Friday, May 29, 2009

Save Our Parts! (They may be important!)

Ah, the joys of restoring a machine not made in this country.

So the French have a particular way of doing... well, just about everything. In the case of bikes, they have, until recently, been of a mind to do things their own way, and not anyone else's. What this means is that French bikes are notoriously difficult to get parts for.

Example: Most all the world makes their bottom brackets such that the right retaining cup screws and un-screws in the standard fasion (lefty loosey righty tighty) while the left retaining cup is reverse threaded. The reason for doing this is that the forward motion of the left crank has a tendency to loosen the left cup were it threaded the normal way. It's a simple solution to the problem.

The French couldn't be buggered to do that. They just made both retaining cups standard threading, and then tightened them down really tightly.

To be fair, if you use a bit of loc-tite, this is usually never a problem. However, since old French bikes used loose-bearing bottom brackets, instead of the modern sealed bearing brackets... it made them notoriously tetchy to work on, and no one made a viable replacement.

Until a few years back, when Phil Wood & Co. began making sealed hubs with available French-Threaded retaining cups. Now, let me just say, up front: Phil makes a freaking fantastic product. Basically, everything in their catalog is top-quality, outstanding manufacture, fit and finish. No one is better. Period. Now, that being said, they are freaking expensive compared with most other parts manufacturers. I will be getting a bottom bracket and cups from Phil Wood, but even with a discount, they will NOT be cheap.

Other French foibles include, apparently, the stem size. Most bikes which use a quill-type stem (like the Nitto Technomic I'm getting) use a standard 1-inch diameter fork steering tube. The French? Oh, they don't believe in inches, apparently. Older French steering tubes are just a tiny bit smaller. Less than 1/16th of an inch, but enough to keep the standard quill from inserting. And the REALLY old French designs used a different threading on their steering tubes, meaning one has to buy a French-specific headset.

Keep in mind, I threw my original stem, headset and bottom bracket bits away. They were shot.

I don't yet know if my fork steering tube is this foible-icious or not. I know the headset threading is standard, however, so I have hope that a standard quill will also fit. The changeover for these parts happened much earlier in time than the fix for the bottom-bracket issue. I'll check the fit when I get the forks back. More on that in a future post.

On an up note, I got the parts I'm saving and re-using cleaned last evening. The kind folks at The Clean Machine (the shop I once worked at) let me use their parts washer for an hour, with the really wickedly unhealthy degreasing/cleaning solution. (But man-oh-man the stuff works.) My parts are now pretty and prepped and ready for re-installation when the time comes. Chainrings, chainring guard, cranks, brakes and sundry small parts have been dipped and scrubbed clean, and await re-installation.

*Red grins* MMmmmm... shiiiiny. (^_^)

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