Welcome to part 4 of my Colnago Nuovo Mexico restoration. In the previous parts I have discussed the following parts of this restoration;
- Part 1 – Frame selection and remove paint to raw steel frame.
- Part 2 – Paint colour and decal selection process.
- Part 3 – Choosing the Campagnolo components.
Selecting Wheel Components
I mentioned in the last article that I had purchased a set of Campagnolo Record hubs, but I still had to buy spokes, nipples and some rims to build a set of wheels for this Nuovo Mexico frame.
Rims (Clinchers vs Tubulars)
I like to build my own wheels which is a time consuming task, so where possible I try to buy new old stock (NOS) rims to ensure the wheels will perform like new and last a long time, but it is becoming increasingly difficult (and costly) to buy a set of NOS rims from the 1980’s as they are quite rare.
I know this might upset the purists, but I chose to buy clincher rims instead of tubulars. I like to ride my bikes and that includes being able to fix flat tyres out on the road. As there are obviously other people that feel the same way, it would have been easier and cheaper to buy a set of NOS tubular rims. However, I still have a spare pair of Record hubs, so I’m tempted to build some tubular wheels just to tick that box as well.
After a lot of searching on E-bay, I found a set of NOS first edition Mavic Open Pro rims which incidently cost more than a modern rims of the same name. The Mavic Open Pro rims were apparently released in the mid 1980’s and their sturdy design contributed to their highly respected status in later years. Mavic being a French company doesn’t quite fit into my Italian build, but these rims are as close to ‘pro’ level as you can get in a clincher rim of that era.
Wheel Spokes and Nipples
The final part of the wheel build purchase was spokes and nipples. I cheated a bit here. I purchased a set of modern DT Swiss Competition double butted spokes and brass nipples. The Competition spokes are DT Swiss’s premium round spoke offering. They are lightweight and strong. I chose round spokes to preserve the period correct appearance.
Spoke lengths vary by 2mm between sizes. You need the spokes to be the correct length to ensure there is a solid interface between the threads of the spoke and nipple. You don’t want only half the spoke threads engaged in the nipple because the spoke is either too long or too short. If you measure everything correctly, the online spoke length calculators should be accurate.
I always build wheels using brass nipples as they are far more durable and corrosion resistant than the lighter alloy nipples. I believe the benefits of brass nipples far exceed the minor weight penalty, particularly if you want the wheels to last. Let’s face it, saving a few grams on nipples isn’t going to offset the additional weight of a steel frame.
Wheel Build Specifications
I decided to build the wheels using a traditional and sturdy 3 cross lacing pattern. This means that each spoke crosses 3 other spokes on the wheel. My hubs and rims all have 32 holes, so each wheel required 32 spokes. After measuring the hubs and rim, I entered all the numbers into an online spoke calculator. It calculated that I needed 294mm length spokes for the front wheel (32 spokes) and the same length for the non-drive side of the rear wheel (16 spokes). I also required 292mm length spokes for the drive side of the rear wheel (16 spokes). When the wheel was finished, the tension readings averaged 108 kg/f tension on the front wheel and drive side of the rear wheel. With the rear wheel dished correctly, the non-drive side ended up with and average of 65 kg/f.
Please read my article on learning how to true or build a wheel if you have an interest in this subject. Or check-out my Campagnolo Record hub measurements for wheel building.
Applying a good quality rim tape to the inside of each rim is essential to ensure that the nipple holes in the rim don’t rub and damage the inner tube which can cause unnecessary punctures.
You can still buy Velox cloth rim tape which is perfect for a vintage build. Manufactured in France and available in a variety of widths to suit different inner rim widths. The Mavic Open Pro rims are 622 x 15mm, so I found the 13mm rim tape is perfect to cover the nipple holes to protect the inner tube.
Cloth tape provides better protection at higher inflation pressures. The tyres I selected have a recommended minimum inflation pressure of 100psi and a maximum of 145psi, so this cloth rim tape is perfect for the job.
