Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Overhaul of a Lemond Chambery

A coworker asked me to overhaul his Lemond Chambery last weekend. ( Picture is of the finished bike)

Some searching on the web indicates this bike to be from the late 1990's making it about 12 years old or so.

First inspection showed the bike to be dirty with tattered bar tape and tires rotted by age. Additionally, the shifters were "broken". The coworker provided me with replacement Continental Ultra Gator Skin Rigid Bead tires and a pair of used brake/shift levers he got off of ebay. He left it to my discretion as to whatever else needed replacement.

My first effort was to see if I could restore shift function to the levers and avoid using the lesser quality replacements. The problem was typical where the triggers fail to release the shifter. To address the problem I washed out the brake/shifter assemblies with about half a can of dry film silicone spray lubricant. The result was a brown dirty pool of lube on my shop floor and two working shifters.

Knowing that I was going to replace the brake and shift cables regardless of their appearance, I cut them off and put the loose cable housing aside for re-use since it was in good shape. Once the bike is completely assembled, clean, and otherwise ready to go, I would install Aztec Teflon brake and shift cables. I like the Aztec cables for their low cost, low maintenance, durability, and smooth operation.

I removed the tires from both wheels, removed the rear wheel's cassette, and did a detailed inspection after a very thorough cleaning . I found the wheels were fairly close to being radially and laterally true. There were no cracks, dents, or signs of excessive wear on the rims. The nipples and stainless steel spokes were in very good shape. However, I did find the rim tape on both wheels had been improperly installed leaving gaps exposing the tubes to the spoke ferrules, so I replaced it.

Next, I inspected the hubs' races, cones, bearings, and condition of the old lube. The lube was clean and the parts showed very little wear! With everything looking good, I cleaned the hubs, lubed, and assembled them. Next, I trued the wheels to about 1/2 mm tolerance and less than += 10% variation in spoke tension.

Given the age of the old tires and decided to replace the tubes, as well. One of the things I like to do is dust the inside of the tire casing with talc or baby powder. I think this makes the installation a bit better because the tube can move freely inside the tire during installation and initial inflation. The Continental Ultra Gator Skin has an arrow on their side wall denoting direction of rotation that is easy to miss and people often do. I don't know if it makes much or any difference, but I made sure to mount the tires so they would rotation in the correct direction.

Lastly for the wheels I did something that is too often overlooked. I carefully cleaned, lubed, and inspected both skewers. Since these things hold the wheels on the bike, I think it is time well spent.

The chain was pretty gummed up so I decided junk it for a new SRAM PC850 8-Speed Chain. I really like the SRAM chains for their durability and smooth shifting. The SRAM Powerlink included with this chain will also make future maintenance a bit easier for the owner. With my inspection of the rear derailleur I found the bottom pulley to have a bad sealed bearing. After removing and scrubbing the rear derailleur in solvent I installed the replacement pulleys, lubed the derailleur's pivot points, and reinstalled it on the hanger.

There was a lot of dirt around the bottom bracket and on the chain wheels so I decided to pull the crank arms off to make the cleaning easier. This also allowed me to remove the BB cartridge, inspect it, and inspect the surrounding area. After scrubbing the crank arms, bottom bracket cups, and chainrings in solvent I found them to be in good shape with little wear. The BB cartridge was also in good shape moving freely and smoothly. After cleaning/lubing front derailleur, bottom bracket threads, and cleaning the surrounding area I re-assembled the crank. The cleaning really made the replacement red alloy chainring bolts and dust caps visible.

The pedals had some serious dirt and a bit of rust on them that was probably interfering with the insertion of the cleats. It took some solvent and scrubbed the pedals with a stiff brush to remove the dirt and sprayed them with dry lube. The pedals moved freely and easily on their axles so I skipped redoing these bearings. Overall the pedal came out OK except they were pretty beat up in appearance.

The bike had some butt-ugly Profile Design bolt-on aerobars that would make wrapping the handlebars nearly impossible so I removed them. (Note: they were so ugly I didn't re-install them until after I took the picture above). The fork moved smoothly and freely, but I decide to remove the stem and fork for a couple of reasons. I wanted to inspect the metal steering tube for any damage from possible prior over-tightening of the quill stem bolt and inspect the point where it meets the carbon fiber fork crown. The good news was that after a thorough cleaning the fork and headset looked good. I reinstalled them and made a final adjustment without trouble.

I decided to take advantage of the handlebars being free from the bike and wrap them at this point. With some difficultly I removed the old tape and underlying adhesive. I was a little surprise to see the beautiful Cinelli handle bars had been deeply scored by the heavy handed clumsy prior use of a box or razor knife to remove handlebar tape. Given the bars are heavy aluminum construction and the scoring being at the end of the bars I decided replacement was not warranted. I also removed and replaced the vinyl tape holding the shift cables in place on the bars because it was badly stretched.

