Monday, March 18, 2019

Modifying Kool Stop Brake Pads

Updating vintage brakes with modern pads and cables is a great and easy way to improve their performance. Modern cables often have less friction, which can lighten the "feel" of an old pair of brakes, and modern brake pad compounds are quite a bit better than what was available "back in the day." If you have vintage brakes and are still using vintage pads, those pads may not have been anything great to begin with, and by now they are probably so hard and dry that it's a wonder they can stop a bike at all.

I've found the brake shoes from Kool Stop to be a good choice for improving older brakes - they come in a couple of different compounds (black, or salmon), have some adjustability for toe-in, are fairly inexpensive, and will work with a lot of different vintage brakes. One issue with them, however, is that they are made to be uni-directional, with a long "tail" that sometimes interferes with the forks on older bikes. In some cases, the tail of the pads gets caught up on the forks with the result that the brakes won't open up wide enough to get the wheel out. Kool Stop does make a version they call "Continental" pads which are shorter and simply rectangular - but they also don't have the toe-in adjustability, which in my view is a strike against them.

The good thing is that the longer pads can be easily modified - and here I'll show you how.

I just installed these new Kool Stop Eagle Claw Salmon shoes on this set of vintage Dia Compe center pulls. You can see that the tail of the pads extends back into the fork. In this instance, the spacing is actually not too bad and the brakes will probably open up wide enough despite the pad/fork interference - but I'm going to trim them anyhow.
 One thing you need to know about the Kool Stop brake shoes is that they are molded around a steel "foot" that runs most of the length of the shoe - stopping just short of the tail end of the pad. If you cut the shoe, you want to make sure you clear the metal foot.

Looking at the braking surface of the shoe, you can see there are two "rain grooves" that divide the pad into 3 sections. The metal "foot" that is inside the shoe ends just about where the second rain groove is at the tail end of the pad. That little ¼ in. section at the tail is the part we're going to cut off. You could probably use a basic utility knife for this, but I personally prefer a straight razor blade (nice, new, and sharp) for the job.
The blue lines show the approximate location of the metal foot. I suggest cutting on a bit of an angle through the tail end of the rain groove and outward - to make sure you don't run into the foot. If you do hit and expose it, it's not the end of the world (once on the bike, it's doubtful anyone would notice) but I'm anal retentive enough that it would drive me nuts.
Cuts like butter.
The cut is smooth and straight. When on the bike, the cut will disappear. 
It's usually only necessary to do this to the front pads - as the rear brakes often have a little more space between the seat-stays - and the brakes are usually oriented so that the long tail of the pads points away from the stays to the rear of the bike.
On the bike, you can't tell the shoe was cut, but it has increased the clearance. The next thing is the mounting posts. On the threaded versions of these shoes, the post is really long. It's possible they make it long so it works with more models of brakes - but I can't imagine any brake that needs the posts to be as long as these are. No problem. After the brakes are set up, with the position and angle you want, it's easy to cut off the end of the post with a Dremel tool. I do it with the pads mounted in the brakes, and use a file or a small abrasive wheel (also mounted in the Dremel tool) to smooth the end. If you cut the post prior to mounting, you might find it hard to get the nut started on the threads after cutting.
That's all for now. More updates on the bike projects will be coming soon.

Monday, March 11, 2019

New Bikes for the Retro-Kids: Headbadges

I'm making progress on the new bikes for the Retro-Kids - bit by bit. One update I'd like to share at the moment is on headbadges.

After getting the frames powder coated, I decided not to re-decal the bikes. With these entry-level Japanese bikes from the '80s, they aren't exactly collectable or valuable, and I figure a person can do whatever they wish with them - no need to "preserve" any kind of history. As previously shown, I did outline the lugs to dress them up a little - and next came headbadges. I decided to "personalize" the girls' bikes by choosing badges that reflect a little of their personalities and tastes.

The purple bike started out as a Centurion Le Mans and did have a badge originally (a big "C" for Centurion) that had to be removed before painting. Instead of simply re-attaching the original badge, I searched through eBay listings and found something pretty cool from a seller in China. There are a number of sellers who offer reproduction badges for known brands, as well as some unique "no-name" badges that can personalize a bike like I am doing here. The badges are metal and are applied with double-sided adhesive tape - the same stuff that is used for attaching automotive trim.

