Sunday, November 20, 2011

How I Got My Moser Back...

Moser 2.0
So I bought my Francesco Moser frame back from the person I sold it to, and built it up as a geared racing bike with modern components... despite having sworn off vintage roadbikes earlier. Yeah, I know. Allow me to provide some context:

I got this 1978 Moser racing frame in Vienna two summers ago, mailed it to myself in the US and built it up as a fixed gear. It rode nicely, but wasn't really suitable for fixed gear conversion with its low bottom bracket and resulting tendency toward pedal strike. Once I got my fixed gear-specific Mercian, I moved the components over and decided to sell the Moser. Building it up as a geared roadbike was not feasible: I would have had to spend a fortune on new wheels and components only to put them on an old steel frame, with no guarantee that I'd like the end result. It seemed wiser to buy a roadbike that I could test ride beforehand.

Moser 2.0
For what it's worth, I still believe that it is not financially practical for a "civilian" (i.e. a person who is neither a wrenching enthusiast with spare modern groupsets lying around, nor someone with bike industry connections), to take on a project like this. However, I have not really been a "civilian" for some time: I am interested in bikes not only for personal use, but also for the sake of learning and writing about them on Lovely Bicycle. And I do at this point have industry connections, as well as readers who are interested in making specific projects happen. All of these factors played a role here.

One of my readers offered to donate some of his used modern Campagnolo components and his old racing wheels if I were willing to experiment with a vintage racing frame. Around the same time, the person who bought the Moser from me built it up (with modern Shimano parts) and discovered that the bike felt too small for him. Luckily, I'd sold the frame locally. I saw this as a cue to buy it back. 

Moser 2.0
The second-hand components I received were a 9-speed Campagnolo Record drivertrain and levers circa (I believe) 1999 and a Campagnolo Vento wheelset of similar vintage. I already had the headset, stem, handlebars, tires and seatpost among my own spare parts. I bought a new bottom bracket, brake calipers, cable housing and bar tape at Harris Cyclery and they built up the bike for me. 

The Moser is now finished, and I've ridden it - but not as extensively as I'd like before writing about it. I am also waiting to put some finishing touches on the bike before I take pictures. Not sure what I will do with this bicycle in the long run. The frame is 33 years old and was raced for years by the original owner. The drivetrain and wheelset are around 10 years old and well-used. Even if my impressions of the reborn bike are positive, I have concerns about frame/component failure and will need to think about that aspect more carefully. But it is certainly informative to compare this bicycle's handling to the modern roadbikes I have been trying over this past summer and fall. Let's just say I am surprised. 

Moser 2.0
I am glad to have the Moser back; in a number of ways it is an even more unique bicycle than I thought. I hope to share my impressions in the coming week and fingers crossed that it doesn't start snowing in the meantime. Stay tuned, and a huge thank you to everyone who's helped me with this project! 

41 comments:

  1. I happened on the pictures of the Moser on Flick and have been eagerly awaiting developments. I can't wait to hear your impressions. I've kind of been wanting to do something similar - take a nice old steel bike that I have and build it up with really nice components just to see how it rides. But, I'm not sure it would be worth the expense since I'm not even sure I have the road biking skills to discern the difference between a good campy set vs every-day quality Shimano.

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  2. Okay, I am having a really good chuckle right now.

    I told you that he was a good dancer.

    Viva Francesco! UrrĂ !


    CK

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  3. I've just done a similar thing with my 20 year old Ribble. Compact double off my wife's Boardman (she upgraded to a triple), 8 of 9 sprockets on my old 7 sp wheels so I didn't have to faff with new wheels or re-dishing, Shimano 9sp shifters. Its now my light weight racy bike.

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  4. oooOOOOOOOooooooooooo I look forward to hearing what comes out of this project!

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  5. Seems like you should take it on a pace line ride with those folks you met over the summer. That will help you determine how well this bicycle turned out.

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  6. Looks great already! can't wait to see how it turns out and to hear how it was that they spread the rear stays to fit the new wheelset

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  7. Very good choice doubling the length of the stem in this build of it.

    Do you have room to try adjusting it down later without hitting the thick butt inside the steerer tube? It's best with this kind of thing to set it up so the stem is at the max extension with the bars level with the saddle, giving you the most room for adjusting the height.

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  8. "doubling the length of the stem in this build "

    Good eye; it really is double the previous length : ))
    The way the bike is set up now, the bars are 2cm below the saddle, but I may push them down further later.

    "Seems like you should take it on a pace line ride... That will help you determine how well this bicycle turned out."

    Yup. Until then riding my usual course with a computer will also help me gauge how it compares, especially up this particular hill that's a great indicator.

