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Bicycle Portraits

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Bicycle portraits are not new. Not something I came up with. Not by a long shot. I think Taliah Lempert’s custom bicycle portraits (www.bicyclepaintings.com) were the first I saw. I believe they were oil on canvas. But she may have used acrylic paints and board. Nichalas Blades’ super-detailed, larger-than-life size, oil paintings (www.nickalablades.com) are my current fave. I’d love to own one, but that will have to wait until I win the Lottery. I’d love to paint my own, and I’m pretty sure I could pull one off, but I haven’t the space these days. Although, I do have the time.

As an art student, I preferred print making and photography to painting. I liked that photos and prints could be replicated easily and distributed to more people. And you could do so relatively cheaply. Painting always seems a slow laborious process that resulted in one cool work that collude be displayed only in one place at a time. I also liked that prints and photos could be easily remade with modifications.

Later in life, like in my early-30s, I rediscovered painting and found I really enjoyed it. I had purchased my first house and wanted to decorate the expansive walls with art. Sadly, on my bike industry salary, I was unable to buy any of the art I saw in Santa Fe’s many galleries. Besides, I thought, I could do what those artists were doing myself. So, I picked up a brush and started doing portraits in oil. Our home in California is full of them, now.

Going Digital

In 2006, I went back to school and got a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Industrial Design. Along the way, I learned to use Adobe Illustrator. And I got quite good at it. It wasn’t as hands-on as print making and painting are, but I liked how drawings could be tweaked and modified. And I love the intense salable detail of Vector art. Needless to say, I use Illustrator a lot.

Back in September, after I lost my job, decided to open up Illustrator and created some images I had been thinking about for several months. In the process, I opened up some of the files I created when I was in ID school . Among the images I found a four-model bike line concept I spent an afternoon or three developing.

While riding one day, I though, “Could a bike line be developed around any random theme?” The first thing that popped into my head was Egypt. I thought about that for a second, considering various Ancient Egyptian iconography I had seen and came up with Scarab Bicycles. For the rest of the ride, I thought about how that could be made a bike line.

When I got home, I started putting together the line, first researching scarabs. I designed a logo and a head badge. I then came up with four models I thought had legs (no pun intended), model names based on various beetle types, plus one that was a riff on the Beatles.  I decided the line would be 100% focused on bikes for local and urban commuting, each meeting the needs of a different user group.

I spent a few days working on it. I posted it to my FaceBook page. Then I moved on. I liked what I came up with, but really had no intention of doing anything with Scarab beyond the exercise of creating it.

Bike Race Team Cars Are Cool

The drawings I did for Scarab were basic and simple—developing the concept and getting it on “paper” was the goal. But I had spent a bunch of time on a the wheels. So, when I saw these old illustrations again, I thought I could use the Japan(ese) Beetle, a Keirin-inspired fixie—for a series of Team Car illustrations I wanted to explore as T-shirt concepts. The shirts would likely be four-color, silkscreen printed, so simple was key. Ultimately, the bike drawing was useless for what I wanted to do, but it reminded me of some to the clever ways I solved a few complex bike issues, like the spokes an chain.

When I did the Team Cars, I did them with relatively simple bikes, but not as simple as others I have seen. I wanted the components to be recognizable. I wanted the knowledgable buyer and viewer to notice the cranks were Campagnolo Record with Nuovo Record or Super Record chainrings, for example. I wanted the 36 spokes and nipples to look like they would on a real bike. And I wanted the bikes to be recognizable as those of the champions who rode them. But, I had to do this in four colors, two of which would be white and black.

The first car I did was the Brooklyn Team car. Brooklyn is my favorite 1970s team. I love all the visuals they came up with, from the iconic jersey and unique blue Gios Torino frames to the Brooklyn and Perfetti logos and, obviously, the team cars.

I had been collecting team car photos for about a year for this project, but hadn’t found the Brooklyn car. While watching A Sunday in Hell, I noticed it might be an Opel, but which model, I wasn’t sure. As luck would have it, the very next day Ray Napoles posted a photo of the Brooklyn car on Instagram (onthebackfoot) shot by Bill Woodul. He then sent me another Woodul photo of the team wagon. That’s what I used to make my image.

Brooklyn-Open-Wagon-1975-Four-Color-Seps

I loaded the car with three bikes and added some wheel in the back. Everything was done in red, white, blue or black. There were a lot of spokes and I wondered if I could find a printer to do them justice.

The next team car I wanted to do was the 1988 Team Hitachi-Eddy Merckx Citroen. The Hitachi team was another whose visuals I was a big fan of. The 1987 Hitachi-Rossin jersey was the first team replica jersey I ever bought. I picked one up when I lived in Japan in 1987. I still it. Lose another 30 pounds and I may be able to squeeze into it.

The Hitachi car was going to be a little harder to do in four colors, unless I printed it on white T-shirts. That way, the white would be the shirt material and I could add a “fifth” color. I decided to design it with five colors, red being the fifth and which could be made orange if necessary.

Hitachi-Wagon-1988

Old Race Bikes Are Cool, Too

Although I had plans to do more cars, I found I really liked the little bike drawings I had done and decided to do a drawing of one bike. When I enlarged the drawing, it was obvious I’d have to start over and redo almost everything. There simply wasn’t enough detail. And while some of the short cuts I took looked fine when small, at the larger size, they just weren’t going cut it.

The first bike I did was my personal 1972 Dreher/1973 Brooklyn Team bike, which had been raced by Belgian sprinter Julien Stevens over those two years. Initially, I designed it for four-color silkscreen process. But it looked too flat. it needed more color—tan sidewalls and brake hoods, silver components plus various random colors in decals— irregardless of what I may do with it in the future. I still wanted to keep it simple and in all spot color.

From there, I moved to my personal 1979 Gios Torino Super Record. Because both bikes are so similar, I thought it would be a simple matter of adding white panels to the decals, tweaking the fork crown and adding Super Record derailleurs. I was wrong. The lugs, seat stay caps, and Gios logos were totally different between the two bikes. Plus, I had Nuovo record chainrings on the older bike and Super Record on the 1979. That meant redrawing those damn things again.

