For at least 27 years, I’ve been hot to get my hands on one of those periwinkle-blue-with-yellow-panel-stickers Splendor bikes that cycling legends like Claude Criquielion, Sean Kelly, Michel Pollentier, Eddy & Walter Planckaert, Dirk De Wolf and Rudy Dhaenens rode at one time in their careers.
I have been more aggressively looking since just before my trip to Europe in April. It’s one of the main things I hoped to buy while there. Although I saw three or four of them, I didn’t come home with one. Recently a guy in the UK reached out to me after reading one of my blog posts here. What he had was my size. Plus, it was a real team frame ridden by Etienne De Wilde in 1986.
Although it checks many of my boxes, I’ll admit it’s a bit of a compromise. My least favorite of the Splendor Team’s bikes are those they used in 1986. It was this year that the team added Hitachi’s orange and yellow corporate colors to the livery. (Hitachi signed on as a major sponsor in 1985 when the team moved away from its blue-grey with orange, white and black checkered jerseys, to the orange and yellow Hitachi tops. The checkers stuck around through 1986.) Although I do love the Hitachi jerseys, this paint job looks as if it was an afterthought—like the frames were already painted blue when a Hitachi marketing exec put into the contract that the frames would feature Hitachi branding and colors. The basic Splendor bikes before 1986 as well as the Hitachi Rossins and Eddy Merckxes in 1987 1988 respectively are far better looking.
Still, there is beauty in the 1986 frame. And that is the fact that I can build it with C-Record components, which will allow me to run a 39-tooth small chainring. It’s also, arguably, a better gruppo than the predecessor Super Record.
It was also in 1986 that Campagnolo was unable to deliver its new (and, in the years since, much maligned) Delta brakes. Instead, most riders used Cobalto brakes—essentially the same as the 1983 50th anniversary brakes and the Super Records that would come later, after the Deltas hit the market in 1987. Compare a Cobalto caliper to a script-logo Super Record, and you’ll find no differences other than white o-rings, white tire guides (early Cobaltos had black) and the obvious blue gem in the heart of the center nut.
I plan to build the bike up—the frame could be here as early as next Wednesday—with parts I have; many of them off my Pinarello. Some are correct for the 1986 team bikes. Others are temporary and will have to due until I find suitable replacements and, more important, I have the budget to pick them up.
The following are of some of the parts I have ready to assemble onto the bike.
The rear derailleur is the first first-gen C-Record I’ve ever owned. I’ve wanted one since I first saw one in 1987. I’ve had several second-gens, but never one of these beauties. I bought one from a guy two or three years ago in Europe, but it never arrived. He swore he’d find me another one. I wanted to believe him. But by the time I realized I’d been ripped off, it was too late to file a PayPal claim. Lesson learned. I’m really pumped to be putting one of these on a bike.
The brakes are a set of Cobaltos that became available to me out of the blue. I had planned to used plain, old, ordinary script-logo Super Records, then these popped up at a good price. I swapped the original brake pad holders with white tire guides to black ones because that’s how everyone in the pro peloton had them in 1986. The blue brake cables, which are what the Splendor Team used, are real Campagnolo cables. Another timely find. I replaced all the pads with NOS Campagnolo pads that Julien Stevens gave me in April. I’m almost as excited about theses as I am the rear derailleur. They’ll definitely provide comfort while descending at Eroica California next spring. But I MUST find another blue gem nut for the rear brake.
The front derailleur was sold to me as a first-gen with the rear. It’s not. When I bought the set, I really didn’t even care about the front and barely looked at it. I just wanted the rear. I don’t know when the second-generation version hit the market. But I think it’s safe to assume the Splendor Boys used first-gens. For some reason, I have three or four of these, so that’s what’s going on the bike. Someday, if a real first-gen falls into my lap, I’ll swap it out. For now, it’s not a big deal.
The saddle is a Selle San Marco Rolls, as was used by the team at the time. (Selle San Marco was a team sponsor.) This one is date stamped 1983. If I ever stumble on a 1986, I may swap it out.
