Friday, June 2, 2017

Ciöcc Finally Getting the Miles In

Finally got the chance to shoot the Ciöcc recently. I've been riding ALL the old Italian steel lately, especially on the local gravel (ghiaia). This week, at the end of one such ride, the Selle San Marco Concor shown here snapped at the rail. Luckily I only had six or seven miles to home, standing all the way. At that point, it was time to wash this baby and get it out to photo it in this incarnation, as it may be a while before it returns to this somewhat period correct look (eBay has only a few 3TTT suede saddles listed, and they go for north of $150).

This is the rare pre-CPSC era Ciöcc that was built for Milanese sprinter Musone (his name stamped into the rear dropouts) and a very rare team frame built with Nervex lugs. I documented its restoration on youtube, which to date has 34,000 views mainly because Giovanni can be heard pronouncing and explaining the name Ciöcc. Comments have always asked to see the finished product, so I'll link them back to this post.

My last trip to Giovanni's shop led me to the guy that most likely built these team frames. He remembered the vintage and told me a few things that had I scribbled on a note somewhere around here.

The bike rides great. Now, I just need to find a new saddle...







As I found it...


That great Musone dropout

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Tommasini Unicorns


So my last post (and a sick household with not much to do on a cold winter day) generated some motivation to get out the old photos and fire up the scanner. I have a HUGE collection of Tommasini images collected throughout the years and one thing that never fails to amaze me is the sheer number of unique and stunning paint jobs they've done throughout the years.

I'd love to try to decipher the names and catalogue the various published styles over the years, as well as document some of these "unicorns" that have popped up over time. Names come to mind like Colonia, Retinato, Magniflex and Alessandra, not to mention the great "Colorado" style made for Colorado Cyclist back in the 80's. Then there were the horses on the top tube, the quattro colori fades and on and on. I also love how there seem to be many exceptions to the rules, or perhaps no rules at all. I've seen Diamantes in unique colors with horses on the top tube, and all sorts of Velocista's. The sheer variety is amazing.

On that line of thinking, here are five scans from my first trip to Grosseto in 1992. What stands out to me here are the 4 colori mountain bike (which I was very into at the time), the Titanio (in the Tommasini script), the blue Diamante with the baffi or swirls, the blue Tecno, the blue/yellow design and... the fabulous pink Super Prestige (likely) with the ZIPPERED logos!!

As far as I know, these were not officially published or named colorways here in the US. Does anyone have an idea of what these were called? Would love to know!






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Old Bike Article Translations #1. An Artist from Grosseto

Here is the first in what I hope will be many translations of articles on great Italian bikes, brands and people from the glory years of the 80's and 90's. This first one is special, as it was discovered while spending the day with an old friend, Irio Tommasini, after l'Eroica last fall (more on that trip later as it was an incredible day). He drove me to his house where a great lunch awaited us, and showed me the cantina shop under the home where he got his start, and the stack of photos of he and Pelà laid out on the table. He then proudly pulled out this June 1985 issue of La Bicicletta (my latest favorite eBay Italy search term). Here it is...

An “Artist” from Grosseto

by Fulvio Lo Monaco/photos by La Cuba

With a brief introduction to the Tuscan province very suited to leisurely cycling, here is the story of a visit to Irio Tommasini: a detailed artisan specializing in the construction of frames.

From a personal point of view, Grosseto represents an area of cycling by election. In the sense that for many years now, we look far forward to the time and place where we will succeed in retiring from some active career. To retire precisely to Grosseto, which is calm mainly because touristically it is not so tempting! Because there has long been a valid administration that, regardless of color, it has achieved social housing that may not have comparisons elsewhere in Italy.

Grosseto also has real neighborhoods, a network of roads and landscapes that, even if they play no active role in the cherished images of the picture postcards of Tuscany, lend themselves to a very relaxing time on the pedals. They connect to a people who in this area make up the Maremma which, not coincidentally, offers a savory red wine from Capalbio that in my opinion is worth more than the aristocratic Chianti. This love for the city and the province is born on the noblest and sophisticated part of the sea, that riviera of Marina di Grosseto to which more than once we have been invited by our friend Giancarlo Onnis. With him, we met Irio Tommasini who, in Grosseto, makes frames and bicycles with a passion that can be seen in his eyes and that sweats from his pores. It was therefore almost a duty, heading to the city by car to write this article, introduced to Tommasini by Onnis who, as we will see on another occasion, was the first to introduce Roman cyclists to the bicycles of Tommasini.