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  9. Frame/component failure is a legitimate concern and comes in so many flavors I want to watch any absolute assurances. Still, you are safer than you think.

    Steel frames that are not abused and have no bad joints mostly only fail from rust-through or crashes. If the Moser simply had a bad braze you'd know by now. You might want to quiz your friend in Vienna about his race crashes. The likely types of old age problems almost always give warning and are not catastrophic. Frames do finally work harden and give up - the long warning on that is they stop being fun. You're not there yet. Enjoy.

    I worry more about new components than old components. Most new stuff seems to me that it goes goes out of fashion and ends production before it completes beta testing. In the old days I got to ride the exact same parts the pros used, now the pros are all on prototypes I'll never see. I honestly don't know where most new parts are made.

    There are some obvious things to avoid. Used aluminum bars and stems are always suspect. Retire your own after good service, don't buy unless NOS. Steel QR only, closed cam only, inspect carefully, let them go if they start to feel different.

    Other things are not such a big deal. Cranks break after long service, and it's unpredictable. It is also more OK than you think. Very unlikely you'll fall. You just practice riding home one-legged.

    Small parts rust or get bent and can't be adjusted.
    Springs harden and finally break. So what? Now you have to replace the old stuff that was cheap or free to start.

    I pacelined this a.m. on a forty-eight year old bike.
    The newest thing on it probably the twenty year old bars. I looked around at the open cam QRs and over inflated tires and prototype weightless brake calipers and figured I was on the safest bike there. Looking at the too high saddles and too forward saddles I was pretty sure I was the safest rider there. Listening to the morning chatter about the injury list I was certain I was the safest rider there.

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  10. Who doesn't love a Cinderella story. And its the right thing to do, arranging this marriage with Campy Record. Francesco Moser would be so pleased.

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  11. It's pretty light now :)

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  12. "If the Moser simply had a bad braze you'd know by now."

    Well it's got the buckle/fold on the headtube that's visible in the photos. My understanding is that it happened when the frame was made and not as a result of a crash. Either way, it does not seem to pose any structural dangers, but what do I know.

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  13. I read the title of this post to the tune of "Sexy Back" and chuckled. I feel that it is appropriate, seeing how sexy that bike is.

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  14. It's funny, because people do love the way this bike looks - especially in pictures, where all the rust and peeling decals are overshadowed by the expanse of red. I am not a fan of red bikes and am not crazy about how the Moser looks. If I decide to keep it as my fast roadbike, I will probably powdercoat it some other colour...

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  15. I have it on good authority from my 10-year-old nephew that red bikes go faster. He can't wait to grow tall enough to ride my old Trek 400, chipped paint and all.

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  16. V @ 6:55

    Ouch! Saw that and thought it was a lighting trick, shadows and reflections. Not crash damage. Every mechanic who's seen the bike has seen that and passed on it...keep riding.

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  17. Mmm actually several mechanics have told me it's fine and they've seen it before. Yeah it keeps the bike from being a collector's item, but maybe that's a good thing. Otherwise I'd get hate mail when it comes to powdercoating it : )

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  18. The belief that steel frames "work harden and give up" is what Jobst Brandt calls roadie myth and lore. It is not supported by engineering or material science, neither is it known in cycling, other than as a joke amusing to frame builders. There are hundreds of 531 frames from the Thirties still ridden hard by V-CC and Tricycle Association members. Their ride qualities do not change.

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  19. The buckle doesn't appear to be headset install-related. The steerer isn't pinching, the (original) fork is straight and the bike supposedly tracks straight. Maybe they buckled it at the factory, I have no idea.

    Anon @ 8pm--Several mechanics in fact wanted to buy the frame. :)

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  20. "how it was that they spread the rear stays to fit the new wheelset"

    The person who bought the bike from me (a mechanic) did this and it apparently went well.

    The Co-Habitant also did this on a vintage bike he built for himself recently, so maybe he'll describe that.

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  21. I'm sure glad I learned to build a wheel and glue a tubular a decade before Jobst Brandt started writing about bikes.If I'd read him first I would've known for sure I was not the avatar or savant that could master such feats. Instead I got curious and built a wheel when I was twelve.

    Yes, the Moser will last a long time. Not forever, a long time.

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  22. I'm glad to see that bike again. Sooo 70s continental cool. And Fracesco Moser was the real thing.

    I don't think you should worry too much about fatigue failure of that frame or the components that much. Like you say, you're not really a "civilian" anymore and some of us that felt like we had a lot to share with you a year or two ago are learning more and more from you these days, but on this subject I think the experiences of those of us that have put lots and lots of miles on old, abused, and half used up stuff should be re-assuring.

