Sunday, February 14, 2016

Winter projects.

Circa 1974 Nishiki International
Winter's always a good time to spend in the workshop and this year is no exception. Except for the recent spate of nice weather which allowed some good riding, (I managed to get a ride around Folsom Lake in!), I've had plenty of time to work.

I have two projects going this year. One is the ongoing Schwinn Racer 3 speed I'm building up for an around-town bike. I finally got around to building up the new alloy wheels. When I had the old wheels disassembled, I realized I now have 3 different types if Sturmey Archer 3 speed hubs!
From left to right, the standard AW, a coaster brake 3 speed, and a fixed gear 3 speed!
I found a source of fairly inexpensive spokes,, and got the stainless steel spokes I needed for 25 cents a spoke, (nipple included!). I used ExCel based Spocalc to compute the spoke length, but from experience, I deducted about 2mm from the program's recommended length. These were laced up to the SA hub and the Sun CR18 rims, (which are in the 650A, or 26 X 1 3/8 size). The wheel went together easily, (thanks Jobst Brandt!), and now my Schwinn has nice, light, straight wheels!

The Racer with it's new wheels!
The other project just popped up. I was browsing E-Bay, (always a potentially expensive habit), and I came across 2 frames that looked interesting. One was a really clean Trek, the other a very old Nishiki). Both were auctions so I decided to go with a bid. I wasn't going to spend more than $100, (plus shipping), so that was my top bid for the Trek, and it was the highest at the time.

The Nishiki looked a little forlorn, but I've been wanting similar to an old International to replace my Performance Ascent fixie, so I went with the starting $75 bid.

Well, my high bid for the Trek held out until literally the last minute when it got knocked out by two other bids. My Nishiki bid however, remained the only bid and I won the auction!

It took about a week for the frame to arrive. It was well boxed and I was surprised by the condition of the 40 year old bike. There was some rust on the bottom of the chainstays where a kickstand had resided. The chrome on the fork had some surface oxidation which came out with steel wool and solvent and Simichrome. Most of the paint still shined up well. The decals were in decent condition which is saying something for an old Nishiki. It appeared that the bike hadn't been ridden a lot.

Looking pretty good after initial cleanup!
But there was a significant problem. When I fitted the rear wheel, I found that the rear dropouts were only 108mm's apart! And with the wheel in the frame, it was definitely canted a little. I ran a string from one rear dropout around the headtube, and to the other dropout. It showed that the left hand stays of the rear triangle had been shifted over to the right by a centimeter! This could be the reason the bike hadn't been ridden a lot!!

Oh boy, we have a little problem here! Rear spacing should be 120mm!
Fortunately, this is a steel frame, so there is a way to fix it! I referred to Sheldon Brown's excellent page to learn how:

Here's the set up for cold setting the rear triangle. I eventually had to double up the 1X4 for more stiffness. Use a 2X4.
The frame straightened out just fine, and everything looks good now.

One idiosyncrasy of the early Nishiki's turns out to be the size of the stem diameter. They actually use a stem quill of 0.833 inch, the result of a failed attempt to reach a size standard in the early 70s. This size was shared by a few other manufacturers, notably Schwinn. Old Schwinn Le Tours have this size stem. I'm lucky I happened to have a pretty nice SR stem, a 90mm, that is that size.

Another problem came up when installing the headset. I was using a nice Shimano Ultegra I had laying around. The problem was with the fork crown race. This bike's race was the old JIS 27.0mm diameter, of course a good headset like the Ultegra has a race of 26.4mm! Now, in the past, you could take your fork to most any bike shop and they would mill the race for you. Now, alas, that is not the case. Both shops in Auburn couldn't do it! I finally solved this problem by simply slicing the thin Ultegra race, allowing it to expand to fit the Nishiki fork crown. (You can get away with this method if your headset uses cartridge type bearings). Still, kind of sad to think two "PRO" shops can't handle this kind of job! (By the way, don't even try to find a 3 speed part at these places either! Why do they think we all use the web for shopping now?)

Well, after all that, I stripped the Ascent and assembled the Nishiki into a complete bike. A short test ride showed that my frame straightening was successful, the bike tracked straight and handled well. I still have to set up the rear brake. The Tektro 538's have enough reach for the front wheel, but fall a bit short in the rear. I think I found a solution: AICAN-Aluminum-Brake shoe holder

Got the brake shoes in about 8 days, not bad for postal service from China. They are nicely finished little bits of aluminum, for sure. Here are some shots:

Here's a side-by-side comparison with the original brake shoe holder.
Here you can see you gain about a half an inch in reach.
Here's a view of the brake installed. Note that I still have room in the slot!
The Nishiki after it's first real test ride.
I've now had the opportunity to take several rides up to  20+ miles and am happy with this bike's handling. With the longer wheelbase and relaxed geometry, it's definitely more stable than the Ascent. Some would prefer the stiffer and twitchier Performance bike, but I like the more stable handling and shock absorbing ride of this steel frame. I find it more pleasant on level and downhill fixed gear riding, while climbing performance may be slightly less than on the Ascent, it is more than adequate for my use.