Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Serotta Ti frame Restoration

Earlier in the year I was looking for a good quality used frameset for fast road rides, ideally it would handle a 28c tire and also work as a dirt road Randonneuring bike as well. Titanium wasn’t my priority, but something custom built with a 60cm seat tube and a short top tube to match my non-standard build was. As luck would have it I found just the frame set from Clay at Velo Soul in Denver, he specializes in parting out high end bikes, we also went to high school together. He had a 25th Anniversary 1997 Serotta Ti frame from a guy with a similar build wanting to sell and move on, so I bought it. It had everything I was looking for, a 60cm seat tube, 56cm TT, and it was Titanium. I knew Ti would work especially well for long and rough roads if it was built for a person of similar weight, they can also be extremely stiff if built for a big guy. I built it up and tried it out before spending any real time, money or excitement on a frame that might not work. It rode great, unbelievable, I scored a long term bike for myself. Time to clean it up and build a proper bicycle.   

It was painted dark blue with a factory polished rear end, and the original paint was in poor shape. I used a chemical stripper first, removing a lot of the paint and oxidation from the raw Ti.

I re-polished the rear triangle with 220-600 grit wet paper, steel wool and Mothers Polish.

Then I taped off the newly polished rear triangle with masking tape so I could control the lines and protect those anniversary decals.

Followed by two layers of black Gorilla tape to protect the polished finish and the factory decals. The bead blast process is very aggressive and any parts that aren't protected will get blasted.

I took the frame to my powder coat shop here in Golden for the hook up on a $20 aluminum oxide bead blast.

The end result was amazing, it looks brand new! Titanium frames truly are built to last a lifetime.

On the dirt trail...


Andy said...


Greetings from Pennsylvania. Great blog. I’ve been cycling for years and am just now getting interested in randonneuring and gravel racing. I have a cross bike, but like the idea of riding a road bike off road. I see that used Ti road frames are a bargain. How has the Serotta been treating you, and how does it differ from a steel frame when ridden off road? (Your Paramount, for ex.) Do you see Ti as having a benefit over long distances off road vs steel? Compared to other Ti bikes of the era, the Serottas were stiff. I’d welcome your impressions and comparisons.

Also, there appears to be a lot of off road riding in your area. Is 28mm the prevalent width tire in a 700c rim? What else would you consider?

Again, neat stuff. Keep it up!

Eric Althen said...

Hey Andy,

That's cool you found my blog! I wish I had more time to write and keep up with it, but I guess it does serve a purpose even with the limited amount of writing I have done. Ti frames are an excellent choice for dirt road randonneuring bikes, they do a much better job at absorbing road vibrations and harmonics than a comparable steel frame. I have ridden some extremely comfortable steel frames as well, but those were cheaper steel frames. They don't have the stiffness you'd like to see in other critical areas, and seem to flex to much while standing and hard peddling. I have an old Scwhinn frame that will change gears if I drive to hard, not so ideal. Ti frames can very in stiffness, my Sarotta was a custom frame, so it was a little bit of a gamble, but ended up perfect. If a frame is built for a rider 50lbs heavier than you, you could end up with a bone shaker. But stock Ti frames are know for they're vibration dampning characteristics, and can be purchased for great deals in the new world of carbon fiber.

The 28c tire is an excellent tire choice, something like a foldable gatorskin. Light, puncture resistant, and fast. That's my favorite tire and size right now.

The ultimate spare-no-expense bike would be a Ti cross frame, then you'd have no tire limitations, something like a Moots. But your unlikely to find any smoking deals on a frame like that. Older Ti frames will work just as well, but you might be limited on tire size, many only accepting a 25c max. My Sarotta will fit a 28c in the rear, but to get that same size on the front I have to shim the axle down with a small spacer, not a big deal. I chose a road frame over a cross frame because I like the steeper road geometry, shorter wheel base of a road frame. My cross frame feels like a chopper, I hate the steep fork angle. Some day I'll have a custom cross frame built with road geometry and have the best of both worlds.

Good luck in your adventures! Eric

Owen Cunningham said...

looks great! I have an old Serotta Legend Ti that I bought used and I'm exploring options to refinish it. I've heard others say that a chemical stripper can take all the paint off without the blasting. In your project, how much paint was left behind after the stripper?

Rob in CO said...


For gravel, do you find that the Gatorskin has plenty of grip? Setting up my Serotta Ti for Rampart Range road, and beyond. I guess you just have to learn how to ride them. I weigh 210lbs, and concerned about pinching if I air them down too much, etc. Thanks man, and always have enjoyed your blog! Write more, man! Rob in the Springs.

Eric Althen said...

Hey Rob,
I hope this finds you well as a direct message wouldn't work. The Gatorskin is a fine tire choice for Rampart Range Road, it's been awhile since I've been on it but I'm sure it hasn't changed much over the years, you'll find it mostly hard packed, lots of wash boards from all the truck and trailers using it but no deep sand that I remember. For a guy your/our weight just use the largest volume tire you can get into that frame, and I see no need to go larger than a 32/33c tire. Air it down to about 65 lbs and watch for obstacles or 75-ish lbs and don't worry about it. You might find yourself looking for a replacement fork if you can't fit a proper tire, a lot of older frames will fit a slightly larger rear tire but the forks will not. Anyway thanks for the comment, take care and enjoy the ride! Eric