Sometimes my plans for builds go smoothly and sometimes those plans stall and start to back up. I started the rebuild of SB1861 a little while ago when I brought some gleaming shine back to the original paint. But since then, I’ve had a few new frames join the collection, and they jumped straight to the front of the queue. SB518, SB8851 and SB664 have all arrived, they’ve been photographed, documented and blogged about, so now it is time to clamp SB1861 back into the work stand and get this original 1977 SBDU bike back on the road.
SB1861 is a Team Pro 531 SBDU bike, in original condition from 1977. I wanted to get this bike back on the road with as many of the original parts as possible. The problem I was facing with this build was the amount of rust! Rust was covering everything. The frame was now shining after a lot of work to clean and polish the paint and it wouldn’t be right to fit anything other than similarly clean parts. But these are the parts I was looking at, just lying on my workbench, covered in dirt, grease, grime and even cobwebs! My aim was to get the parts to a point that they look just as good as the frame.
The cleaning process I have, which I used on the Super Record 50th Anniversary group on SB6398, involves dismantling every component and soaking each individual part in oil, sometimes overnight, sometimes longer. But that soak is just the first stage, next comes a lot of scraping with finger nails and brushing to get into the hard to reach places. The amount of effort you put in is proportional to the results you get. And I think these parts have come up beautifully, and are an equal match to the newly polished finish of the frame.
I had already cleaned the Campagnolo Record headset and fitted it during the frame work. The chrome responded really well to the cleaning process and the bearing surfaces were in great condition.
The Shimano bottom bracket was exactly the same. I don’t think this bike has done a huge amount of miles, and although the outward appearance of the bike was very dirty, the internals were actually ok. The axle and cups cleaned up to almost new condition.
I always follow a build process – headset first, then bottom bracket. Fitting the bracket was straight forward, it came out ok and went back in ok, no surprises.
Fresh grease on the bearings and copper grease on the threads is all it needed. Shimano often gets knocked for lack of bearing quality but this 40 year old bracket is still smooth! With the headset and bracket fitted, my build process moves onto the chainset. The biggest issue with the chainset was a build up of dirt on the teeth of the chainrings, but soaking worked well and it is yet another part of this bike that is looking good again.
Whatever your theory is for fitting cranks, mine is simple… always fit cranks dry! Wipe the grease from the axle tapers, make sure the crank taper is clean and dry and fit them dry. Some may have a different way, but I’ve been fitting square taper cranks like this for 30 years.
Once the chainset is spinning I can fit pedals. Everything is cleaning up really well. The parts aren’t pristine, and that’s fine, because that is the look I’m wanting. The aim of this build is preservation, I don’t want this to look brand new, I want it to remain original but looking like it has had a good clean and service.
Next up, and still focusing on the chainset, is the front derailleur. You can’t fit this part properly without the chainset in place. This component was probably one of the dirtiest, it was filthy. But once again, my cleaning process came up with the results.
There is nothing complicated about the fitting of a front derailleur, just a few millimetres above and running parallel to the chain ring. The ‘High’ and ‘Low’ screw adjustment comes later.
An aspect of this bike that surpassed the front derailleur in terms of dirt and grime were the hubs, cassette and chain; they were rusted, dirty and the chain links were almost seized.
These Shimano 600EX 6200 hubs are an early example of a Cassette Freehub. In this version, the freehub body is held in place by the ball bearings and cone, there isn’t a hollow retaining bolt which Shimano introduced later. So when you dismantle this axle, the freehub body will come straight off the hub shell.
I’m writing a separate second post for this build to include the wheel build and cable fitting, but for now, I just needed to get the hubs cleaned and reassembled. The solid and inflexible chain, heavily rusted QR levers and cassette sprockets were worryingly bad, but they all came up really well.
The Shimano 600EX 6200 rear derailleur was given a new lease of life with a good soak and clean. The design of this Arabesque group is quite distinctive and I was pleased with the cleaned up appearance of the derailleur. From my days of selling bikes, this is probably the item that draws the eye the most when someone is looking at a bike, it is an instant identifier of the quality of group set fitted to the bike.
It all looks so much better when it is finally assembled – it looks like it could all actually function smoothly!
The gear levers were originally fitted slightly too low, sitting on top of the down tube transfer. Over the years, the paint on the frame has faded to a more orange shade of red and this has left a red band of colour around the tube where the lever band has been clamped for 40 years. I’ve positioned the cleaned levers up the tube slightly, but not too much as I didn’t want to leave the obvious band of colour on show, but I have just lifted them slightly off the frame transfer. The cables will be fitted and adjustments done in the second blog post once the wheels are rebuilt.
The brake calipers are looking good too. I’ve fitted some new Shimano brake shoes which has helped with the overall appearance. The chrome on the fastenings and adjusters has cleaned up well and they are now a nice looking set of brakes.
Brake lever hoods are notorious for deteriorating over time. The hoods on SB1861 were no exception. The hoods are ready for the bin but the levers are ok and have very few, if any scratches. The Cinelli bars and stem are also in remarkably good condition. The bars, stem and brake levers all look well matched in condition for the frame they are going back onto. Until I find some original replacements, I’ll leave the levers without hoods. Both sides of the Benotto bar tape came off without breaking, but the hidden, wrapped part of the tape is clearly now a different colour to the part of the tape that has been exposed. I don’t know if this can be cleaned but I’ll give it a go. If cleaning fails, I’ll opt for some replacement cloth tape.
Since I was first shown how to build a professional bike, I’ve fitted handlebars and brake levers using the same method. The bottom of the bar should be fitted at a slight upward slant. The initial placement of the tip of the brake lever is measured from a straight line taken from the flat bottom of the handlebar.
The straight edge can also be used to sit on top of the lever body and the straight edge can be eye’d against the tops of the bars to double check the level. Once the wheels are built, I fit them, place the bike on the ground and sit in the saddle – even the most level looking brake levers may feel ‘wrong’ or ‘wonky’ when you actually sit on the bike and hold the levers, this is when final adjustments can be made.
And that is about it for the first part of the build.
The second part will include rebuilding the wheels with new spokes; there was absolutely nothing that could be done for the original and heavily rusted chrome spokes. I have some used but good condition Vittoria tubs ready to fit to replace the threadbare originals. The rims should clean up without any issues. I’ll check the original brake outer cables and reuse if I can, but the inner brake cables and gear cables will be replaced. The Benotto bar tape will either be cleaned and refitted or I’ll fit some new cloth tape.
The saddle is a bit of a problem. It is quite tatty and rough. It may respond to some cleaning and tidying with some strategic use of glue to re-stick some loose areas where the leather wraps underneath. I could have it recovered but that is going to look too ‘new’, so if cleaning and re-sticking doesn’t work, I may have to fit a worn but better condition replacement. I’d like to keep the original but it may not be possible.
Hopefully it won’t be too long until SB1861 joins the ranks of the other restored bikes in the collection.