August 2020. Having met up with our good pal Jamie for a walk, we came across one of his neighbours having a clear out and throwing an array of odd items into a skip. At a second glance, I noticed a bike frame poking out under the pieces of wood and metal poles. A few people including Mrs NITP has always said to me to build up a bike. I've never had the knowhow or the confidence to do one because of my mechanical mishaps in the past. But something at the time made the doubt disappear and be replaced by a sense of commitment. I enquired about what was wrong with the bike. Tough love was basically the answer and if I wanted it, I could take it. Project Restoration had commenced.
There's a few social media accounts I follow which focus on restoring and repairing bikes with one in particular, @PuffaJones who fixes bikes then passes them onto those in need, most of the time children. Andy. also known as @thebikingbruce, is a local mobile mechanic who has been a massive help this year with many jobs I've hit a wall with. He is also a fan of restoration projects, check out the retro TdF coloured schemed Citane from 1984, an immaculate thing of beauty. These guys were in my head when I decided to take this project on. I don't have the tools or the knowledge for a full strip down but I was willing to learn and expand my mechanical knowledge to give this Emmelle a new home. The idea was to give this to my Dad as he was borrowing my gravel bike at the time (along with my brother) and it was probably being trashed! First problem though was to get the bike home. I was willing to wheel it even though the wheels had seen much much better days. But Jamie was adamant that the bike would fit into his Renault Twingo. If you've never seen the size of a Twingo, think mini micro machines and you're close! But looks are definitely deceiving as he managed to fit it in. Speechless and appreciation in untold amounts.
Jobs To Do
So the first thing I needed to do was to create a list of the jobs needed to be done to make this bike ride again because it did look like it came out of the trenches. The rear wheel had a serious buckle. The seat had been invaded my moths. Chain was old and rusty. Gear cables were very stiff. The walls of the tyres had started to crumble, flaky like the bottom of athlete's foot! The rear mech was very retro but very stiff so that had to go on the list. The cantilever brakes were a new system to me. I found out later that they are quite popular on cross bikes. Well, they too had also seized up although the actual brake pads had a lot of life them in them. The moths it seemed had made their way down to the foam bar grips so they were to be stripped as well. Had I bitten off more than I could chew?
One Job At A Time
I knew straight away I had to tick one thing off at a time so I focused on the jobs I knew I could get going with. The bar grips seemed the easiest job but anyone who knows me knows that any mechanical job I take on never finishes how it starts. It was fine cutting through the foam and stripping them off the bars. Getting the new rubber ones on though turned out to be a challenge from SAS Who Dares Wins! I had to resort to trusty old YouTube for tips. My wife was a bit complexed when I told her I needed washing up liquid for the bike but it did the trick eventually.
I kept myself on YouTube and researched what was the best way to get rid of rust. I came across a GCN hack video on using Coke and it just so happens, I had some coke in the house. This drink is nuclear. How have we survived drinking it?! The shine it left on the bars I could wash my teeth in the reflection! But I have not touched a drop of a fizzy drink since!
The tyres were easy to remove. No surprise there when they resembled the bottom of a cheesecake! I had to invest in some new innertubes as I didn't have any Schrader tubes in house. But with the buckle in the rear wheel, the tyres would have to wait. I have never trued a wheel before and I've been told it's a bit of an art but as this was an old wheel, I had nothing to lose having a go. Again, a few video watches and I thought I was confident enough to give it a go. Wow! What a farce! I made it so much worse that the wheel was so bent, it wouldn't spin through the frame! So I got in touch with Andy to see if he could source me down a replacement wheel and to true the front wheel as I clearly hit the limit of my trueing capabilities, if there was any to start with!
Cantilevers or Can-he-do-it?!
The thing with restoration projects is that it forces you to re-educate yourself. The world of bike parts and components can be a maze. When we have upgraded parts on our own fleet, we often find more issues. Our Sora set up on the Tarmac is the most easiest group set to fiddle with. Jump to the Ultegra on the PX and it wants a three course meal and a film before it lets me anywhere near it! I find upgrades require a lot of pampering. My dive into the world of disc brakes has been a similar journey, this may divide opinion but I'm still not sold on the advantages of having them over rim brakes. We're talking road bikes here. Off-road there's no debate because the rim brakes will just seize from all the clogging.
