Vintage Bicycles Done Proper :: Portland, Oregon
Painting a vintage frame removes its history and resets the clock back to zero. Purists howl in agony but sometimes, the action is a full-blown necessity.After months of what essentially would be considered “prep work”, the unfolding story of the Raleigh Portage continues with a fully finished frame. Sporting only an IRD Techno-Glide headset, the Portage is fresh out of the paint booth and the build is now free to move forward. A bright, shiny frame is easy to show but getting here was full of trials and tribulations including incredibly extended vendor delays, technical difficulties and paint-to-decal incompatibilities.
But, before the back story, let’s indulge in the final results.
Top Tube Frame Repair and Cable Guides
Originally, the top tube had significant rust running along cable guides and on the underside of the first cable guide. The guides were removed and stops replaced them. The brazing work done was light and delicate but is only really only showcased now, in this final stage.
The top tube rust, both on the top and bottom, was sanded and filled. Although there is still a slight trace of rust damage left, it is minor and in a place where it won’t easily be seen. Most importantly, the rust is now interrupted and stopped from spreading any further.
Decal Application and Custom Paint Additions
Since the frame was not being repainted to match exact Raleigh paint or decal specifications, I felt some creative liberty was in order. Paint panels on the seat tube are not what may be typical found on most Raleigh frames of this era but it was a treatment performed in the past. I wanted to give a nod to a famous Raleigh yesteryear frame, harkening back to the well-known screaming red frame with primary yellow seat tube paint panels of the early ’80s Raleigh Team Pro.
The decals I purchased were custom made by VeloCals. Portage decals did not exist so they modified mid-’80s Raleigh Grand Prix decals and with measurements provided, they were able to reconstruct the lettering. The local painter I used originally refused to use the decals stating that he had had one too many issues in the past with VeloCals product and thus refused to move forward. He warned that the the VeloCals decals would run when clear coat was applied over them. Although alarming to me, the work and price paid for the decals was already complete so I was not about to simply throw in the towel. After negotiations, we came to an agreement to run comparisons on the decals. The tests consisted of VeloCals decals applied to painted tubing with Imron clear coat over both. The first test was an Imron formula only obscurely referred to as “the older stuff” which apparently dries rock hard, crystal clear and had proven the test of time. After application, the painters assumptions were proven as he had warned me and the decals were in fact running only minutes after application. Luckily, he also apprehensively stocked “the new stuff” which was also Imron but a formula he was less convinced of. But, with this blend, even days later, the decals stayed clear and pristine. That proven, the decals and “the new stuff” was then applied to the Portage frame. Now, quite a bit of time later, the decals still look sharp and clean.
Frame Alteration Afterthoughts
After initial frame alterations were made and the blog post was live, I came to realize that another beneficial addition would be a chainslap strap mount. Before thickly gauged plastic stickers were the norm on chainstays, “the French constructeurs mounted rubber straps on their chainstays to protect the finish even if the chain hit the stay on rough roads.” (Jan Heine) That modification was added at the eleventh hour and will now house a reproduction of a classic “Champion” brand rubber strap. Both form and function check boxes marked and achieved in a way acceptable to the likes of René Herse and Alex Singer. If it is good enough for them, it certainly is good enough for me!
The Portage project as a whole is clearly not yet complete. The actual build still remains. But to get to this point took a significant toll. Countless hours of research, resources and of course, money, all swirled and blended together to make this frame restoration happen. It took nearly a year to purchase, acquire, repair and complete painting. Although the end results are quite impressive, the time it took to get here was incredible. The most significant chunk was spent waiting for the painter who clearly put my one-off project behind other clients who came in on a more frequent basis and masked the reasoning with inane excuses. My apologies, dear painter, but 8 months is too long to wait for a frame.
If I had to, would I do it again? Yes, probably. But with reservation.
Even with all the investigation put in selecting a painter, I should have gone elsewhere. But how was I to know at the time? If there is a next time for painting a frame, I am more educated as a consumer and know the questions to ask that will hopefully give me a more accurate picture of how the project will flow.
Thankfully, the most difficult and time consuming pieces of this restoration process is behind me. The only thing left now is to build the bike and that is something done on my own time. No other third party needed.
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