When selecting tyres for a vintage bike, the side walls have to be tan. I don’t skimp when buying tyres because they can make a big difference to ride quality, rolling resistance and handling. I read lots of tyre reviews and decided to buy a set of Veloflex Master 23 clincher tyres.
Veloflex are an Italian company whom have been hand making tubular and clincher tyres since 1981. The market their clincher range of tyres as ‘Open Tubular’ tyres as they are manufactured using the same processes as their tubular tyres. With a genuine 320 threads per inch they provide a fantastic supple ride to minimise rolling resistance. They are designed for use with 622 x 13c/15c rims, so they are perfect for these Mavic rims.
They feel paper thin and have a minimal tread pattern, but I have them fitted to my Colnago Master and have not had a flat tyre yet (at over 1500kms on good quality roads). I think they are well suited to a bike that will be ridden low miles on good quality roads. I don’t think they are as durable as my Continental GP 4000s (at over 8000kms per set) but that still remains to be seen.
Freewheels are essentially a cassette and freehub in the one unit which is different to the design of the rear gearing on modern bikes. When buying a freeweel, you need to make sure the threading matches your rear hub. My Campagnolo Record hub has Italian threading (35mm x 24F) and the 126mm spacing of the rear hub is perfect for a vintage 6 speed freewheel with the same Italian threading.
I found a very nice Regina Extra America freewheel which is tamped made in Italy. Regina was a highly regarded Italian manufacturer of high quality vintage freewheels and chains (refer to references section below). This freewheel is a 13t-22t (13t, 15t, 16t, 18t, 20t, 22t).
Whilst there are plenty of second hand freewheels on the market. If the cogs are worn they could be very difficult to replace. Last thing I want is a new chain jumping around because the cogs are worn. So I searched around to find a NOS freewheel with Italian threading to suit my Campagnolo Record hubs.
I deviated here from the Italian vintage theme (sorry Regina) and chose to buy a modern KMC 6 to 8 speed chain for a few reasons;
- Most chains will only last between 3000 to 5000 km’s before it has stretched beyond recommended tolerance. So it is cheaper to use a modern part.
- If you replace your chain regularly the cogs and chain rings will last much longer which saves replacing costly vintage parts which can be hard to find.
These 6 speed vintage freewheels are compatible with a 6 to 8 speed chain that has links: 1/2″ x 3/32″. The KMC chain includes a quick link which is recommended for reuse only 2-3 times before a new one is required and you shouldn’t use an old quick link with a new chain.
As my vintage bikes are only ridden on perfect sunny dry days, I use Muc-Off C3 Ceramic Dry lubricant for the chain. I find this product has a number of advantages;
- No chain lube splatter on the frame or rear wheel which saves time cleaning.
- Dispenses as a wet lubricant which is easy to apply to the chain rollers through a narrow nozzle.
- Dry lubricants don’t attract dust and dirt and are easy to wipe off with a rag before a new application.
- Small bottle lasts well as I don’t ride these bikes large distances.
Article Continues on the Next Page
I hope you have enjoyed reading this article so far. On the next page you can read about the finishing components I have chosen for this build.
I hope you found this article interesting. I have listed the following website pages as general references.
Please remember that this information is only to be used as a guide.
I consider myself an enthusiast, not an expert. Whilst I enjoy working on my own bikes, I am not a qualified bicycle mechanic. The content of this article is purely illustrative and does not constitute professional advice. For your own safety, this type of work should only be undertaken by a qualified bicycle mechanic. Incorrect assembly of parts could result in equipment damage, personal injury or death.
I have been riding and working on my own bikes for many years now. I wanted to share my experiences, knowledge and research with others. My aim is to inspire people to get involved in all aspects of this amazing sport. Cheers.
I welcome reader feedback in the comments section. Should you wish to suggest an amendment, please include a note advising the source of your information so that myself and other readers can ascertain the accuracy of your information. Note: Trolling or argumentative comments will be removed as they are counter-productive.