Cantilever brakes look complicated but is actually a simple system. Sourcing them though I found a bit of a struggle. I had to resort to eBay and pay around £20 for a set which wasn't too bad considering. I wanted to use the original brake pads but one of the nuts holding the brake pad had seized. Didn't I tell you our jobs never go the way they're supposed to?! Installing them was pretty easy although the brake cable had a MTB end so again, another investment was made because we only have a collection of road components. I like also how the callipers have 3 settings where you can slot the brakes into - I assume for wearing or different wheel sizes.
In the mean time, Andy came back with a replacement wheel but as I didn't have the tools to take the cassette off (5spd by the way) and place it on the 'new' wheel, back he went to his workshop. You might be thinking how could you not get a cassette off? Well, I brought a freewheel nut as I was advised by Andy but the clamp I purchased with it was crap. I needed one that bolted down to the floor because there was no way it was coming off with brute force!
I knew the rear mech had to be replaced and you cant' just buy a straight up 5spd derailleur. The up to date Tourney mechs come as 5/6/7 because it's very rare to get a 5spd cassette, who runs that?! But I was assured by Andy that you just work the limiters and that basically turns into a 5spd mech. The rear replacement wheel had returned with the cassette and I thought I could see the end in sight. Hell no! Cut a long story short, I had brought the wrong type of Tourney derailleur, wrong length I think David at Lky7 Sports was telling me. Not only that, but I had crushed the plastic washer and it was a nightmare trying to track one of those down. David had a spare washer in their workshop and replaced the mech for me with the right one. He had also noticed I hadn't threaded the front cable through properly. Oh also, the chain was too long (I had measured the enw chain up with the old one!).My confidence at this stage had severely been crushed! Did I get anything right? Yes, the bar grips had stayed on the entire time. Mic drop!
Well, it was a longer journey that I had intended or expected it to be. Found it in August, finished in December. Obviously, my family and work takes priority so working on the bike and sourcing parts had to be done when I had the free time to do so.
So it all comes down to was it worth it? For sure, I have thoroughly enjoyed taking something close to execution by crushing at a refuse centre and giving it a new lease of life. I can not honestly say I did it all by myself because I would of given up ages ago if it weren't for Andy's help and and guidance and David's final check up at the end. It just showed there's some jobs I am nowhere equipped before. Removing stiff cassettes, knowing which mechs to buy, wheel trueing. I believe though that one day I will master these but they required external help.
Was it costly? So here's an approximate run down of what it set me back:
Cantilever brakes - £21
Saddle - £11
Tyres - £20
Cables - £15
Tourney Mech - £10
Gear Hanger - £2
Chain - £4
Bar Grips - £4
Brake Pads - £8
Innertube x 2 - £6
Professional Servicing - £40
Total = £141
That's quite a reasonable amount for a restoration. It could of been a lot more expensive. If the chain rings needed replacing or bearings, I'd be looking near £200 at least. The thought had crossed my mind about what it would be worth to sell it on but the rust marks on the frame would of been an eye sore for a would be customer. But after a little bit of research and thanks to Nieky on Twitter, this Emmelle is over 30 years old. It seems it was from their classic range made between 1986-1990, I was still learning how to ride a bike around that time! We come back to that point of having the skills to pay the bills. If I had the time and knowhow, a respray would of been a great to the finish. But I feel I've done enough to give the bike to someone who I hope put it to good use. I have given it to my Dad who will use it to commute the short distance to work although he has now informed me he wants to wait until the weather becomes warmer! Whimp!
So would I do it again? Definitely. My friend Tom has already offered me his old MTB which just needs a bit of love but I also want to scour the local notice boards to see if there's anything I can get for cheap if not for free to repair and restore. I am very much aware though of my limitations. I don't want to be searching the globe for a nut that was made 50 years ago! So if you've had that itch to build or restore a bike, get on it. Bit by bit, job by job, it's worthwhile. But I have to be quick on my next project, Mrs NITP has already eyed up the spare space in the garage for toy storage!