WTB: Structurally Sound but Beat Frames in Need of Love

I am currently in the market for at least three frames. That doesn’t mean I have the budget to buy all three, but there are three bike projects that interest me and if I can find one or more of the frames and the price is right, I’ll buy one or more of them. I’d be happy with one, two or all three.

Ideally, I’d like to find the original frameset in original finish. But, at least for two of these projects, I’m very flexible. What I do not want are bent, cracked or otherwise damaged frames in need of major repairs. Repaints, sure, but nothing that requires a torch.

And, by the way, I have an beautiful, early Tommasini frame and a very clean Look Kevlar 2000 frame I’d like to sell or trade.

Project 1: Gios Torino Super Record

This is the only one I really want to be original finish. And the only one of the three I seek that I want to be nice. Not beat.

I have been looking for one off and on for a few years. When I acquired my Julien Stevens frame and a 1979 Super Record a couple years ago, my hankering for a Gios was satisfied.

Occasionally, I’d look for a 1974-1977 frame, but getting one was never a priority. When I’d see one for sale, I’d look, but none were my size. Or, if they were, there was always an issue—repaint, incorrect decals, damage (bent tubes), too rusty, etc.

Recently, after finishing my ride at the Paris Roubaix Challenge on the Stevens bike and seeing a few original Brooklyn Team bikes in museums in collections in Belgium, I started to feel the need to get my own 1974-1977 model.

A couple weeks go, this perfect (original finish, correct model, correct size, even had the original seatpost) example came up for sale. I contacted the seller, but he seemed pretty set on this asking price—1,250 Euros with the BB, headset, seatpost and chainring. I was short on cash and the price was a bit on the high side, although with the post and chainring, arguably fair. I passed and looked elsewhere.

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I quickly found a second option, but it had been repainted (not by Gios) and had the incorrect top tube sticker. The sticker is a minor problem, but it’s the sort of thing that would drive crazy. I’d be tempted to sand off the clearcoat, remove the two GIOS decals and replace them with correct Gios decals and have it re-cleared. A lot of work, money and hassle to get it done right.

Yesterday, after much thought, I reached out to the seller of the frame above again.  Sadly, but not surprisingly, the frame had been sold.  I’m pretty bummed.

 

The frame is stamped 55, which means 55 c-t. And according to the seller, the toptube measured 55. It’s a good size for me, although I prefer a 54.5 top tube. My 1979 model also is stamped 55, but it measured 53.5 c-c with a 53.5 cm top tube. I have a hunch that Gios tweaked its geometry for the growing US market in 1979, switching to shorter top tubes. I’ve never confirmed this. But when I ask for frame DIMs from online sellers, the older Super Records always seem to have longer top tubes, like the frame above.

But I digress.

What I want in a Gios frame is the following:

  • 1974-1977 Brooklyn Team-era Gios Torino Super Record frame (with or without the fork—I have a spare)
  • Color: Gios blue, original finish (would consider a Gios Torino refinish)
  • Size: Stamped 55; seat tube c-c 54-55cm; top tube c-c 54-55

Project 2: 1973 Flandria Shimano

I recently acquired a 1973 Shimano Dura-Ace group, which I have been wanting for several years. My goal in getting the group has been to build a 1973 Carpenter Flandria-Shimano or 1974 Flandria Shimano Team replica bike.

Ideally, again, I’d like to find a vintage team frameset or high-quality consumer frameset in Flandria livery with original finishes. But, for this bike I’m okay repainting a non-Flandria frameset of the correct era and build spec to look like one.

It’s well known that many of the team riders used non-Flandria frames built in Italy or Belgium because the Flandria frames were of lower quality. The photos below show a variety of frame types, indicating that several builders were involved.

Sample Flandria Bike 1: The bulk this bike looks to be a 1973 or 1974 team bike. I like the way this frame is spec’d—clamp-on brake cable guides and shift levers, braze-on BB shell cable guides (rear only?), Campagnolo dropouts, etc. I’m looking for a frameset like this, either real Flandria or other Belgian, Dutch or Italian, as long as there are no logos.

 

 

Sample Flandria Bike 2: This bike also looks to be a 1973 or 1974 team bike, but it also has some Campy and Gipiemme and other parts. I also like the way this frame is spec’d. A frameset like this, either real Flandria or other Belgian, Dutch or Italian, as long as there are no logos, also would work for me.

 

 

Sample Flandria Bike 3: This bike is allegedly one of Marc Demeyer’s 1975 bikes. I also like the way this frame is spec’d. A frameset like this would work for me.

 

 

Sample Flandria Bike 4: This bike is allegedly one of Freddy Maertens’ bikes. I like the way this frame is spec’d, too. 

 

 

Sample Flandria Bike 5: This bike is another nicely spec’d frame, this time with a clamp-on bottle cage. The photos show the nice wrap-around seatstay caps common on many Flandria frames. 

 

 

Sample Flandria Bike 6: This bike is another alleged Maertens bikes and a great example of what I’m looking for.

 

 

Sample Flandria Bike 7: This bike is a Flandria-Shimano team bike from 1973. Note the circular cutouts in the lugs, wrap-around seat stay caps, bolt-on bottle cage, braze-on derailleur cable guides and chain stay stop, nutted seatpost clamp bolt, etc. This is perfect. 

 

 

Sample Flandria Bike 7: This bike is an older Flandria frame, likely a real Flandria. It’s located nearby my house and is inexpensive. Although not as high-end as I’d like, I think it’s the real deal and the approximate era I seek. I’d buy it, but it’s too big. 

 

 

Sample Flandria Bikes 8 & 9: The number 8 bike here show the fancy lugs I often think of when I think about Flandria frames. Both are real team bikes and part of Leo’s Bike Collection.

 

 

I’ve been looking at other Belgian and Dutch frames to get an idea of which might work. I’d like to find something without any branding on the lugs, fork crown, seatstay caps, etc. I kind of like the Dutch-made Gazelle below, which has fancy cut-out lugs similar to those on many Flandria frames.

This 1968 Gazelle frame has many of the aspects common on Flandria frames—the fancy lugs, lack of braze-ons, similar fork crown. I like it. But I’d hate to buy it only to strip it and repaint it. I’d prefer one in need of paint. 

 

 

These R3 style lugs by B.C.M. may be the fancy lugs I have seen on many Flandria frames.

 

 

What I want in a “Flandria” frame is the following:

  • A vintage Flandria team frameset or high-quality consumer frameset. OR a structurally sound 1970s frame of another brand in need of paint.
  • Color: Best if in need of paint
  • No brake cable braze-ons
  • No shift lever bosses. (I’ll consider with.)
  • One set of bottle bosses (I’ll consider without.)
  • BB and chainstay cable guide braze-ons (I’ll consider without.)
  • Ideally, and to make it easier for me to find a seatpost, I’d like a high-quality tube set that takes a 27.2 seatpost.
  • Size: Seat tube c-c 54-55cm; top tube c-c 54-55

Project 3: 1981-1985 Splendor

I’ve been wanting one of these beautiful blue frames for more than 30 years. I never looked for one until recently, however. Ideally, I’d like a real team frame with original finish. But, like the Flandria frame above, I’m okay repainting a non-Splendor frameset of the correct era and build spec to look like one.

It’s well known that many of the team riders used non-Splendor frames built in Italy or Belgium because the Splendor frames were of lower quality. These photos show a variety of frame types, indicating that several builders were used. I’ve heard Maertens built some of the frames for the team.

Sample Splendor Bike 1: 

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This is probably a 1982 Team Splendor bike. Based on it’s DIMs, maybe one of Claude Criquielion’s bikes. The owner described it as nondescript and workman-like. I have no info about it. But, this general concept—Columbus SL tubing and forks, chrome forks and chainstays, simple flat seatstay caps, etc.—is what I’m looking for.

 

Sample Splendor Bike 2: This is a team bike with unusual (for a Splendor) diamond cutout lugs. Something like this would be perfect. Love it! 

 

 

Sample Splendor Bike 2: This is one of Clady’s 1986 bikes. I hate this paint job, but I’d definitely take an original team bike this this. I’d also be interested in a non-Splendor bike frame like this, in need of new paint.  

 

 

Sample Splendor Bikes 3 & 4: More 1986 Claudy frames. These should explain what I’m looking for. With or without chrome. 

 

As with the Flandria, I’ve been looking at Belgian frames to get an idea of which might work. Maertens or Plums, which sometimes have the diamond cutouts of Rudi Matthuis’ bike above, come to mind. Whatever I use, I’d like to find one without any branding on the lug, fork crown, seat stay tops, etc.

 

This Plum Vainqueur has a lot of similarities to both the 1986 Criquielion and Matthuis frames above. 

What I want is the following:

  • A vintage Splendor team frameset or high-quality consumer frameset. OR a structurally sound 1980s frame of another brand in need of paint.
  • Color: Best if in need of paint; optional chrome fork and/or driveside chainstay. (I like the painted forks on the bikes in 1981 best.)
  • Tubing: Ideally, and to make it easier for me to find a seatpost, I’d like a frame made of Columbus SL (1981-1982), but I owed consider Reynolds 531 (1983-1985)
  • Size: Seat tube c-c 54-55cm; top tube c-c 54-55

Visiting Two of Flanders’ Cycling Museums

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While in Belgium last month, I visited the Centrum Ronde Van Vlaanderen ( Tour of Flanders Cycling Museum) in Ouenaarde and the Koers Museum in Roeselare.

The Centrum

I had high expectations for the Flanders Museum and assumed I’d see a wide variety of race-winning bikes and the gear used and worn by the men and women who found success at the classic. If I’m honest, however, I was disappointed.
There were few jersey and bikes on display. Most of the exhibits were of the interactive variety. The main attraction seemed to be the very cool Flandria Team car, which was topped with two alleged team bikes. Because the bikes are spec’d with an unlikely mix of Shimano Dura-Ace, Campagnolo, Galli, and other brands’ parts, I have my doubts they are legitimate team bikes. But maybe. It’s possible the museum or a previous owner received the bikes incomplete and cobbled them back together with whatever parts they had on hand. One of the rims is marked “MD”, which could refer to longtime Flandria rider Marc Demeyer.
One other bikes in the museum that interested me was an Eddy Merckx bike he used in 1972. The bike looks pretty accurate, but I wondered about is details, in part due to the fact that the placard said the bike has 52/42 x 12-26/28 gearing while the big chainring on the bike is a 53. Still, other than that, which could have been a typo, the bike has some special features that indicate it may have, in fact, been one of Eddy’s.
There were several other modern race bikes on display, like those used by Alexander Kristoff and Johan Museeuw, but the quantity of bikes and jerseys and such was a disappointed.
Free parking is available behind the museum (I didn’t know this.) and it can be used as a staging point for all three Tour of Flanders bike touring routes, which start on the road in front of the museum. Entrance to the museum is 10 Euros and included a free drink ticket for the café. The gift shop is well stocked with all sorts of cool bike-dork stuff, including books (most in French or Dutch), Magliamo wool jerseys, water bottles, riding gear, etc. I picked up a Flemish flag. For more info go to the Centrum website.

