Monday, November 28, 2011

Ross Adventurer Update / Polishing Brake Levers

Hello and Welcome,  I hope everyone had a nice Holiday. We have not seen any  "real snow"  here yet.  The  temps however have dropped back down to a  more normal range.(Highs in the 30`s - 40`s Fahrenheit ) I`m guessing that the snow will be here soon. I have done a few posts about cleaning-up brake calipers, so this time I think I will talk about cleaning-up the brake levers.

Above: This is my product of choice  "Mothers Mag and Aluminum Polish". I started using this stuff years ago on my motorcycles and it carried over into my bicycle restorations. I have only heard good things back from people who have started using Mothers on their bicycle projects. I will be cleaning-up a set of vintage "Schwinn Approved" levers (dated 12-83) for the Ross Adventurer.

Above: Here is the comparison pic of the Road Bike Brake Levers. The unpolished lever does not look bad at all. That is until you compare it to the polished one. It`s all a matter of how good do you want them to look?
Above: Step one is removing the "Safety Lever" I think that is what Schwinn originally called these. Now they are commonly referred to as "Suicide Levers". Personally I think they got a bad rap. When the the wheels are true and the brake shoes are adjusted in as close as possible,these actually work "fairly" well At Low Speed.
But if the brakes are not set tight, due to the wheel(s) being out of true. And if the levers are not positioned properly, then they do not work so good. Back on topic, You want to always use the largest screwdriver that fits. This will minimize the chance that you will damage the slots in the screws.
Above: Once the screw is removed the safety lever will pull-off the mounting post easily. Remove the bushing from the safety lever and make a mental note of the order in which the washers are placed on the mounting screw. And be careful not to loose the little spring! If this is the first time for you, you might loose the little spring without ever even knowing it was there. I have found it helpful to lay the parts out (in the order the go back together) and take a photograph with my cheap Fuji Camera
Above: This is where the little spring is located. If it does not fall out, just tap the frame with the screw-driver handle, that usually will do the trick.

Above: Apply a light coat of Mothers on the area. Then wipe off and buff with a clean rag or paper towel. Aluminum bleeds-out quite a bit over the years. So you will likely see a lot of black residue on your rag. You may need to repeat this two or even three times depending on the condition of the aluminum. Because of the black residue I like to use Paper Towels
Above: The difference is dramatic! I will polish the rest of the frame in the same manner.
Above: Due to the indentations I usually have to clean/polish this part of the lever three or four times. But the finished product is well worth the effort.
Above: Now that the safety lever part is all polished up, all I need to do before re-assembly is clean-up the screw-head and the washer and plastic bushing.
Above: I do NOT recommend you hold the parts like this when brass wheel brushing.
I am using the low-speed 18 Volt Rechargeable Drill. And as always this is a "fine" brass brush. You will probably want to hold the smaller parts with a pair of pliers. When polishing the screw head you may want to thread it into the post while brushing. Your fingertips will thank you latter.
Above: The Vermont American Fine Brass Wheel Brush is probably the most important tool I have for restoration work. Second only to having a good work-stand. In a matter of seconds it can make old bolt and screw heads look like new. And also too many other applications to list here.
Above: To clean the bushing I just spray it with Simple Green DeGreaser and wipe it clean with a paper towel. Actually in this case I used Castrol "Super-Clean" bio-degradable cleaner. Both very good products. Although I suspect the Simple-Green is cheaper.
Above: Here is the same bushing after cleaning it up using the Castrol Super Clean. Is it really necessary to clean the bushing? Probably not, But that has never stopped me before (:
Above: Basically it goes back together the same way you took it apart. Just don`t forget the little spring. After the brakes are hooked up you can adjust the tension on the safety lever. I tighten it until the lever hangs-up or sticks, then I just back it off a little. It should spring back to position when the lever is released.
Above: The levers mounted and hooked up to the refurbished Vintage "Made in Switzerland" Weinmann Center Pull Brake Calipers. The cables are new Jag-Wire and the new cable housings are Jag wire L3. and I finished it off with new Jag Wire X Caliper Brake Shoes.
These brakes and levers will be a huge improvement over the original generic side pull brakes with generic levers.

