Sunday, 14 February 2016

BSA probably, 30's probably, old certainly

I bought this on ebay long after I should have stopped buying bikes.  It was a gamble just like anything on there.  On 11/10/2015 I paid about £30 + £22 postage and it arrived promptly and well packed.  It seemed quite small when unwrapped, the short headstock surprised me but the measurement centre to centre was on a frame with relaxed angles, the vertical measurement is a fair bit less.

There is no indication that it is a BSA, why then did the seller suggest it might be?  Looking at his other items, there were a couple of large flange chromed steel hubs engraved with BSA and which probably came off this bike.  The number 69224 isn't really a lot of use, it seems Raleigh and Sunbeam can be dated easily but not Dawes or BSA.

Once I had examined the frame and forks, and impressed by what I had bought, I had a hunt round for which bits could be used to turn them into a bicycle.  I had taken a Dawes down the tip; 500 CroMo is actually quite a heavy frame, the tube is quite thick-walled - and the frame was far too large for me.  However I had kept the wheels and the calipers.  This BSA probably took 26 by 1 1/4 wheels, whereas the wheels that came out of the Dawes were 700C.  I offered the front wheel to the forks and it fitted, the axle was 8mm and the hub narrow!  It was the only hub in my garage that would fit the forks; it gets better, the caliper's drop was perfect for the 700C wheel and the drop at the back matched too, both with room for mudguards.  In many cases modern bikes are built with wheel clearances far too close.

The seat tube clamp bolt was seized so I cut through it and could see that the seat post entry was not circular, gentle persuasion with a lever and the seat tube opened up to 27.2 mm!  The bike was described as a lightweight in the listing and I only know one tube which takes that size seat post, 531.   No it's not.   14-02-2016 More later...

30/06/2016 I've done a bit more work on the frame and discovered damage to the left hand seatstay, looks to be filled with lead.  Never mind, I don't think the seller knew, and it will still work - after all the bottom bracket threads are undamaged.

25/09/2017 The seat tube is actually 27.0 mm and I have a correct seat post fitted. I have removed the drive side LH bearing cup and cleaned out the crud. An aluminium sleeve was fitted to keep out dirt etc. but which restricted the new bearing cup, I removed it.

Also I had no idea the steering head bearings were so different, they have proved impossible to find on ebay but I bought a frame and forks with a full set. I prefer the BSA so it will get the set and I am considering machining a set from steel (and hardening them) for the other frame and forks. But we will see.

Album here

Mike Mullett #pig in a poke

I don't know how I do it!  The frame and forks looked good on eBay, the seller had a high number, it was priced to sell at £59 + £15 postage. Mine was the only bid, which I've often noticed is a bad sign. It arrived promptly but not very well packed. I took it to my garage and unwrapped it, alarm bells went off immediately, the bottom bracket was showing damage on the drive side, the internal threads didn't look healthy. I photographed it and uploaded the photos (on to a different Flickr account) then contacted the seller.

He said: 

I stripped the frame myself and removed the bottom bracket. The bike rode absolutely perfectly before I stripped it. I wanted all the parts and I have reused them all. The frame is way too small for me.
Please return the frame and I will refund all costs including postage.

Good start, does it end well?  We will see.

Then he said: 

I am a bit puzzled. The bottom bracket was absolutely fine. I myself removed the components form the whole frame as I said. can you explain what the issue is more clearly. 
Have you tried to put a bottom bracket in?

I had not at this stage, I didn't want to touch it, anyone with an ounce of mechanical sensibility could see it was dodgy, thoughts flickered through my brain regarding liability. I went ahead and tried it. What could happen next?

I told him: 

I just tried to put the bearing shell in the bottom bracket, the threads are so worn that it is possible to wiggle it past that ding, at this point there is not enough metal for the threads to get a proper grip and turning it to tighten it is not enough it needs to be pushed, right at the last with about 4 mm gap between the bottom bracket and the bearing shoulder the threads get some purchase and it is possible to screw it home. This would have held it in place for you to use but you must have noticed some unusual activity as you removed it. To repair this someone would have to fill the damaged thread area with braze and re-tap the thread. This is not suitable for use as it stands.

I hope this is clear enough.

He replied: 

Really clear thank you
I am just very very surprised I did not notice this. As far as I am concerned the bottom bracket came out as normal. That amount of damage I would clearly notice.
I have 1343 positive feedback score I have never had a returned item. 

I am happy to accept the return but this is now costing me the postage on top and it seems I have a knackered frame. 

I want to believe you, but who is to say you didn't cross thread the bearing cup yourself. I hope you understand.
Simply I will accept the return but you will have to pay the return postage. I am not bothered how long it takes so you can do it cheaply but it will need to be tracked.
I hope you understand.