The Koers

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Two days after I visited the Tour of Flanders Museum, I went to the Koers Museum in Roeselare. It’s a lot closer to what I had in mind when I envisioned what a Flemish cycling museum would be like.
There were loads of old racing artifacts including team suitcases, racing numbers boxes, advertisements, marketing collateral, riding gear, trophies and, of course, jerseys and bikes. Most of the displays were well labeled, as well.
In addition to the permanent collections of bikes and racing artifacts up stairs, the first-floor gallery is used for temporary shows. When I was there, the exhibit was a photography show dedicated entirely to the QuickStep Team.
The Koers also has a Knowledge Center which include a library and a documentary center. The library contains more than 2,400 publications in Dutch, French, English and German.
According to the website, “The documentary collection includes more than 180 running metres of cycling magazines and sports newspapers from home and abroad (Onze Kampioenen, Geïllustreerde Sportwereld, Miroir des Sports, Match, Sportwereld, Het Volk,…), more than 2,000 posters, 30 running metres of cycling archives (clubs, cyclists, associations,…), hundreds of competition booklets and much more. The KOERS documentary collection of is one of the largest in Europe thanks to the acquisition of collections from private collectors such as Charles Aerts, Jozef Hamels and Wim Van Eyle (NL).”
It costs 7 Euros for adults to visit the museum, but admittance is free on the first Sunday of the month.
Apologies to those of you who aren’t curious about the details of old race bikes. Most of my photos were shot to simply document what parts were on the bikes. I was less concerned with lighting, mood and framing than I was with simply recording how the bikes were spec’d. Even if I had my doubts about how accurately they were built.

Prepping for the 2019 Paris-Roubaix Challenge—Sponsorship

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I want to thank Challenge Tires and 2Velo for sponsoring and working with me as a brand ambassador. I’ve been using Challenge’s tubular tires almost exclusively on all my vintage bikes for years. The tan sidewalls of the Pro line first caught my eye. But the smooth ride, durability and size range (700 x 21-30mm) kept me coming back.

I’ve also raced cyclocross with their open tubulars since I first held one in my hand. The soft subtle casing and tan sidewalls can’t be beat. And I used the Paris-Roubaix open tubulars on my Hitachi Eddy Merckx when I did my first Eroica California. They remind me of the first open tubulars I used back in the 1980—Vittoria’s Oscars—only bigger.

I’ve been a Challenge fan for a while, so I am super stoked to be officially working with them as a brand ambassador. I really like the 700 x 27mm Paris Roubaix Pro tubulars and have them on most of my bikes.  I did the Paris Roubaix Challenge in May with he PR Pros and had zero problems. When the Paris Roubaixs don’t fit, I use the Strada 25 Pro tubulars, which were my tire of choice at Eroica California this year.

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I worked with 2Velo to create my Brooklyn jerseys and apres-ride sweater for the Paris Roubaix Challenge and my bike dork tour of Belgium and Holland afterward. I asked 2Velo to make me a replica of Brooklyn’s early-1973 jersey and sweater. (They have a custom program.) They were totally in to it and worked with to get the details dialed in before the ride. I was super stoked with the results and hope to work with them more in the future. 2Velo supplied me with short and long-sleeve jerseys and a sweater for the ride.

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Challenge and 2Velo are my only sponsors, but hopefully I’ll pick up a few more, as difficult as it is when working to promote vintage riding.

Getting to France to do the Paris Roubaix Challenge expensive. There was no way around that. After the ride, I stuck around Belgium and the Netherlands for another week, visiting bike museums, bike collections and meeting and riding with likeminded collectors—people I’ve never met outside social media.

I blew about half the miles I had saved up over the past two decades to get my plane ticket. But the cost of a rental car, 12 night’s lodging, food, gas, airline bike fees and some sort of vintage bike parts budget all came out of pocket. I figure, the whole thing is cost me around $3,000.

Initially, I thought I could pitch my story—inspired by Andrea Tafi’s return to Paris-Roubaix 20 years after his win, a 52-year-old cycling fan chase lifelong dream and does the Paris-Roubaix Challenge on a vintage bike—to some magazines. Maybe 10 years ago, definitely 20 years ago, I could have made decent money with a story like that. Not so much today.

I had interest from a couple pubs, but the compensation was paltry compared to what they used to pay. Apparently, too many people are willing to do it for next to nothing “for exposure” or something.

Unwilling to work so hard for shit-pay, I have been writing about my adventure here on my blog. It doesn’t pay at all, but I harbor a hope that one day, maybe I’ll see a return on my investment, even if I can only scare up some sponsorships, or brand ambassadorships, as marketing folk call it now.

But I’m playing in a niche of a niche of a niche mostly inhabited by small companies with nothing-budgets and a serious lack of marketing savvy. I don’t expect to get paid to use anything, but I think I can provide enough value to certain companies and brands that a some free product could/should come my way.

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A big thanks to my sponsors Challenge Tires and 2Velo at this year’s Paris Roubaix Challenge. Challenge supplies me with tires. 2Velo worked with me to create this 1973 Brooklyn jersey and gave me a couple for the ride. 

Although I may be one of the few vintage bike dorks out there putting in hours researching and writing (blogging) about old bikes on a regular basis, doing product  tests and reviews (I’d do more, but getting stuff to test ain’t easy.), posting to social media (where I have a decent following, considering I’m not a celebrity or an attractive woman), and generally promoting the whole vintage road thing 24-7, it has been extremely difficult to get any of the companies doing business in the tiny-but-growing vintage market to support me.

What do I have to offer them, you ask? Well, I suppose that depends on what they have to offer in return. But, in general, all of the above—exposure on my social media, exposure here on my blog, exposure at events I attend followed by more social media exposure. Heck, I’d even go as far as to man a booth at an event, write press releases, and generally contribute to the marketing effort, if the price was right.

Over the past few months, I’ve been stopped and greeted a few times by people who follow me on social media and who read this blog regularly. I’ll admit, I’m shocked every time it happens.

Having spent 10 years on the marketing and sponsorship side of several bike companies, I have a pretty good idea of what each side can expect to get from the other. I think I offer as much, or more, than a lot of the professional athletes I’ve worked with and many of those I’ve never worked with but know or follow on social media.

In just about every business relationship where an exchange of goods and/or services occurs, both sides want to get as much as possible for as little as possible. The result is often an adversarial relationship. Unfortunately, many sponsorship deals are like this. One side, usually the sponsor, works hard to take advantage of the other, usually the sponsored. Or, the sponsored does little or nothing, but expects unlimited product flow or big-bucks just because they’re “out there riding,” or “because they’ve earned it.” Frankly, this sucks.

I have always thought it best to find people to sponsor who actually fit with your marketing goals and who can deliver your message to those its intended for.

I admit, I’ve not reached out to every company, but I have had contact with a handful and with some to those, a lot of contact.

Most of the businesses doing sales to the vintage crowd specialize in buying old parts cheap and selling them high. There also are a handful of companies remaking reproduction parts, accessories and clothing, but most of them are working on such small profits (more likely losses), that they say they can’t afford to offer me any swag, much less money.

My bikes are basically set, so I really don’t need much in the way of equipment. Although, I do have plans for some new builds and am in search of a couple fo frames. Still, I have thought about reaching out to one or two of the businesses I know of that have literal warehouses full of old Campy parts for sponsorship because it wouldn’t hurt to get a new Nuovo Record headset (or just the lower cup), BB, brake pads, fresh cables, rear derailleur pulleys, Velox bar tape and the like.

Then there are the wide variety of companies making reproduction goods—clothing is most common, but there are also saddles, handlebars, stems, brake lever hoods, brake pads, toe straps, etc. And there are companies making modern products that could easily be used (and in some cases are the best option, frankly) of vintage bikes. Tires (I have that covered.), bar tape and cables and housing for example.

I’m a bit too much of a detail freak to use some of this stuff on my replica bikes. I can’t see using Cinelli’s reproduction Giro d’Italia (Mod. 64) bars and 1A stems, for example. Vintage ones are easy to get and not that expensive. Plus, most of my bikes require the older logos Cinelli doesn’t use. I can see why people use them—some worry about breaking vintage bars and stems. Not me. I don’t ride that hard. My 1970s Cinelli 1A stem and Giro d’Italia bars held up just fine of the pavé.

My Brooklyn and 7-Eleven bikes are built with all-vintage stuff. My cables and housing are new old stock (NOS) vintage. So are my brake pads and bar tape. While I have vintage NOS or mint tubular tires I put on for shows. I’d never ride them. Instead, I use modern tires on all my bikes. And, as mentioned above, I use Challenge tires.

And, if Cinelli reintroduced a replica Unicanitor, I’d gladly ride one of those, provided it was an exact, or near-exact replica of the 1970s Model 3 version I use on most of my bikes. I’d love to ride a saddle stuffed with new foam padding. I do have new  Selle Italia Turbo 1980 and Flite saddles on a couple of my vintage bikes. Both, I’m riding for reviews to be posted here soon.

I plan to keep lugging away doing what I’m doing to stoke the flames and promote vintage road riding. Hopefully, along the way, I’ll find some support that will enable me to keep building bikes and attending more rides around the world. I’m still trying to live the dream.

 

My Saturday in Hell: Hell

What follows is a continuation of a sort of diary of my trip to Europe to ride the Paris-Roubaix Challenge and do a bit of bike-nerd tourism, in several parts. Read Part 1 here. 

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Day 3—The Big Day

I awoke with my alarm and despite the early hour, felt relatively well rested. It was cold in the AirBnB, so I slipped into my Tiralento Brooklyn tracksuit before making breakfast. I ate more than I usually do—scrambled eggs, ham, yogurt, pain au chocolat and coffee (if you can call it that). For inspiration, I watched a A Sunday in Hell while I ate. Afterward, I redressed in my riding kit and loaded my bike and gear into the car. It was just after 4. I should have plenty of time to get to Roubaix, I thought. Even if I had no idea where the parking lot was located. 

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A little pre-ride inspiration. A Sunday in Hell (L’Enfer du Nord)

No one was on the roads, so the drive was smooth. My TomTom was still crashing about every 10 or 15 minutes, so I used my iPhone and Apple Maps as a backup—an excellent idea. At the Velodrome, I looked for signage telling me where to park. There was none. I asked an official-looking man standing at the entrance of the Velodrome. He told me to park anywhere along the road. I considered doing that briefly, even temporarily parking on the sidewalk with several cars owned by other riders. But I paid extra for parking, I thought, so I decided to take a lap or two around the block in the hope that I’d see a sign or two or other cars with bikes I could follow into the lot. 

It worked. I followed a couple cars turning into a nondescript driveway. Although organizers included a parking pass with my goody bag, there were no parking attendants to collect it or direct us to the lot. I hesitantly made my way across a narrow road between soccer fields to an open grass lot where a hundred or so others were parking, gearing up and riding off to wherever the buses were waiting for us. 

It was cold—below freezing—and still very dark. I chatted with the carload of Brits parked in front of me. They were dressing and, apparently, planning to ride in shorts, despite the cold. I asked about the bus and they, like me, had no idea where it was. We figured we’d just follow the other cyclists and hope we got there. I offered them embrocation creme, but they declined. I, however, slathered it on my legs before pulling on my tights. 

With a Kucharik wool undershirt; 2Velo, short sleeve, wool jersey and Kucharik arm warmers under the long sleeve 2Velo jersey and Tiralento wool shorts under the Vittore Gianni wool tights, I was pretty warm, considering. But, having opted to ride sans booties, I was worried about my feet getting cold, even with some sweet Patagonia wool socks.  

With my pockets packed with food, an empty musette bag, CO2 cartridges, a multi-tool, a bottle of Güp, wallet and cell phone, I hopped on my bike and headed toward the street where I hoped I’d see a mass of cycling humanity riding toward the bus pick-up point. I did. And I joined them for the five minute roll to a nearby grocery store where a dozen busses and trucks were assembled. My feet and forehead were impossibly cold. 