While I worked on the 1979, I discovered a few mistakes I had made on the original bike. I went back and corrected those. And after posting a couple of the portraits on social media, an eagle-eyed follower pointed out I had put the left pedal on backward. Duh. Each bike seemed to take longer than the last to complete.

I decided to do a portrait of all my vintage bikes, with my 1980 Colnago Roger De Vlaeminck next, followed by my 1988 Hitachi Team Eddy Merckx next. The Colnago should be easy, I thought. But the Merckx would mean I had to draw a full Mavic 2000 parts group, do a more complicated graphics package and Look pedals.

Again, I started with the 1979 Gios as a base for both bikes and along the way found a bunch of mistakes. I fixed them on the Colnago and Merckx and went back and fixed them again on the Gioses. Apparently,  none of these bikes were never going to be finished.

Before I started another bike that required a new component group and new frame (My Dura-Ace 7400-equipped Look Kevlar 2000 was next on the list.), I decided I’d use my 1979 Gios as a basis for a portrait of Roger De Vlaeminck’s 1975 Paris Roubaix-winning Gios. As before, I thought it would be a simple tweak of frame geometry, replacing the fork with the one from my older Gios and being sure I had the right parts mix on there. And, as before, I was wrong. I found more mistakes and, while tweaking the geometry I made new mistakes that I later discovered while drawing Eddy Merckx’s 1974 World Championships bike.

I then went on a roll and banged out a series of my dream bikes, with each finding more corrections to make on all of the previous drawings. I had to tweak lugs, move bits of the chain around between layers to get correct positioning, recreate the chain, redraw graphics with more accurate detail, redraw entire components, add details I had left off when my plan was to keep them simple and adjust the positioning of parts that mysteriously moved somehow at at some time.

To date, I have done all my vintage road bikes (1972-1991), four of my dream bikes, two Roger De Vlaeminck bikes, two Eddy Merckx bikes, one Francesco Moser bike, one Marc De Meyer bike and one Felice Gimondi bike. Some of the bikes are a little more detailed than their predecessors and I added gradients to the bikes that had been painted with metallics.

I still have no idea what I’m gong to do with these portraits. Of course, Id’ love to find a way to make money with them. I’ve explored doing a series of limited-edition prints. And although I had some digital samples done, I’m a ways from getting that going. For one, I definitely want to be sure the drawings are worthy. Second, I need to be sure they’re is a buying public for them.

I also am thinking about offering to do custom portraits of bike for other collectors. If this appeals to you, let me know. I still need to figure out the best printing process for one-offs, but I’m sure there is a solution out there.

 

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More About Mascheroni and Gilardi

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This morning, I did more research on Umberto “Lupo” Mascheroni and Gilardi and found a few mentions on various Italian and European cycling newsgroups.

In January 1997, La Gazzetta dello Sport pubished this brief article, confirming Mascheroni’s link to Julien Steven’s Dreher and Brooklyn Teams , Roger de Vlaeminck and Patrick Secru.

“The family of Umberto Mascheroni, known as the “Lupo”, a popular mechanic of the Legnano who died in ’95, asked Don Luigi Farina, rector of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Ghisallo, to place a stone to the side of the many remembering the many lost cycling champions. Historical figure of national cycling at the time of Bartali, Coppi, Magni and Alfredo Binda, “Wolf” Mascheroni was also a mechanic alongside Cribiori, De Vlaeminck, Sercu and Zilioli.”

In the Italian newsgroup, FixedForum, an 80-year-old man who went by the username “bimbogigi” in 2012, wrote the following as translated by Google Translate:

“I saw Gilardi personally working on my frame in the spring of ’72 at the workshop of Lupo Umberto Mascheroni in Baldinucci Street in Milan. He was already old-fashioned then and I would say abundantly retired. Since then I have never seen him again.” 

In several other posts, it is said that Gilardi also worked in Bianchi’s Reparto Corse “between Valsassina and Drali” and built frames for or worked for Fausto Coppi.

Mascheroni also is linked to Bianchi and Coppi: “Lupo Milano was a shop of Umberto “Lupo” Mascheroni, personal mechanic of Coppi and mechanic of Legnano and Bianchi. He was renamed “Lupo” by Faliero Masi.

Still another post offered this observation:

“Umberto Marnati and Umbereto “Lupo” Mascheroni (both from Milano, Italy) were the 2 master frame builders in the Legnano Reparto Corse frame building. In 1972 Mascheroni built the frames for the Dreher pro team. Umberto Marnati has been also Fausto Coppi’s mechanic together with “Pinella Pinza d’Oro”. Umberto Marnati has been a frame builder for many pros and for the Benotto team. In 1970 he built frames for the Salvarani Team, bikes labeled Chiorda, but made by Marnati, 2 holes under bb shell). He also built frames for Francesco Moser, and for many champions in the past. He is one of the greatest “not famous” names, like Mascheroni and Pela’ (he built Fausto Coppi’s frames).” 

Although none of the information offered in the newsgroups can be verified, it does seem that Gilardi and Mascheroni worked together, even in 1972 when the Steven’s Gios was made. It also seem to confirm that Gilardi built the frames for Dreher, some of which, including mine, were reused in 1973 at Brooklyn.

 

How I Came to Own a Very Special Gios

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Several months ago, I posted a call on a handful of Facebook groups I belong to that cater to fans of vintage steel road bikes for a Gios Super Record bike or frame. Generally, my calls for things go unanswered. Or I get offers of things I don’t want. This time, within a few hours, two bikes popped up. Both my size. One of the bikes looked like exactly what I was looking for.

After studying both bikes for a while, it occurred to me that I wanted one without the white panels—like the bikes the Brooklyn Team rode between 1973 and 1977. Both bikes had white panels. I needed to do some research and better educate myself, obviously.