The P65 Look pedals were the first clipless pedals widely used in the pro peloton. And that, for the most part, happened in 1986. Claude Criquielion used P65s for part of the year, starting at the Tour de France, I think. At the beginning of the season, he was on traditional Campagnolo Super Records with toe clips, which are shown below. Mine are regular SRs with a set of Ale cages and some well-used Alfredo Binda Extra toe straps with Cinelli end buttons. I plan to swap back and forth between pedals, using the SRs more often. I recently bought a pair of French-made, Rivat, Charley Mottet model shoes for this kit. Ideally, I’ll find some Patricks, but those have proven impossible to locate.
The cranks are some beater C-Records I’ve had for a while. I took them off my Pinarello. They’re not correct for a 1986 bike, but they’ll do for now. First-Gen C-Records, which have a stamped logo as opposed to the printed logo these have, are highly coveted and thus, generally a bit on the pricey side.
This stem is 100 percent temporary. I want a Cinelli 1R in a length to be determined—either 120 or 125. This 125 1A has the older “oval” logo and is too old for the bike. It’s also a 1A and I want a 1R. The stem will temporarily clamp to a set of Cinelli 64-40 Giro d’Italia model bars. They have the double Cinelli logos of the time. The bars will be wrapped in Benotto tape.
This Campagnolo Croce d’Aune seatpost also is a temporary place holder until I can find the correct C-Record post. I’ve had this for decades and have no recollection of where it came from. I’m not even sure I’ve used it before.
These are the mis-matched bottle cages I’ll use until I can find a matched set of silver, aluminum TA cages. One is a TA. One is unbranded. Both are chrome plated steel. Claude Criquielion used both aluminum and steel during the 1986 season.
The friction shift levers, headset and bottom bracket are all C-Record. The shifters and headset will come off my Pinarello. The BSA BB was too greasy to lay on the clean floor of my photo booth.
The wheels are built with C-Record hubs and Campagnolo Record rims, just like the Splendor Team used. I bought the rear some years ago with a future Splendor bike in mind. A good friend found a matching front by chance this spring while buying some other bike stuff. Luckily, he reached out to see if I had any need for it. I’ll shod them with Challenge tires of a size to be determined once I know how much tire clearance the bike has. Finally, I’ll run an NOS, Regina Extra, 13-28 freewheel with a Regina chain.
This is the Splendor frame that all this stuff will go on. It’s fairy well used, as are most old pro frames. The fork (not pictured here) is a Tange with an off-set crown that may or may not be original to the frame. It’s rusty enough to be the same age, but I suspect the bike had a Columbus/Campagnolo fork like the NOS Splendor frame (the last photo below of the clean frameset) I didn’t bid on a couple years ago. I’m looking (as are a couple friends) for a suitable replacement.
My Dream Kit
As I mentioned above, I want to ride this at Eroica California 2020. Of course, for me, that means I will need the full range of accouterments to go with the bike. Because I’ve been wanting one of these bikes for so long, I have a bit of head start on collecting the kit I need. That said, I have four jerseys, but all of them are wrong—a Splendor-Wickes from about 1982, a Hitachi-Sunair from 1985 and two Hitachis from 1987. I do have the correct cap, however. And I have a pair of Gammi 3 Dot gloves modeled off the gloves Claudy wore in 1986 that will work. And I made some bib shorts that based on the one Claude is wearing in the photo at the top of the page.
The main thing I need is the jersey. So, if you know of anyone with one of these, preferably in size 5. A size 6 will work if I stay the same weight I’m at now. Or, a 4, if I lose the amount of weight I hope to by next April.
I also have the Rivat shoes I mentioned above. (They’re in the mail.) I even have two Coca-Cola water bottles, although I am on the hunt for at least one Hitachi-Splendor bottle. And, the piece de resistance, one of Criquielion’s actual 1986 Tour de France number placards.
Check this blog for updates to come.