I lined up with dozens of other cyclists speaking a variety of languages. Many were British, others from somewhere in Eastern Europe, plus plenty of French and Dutch riders. Looking around, I noted I was the only guy there in full vintage mode. There were a few steel frames, but the bikes were all equipped with integrated brake/shift levers and clipless pedals. Everyone was fully kitted out in Lycra and nylon. There were a lot of Rapha, Assos and Specialized logos.

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The line moved slowly. After about 10 minutes, a pair of volunteers working their way through the queue let us know that the line was for those who needed to buy tickets for the bus. Those, like me, who already had a ticket, needed to move to another, much-shorter line to collect new tickets that would pair us with a specific bus and cargo truck. Mine were F5. 

The trucks weren’t marked and we weren’t told where to wait. Everyone wandered about asking other confused riders where to go. It was all a bit of a cluster. I settled in with a group of riders at the front of a truck someone identified as F5. Ten minutes later, a volunteer let us know we were at the wrong truck and we should gather at the rear of our truck. We waited there another 20 minute, easy, before three men carefully loaded our bikes into the truck. These same three men were the only people loading the trucks. It was a slow process. 

While standing there, I noted that my wool kit was keeping me plenty warm. 

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On the bus, I sat next to another American. He lived in Northern California now, but had spent a lot of time in Southern California where I live. He was with two childhood buddies. The three of them had been riding around Italy for several weeks before coming to France. I never got his name. But I did see him at the last rest stop on the ride and again later on the road when he and his buddies passed and dropped me. 

Warm in the bus, we sat in the grocery store parking lot for at least another 30 minutes. The drive to Busigny was supposed to take abut 45 minutes, but, I swear it was more like two hours. The countryside we drove through was typical of Northern Europe—bucolic farmland, rolling green hills, plowed fields, quaint villages. As the sun rose, we could see a layer of frost and occasionally ice covered everything. It looked really cold out there and a strong wind was buffeting the bus. 

Stepping off the bus in Busigny, I discovered just how cold it really was. It was not time to decide what I would wear for the ride. As I waited for my bike to be offloaded, I shivered uncontrollably. My gut told me to drop off the extra clothes—mainly the long-sleeve jersey and musette bag—for transport back to Roubaix. But my frozen hands and feet and frosty breath were telling me not to remove a single stitch from my body. 

My bike came off the truck quickly. Since I was riding solo, I was ready to go. I looked around trying to get my bearings and figure out which direction to ride—people were riding up and down the street we parked on—and where the bag drop-off might be, if there was one. I correctly decided to roll downhill. 

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A few hundred yards later, I saw a gathering of cyclists in a parking lot. Again, there was no signage, so I  wasn’t sure what was going on. Was this place to check in? Could I drop my stuff there? (I still was undecided about whether or not I would.) Was food or drink available there? Maybe coffee? 

I stopped and gave a look. It was unclear what was going on, but based on the fact that I saw several riders removing backpacks before disappearing into the crowd, I assumed it was bag drop-off. I was still freezing, so I made the decision to ride with my extra gear and just deal with the hassle of carrying the bag. 

I rolled on, hoping to find an open coffee shop and a bathroom—I had to pee. Deeper into the village, I found two port-a-johns, which seemed to be far too few for the thousands of riders about to start a 109-mile bike ride at dawn. I stopped. Waited for a four guys—one from the Bay Area and a member of Team DFL—to do their thing. Did my thing. And headed off, still looking for a coffee shop. 

Not far from the port-a-johns, I passed a small bakery with a dozen bikes parked out front and queue out the door. Getting started with the ride was more important to me than coffee. I rode on. Shortly after I passed the boulangerie, I found the spot where organizers set up a dozen or so port-a-johns. There also were a few vendors selling water, bananas and pastries. Some signage up the road would have been nice. I rolled past, crossed the starting line and headed out of town. I was still cold. 

The sun was low in the sky, just above the horizon, and cast a golden glow over the frosty grass of pastures and grey dirt of freshly plowed fields. The sunlight may have been warm in hue, but it wasn’t in temperature. I was quite cold, my feet and forehead, in particular. 

My body felt okay, but I wasn’t really riding strongly. I hoped it was just the cold, the 15-mph winds or maybe a lack of coffee and that it would pass with the miles. Several groups of riders passed me. Despite trying, I was unable to sit on until a strung-out group went by on a slight downhill. I hopped on the back and cruised for the next few miles until we hit a slight uphill grade. I slipped off the back and settled into a rhythm. At the crest of the hill, I was overheating. I stopped to remove the long sleeve jersey, stuffed it in my musette bag and slung the bag over my shoulder. It was going to be a long 100 miles with that thing sliding around on my back. I regretted not dropping it off at the start. 

A number of the riders who passed me early in the ride gestured or called out their approval of my bike and gear choice. “Allez Roger!” “De Vlaeminck!” “Respect!” 

I was a little unclear how far we would ride before getting to the first sector of cobbles—sector 29 at Troisvilles a Inchy. I knew it wasn’t too far. I figured less than 20 miles. But it was taking longer to get there than I expected. I was recording my ride with my iPhone on Strava, but it was in my back pocket and I had no intention of pulling it out all day to check my mileage. Knowing how far I had gone or how far I had to go wasn’t going to make the miles pass any faster. 

Then I saw it—the banner signaling the entrance of the sector. A smile broke across my face. We turned left onto the pavé—an “easy” two-star sector of only 0.9 kilometers in length. I was glad our first section would be a light appetizer of the pain I knew was to come. I switched on my GoPro and rode in. 

I had ridden the cobbles of L’Enfer du Nord before. Twice Specialized invited me to attend press conferences in Roubaix. Both events included 50-kilometer rides over some five or six cobbled sectors, each time including Trouée d’Arenberg. It had been some 14 years since the last time I rode the pavé, but I hadn’t completely forgotten what it was like. Those rides, however, were on first-generation Roubaixs, bikes designed specifically to conquer the cobbles. 

On this day, I was on a bike built in 1972. The frame and all the components were more than 45 years old and I was unsure what to expect. I was, however, confident that my tire choice—27mm, Challenge, Paris-Roubaix tubulars—would be superior to the smaller clinchers I used in 2004 and 2005 with Specialized. 

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Despite my smile, almost immediately upon hitting the cobbles of Sector 29, I knew it was going to be a long, difficult and painful day. (I actually knew this when I signed up last December.) My watch, a vintage 1970s Rodania like those worn by Roger De Vlaeminck, Eddy Merckx and Freddy Maertens, immediately began bouncing violently against my forearm. At first the pain was dull. Then it became clear to me that the pain wasn’t limited to stainless steel  bouncing against bone. The crown was digging into my skin. I rode on. 

The short sector ended quickly. Other than the pain I felt in my wrist, which stopped as soon as I hit smooth asphalt, it wasn’t too bad. I wasn’t powerful enough to float over the pavé like the greats do, but I managed to maintain enough speed and found enough “smooth” gutter to get through the section with confidence that the day wouldn’t be too horrific. 

Then, I hit Sector 28. 

Sector 28 at Briastre a Viesley was the first of seven four-star sectors. In this case, the high rating was likely due to its 3-kilometer length. Of the 29 sectors, only three would be 3km or longer. It was chunky, but there was a fair amount of dry dirt gutter to ride in. It took me 4 minutes to cross the rocky expanse, but it seemed like 30. It was also clear my watch was going to be a real problem. I didn’t loo, but I was pretty sure my arm was bleeding where the crown was digging into the skin. Still, I was having fun. 

Sector 27 was rated only three stars. It was chunky and 1.8km long, but again, there was plenty of gutter to ride in. 

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I noticed that my legs weren’t coming around. Even on the roads between pavé sectors, I was riding slowly. And when we hit a hill, I struggled. I’m too heavy to climb fast these days, but I don’t usually go backward on the sort of short pitches along the route. I was a little worried I hadn’t hydrated well enough. 

The 3.7km, four-star Sector 26 started with a slight uphill, then dropped fast. It was a hoot to ride. I passed a lot of people while “descending.” At times my vision was so blurred I had no idea which of the three or four objects I was seeing was real. I just hung on and tried to keep my bars straight. At the bottom I chatted with an Aussie, who also was pumped on the super fun sector. 

The next sector at Saint-Pythin was the first two-star sector. It was 1.5km long, but fairly well maintained with smoothish gutters and a descending finish. I wasn’t felling great at this point, so it was a welcome relief. I would find out later that not all two-star sectors, however, are as “good.” 

Sector 24, a 2.3km three-star section at Vertain a Saint-Martin-sur-Escallion would be the last before the first rest stop. My bike had only one bottle cage and I had emptied my bidon miles before the rest stop. I was feeling parched and in desperate need of liquid refreshment. I considered adding an extra bolt-on bootle cage to the bike, but thought the vibration of the cobbles would cause it to come loose and possibly mar the beautiful paint on my frame. My hope was that I’d be able to buy water at shops along the route. Unfortunately, I hadn’t seen a single open shop since we left Busigny. 

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When I pulled into the rest stop, I immediately went to the water station, filled my bootle with water and chucked its contents twice before filling it a third time and adding a powdered energy drink I brought with me. I grabbed a handful of gels and gobbled down bananas and orange slices before getting in line for the port-a-johns. There were three—far too few for the crowd. 

During the wait, I noticed there was blood on my left glove. I pulled up my arm warmer to get a better look and saw that my wrist under my watch was smeared with a mix of dry and wet blood. Worried that my watch would bounce out on the pavé if I put it in my back pocket, I moved it to my right arm with the crown pointing up my arm. I hoped flipping the watch and putting the crown farther from my wrist might prevent it from gouging my arm. 

When it was my turn, my pee came out somewhat brownish. Needless to say, I was a little bit alarmed. I was clearly dehydrated, which may explain why I felt so sluggish. I returned to the water station and downed a couple cups before getting back on the road. 

I was only six sectors into the ride and basically felt like shit. I had felt that way for the last 10 or so miles. With 23 more sectors to go, I wasn’t feeling very optimistic about my chances of finishing. As I rode, I broke the route down into thirds and set my goals accordingly. I focused on being only four sectors from getting into the teens, rather than 23 from the finish in Roubaix. 

Much of the ride between Sectors 24 and 20 is a blur. I vividly recall feeling terrible and working really hard to talk myself out of climbing off at the next rest stop. And at some point, I stopped and removed my tights. I was unsure it was good idea, but I did it anyway. Vintage Vittore Gianni tights may appear thin, but they are extremely warm. Initially the cold winds stung my exposed legs, but I got used to it quickly, 

When I hit the cobbles in Haveluy a Wallers, I knew I was nearly to the legendary Troupe d’Arenberg. The thought of riding there again, sent a surge, albeit a small surge, of adrenaline through my body. A massive does of fear and trepidation accompanied it. 

I approached Arenberg, the first of three five-star sectors with another rider. As he passed me we exchanged a few words and rode the last kilometer together. It was bit of a circus at the entrance to the “forest.” Among the hundreds of people at the entrance, were two gentlemen directing traffic—pedestrian, cycling and automotive—away from the pavé. Among those they directed down the road to the right were the two of us. 

We were confused and quite sure this was a mistake. Several riders ahead of us were allowed to enter the sector, after all. We rode a couple hundred feet down the wrong road, threw U-turns and headed back the Arenberg. This detour meant we would enter the pavé going far slower then the recommended 30-40 kph. Before I even entered the forest, I was already screwed. 

As soon as my tires met the cobbles, I knew this was going to be brutal. I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to make it through. And if I did, I might call it a day at the end. The pain of my heavy watch bouncing on my wrist was nearly unbearable. I tried to focus on other things—catching riders a head of me, keeping the pedals moving, the faces of the fans walking along the adjacent path, looking good for the photographers—and searched for a non-existent gutter or sections of smooth road. I felt like I was going 5 mph. 

