Friday, December 28, 2007

The Nishiki Conversion

It’s a common idea, convert an old Nishki to a fixie. My 9 YO found this old bike on the side of the road with a sign that said, “Take me, I just need a little TLC”. Well the bike obviously needed much more than that. Still, it had a steel frame and I’m always up for a new project; especially if it’s has something to do with my son. But this bike was on the edge. The rule of thumb is the worse the bike, the more money to bring it back; this bike just about killed me. The wheels were shot; first I figured I could just R and R with new spokes. A good plan because even though I have been wrenching for about 20 years I have not built a wheel; the curse of having a really good wheel man. I figured I’d end up with a classic suicide fixie hub.

Unfortunately both hubs had cracks around the spoke holes. I ordered a fixed/fixed Formula hub for about $40 and a friend turned me on to a similar front wheel with the same Shimano 333 hub. The rims were the old aluminum Araya type. New they have a mirror polish, but even aluminum polish couldn't bring these back; so I opted for a stain finish via a wire wheel. I already had the spokes for one wheel and by the time I ordered spokes for the other and figured out the spokes for both wheels were a couple millimeters too short, I ended up buying some 16mm nipples, but still rebuilt both wheels 3-4 times. . I can now claim the ability to build an acceptable wheel.

Next came the drive train. Like all old Sakae cranks, the big chain ring is pressed on and the inside is bolted to the big ring. If one is to have a clean looking drive train you’re stuck with a 52T chainring. The bottom bracket (Sugino) was not in too bad a shape. The spindle was shoot, but fortunately the old spindles are pretty easy to come by. I replaced a few ball bearings on the drive side and it was ready to go. While I was dealing with bearings I also rebuilt the headset. Both the bearing cages were pretty much dissolved. Even though Sheldon Brown says they are not necessary, a quick trip to a small time LBS fixed me up with some replacements.
Now the frame. I gave my son the choice of color; almost. He gets up to three picks and can veto 2. His first choice was green, but I have a green bike already so we ended up with copper. I worked for 15 years in a paint shop so I have my standards. Still I figured I could do a rattle can job that would look nice. I bought some Rustoleum paint and soon found out the limitations. Turns out Rustoleum paint is not compatible with any paint containing acetone; and of course I used a primer with acetone. The paint wrinkled up in a number of spots, but they sanded out okay and I put on a couple coats of clear. Unfortunately I missed one spot with the copper behind the seat tube and when I tried painting over the clear, it was a disaster.
The handlebars have one of the strangest bends I have ever seen. Still, I'm sure a flop and chop will work just fine. The brake levers look pretty beat up, but they are aluminum and should still clean up pretty good. At first I considered the pedals are shot so bad that they would never look right again short of painting them. However after more work with a wire brush and cleaning/ repacking the bearings I have decided they are good enough to use.
Of course there was a lot of Dremal work with a wire wheel on other parts as well. Most the of the chrome was shot but the aluminum shined up pretty good.
Talking about bad chrome, Dia Compe has a very cool old school brake hangers and releases on this bike. Unfortunately, much of it is chromed, which leaves many of these remaining hangers badly rusted. I cleaned them the best as I could and this was the result. The front hanger and rear release tab needed to be painted silver. They may not look too bad to you but they end up being the focal point of the bike because they look so bad; then I found these on ebay. Granted they are a slightly different design, but the chrome is still intact and they still have a the old style release. At this point there are some decisions to be made and possibly a few more upgrades. The high point here are the wheels; I laced and trued the wheels myself. First time. Cool.

For Part 2 go to  The Nishiki Conversion; it Lives!

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