Welcome to Part 2a (which you may read before Part 1) to my TT bike build.
It’s taken a bit longer than I anticipated to build the bike, which shouldn’t normally take more than a day to go from ‘parts-to-ride’, but instead, it has taken 3 months, to date. This is principally because a lot of parts were sourced in the U.K., mostly from eBay, and then transported to their current home in Switzerland for the build. Unfortunately, the forks for the frame got left in the UK by mistake. Double-Doh! because the front wheel is a small one, so the standard 700 pair of forks I had in Switz’ could not be used, apart from the ‘parts photo’ in Part 1.
The whole strategy was to end up with a TT bike that was a blend of different decades, a true custom and one of a kind. Every bike project starts with a frame doesn’t it? Mine did, and it was the Lo-Pro custom ‘Shorter of Rochford frame’ that I saw on eBay which got the project moving. It is very light, has very thin aero tubing, very tight tolerances, has the rear brake under the bottom bracket, and importantly, has a small front wheel. I knew these bikes as Lo-Pros, but they appear to be classified as ‘funny bikes’ nowadays. I guess this is a nod to the lowered front, drag and custom cars called ‘funny cars’.
So I amassed every part in one place (apart from the bloody forks!). This means building can start, but has to stop prematurely, so in my usual ‘can’t wait for anything’ approach, I started with the frame. The condition was not great when I got it and looked just like it did in the photos and description, so I wasn’t surprised. However, I was surprised how well the marks polished out, so therefore it has a good quality paint job. It has a narrow bottom bracket, which needed replacing, which wasn’t quick or simple, but I got one in the end. This frame wasn’t made for a front changer or multiple chain rings as there was only one gear lever boss braised to the right side of the down tube. The seller said it was a Campagnolo gear lever boss. I didn’t have any Campagnolo gear levers in my ‘shed-stock’, and the Shimano ones I did have, didn’t fit. However, those plastic Simplex 1970s gear levers have the same hole diameter as a Campag’ one, so after a bit of fiddling, one fitted perfectly, and is a lot lighter than a Camapag’ one as well.
Now thinking sub-assemblies rather than full bike build, I broke the assembly into 5 categories: rear wheel; handlebars and controls; drivechain; front wheel; other stuff. The rear wheel came from the shed-stock and has a cheap, steel 7 speed freewheel block on it. Its also a bit bigger than a true TT freewheel block because the bike will be ridden in Switzerland (not flat like the Netherlands!), and with one chain ring, I need to be able to get it up some hills. What I found on eBay that I thought was really unusual, are the disc covers. They are plastic and made in Italy by Nardi-Sport, and are joined together by small plastic rivets. Unfortunately, the rivets had been lost, so I had two discs and nothing to connect them with. Situations like this are great. How to join the two sides together and make it look presentable and be functional at least? In the end, I bought a bag of plastic UK car number plate attachment nuts and bolts off eBay and used them. They work and look fine. The tyre I found in the shed-stock wouldn’t allow the wheel to turn in the frame such were the tight tolerances, so I had to buy a new 20mm rear tyre. This completed the first sub-assembly, and which could be fitted into the frame.Sub-Assembly 2 were the handlebars and controls. The ingredients for this lot included: a 1970s alloy stem, some new (& cheap) Lo-Pro bars, a pair of 1970s Swiss (of course) Weinmann sport levers, a pair of new and unused 3TTT tri-bars from the mid-1990s that I got in a Swiss car boot sale for the equivalent of a 5 quid, and some new-old-stock Benotto bar tape, which cost the same as the tri-bars. The cables were made up from my shed-stock. So, sub-assembly 2 was finished. In order to work on the frame, it needed to be on a work stand, and to do this, it needed a pair of forks attaching, so I put in a pair from the shed-stock in as a temporary measure. The rear wheel was fitted, the control assembly slotted into the forks loosely and the gear lever was attached. The drive chain assembly started with the new bottom bracket, then had a single and vintage, Shimano 600 chain ring (52 teeth) and cranks bolted into it, complete with yellow Vitus pedals. These pedals are actually Look pedals, but branded Vitus. The rear derailleur is an early Shimano 600 model. Whilst still regretting leaving the forks in the UK, I could at least spin the rear wheel and change gear, which was mildly entertaining and provided the occasional relaxing and thoughtful moment. Just watching the ‘world champion ‘stripes on the disc blend into other colours at different speeds was quite calming, especially with a glass of wine in hand.The front wheel assembly was another eBay find, and is a mint condition Mavic carbon Cosmic 650, and which was in perfect condition and for an amazing price. Unfortunately, getting a good quality (I ended up with a Conitnental in the end) tubular tyre to stick on a 650 front wheel isn’t anywhere near as cheap as a 700 tubular, but hey, its a project. At this point, I can’t attach any brake callipers because the rear one fits under the bottom bracket, which is where the frame is held by the workstand, and the front brake didn’t have the correct forks to attach to either. As the rear calliper came with the frame, I only needed to buy a cheap front calliper. The company I bought it from had to send out three as the first two never made it to the house! Where does lost post go? and why should two single brake callipers go missing in separate first class deliveries? Its both bizarre and annoying.
