Vintage Bicycles Done Proper :: Portland, Oregon
Purchased as a playground for new and vintage part experimentation, my main commuter, a 1985 Raleigh Kodiak, begged for a freshening up.
More than two years has gone by since I purchased the Kodiak. Soon after it was acquired, I quickly tore it down to the frame and built it back up, on the cheap, with its original parts. Many parts were understood as only being used until they either broke beyond repair or until “someday” came for me to overhaul the bike properly with my own personal touches. Over time and hours in the saddle throughout varied weather and pavement conditions, I had come to realize what needed to change in order to keep it in more efficient working order as a near-daily commuter and give it the shine I knew was under all that grime.
Before the cleaning, the functionality of the Raleigh was adequate but I also knew it could be better.
Once I had come to the inevitable conclusion that a modifications were necessary, parts were slowly acquired and a plan was made. I knew spring was the time for the transformation.
Bar tape update
Since this is my own personal build, experimentation still reigns supreme. I decided it would be entertaining to take a simple solution to an extreme level. Below is what it looks like when Newbaums black cloth bar tape, finished with twine, is encased in seven coats of shellac. Yes, seven.
I read at one point that seven was the magic number to give bar tape the full shine and superior protection so my bar wrap was put to the test. After each coat was applied then dried, it became more and more entombed in a rock hard casing. Even though it is thick and solid now, over time, I expect the shellac will start flaking off. I plan to keep the coating on an annual schedule adding a light top coat where my hands start to wear through. But with the current status, I do not look for noticeable wear to begin anytime soon.
When these photographs were taken, the shine was incredible but over time, it has cured into a less noticeable, yet still polished patina. In the end, I am pleased with the results but next time I may tone it back to five coats, maximum.
Piggybacking onto the ’86 Nishiki Cresta build, I also decided to try out the Planet X Frogs Bollox cantilever brakes. The stock Dia-Compe brakes I had previously used for years had certain shortcomings, mainly ease of adjustments. The Frogs have obliterated that issue giving multiple methods for caliper and pad adjustment. Another element I was pleased with was the discreteness of the overall look. I am always on the hunt for new parts that upgrade function but still keep a muted, vintage atheistic. The Frogs seem to fit the requirement and showcase a unique blend of vintage and a bit of an industrial look, somewhat similar to the Paul brand. Of course, along with a new brakeset came new stainless steel cables and housing. A job like this would not even be considered without it.
Crankset range versatility
The Takagi Tourney AID (48/40/30) crankset that was stock on the Kodiak seemed to feel that it was lacking a more broad gear range. When I found an extremely lightly used Sugino AT (52/46/28), I knew it would be a winner. The gearing now feels quite a bit more dynamic and I’m finally able to really get going on the straightaways. I used the 28 tooth chainring only once and that was on an extreme incline. I was only loaded down with a single pannier full of office clothing but the result was a beautiful blend of ease and power straight up. To cap off the crankset installation a new SRAM PC830 chain replaced the aging and stretched KMC.
New and old wheelset
On hand I have been coveting a set of Suntour 36 hole touring hubs that have been bagged and tucked away in darkness for years. The original Raleigh hubs were satisfactory but they needed more love than I cared to give them due to their years of abuse before I acquired the bike. Plus, the mismatched wheels they were laced to (Araya and Weinmann) had seen better days.
The Suntour hubs were a clear winner for the build. They were polished to a high shine then carefully married to a new set of Velocity Synergy 27″ wheels with Wheelsmith doubled butted spokes along with tried and true Continental Gatorskin tires. These tires have been a staple for many of my builds with a reputation as nearly bulletproof in terms of flat protection and wear longevity.
So far, the results have been outstanding. The main concern I had was with the rims braking surface but the wheels feel even more solid than I expected, even with the non-machined, brushed sidewall finish.
Other additions and updates
Once the momentum begins when rebuilding an old classic, other elements creep in that weren’t expected. But without those added details, the build would not feel complete. So, other modifications were incorporated that aren’t necessarily highlighted as standouts, like above. Edits such as the installation of a new black, Brooks B17 narrow saddle. The saddle wasn’t a planned addition and installed as a bit of an afterthought. The B17 is quite different than the Vetta Centurion Anatomic I have rode since purchasing the Kodiak. The look is certainly enhanced for the better but I have yet to fully break in the leather on the slender saddle. As time goes on, I know it will mold to my sit bones but until then, the ride is still quite stiff.
Also checked off the long-time alteration wish list was a touch-up paint job that made an incredible difference I did not expect. No color was found that passed the “ten foot test” on the frame so I mixed my own custom color. The results aren’t fully apparent from theses images but in person, the addition makes more of a difference than I ever thought possible. Along with the frame, the Blackburn aluminum rack also received a touch up. A fresh coat of matte black paint was sprayed and instantly color cohesion emerged. All of the cleaning, replacing and tightening up merged together into a tidied up and complete full spring cleaning for a fine machine now ready for another few years of commuting.
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