What I discovered, according the Interwebs, was that the Brooklyn Team bikes were called either Record (pre-1973-1974) or Super Record (1974-1977). The graphics on both bikes had no white panels and the forks were chrome plated with a slightly sloping crown. In 1978, Gios added the white panel to the seat and down tube decals of the Super Record. In 1979, Gios painted the fork and swapped the crown for a flat one embedded with two Gios coins.

I started looking at bikes on eBay. There were a lot of Gios bikes for sale. A couple were my size, but everything I found was a 1979 or newer. Things went that way for a few weeks.

The Perfect Frame Found?

Then I found a frame posted on one of the Facebook groups. It wasn’t original finish like I wanted, but it looked interesting. I contacted the seller, Andre Delagrense of Belgium. Mr. Delagrense told me the frame was built by “Gilardi of Torino” and had belonged to the Belgian Sprinter Julien Stevens. He raced it in 1972 when he was on the Dreher Team. When Dreher became Brooklyn in 1973, Stevens and several other Dreher riders, used their Dreher bikes, repainted Brooklyn blue by Gios, for part of the year until Gios could build new frames for all the riders.

I liked this.


The frame appeared to be my size, but it took several days to get confirmation. It was.

I exchanged many emails and messages with Mr. Delagrense. He told me he was good friends with Aldo and Alberto Gios. He owned a handful of beautiful Gios bikes. He had been a mechanic with the Raleigh T.I. Team. He was friends with Mr. Stevens. He knew Roger de Vlaeminck. He sent me a dozen or more photos of various bikes he owns and had for sale, photos of himself with famous cycling industry folk and photos taken at Belgium’s Six Day Races and various swap meets and local events.


At my request, he also sent me more photos of the frame before it was refinished. And he answered most of my many questions. After a week or two of exchanges, I decided I wanted to buy the frame, but on the condition that he sold it to me as a complete, built with a list of 1972/3 components I wanted. He agreed, but asked me to give him time of collect the parts and build the wheels. I agreed.

When I asked how long he needed, he suggested he ship the frame first and he’d send the parts separately a week or two later. It wasn’t ideal for me, but I agreed.

Lost in Transition

Using the tracking number provided, I estimated the frame would arrive on a Monday, about 10 days after he shipped it. Sure enough, on that Monday, the UPS truck pulled up with a big box. Bigger than I expected. And it looked heavier in the arms of the driver than I expected. As I signed for the package, I glanced at the box and noticed a wheel and tire through one of the hand slots. Odd.

I dragged the box inside my garage. Sliced through the tape. Pulled up one flap. And, to my surprise, saw a dark green frame with the tallest head tube I’d ever seen, a set of 10-speed Campagnolo Ergo Power levers and an Eddy Merckx logo on the head tube. I had the wrong bike. I immediately began to worry I was going to have to ship this to Japan or Norway or some other faraway location. And, where was my frame?


As it turned out, the owner of the green Merckx lives in Long Beach, about 30 minutes away. He and I connected, but he didn’t have my frame. After two days and my frame still MIA, he asked if he could pick up his frame? Of course, he could.

About two weeks later, a delivery notice left at the home of the Merckx owner said my bike was in Long Beach. The following day, Mr. Merckx Owner stopped by the Post Office to pick it up. They couldn’t find it. Two days later, they still couldn’t find it.

Frustrated, I reached out to my friend, a fellow collector who used to be our mail carrier and was now and assistant manager at our local post office branch. I asked if he could help. He and his boss called the Long Beach post office for several hours and amazingly, no one picked up. He was blown away. The following day, the Merckx owner finally got someone at the post office to find the frame. I went to his place that night to retrieve it.

After I got it home, I discovered that the drive-side, rear dropout had pierced the box and was damaged. Luckily it was just paint damage and a bent axle adjuster, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t bummed. The frame had a beautiful new paint job applied by Gios and the damaged dropout was a drag. I let Mr. Delagrense know the frame arrived and I had it in my possession. I also told him about the dropout. He offered to take it back, but I wasn’t giving it up. In that case, he said, he’d ship the parts for free. Score.

Looking for Historical Clarification

While I waited for the parts to arrive, I reached out the Alberto Gios to see if he could shine more light on the history of the frame. He confirmed much of what Mr. Delagrense told me about the frame and answered a few questions Mr. Delagrense couldn’t.

Although I found numerous photos and a handful of short articles about Julien Stevens—he had been on Eddy Merckx’s Faema and Molteni teams before joining Roger De Vlaeminck and Patrick Sercu on Dreher and Brooklyn, and he had placed second at the 1969 World Championships—I was unable to find any information about this frame builder named “Gilardi”

I also had questions about the authenticity of the fork and if the frame really was a Gios. I had never seen any information about the red bikes the Dreher Team used—they were simply labeled Dreher, a beer brand—but maybe they were built by Gios, too. After all, the Gios Registry, (http://www.giostorino.it/registro-storico/le-gios-iscritte-al-registro) included a Patrick Sercu bike from 1973, his first year at Brooklyn, with many of the same features as my Julien Stevens frame, including the star pattern drilled in the BB shell, serial number location and style and seatstay caps.

Patrick Sercu’s 1973 Brooklyn Team bike from the collection of Gianfranco Trevisan shares many features with the Julien Steven frame from the same era. Both men raced on the Dreher team in 1872 and made the move to Brooklyn in 1973.

 

Alberto Gios interviewed his father Aldo, and did his best to get me answers to my questions. Here are his replies:

“Okay, the history is true. When Perfetti, the owner of Brooklyn Chewing Gum, started the Brooklyn Team, he bought the complete Dreher Team and his mechanic, Lupo Mascheroni, who was in contact with Gilardi, a frame builder based in Milan. With the riders and the mechanics also came some bikes. Yours is one of those. So, in 1973, while we were making frames for the Brooklyn Team, we took the other bikes and repainted them because we didn’t have time to provide the full team with bikes,” he said via.

“Concerning the fork, if your is for internal nuts, it has been for sure modified. We made the switch in 1980, many years later. Your fork is not original to the frame, but it is period correct. It’s very old,” he added.

I followed up with a couple more questions.