The other thing that made me a bit frustrated was the diameter of the seat tube for the seat pin. The nice 1970s one I wanted to fit was waaaaaaaaaaaay too small, so I measured the inside diameter and came up with a number, which as the frame had been built to have a Campag’ groupset attached, narrowed it down to one diameter. I bought a cheap (fortunately) seat pin, which was still too small by about 1.5mm. I got one from a bike in the shed that was 1.5mm bigger and that was still too small. Custom frames are made from custom tubes, so in the end, I bought a pack of shims from eBay and used one of those. Also, as the seat tube goes from round to a flat, aero profile, the seat pin needed to be short. Fortunately, the vintage seat pin fitted with a shim and didn’t need cutting.
So the bike is built, apart from one item which seems to impact everything but the drive chain. Those bloody forks! When a bike is in a workstand for 3 months, it becomes one of those things that needs regular dusting, because it is just another thing that doesn’t move, but just collects dust. This got me thinking. Could my TT bike be adapted for something else whilst it was waiting to be united with its forks? I did try to shove a yard brush up the headset in the hope that I could create the fastest and most environmentally friendly road sweeper ever (see photo……). It was crap idea and didn’t work. Never give up though.Eventually, the day came when the forks were re-united with the frame via its Campagnolo headset, and everything in the world becomes ‘just fine!’ Except I suddenly realised that the forks were for a 24″ wheel and not the 26″ wheel that I had assumed. The magnificent-Mavic was too big! I don’t remember seeing anything about a 24″ wheel in the listing description. Schoolboy error Number 2 required another look for a 24″ wheel. So the magnificent-Mavic couldn’t be used. Naturally, this wheel is now the start of the next project……..
I found a nice 24″ wheel in the USA and got it for a cheap starting price on eBay (again). All was good until a few days later and I got a ‘your order has been cancelled’ email through from eBay, my payment returned and a note from the seller which stated that the wheel had been damaged in the garage and that he didn’t want to send a damaged wheel to Switzerland. This could be true, or it could be that the seller found out it was going to Switzerland and couldn’t be arsed, or was afraid to ship it internationally, or it was sold too cheaply. Who knows. It was the first time this has happened to me. Weird anyway.
After 3 months, an enjoyable build and a couple of critical schoolboy errors, the bike is near complete, but annoyingly, cannot still be ridden on the road, or anywhere for that matter. However, the shed-stock revealed another gem in the form of an old training frame. Not a Turbo trainer or a full set of rollers, but more of a combination of the two (see photo below). The bike was bolted into the trainer and ridden for the first time, although in a stationery fashion. The bars and seat were adjusted, the drivechain worked perfectly and so did the back brake. The front brake would work if it had a wheel in it.
Whilst spinning away on the bike in its current stationery home one evening, the low levels of accomplishment and achievement sank in, and with that, the words of a well know song by mega-rock-band, Queen; ‘I want to ride my bicycle’, came to my mind. This creates a very tangible link to the next, and more accomplished, Part 2b of ‘The make-it-yourself’ Time Trial bike………….soon hopefully!
All photos by the author