    It seems to me that there aren't that many parts that are likely to cause an instant injury if they fail. Handlebars can but the alloy ones usually creak for a while first and you aren't the typical bar breaker type anyway(a Gorilla), I don't know about carbon firsthand but again I suspect you don't fit the typical warranty claimant's profile. Cranks fail too but that really takes some doing to achieve. Spokes break and hub flanges crack but unless you somehow lose a bunch at once all you get is a wiggly wheel. Chains break and I've had some really, really, zesty moments from that but those chains were so worn out and were only still on the bike because I was 14 and too dumb and poor to do anything about it. Again you don't fit the description.

    I say all this reading your concerns as safety oriented, if you're concern is that this bunch of parts might have too much of the juice squeezed out of them and are just going to be frustrating to ride than you might be right. But again, most of it is really well made and if it's been maintained at all and doesn't look bashed than I think you should be pretty happy(you could just ship it all to me though, my standards are quite low).

    I also want to concur with anon 9:03 and the myth that steel frames go soft with age. If that was true than we could just deflection test steel structures over the course of their working life and measure the phenomenon(It doesn't agree with the properties of the material anyway) but steel that is about to fail but hasn't cracked yet behaves surprisingly like it did all along. That said, one of steels nice qualities is that when it does fail, it goes down fighting. A small crack gradually widens and deforms but typically keeps hanging on as the material stretches and finally separates. Aluminum get's a crack, throws up it's hands and calls it a day after a brief struggle. Frames do wear out of course but it's usually a crack at the seat binder, a headtube that won't hold a cup tightly or a bottom bracket shell that got ridden "loose" and is stretched enough to be a PITA or something like that. Mostly things that only happen to bikes that get tortured for kicks.

    That Moser is still ready to run and I wish I had a 59cm. just like it. I'd probably powdercoat it too though.

    Spindizzy

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  23. "I'm sure glad I learned to build a wheel and glue a tubular..."

    I loved the feel of tubulars the few times I've tried them. If I could handle gluing them myself, I would have a bike with tubulars. The Moser had them originally.

    But the memory of riding "my" Viennese trackbike home 5 miles with a flat front tire is reminder enough of why I stick with clinchers...

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  24. If a civilian was only "allowed" to do practical things with bikes and parts,then neither of my Vassago's would be my Vassago's.....LONG LIVE BIKE PROJECTS! :D

    Moser looks SWEET!!! Good show,my friend :)

    Disabled Cyclist

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  25. 'But the memory of riding "my" Viennese trackbike home 5 miles with a flat front tire is reminder enough of why I stick with clinchers...'

    ah, that's why one always carries a spare, isn't it? no need to glue it, just stretch it on and pump it up. it'll get you home. the reason for clinchers was always that they are so, so, much cheaper...but sew-ups are the cat's meow :)

    really though, it's nice to see a vintage bike resurrected. and as you suggest, what do you have to lose? we've done this many times before, always with mixed results. the bikes are great to look at and bum around with but when it's all said and done they usually rest in pasture or carry kids around the block rather than stay in the stable of competitive racers. mostly because of fit but also a bit of component issues. if paceline riding is your goal it may be fine, but if you move up the ladder i suspect a custom fit machine will be your preference. btw, the red is awesome!

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  26. Looks like a great build. Nothing at all wrong with putting modern components on a vintage bike. Couple tweaks here and there (rear hub spacing, shifter cable changes for brifters). Campy 9spd is great stuff, I wish they stopped there! Get out there and ride it!

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  27. They used to say (and perhaps still do) that Campag gear doesn't wear out, it wears in!

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  28. I think putting some "slightly used" components on a 30-year-old frame is totally practical way to create a decent ride for a reasonable price. A whole new drivetrain on a vintage frame isn't worth it unless it's something extraordianary, but there are a lot of perfectly good used parts to be had cheap if you know where to look. For the casual rider it might not be worth it, but for the enthusiast or neophyte racer with a tight budget, it's a great way to get a decent ride cheaply.

    It definitely helps if you're tech-savvy enought to do at least part of the assembly yourself, paying the shop only for the hard stuff (although at this time of the year, we've got plenty of time for "project" bikes).

    Also, red bikes ARE faster. Red paint reflects those slow-moving red light waves and only absorbs the zippier end of the spectrum, making the bike automatically quicker. It's science, see?

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  29. How did Harris handle the rear hub spacing? Campy-8/9 and higher (like all the relatively new stuff) use a hub spacing of 130mm. Old frames have a hub spacing of 120 or 126 mm. Although you can force a new wheel into an old frame, this is annoying when changing wheels and I think it can be problematic on horizontal dropouts (the wheel is apt to shift position unless the quick-release is locked down super-tight). I have heard of people cold-forming their rear triangles, but it seems like it would be the bicycle equivalent of open-hear surgery.

