Vintage Bicycles Done Proper :: Corvallis, 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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She’s a beauty. Well done!
Thanks, Alex. Blood, sweat and tears were genuinely put into this frame freshening. Now, on to the fun part of actually building it!
Wow! That is a piece of sculpture. Thanks for sharing the journey.
I am absolutely honored and humbled by your comment. Thank you!
I’m new to your blog and a return to bikes so go easy on the critique. With cars I’ve always been in favor of preservation rather than restoration if possible. Regarding my ’37 Hercules Gents Roadster it was packed with “original” dirt and grime. I feel if a vehicle isn’t kept as clean as new it won’t operate as new. Although not ridden for many years it defined “rode hard and put away wet.” So I washed, disassembled, cleaned, polished, lubricated where applicable, and reassembled. Now it shines like new yet includes the road rash accumulated from ’37 through the mid 40s. I’ve seen pics of original bikes washed, left totally oxidized, and the chrome covered with surface rust. I hope that interpretation of preservation is considered the same as my interpretation of preservation. I’m eager to find a few more vintage road and racing bikes. Thanks.
Hi Peter. I take absolutely no offense at your critique. In fact, this is the first bicycle I’ve ever had painted. I too agree that the original finish, with all of its flaws and character, make for a better story. But, this frame needed help… Lots of it.
As I’m sure you know, the frame had rust issues that could not be ignored and since it would need to be corrected and stopped from spreading, why not repaint it? And if I was repainting it, why not make some frame alterations to make it more accommodating for certain elements? That’s how a small job becomes a big and involved one.
But, after all was said and done, the process it did not go easily, smoothly or quickly.
Maybe that is because the vintage bicycle gods do not appreciate a frame being altered and painted.
Hi Josh. Thanks for your reply. I wasn’t critiquing your work on the Raleigh frame. As you said, sometimes you have no choice and you saved it. I meant go easy on me as I learn about vintage bikes. That said, my real question addresses defining bike preservation. If I’m preserving a bike does it make any difference, other than personal preference, whether I just wash it off or totally clean and polish every part while leaving life’s dents? Thanks, Peter
I didn’t feel like you were critiquing my work. Not in the least.
Preservation is a very personal treatment. Some take their restorations to a tear-down and build up level while others will just hose the frame off and call it good. Both, technically speaking, are leaving the character and patina in tact. But, I am a firm believer in how you show up defines who you are so I like to go a little overboard (as you may have noticed) on my restorations. I have seen many others go even deeper but for me, I’m taking it as far as I’d like. However, don’t get me wrong, a good scrubbing of the frame, some wax and some light polishing can change a bicycle 100%. So, honestly, any level of preservation you feel comfortable with is acceptable! How deep down the rabbit hole you want to dive, however, is a personal preference you will have to decide on your own.
Good luck and enjoy the process! It’s quite satisfying when you hit the level of results you are happy with.
Very, very impressive!
If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. You have certainly demonstrated that idea with your Portage frame.
It will be great to see the entire build. Good luck with that!
Much obliged, Dan.
I too am interested in seeing the entire build. So far, so good though. A few little hiccups here and there but the idea springing from mind’s eye is starting to come into tangible focus.
Nice! I love the subtle modification from the stock decals. The paint may have taken a long time, but at least it looks beautiful. Almost too nice to ride!
Thanks for the kind words! As I build the frame up, I have also had thoughts creep in questioning if I really want to put the frame back on the mean streets because of how nice the outcome is. But, this Raleigh was in sad shape. Being resurrected and now road worthy once again would be a shame to keep it off the pavement. But, one thing is for certain, it won’t be ridden until the weather turns warmer and less volatile!
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I usually go with the “keep the original paint and decals” as you can never go back school of thought and I use a 3 step wax process by Meguiar’s (Cleaner, then Polish, then Carnauba wax) and it works fairly well, BUT, faced with the kind of rust you were looking at on a frame you clearly had a vision for I would have done the same and your frame, paint and the new decals turned out absolutely stunning!
Thank you, Ryan!
With numerous bikes passing through my hands over the years, with varying levels of restoration performed, I can say that this is the first and only bicycle I have had repainted. That should tell you how I feel about the matter as well. To me, it is important to keep the history but in this case, the rust was what made the decision final.