In this case, my younger daughter really loves unicorns. I was able to find this badge with a pair of rearing unicorns. I know she's going to love it.
For the second bike, which had started out as a Miyata 100, I had to get a little more creative. My older daughter really loves dragons, but searching through vintage and reproduction badges (including the same sources that provided the unicorn badge above) I couldn't find anything that seemed suitable. But looking through some jewelry pendants at the craft store, I happened to find a very cool pewter dragon and I thought "that just might work."

First, I filed off the loop at the top where the pendant would attach to a chain. Then I curved the pendant to fit the shape of the head tube and attached it with 2-part epoxy.
To make a form to curve the pendant, I bored a 1¼-inch hole in a block of wood, then split the block to reveal a half-round channel. I placed the pendant face down into the channel, then put a piece of pipe on top of that and tapped it with a hammer. The pendant gently curved to fit flush onto the head tube.

Here are a couple more progress pics:

I was able to find two sets of these old '80s vintage Sakae cranks - new old stock, but without chainrings. I had a couple of chainrings already that were the right size, and was able to find a couple more easily enough. The 110/74 bcd is still pretty common today. So both bikes will have the same cranks.
I also got a great deal on this 3rd generation SunTour Cyclone rear derailleur. It was in really good shape cosmetically, except for the logo (which was just screened on) was scratched up. I simply removed the logo completely with some fine steel wool and aluminum polish. These old SunTour derailleurs were fantastic, and this particular generation Cyclone was very robust. I have a matching Cyclone front derailleur to go with it.
That's all for now. More updates to come. . .

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Red Dots Cycling Caps

If you're like me (and if you're reading this you probably are, at least a little) then you probably appreciate the classic look of a traditional cycling cap. Vintage caps with team logos, or favorite component brands, or tires, or what-have-you, are kind of a "must have" accessory in any retrogrouch's cycling kit. I'll sometimes wear one under my helmet on a cool morning - or keep one rolled up in a jersey pocket to hide "helmet hair" when I'm stopped for a snack.

Unfortunately, being rather "large of head" I sometimes find it difficult to find caps that fit me well. Often, the vintage classics are too small. There are some options, however. I'm guessing a lot of Retrogrouch readers are familiar with Walz caps, which offer some classic-looking caps and custom-made options, and in two size ranges. The Walz caps are well made - and made in America if that's important to you - and have developed a bit of a following.

Not too long ago, I found another source for great-looking high-quality caps - this one from Canada: Red Dots Cycling. You can find them on Etsy. Like Walz, the caps are hand made and come in a variety of classic-looking styles and in two size ranges. The prices are pretty comparable to Walz as well.

The style of Red Dots caps is traditional and classy. Some of the combinations are somewhat muted, while others have a bit of whimsy.

Here's one that I have - the wine red with white/light blue stripe is subtle. Wear it away from the bike and it says "I'm a cyclist - but I'm not trying to be obnoxious about it."

It's not unusual for the Red Dots caps to have a tame or "muted" color on the outside, but with a shocking surprise "pop" when you flip the visor up.

They also have some thicker wool caps with earflaps for cold weather.
Look through their site on Etsy and you can find some cool designs in stock to suit a range of tastes - or you can choose a "custom" option to pick your own colors (that costs extra, if that needs mentioning). Most of the caps are made with a cotton or linen fabric that is fairly light and feels nice to the touch and is breathable. There's a stiffener in the brim, and there's often (but not always) a contrasting color on the flip side. The quality is good, and in my experience they seem to fit well. I get the larger size and it's comfortable.

I've got several Red Dots caps and really like them - I'd say they're worth checking out.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Battaglin Portofino - Where Steel Imitates Carbon Fiber

Battaglin bicycles began in 1981, shortly after Giovanni Battaglin won the Giro d'Italia/Vuelta a España grand tour "double." The bike brand achieved its greatest fame when Irishman Stephen Roche won the "Triple Crown" of cycling on a Battaglin in 1987 - winning the Giro, Tour de France, and the World Championships in the same season. Some years later, the brand took a "break" for a couple of decades but was revived a few years ago as "Officina Battaglin" with a new line of modern steel-framed bikes.