My bike and body bounced in slow motion over the centuries-old loaves of granite that undulate through the 2.4km forest. With every up and down, I felt as though I was being punched from all directions. It was inhumane and I couldn’t believe I was putting myself though this. At times I laughed to myself about the stupidity of it. Then, someone I assumed was a young stud would blow by me at 30 kmh as if floating just above the pavé. What the fuck? How the fuck? I felt as if I was about to fall over. It was the longest nine minutes of my life. Every second along the way I wished it was over. 

When I reached the end, I stopped to ponder what I had just done. Dozens of others were also stopped at the end of the road. I shot some selfies—the only ones I‘d take all day—drank some water and sucked down a gel. My right wrist was aching. I didn’t look at it. I remounted and joined a small group on the road. The smooth asphalt was heavenly. I was now dreading every one of the 19 remaining sectors. But at least I’d made it to the teens. 

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All I remember about the miles between the Arenberg forest and the next rest stop was that each of the cobbled sections seemed worse than the one before. And that I was intensely thirsty. I think it was along this part of the route that I began to contemplate giving up cycling all together. It was the most idiotic activity I could imagine. 

As before, I chugged a couple bottles of water and inhaled a half dozen orange slices, grabbed a bunch of energy bars and went to the bathroom at the rest stop. My pee was no longer brown. A relief. But I was still really thirsty. And I was knackered. I vowed to myself to ride on, no matter what. I was, after all, half way to Roubaix. 

Between the rest stop and the finish on the Velodrome in Roubaix, I was going to have to conquer two more five-star sectors. One, Carrefour de l’Arbre, I had ridden twice the previous day. I was the third sector from the end and I knew, as bad it as it was going to be, it would signal the end of the ride. 

I was pleased with how my bike had held up. No flats. No lost water bottles. No loose bits. I saw dozens of riders along the road with punctures. I also saw a few broken rims. Others were sitting on curbs or the front stoops of buildings, cell phones in hand, probably calling for a ride home. I was glad I wasn’t one of them.

No doubt there were crashes on this day, but other than witnessing someone climb out of one of the many drainage ditches along the route, I saw no evidence of carnage. I never had any close calls despite riding in the “more dangerous” gutters and grass whenever possible. 

Between the five-star Sector 11 at Mons-en-Pévele and the finish are three two-star sectors. I looked forward to riding what I expected to be smoothish pathways. What I learned, however, is that two stars doesn’t imply a lack of chunks and bumps. I recall one three-star section being very tame for most of its length, but none of the last three two-star sections were easy. They were short—0.5, 0.7 and 1.1 km long—but at least one of them was in worse condition than Arenberg or Mons-en-Pévele. None of them was easy nor was riding them comfortable. 

At one point, I heard one of my fellow riders proclaim to his friends, “Fuck cobbles.” I couldn’t have agreed more. 

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It was a monumental struggle for me to keep riding. I pedaled squares on the assault between cobbled sectors and I wallowed in my pain and fatigue on the pavé. Nothing about it was fun any more. I had become empty inside, feeling nothing but contempt for those who created racing over cobbles and for myself for ever thinking I enjoyed such a thing.

Not long after I left the third and last rest stop, I was freezing again. The sun had disappeared behind a haze of clouds. I doubt the temperature had dropped, but without the sunshine, it sure felt like it. I stopped and put my tights back on. Twenty minutes later, I was hot again. Removing them again, however, seemed like too much effort. I kept going. 

I still dreaded Carrefour de l’Arbre. The previous day there was almost no place to ride along the sector in the gutter. It was long at 2.1 kilometers and followed almost immediately by another 1.1-kilometer sector. I had a feeling it was going to break me. I tried to focus on the fact that it was a mere 10 kilometers from Roubaix. 

By the time I hit Carrefour, unlike the day before, thousands of cyclist had already been there. Apparently many of them chose to ride in the gutters and grass, creating a fairly wide swath of comfort for me to follow in. I was grateful. It wasn’t until the end of the road when it tilts up a few degrees that it got really difficult. But it was basically over. 

Only two more sectors to go. (We would skip the last, strictly ceremonial one-star sector a few blocks before the Velodrome in Roubaix.)

I plodded through the last few kilometers until we entered the city center of Roubaix. There, I linked up with a dozen or so others. Carefully, we rode single file in rush-hour traffic. It was sketchy at times. More than once, a car would drift into our path forcing one or several of us to slam on the brakes or hop the curb onto the sidewalk. Once, a guy hit his brakes and fell in front of me. I was still strapped into my pedals and despite falling to the right, just managed to pull my left foot out, swing my leg over my rear tire and plant my cleated shoe on the ground to the right side of my bike. It was an acrobatic move and the only time I almost crashed all day. 

Soon, I recognized the road that leads into the Velodrome. Relief mixed with anticipation and excitement rushed over me. I was about to ride into one of the most hallowed grounds in cycling, following the path of all my cycling heroes. I tried to focus and soak it all in. If ever there was time to be in the moment, this was it. 

The steepness of the banks surprised me. I had watched the race finish from the infield of the velodrome twice before, but this was my first time on the track. I briefly went up the bank before dropping down to the light blue strip along the infield. Should I sprint all out, I wondered? 

Before exiting the turn, I looked toward the finish line and saw photographers. I decided it would be best to slow down and back away from the riders in front of me so I could cross the finish alone for an unobstructed photo. Unfortunately, the riders in front of me had the same idea. My finish line photos suck. 

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After I crossed the finish line, I immediately slowed, pulled my foot from my pedal and stopped in front of a young, female volunteer who placed a medal around my neck. I looked at it, pleased with the design and quality. When I dismounted my bike and stepped into the infield, I nearly fell. I was shattered. 

It occurred to me that it would be nice to be sharing the moment with someone. I looked around hoping to see a familiar face. There were none. It was a particularly lonely moment. 

I considered what my next move would be—Grab a beer? Sit down in the infield and watch others finish? Get some food? All the above? Go back to the AirBnB? One thing I knew for certain, I was never going to ride a bike again. I was over it. I was going to find a new passion.

Standing there in the infield with a 1,000-yard stare affixed to my face, I felt a presence behind me. I turned to see a large man dressed in street clothes getting ready to speak. With a German accent, he said his friend who had also just finished, was admiring my bike and jersey. I thanked him and told him the bike was a real Brooklyn Team bike. He said it was a cool bike and went back to his friend. Then, he came back and asked if he could take my photograph. I doubted I looked good enough to have my photo taken, but I agreed to pose for him with my bike. He snapped a few frames and thanked me. I regret not asking for his name or contact info. 

I looked around the velodrome and tried to soak it all in. I was tired. I was cold. I was sweaty. I was hungry. I wanted to go home. I made my way to the carpark, undressed and redressed, and loaded my bike into the car. My right wrist, like my left, was caked with dried blood. The crown and dug into two spots only forearm and wrist. I still have the scars. 

I was super stoked I finished. But I was exhausted and unable absorb its meaning. 

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Back at the flat, I took a long hot shower. It was good. I was starving and craving a hamburger, frites and a Coke, a beverage I gave up years ago. I knew there was nowhere to get any of that nearby and I had no energy to set out on an adventure to find a place. Instead, I made a huge bowl of penne arrabiata and paired it with one of the selection of Belgian beers I had purchased the day before. I think I chose the Trappist Rochefort 6.

I had booked the AirBnB through that evening. My plan had been to check out in the morning, as was required, then find a place to hang out for the race, either at a bar or along a cobbled sector, before going to my next AirBnB outside Gent. As luck would have it, I was only a handful of miles from one of the best sectors to watch the race go by, Carrefour de l’Arbre. Even better, the AirBnB owner said I could keep my car at her place until after the race finished. Sounded like a plan. 

I tossed in a load of laundry and packed up my stuff. I climbed into bed, turned on the TV, which was showing a rebroadcast of the 2018 Paris-Roubaix race and passed out. 

To be continued…

My Saturday in Hell: Getting There

Although I’m still suffering from the effects of the flu and feeling something less than human, I’m walking on air after my 12-day cycling-dork trip to Europe. Had I not got sick, the trip would have been perfect and, frankly, better than I had hoped. Despite being sick, I did almost everything I wanted to. The only thing I missed was riding the Amstel Gold Xperience. What follows is a bit of a diary of my travels, in several parts. 

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Day 1—Orange County to Roubaix

My trip started well. The bike packed well, albeit tightly, into the rented bag and I managed to get all my clothing (for all sorts of possible weather) into a single bag. As is usual for me, I was stressed about checking in. Adding to that stress were the facts that my vintage Brooklyn Team bike was in an undersize soft-side case that would allegedly slip past detection, saving me additional fees and that I was, for the first time in decades, traveling without Sky Priority Medallion status. 

With status, I could fly for free with two bags weighing up to 70 pounds each. Without, I was limited to one free bag and my bag had to weigh a max of 50 pounds. When I checked in on line, I clicked two bags and was automatically charged an additional $75. I didn’t click on “special item” for a bike bag, which would add $50 more to my fees. Both my bags weighed in at 50ish pounds on my home scale. I was stressing about getting dinged for the bike and for two overweight bags. 

At my 5:30 a.m. check-in, it was chaos. The lines were long and not moving. Frantic ticket agents were darting between travelers, checking boarding passes, asking questions and explaining that the computers were down. Despite not having status, I got in the shorter Sky Priority line. I prepared my argument with the counter agent—“When I bought my ticket, I still had Medallion status, I would say. “I had no idea I had lost it.” 

The woman standing in front of me got busted for not having status and was sent to the end of the looooong line for the “others.” That boosted my stress level. 

When the agent asked me if I was Sky Priority and I answered yes, and she accepted my answer without any question. Then she explained to me what was going on with the computer and that we’d be checked in manually. She took both my bags without weighing them or asking questions, slapped yellow Priority labels on them and sent them on their way. She handed me boarding passes and that was that. 

Now, all I had to stress about was if my bike would make it to Brussels safely, which was out of my control, so no need to stress. 

At the gate, we were told the computer glitch was going to delay our flights. Initially, I was unfazed by this. Delta always seemed to get me where I am going on time. But when we were more than an hour past our boarding time, I checked how much time I had in Salt Lake City to make my flight to JFK—30 minutes. Yikes!

We left OC about 90 minutes late. The captain said he’d do his best to make up the time to SLC. I put my faith in him.

As we approached the airport, the flight attendants were answering questions about arrival and departure times and gates for travelers. I asked about my departure gate and if it might be a good idea to change my flight to Brussels as the Delta app was suggesting. The flight attendant told me I should have a good 15 minutes to make it to the gate. Okay, I said. 

In SLC I ran three terminals over to get to my gate. When I arrived, they were still boarding. I hopped into the Priority line and was on in a flash. No problems. 

We landed in New York on time. It turned out that my arrival and departure gates at JFK were only about 100 feet apart. That never happens. In fact, the last time I flew to Brussels via JFK, I had to take a shuttle to a far-away terminal. This time, I had time to go to the bathroom and fill my water bottle before I took a seat at the gate. When they called my section, I popped up and was third in line. I scanned my ticket , setting off an alarm. The agent rescanned it and got the same alarm. 

“Are you on this flight?” she asked.

She looked at my ticket, which clearly confirmed that I was, and tried again. “It says you’re not on this flight. Please step to the counter.”