“The drilled dropouts were made by us for sure, when we repainted the frame. Concerning all the history of this frame, it’s impossible to say for sure if it is a Gilardi. Gilardi was just a man, not a brand. There are a lot of frames of well-known brands that are made by other guys. The nice thing about this frame, is that my father is alive and he told me all the history. So, for me, it is a Gios because there is a lot of my family in it,” Alberto said.

Whoever built the frame, he was a skilled builder. The lugs are beautifully cutout and feature very long, thinly tapered points. He took a lot of pride in his work.

Umberto “Lupo” Mascheroni had sold frames under his nickname, Lupo. It’s also reported that he had been a mechanic for Legnano in the 1950s and 1960s. After he retired, he started building frames. But it’s unclear if he was the main builder, or like so many others, hired out the work. In an interview, Freddy Maertens said he rode a Flandria-badged “Lupo”.

Photos of an older Lupo frame show builder Umberto “Lupo” Mascheroni drilled his BB shells with a star pattern similar to those on my Stevens Gios and the frame of Patrick Sercu. The three-digit serial number location and font are also similar.

 

UPDATE Oct. 11, 2017: I did more research on Umberto “Lupo” Mascheroni and Gilardi and found a few mentions on various Italian and European cycling newsgroups.

In January 1997, La Gazzetta dello Sport pubished this brief article, confirming Mascheroni’s link to Julien Steven’s Brooklyn Team , Roger de Vlaeminck and Patrick Secru.

“The family of Umberto Mascheroni, known as the “Lupo”, a popular mechanic of the Legnano who died in ’95, asked Don Luigi Farina, rector of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Ghisallo, to place a stone to the side of the many remembering the many lost cycling champions. Historical figure of national cycling at the time of Bartali, Coppi, Magni and Alfredo Binda, “Wolf” Mascheroni was also a mechanic alongside Cribiori, De Vlaeminck, Sercu and Zilioli.”

In the Italian newsgroup, FixedForum, an 80-year-old man who went by the username “bimbogigi” in 2012, wrote the following as translated by Google Translate:

“I saw Gilardi personally working on my frame in the spring of ’72 at the workshop of Lupo Umberto Mascheroni in Baldinucci street in Milan. He was already old-fashioned then and I would say abundantly retired. Since then I have never seen him again.” 

In several other posts, it is said that Gilardi also worked in Bianchi’s Reparto Corse “between Valsassina and Drali” and built frames for or worked for Fausto Coppi.

Mascheroni also is linked to Bianchi and Coppi: “Lupo Milano was a shop of Umberto “Lupo” Mascheroni, personal mechanic of Coppi and mechanic of Legnano and Bianchi. He was renamed “Lupo” by Faliero Masi.

Still another post offered this observation:

“Umberto Marnati and Umbereto “Lupo” Mascheroni (both from Milano, Italy) were the 2 master frame builders in the Legnano Reparto Corse frame building. In 1972 Mascheroni built the frames for the Dreher pro team. Umberto Marnati has been also Fausto Coppi’s mechanic together with “Pinella Pinza d’Oro”. Umberto Marnati has been a frame builder for many pros and for the Benotto team. In 1970 he built frames for the Salvarani Team, bikes labeled Chiorda, but made by Marnati, 2 holes under bb shell). He also built frames for Francesco Moser, and for many champions in the past. He is one of the greatest “not famous” names, like Mascheroni and Pela’ (he built Fausto Coppi’s frames).” 

Although none of the information offered in the newsgroups can be verified, it does seem that Gilardi and Mascheroni worked together, even in 1972 when the Steven’s Gios was made. It also seem to confirm that Gilardi built the frames for Dreher, some of which, including mine, were reused in 1973 at Brooklyn.

How I Came to Own Two Gioses (Giosi?)

After several weeks of swapping emails and messages with Mr. Delagrense about the parts and when he’d ship them, he just stopped replying. It wasn’t like him. I was bummed. I really, really wanted to build the thing and ride it. I gave up after about a month and started buying parts elsewhere. Of course, it took longer and cost more money than had Mr. Delagrense supplied the parts as promised. But, once it was built up, I was stoked.

As I was gathering the parts, I reached out to a local collector from Hong Kong who had a passion for Gios. He was selling a set of cranks with a Gios pantographed chainring. I didn’t need the cranks—they were too new and at 170mm, too short—but hoped he might sell me the chainring alone. In his reply, he sent several photos of a 1979 Gios Super Record bike, asking if I was interested. When he told me it was a size 53 (Gios sizes with center-to-top measurements), I replied that it was too small. He then sent another photo of a 55.

I was at his house within the hour. When I left, I was the proud owner of a 55cm 1979 Super Record, which had the cranks and Gios chainring I called about originally. I also picked up a set of wheels for the Stevens Gios. The bike wasn’t in the plan, but the frame was all original and a perfect fit. I took it for a spin the following day and was more than pleased with the ride and fit.

The Stevens Gios is also a 55 center-to-top, but unlike the 1979, it has a 54.5 top tube,  a half centimeter longer than the newer frame. My ideal bike size is a 53mm center-to-center with a 54.5 top tube. But as far as I know, only Greg LeMond sold frames with this as a standard measurement. One of the main reasons I jumped on the Stevens Gios was because of this extra half centimeter.

Several weeks later, I had all the parts I needed to complete the Stevens Gios build. I picked up a range of Nuovo Record parts, including a 1972 rear derailleur, 172.5 cranks and a set of NOS brakes. The stem was a well-used Cinelli 1A with old logo and the correct external nut (not the recessed Allen) I bought a year or two prior, just in case.

I had been looking for a set or three of 64-42 Cinelli Giro d’Italia bars with the older shield logo. But all I could find were 38s and 40s, both too narrow for me. I did, however, find a very clean set of the deeper-drop Campione del Mondo bars with the old logo. I hadn’t ridden deep-drop bars for many years and was worried they’d be too deep and have too much reach, especially with the extra half centimeter on the toptube. I was wrong. They were actually quite nice.