The "flagship" of this new Battaglin is the Portofino - a bike which at least one of the bicycle industry cheerleader websites called "The first oversized lugged steel road bike." Obviously this would not be the first time one of these sites showed a lack of historical knowledge about their subject matter.
First "oversized" lugged steel bike? Well - "oversized" is a relative term, isn't it? First lugged steel bike built to bloated carbon fiber proportions might be a little more accurate, but doesn't quite have the same ring.

The Portofino is made with Columbus Spirit tubing, and has similar proportions to many of the oversized aluminum and carbon fiber bikes available today - including a massive tapered head-tube designed to be mated to a bloated carbon fork. But yes, it does feature lugged construction, which on a bike like the Portofino seems almost anachronistic -- and this coming from a person who loves lugged bikes. Needless to say, the lugs had to be specially designed and made to accommodate the unique design.
I notice that the bottom part of the lower head lug had to have this "scallop" built into it to clear the massive fork. Meh
Also not a fan of the seat lug which has this socket for the seat stays cast into it. The stays basically get "plugged in" and brazed in place. Such designs are kind of a time saver for the builder, but to my eye tend to look kind of clunky. But worse - unless they cast different seat lugs for each available frame size (each with a slightly different angle for the seat stays - which will vary slightly with frame size) then the fit of the stays - or the way they "line up" with the angle of the socket - can be compromised. Was that done in this case? No idea. It looks "right" in this frame size - but I haven't seen others.
It's purely a racing machine - for good pavement only. That's a 25 mm tire in there. 
Don't like the matte brown and coppertone? It's apparently also available in a chrome finish with "chromovelato" colors applied over it - like storied Italian bikes of the '80s.
Okay, so what about that "first oversized lugged steel frame" claim? Well, like I said, the term "oversized" is relative. Technically (and historically) speaking, most steel bikes built today are already oversized.

Say what?

From the early 1900s up through the 1980s, almost all quality steel bikes came with pretty standardized tubing dimensions. Specifically, this meant a top tube of 1-in. diameter (25.4 mm), and seat and down tubes of 1 1/8-in (28.6 mm) diameter. French dimensions were slightly different and strictly metric -- at 26 mm and 28 mm. Those "standards" were settled upon early on as being an ideal compromise for strength and weight for steel tubing. As higher strength steel alloys and butting became available, the weight could be brought down a bit by reducing the tubing wall thickness while keeping the outer dimensions the same.

When aluminum bikes started making the racing scene in the early 1970s, first with ALAN of Italy, and later Vitus of France, they utilized those traditional steel tubing diameters (understand, those were not the very first aluminum racing bikes - there were some lovely aluminum racers in the pre-war era - notably the Caminargent, which had octagonal-sectioned aluminum tubes bolted into ornate aluminum lugs). Those ALAN and Vitus frames were very light, but larger riders tended to dismiss them as "whippy" or too flexible. Their 1" to 1 1/8" dimensions were great for steel, but to use that for aluminum is to ignore the fact that Al is only about 1/3 as stiff or strong as steel. The stiffness issue was addressed by an MIT engineering student, Gary Klein, who experimented with bikes built from much larger diameter aluminum tubing (I believe, in the range of about 1¼ - 1¾ in. - though I could be off). Increasing the diameter of a tube greatly increases the stiffness, while the weight still remained below that of a steel frame. Before long, Cannondale followed that design model and popularized it. "Oversized" dimensions started to become commonplace.

Even though the traditional dimensions worked just fine for steel bikes (at least, for road bikes) the quest for greater stiffness made its way to steel bikes as well. The rise of mountain bikes also meant that builders were looking for ways to increase strength and stiffness. If larger diameters worked for aluminum, they would work for steel, too. One of the first steel road bikes to utilize oversized dimensions that I can recall is the Masi Volumetrica - developed in Italy by Alberto Masi in 1981 (go back to the late 1800s, before tubing dimensions became more standardized, and I'm sure there are much earlier examples). Other builders started to offer larger dimensioned tubing by the end of the decade - typically 1 1/8-in top tube, 1 ¼-in. downtube. By the late '90s, most steel bikes were built to the newer OS dimensions - but still looked "skinny" by comparison to all the welded aluminum and later carbon fiber bikes popping up everywhere.