I took my place behind a couple who were trying to get last-minute seats on the plane. When It was my turn, the managing agent was unable to find me on the flight list. She looked up my name and said I was no longer on this flight and my seats had been given away. Then she told me I was booked on a flight to Brussels the next day through Atlanta. Atlanta? How was I supposed to get to Atlanta?

It took a while, but I’ll spare you the details of my stress and of the heroic effort the agent made to get me and my bags on the flight and to keep me in Comfort +, which I paid considerably for. The one caveat she had for me was that my bags may not make it. That did not sound good. I was arriving with one extra day before the Paris-Roubaix Challenge, which was in France, not Belgium where my bags would arrive. 

As I settled into my seat, I tried to forget about my bags and if my bike would make it to Brussels on time. Not long after I got situated, Delta’s app sent me a notice that both my bags were loaded on the plane. Awesome.

In Brussels, my clothing bag rolled off the carousel almost immediately. That was a good sign. But my bike bag was nowhere. I asked an airport employee if there was a separate baggage claim area for oversize bags. She said there wasn’t. I asked her again, just to be sure she understood my question. Again, she said no. 

Having no confidence that we were communicating well, I had a look for myself. Right away I found there was, in fact, a nearby carousel for oversize and special bags. I waited there for about 10 minutes with no luck. I returned to the original carousel and waited until the last bag came out. 

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As I searched for a place to file a lost-bag report, I saw a few employees standing near a counter. I thought I’d ask them where I could do this. As I approached them I saw they were stationed at a second carousel for oversize bags. Scanning the handful of bags gathered on the floor in front of them, I saw my bike. All was good. 

While waiting for may bags, I happened to meet a guy named Andy (I never did get his last name.) A retired Airforce doctor from Atlanta. He was also riding the Paris-Roubaix Challenge, but the short route and he was doing it on a rental. He asked me if I knew how to get to the train. I did. But I offered to give him a ride to his hotel in Roubaix. I’d like the company, I said, but I had to make a stop in Gent along the way. He said he had no obligations until later in the day, so he accepted my offer.

Prior to leaving the US, I arranged with a friend in Gent to receive a package containing the 1973 Brooklyn jerseys 2 Velo was giving me to ride in. Andy and I picked up the rental car, plugged in the TomTom GPS unit I brought from home and hit the highway headed for Gent. Five miles out and the TomTom crashed. Annoyingly, it would crash and reboot numerous times before I got to Gent (And many more over the next week before I discovered my rental had onboard GPS.), but I made it. I collected my beautiful new jerseys plus a 1973 Brooklyn Team sweater and had a nice lunch with my friend Gil. 

Andy and I then drove the 40 minutes to Roaubix where I dropped him at this hotel. I my AirBnB in Villeneuve-d’Ascq, about 10 kilometers from Roubaix. 

The AirBnB was in a remodeled garage, which included plenty of appropriate space to work on my bike. I set about rebuilding it almost immediately. Except that the front derailleur had shifted slightly, the bike was in perfect condition when I removed it from the travel bag. I took my time rebuilding it, which included rewrapping the bars with fresh, white, cotton bar tape. The bars and stem wouldn’t fit in the bike bag (It’s designed for bikes with treadless stems.), so I put them in the bag with my clothes. Worried the brake levers might get damaged, I removed them and, thus, the bar tape, as well. 

I spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the area, grocery shopping, unpacking and getting the lay of the land. I shot some photos of my new clothing and reassembled bike for social media and made my first-ever video of me talking about my bike. 

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I’m not one who feels comfortable talking on camera. (Although when I’ve had to do it for work, I’m usually pleased with the results.) I thought a look at the old Gios Torino bike I was planning to ride the cobbles with would be a nice thing to share with “the fans.” Unfortunately, my discomfort with watching myself on camera led me to wait to review the video until later. When I downloaded it the evening before the PRC, along with some video of me riding Carrefour de l’Arbre, I discovered the camera wasn’t even on when I was talking about the bike. I apparently double tapped the button, turning it on and off. All I got was a 9-second video of my bike sitting against the wall.

Day 2—Exploring Five-Star Cobbles

After a very good sleep, my second day in France began with a breakfast scrambled eggs, ham and cheese and a pain au chocolat. The coffee included with the stay was mediocre Nescafe pod stuff. Two cups of coffee made with two pods per cup were necessary to get the day started. Much to my surprise, this would not be the last bad coffee I’d have during my trip. 

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My plan for the day was pretty simple. I wanted to do some recon of Carrefour de l’Arbre and any other nearby cobbles, which my AirBnB host said was almost walking distance from the apartment. I also needed to find a grocery store larger than the small organic shop a couple blocks from where I was staying. 

It was cold when I stepped outside. Very cold. But the sun was shining, so it was pleasant. The forecast called for a high of about 45ºF/7ºC. I was planning to do an “easy” spin, plus whatever it took to get over the cobbles, so I dressed warmly, choosing the new, long-sleeve, 1973 jersey from 2Velo and a pair of vintage Vittore Gianni tights. I used Apple Maps to find the famous bar located at the end of the infamously brutal, five-star, cobbled sector. The 20-minute ride to the cobbles was flat and pleasant, mostly on protected bike paths. 

When I arrived, the Astana and UAE team buses were parked on the road bisecting cobbled sectors 25 and 26. Unfortunately none of the riders from either team were around. A handful of other cyclist were there riding, while a small number of fans walked the length of cobbles or waited in folding chairs along the route to catch a glimpse of any pros who might be out for a pre-race recon. 

Without hesitation, I hopped on Carrefour de l’Arbre. I had seen the road on television and in videos many times before, but it was completely unfamiliar to me. Probably because I heading in the opposite direction the PRC and race would go. 

 

I did my best to follow the instructions given by every how-to-ride-the-cobbles article I’ve read and video I’ve watched, most of which was pretty intuitive to me—weight back, hands on the tops of the bars, big-ring, push a big gear and float over the surface, etc. The reality is, all that is bullshit if you don’t have the legs and power to push that big gear at a high enough cadence. I didn’t and generally, these days, don’t. 

Instead, I settled into the biggest gear I could push at 80+ (guestimated) RPM and searched for smooth dirt or grass in the gutters. On this day, there was little of either. It also became immediately clear why not all the pros ride in the gutters, opting instead for the crown at the center of the roads. 

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As I’ve heard Bob Roll say countless times while commenting on TV, the cobbles that line the edges of the roads are unlike the loaf-like rocks that make up the main surface. The thinner edge cobbles are set in the ground vertically, with the sharp sides up/down and the wider tops/bottoms perpendicular to those on road surface. This was done to hold the surface cobbles in place. What it creates for the cyclist is a narrow and very inconsistent row of jagged stones separated by deep gaps in which to smash a tire into or wedge a wheel between. Deep potholes and puddles hiding who-knows-what also randomly appear in the gutters. 

I followed the road to its end (or beginning) in a quiet neighborhood where almost nothing indicated that a race of Paris-Roubaix’s magnitude was only two days away. I did a U-turn and headed back to the cobbles to ride it in the correct direction. Along the way, an AG2R La Mondial team car blasted by me at race pace on the narrow road, giving me sense of what it’s like to be off the back of the peloton and “in the way.” Although, on this day, I’m not sure what his hurry was. 

 

 

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The ride back was no easier, but it was more familiar. When I hit the left hand bend in the road, I knew where I was. And, as a fan along the route shouted at me, “Allé Roger!” I found a bit more power in my legs to pick up the pace and finish with a little more speed. At least until I hit the really chunky and slightly uphill cobbles toward the end and in front of the bar that gives the sector its name. 

It was good to roll on to smooth road. So good, in fact, that I missed the next cobbled sector, which starts almost directly across the street from the bar. 

I headed back to my AirBnB and called it a morning. Next on the agenda was to head over to the Staad Velodrome in Roubaix to pick up my rider packet and number. Having been to the velodrome before and knowing what parking was like in the area, I had feeling this was going to be a bit of an adventure. After that, I needed to visit the local Decathlon for energy bars and drinks and CO2 cartridges. 

Once to Roubaix, I made my way to the velodrome. As expected, there was no parking. The streets and sidewalks, as it’s done in much of Europe, were choked with parked cars. I circled the area around the velodrome several times before I found what I hoped would be considered a parking spot on the sidewalk about as far from the entrance as was possible while still staying on the same block. 

I jogged about a half mile to the main gate, entered the hallowed grounds and only then saw the queue—it stretched as far as the eye could see and was probably the longest I have had stood in. Organizers had yet to open the doors and I assumed I’d be there for hours. Once the doors opened, however, the line moved smoothly and things were far more organized than they at first appeared. The only problem, no one could tell me where the parking lot was for those, like me, who purchased a parking pass for the event. I’d have to wing it. 

I headed to my car—it hadn’t been towed to ticketed—and drove to the massive flagship Decathlon store in Villeneuve-d’Ascq. Form the outside it was impressive. There was a bike test course, a pump track, a BMX track. Inside, however, it was a typical warehouse store, lacking even a hint of soul, aisles of generic house-branded bike gear and a dearth of employees to provide assistance. I grabbed what I needed and headed back to the AirBnB.

According to the weather reports, it was going to be cold on ride day—right around freezing at the start and not much above 40ºF/4ºC later in the day—so I gathered all my winter kit. It was unclear if ride organizers would transport extra gear and bags from the start in Busigny and back to the finish in Roubaix. I was going to take only what fit in my pockets, plus a pair of Kucharick wool arm warmers; a long sleeve, 2Velo, Brooklyn jersey; wool tights and a pair of light gloves. I hoped that when we disembarked in Busigny, the temp would be high enough that I could put the extra jersey and tights in a musette bag and drop them off for transport back. Worst case, I figured, I’d wear them until it got warm and carry them in the bag. Not ideal—I hate riding with a bag slung over my shoulder. But I was willing to do it. 

I ate a solid meal, hydrated and went to bed early. My alarm was set for 3:30 a.m., giving me plenty of time to get to the bus in Roubaix, even if I got lost. 

To be continued…

The Development of the Iconic Brooklyn Jersey

 

1973 RDV & Merckx Omloop Het Volk 1973?

Regular readers will know I have a bike built around a real 1973 Brooklyn Team frame ridden by Julien Stevens. It’s the bike I rode at Eroica California last year and at the Paris-Roubaix Challenge this past April. Regular readers also will know I like to match my kit to the bike. 

Matching my kit to my Stevens bike has been easy and difficult at the same time. Replica wool vintage jerseys are a dime a dozen. There are loads of modern reproductions, as well as a fair number of vintage replicas available. I generally ride in my favorite Tiralento Brooklyn jersey or one of my Magliamo versions—I have short and long sleeve jerseys of the latter—with a pair or Tiralento shorts. The jerseys are the well-known “standard” version, however, not what I have been calling the 1973 jersey. For Paris-Roubaix, I wore a replica of the 1973 jersey that I helped 2Velo develop over the past six or so months.

I have been aware of two 1973 jerseys. One that I call Version 1 seems to have been used only during the pre-season and for promotional photos of the riders and team. Version 2 can be seen in various video clips and photo of Roger De Vlaeminck and his team mates in 1973 during the Spring Classics. 

It has been difficult finding photos of the Brooklyn Team racing in 1973, but I have slowly put together a nice collection. One problem, however, with researching stuff like this over the internet is that many photos are unlabeled or mislabeled with the wrong race name or date. Because all the photos I have are confirmed as being from 1973, I always assumed the team used the jersey only that year and throughout the entirety of the season.

I noticed last year while watching Stars and Water Carriers, however, that the Brooklyn jerseys worn during the race were neither Version 1 or 2, but Version 3, the “standard” version. But somehow, it didn’t click with me that they didn’t fit my timeline. If you don’t know, Stars and Water Carriers is the Jørgen Leth documentary looking at the 1973 Giro d’Italia. I highly  recommend you watch it.