A New Favorite Bike

My first ride on the Stevens Gios was a thrill. I kept it short just in case I had any mechanicals as I had on the first rides on my Colnago Roger de Vlaeminck and the 1979 Gios, when the drive-side BB cups backed out on both bikes. But the ride was problem-free. I loved the longer toptube, although the 54 of the 1979 and all my other bikes doesn’t bother me.

After almost a couple months of riding the bike several days per week on progressively longer and hillier rides, I’ve come to really enjoy it. I feel the same about the 1979, although I prefer the Brooklyn Team bike to the IJsboerke-Warncke team bike. I’m not sure why. Despite the top tube length and handle bar reach differences, the bikes (as well as my Colnago Roger de Vlaeminck, which is set up nearly identical to the 1970 Gios) feel very similar on the road.

Although I prefer the performance of the newer Super Record on the 1979 and RdV bikes to the Nuovo Record on the Stevens Gios, the 1972 Dreher/1973 Brooklyn, Julien Stevens, Gios is definitely going to be my 2018 Eroica California bike.

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I have the older bike geared better with 53 or 52/41 x 13-15-17-19-21-24, compared to the 52/41 x 13-14-15-17-21-24 of the 1979 and the 52/42 x 14-15-16-17-19-21 of the RdV, so it climbs better/easier. I originally tried to run a max 26-tooth on the Stevens Gios, but the Nuovo Record rear derailleur couldn’t handle it.

I have been told a Super Record can handle up to a 28, but I haven’t tried this and am unsure it this refers to the first or second generation rear derailleurs. For next year’s Eroica California, I hope to get the biggest rear cog on there as possible.

I have been training on the Stevens to build strength and lose weight so I can complete the ride without too much discomfort. My legs cramped to the point of locking up twice last year when I used a low combination of 38×28 on my Merckx. I am stronger than last April, but am I strong enough? If not, I am prepared to swap the correct 1972 Novo Record derailleur with a newer Super record if necessary to use a 26 or 28-tooth cog. Or, in the worst-case scenario, I have a Super Record triple crankset and long-cage Nuovo Record rear derailleur just in case.

I never did, by the way, hear from Mr. Delagrense regarding the parts he promised to sell me. I’ve sen him post several items for sale on Faecbook, but he never relied to any of the dozen or so emails and PMs I sent him.

The One that Got Away

I know I shouldn’t have, but yesterday, I inquired about an original-finish, 55cm, 1976 Gios Super Record frame located in the Netherlands. It was in the possession of a seller I have done business with on two occasions. He sold me the Colnago RdV. He also sold me a Pinarello Treviso. Unfortunately, he said the Pinarello was a 54 when it is really a 55. And too big for me. I’ve been sitting on it for a year and half trying to sell it for what I have into it. I swore I’d never buy from him again.

The 1976—my holy grail of Gioses—however, was enough for me to reconsider.

The seller, in his usual manner, was slow with  his replies and coy with his answers, never giving me a price or confirming it was still available in the OG paint. He had mentioned sending it out for refinish. I wanted the original paint, even if the BB shell was a rusty wreck.

Lucky for me, it sold to someone else today.

I Like Old Bikes, I Cannot Lie

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It’s funny how often people disapprovingly comment or take lighthearted jabs at me for riding vintage road bikes and wearing retro and vintage gear.

“Dude, you really need to get into the 21st century,” they say.

Or, “Michael doesn’t own any bikes made after 1975. He hates new technology,” they’ll comment to those around us.

My sister recently checked in with me to see if I was “okay” after I posted the first of my vintage road bike portraits and a series of pics of my bikes and vintage shoes on FaceBook.

“I know you love retro stuff. You always have. I just think you should start making your own designs real and use them. It appear that you give credit to the past. It’s confusing,” she wrote in a concerned text message.

I don’t take it personally. Nor do I take offense. I see where they’re coming from.

But none of these comments, nor many of the others, are correct. For one, I do own several road and BMX bikes made in the 1980 and 1990s.

Joking aside, I own and have owned and have been the designer/product manager on a number of modern carbon fiber road, mountain and cyclocross bikes. I also designed and produced dozens of modern and innovative BMX components between 2012 and 2015.

And, in fact, I agree 100-percent with my cycling friends—performance-wise, comfort-wise, almost-every-way-wise, the new stuff is far superior to the old.

But that’s not the point.

To start with, much of what makes modern stuff so good only matters in the context of racing and being competitive as a racer. (Just talking high-end road racing machines. Not going to even touch e-bikes, comfort bikes, etc.) I am no longer a racer and harbor relatively little interest in ever being one again. But road racing is in my soul and I don’t want to, nor can I, let it go.

No doubt, comfort and convenience are great no matter the type of riding. But I find a certain pleasure (perhaps perverse pleasure) in riding outside my comfort zone. One of the things I’ve always liked about cycling is the suffering. And overcoming the suffering. Yes, you can suffer on a sick carbon road bike. But there is a difference between suffering on an old bike and new one.

Riding Like Eddy and Roger

Now that I no longer have the desire (or legs and lungs) to climb with a heartbeat of 198 BPM, it’s too easy to sit down and spin up a climb on a 15-pound bike in a modern 36-28 gear. On any of my 21-pound Campagnolo Nuovo or Super Record-equipped bikes, I’m stuck with climbing in a 41-tooth chainring (I put vintage Campy or modern T.A. 41-tooth chainrings on all my 144 BCD bikes.) with either a 24, 26 or 28-tooth cog in the back (depending on the bike).

I don’t climb fast, but I do climb with suffering. And, in my head, I look just like Eddy Merckx or Roger de Vlaeminck while doing it—body rocking, pushing down with all my might on the pedals, occasionally standing to get a little extra oomph out of my legs.

And the more I do it, as with anything, the better I am at it. The climbing that is. The suffering, too, I guess. I’m getting stronger and lighter. Neither of which has come easy over the past decade.

Since most of my riding is done solo, I don’t have much experience sprinting on vintage bikes. So, I can’t really talk about that. Although, they do feel quite a bit whippier than modern carbon rigs. I still have no idea how Sean Kelly was able to win so many sprints on those Vitus bikes he rode all those years.