the maestro from Grosseto is posed with a humorous effect with the colored spiral of a compressor

The shop and store of the artisan are found on a connecting road between the Via Aurelia and the new road to Siena. Physically, Tommasini is the same person we knew more than ten years ago, when he worked in a smaller room attached under his house. He carries well his fifty years and has a calm and intelligent spirit with which he goes along evoking images from the past. We climb from the store, where racing bikes and clothing are displayed, to the second floor where you find a modern office space. On a large desk some components remind us immediately the topic of conversation as well as the other papers that fill the scattered notepads and folders. This administrative part is overseen personally by Irio’s wife, who was a teacher in Grosseto’s schools. We collect some observations from her regarding issues on the delivery of some material that serve in the assembly of the bikes and a question comes to mind: “Do you miss teaching, now that you are dedicated to this career?”

“I don’t think so,” replies the kind lady. “At least not at a conscious level. I followed the work my husband committed to and I did so with enthusiasm and without serious sacrifices.”


here above, one of the minor phases of framebuilding performed by Castolin

With Tommasini we talked about components and technical problems freely: the maestro reminded us of a positive experience with Mavic sealed bearing hubs, we lingered on the topic of friction relative to shift levers designed by Simplex and Gipiemme, from the Japanese Suntour to the recent Campagnolo Record gruppo. But to build the image of the artisan we must also have some basis of a historical nature, as well. So we simply ask him: “When did you start with framebuilding?”

“I started very early with bicycles, I think in 1949, in the shop of an uncle who sold and repaired bicycles. I also raced at that time, but with little results, to be honest.” Tommasini seems to collect his thoughts and quickly adds “But to really learn the craft, that is to know how to align frames and the correct way to weld, I learned in Turin.” I had a great teacher, to whom I still turn to for some advice and also just for the pleasure to hear his voice. This great master is named Giuseppe Pelà. You know him personally and I’m not telling you anything new by reminding you that Pelà built frames for the biggest champions, even if the honor of the name on the tube went from one sponsor to another for commercial reasons. Afterward, I made my own experiences and he advised me on some of these passages.”


Above we see Irio Tommasini with his wife, an ex-teacher, who left her professional career to oversee the administrative duties of her husband's business.

We are reminded in fact of some frames Tommasini tried with Japanese tubing that didn’t give great results, as well as other courageous projects, never seen commercially, like the frame with a vertical seat tube that didn’t respond effectively to the needs of pedaling. Tommasini has been for some time, and by reason of these negative tests, very sure of the canons of frame construction. We follow him, up and down metal stairways that link together the various areas of the shop, to a workbench where precise geometry and alignment is made for a frame. Tommasini continues, “In my opinion, for example, it is more correct to study the seat tube angle with a ruler, taking the setback from the vertical off the center of the bottom bracket, instead of measuring the angle with a protractor, which for example lends itself to some confusion.”

We are perfectly in agreement with the maestro on this point and don’t want to interrupt him in another interesting observation. “… frames with identical measurements of the seat and top tube are called ‘squared frames’. But for me, a ‘squared frame’ is this.” The artist lays on the bench an unfinished frame and confirms: “See, this head tube has the same angle as the seat tube. This, to me, should be called a frame that is effectively ‘square’.


A worker behind a screen is focused on the art of sanding to which all frames of the noted Tuscan builder are subjected.

In this area we see a “press” that is a bit the pride of Tommasini. He shows us some profiles in steel in which special tubesets from Columbus are arranged and, through the machine, are then ovalized and ‘corrected’ according to the wishes of the artisan. One of his latest designs is made from studying of a form ‘ribbed’ in four points that gives greater rigidity to the entire frame. We stop for a moment close to a container of microfusion lugs that are reworked one by one in the shop. We say openly to Tommasini how we admire his new fork crown. It is a valuable work that allows welding of the blades that are sheathed outside and proudly displays the firm’s “T” merged on the side with the wording “Air”. The logos, after chroming, are filled with color and give the crown a very elegant look. Of Tommasini we have in fact always admired good taste in addition to technical competence. This conviction is confirmed when he hands us a finished frame. This frame is destined for the American market and some European markets where Tommasini’s are highly sought after. One detail in high demand abroad is in fact the double water bottle mounts (the second on the seat tube) that joins a little support welded on the head tube to hold the pump while mounted along the top tube.


