Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tour Rest Day: Pau, 1947/2010

Never one to shy away from the crowd of fans, I decided to go for a ride with the Liquigas boys yesterday. Of course, I brought the Legnano with me, which means full on retro clothes and the rest. To fully appreciate the technology of today, don't you need to understand the tech from the past? In the old days, riders actually had to think and plan before shifting! Everyone was quite interested in the cambio corsa and I tried to explain it as best as I could in Italian, French and English. 'My' mechanics Arco and Gian Carlo, who helped me with finding certain parts, were amazed that I built this thing up myself and that it works. Of course, they gave me loads of crap, all in good fun (I think).

Since the Liquigas guys were on a rest day, they were going to go for only an hour and a half. I figured I could stay with them even with my limited gearing. Once we got out into the countryside, you could hear me coming from a mile away - my alloy waterbottles bouncing around in their cages on the rough roads.

At one point, the guys stopped for a nature break. I kept going, taking the opportunity to shift gears safely. Unfortunately, they decided to turn around. Luckily, Francesco Bellotti came to get me. We chased - me spinning as fast as I could in my 40/14 - and finally got back on. Time to shift back to the 16, since the 14 was making some noise. I think the chain was a bit too tight for this ride - gotta look into it. ZZZIIINNNGGG - my fingers touched the rear tire slightly, but loud enough that Roman Kreuziger heard from behind and came up next to me with a big smile. "I knew you'd do that! You better be careful or you'll lose a finger in that wheel!" A good thing to remember, indeed!

Monday, July 19, 2010

1948 Legnano Cambio Corsa, Finished & Ready for L'Eroica!

Six months of patient waiting, research, eBay'ing and obsessing over restoring this jewel have paid off. Ciöcc proudly finished the paint and decals this past week, so yet another quick drive down on the weekend was in order. He reminded me for the n'th time that it was he who build the Legnano that Fondriest won his world title on in 1988, so he had the formula for the correct shade of Legnano green. I made a late decision to go with only the true decals once I saw the color, so I left a few off to make it a bit more 'period correct'. The build went quite easily and on Sunday morning, it was ready for its maiden voyage.

I donned my replica Legnano wool jersey (and a smartwool undershirt to ease the itching) and headed out into the 26 degree (C) heat with a huge smile on my face. The first shift of the cambio corsa wasn't so hot. You can see in the first photo that the chain had a bit of slack in it (not real easy to set this up in a stand - you need weight on the wheel). I quick tug on the rear wheel and I was ready to try again and to my surprise, it works! It not only works, it works quite well! For two hours, I rode around the French countryside with limited gearing, grinding up the rolling hill with my four speeds, drinking from my two alloy bottles. I can't say that I can shift this thing as well as Bartali (or even Aldo, for that matter), but I'm pretty confident that experience will pay off. Remember - open the wheel qr lever, backpedal, shift the smaller lever, close the qr, pedal forward. When it shifts, the wheel will "walk" up or down the dropout to tension your chain... awesome stuff from Vicenza!

What surprised me is how well this antique rides. Those guys clearly knew what they were doing back in the day. The long wheelbase, long rake and stable geometry was designed for the days when roads were rough - no hands is super easy on this, even with the water ballast hanging off my handlebars. It was Masi who pulled the seatpost out of the frame and started what we now know as "modern geometry". The only thing that worries me about putting this thing through 200km is the unforgiving hand position. The track bend is sweet, but the bars are really thin, and the cloth tape just isn't doing my palms any justice.

PS - the head tube badge I found is just off. Evidently, it takes a slightly larger badge. I'm now on the hunt. Luckily, I have a virtual friend in Nove Ligure who is a Legnano expert!

Before-during-after photos are on my flickr page.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Covering the Tour... Read my reports!

So the Masini family has packed up and headed to Holland/Belgium/France to cover the Tour de France. After hosting some American friends (and spouses!) in Rotterdam, we've hit the road and will be covering the first week of racing. That means: early mornings, repacking the car (lots of doggie luggage), frantically navigating the GPS to the start, sitting in traffic, negotiating with the police to let me 'in' the designated area (thanks for the sticker, Stefano), breakfast at the start village... and then the mad dash for the finish line or next hotel room and internet connection!

You can read most of my stage updates on Cannondale's Liquigas page and also follow us from the road via Twitter (the dogs don't have an account... yet).