Are there any benefits to be had from going to the diameters used in aluminum and carbon fiber for a steel frame? I really think not. People often talk about the "magic" ride quality of steel -- and this even includes people who are otherwise devoted to non-ferrous bicycles. But the ride quality which people praise isn't solely due to the properties of the material by itself. It's about the properties of the material (whether steel, titanium, aluminum, carbon fiber, or even wood) and being applied in the best way into a frame design - using the right diameters and wall thicknesses, the right geometry, taking into account frame size, and rider weight, etc.- to make the most of that material's potential. Many people talk about aluminum as giving a stiff harsh ride while others nod knowingly in agreement, but then how does that square with those early ALAN and Vitus frames being described as "comfortable" but maybe "too flexible" for a big rider? And I've known many people who've ridden steel bikes that were too stiff for their own good. There are some people for whom today's OS steel frames are overkill. It seems to me that the massive diameters being used in a bike like the Portofino would just take the stiffness to a new level. I haven't ridden it, but I imagine a bike like that would chatter over pavement imperfections, skipping over broken pavement like a stone over a pond. The 25mm tires wouldn't help.

I guess if someone wants a steel bike that won't look out of place in a sea of fat-tubed aluminum and carbon fiber, the Portofino is a fine way to go. The polished steel lugs definitely make it more distinctive than all the welded or "popped out of a mold" alternatives. But . . .
. . . for those who want their traditional lugged steel bike to look a little more . . . well . . . traditional, Battaglin also makes a model called Marosticana - made with Columbus SL tubing and more "normal" tubing profiles.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

That Time Road & Track Test Drove A Bicycle

I used to be a "car" guy. I loved cars. LOVED 'em. Yeah, that's changed. Nowadays I barely tolerate them.

When I was a kid - and I mean a pretty young kid, like no more than 10 or 11 years old - I started subscribing to car magazines like Road & Track and I read those all through my teens and twenties. One of my favorite writers was Peter Egan who wrote the "Side Glances" column every month (and another column in the motorcycling magazine Cycle World, which I also read). His style was mostly anecdotal/autobiographical with a touch of humor - and if anybody ever compared my writing to his, I'd take it as a great compliment. (nobody ever has).

Just above the headmast - "Maserati's New
Super-Economy Sports Vehicle."
Anyhow, I was recently reminded through a discussion with the Classic Rendezvous group about that time Road & Track test drove a bicycle. It was April 1974 and the bike was a Maserati MT-3. This was soon after the beginning of the OPEC oil embargo (starting late '73), and suddenly there was tremendous interest in smaller more fuel-efficient cars. On the cover was the new Honda Civic CVCC, and the issue was loaded up with (mostly imported) tiny compact cars boasting about 25 mpg (there is something to be said for the fact that many, much larger, mid-sized and even some full-sized cars built today can better that 25 mpg goal). Of course, with that newfound zeal for fuel economy, and the fact that it coincided with the great American Bike Boom (which had just peaked in '73) it made sense to take a look at a bicycle. The fact that the bicycle came from Maserati, a storied name in exotic sports cars, made it the perfect digression from their usual fare.

In reality, Maserati bicycles were only tangentially connected to the motor company. The bicycle branch was headed by Alfieri Maserati (a grandson, I believe, of one of the original Maserati brothers of automotive fame) but was a separate entity from the car factory in Modena, Italy. The bikes were imported and sold in the US by Elsco Corp of Jacksonville, Florida, which was owned by Ed Hugus who raced Maserati cars and was a friend of the Maserati family.

Some people would insist that R&T conducting a road test of a bicycle was an April Fools joke (it was the April issue, after all), but I'm not entirely certain that that was the intent. The article definitely has some tongue-in-cheek elements to it - but it doesn't exactly read as a "joke." I believe it's possible there may have been at least some earnestness to it.

