A Tale of Two Bikes

The headline is a little misleading, so let me explain: The two bikes are really one – this is part two of a remarkable before and after affair. We began this story with the gift of a crusty mystery frame. With the exception of the rear derailleur, I was able to determine with pretty fair certainty that the remaining components date from early- to mid-70’s.

A crusty frame, yes. And a toasty looking Brooks – also yes. But I plan to coax a bit more life from the leather with saddle soap.

The RGF bottom bracket is one of the few things I find before stripping the paint that yields any real clues. These were made in France and – maybe – were imported to England and the States by Ron Kitching.

And here’s where things began to get interesting. As I stripped the paint, the lugs began to reveal a few more details.

Perhaps this frame really is custom made after all. The crappy paint was poorly applied; under that rather pedestrian coating, and layers of crud, a much nicer frame begins to emerge. My original assessment was that the frame was, perhaps, a midrange production model, but the bare metal reveals a much more intriguing machine.

And lookee here! I certainly wasn’t expecting to discover Campagnolo dropouts under the old paint.

Taking a break from the frame stripping, I began to clean up the parts. The rear derailleur may function fine, but seems a bit lower end than the frame deserves. The Stronglight Model 99 (new style) triple crank set is a little different story though, and I plan to keep it in place.

For now, I’ll leave you with this teaser: the primer coated frame and fork.

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9 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Bikes

    • Sure! There are a couple of ways to go about stripping a frame of paint. Media blasting (Think “sand blasting” but with soda or glass bead instead) is a very effective way to safely strip the paint from a frame. If you’ve got chrome it will need to be masked off, which means you’ll need to have a conversation with the company you use for the blasting. Blasting is definitely not a DYI type of activity, in case you’re wondering. You need to rely on a company that has experience so that all you remove is old paint and not steel! I’ve used Groody Brothers (http://www.groodybros.com/) for personal projects in the past because bikes are what they do, and they’ve really come through for me.

      Another option is chemical stripping, which is what was involved here. It’s NOT a terribly safe or ecologically sound practice. I urge you to really consider media blasting – the only reason I went with the chemical strip in this case is because (a) I had a small amount of chemical stripper on hand already, and (b) the paint was peeling so freely that it didn’t take much stripper to remove it.

  1. That’s a nice looking frame under all that old paint. Nice to see it getting a new lease on life.

    What kind of chemical stripper do you use? I use Citristrip and it’s much nicer than the older chemical strippers, but still a bit stinky. I usually open the garage door when I’m working on it and let it soak under a plastic sheet overnight to give it time to soak into the paint.

    Do you spray the frame yourself? What kind of paint do you use?

    • I have experience using the older, nastier, toxic-er “airplane stripper.” It’s not for the faint of heart and I definitely do NOT recommend it. I had some Citristrip on hand and that’s what I used. Solvents of all kinds, regardless of how “friendly” they are purported to be, make me very nervous so I always work outdoors. That means that weather, of course, limits when I can take on such a task. I also always strip within easy reach of a hose. The plastic sheet seems to be SOP, and I’ve also used that method – although the paint was so bad on this frame that it wasn’t necessary. It bubbled up and was ready to hose off in about half an hour!

      I do spray my own frames. Once upon a time in the late 70’s and early 80’s, I fancied myself a pretty accomplished airbrush illustrator, so I’m confident in my ability to spray evenly without runs. I do this using a bike work stand with a broom stick mounted horizontally. I run the broom stick through the seat tube on the frame, which allows me to rotate it in any direction as I spray. A simple, very efficient way to get an even coating!

  2. In referencing the RGF bottom bracket, have you determined if the BB and headset threading is French, English or Italian. That could be another clue to the heritage of the frame as French threading was pretty much restricted to the French builders (thankfully).

    • It’s definitely English. And as I’ll reveal in the follow up segment, it turns out this frame is definitely custom built…as a researcher, I place a lot of faith in primary resources – something that is somewhat scarce when it comes to bicycle frames, but which, in this case, I actually have! 🙂

    • Ding! Ding! Ding! You are right on the money! I’ll share what I eventually learned in the follow up post. Suffice it to say that there is a marked distinction between “hand made” and “homemade.”

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