But I digress.

For me, riding bikes now is more about getting outside, exercising, enjoying the feel of the road beneath me, the wind in my hair (Yep, sometimes I leave my helmet at home. I know, I know.) and, maybe most important, rekindling the romance I used to associate with cycling so many years ago—and still do associate with cycling before clipless pedals, aluminum frames, STI shifters, mandatory helmet rules (A very good idea, by the way.), Lycra clothing, radios, EPO and “marginal gains”.

 

I may be delusional, but when I’m riding one of my vintage bikes, I feel like I’m one of these guys.

 

Watching Jøergen Leth films like The Hell of the North or Stars and Water Carriers, I have such huge admiration for the men of the peloton in the 1970s and before. They were strong, hard men. They knew how to suffer and how to make others suffer. The bikes were heavier, harder to ride and they rode with so much soul. The clothing was less comfortable, although wool is a fantastic jersey fabric. And the training and dietary methods were arcane and not nearly up to the task. I still am amazed that they (and we) raced and rode as hard as they did on these old bikes.

When I ride now, as I did 20 years ago, I think about these guys—Eddy, Roger, Franceso Moser, Bernard Hinault and Greg Lemond. I still want to be like them.

I watch and follow modern racing, of course. I never miss a race when it’s on TV. I still love it. I have lots of races from the past few years stored on our DVR.

But I no longer relate to what road racers do on their bikes. They are machines, robots, relying on technology (mechanical, nutritional and chemical) to produce inhuman race results. They never seem to tire. And so few of them ride with panache. Peter Sagan is the obvious exception here.

Not Living in the Past, Just Trying to Escape the Present

Yesterday, I hopped on one of my modern bikes—a 2012 carbon fiber Redline cyclocross bike. It was the first time since August that I rode a modern bike. (I currently own only two modern bikes. But not by choice or design. After losing my job at Airborne, I lost all my Airborne protoypes, among them two carbon road bikes, one with disc brakes and a carbon full-suspension 29er.)

At first, the bike felt odd. The oversize brake hoods were in an unfamiliar place. My feet danced around insecurely on the clipless pedals. And the carbon fiber of the frame, bars and rims absorbed nearly all the road vibration.

Soon, however, I felt at home on the bike. Shifting was easier. The tiny gaps between the 11-cogs were welcome when looking for the right gear as I went from headwind to tail and up the short steeps on my route. The pillow-like brake hoods were a joy. And the instant acceleration you get out of a combination of a carbon fiber frame, bars and wheels, modern hollow-forged cranks and stiff carbon-soled shoes blew away any of my vintage steel road bikes.

 

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Yesterday, I thoroughly enjoyed a ride on a modern carbon fiber bike. 

 

I felt faster, smoother, more powerful. I’m pretty sure I had a big grin on my face as I raced back home.

Modern bikes are fantastic. And amazing. And awesome. And soooo much better than anything that came out of Italy in 1975. I can’t and won’t even try to argue that.

But I still like, no, love, riding my old bikes. And I am unapologetically nostalgic about it.

I love riding old bikes because they challenge me without making me feel like an inferior (i.e. old) cyclist. They test me in ways I haven’t been tested in years. They bring back fond memories and associations I have with the past and my youth. I also find great pleasure in the bikes’ simplicity of design and form. I even discovered that toe clips are a really, really good, if occasionally painful, system.

Is it because I’m getting old and trying to relive my youth? Nah. I was doing this back in my 30s when I had an early-1970s Masi Gran Criterium. Before there was an eBay. And about the same time Giancarlo Brocci was starting L’Eroica in Italy. I still ride in the wool shorts and shoes I bought then. Besides, like my sister said, I’ve away been into old stuff. I’m fascinated by history and those who came before us. I dig old clothing, cars, furniture, music. I probably should have been born between the late-1930s or mid-1940s.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I need to put on my costume of wool jersey, wool shorts with real chamois, crocheted gloves, cycling cap and dainty leather shoes; fill up a single water bottle and hop on either my 1973 Brooklyn Team Gios, 1979 Gios Super Record or 1980 Colnago Roger de Vlaeminck and head out on a ride, spare tubular tucked under the saddle and a couple of fig jam and ham sandwiches in my back pocket—right next to my cell phone, so I can snap selfies and track my ride via Strava.

 

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Today and tomorrow and the next day, I’ll ride of these classic beauties. 

 

From Dirt to Pavement to Dirt to Pavement

It’s been a looooong time since I last banged out a story or report or posted anything new.  Why? Call it life.

Like many of you, I spend a lot of time at work in front of a computer. Unlike may of you, I assume, my time at the keyboard is filled with writing and editing stories and creating and editing photos and artwork. It’s an awful lot like managing a Blog. Often, the last thing I want to do when I get home from a long day typing and mousing-around on the Mac, is sit down and do more of it.

Not to mention, I’ve never ever made any effort whatsoever, to monetize this. So, the motivation to keep at it waxes and wanes. Mostly  the latter.

Where Have I Been?

What have I been up to since August 14, 2011? Well, I left VSI where I was the marketing manager for Intense BMX and a slew of other brands, to help Toby Henderson launch the Box Components brand. My title was Brand Manager but my job duties included, but we not limited to, product design, product management, marketing, team and rider liaison, sponsorship director/coordinator, graphic designer, mechanic, event marketing guy, copy writer and, of course, brand management.

As you may know, Box was a very very successful brand launch. Within two years, I’d estimate Box was the number one component brand in BMX racing. We developed some 80 or more products from scratch under the Box and Promax brand names, won something like 10 Elite and Junior BMX World Championships and were the official number plate supplier to the Rio Olympic Games. I’m quite proud of what we did there in those just three or four years.

Last July, I needed a change, so I left Box to help lead a relaunch of the Airborne Bicycles brand. It was a tall order. The brand had been through so many iterations, owners, managers and visions since its inception in 1999, no one knew what it was. Few even knew it existed still. I also was going to help DK Bikes with product development.