In this closeup, you notice the milling of the head tube of a frame in an advanced stage of the process. Tommasini uses a special machine to model the Columbus tubing according to his personal and exclusive technical vision.

“One thing that I hold very dear is also the paint,” Tommasini tells us. “The frame first is immersed in a galvanic bath that protects it from rust. Then the paint, which is the product of my idea and in agreement with the firm Veloetruria by Mario Francini, in Montevarchi, an exclusive that we call in jargon ‘netted’.”

The paint, deep and shiny, reveals a true lattice, that is a design of small diamonds that is undoubtedly a preciousness still unknown in the bike industry. We study the bike with a close eye and when the time comes to say goodbye we linger with an eye on the workers, each intent on their specific work. Tommasini follows us with his eyes and introduces us to a new hire, destined to the assembly area where he will transform a frame into a true “specialissima” road bike. It is Giuseppe Alampi, who had fifteen victories in the junior ranks. It was for him that Del Tongo built a team of amateurs in the second league.

Monday, December 19, 2016

THREE MAX RENAISSANCE BIKES

How about a pre-Christmas version of Bikes that Got Away? These technically were found online, but not necessarily for sale. Still, they should be mine!

All three bikes are Columbus Max tubes built up with modern-ish Campagnolo parts (a 'Renaissance' build, if you will).


Somec Promax with modern Campy


Another one...


And a Bianchi Caurus, also built a la Renaissance

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

BIKES THAT GOT AWAY, NOVEMBER EDITION

Here is what I missed out on or decided against adding to the stable recently, along with rationale!


This Maino went for a bundle! My latest obsession, but who needs three of them!?!


Another Maino, but I have a Vittoria Margherita already, and two Maino's.


This Rossin Ghibli has a great unique paint job, but SVB sells at retail! Nice find though.


Another great Ghibli. Not great enough!


This Somec Max featured on the cover of their catalog. I saw this bike at Fabio's house and was amazed how light a steel Max bike was.


Here it is in Fabio's attic. Were I not already moving twenty bikes half way across the country, and having not just bought a home, this one, too, would be mine!


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Best Bike Shop in the World... According to me... For Sale!

Bike Radar published an article outlining the qualities of the Best Bike Shop in the World. In it, Ben Delaney talks of 'secret codes', memorabilia, good coffee, group rides and cycling clubs. Of course, the most important part of any bike shop are the people.

That's what makes my "best" stand out. Leonardi Racing's Michele and Francesca have become such close friends that I consider him my Italian big brother. And big only starts to describe his personality., while Francesca not only runs the show but is more than willing to indulge in my odd requests like "could you get me an Italian cell phone number" or "what if I hook up this little device that will allow me to watch your Italian tv from the US"? Michele is il sindaco (the mayor) and Francesca is il capo (the boss).

This store is built on the medieval wall of Sansepolcro and was once the first Cannondale-only store in the world. Michele was so good with Headshok forks that he invented many fixes, tunings and tools to make that great suspension fork even greater. Unfortunately, this strength eventually became a point of contention with some who knew better back at corporate and there was a falling out (seems to happen quite a bit there actually).

On top of Headshok fixes, Michele started to experiment in carbon coverings and componentry. The first quick release Lefty hub? Leonardi, of course. Colored Si crank bolts? Likewise.

Michele and another ex-Cannondaler, Fulvio, have taken early component ideas and made a successful aftermarket company, Leonardi Factory, which is slowly taking over Europe in unique mtb offerings. Italy's economic woes and slowing market means that this store is now for sale and my friends will soon relocate to Spain!

The store itself is a biker's paradise. Michele's unique combination of new tech, vintage furniture, classic Cannondale 'stuff' and a shop area that is second to none, with hydraulic bike stands and home-made fork service tools, has made this a shop like no other. It's a shame to see it go, but I know they will be successful in the next step! Unfortunately, that means my l'Eroica motorcycle-mounted lamp may not be as available!

In bocca al lupo, ragazzi!


The entrance to my "Best Bike Shop"!


The Library, with its own Dewey Decimal System! Don't forget the many Dukes of Hazard references


Vintage, race memorabilia... and antiques!?!


Castle walls flank service heaven!


