Infusing an old bike with new life
I bought this early/mid 1990’s Bianchi Brava from my officemate at MIT in 2005 or 2006. For some time before I bought it, it had been sitting unused in our office and had fallen in to disrepair. When I bought it, I promptly converted it to a singlespeed with the help of Tyler from Paramount Bicycle Repair in Somerville. I rode in that configuration for a couple years, then bought bull-horn bars, scrapped the brakes, and converted it to a fixed-gear, which I rode for another couple of years. When I moved to California in 2010, I bought a road bike so the big hills surrounding the South Bay Area would be accessible, and didn’t ride the Bianchi very much. In Seattle, I’ve been commuting on a newer (but not particularly fun) Raleigh One-Way singlespeed. The Bianchi has once again been left to collect dust. Considering how much fun I had on this bike for several years in Somerville, I always felt a little sad about neglecting it.
Finally, a month or so ago, I decided I’d convert the bike back to a geared road bike. That’s a useful thing to have around here, considering how hilly Seattle is. I’d been tossing around this idea for a while, and finally decided it was time to go ahead and do it. This time, it was a couple trips to Recycled Cycles to get the process started, but I was going to build my own wheels. So, the first trip has me come home with the following:
And I get to work on the wheel. This was my first real wheel build. I had rebuilt an old mountain bike wheel a while back, and that seemed to go reasonably well, but I never actually rode on it, so it doesn’t really count. Wheelbuilding has always seemed like something of an arcane art to me. It doesn’t really compare to anything else, so you can’t really prepare for it except by actually doing it, which makes it seem rather daunting. Fortunately, as it has done so many times in the past, Sheldon Brown’s website proved a valuable source of information.
After a short time (less than an hour, for sure), the wheel went from the above collection of parts to the following, roughly 80% laced:
And shortly after that, it’s a wheel:
In the truing stand, with a tire mounted, making any last adjustments:
Following the wheel build, there were still several tasks to complete. I wanted to switch back to drop-bars from the bull-horn bar that I used when it was a fixed-gear. And I needed brakes, and of course, shifters and a derailleur. That generally went smoothly. Aside from the cables and rear tire, everything else was either already laying around the house or bought used at Recycled Cycles. The only problem that came up was that I didn’t buy a long enough pieces of brake cable housing, and ended up having to buy more. The derailleur is a long-cage mountain bike derailleur, which is a bit weird on this bike. If I find a used Shimano 105 derailleur I’ll probably swap it out, but in general it works as is.
And this is what it looks like!