Whatever humorous effect the article contains mostly comes from the fact that they approach the bicycle "test drive" from an obviously car-centric background, and evaluate it using the same criteria for which they would evaluate a 4-wheeled test subject. For example, the photo that leads off the article shows the bicycle on a drag strip with their data-collecting "5th wheel" (or "3rd wheel", in this case) attached:
"All the usual electronic test gear was connected to the MT-3, but we found that it reduced performance so sharply that it would be better to test it at curb weight plus driver."
They go on to post all their data for the bike, whether that data is relevant to a bicycle or not.
Some data highlights: "Engine type . . . biped" ; "Torque . . . negligible" ; "Fuel requirement . . . high protein" ; "Headroom . . . ∞" - and of course, all the usual acceleration, handling, and braking data.
Locking up the front brakes. It's possible they staged that nose-dive (though the bouncing chain tells me maybe not). However, I'm quite certain the "burned rubber" smoke was airbrushed in afterwards (for you kids out there, that's what we did before we had Photoshop).
Along those lines, I enjoyed this observation on the quietness of the 2-wheeled Maserati: "The most striking thing one notices about the MT-3 is the utter silence of its powerplant, although we did note that after an extended run, or especially after a run uphill, the powerplant does tend to huff and puff a bit."

I'd say that really sums up the typical driver attitude towards bikes.
Some things made it clear that a bunch of car guys just really didn't "get" bicycles. For one thing, they seemed truly perplexed at the gear range of a 10 speed (2x5) drivetrain and the way the gear ratios overlap across the range, as opposed to increasing sequentially from 1st through 10th gear. Or even, for that matter, the fact that the very concept of "1st gear - 2nd gear - 3rd gear, etc." is not really applicable to most derailleur-equipped bicycles with two or three chainrings.

There were also several remarks about the difficulty of shifting a derailleur-equipped bike. "From time to time we make derogatory remarks about vague shift linkage or some such thing, but in this mechanism, there are actually no detents for the five speeds of the derailleur mechanism. So until you have plenty of practice, you will (as we did) have trouble going from one speed to the next." No detents? Well, this was about 10 years before Shimano Dura Ace SIS. There were some earlier indexed shifting systems, but they were not that reliable and were mostly on lower-priced bikes.

One other thing they didn't seem to grasp: that performance bicycles, unlike cars, tend to be comprised of a frame built by a builder or shop whose name appears on the frame - then completed with a collection of components sourced from another company (or several other companies). In this case, the MT-3 was mostly built with Campagnolo components - and the reviewers found themselves annoyed at how many times the Campagnolo name appeared on the bike.

"Nearly all the running gear on the MT-3 is by Campagnolo, a name we all know from the beautiful wheels seen on beautiful Italian cars . . . One beef here, though: the Campagnolo name appears over 40 times on this machine and one is reminded a bit of the over-badgery of certain Japanese cars. By contrast, however, the name Maserati appears only twice."

In the end, though, they did show the bike some respect. "We do not test many racing machines; after all, few readers will ever be able to buy or drive one. But the MT-3 was different. Here is a racing machine that many can buy, and one whose speed is perfectly within the range of use on public roads (or bikeways)." They wrapped it up saying, "Whatever its eccentricities compared with the usual 4-wheel machines we drive, we certainly enjoyed the MT-3. There are several sore legs and bottoms among the R&T staff now, but also several healthier-feeling people. In fact, among the staff some have decided to add similar machines to their stables."

Another word about Maserati bicycles. I'm not 100% certain who made the frames, but I've seen some fairly reliable sources that say it was the Fiorelli shop. Those Maserati bikes were only available for a few years in the mid-70s, but were offered in a range of models and prices. The MT-1 was the top of a line which went all the way down to a model MT-14. The top models were made with Columbus tubing and Campagnolo parts, while the bottom-tier models were basically gas-pipe tubing with parts typical of a lot of budget-priced bike boom bicycles.