The bar!


The candy store!


"But Michele, don't you know what you could get on eBay for all those classics?!?"


The barber's chair and the "little" hand drill!


Better equipped for Lefty service than Bedford!


The art table!


A shop area like no other...


My l'Eroica support crew!


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

MY 2016 L'EROICA!

Well, that's that. The 140 course is just long enough to be painful and worth the effort and just short enough to allow me time to get back to the market and make some last-minute deals with new friends. More on that later...


I set a 3:00 alarm to ensure I woke up with enough time to eat, dress and make the hour-long drive to Gaiole. It didn't matter... I was up at 2:00 and even had time to shower, pack up and depart early. I'm glad I did. It rained all night where I was staying. It rained hard on the drive over, which may be some of the most treacherous roads in all of Italy. Not one meter is straight, loads of blind curves and when you add in the rain and fog... I couldn't see anything. I won't say where I stayed, only because it  is hidden, almost unknown (at least to my French navi-system!) and may be the most perfect place in all of Tuscany.

Anyhow... 5:00 start went as usual, and that is to say the atmosphere was ELECTRIC in the square in Gaiole.


As you can see, I'm awake, dry and full of energy and optimism! As is usual, that would soon change, as it started to rain fairly hard on the way to Siena. It didn't last long, but was enough to turn that long sleeve wool jersey into an anchor, and eventually would take the pig fat I rubbed on that saddle two years ago (yes, you read right) and make what looks like either an unfortunate gastro accident or an external black chamois on the backside of my pants! I guess the cycling pioneers didn't care as much about appearances and just went on with their business, as I did!

As for the ride, I did my usual spinning along the flats, pushing hard downhill enough to pass all those silly 80's bikes with gears, straining up the climbs as far as possible before dismounting and walking the rest of the way. All that means my average speed isn't at all anything to brag about but when you consider the number of single speed, 30 pound bikes that were to be found out of the 7000 entrants, you start to get the idea that I was a bit of a unicorn - at least as far as blond, fluent Americans on 100-year-old bikes goes. There are now l'Eroica's to be found all over the world and for me, this is still the greatest day you can have on a bike.


I rode a decent stretch with Cristian, who organizes a three-day vintage Milan-San Remo, which is now on my list of must-do's!



Ribollita at the Asciano ristoro, where we added a few unaccounted for km's. I also had a nice confrontation with a young gal in a car who really couldn't understand why all these cyclists had the nerve to slow down her day!



These gals are either saying how much of a hero I am on that old bike, or "Look at that black mark on his ass!" I'm guessing the latter. BTW, this is how you fix poorly-made replica pedals that have been smashed by standing on them so hard.


The sight of Cypress trees takes me back here...


Evidently, I fell asleep for ten minutes at Castelnuovo Berardenga again. This is where I absolutely die every time, only to rise up Lazarus-style and finish strong.


Oddly, the most exciting part about this l'Eroica for me was that in doing the 140, I had time to come back and negotiate the trade of the century. I just may be bringing this 1920's Maino home with me. I know, that means something to about 200 people in the world, so just go with me on this one!

So that's one more l'Eroica in the books. I can't thank enough my Italian family, Maria Theresa and Daniele (who shot all of these photos, BTW), for hosting me at their 13th century castle (yep, my wife has some amazing friends who have become yet another amazing Italian family for us!).

Monday, post-ride, I spent in Grosseto at the Tommasini factory/store and ended up having lunch at Irio's house. I'm saving that for another day though, as it was yet another fantastic day for me in Italy.



Saturday, October 1, 2016

l'EROICA SHAKEDOWN

Today was the shake-down ride on the 1919 Touring just to make sure everything worked, including my legs (una sgambata). All went well, other than breaking the bands that hold the bottle cage to the bars. Quick fix - zip ties!

In the captions, some Italian lessons!



La faccia del'Eroica, Luciano Berruti!
The face of l'Eroica, Luciano Berruti!


From Communist Russia, with love, il grande Alessio Stefano Berti!


Si parte! 
The start.


e mi alzo sui pedali
'and I stand on the pedals' is the name of a song about Marco Pantani, who could actually climb!


il mio cancello
My "gate". A better phrase we have would be my Iron Horse.


l'Eroica, Steampunk!


Castello Brolio


strada sterrata (strade bianche)
Gravel roads (white roads)