When I received the bike it had red/black cork handlebar tape no doubt to match the red anodized replacement alloy chainring bolts, dust caps, derailleur pulleys, and alloy nipples of the front wheel. However, I decided on a black and yellow cork tape with the idea this fit best with the gold lettering on the down tube and fork. Even with the yellow in the tape being slightly lighter in color than the lettering, I still think it was a good choice. With the bars wrapped I reinstalled bar and stem. By dumb luck I had some yellow tie wraps that I used to mount the wireless cycle computer's sensor on the fork which I thought was a nice touch.

Until now I was cleaning areas of the frame as I went, but it was now time for an overall cleaning and polishing of the frame. But after starting, I noticed the once clear chain stay protector had yellowed and looked pretty bad on the refrigerator-white frame. I decided to replace it with a Lizard Skins Carbon Leather Chainstay Protector because I thought is looked kind of cool and offered better protection than the original. After installing it, I finished cleaning the frame and fork with Finish Line Super Bike Wash. This took some elbow grease, lots of shop towels, and patience. I found the white finish was good looking, but showed every smudge and small scratches in the finish captured dirt very effectively. Once the frame was finally clean as I could get it, I finished it with Pedro's Bike Lust polish.

After giving the rear cassette a final scrub and re-installing it, I put the rear wheel back on the bike and made the initial adjustments to the derailleurs. Next I installed the previously mentioned Aztec shift cables, cut them to length, and put on the crimps. Here's something often overlooked when replacing cables. Make sure you turn the adjustment barrels to their minimum position before installing the new cables! This ensures the adjustment barrels will be able to accommodate both fine adjustments immediately after the cable installation and component wear or cable stretch over time.

With the shift cables installed I did some fine adjustments on both the front and rear derailleur to make sure nothing rubbed and both indexed through the gears without trouble. Even with a new chain I like to start out with a generous application of White Lighting chain lube. With the drive train assembled and adjusted I careful lubed each link in the chain.

Next I put the front wheel on and checked the alignment of both front and rear brake pads. Surprisingly the brake pads looked good and were perfectly aligned so all I had to do is install the new brake cables after screwing down the adjustment barrels, cut them to length and put on the crimps. Not previously mentioned was that I had cleaned, lubed, and inspected the brakes themselves when I did the final cleaning of the frame.

Since my goal was to make the bike completely road-ready, I decided to go the extra mile and replace the cycling computers batteries, and add a small frame pump under the down tube water bottle cage. I also equipped the saddle bag with patches, tire irons, spare tube, and spare sensor battery for the wireless cycling computer.

After taking the picture above, I resigned myself to putting the aero bars back on which made me a little sad since it screwed with the good looks of the bike and clean cable runs. With the aero bars on I mounted the cycling computer to them and calibrated it to the new tires.

Here's another thing that is often overlooked by folks working on bikes. I went over the bike one last time checking adjustments, bolt tightness, alignments. This check ended with a quick test ride to verify shifting and braking were 100% good.

The bottom line for the overhaul was $147 in parts (not including tires, cleaning supplies, and lubricant) and about 6 hours of labor on the bike over 3 days. My co-worker was very pleased with the results and accessories I selected.


  1. I have an old Lemond road bike that I got from a coworker for $50 dollars. I am looking to learn how to clean, fix, maintain it myself to get the most bang for my buck. I am not afraid of getting my hands dirty and am handy. Do you have any suggested resources to get me started down the road? Thank you.

  2. Hi Ryan.. Sorry for the slow response. I recommend for starting out doing your own maintenance Lennard Zinn's book "Zinn & The Art of Road Bike Maintenance". It retails for about $20. Zinn's book covers much of the how-tos you will need and is a good general reference, as well. It also covers more advanced topics like wheel building, frame alignment, and fork maintenance, if needed. To get started you are going to need some basic hand tools, lubes, metric wrenches, and some special tools which Zinn describes in detail. One tool option is the purchase of a starter bicycle tool kit that provides a mix of the most common tools you might need. Shop around on the web to see what suits your goals and budget. The cost of replacement parts can really add up fast, so use similar quality parts and resist more costly upgrades unless there is significant benefit. Your LBS can be good source of parts, consumables (lubes, solvents, cleaners, polish), and advice so they should be your first-stop. There are some websites that can offer discount prices and a readily available broad selection of parts when you cannot find it locally. Possible candidates for replacement on an older bike that has seen some miles might include tires, tubes, rim tape, handlebar tape, brake pads, chain, and shifter/brake cables. Pedals and saddle can be candidates depending you their condition and your needs. Even if the bike was a garage queen you should consider tires and brake pads since rubber degrades with time. After that it is usually a matter of a lot of cleaning, re-lubing, and adjusting to get your bike in top shape. Good luck and have fun! - nplus1bikes