So there it sat in the bike room, a bike made at roughly the same time as George Michael and Andrew Ridgley were releasing “Careless whisper…”
A bike for which my largest consideration was that it not scratch my other bikes.
For the past couple of decades pretty much everything that’s rolled in and out of the house has been one company or another’s topline, high-end, hotness needing review. On the day I brought this bike home all of the bikes on the wall as well as the bike being built in the stand were all more than 10 grand yet there I sat staring at a bike that someone handed me because paying it forward for the work I had done for them would give them more joy than the $500 bucks they would probably get for it on eBay.
The lugs were in good shape. It was the one thing that I looked at when offered this particular bike because when Alan made these “screwed and glued Aluminum” models (for themselves and Guerciotti and a few others) they cast the lugs to a tolerance that meant the Campagnolo headsets of the day were going to be a VERY tight fit. So tight that If the shop didn’t take the extra care of scuffing the inside and pressed in the headset with even the least bit of alignment dif, the lug would be stressed, and once the bike got on the road, the vibrations cracked A LOT of them (seat post lugs also didn’t like the stress)… In this case the original shop was right here in town and it turns out I actually knew the person that built this bike up. They did the job right.
Not looking very special… but good bones.
This wasn’t Campagnolo’s top line group either… No Record here, and instead Victory bits, and not exactly in the best shape…
The hubs and drops were in that same state of brightness as an 80’s Russian Gulag as well.
So there it sat for a bit…
Honestly, there was a better than average chance that this bike may have found its way to the house version of the “Pit of despair” (The movie “Princes Bride” was only 2 years younger than this bike) where it would have remained… But because my daughter had scuffed a wheel on her car, I wound up passing by with a rag that had a little Aluminum polish residue on it… I bent down and touched it to one of the hubs and… Oh Hello there!
And in that couple of minutes playing with the hub, I started what would be a pretty big mindset turn…
I looked around the bike room at the 80 grand worth of high zoot, tip-top kit sitting around me and thought… “Have I built anything in the past 3-5 years that will have anyone sitting fixated on it 35 years from now??
Some of the kit here is spec built, geometry and all. Some of it is merely custom finished with part-by-part build up.
Really, all of it is ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC stuff and I deserve nearly none of it…
But there I sat, facing 180 degree’s in the other direction working on something that created more conversation in a group than anything in the house costing 20+ times the rough value… But that multiplier was changing with every drop of elbow grease going into the new project…
That nasty looking Campy Mech wasn’t so nasty after an hour and a half and a few Dremel Polishing bits…
The rear drops now much more Russian Oligarch than Gulag…
I was lucky enough to be in a Facebook chat with the owner at Vecchio’s shop in Boulder, and they happened to have a replacement crank arm of the correct model (and a hard to find 40T inside ring). That took the most work stripping the old finish completely, but I wound up with the bike’s biggest showpiece, despite this being Campagnolo’s cheaper crank for the time period.
And the frame lugs… Just like the rear drops, those cleaned up to mirror finish just using a soft cloth, some Mothers polish and hand-rubbing…
By the time I was finished, I had dropped a couple hundred bucks on a saddle, bar tape, new hoods, original Campagnolo cable housings. Those cranks can be had for $50-100 around the world on Ebay. I also had to hit Amazon for polishing bits and rouge…
This was really all just pocket change relative to the finished product.
The biggest impact though was to my “what’s cool” project compass… A whack that reset “North”.
I’ve always been at the opposite end of the stick versus the got-off-my-lawners who seem to do nothing but constantly bitch about new wheel or BB or Bar or gear standards… I LOVE NEW BIKE TECH!
But then this project rolls in and I spend a few dozen hours rubbing things and putting them back together and just staring at how beautiful it all turned out. And for relative pennies versus the expense of most of today’s best gear.
It’s also not lost on me that while there are a couple of older tools used on this bike than might be in most home work-stands today, nearly anyone with a bit of mechanical ability could have handled this restoration. These parts are like Lego’s. They go together simply, requiring little more than common sense, EXCEPT where torque is concerned (adjusting bearings takes some feel…)..
So here I sit, with a couple of Bike Companies talking to me about what projects might be next and my compass just doesn’t point in the same direction now… In a sea of $10,000 bikes on a group ride that get little attention, this stopped things dead while literally everyone tipped a cap.
All of the next three bikes rolling in are high end Disc builds… Two will get exceptional components from the same company (Campagnolo) as this project. AND these next bikes will be MASSIVELY easier to handle, operate and much more comfortable. And they will be significantly faster… The retro-grouch mantra that “the new bikes are no better, it’s all just marketing” is absolute bullshit.
But in 35 years, which of these new builds might have someone restoring them to better-than-original condition? In 35 years, will people practically fall over trying to get close enough to see them? Which will hold my heart while I work on them? When I part with them, will it feel like a small piece of me left? None of the next bikes will be the first bike my daughter ever stopped to look at and say “that’s really pretty.”
And all of that love for roughly the same cost of the cranks on the new bike that arrived this week…. (not including the chainrings).
Godammit, what did I just do to myself?
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