As when I was at Box, I was given one title—Brand Manager—but lots of duties. My main job was to be product manager and create a new bike line. My vision was to take our product up market by improving quality and spec, developing relationships with high-end brands and, eventually, develop our own innovative product lines. This would allow us to improve margins.

Step one, was to simply put together a bike line that told a cohesive story of who Airborne is with more than pinch of quality and value. While, at the same time, actually make some money.

This was to be a multi-year process with the first step—a new bike like–taking 18 to 24 months. After less than a year, management grew impatient with my progress and let me go.

I put together a very nice 12 or 13-model line up of mountain, road and cyclocross bikes. The first of my new bikes were to arrive only two months after I celebrated my one-year anniversary there. Most of the rest would arrive, if all went well, in the spring. The remaining models would be there in the summer, in time for ‘cross season. I hope to see some, if not all, of my bikes for sale some time soon. Again, I’m proud of the work I did there.

Back at it With a Twist

So, once again, as when I started this Blog, I find myself seeking employment. It’s not a bad thing, really. At least it’s not as emotionally debilitating as it was the last time. And I don’t plan to go back to school and rack up another $60K in student loan debt. All I need at this point in my life, is to make enough money to pay my bills and lead a simple life. If more comes, I won’t complain. But my focus is going to be on quality of life. I’m no longer interested in making or willing to make major personal sacrifices for a low-paying job that requires me to work 60+ hours per week. Been there. Done that.

Since my departure from Airborne/DK, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about what’s next. What I’d love to do, is find a way to make a living involved in the world of vintage road cycling, a not-so-new passion of mine.

I’m not interested in buying old bikes and parts low and selling them high. I dig all that, but not as a way to make a living. I enjoy to riding my bikes. Looking for bike deals is a time-consuming affair, unless you’re established and people know to find you. Maybe that will come.

No, I want to do something else. I have a lot of ideas. Not a lot of funding with which to launch them, however.

Initially, I’m going to launch a line of T-shirts featuring some of my vintage BMX and road bike inspired imagery. If that goes well, I’ll move on to the next step. If it doesn’t go well, maybe it will end up like my number plates—steady but small sales. I can’t pay my bills or eat well on number plate sales, but they do allow me to occasionally pick up a nice vintage road bike part or two.

 

 

I’ve also started doing a series of vintage road bike portraits. Some of the images are my personal bikes. Others are bikes I’d like to add to my collection. Still others are the bikes ridden to victory by my cycling heroes. I am looking into to doing a series of limited-edition fine art prints of these and the components above. If there is interest, I might even do commissions of bikes from other collectors.

 

 

Riding Old Road Bikes

About three years ago, I read about an event called L’Eroica. It was a bike ride in Italy started some 20 years ago to celebrate the heroics of road cyclists of the past. To participate, you had to ride a bike no newer than 1987, had to use toe clips, down tube shifters, non-aero brake levers and ride in period-correct clothing. It sounded awesome. I had been doing this by myself back in the 1990s.

I bought my first vintage road bike back in 1995. It was an early Italian-made Masi with Campagnolo Nuovo Record parts. I bought wool jerseys and shorts and a pair of vintage shoes. I rode the bike in era-correct garb all the time. I was the only guy I knew doing it. I didn’t care. I just liked riding the old bike. Sadly, I sold the bike just before moving to California in 2001. It’s probably here somewhere, still. I believe the buyer, a woman, was in the San Diego area.

Anyway, I had to do L’Eroica. But getting to Italy was not going to be easy—financially speaking. When I went to the L’Eroica website, I discovered there was a ride in California, not 250 miles from me. Yay! I started looking for a bike. With the help of a friend in the Netherlands, I found the frame I was looking for in Denmark. I was able to build a replica Team Hitachi bike in a few months using parts I bought a long, long time ago at a Velo Swap in Denver and newly acquired parts. Soon I had the beginning of my outfit, too.

I missed the following Eroica California due to work. But I was able to get a couple other bikes to ride, if I chose to, and a bunch of new vintage clothing to go with them.

I signed up for the 2017 Eroica California with finger crossed no work would get in the way. As time was running out, I had my friend Dave Marietti at Hot Shoppe Designs in San Clemente make me a set of replica Hitachi Team bib shorts. I made the art work and his people did the printing, cutting and sewing in record times I could look my best at the ride in April.

I looked good, if I may say so myself, if a tad overweight. The ride was a blast and despite suffering more than I had in any race ever before (due more to my poor fitness than the difficulty of course, although it was difficult) I couldn’t wait to go back.

 

Ride Like Roger (pronounced Ro-djay)

As of this past summer, I added two new bikes to my collection. Both are Gioses. One is a real honest-to-god Brooklyn Team bike. I’m a huge fan of the Brooklyn Team and it’s star Roger de Vlaeminck. I put out word that I wanted a Gios from the 1970s. Within hours, two in my size were presented to me as for sale. Unfortunately, both were 1979s, two years after the Brooklyn Team disbanded and one year after Gios changed the frame graphics and fork design. I wanted a Brooklyn Gios from between 1973 and 1977. About a month later, I found one in Belgium. And it was even a Brooklyn Team rider’s old frame. Better yet, it was my size–53c-c X 54 c-c. Not many bikes are built with that geometry.

It took waaaaay too long to get and after the seller balked on his promise to sell me all the parts I needed to build it perfectly era-correct, waaaaaaay too long to make ridable. But it was worth it. It is, hands-down, my favorite vintage road bike in my collection. The limits of Nuovo Record when compared to Super Record, not withstanding.

 

 

Along the way, when I was calling a seller about a Gios pantographed chainring, I accidentally bought a second Gios. This one, a 1979 model with Super Record. It also is a fantastic bike to ride.

My plan for Eroica California this year is to ride the Brooklyn Team Gios in full Brooklyn kit. I’ve already purchased a replica jersey and plan to get matching wool shorts from the fine folks at Magliamo in Belgium.

