Bontrager Road Lite Build

Written by: Kimberlee Model, posted: 2021-11-04, last modified: 2022-05-08. Tags: bicycle, I Made a Thing, transportation.

Back in April I saw a bike frame on craigslist which really caught my eye. It was a 1994 Bontrager road lite.

A matte-purple bicycle with sparkley clear-coat posed on a fence in front of a river. It has drop-bars with purple tape, moderately aero wheels with tan-wall tires, and a large brass bell affixed to the stem.

I, for one, didn't know until then that Bontrager ever manufactured bike frames. Certainly that they made wheels, tires, etc. but I'd never seen a bontrager frame and it really caught my eye. A few days later I borrowed my brother's subaru and drove out to meet the seller. The frame didn't look like it was in great condition, a chipped and fading paint, rust spots in a few places, and it had a quill stem stuck in it. But it was absolutely beautiful. every weld on it was gorgeous, and the extra gussets at some of the joints were absolutely intriguing.

(Fair warning, this post is download intensive)

Here's what the frame looked like when I got it home (note that the wheels did not come with the frame).

A scuffed and somewhat rusty deep-purple bicycle frame, with wheels and a stem, but otherwise no componentry posed in front of a shed.

It had rust in a few spots. Around the front derailleur clamp was pretty bad, and there were spots on the top tube, among others.

A close up on the bicycle frame's seat-tube and bottom bracket. Rust is visible around the bottle cage mounts and in a band where the front derailleur clamp would have been. In the background is a park-tool bike stand and house-clutter A close up on the bicycle frame's top tube showing the joint with the seat tube. The seat tube is in the clamp of a bike stand. Rust is visible on the top tube and around the joint. In the background is a wall and ceiling.

It took a while for me to figure out exactly what I wanted to do with the bike. But eventually I decided that I would strip all the paint, then reprime and repaint it. So I spent a day in July with paint-stripper, and wire-brush wheels in my drill. And a few too many mostquitos /-:. The result was this.

A bicycle frame, stripped of its paint, is in a blue bike stand, clamped by the seat-tube. The fork is inserted, with a stem and drop-handlebars. The background is a white wall.

Next up was another round of waiting, this time for a good painting weather, cool and low humidity. I'd heard good things about "Spray.Bike", so I decided to give them a go, because I had no clue about painting bikes before this. I chose their Plumstead Purple with their "Keirin Flake" Multicolor as "clear" coat. So first week of September, I spent all day Saturday working off leftover bits of paint and rust with steel wool. Then I was able to spray primer, then color on Sunday, with touch-ups (obviously) between (work-from-home) meetings on Monday.

The bicycle fork is clamped by the steerer tube in a blue bike-stand. white-ish primer has recently been applied to the fork crown and stays. In the background is a fence with ivy on it. A recently painted purple bike frame is clamped by the seat-post in a blue bike-stand. Decals have recently been applied. 'Bontrager' appears on the down tube in all caps, and 'RoadLite' appears on the top-tube in small-caps. In the background is a white wall, with the blue-corner of a trans-pride flag appearing on the right side.

Decals I was able to order from VeloCals, and went on mid week, and "clear" the next Sunday. I found I was very sensitive to fumes as the paint cured, so the frame spent a few weeks sitting in my repair stand, in my spare bathroom (aside: It seems that these days a trans woman must hoard these things), with the vent on full.

For Parts, I decided on a full set of 8-speed Shimano 600 tricolor. Well. Truth-be-told, I'd had this set for a little about a year, and when the Road Lite came up on craigslist, I decided it would match nicely with set. I later found out that that Bontrager thought the same. Their 1996 Catalog shows the Road Lite with 600 tricolor, albeit with brifters to my down-tubes.

I got the finishing touch to the bike this week, a VeloOrange Bell which dings excessively loud. So queue the obligatory "artsy" photograph section.

A purple bicycle posed against a stone wall. Purple derailleur wheels and crank bolts are visible. A purple bicycle posed on a fence in front of a river. Bottle cages and other accessories are purple-anodized, matching the frame. A purple bicycle posed on a fence in front of a river. A portable bike-pump can be seen under the rear tire, preventing it from rolling away. The camera has revolved around towards the front of the bike. In the background is a train bridge with the sun behind it. A purple bicycle posed on a fence in front of a river. The camera has revolved around towards the read of the bicycle showing flat pedals, a teal/blue dual-pivot brake caliper, and a worn suede saddle.

The final result (save for the saddle, which I haven't decided upon yet) is impressive to say the least. With 700cx23mm tires and aero-profile wheels, it goes like you would not believe for a bike which is older than I am. It cruises effortlessly, and the handling is agile without being twitchy. Suffice to say that I am absolutely stoked with this bike build.