By the way, bicycles bearing the Maserati name are available again, made (I believe) by Montante cycles in Italy - purveyors of style-conscious bicycles-as-luxury-goods for fashionistas. They all seem to be "urban" single speed machines and range in price from $1980 - $4026. There were also some carbon fiber Maserati bikes about 10 years ago, made by Milani. See the current offerings at the Maserati website. Like their 1970s counterparts, they are Maseratis in name only, even though the company does more to link them to the car company history by giving them names and colors derived from the company's racing cars of the past.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

New Bikes for the Retro-Kids

My Retro-Kids are growing up.

It was pretty apparent by the end of last Fall that they were on the verge of having outgrown the last of their "kid" bikes - a couple of 24" wheeled machines that they'd ridden for the last two years. I knew both girls would be ready for "adult" sized bikes by Spring. Well, Spring is just around the corner.

I've been preparing for this since just after getting the 24" bikes. Almost two years ago I started watching ads on Craigslist and eBay, looking for some nice-quality '80s vintage frames that I could pick up cheap. I managed to find a couple - neither was more than about $75 or so. Though the paint on both frames was pretty decent, I wanted these to be special and I wanted the girls to have some input on colors, so back in the Fall, the girls and I took the frames over to my powder coating guy and I had the girls pick out the colors. The guy I go to does a really nice job, and the price is more than reasonable, though he only does the work on sort of a part-time basis these days so the turnaround time can take a while. He finished them up in January and now I'm getting started on putting them together.

This one started out as an early '80s Miyata (One Hundred - or maybe One-Ten model, I can't recall which).  I believe the color is RAL 6027. I installed the fork with a Tange Passage headset - a good basic headset, and quite a bit nicer than the one the frame had come with. The gap under the top nut will be filled perfectly by a cable stop spacer for center pull brakes.

As a nice finishing touch I outlined the lugs in a purple violet. I'll be attaching a custom head badge in the near future.
Another shot of the outlined lugs.
The second one started out as an early '80s Centurion Le Mans. I believe the color is RAL 4007. I used the same Tange Passage headset as on the other frame.
I outlined the lugs here in a light blue - not too far off from the color on the other bike. It's almost as if the frames have the exact reverse color schemes. This one also will be getting a special head badge soon.
Another look at the outlined lugs.
There they are together - ready for parts.
Both of these frames would have had 27" wheels on them originally, but I've got two nice pairs of 700c wheels ready to go. There should be plenty of tire clearance and probably room for fenders, too.

I've got saddles, bars, stems, cranks, and derailleurs for both bikes. I still need to get bottom brackets, seat posts, pedals, and I need another set of brakes. 

As I get more done on the bikes, I'll post updates on the progress. That's all for now.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

What's A Swiss-Threaded Bottom Bracket Anyhow?

I guess this post is kind of a follow-up to the previous one in which I described removing a stuck bottom bracket from an old Motobecane. That little project got me thinking about threading issues on old bicycles.

Back in the early days of the bicycle industry, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, when it came to any bicycle parts that required screw threading, it was up to various individual manufacturers located in different countries to come up with their own dimensions and threading standards for their own products - which is another way of saying there were no standards. Interchangeability of parts was just a dream.

Early in the 1900s, there was a push to create some unified standards - at least nationwide if not worldwide. For instance, in Britain, the industry came together around something that would eventually become known as BSC (British Standard Cycle) threading and dimensions. Most British companies adopted the BSC standard, though there were exceptions. Raleigh for instance was big enough (and basically made all their own components in-house) that they could and would continue to use their own proprietary threading all the way through the 1980s. Almost all Nottingham-built Raleighs (all those classic 3-speeds, for instance) used their unique threading - although their top end performance-oriented bikes, like the Professional and the International, and the "Team" bikes (all made outside of the massive Nottingham works) were built to the BSC standards. Most higher quality American, Japanese and later Taiwanese-built bikes also would use BSC.

The Italian industry likewise came up with their own standards, as did the French. For the most part, components were not compatible between bikes from different countries, but there were a few exceptions. For instance, on hubs which were threaded for a freewheel, British and Italian were close enough that some people would say they were interchangeable. Same goes for British and Italian headsets. Personally, I would say they were close enough that you could switch them in a pinch - but I wouldn't want to carelessly and repeatedly switch back and forth between the two (for example, from British to Italian, back to British, and back again). Over time, the slight difference could lead to weakened threads on the hub (which are usually aluminum) and a freewheel that eventually breaks loose from the hub while riding -- OUCH.