Last year, I picked the newer Merckx over my super-sexy Colnago Roger de Vlaeminck because I could run a 39 or 38-tooth front chaining with a 28-tooth rear cog without bastardizing the bike with modern parts or using a non-racer long-cage rear derailleur. I wanted to keep it strictly real. I was simply too fat and too weak to push the 42 (41 available) x 24 gearing  the RdV had on it.

This year, however, I’ve been training on the 1973 Gios Brooklyn bike, RdV and 1979 Gios almost exclusively since July. I also ride the Merckx, but it, like the others just mentioned, is now fitted with a 41-tooth front chainring. I have a range of max rear cogs on the other bikes, depending on what the derailleur can handle and what I own, of 23 to 26.

For Eroica California, I’d like to get a 28 to work, which I hear is possible with a later Super Record derailleur. Still unsure if the earlier Super Records can handle a 26 or 28 instead of the max of 24 for the Nuovo Record. Just not sure I want to put a 1980 derailleur on my 1973 bike.

I’ve noticed a big improvement in strength and endurance lately and have lost about 12 ponds over the past three or four months. If I keep this up, I should hit my weight loss goal of 30 to 40 pounds by April and be plenty fit enough to push the 41×24 or 26 gearing up the steep hills outside Paso Robles.

So, that’s where I’m at. Other than to say, today, I started applying for jobs. The first one I applied for has me super, super excited. I hope they call.

Two New Plate Shapes for Forty Four 16

We’ve been busy developing new plate shapes of late. Since starting the company last summer with the Original Round plate we’ve added our own Square, Original Square, Wizard and our Micro-Mini/Cruiser plates. Now, we are offering two new plates that fit a little better the larger Pro-size bars that were popular starting in the mid-1980s. The two new plates are based on the popular Haro Type 2/Colored plates and Aero’s Stadium plate. Both are available with modified lightning-bolt graphics.

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The Wizard plates, which, for now come in red, white and blue and black and yellow digitally printed graphics also fit larger bars. These plates are special order only and may take more time to complete.

Our Micro-Mini/Cruiser plates fit modern cruiser bars, as well as vintage mini bars. Like all our plates the width can be trimmed to custom fir smaller handle bars. These, also, come with our popular retro lightning bolt graphics. These are quickly catching on with the today’s racers who are old enough to remember the originals. Soon, we’ll be announcing a team sponsorship with these plates.

BMX Society Show and Reunion Was Best Ever

Saturday I took part in the 2010 BMX Society Show and Reunion at the Bellflower BMX track. What a super event. This was the third I attended and the second I exhibited in. There is no doubt it was the best yet. The new venue at the Bellflower track, with live BMX racing and the opportunity for  show goers to ride and participate in two vintage races, was stellar. What great luck that Peck Park, the original site, was closed for renovations.

It seems that the new SoCal event may have reached a tipping point. The number and quality of the bikes on display was dazzling. There were so many spectacular bikes that I can’t even remember seeing a single mediocre build. From Denis Dain’s collection of his personal 1970s race bikes to a number of lager freestyle collections and even mid-school bikes the entire history of old-school BMX was covered. More old-school pros and elite racers showed up this year, too. The few I saw (or remember seeing) include Eddy King, Craig Bark, Toby Henderson, Perry Kramer, Harry Leary, David Clinton, Denis Dain, Mike Miranda, Kim Jarboe, Eddie Fiola, Mike Dominguez, Woody Itson, Todd Lyons. . .

Jim Melton, the JM in JMC, was there, too. Steve Brothers, the man behind the BMX Society website and the event, presented Jim with a special lifetime achievement award. It was obvious that he appreciated the recognition almost as much as all of us in attendance, especially we JMC owners, appreciated him making the trip out to SoCal from his home in Missouri. Jim and his staff built some of the most technologically advanced and beautiful BMX frames of the time. He continues to contribute to  the BMX community by sharing his knowledge, memories and production records with anyone who asks for his help. He’s a real treasure.

The freestyle show as, as usual phenomenal and master of ceremonies Dan Hubbard’s non-stop announcing was a perfection. Despite the hot SoCal sun and a lack of food and water consumption, he never stopped his narration of the event. He’s a real pro and I want to thank him for plugging Forty Four 16. I was blown away by Eddie Fiola. His skills are undiminished . And it was fun to see him and the other old-school freestylers juxtaposed with today’s young riders. Fifteen-year-old Daniel Sandoval, who rides for Eye,  blew everyone away with his big air and insanely technical tricks.

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(I’m still trying to track down all the names of the photogs who’s images I used here.)

I want to thank Steve Brothers and the BMX Society staff and the other volunteers (Sorry, I know you were there, but not sure who you all are.) for organizing and managing the show; Tammy Estep for stepping in at the last minute to host the event at the track; Steve Blackey, for his cool trophies and for encouraging me to go through with my idea of making mini number plate trophies; Paul Morton for use of this EZ-Up and for acting as my personal photog; Eric and Max at Garage Graphics for printing the mini number plate stickers; Toby Henderson and the Intense staff for the free food; Craig Bark for the Torker swag and William LaRoque for the killer Torker sticker.

Finally, congratulations to all those who won awards for their bikes. There were sooooo many killer bikes on display, the  judges must have been pulling their hair out trying to pick a single winner in each category.

  • 70’s 20 inch BMX – Donnie Baird with his Webco
  • 80’s 20 inch BMX – Hector Aguilar with his VDC Changa
  • Old School 24″ BMX Cruiser – Tony Hartt  with an RRS 24″
  • Old School 26″ BMX Cruiser – Shawn Duex with a Torker 26″
  • Freestyle BMX – Mark Webster  and his VDC Freestyler
  • Mid School BMX – Steve Arndt  and his Kastan
  • Retro BMX – Brian Garcia with a 2010 L&S 26″ Cruiser
  • Side Hack – Eric King  with his Two Wheelers Hack
  • Pit Bike – John Dunphy with a Redline Square Back Pit

Congrats. You guys deserve to be very proud.

Though barely recovered from the last-minute push to get ready for the 2010 event, I’m already looking forward to next year’s show on June 4.