My favorite bike of them all is my Independent Fabrication Steel Crown Jewel SE that was custom built for me in 2009. I worked with Grace Bicycles in Holliston to determine the proper fit and then Independent Fabrication, then in Somerville, fabricated the bike to the provided dimensions with steel tubes that were appropriate for my build and riding style.
I really have not had to do much to it over the years other than a few wear items like chains, cassettes, and brake pads, but I was disappointed to see its condition this spring. It was typical weather for April, snowing for three days, but not really accumulating much and melted, dry roads, and about 60 degrees on that Sunday so I decided it was time to ride outside instead of on the trainer in the basement. Instead I found many repairs that needed to be done:
- The rear brake boss on the top tube was starting to rust;
- The chain had stiff links that would not unkink;
- The rear brake cable and adjuster barrel were corroded in place;
- The front derailleur wasn’t moving;
- Both wheels had excessive lateral play in the hubs;
- and the bottom bracket had some previous corrosion with a poor touch up job that I wanted to correct.
It was time for an overhaul.
I first took everything off of the frame so that I could tackle the paint issues. The brake cable boss and the bottom bracket were cleaned down to bare metal, cleaned with Naval Jelly to remove the rust, treated with a rust converter spray paint, and then primed and painted. Before and after of the rear brake boss:
Next to tackle was the bottom bracket. I asked the bike shop to check it out the year before and they said everything was ok with the frame itself, but it continues to show discoloration. I did the same as the rear brake boss with removing the old paint, cleaning with Naval Jelly, painting a with a rust converting spray paint, and then painting. My touch up paint on the brake boss matched very well. This area not so much, but if it holds I’ll be happy until I can try to improve again in the off season and not wait until it is time to ride.
The interior of the frame was coated with J.P. Weigles Frame Saver before putting the bottom bracket and seat post back in. One of the things that made me comfortable with the Independent Fabrication steel frameset was that all of the tubes are sealed except for the seat tube, bottom bracket, and head tube so that you can inspect and treat as needed.
Next was the rear brake itself. The bike was built up with SRAM Red components in 2009. The brake really needed to be replaced, but the cost of a new rear Red brake was more than I wanted to spend and I couldn’t find any New Old Stock for the original brake. I decided that my theory on trickle down in bike component technology would hold true and I purchased a new SRAM Force rear brake that looks and weighs identical to the 2009 SRAM Red brake. Slightly different color, but it seems like a win-win to me. Before and after on the rear brake.
The front derailleur was another challenge. I cut the front derailleur cable and the derailleur didn’t even move. I had a new SRAM Red 22 derailleur on hand even though the original derailleur was 10 speed. The main challenge was that the original derailleur was a clamp on and the new one was a braze-on connection. Even though I could remove the Allen bolt from the clamp, it was so corroded that the clamp would not open. I ended up trying various things such as heat and then ultimately cutting it off with a dremel tool. Unfortunately all of my twisting, prying, and heating did additional damage to the paint before I got the clamp off. Here is the progress.
Installing the new derailleur should have been straight forward even though it was a braze-on style. Turns out that no bike shops carry a braze-on clamp adapter in the tube diameter that would work for a steel framed bike. A four day wait to get the part, but I ended up with the official SRAM adapter clamp rather than having to rig something together.
Looks good in the end and no trouble using the 22 front derailleur with a 10 speed shift lever and chain.
I replaced the chain with a KMC X10.93 and cleaned up the rear cassette to remove all of the grime, but found out on the first ride that the cassette was also worn too far and the new chain was skipping in my most used gears. A new cassette and everything is running smoothly again.
I was afraid on the wheels that the bearings had gone bad. The Zipp 202 wheels were a more recent addition to the bike along with the Quarq power meter crank through a deal with my cycling club, Minuteman Road Club. I was considering returning to my previous wheel set that was also made custom for me prior to the Independent Fabrication frameset and had never given me any issues, DT Swiss 240 hubs and RR1.1 rims, but it turned out that the Zipp wheel hubs were still in good shape and just needed some bearing preload adjustment.
With all of this work done, the last item was to re-cable and adjust. I used the Jagwire Road Pro cable kit. I have stuck with Campagnolo, SRAM or Shimano cables in the past, but I was impressed with the quality of the Road Pro kit from the Teflon coated cables to the rubber bumpers to protect the frame instead of the previous clear protective stickers that I had been using.
My favorite bike is now back in action.