French headsets are not compatible at all with British or Italian. The pressed-in parts in the head-tube were the same size, but the threaded parts were a slightly smaller diameter. Also, a French threaded fork and headset also requires a slightly smaller stem (22.0 mm vs. 22.2) which can make updating an old French bike a little more challenging. French freewheel/hub threading was close enough in size to British and Italian that one could almost fool himself that it would work, but if he tried to force a French freewheel onto a BSC hub, it would bind up and possibly ruin the threads - and to actually attempt to ride with a BSC freewheel on a French hub, it would probably strip right off as soon as any torque was applied. Again - OUCH.

For bottom brackets, there was no compatibility between the different national standards at all. Italian BBs are wider and slightly larger diameter than both BSC or French. Both Italian and French used normal right-hand threading on both sides, while BSC used left-hand or reverse threading on the drive side. The reverse-threading on the drive side of a BSC bottom bracket prevents the cup from loosening while riding which is a feature that should not be under-appreciated. Why French and Italian bikes weren't done that way has long been a mystery to me, but the potential for loosening can be an issue. I've only had a couple Italian-threaded bikes in my time, but one of them did loosen on a ride and the only way to prevent it was to use loctite and lots of torque.

Then, just to make things a little more interesting, there were the Swiss. The Swiss industry mostly adopted the French standard for threaded parts but with a notable exception - the bottom bracket. A Swiss threaded bottom bracket uses the same basic dimensions and thread specifications as French but uses reverse-threading for the drive side - just like the British. Here in the US, Swiss threading was fairly uncommon and maybe considered a bit of an oddball. I guess there weren't a lot of Swiss-built bikes imported to the US.

French bike - Swiss threading. Go figure.
So, here's an interesting fact. The French company Motobecane used Swiss threading on many of their bicycles. Was it all of them? Most of them? I don't know the answer to that. If it wasn't all of them, then best of luck to any mechanic out there trying to figure out which way to turn the fixed cup on the bottom bracket to remove it. In my previous post, I mentioned my efforts to remove a stuck BB cup on an old Motobecane where I suspect someone in the bike's past perhaps didn't know that it was reverse-threaded. No "lefty loosie - righty tighty" here. It's also possible there was no mistake at all, since reverse-threaded fixed cups can simply get tighter with use the same way that right-threaded cups can loosen.

Whether I re-use that old bottom bracket or replace it with a new one kind of depends on what I decide to use for a crank. If I end up replacing it, there are options. British and Italian-threaded bottom brackets are still widely available. French ones are less common than the other two, but they are out there. Velo-Orange, for instance, offers their modern cartridge bottom bracket (and their headsets) in French threading. They don't, however, currently have a Swiss-threaded version. They do have an internally-expanding bottom bracket which they say works with any type of threading, even on bikes with stripped-out threading. Phil Wood makes retaining rings/cups for their excellent bottom brackets in the widest variety of threadings - including Swiss and even Chater-Lea (which is a real oddball today). The downside is that Phil bottom brackets  are pretty expensive - around $180 for the whole package. I was pleased to discover that Interloc Racing Designs (IRD) makes Swiss-threaded cups for their sealed cartridge bottom bracket which is a much more budget-conscious item. The IRD cups are sold separately, and I couldn't confirm it, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were compatible with some other brands of cartridge bottom brackets.

By the way, there's a terrific "crib sheet" for bottom bracket threading on the late Sheldon Brown's website.

Anyhow, by the 1980s, when international ISO standards were developed for bicycles, they mostly used BSC as their basis. For that reason, newer ISO parts will thread right onto most British and better quality American (and many later Japanese) bikes without trouble. Most bikes made today - at least those that still have threaded bottom brackets and headsets - use the ISO standard. Some Italian bikes may still use Italian. Of course, on many modern bikes, they've switched to press-fit bottom brackets and threadless headsets - and it seems like there are all kinds of unique and proprietary "standards" out there, making compatibility almost as much of an issue today as it was 100 years ago. I guess that's what we call Progress.