Its not often you find a Jacotey bike, and from the first moment I really liked it. Great colour, Vitus 788 frame, custom built by a boutique frame builder in Picardy, a nicely put-together bike. Jacotey retired in 2016 as a well known shop owner in Picquigny in Picardy, running the shop for 36 years, and the fact that these bikes are no longer being made just adds more kudos to owning one. This bike was built in 1982, just at the time when French bikes were starting to be built to ISO specifications, losing the great cycling country of France the tradition of having their own threading and sizing standards. And threading, as I was about to discover, was to be a major flaw underneath the nice exterior of this very bike.
How Can it be Loose when it’s so Tight..?
This is the question that was plaguing me and keeping me stressed about this bike. But before this, I have to say that the bike, once tuned up and cleaned, rode really well: it was quiet and comfortable, a light and agile ride with no sense that it had been out of service for years. It came to life on the road. But here’s the thing: there was a slight rattle in the headset, and I have to say, rattles in headsets really get on my nerves. I can’t ride a bike with that little bit of play and that inner rattle every time you go over a bump. A quick tightening of the headset cup, I thought, should do the trick. How wrong I was.
A Wrong Turn
You know you’ve got a major problem when you end up using a tool that doesn’t belong in a bike workshop. I started out removing the lock nut of the headset, which was stiff but came off with some effort. However, the race, which contains the bearings and so is often the culprit of a loose headset, was rock solid stuck. My grip wrench had no chance of loosening it, and my self-grip wrench wasn’t quite big enough to lock the race in its jaws. I sprayed penetrating oil ( not a big fan ) and tried for an hour, slowly eroding the serrated edge of the cup as the wrench constantly slipped, leaving me seriously at risk of losing this battle.
Stop, or Keep Going?
So, the question remained: how could the headset be so loose if the race and lock nut were on so tightly? After another failed attempt to loosen the race, I gave up and decided I’d have to live with the rattle. I replaced everything back on the bike as I had the stem and bars out and the front brake off. I was walking dejected fly through the garage when I saw a giant wrench that my father used to use in the 1970’s for serious stuff, I don’t know what, but immediately I got back to the bike and set it to work. Eureka, with a huge effort the race began to move. I thought it may have been an illusion, was it really turning? It was, but it took another two dozen of these mega effort turns to remove the race, all the way to the very top if the threads.
Who’s to Blame?
Luckily, I didn’t damage the top tube or headset using this big tool, but I instinctively knew that something so hard to turn on its threads would probably be impossible to screw back, and this was exactly the case. I regreased the bearings and tried cleaning the threads, but when I tried to turn the race back on it got stuck on the third turn. After so much gripping in the jaws of the wrench, the race had lost much of its serrated edge, making the return ticket of this race totally useless. I did, nevertheless, deduce why the headset had the rattle: the race had been put on cross threaded, so it never reached the necessary position on the steerer. The person who did it, tried with all his force to tighten it on to the cup, but it was always slightly loose. It could very well be the fault of the frame builder, because looking at the fork threads, they were badly made, already damaged, and I don’t believe the race could have ever been removed before. Hard to pinpoint it, but a likely possibility, in my view.
Perhpas the moral of the story is: if it’s 90% fine, don’t fix it. But I don’t think so. It had to be fixed. The rattle would have just got worse over time, and I don’t believe it was roadworthy with it. Now, from being cleaned and so very nearly riding the local streets, this Jacotey is in pieces, waiting for it’s fork threads to be retapped. How much it will cost, I’m not sure, but I’ll update this page when I get it done, as I believe this bike deserves to be back on the road.