Wednesday, September 21, 2011

GT Avalanche Restoration

Hello and Welcome,
This GT Avalanche has the legendary "triple-triangle" frame described by many as "Indestructible". It would appear the previous owner abused this bike badly. Not so much by the way it was ridden. But by leaving it outside and never having it serviced. The rear wheel was so badly bent it rubbed the frame. The rear brake-shoes had been removed. I assume they had to be removed so the bike could be  ridden home.

The Headset was an absolute nightmare. The nut over the top cup (shown below with paint removed)would not break loose. After removing the nut and spacers above the unpainted nut, I sprayed the threads with WD-40 hoping that would help. After I realized that I would probably destroy it before I could break it loose, I decided to take it to a pro and see what they could do with it it.
Above: If your wondering what you are looking at, what you see above is an inverted wedge-nut. Instead of it sliding out of the steerer when the stem bolt is loosened,the lower part is fixed. When you loosen the long stem-bolt only the inverted wedge-nut is removed. The stem fits over this. Then when the long stem-bolt is tightened the wedge expands inside the stem-collar. This of course locks the stem into place.
Above: The headset finally removed. When my old friend Joe was unable to remove the nut. He said I might have to cut if off. When I got home I left the bike clamped down on the truck rack. I decided to give it one last try. I attached a pair of Vice-Grips to the nut as tightly as I could without crushing it. I then wedged a wood hammer handle between the fork legs, near the top brace. Then I used a small bungee cord to hold the hammer handle in place. Now I was able to apply as much torque as I possibly could. When the fork turned the hammer handle pushed against my side. I gave it all I had, I felt the wrench move! My first thought was "Damn! I have stripped the bloody nut!" Much to my surprise the nut had finally broke loose.

Above: Fortunately the moisture that rusted the threads on the steerer never reached the bearings. Here is one of the bearing cartridges after cleaning and re-greasing. While they had very little grease remaining, they were in remarkably good shape considering.
Above: The headset re-assembled. That is quite a stack of threaded cups, nuts and spacers. This inverted wedge-nut quill and headset make an odd looking set-up indeed. As you can see there is going to be some extensive paint touch-up. Maybe the restoration will go smoother from here on. (Fat Chance)
Above: This is "Yours Truly" foolishly trying to re-use the original bracket bearings and cups after a real good cleaning. You would think the fact that I needed to use the power brush on the bearing cages would have convinced me the bearings were shot. Oh no, not this stubborn s.o.b. Another "what the Hell was I thinking" moment. And by the way. It took a couple hours to take the crank apart.
The left side arm retainer bolt was rusted into the threads. After trying everything I could think of, it finally broke loose. There was absolutely not a trace of grease remaining on the bearings. Only lots of rust and dust. Fortunately I did have a good set of cups and bearings that were an excellent match. I did have to re-use the bracket(axle) itself as I could not find a match. But it was in "pretty fair" shape. After re-assembling the bottom bracket the second time, everything was "good to go". I think on a scale "one to ten" the performance of the crank now is about a 9.5 or so.

Above: The three piece crank was taken apart and cleaned-up. No problems there, other than spending quite some time on the floor looking for one of the spacers.
So far I have spent way too much time on the bottom-bracket, crank and the headset.
Lesson here "Don`t leave your bike outside to fend for itself".
Above: I`m gonna guess and say this is the left side chain-stay. As you can see it has some nicks in the paint which have become rust spots. The first step is to clean the area as best as you can.

Above: The next step is to sand off the rust. QUICK TIP: I like to fold the sand paper. This way I can use the folded edge to sand just the nick. If it is rusty, I will first use a grittier sand paper then finish with a finer one. If it is not rusty I will often just use the finer sand paper. Folding the sand-paper is the best way I have found of just sanding the nick.
Remember, This is a touch-up, not a re-paint "Less Is Better"
Above: After the sanding is finished you will want to remove all the dust. On this occasion I used a damp cleaning wipe, then dried it with a clean paper towel. It would finish drying while I was shaking up the paint.

Above: Applying the lacquer to the nick. Do Not Brush! What you want to do with a paint chip like this one is just tap the nick with the end of the brush. Make sure you shake the paint up real good, and repeat often while working with it. You want to make sure you don`t over-load the brush with paint. This will take a little practice. If you screw-up, just wipe it off and try again.
Above: The same area after paint touch-up. The best advise I can offer for doing touch-up is take your time and be patient. The touch-up on this frame was extensive.
This was one of the better areas. All the touch-up really tested my patience. As did the whole restoration.
Due to the rear wheel being bent beyond proper repair, I decided to use the wheel-set off the Giant Boulder that came in recently. At this point I `m not sure what I want to do with the Giant.

Above: The Araya wheel-set cleaned up easily with some Mother`s Mag and Aluminum Polish. The wheels required very little truing and the hubs and spokes cleaned up easily as well. I topped them off with a new set of Kenda Kross Plus 26 x 1.95 "Smooth Rollers" as I like to call them.
Above: A shot of the rear wheel, derailleur and new chain. I was able to re-use both derailleurs. After a good cleaning and lube, both are working flawlessly. Being both bikes were equipped with essentially the same rear drive train, there was no need to switch the free-wheels. I knew eventually something would be easy on this bike! Hip! Hip!...never mind

Above; These are the new handlebars I was going to use. But after test fitting the lever/shifter units, I found there was not enough room. I will no doubt use them on some project down the road.

Above: I taped off the top part of the original seat-post. And after a light sanding gave it a coat of black satin.
Above: A shot of the Shimano front derailleur re-mounted after a good cleaning and lube.
That about does it for today. I will try to post the rest of the restoration in the next few days. It will include some last minute changes. And I will be giving this GT the full Ze-Fal treatment. Including some really cool new Ze-Fal products.(new around here anyway) Until Next Time, RIDE SAFE and Remember to always RESCUE, RESTORE & RECYCLE
Cheers, Hugh


  1. Wow some days it just ain't easy is it? On the plus side that GT is really looking good and someone will be lucky to have it. I have a Gran Prix project that is still stalled due to a BB issue, after trying and failing to get the original parts to work again, so I feel your pain on that one.

  2. Hey Ryan,
    That post did sound kind of whiny did n it?
    I wish I was working on a Gran Prix. Raleigh is one of my favorite bikes to work on, excluding the 3 speed hub of course. If you let me know what is going wrong.I will do my best to try to figure out what the problem "might" be. Let me know. I`m pretty good at remembering my past mistakes. And there have been more than a few.

  3. Nah not whiny just the reality when working on old bikes, at some point you run into sticky wickets- or in your case stuck stems ;-) I will send you my bb sob story offline, I think, as you put it, its time for a pro to take a shot.

  4. Hey Ryan,
    One day when I was a young "apprentice mason" (many, many years ago) I was really having tough time with something I was trying to master. One of the older Journeymen seeing my frustration said to me "Young man, If it was bloody easy, everybody would be doing it".
    Nothing worth having comes easy, including experience.


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