Recently, as I sometimes do at night when television sucks, I was watching old clips of races on YouTube. In one, I noticed De Vlaeminck was wearing the later jersey at the 1973 Giro. That’s when it finally clicked. If the video and Leth’s film were shot in 1973 and the boys were wearing the later jerseys, I had my facts wrong. It was time for me to put together a visual timeline and confirm things.

1973 RDV & ? Spring

Roger De Vlaeminck and Attilio Rota in Version 2 of the Brooklyn jersey during an unidentified race in the spring of 1973, perhaps in Italy or France. A hint may come from the Minerva Radio banner in the background, but the Belgian radio station only came into being in 1982, almost a decade after this photo was taken.

I started with what I already knew, or thought I knew—that there were two jerseys early in 1973 with the famous version appearing at the Giro. Many of the photos I had of De Vlaeminck and his teammates (very few of the latter), were unlabeled or mislabeled. I was going to have to rectify this problem first and figure out which were shot when. It took some effort, but within 48 hours I had things mostly figured out. I ran various searches for all the races that year. Along the way, I found a few new pics I hadn’t seen before, some of them from later in the season, also showing Version 3 of jersey.

It was pretty clear in my new timeline that Version 1, the pre-season/promotional photo jersey, was indeed just that. Initially I never saw any race photos of Version 1, but after reading this, Jasper De Deyne (owner of another Gilardi Frame), sent me the undated photo below of Patrick Sercu racing in the Version 1 jersey. The photo is undated and from an unidentified race. It could be from an early-season race, or it could be from one of the post-Tour de France critériums in Belgium, as revealed in the photo at the end of the story. Based on the fact that Sercu’s bike has brazed-on cable guides, a feature that Gios added to frames later in the season, I am betting on the latter. 

Sercu in First Brooklyn Jersey

The Version 2 jersey shows up as early as March 2 at Sassari-Cagliari and March 3 at Omloop-Het Volk. It’s the same jersey worn through Paris-Roubaix on April 15. I also found two photos likely from the Spring Classics time period without dates or references to races. Then, Version 3, the standard well-known design, shows up at the Giro.

Version 1

Version 1 features a blue diamond shape that looks as if it were draped over the neck with corners on the centerlines of each sleeve, bisecting the front and rear of the jersey and corners on the centerlines of the front and back. The corner on the front is positioned about halfway between the base of the sternum and the naval. The corner on the back is presumable slightly lower, overlapping the pockets by about 3 inches (7.6cm) as in Version 2. It has the familiar red and white vertical stripes around the torso, but these are thinner and more numerous than the well-known Version 3 with a red stripe centered on the point of the blue panel. A large gap is left between the outer-most red stripes on the front and back creates a white side panel where a blue Brooklyn logo is placed. This may have been the first cycling jersey to feature logos on the side panels.

On the front is a downward curved, white Brooklyn Chewing Gum logo across the chest and a red Brooklyn bridge logo stroked in white just left of center and above the Brooklyn logo. White Brooklyn logos also run across the shoulders and down the sleeves. The longer-than-usual short sleeves end with more red and white stripes. There is no cuff at the base of the sleeves. I have yet to see any photos that show the back of the jersey.

Stevens Pre Season 1973

Julien Stevens in Version 1 of the Brooklyn jersey early in 1973.

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Version 1 of the Brooklyn jersey appears to have been used only pre-season and for a variety of promotional photos.

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This 1970s, reproduction, fan jersey recently appeared on eBay. It is a hybrid of the Version 1 and 2 jerseys minus several important graphic features.

Version 2

Version 2 is very similar to Version 1, but graphically simpler. The Brooklyn side panel logos are gone and the chest logo is revised. The front still has the downward curved Brooklyn logo in white, serif letters. The phrase Chewing Gum is smaller and printed on a white panel with the red bridge logo. The back is the same as the front, with the exception that the logos and corner are placed slightly lower down on the jersey. De Valeminck’s has the world champion’s stripes on the collar. The other team riders’ jerseys have solid blue collars. 

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The front of Roger De Vlaeminck’s Milano-San Remo winning jersey is an excellent example of Version 2…

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…as is the rear of the jersey.

Sercu Sassari-Cagliari 02:03:1973

This may be the earliest photo of the Version 2 jersey in action. Patrick Sercu wins the Sassari-Cagliari race March 2, 1973.

There also are photos of two long sleeve examples of Version 2. Both lack the red and white sleeve stripes. One is without the Brooklyn shoulder logos.  

1972-73? RDV Cross Season

Roger De Vlaeminck in a long sleeve example of Version 2.

RDV Pre Season 1973 3

This long sleeve example of Version 2 has no shoulder logos.

 

Version 3 (The Standard)

The first image I found of Version 3, or the Standard Brooklyn jersey, was from Stage 2 at the Giro d’Italia, corroborating what I saw in the YouTube videos and in Stars and Water Carriers. It makes sense that Brooklyn, a team based in Italy, would introduce the new jersey at its home race that year.

The new jersey features fewer and wider vertical red and white stripes on the torso with center of the blue panel aligned between the centermost red and white stripes. The familiar black Brooklyn Chewing Gum logo on a white chevron-shaped field runs across the chest. A simple white bridge is positioned above the logo and to the left of center. The white side panel is gone. Curved Brooklyn logos on sleeves follows the lines of the wear’s shoulders. Red, white and blue stripes are on the cuffs and collar. De Valeminck’s and Sercu’s collars and cuffs feature the world champion stripes. 

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Roger De Vlaeminck won Stage 2 at the 1973 Giro d’Italia in the new Brooklyn jersey. Version 3 would be used until the team ceased to exist at the end of 1977. It’s one of the most iconic cycling jerseys in history.

I reached out to Aldo and Marco Gios to confirm some of my assumptions and to ask about a Brooklyn-Gios jersey and shorts kit seen in a number of famous photos of De Vlaeminck. The jersey is basically Version 3, but it has Gios across the top of the sleeves and Bici Gios Torino on the shorts instead of Brooklyn. Aldo Gios said the photos of De Vlaeminck was shot in early-1974 in Appiano Gentile (near Como) as promos. He said only two of the jerseys were made for the shoot. A week after hearing from the Gioses, I found a photo of Patrick Sercu from the same photoshoot. 

The Gioses also confirmed that Version 3 of the jersey was introduced in May at the Giro.

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Roger De Vlaeminck wore unique Brooklyn-Gios jersey and shorts for this promotional photoshoot in early 1974.  Only two of the jerseys were made, said Aldo Gios.

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The second Brooklyn/Gios jersey was likely this one worn by Patrick Sercu, also at the same photoshoot.

Brooklyn Gios Jersey

Not long after I published this article, Simon Langhard replied to my post on Facebook with this photo of what may be one of the surviving Gios-Brooklyn jerseys. He said it was posted on the Brooklyn Cycling Team Facebook page.

 

Mystery Jerseys

After I shared my finding with jersey connoisseur and author of the book The Cycling Jersey, Oliver Knight, he sent a link to an article that showed four jerseys from 1973. The article is on the French site Mémoire du Cyclisme and never came up in any of my searches. (I never used French words or phrases for my searches.)

The jersey may be the first redesign after Version 2. If it was, it was very short lived. Neither Knight nor I can find any photos of the jersey. It’s basically Version 3 with a hybrid version of the chest logos of Versions 2 and 3. 

 

Brooklyn Jersey ???? 1973

I can find no photos of this mystery jersey, so I have no idea when or if it was used by the team. I know of only only one mention of it on the site Mémoire du Cyclisme.

While in Europe for the Paris-Roubaix Challenge,  I visited several public cycling museums and private bicycle collections in Belgium. One of my destinations was Leo’s Bike Collection, where De Vlaeminck’s Milan-San Remo jersey is housed. I was unsure I’d get to see it, but I was hopeful. As it turned out, not only did I see it, I was able to hold it and take detailed photos of it. While there, I also discovered two other mystery Brooklyn jerseys, as well as one of De Vlaeminck’s standard 1976 jerseys.

One of the mystery jerseys belonged to Julien Stevens, the Brooklyn rider who raced on my Gilardi-built Gios Torino frame. I was pumped to see one of this jerseys. I was even more pumped to see it was a 1973 jersey design I’d never seen before. The jersey is solid blue—there are no red and white stripes—with a black Brooklyn logo in a serif font on a white rectangular field. A large white Brooklyn bridge logo is embroidered above. Below are the words, “La Gomma Del Ponte,” a phase used on the packaging and in ads for the chewing gum. Roughly translated, it means, “the gum of the bridge.”

I didn’t ask to take the jersey out of its protective bag, which I now regret, so I am unsure of all it’s details. I was able to see that the collar and waist are cuffed in red, white and blue. I assume the arm cuffs are the same. Also unknown are if Brooklyn logos are on the shoulders or if there are graphics on the back. Several people have theorized that the jersey was used for training. Although I met Stevens on my trip, it was before I visited Leo’s Collection.

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Brooklyn Training Jersey 1973

This rendering is based on what I could see and some assumptions I made about the 1973,  Julien Stevens “training” jersey.

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The phrase “gomma del ponte” appeared in many Brooklyn Chewing Gum ads and on the packaging in Italy. Loosely translated, it means “the gum of the bridge.”

A second mystery jersey in Leo’s Collection, if correctly labeled, casts doubt on my 1973 jersey development timeline. Leo labeled the jersey “R De Vlamick 1974.” Based on the design, I have some doubts about Leo’s date. But I cannot say for sure when it would have been made and used, if it was used at all. My best guess, it was a predecessor to the Version 3 Standard Brooklyn jersey and would have been developed before the 1973 Giro d’Italia, Pperhaps around the same time as the Mémoire du Cyclisme jersey above.

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This mystery jersey may be a predecessor to the Version 3 (Standard) jersey. It features attributes of Julien Stevens’ 1973 training jersey and the Version 2 and 3 jerseys. It is labeled “R De Vlamick 74.” And while the rainbow stripes clearly indicate I belonged to Roger De Vlaeminck or Patrick Sercu, I have my doubts about the 1974 date.

 

Brooklyn???? Jersey 1974

This rendering is based on what I could see and some assumptions I made about the 1974 De Vlaeminck jersey.

Like the Mémoire du Cyclisme mystery jersey, it’s essentially a hybrid. In this case, a hybrid of the Stevens training jersey of 1973 (a Brooklyn logo with white rectangle across the chest), Version 2 (the Chewing Gum and red bridge graphic printed on a white fabric panel) and Version 3 (the thicker red and white stripes). As with the Stevens jersey above, I didn’t ask to take the jersey out of its protective bag, so I am unsure of all it’s details. Unknown are if there are Brooklyn logos on the shoulders or what graphics are on the back.

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This photo appeared in a book (Someone on FaceBook sent me, but didn’t name the book.). The jersey appears to be the same one I saw at Leo’s and shows logos on the sleeves. The book dates it as 1973.

I know of no photos of team members racing in this or the Mémoire du Cyclisme jerseys. If anyone has a photo of rides in one of them, please, send it to me.

Updated May 1, 2019: Ask and you shall receive. Not long after I published this article, Simon Langhard (again) replied to my post on Facebook with the photo below of Patrick Sercu, which, according to Langhard, appeared in the May 1973 issue of Mirror du Ciclisme. It’s pretty clear that is of the same design as the jersey in Leo’s Collection, if not the exact same jersey.  

