Restoration Project: Univega Nuovo Sport – It’s Done!

Suntour front derailleur, with brushed finish
Suntour front derailleur, brushed finish

This day has been a long time coming. My first post about this project was back in April of 2011. Hard to believe I’ve been tinkering with this bike off and on for over two years now. When I left off in August of 2011, it was stripped of paint, and I was trying to decide what color it would be repainted. It was set aside as I got into other less intensive projects, and in the time since I last wrote about it, I’ve probably tackled about a dozen other projects, including building bikes for friends, refurbishing some for resale, and a couple of other personal bikes. One of those was a custom mountain bike set up as a commuter. The frame had been welded up by a local builder to show off their hydro-forming skills, then walnut blasted after the show. When I saw that raw aluminum frame at my friend’s shop, I had to have it. After building it up with some nice Mavic wheels and a rigid fork, I got to thinking that raw frames do have a lot of appeal these days. With so many bikes being rolling billboards covered in loud graphics, a paintless, logo-less bike stands out and is understated at the same time. So that was the route I chose for my Univega.

My Project Univega Nuovo Sport
Project Univega Nuovo Sport

As you can see from the photos, I ended up sanding the frame to get some fine scratches in it, then covered it with several coats of clear. After letting the paint fully cure, I gave it a polish using a top secret wet sanding technique. This left it with a smooth finish. Despite the fact that the frame’s lugs aren’t really anything too special, they certainly stand out where the golden colored brass filler is visible. Part of what interests me in taking this route may be the contrast of gold on silver as much as knowing that this frame was assembled by a craftsman with a torch and brazing rod, rather than some dude (or robot) knocking out hundreds of frames each day with a wire-fed buzz box.

Suntour rear derailleur, with brushed finish
Suntour rear derailleur, brushed finish

Never a fan of 27″ tires (that’s probably a big part of what caused the delay, knowing that the rubber would always be a compromise), I was completely stoked to score a vintage set of 700c wheels that any road cyclist of the 80s would have been proud to own. They’re some Campagnolo hubs laced to Ambrosio rims. With 36 spokes, they’re not light, but this bike is built for casual rides in comfort, not outright speed. Digging in the spares box, I located a Sachs 7 speed freewheel. Since I had a source for new old stock Huret downtube shifters, things seemed like they were really¬† starting to come together.

After cleaning up the front and rear derailleurs, it was apparent that they were in working order, and all they needed was a bit of lube, and a few adjustments after being reinstalled. The Dia Compe brakes were the same, but each took about an hour to disassemble, degrease, strip the overspray from that cheap rattle can job, and then polish, lube, and reassemble. What surprised me was how well they worked. Note: proper lube and adjustment, along with decent pads, can bring new life to old brakes.

Dia Compe front brake, lugs, Huret downtube shifters
Dia Compe front brake, lugs, Huret downtube shifters

The Suntour seatpost has an odd clamp that I hadn’t seen before, and after a little Googling, I learned that it’s of a design popular with fans of vintage bikes, and can be found on eBay for $70. Who knew? Since I was sticking with the vintage theme, I made another dive into the spares box, and came up with some MKS track pedals sporting Christophe toe clips. The only non-vintage items are the new Serfas Seca 700×23 tires, and the Fuji seat, which is silver with a green stripe down the center.

On its maiden voyage, it rolled nice and smooth, although it lacks the lively feel of modern steel frames that are both stiffer and lighter. But this is a bike that can be ridden all day over bad roads, and not leave you feeling beat up. Of course, I can’t possibly justify keeping it, since I have an over abundance of bikes already. So it’s up for sale, and I hope that whoever buys it puts plenty of long miles on it. It’s been a fun project, especially the simplicity of the brakes and friction shifters. In a world of 30 speed drivetrains and electronic shifting, there’s something to be said for the old 2 x 7.

– Brian

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I have the same bike. It was my first “real” bike so I cannot sell it. How much time and money did it cost to restore.

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