Friday, October 31, 2014

You Lose Some, You Gain Some: '79 Ross Gran Tour

I last posted about my beater road bike fairly recently when the brake cable snapped.  Well, a couple days ago, I picked up a pair of junk fenders for free and used the chance to see if I could start working on the brakes.  I found out that the front brake lever assembly had corroded together so there was no hope of getting it to work for cheap - quickly, at least.

1979 Ross Professional Gran Tour, shortly after I got it running almost two months ago. 

Anyway, because the cable had snapped and there was no way I'd be putting in a new cable and lever anytime soon, I just took out the cable and planned to leave the front caliper there.  It was just wide enough to fit over the fender, anyway.  

I ended up taking the front brake off when I found out the rear caliper didn't fit over the fender.  I knew the two were different (not sure which one is original or if either are) so I just put the front brake on the rear wheel.  Because of the length and type of bolt on the ex-front brake caliper, I had to cobble the thing together with a bunch of washers to space out the nut.  Calibrating the brake cable was the most time-consuming part: if I don't want the brake to rub the wheel, nothing happens when I pull the lever.  Once I get the brake tight enough that it actually clamps down, it rubs the wheel when released.  Strange.  I've tried everything I could think of, but I'm still doubtful that the problem is un-fixable.  There has to be something I can do and the problem isn't the fender - this has been happening since I got the bike.  Oh well.  The brakes rub slightly at the moment but not enough for me to tell while riding.  I'd rather use a little extra energy to ride than get hit by a car.  

As you can see in the photo of the front end further above, the front fender is tied onto the fork dropout with string because I didn't have suitable nuts and bolts.  I rode it like that the next day but one string came off, as I predicted, so I had to go to the hardware store and get actual bolts.  I used wing nuts as well so removal and periodic tightening would be easy.  

I can't stop wondering - is the fork bent back? 
Many other bikes on the internet seem to look like this, but it still doesn't look right ... 

I really like how the bike looks now and I finally have something good to ride in the rain.  The Raleigh Sports is great with its full fenders and built-in dynohub light, but brakes are nonexistent once the wheels get wet.  The Ross, with its single weak brake, will still do better in the wet with alloy wheels and it now has fenders to protect my pants from road water.  I want to see if I can get some cheap brake hardware because if the front cable already snapped, it's only a matter of time until the rear snaps as well.  Maybe I'll snatch the brakes off my 20-inch kiddie bike when I'm home for break (it has a coaster brake anyway).  Riding the Ross will be a gamble until I can get the brake problems worked out for good.  

I can't help but notice that I'm becoming more attached to this bike.  I got it initially so it could be my beater and it still is, but at this point, I've invested too much time (a few hours) and too much of the skin on my knuckles (I might need a tetanus shot) to not love it at least a little.  The ride is actually reasonably comfortable now, either because it actually fits alright or because I'm just used to it.  The derailleur is dying fast and I moved the chain up to the large front chain ring to deal with the tension problem temporarily, but I'll be hunting around for another rear derailleur (possibly a front too) that I can get cheaply or for free.  I'm even thinking of removing the rust next summer and painting the bare spots over to protect the bike.  Oh goodness, what have I gotten myself into? (I'm not restoring it, I swear!)