Patrick Sercu in Mystery 1973 jersey

Much More to Learn

My timeline is based on what I know today and is sure to change as I uncover more more and/or better photographs and learn more about the evolution of the Team Brooklyn jerseys.

1973 Jersey Timeline ©2019

My next goal is to figure out when and, if possible, why, Vittore Gianni supplied the team with shorts with the Brooklyn logo misspelled as Brooklin. I know of several photos from 1973 of riders in the shorts and had always assumed the photos of the riders wearing Brooklin shorts with the Version 3 jersey were from 1974 or later. That has now changed and I’m fairly confident the Brooklin shorts were a 1973 mistake.

Another photo I have questions about shows many of the stars of the peloton grouped together with several “fans” at an unidentified event. It curiously shows Patrick Sercu dressed in Version 1 (the promotional jersey) with Brooklin shorts and Roger De Vlaeminck (although he’s partially obscured) wearing what appears to be the famous Version 3 jersey, but it appears to be without the red and white stripes. Maybe De Vlaeminck is wearing a team sweater or some other training jersey. It’s not a tracksuit top because those resembled the Version 2 jerseys through 1977.  Based on the two Brooklyn kits, the Shimano-Flandria jerseys and Frans Verbeeck in the Belgian National Champion’s jersey, it’s pretty clear the photo was shot in 1973.

1973 Pre Season? Sercu & others

This is a weird one…This photo shows Patrick Sercu in Version 1 of the jersey with Brooklin shorts. Roger De Vlaeminck’s jersey, however, appears to be a Version 3 without stripes. (Could it be a team sweater?) According to Walter Vermeulen, the photo was taken August 10, 1973 in the pastry shop of a local cycling fan following the Sint-Niklaas post-Tour de France criterium. The photo of Sercu wearing the Version 1 jersey at the top of this story may have been taken during this race or at another post-Tour crit. It has been reported that riders often rode in random jerseys selected by the crit organizer.

Along with the timeline, I am working on a visual list of all the Brooklyn jersey variants between 1973 and 1977, including 6 Day, Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and other race leader’s jerseys. Some of these leader’s jersey lack sponsor logos because I have yet to find good photos  I can use to create them. This is an ongoing project and one for which I’m happy to accept comments and additions.

Brooklyn Jersey Varients ©2019

Kobeyashie Oessh Scores a Grail Bike Built Around a Gilardi Dreher/Brooklyn Frame

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The following is the unedited post by Kobeyashie Oessh on his Pista Mercato FaceBook page. The photos of the bike also are from Oessh. Below his story is a brief commentary by me and three photos of Patrick Sercu and Julien Stevens on similar track bikes below.

Catch of the year!!

A few weeks ago I received an email coming from Belgium, asking if I know what trackbike this is and if I have any interest. After seeing the photos, a gut feeling quickly came up, partly because of the lugs at the seatstay and headtube. So I thought it looks like a Gios but it’s just not it, listening to my gut feeling.

After we had agreed a price, I decided to pick up the bike in Brussels. As I do with all my finds, I enjoy the train with my bicyclebag and a sandwich enjoying the scenery along the way. Arrived in Brussels by the seller, and took the relevant trackbike. My abdomen feeling gets stronger and stronger. As I often suspect something is not what it seems.

Frame was clearly repainted and when I saw an Italian bottom bracket I thought I might have a track bike in a wrong jacket again. After I picked up the bike and came home the homework started, through the years I have had an “X” number of track bikes in my hands. And how sad I find it often are the most beautiful and often the team frames repainted. It is a pity, but on the other hand if this bike was original then the seller never sold it!

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I called the seller yesterday and told him my discovery and tomorrow a bottle of wine will go to Brussels.

I also get a lot of questions about track bikes what it is and what it’s worth, and I will always answer on this subject as long as I can, with the knowledge that I have taught myself about track bikes. It was also funny when I asked who would have made the frame. No reaction emerged from it. Everything happens with a reason.

And after searching for hours on the net about, for example, the lugs, the saddle sling, or the drop on the fork crown, a blog suddenly popped in front of me from an American guy called Michael.  This gentleman is busy finding out the history off the Brookyln Gios team bikes. Which first went over the street and the track as Dreher bikes.  More info about Michael his blog can be found here: https://fortyfour16.wordpress.com/

“When Perfetti, the owner of Brooklyn Chewing Gum, founded the Brooklyn Team, he bought the complete Dreher Team and his mechanic, Lupo Mascheroni, who was in contact with Gilardi, a frame builder from Milan. There were also some bicycles with the riders and the mechanics,” Marco Gios, said.

“Yours is one of them. So in 1973, while we were making frames for the Brooklyn team, we took the other bikes and painted them, because we did not have time to provide the complete team with bikes. What is nice Kobe, is that the seatpost bolt typically something that Roger used.  You have found the old track bike from Roger de Vlaeminck Kobe! “Gios continued.

Thanks for the nice talk Marco Gios .

“Gilardi was just a man, not a brand. There are many frames from well-known brands made by other frame builders. For example, Alberto Masi also made frames for the Dreher team,” Gios said.
A

fter I spoke to Marco I could do my homework and search, and yes I have found the photo of Roger and the bike.

For those who like it have a look at the last photo in this album where u can see this trackbike in the Gios Brooklyn team colours, zoom in on the seatlugs or the forkcrown teardrop.

In short, this is an old track bike from Roger de Vlaeminck from the Dreher era and later used as Brooklyn GIOS during, among other things, during the 6-day Ghent in 1976.

Parts almost completely original, with very nice Martano rims rims.

58cm center center
59,5cm center top
56cm top tube

Frame: Columbus SL
Fork: Columbus SL
Headset: Campagnolo NR pista
Crankset: Campagnolo NR pista
Bottom Bracket: Campagnolo NR pista
Pedals: Campagnolo SR pista
Drivetrain/Cog/Chainring/Chain: 52-15 / Campagnolo 15T / Campagnolo 52T / Wipperman
Handlebars: 3ttt
Stem: 3ttt 120mm
Saddle: Donsa
Seatpost: Campagnolo NR 27mm
Rims: Martano pista
Hubs: Campagnolo NR pista
Front tubular A.Dugast 22mm
Rear tubular Vittoria pista

More Info:
Frame number 627
To be continued….

 

 

After news that Patrick Sercu, a Dreher and Brooklyn teammate of De Vlaeminck and greatest-ever 6-Day racer, died hit last week, cycling fans posted tons of photos on social media that I had never seen before. One of those images was this one of Sercu and Julien Stevens at a 6 Day race in 1973. I think it’s safe to assume that both men also may be on Gilardi Dreher/Brooklyn frames.

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These two images below also were posted on social media following Sercu’s passing and show him racing 6 Days on a Dreher track frame and later on a Gios. The Gios, as with Oessh’s De Vlaeminck, could be a holdover from the Dreher team.

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Everyone’s a Critic: What’s Up With That Guy’s Face?

OG RDV MILANO SAN REMO TEE Long face

From time to time, though not often, I hear, “Why’d you make him look so ugly?” or, “Man, that’s one ugly dude. What’s up with his teeth?” when I wear one of my replica Roger De Vlaeminck Milano-San Remo T-shirts.

I won’t argue that the image of Roger is unrefined. But ugly? I’d call it poorly executed or chalk his creepy look up to the lack of design and printing technology available in 1973 when the original T-shirt was made. (There was no Adobe Illustrator then.) 

Ugly or not, for me, it’s as I wanted it to be—a very, very close copy of the original. 

When I first noticed that Silvano Davo, Roger’s soigneur, was wearing some sort of RDV T-shirt while working his legs in the film classic, A Sunday in Hell, I froze the DVD a dozen times until I could clearly make out just what it was. I then snapped a half dozen photos so I could replicate it later. I had to have one. 

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I first saw the T-shirt in A Sunday in Hell, as seen here in a screen grab from the DVD. I used images like this to (sort of) figure out what the shirt looked like.

Since the screen shots were of such poor quality, getting enough detail out of them to remake the graphics was tough and I would have to do a lot of guesswork. I made a few stabs at it and came up with a rough imitation. The face was too difficult to see, so I choose a couple RDV headshots I found on the Internet and worked with them. 

My goal was to strip the mid-tones from the images and get them to pure white and blue. From the images I had and what I knew from doing silkscreen prints back in high school and college, in all likelihood, the graphics on a T-shirt made in 1973 were going to be pretty basic. I chose a photo of Roger in a cap that resembled the one the T-shirt, and set to work. Before long, I had a design. It was close, but not what I wanted. Still, it was good enough if an original never surfaced for me to replicate more closely. 

RdV-Milano-San-Remo-Tee

My original design came about because I was unable to make out the details of Roger’s face and the correct wording in the screen shoots I took off the TV. It was okay, but I wasn’t in love with it. I set about trying to find an original, which I believed was never going to happen.

A Little Help From a Friend

I sat on the design almost two years before Diederik Degryse at Magliamo hit me up to help him design a Freddy Maertens T-shirt. His sketch was eerily like the RDV design I had done. I mentioned that I had been working on one with Roger. He then sent me an image of his RDV Paris-Roubaix shirt. Like mine, it was based the soigneur’s shirt but with a different photo and celebrated a different race. The photo Diederik chose was my second choice and, I admit, was the better of the two images. His graphics looked great, but they weren’t the replica I wanted to make. (His shirts are now for sale at magliamo.com.)

In his email, Diederik also sent me a couple photos he got from Marco Gios of his personal original 1973 shirt. The 45-year old shirt was stretched out and the graphics distorted, but I now had a very clear example to work from. 

I reached out too Marco and asked if I could use his photos to create my own graphics. With this blessing, I went to work. The only thing trick was removing the weird distortion to Roger’s face that resulted from it not being laying flat. 

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Getting photos of Marco Gios’ original T-shirt was a lifesaver. I used it to remake the graphics more accurately. Because the photo was taken with the shirt hanging, rather than flat, RDV’s face was distorted. I used my skills to give his face a bit more length. Photo: Marco Gios

Davo’s shirt in A Sunday in Hell is all-white. Since I’m not a fan of all-white T-shirts, I decided to do my run on ringer T’s with navy blue collar and sleeve bands. (Plus a small number on plain white shirts.) I had the graphics silkscreen printed in two colors, like the original. They look fantastic, even if Roger’s image was less handsome than in real life. 

Correcting My Mistake

It was a few days before I realized that somehow, the red stars in the original were missing only shirts. WTF?!? Apparently, after I finalized the graphics, I made a new, clean file and saved it with the layers separated by color—to make it easier for the printer. What I didn’t realize was that when I copied and pasted the paths to the new file, the star paths were locked and didn’t get copied. I was in a bit of a rush and rather than proofing the file, quickly saved it and sent it to the printer. I was gutted when I realized my mistake, a mistake most people would never notice. But in my mind, it was a disaster, an expensive one. 

Getting them reprinted wasn’t an option. I sold a handful of them without the stars before found a viable solution—heat transfer vinyl. I did a bunch of research then bought a vinyl cutter and a heat press. I experimented with various types of vinyl until I found a reliable and near-perfect match to the red ink. I cut dozens of stars and transferred them to the remaining shirts. 

 

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The shirts now look perfect and are the cheesy replicas I wanted of the shirts Gios Torino made to celebrate Roger’s win at Milano-San Remo in 1973. I have washed my personal shirts dozens of times and the ink and stars continue to look awesome. 

I still have a small number of them left in all sizes (small-XL) in ringer and white styles for sale.  To buy one, head over to www.gammisport.com or my Etsy page.