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  30. If you ever decide you want tubulars the care and feeding part of it is much exaggerated. We could get you up to speed quick. Old tubular wheels are all over, no free ones in my stock this week but ask again next week. Plausible.

    The current tubs are not the kleenex we rode in the seventies. As likely as not the tread wears out before the first flat. Of course flats happen to any tire and a flat on a $100 tire is a little upsetting. And the budget tubs still flat from being looked at so you get the good ones. Tubs are no longer faster, they still ride better, grip better, allow lighter rims.

    Frames from the 1930s that still get used have spent most of their lives in good dry storage. There are no tribes of gentlefolk in Jolly Olde, merrily thrashing down the lanes and chasing across the moor on veteran tricycles. At best a few meets and shows and it takes a lot of work to make that happen. Frames finally get old. Jobst abandoned his Cinelli after the right rear dropout cracked, maybe it was work hardened, maybe it was a muffed hangar alignment, doesn't matter, they get old and they go. Once more, if a dropout cracks, do not expect a fall. Expect to be highly irritated and to get a new frame.

    The Moser got rebuilt on a shoestring because the blog is entertaining and you've become the "insider". Well, OK. If you drop the blog tomorrow you'll still be personable and a rider. Riders support each other. We all have too many parts spilling out the door.

    Looking forward to the ride report.

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  31. Re: spreading the rear triangle. I did it using Sheldon's method on my Raleigh sports to put a modern IGH in, and it was surprisingly easy and low stress. One of the big advantages of steel frames! You use a string looped around to make sure you keep the dropouts centered on the frame, and a 2x4 to do the spreading.

    Can't really comment on the Moser, although I think it's funny that he's come back to you after all that- it must have been meant to be!

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  32. BTW I can't see the photos, though I can see them on the previous post. Are you doing something differently? Remember that some firewalls may block access to external links to some sites. Not sure what's going on here.

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  33. Jon - I remember you've had this problem before. I am not doing anything differently, so it's probably your proxy settings. You can see the pictures in the other posts because they are cached.

    Anon 9:06 - This frame had 126mm rear spacing and it was spread to 130mm.

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  34. "There are no tribes of gentlefolk in Jolly Olde, merrily thrashing down the lanes and chasing across the moor on veteran tricycles."

    http://www.tricycleassociation.org.uk/Galleries.html

    As a member I can testify that old Higgins, Holdsworth, and other long-gone marques are still merrily thrashed down the lanes and across the moors. Their owners also take part in a regular schedule of time trials, pitted against the newest Longstaffs and Trykits.

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  35. A sincere thank you for putting Mr. Moser back on the road an in a multi-geared format, I think these lovely old vintage lightweights are made to be ridden and I look forward to hearing your impressions as you get some miles under you. As a fairly recent convert from modern Alum/Carbon/STI road bikes to vintage steel I find that while there are differences new is not always better than old and vice versa, its more about whats comfortable and enjoyable to the rider.

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  36. Anon 12:32

    Now this is a time when being publicly demonstrated to be wrong is simply a pleasure.

    A couple years back a few of us were lamenting the passing of the trikes we had known - losing storage mostly - and tried to find you online. What we could find was a level of activity not even 1/4 what you show there. Well, we missed a few things.

    Looks like great fun. Congratulations. May the road rise up to meet you.

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  37. My vintage frame (1952 Rotrax) has been built up with "modern" components.The wheels, derailleurs, shifters, crankset and brakes are all from the 1970's. its all relative, but the point is simply that I love the frame but a period correct restoration would be a lovely collectors item that would not suit me as a bike to use on a daily basis. Oh and there is nothing mysterious about mounting tubulars in fact one of the big advantages to using them is how fast and easy it is to change a flat on the side of the road. repairing the flat tire after you get it home is a bit more complicated but still pretty straightforward.

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  38. Yay for roadbikes! The 9-speed record components sound like a really nice set. The wheels look great as well, though you'll be calling a cab if you break a spoke.
    What you might want to do is put some zinc spray on the inside of the frame, let it set and then apply some framesaver or linseed oil if you strip it again. The zinc will oxidize instead of the steel and the oil will keep the water off. Could be someone has allready done all that in the past though. What is the gearing and what handlebars are those? Can't see really if those are classic shallow ones or not.

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  39. I've had a Peugeot UO-8 since the '70s bike boom; I've ridden it ever since although it is a little too big for me. I've always wanted a PX-10, the real racing bike and finally found one on eBay that was the right size. I replaced the tires and rear derailleur but everything else was in pretty good shape. I was blown away the first time I rode it by how light, responsive and just plain fast it was. It is a pleasure to ride and the lugs are gorgeous!
    Affordable Luxury

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