental regulations mean that factories can no longer use paint that sticks. Looking at cars, my 25k-mile ford is in the same state as my old 2004 165k-mile volvo, so I'm inclined to believe that.
- What would you recommend for treating rust spots on the chrome? There's not many of them, but they are there, especially on the front fork.

Options are:
1) Sandblast, then powder coat base colour, I finish off yellow by hand. Presumably I lose the chrome. I imagine cost should be a bit more than a couple cans of spray paint, and about the same what I paid for the frameset.
2) Paint base colour professionally, leave original chrome masked. Would cost quite a bit more than I paid for the frame (is it worth the cost if I'm going to nick the frame on commutes anyway). Durability question. Still manual work left for me with the second colour.
3) Diy rattle can job. Surely a fun project for me, but will the paint last at all? At least I can control where I leave original chrome and how I do the highlights. Cheapest painting option, the most fun for me, highest control over the paint details. Easy touch up in the future. I would welcome any suggestions for what primer, spray paint and lacquer to go for.
4) Treat the rust, then leave flaking old paint as is - great thief deterrent.
5) Forget about racing green and let the kids loose with a box of random spray paint...


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Senior Retro Guru
There are a number of really large carradice style saddlebags out there - would one of them work? Depending on the size you don't need a rack. If you have a larger one there are small metal support racks you can mount under the saddle as well. You could combine that with a messenger bag for the laptop, etc. as well.

Here is an example: https://www.rivbike.com/products/sackville-bagabond

Another option is a wald basket up front - I have one on my commuter and love it. So convenient. If you must have panniers and a rack, i've successfully used p-clamps to mount a rack to a bike without the proper braze ons. I do feel that they are limited in the amount of weight they can handle.

Re, fenders: SKS has some nice clip on ones if you need them. You can also use p-clamps to mount fenders on the forks / seat stays as well.

p-clamps aren't great for a freshly painted frame though. If you are really serious about this bike maybe consider getting the proper braze ons added before you repaint?


Retro Guru
Well, that's the usual problem with building up bikes - you never know if you're going to like it or not until it's built and you've clocked some miles on it.
My biggest issue now is the rear guard. I'm tempted to buy a cheap set of full guards and butcher them to try & fit over the rear tyre. Or just go down the 650B route. The brake bridge is the limiting factor.

Wald basket doesn't seem very aero, and I sometimes have to battle 30mph winds for almost 2 hours on my way back home o_O.

jim haseltine

Retro Guru
Done properly by even a semi-skilled operative media blasting shouldn't remove any metal and a good place should be able to mask the frame so that the chrome isn't damaged too. If you're really worried, find a place that does soda blasting - the bi-carb is hard enough to remove paint but won't touch much else - I've seen classic cars soda blasted with glass and wiring still in place. The bi-carb also has the advantage of being biodegradable, washing away without poisoning the ground or watercourses.
With quality rattle can paint the finish will still be softer than the original but will stand up to everyday use pretty well. I put three coats of U-Pol etch primer on my Kinesis (a mist coat followed by two full coats) then put three colour coats on (actually 3 and a half if you count the effects) followed by a couple of coats of clear after fitting the decals. Because it was intended as a hack/winter bike, all the colour coats (and the clear) were Halfords car paint which I had in my garage (other than the blue fade). No connection with the company but I've found the quality of their paint has improved massively over the last few years - it's almost as if the thinner/solids ratio has been reduced. Environment and technique matter a lot - spray light coats in warm conditions and allow the paint to flash off in between coats.