Thursday, December 26, 2013

New Christmas Arrival

Thanks to my friend Brett from The Horton Collection, this photo of my hero Costante Girardengo (the FIRST Campionissimo) now hangs on the wall in the reading room. You can see evidence of the 1930's version of Photoshop in the jersey logo and the background.

Vai, Girardengo!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Some Winter Reading

Aside from getting the bib tights and balaclava out, winter also means more time by the fire struggling to get through some Italian cycling history books. Here is what's on the reading list this year...

Ganna went missing this summer only to be found a few weeks ago. His is a great story, the first real champion of the pioneer days of Italian cycling. His battles with the devilish cheater Giovanni Gerbi are great fodder to file under 'unbelievable'. I just finished this one, but it deserves another look, as the months it went missing left my memory of it a bit disjointed.

One thing Ganna lead me to was this book by famous sports journalist Gianni Brera, l'Avocatt in Bicicletta just showed up thanks to Amazon Italy. I know, Amazon is under fire these days, maybe rightfully so. But outside of eBay and a trip to Italy, how else are you going to buy this!?! Pavesi raced for a different team in each of his seasons from '04 until '19, sometimes two teams. He went on to manage the Legnano team for the better part of forty years!

Speaking of eBay, this rare and beat up original print of the Alfredo Binda memoirs turned up this spring. It's aged, rough and was printed during the fascist regime in 1931! The style is a bit aged as well, making for some tough translating!

This book took a while to get through the first time. It's the best story out there, of the greatest champion the cycling world has ever known (yeah, I just said that). 

Sante Pollastro was the Italian Robin Hood who grew up in the cycling-mad area around Novi Ligure. Poor as a child, he resorted to theft and eventually the shooting of a number of police to avoid capture. This book traces his steps and follows the threads that connect him with Costante Girardengo, the first campionissimo. The most intriguing connection would be at Paris' Velodrome d'Hiver, when Pollastro, a Gira tifoso, gave a famous whistle in the Novi 'dialect' to get the attention of, and eventually have a meeting with Gira. Rumor has it that Gira betrayed Sante, which eventually led to his capture. Don't confuse this book with the horribly-inaccurate RAI production of a few years ago.

My more-complete review is here. I only mention this book again, as the Kindle version just found its way into my iPad and I'll be pushing through it again.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Cicli Masini Kit Available Now!!

I just received my first box of items, and they turned out great! Photos coming soon. Sizing runs pretty true as well.

Even better news is that my Jakroo storefront is online and ready to take orders! Pricing is great as well... you can now join Team Masini!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Cicli Masini Team Kit

OK, so it's been more than a week. But the good news is that the Masini Kit poll results are in... and the kits are already shipping! The winner was the one I chose as well, and that's what's shipped! So without further delay, here it is. At some point, when I get the code, I may post a link or order page linking to the fine folks at Jackroo so you can get your own Cicli Masini team kit!

Arm warmers and two long-sleeve versions were also made... photos to (eventually) come.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Cycling Garanimals

To go with my new kit, I'm getting ideas together to make the proper bike fashion statement. You know, what the bosses call 'branding'. My, how that word has crept in to dominate all corporate marketing discussions lately! I could simplify the conversation - I once called it 'matching' and before that, I had 'Garanimals'.

So here I go... let's match one happy tiger with another!

Being around teams for so long has left me with friends and favors from lots of different teams. Many ex-Cannondalers are now at Astana. Hence, I have this helmet on the way! These light blues might be tough to match, but at least they are in the big cat family, if not happy tigers...

And for sure the Sky blue is different than the Astana and Masini blues, but the shoes are far enough away from the helmet (not to mention the white legs in between that will match the white stripe), but here goes... from my friend Antonio at the greatest shoe maker there has ever been... the Chris Froome model from the Tour de France! Froome - he certainly is in the big cat family.

And finally for the eyes... I couldn't find anything from Rudy as they're in their fluo stage!

All this should leave me properly Fredded out. Hey, if you can't ride fast, you should at least look the part, no?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

POLL: Cicli Masini Team Kit

Designs are in! Vote now on your favorite version of the all-new Cicli Masini team kit! One week to vote and then I'll post the final version!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Hen's Teeth & Four-Leafed Clovers

Saturday we loaded up the boys, Daisy and the Iver Johnson for a quick trip to Philadelphia. I have some parts waiting there for me, and needed to deliver the bike for some fairly odd cable routing. It was the first big road trip for the boys, who did great even in the Jersey Shore holiday traffic.

Our destination? Probably the greatest bike shop in the world for a vintage bike fan, Via Bicycles. This place is full of old bikes and parts! The only problem is that access to the 'good stuff' on the second and third floors requires a bit of an introduction or recommendation. Luckily, I had both. I first stumbled upon these Joel and Curtis while building up my first old bike, the Legnano. Joel quickly found the parts I was in need of.

This time, I had a couple of crazy requests. Basically, I emailed and asked for what amounted to a pair of limited edition hen's teeth, in original packaging, uniquely hand-painted and signed by their creator. Oh, and do you also have a four leafed clover, also 'New Old Stock' in original packaging? Their answer was a quick and resounding 'yes'!

I was in search of a set of old brakes to morph the Iver from a path racer to a road bike. I know, old American vintage doesn't really scream 'road bike' but I can't see doing a 150-mile ride with a coaster brake and nowhere to rest my hands! Joel found a set of Philco's that pre-date Campagnolo Delta brakes by about seventy years! They weigh a ton and require a double-headed brake cable (with the proper length housing, naturally). Talk about hen's teeth! A lot of the collectors on the message boards I troll don't know much about Philco's, and they know EVERYTHING - just ask 'em!

