Part 2: Finishing the Eddy Merckx steel bicycle build

September 26, 2018

Part 2: Finishing the Eddy Merckx steel bicycle build

After laying down an introduction to his retro steel bike build project in part one, enjoy reading the latest instalment where Andy gets his hands dirty and builds this classic Eddy Merckx using Shimano 8-speed Dura Ace before taking it out on the road!

 

Shimano's 8 speed Dura Ace groupset

Shimano's Dura Ace Chainset (FC-7402) with 170mm crank arms and 53 and 42 chain rings.
An excellent example of a Shimano Dura Ace Chainset (FC-7402) with 170mm crank arms, fitted with 53 / 42 chainrings.

From an aesthetics point of view, for me, the two parts of the Shimano Dura Ace 8-Speed groupset that stand out are the stunning double chainset (FC-7402) and exquisite rear derailleur (RD-7402). 

With the gear levers already fitted, it didn't take long to get the rear derailleur smoothly moving across the 8 speeds.   Given the cassette and chain wear, I opted for a cheap Shimano HG50 rather than wasting money on a genuine NOS cassette from the period.   The Wippermann Connex 808 was selected due to it's reliability, it's nine-speed brother is the chain fitted to my every-day-ride PACE RC104.

I could have opted for an early pair of STI levers, but I like the simplicity of the separate brake and gear levers.   Yes, there's absolutely no doubt the gear changes on my SRAM Force CX1 groupset are almost twice as fast, but that's not really the point now is it.

Shimano Dura Ace 8-Speed Rear Derailleur (RD-7402) with hard-to-find white gear cables
Shimano Dura Ace 8-Speed Rear Derailleur (RD-7402) with hard-to-find white gear cables

 

Fitting Shimano's top of the range groupset was thankfully straightforward. 

As well as having the benefit of experience that comes with three decades of self-maintained bikes, just little things like having some Velox rim tape to hand, a spare seat post binder and a step-down ferrule for a gear cable all help when putting together a 26-year-old steel project all come in handy.

With every gear change, you get to see the proud Belgium Handmade sticker.

 

Build your wheels wisely

Back in the day, after the frame, the wheels were seen as a critical and important component choice.  With no real Shimano equivalent to the ground-breaking Campagnolo Shamal factory-built wheels (that in time gradually changed racing cyclists perceptions that factory wheels were not only good enough but sometimes better than handbuilt wheels) I felt the bike deserved a traditional 32-spoke wheelset.

I had originally thought of selecting some Ambrosio Giro D'Italia rims, in part thanks to the decal colour scheme that would have complemented the bike's colour scheme, but I just couldn't find a pair in a suitable condition that I'd be happy with hurtling down a hill at 30mph. 

So, with the help of a member of retrobike.co.uk forum member, a pair of NOS 32 hole Mavic Open Pro rims were on their way across the channel and arrived in no time at all.   

With BNIB / NOS Dura Ace hubs also in short supply, I decided to choose a quality pair of hubs that are actually made only 25 miles down the road - from Royce UK in New Milton.

I was first aware of Royce components back in the late 1980's when I spotted a rather special pair of crank bolts that didn't match the Shimano cranks.  These crank bolts were attached to a Royce titanium axle bottom bracket that really made an impression once you got to feel the bearings working away.

Royce hubs still have a classic, understated look, and having seen them in action with Chris Boardman, Nicole Cooke, Stuart Dangerfield and a host of other top UK riders, I felt it was time I finally owned a pair myself.

Once you have carefully chosen your hubs, spokes and rims an experienced wheeler builder was then required - since I have never had the patience to learn this skill.    This was easy though, Jon at Rockets & Rascals is not only a friend but a great mechanic.   Here's what he said after finishing them:

It makes a welcome change to be asked to help out on a job like this and can really relate to these sorts of projects. It was a pleasure to build the wheelset using such high-quality components in a world of increasingly fit- forget - dispose of parts, where hand built wheels seem to be becoming a thing of the past.
The wheels built up beautifully with tolerances we rarely see today.  We can't wait to see the finished article and hopefully take it for a lap around the block!
Jon Hayes. Rockets & Rascals, Poole

After re-organising my afternoon to give me some spare time, I picked the wheels up (on my bike naturally) and set about finishing the build.

A Royce mid-flange 32 hole front hub with Dura Ace 7400 skewers
A Royce mid-flange 32 hole front hub with Dura Ace 7400 skewers

 

My finishing kit selections

Cinelli 1A quill stem and with those old-school shaped Giro D'Italia 64 handlebars finished off with Velox white handlebar tape.
Cinelli 1A quill stem and with those old-school shaped Giro D'Italia 64 handlebars finished off with Velox white handlebar tape.