Above: I did the paint touch-up yesterday and wrapped the handlebars. The only thing left to do is remount the rear wheel (removed for paint touch-up) and shine it up and take some pictures. I should be able to have all that done tomorrow.
Till Next Time, RIDE SAFE and Remember to Always RESCUE, RESTORE and RECYCLE
Cheers, Hugh


  1. Be careful with that Castrol cleaner around paint, though it looks like a different formulation of the Castrol cleaner that ate away the paint when I used it on the inside of a Jaguar show car bonnet. Fortunately, I had spare paint and it was not a large area, but it cured me of any product that combined "Castrol" and "cleaner."

  2. Hello again,
    I must ask about the spokes in the last frame, is that all you use, armor-all clean-wipes? I have not had much luck with getting my spokes to shine. My rims and hubs are sparkly and shiny but the spokes have black spots and are dull at best. I have had a little success with a green scotch-brite pad but worry about the spokes integrity. I have tinkered with sugarless lemon kool-ade mix, because it gets coins, pots and pans to really shine, but I think it looses it zing when I apply it with a paper towel.
    By the way the brake-levers look great.

  3. Hey John,
    The Ross is a very low mileage bike that was stored in a fairly dry garage or basement for many years. So the spokes were in pretty good shape to start with. For spokes that are in "not so good" condition you can try using a copper scrub pad. The copper is soft so it should not damage the surface. You can find these in the kitchen supplies isle at any supermarket. If the spokes are "really rough" you can sand them with automotive wet sanding paper. I would start with the finer paper and see how that works. And try a gritter paper only if necessary. Obviously you don`t want to sand them down to a point where they are no longer structurally sound. So I would keep the sanding to minimum. After I sand spokes I like to use a little spray-on car wax on a rag. Give them a quick wipe down with the wax. Then buff them lightly with a dry rag.
    Good Luck, I hope you find this info helpful.
    Maybe we will hear some from some other readers out there about what has worked for them. Cheers

  4. Hey Steve.
    I agree it was probably a different formula. But I will definitely test it on a scrap frame "just in case". Hey! Thank God it was the underside of the bonnet! That could have been a freak`n nightmare had it been the top side. I think I would be a little gun shy after that one myself. Thanks for the "heads up".

  5. Hugh the level of shine you get on the chrome and alloy parts never ceases to amaze me. Are you only using a clean cloth to buff or do you use a drill powered buffer too? I have to agree with your comments about cleaning an polishing multiple times. I recently cleaned a rear wheel on a Peugeot UO-8, after a soap and water cleaning followed by a coat of Turtlewax chrome cleaner the wheel was vastly improved but did not Shine. On a whim I tried a second coat of chrome cleaner on a section wheel and it made an incredible difference. A PIA but worth it. Looking forward to the finished Ross - the white cable housing looks sharp btw.

  6. Hey Ryan,
    First thanks. I use only clean paper towels to hand buff my parts and wheels. I really need to look into getting a buffing wheel for my bench grinder. Or at least one for my drill. I only have a buffing wheel for my rotary tool. And that is only good for really small stuff. Truth be told, I really do not know anything about buffing parts with a buffing wheel. I have seen brake parts buffed with a wheel, and they are unbelievable. I really need to start watching videos on the topic.
    The only thing that makes my wheels come-out the way they do is my willingness to brush and polish a piece as many times as it takes. I`m real bull-headed about stuff like that.
    I must admit I`m very pleased with the white cable housings too. With the White handlebar tape and saddle, it looks awesome. I was thinking it might look over done when choosing to go with all that white. But now it is finished I`m glad I did.
    Thanks again for all the kind words and support. The storm has delayed my outside photography for a few days. And "knocked out" the power for a while. But I promise I will get it done asap.

  7. Hey Rust-Remover,
    I do not publish comments with advertising links. Cheers


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