Go Big or Walk: Gearing Up for Eroica

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The first time I did Eroica California, I struggled to choose which gearing to use. I wanted to do it 100-percent accurately, as Claude Criquielion would have—I was riding a replica of his bike. But I was at least 30 pounds over weight and nearly 60 pounds over my old racing weight. I opted to use a 13-28 freewheel with a Mavic 631 crankset equipped with a 53/38 on the bike. I should have used a Mavic 630 crankset, but I was glad I went for the 130 BCD crank instead. Even with the easier gearing, I struggled and walked a few times. But I finished. 

Last year, I trained harder and rode a much older bike—my 1973 Brooklyn Team bike raced by Julien Stevens. I built the bike as close as I could to how it had been in 1973. Instead of the sprinter’s gearing Stevens used, I chose a Regina 13-28 paired with a 53/41 up front. I had to do a lot o fiddling with the chain to get it to work with the Campagnolo Nuovo Record derailleur. The factory Max rear cog is 26T.

Again, I struggled, but I rode a longer and more difficult course with more climbing and I rode it with more power than the year before. I was glad I had the 28. But I was jealous of Otis Guy’s 32T when he rolled past me near the top of one of the climbs.

Since my days as a young college student and beginner racer, I have been told that the pros ran 12-21 or 12-23 maximum. But I’ve always questioned this legend. I recall in the 1990s reading that some sprinters used 26 or 28T rear cogs during the steeper mountain stages of the Grand Tours. Years later, I heard about some even using triple cranksets. Today, many of the Tour contenders use smaller 36T chainrings and 12-28 or bigger cassettes at times. 

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Of course, it’s easier to add a few extra large cogs to your cluster when you have 12 cogs than it was when you only had five or six. But I never believed the pros limited themselves to a 23 rear. Why would they? It had been proven over and over again that spinning up climbs was more efficient than grinding a big gear over them.

While watching vintage footage of the Giro, I marveled was how hard the leaders struggled with their gearing while climbing. If the big men of the Grand Tours were struggling with 12-23s, if that’s really what they used, how did the non-climbers make it over the mountains, I wondered. 

Like most of us, when I was in my 20s, I could handle a 39-23 for most hills. I’d often struggle over the big stuff and I’d cramp up a lot, but there was no way I was going to put easier gearing on my bike, especially if the pros didn’t. 

I didn’t put a 25T on the back until I was in my mid-30s when I was living in the Rocky Mountains. It was helpful when climbing for hours or when riding over multiple passes and things got really steep. 

I stayed on the 12-25 until my late-40s when I finally relented and put a 12-28 on my road bike—a Seven Elium. I didn’t use it much, but when I did, it was nice to have. My ego was a lot tougher than when I was in my youth. Still, I felt a little guilty at times because I wasn’t “hard enough.” 

Since I started building vintage road bikes, I’ve collected a number 13-26 and 13-28 freewheels and cassettes. (I still haven’t been fortunate enough to find a 30 or 32T Regina cog or even a 12-30/32 campy 8-speed cassette.) They’re a godsend on bikes limited to a 41-tooth small chainring. 

Over the past few years, I’ve learned to push the bigger gears up all the hills near my house. But every year, as Eroica California approaches, I start to worry I won’t be up to the challenge of climbing those long dirt roads along the California coast with a 41-28. And every year, I contemplate putting on the Super Record triple I have, but have never used. 

Several times, I’ve put it out there on social media that I doubt that the pros of 1970s and 1980s never went bigger than 12-23. Once, I tried to prove my theory with a screen grab from a 1973 Giro video showing spare bikes and wheels atop a Bianchi team car clearly equipped with massive freewheels. All the comments I got were aimed at shooting down my theory and the proof my photo offered. Many tossed out anecdotes of their exploits as racers back in the day on corncobs and 12-23s. 

A few months later, I found the the photo posted above here of Eddy Merckx using what is clearly a 26T cog. Finally, clear proof that not only did the sprinters and non-climbers use bigger gearing for the climbs, but so did the legends. Still, many leveled comments that went against the photographic evidence. “Sure he had it on his bike, but he never used it,” they said. Or, “Yeah, but he has a 44 in front.”  

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The second photo here of a younger Eddy on Faema using a big freewheel—and in this one, he’s clearly using it—is further proof that our cycling heroes were mortal. And if Eddy was using it, you can bet he wasn’t alone in the peloton. 

This year, again, I’ll be on a 53/41 x 13-28. And I’ll probably be wishing I had a 30 or even a 32. At least my bike—a 1984 Serotta-built Murray 7-Eleven bike—will have two bottle cages this time. 

Building a Custom 7-Eleven Kit for Eroica CA

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For Eroica CA this year, I’ll ride a Ben Serotta-built Murray 7-Eleven Team bike. I bought it assembled and it appears that most of the components were part of the original 1983/4 build. I swapped the bars, stem, saddle and built new wheels. Otherwise, it’s original. Who rode the bike remains a mystery. 

Of course, I can’t ride the bike, especially at Eroica, without the correct kit. And since my bike was built in December 1983 for the 1984 season when the team was still racing as amateurs, I want to wear a 1984 E.S.W. jersey.

The best I could do was find a vintage, 1986, jersey, likely made by Girodana, on eBay. It was close, and would do if nothing else turned up. After all, the team raced on the all-red Murrays that year, too. But I also wanted a pair of bib shorts, which I knew would be impossible to find, particularly if I wanted to wear them. 

I continued to search through the variety of reproduction and vintage jerseys available on eBay. None of the vintage ones were old enough. And most of the replicas were based on the 1988 or newer jerseys. Then, I noticed one of the Chinese manufacturers selling replicas also did one-off customs for $29.99. Since I have experience designing jerseys, I thought I’d give a custom 1984 jersey a shot. 

Building a Jersey in China

My early 7-Eleven jersey research included a number of photos from 1984, but none clearly showed details of the jersey. As a result, I modeled my design off one Chris Carmichael is wearing in a mystery photo–date and place unknown. As I would later figure out, the photo was shot before the 1985 Giro d’Italia and the jersey was one unique to the team for that race.

The factory delivered a finished jersey in less than month. But the shipped it without sending me the promised proofs to sign off on. Had they done that, the jersey would have been exactly as ordered. Instead, it came with a tweaked Hoonved logo. Otherwise, it was really nice. But I also ordered it one size too big.

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The first jersey I had made in China turned out really nice, except for the fact that I missed the Castelli shoulder bars and ordered the wrong size. It also was available only with inset sleeves, which I was able to change later.

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The factory failed to send the promised proof for me to sigh off on. As a result, I wasn’t able to have them correct the messed up “E” in Hoonved. The mistake occurred at some point in China. My graphics were correct.

Designing From OG Is Better

Before the Chinese jersey arrived, a friend offered to sell me his collection of 7-Eleven kit. It included a variety of pieces worn by his longtime friend Bob Roll, including a pair of bib shorts, and a 1984 E.S.W. jersey worn by Alex Stieda. (photo at top of page) I bought it all. Sadly, and as I half expected, none of the jerseys fit my middle-age body. Even Roll’s XL jerseys were too tight. The bibs would fit, but the elastic and logos were too fragile to wear them. I’d have to find an alternative.

I used Steida’s jersey to create a new design for the Chinese factory. I measured everything and noted every detail. I discovered that the jerseys and bibs of the 1980s used much simpler construction than modern jerseys. The 1984 7-Eleven jerseys, for example, are basically made up of a two-piece torso, two arms and a collar. Both side panels and the Descent logos on the shoulders are part of the front chest piece, not separate panels as you would find on a modern jersey. The sleeves also are raglan, rather than the in-set style more popular on modern jerseys. Adding panels, particularly shaped panels, and in-set sleeves improves fit. 

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Having one of Alex Steida’s original 1984 jerseys was a huge help when I designed the second version. Note the simple, 5-piece (front and rear panels, two sleeves and a collar) construction. They don’t make them like that any more.

The first Chinese jerseys were like this–complicated. I could live with the side panels, but I wanted raglan sleeves. Initially, the company said it could not do jerseys this way. I decided I’d look for another vendor. Or live with the vintage Girodan jersey I had.

Then, out of the blue, the factory contacted me and sent a new template with raglan sleeves. Prototype two was a go.

When it arrived a couple weeks later, it looked fantastic and the smaller size fit better. But, inexplicably, they used a full-length zipper, ignoring my request for one of 15cm. I’d have to try again.

I decide to give them one last chance to get it right. I sent a detailed email outling my past efforts and their successes and failures. The contact seemed to understand what I wanted. He/She said the green zipper I wanted was not possible but otherwise, all was doable.

The sample took several more weeks to arrive than the previous ones. I optimistically opened the shipping bag to see a green zipper and new, smooth material. As soon as I touched the jersey, I knew the fabric wasn’t;t going to work. Inexplicably (Yes, I’m using that word again.), they used a different Lycra material better suited to side panels on shorts or skinsuits. There was no way I could wear it, not with my dad bod. 

I fired off another email immediately, expecting no one to reply, as had happened before. But within a few hours, I received an apology and and explanation of why they use the smoother fabric.

“According to the pictures you gave me, I found the cloth with the closest appearance. Now I know you don’t want this kind of fabric. Please do not worry. I’ll send a new jersey to you with the correct fabric again,” she wrote.

Normally, when a change is made, the vendor seeks approval before production starts.  Apparently not at this place.

Unfortunately, the new jersey was not going to make it to me by Eroica CA. Instead, I wore my vintage 1986 jersey.

The final jersey arrived a few days after I returned from my trip to Europe. And this, time, they got it right, even adding a green zipper.

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Jersey number two (shown here on top of the original Alex Steida jersey) looked great, except for the full zipper, red thread on the zipper and the “C” in Cinelli that I screwed up.

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The final (and fourth) jersey was perfect. Sadly, it arrived three weeks after Eroica CA. The third jersey was graphically correct and even had a green zipper. But the factory switched the fabric to a dense skinsuit-type material. Fortunately the factory remade the jersey at no cost.

Building the Perfect Bibs

As for the bibs, it took several months to find a simple, 6-panel, black, bib short. The original 7-Elevens I have are 4-panel. Once I did, I enquired about getting them made with custom side panels. The company could make them, but the minimum order quantities were too big for me. I then went down the rabbit hole of exploring ways to apply logos myself. Ultimately, I bought a vinyl cutter and heat press and started applying logs to shorts. I found a vendor who would allow me to order smaller quantities and would assemble bibs made with side panels I decorated in advance. 

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Some of my first test pieces were dismal failures. I discovered that, as cool as they are, flocked logos do not work on stretchy shorts.

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Using stretch logos solved the problem of cracking logos. My second pair of prototype 7-Eleven shorts are shown here with the vintage, Giordana, 1986, 7-Eleven jersey I wore at Eroica CA.

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After figuring out how to make them, I decided I’d try my hand at selling custom, made-to-order bib shorts.

In addition to the custom jersey or vintage 1985 jersey and my homemade bib shorts, I’ll wear a pair of mid-1980s Sidi shoes, vintage 7-Eleven gloves, a variety of vintage caps to choose from, vintage Sidi socks and the green and red Tag-Heuer F1 watch I bought in 1987. I also have a couple Okaley glasses to choose from, a pair of replica Eyeshades and a pair of vintage Blades.

If the weather is bad, I have some Vittoria booties and/or Vitoria winter shoes, a vintage, Girodana, 1986,  long-sleeve jersey and a clear, rubber rain jacket. Off the bike, I’ll be wearing a mix of Roll’s 7-Eleven jackets and a retro Puma T7 tracksuit with Puma California tennis shoes. 

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Here’s me at Eroica CA dressed in a combination of vintage and reproduction kit.

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