 

Much as I enjoy searching on eBay for hidden treasures, the prices for sets of old-school handlebars did not appeal and that's without factoring in the finite lifespan that aluminium parts from the era might well have (sudden failure is likely to be rather unpleasant).

Thankfully, Cinelli has a range of reproduction parts that look identical as the originals just without the price tag.  The 1A Quill stem and Giro D'Italia 64 bars were promptly ordered from Chickens along with a rather smart Volare saddle in white.

I do have a set of Cinelli Spinaci bars on my desk, but having seen just how great the bike is starting to look, I don't really want to ruin the look by installing them, maybe they'll just have to go on eBay rather than gathering dust.

Tyre choice was relatively easy, thanks in part to my insistence that I'd only use ones with a traditional black tread and tan sidewalls.   Whilst I'm a big fan of Veloflex tyres, the Vittoria Competiton Corsa's were intriguing thanks to their use of Graphene in the compound.   

Once fitted, they set off the Mavic Open Pro rims really well, looking vintage whilst providing modern-day performance.

Vittoria Competiton Corsa fitted to the Mavic Open Pro rims.
Vittoria Competiton Corsa fitted to the Mavic Open Pro rims.

 

The final preparations

Whilst the Shimano Dura-Ace PD-7800 SPD-SL pedals are not 100% era-correct, they do complement the rest of the groupset and they happen to be in the garage waiting to be fitted.

I do actually own a set of Shimano Dura-Ace PD-7701 SPDR pedals, but they'll stay on my Orbea Mexico track bike as I, like many of the GB track riders, like how they ride on a track but not necessarily when trying to unclip at a set of traffic lights!

Having not had a road bike for a number of years due to preferring my SPD equipped Orbea cyclocross bike or now my Orbea Terra gravel bike, the same also goes for a pair of road shoes.

Having lost/donated my old Northwave road shoes to my brother the last time he forgot his whilst down south, I opted for a pair of 2018 Northwave Extreme road shoes via our good friends at i-ride who also provide us with our DeFeet socks and Catlike Helmets.

They are an identical fit to that of my Northwave MTB shoes, so it's good to keep everything similar to protect one's ageing knees, and once the cleats were attached the final piece of the puzzle was complete.

 

Now with only the handlebar tape to apply, it's time for the first short ride to shake down all the components and ensure a good fit before a proper ride over the Isle of Purbecks.

 

Build Specification

The full bike build specification is listed below for information. 

As mentioned previously, there are a few practical compromises, but it's here to give an authentic feel of riding a 1990's steel racing bicycle.

Frame & Fork Eddy Merckx Corsa Extra; 53cm.
Colour: Team Weinmann, factory code TC.
Front Derailleur Shimano Dura Ace 8-Speed, FD-7410
Rear Derailleur Shimano Dura Ace 8-Speed, RD-7402
Headset Shimano Dura Ace Dura-Ace, 1" HP-7410
Chainset Shimano Dura Ace 170mm x 53-42, FC-7402
Bottom Bracket Shimano Dura Ace, BB-7400
Pedals Shimano Dura Ace, PD-7800
Stem Cinelli 1A Quill 110mm
Handlebars Cinelli Giro D'Italia 64 42cm
Handlebar Tape Velox High Grip 1.5, White
Bar End Plugs Cinelli Milano in Purple
Shifters Shimano Dura Ace 8-Speed, SL-7402
Brakes Shimano Dura Ace, BR-7400
Brake Levers Shimano Dura Ace Brake Lever Set, BL-7402
Front Hub Royce Mid Flange QR 100mm, 32 hole, R-FHMFQR
Rear Hub Royce Venus Shimano QR 130mm, 32 hole, R-RHVCSHI
Rims Mavic Open Pro 32 hole; 700c clincher
Spokes DT Swiss, Competition Silver
Rim Tape Velox High Pressure Cloth, 16mm
Cassette Shimano HG50 13-25
Chain Wippermann Connex 808
Tyres Vittoria Competiton Corsa Folding G+, 700x23c Blk/Para
Seat Post Unknown, Alloy 27.0mm
Seat Post bolt Campagnolo; Chrome 8mm
Saddle Cinelli Volare White

 

Additional gallery photographs

Rather than have some rather clinical studio photos of the bike, after having fitted the Velox white handlebar tape, I choose to ride down the road to Poole Park to take advantage of the closed roads (before 10am) and the mighty-fine September weather.

 

Eddy Merckx Corsa Extra SLX frame in Team Weinmann colours at Poole Park's Art Deco Ice Cream kiosk.

 

Eddy Merckx Corsa Extra SLX frame on the steps to Poole Park's fountain

 

Eddy Merckx Corsa Extra SLX frame in Team Weinmann colours at Poole Park with the Civic Cnetre dominating the background.

 

Eddy Merckx Corsa Extra SLX frame in Team Weinmann colours at Poole Park's cricket pitch.



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