So in his head I am the sort of person who would unpack a frame, immediately and incompetently cross thread a bottom bracket then lie that it was like that anyway, presumably I photo-shopped the photos I posted on Flickr immediately too?  Why would anyone reach that conclusion, why would they think like that?  Obviously because he has a feedback of 1343 he is infallible.  He didn't do it.

I replied: 
I did not cross thread the bearing, I have worked in engineering environments since I was 16 and I am 54 now, I responded to you within minutes of receiving the frame, photographed the threads to the best of my ability and at that time I did not put anything into the bottom bracket, I could see the external damage and photographed the threads and identified to you I thought they showed signs of cross threading. I tried to insert a bearing as you suggested and was amazed at how damaged the threads were, and amazed someone would not notice this. To use your thinking, who is to say that you didn't try to pass off a damaged frame and put the blame on the buyer, that side of the frame was not photographed where the dent would have been visible. You removed it, and I have only your word for this, the black gunk was pretty thick all over the inside of the bottom bracket so it must have been a while ago, and you forgot how bad it was when you took it out. I hope you understand.

If I had to suggest what happened, a previous owner dropped the frame, dented the bottom bracket on the sprocket side (which is visible in your photos) and forced a bearing in there cross-threaded, damaging the threads in the process, tried again and got it in square with the few that were left, which were enough to retain the bearing for you to ride it. 

I will send it via Hermes tracked insured to the value of £75 to save your postage costs.

You will be getting the frame back in the same condition I received it.

He replied: 

Thanks for your quick reply. I do understand. I am wondering, maybe the frame was dropped whilst in transit at some point and my packaging was not good enough to protect the frame. I honestly check over all the frames I sell meticulously, so I guess I am disappointed I missed this because it is so obvious.

I am very sorry for the inconvenience. I would never knowingly sell a damaged item. I will make my own assessment when the frame is returned. I will have a go at putting the old bearing cup back in and see for myself. As a result, I may well refund your return postage costs fully.

Thanks for your time

At this stage I thought that maybe one side could have been damaged and perhaps was re-threaded to an Italian size and maybe he had the original that he removed. But I see from Sheldon that this would be a right hand thread.

So eventually he received it, (packed much better than I received it) he refunded the purchase and after another push he refunded my return postage.

And here is the punchline: 

I can se [sic] what has happened to the frame. I took the right hand bearing cup out with a vice, so I can see that it pinched the bottom bracket slightly.

I had no problem putting a shimano sealed unit in, nice and tight. To be honest not sure what all the fuss was about, but hey.

So this is this is the person who says "I honestly check over all the frames I sell meticulously" and "I have 1343 positive feedback score I have never had a returned item" (BTW only 488 of that 1343 is as a seller).

He relisted the item immediately and it sold for more than I paid for it to some poor sod who will remove the sealed unit which is "nice and tight" on the last 4 mm of good thread, be confronted with the damaged bottom bracket and most likely be pretty angry about it, but wouldn't think that the seller had knowingly sold a damaged frame. "I took the right hand bearing cup out with a vice, so I can see that it pinched the bottom bracket slightly". It must have been like that, surely?  

Of course the buyer could have built it into a bike as received, not removed the bottom bracket, and be none the wiser.

I notice that no feedback has been left for that sale.

But hey.

And who built that gorgeous, damaged frame I owned briefly?  Who is Mike Mullett?

The design of the frame is crucial.... That’s where the knowledge of unit boss Gerald O’Donovan came in. Formerly the chief of Carlton Cycles, a revered British name, he brought his knowledge and ideas to Ilkeston. Mike Mullett, a qualified engineer and former international cycle racing team mechanic who joined the team in 1978 also raised the bar at Raleigh. Because he’d worked first hand with leading riders of the day, he knew what worked in a frame and what didn’t. He’d also become interested in the application of computer technology to frame design using key measurements of a rider’s body, and developed a program to calculate the required frame dimensions.

Because of the demands which would be placed on them, the frames were built with extreme patience and care – but don’t think that because these lightweight jewels were built for racing, they were delicate and fragile. Quite the reverse – bear in mind that the SBDU Raleighs were built to be pounded relentlessly and mercilessly by the most powerful cyclists on planet Earth, generating more watts than you or I could ever dream of. Over the Alps and Pyrenees they rode, across the awful cobbles of Paris-Roubaix and the wind-swept flat lands of Holland en route to classic race wins in Milan San-Remo, Paris-Roubaix, Ghent-Wevelgem, The Tour of Flanders, Amstel Gold, The Tour of Switzerland, world road race and track championships and many more, including the Tour de France.

- From my point of view, it was a beautifully made frame, the attention to detail spot on, no forming for clearance for wheels or sprockets, and a lovely little touch, the mounting point for a race number under the top tube.

Raleigh!  I have saved the photos in Trouble with Raleighs.