Part of my crazy l'Eroica replacement ride involves a stop in Torrington, CT. Of course, I was looking for Torrington spokes for my Lobdell rims and a pair of Torrington Star road pedals. Once again, Via came through for me. Four-leafed clover... found! Not only do they have Torrington spokes, but they have a couple dozen boxes of them in any length you need! These things haven't been made for decades, yet here is their selection as if they were DT butted spokes.

And finally the kicker - Iver Johnson hubs. I won't go into detail on this one other than saying that to call a shop and ask for a pair of 36 hole IJ hubs borders on the insane.

My box of hen's teeth and four leaf clovers. Hard to believe all that rust is worth hundreds of dollars!

My trip up to the third floor was what made my day, however. Imagine the show Hoarders, but in a good way - you know, filled with bicycle parts! The third floor was packed to the gills with turn of the century bikes, wood rimmed wheels, and everything else you would need to restore that old rust. In the workshop were a handful of Gormully & Jefferey bicycles - rare enough to mock my hen's teeth, and yet there they were, with a couple of G&J 'parts bikes'. Columbia's, Hartford's, you name it. Anywhere else and we'd be in a museum setting.

Evidently, some movie production team had called and requested the G&J's for a film they're planning. The only issue is that they wanted a matching set... painted BLUE! Oh, the horror! In these circles, you barely touch bikes that old, let alone repaint them! For those not familiar with G&J, here is a link to the Copake Auction we went to, where this G&J sold for $16,000!

So that was Philly. In a couple of weeks, the Iver will be ready to ride. Of course, it'll be heavier due to those brakes and my wallet will be lighter. But, it will finally be rideable and ready for my US vintage epic ride that I'm planning. Now if I could only remember what riding a bike is like...

Friday, August 30, 2013

My Iver Johnson!

I've recently fallen for truss frames. Specifically, Iver Johnson. Terrot and Labor were French versions, and Labor even came second in the 1927 Tour de France under Belgian Maurice Dewaele. More on that one soon enough, as I am the proud owner of a large scan of a rare side shot of Dewaele aboard his truss, care of Mr. Brett Horton!

I was lucky enough to win this Iver Johnson (once sponsor of Major Taylor). The seller had a pickup only, and it seems I was the only one crazy enough to spend an entire Saturday to drive down to Baltimore to get it. $250.

When I got it, there were a number of issues. The tires had been melted and the front was reduced to just a two-foot section zip-tied on! The rear was so dry and hard I actually took a saws-all to it! That was a first for me.



This is my first 'merican vintage so forgive me if I offend some sensibilities with it. It sat with some townie bars that had LOTS of chrome on them - more chrome than the rest of the rust - making me think they're added on (not to mention that everything would've been nickel-plated at this time). The serial number is 352125, which I put sometime around 1919. It's barely legible but I think I have it right. There were I.J. fenders and kickstand. Finally, it had a New Departure Type-D rear hub, which also makes me think the wheels are not original when you compare it to a 1919.

That said (there it is again), I decided to turn this into more of a path racer, maybe a bit closer to what it was originally. The rims (silver-painted Lobdells) were trashed, with lots of broken spokes. The seams are coming undone as well. The rear hub is too new, if my timeline is correct. SO - I bought a pair of Lobdells and intend to build them up with a set of Iver hubs courtesy of Joel at Via Bicycles in Philly. A trip south is in order for the holiday weekend.

I also put on an old set of Major Taylors - I know, that would've been for more of a track racer, right? BUT - I've become a bit obsessed with IJ's and intend to ride the snot out of it once done so being a good rider is more important than being 100% correct. Love this bike!

Great two-piece badge. The red part is cellophane.

Decent original decal on the DT.

Skiptooth chain.

WWII-era hub. The nickel plating was needed for the war effort so components went black!

"Trust the Truss" Great decal here.

Major Taylor and his Iver Johnson

Making Alternate Plans for L'Eroica

If we're friends on Facebook, you've likely seen the big news of the summer... twins! Finally! Our lives changed for good on July 2 this year.

That said (seems like that's becoming a verbal crutch as I've been writing it a lot lately!), I'm not going to make the trip to Tuscany in a month's time. Turns out the points I have won't cover my ticket, as I put off booking it until too late. On top of that, these two are more than a handful, so I'm making new plans... more on that soon.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Jovanotti In Cannondale Pro Cycling Kit!

Here is one of the greatest Italian musicians of today (Vasco being the other!) wearing a CPC kit that Ivan brought to a concert in Milan recently. He states that it's a rule that pro's have to bring a kit to him after a show!

Jova is the ultimate cycling connection with music. I still remember calling him after a filming session with Daniele Bennati (who gave Jova this Trek), trying to set up an introduction.

He was in Basel in 2011, and a friend of mine working the show got me a set list and this autographed backstage pass!

 Last summer, I got the chance to see him in NYC at a tiny club. This guy sells out huge soccer stadiums in Europe and I got to see him with about 300 other people! The show was amazing.

This, to me, is the soundtrack of cycling in Italy! Of course, when you're riding vintage, the soundtrack changes...

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

What Happened To Giovanni Valetti?

This documentary (coming this Fall) attempts to find out... Good to see some friends' faces in here!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Copake Antique Bicycle Auction!

Back in April I had the chance to check out the Copake Auction for the first time. We loaded Daisy up in the Honda and headed upstate (NY) to see some REALLY old and valuable bikes.

The first item up for bid was something I'm glad I missed. We were still registering when the framed Major Taylor photograph went up, otherwise I'd be about $700 poorer.

Item eight was the real kicker though. This Cygnet sold for over $24,000! "Less than ten are known to exist." I was lucky enough to get up close and personal with this one... at least for a moment.

I did eventually get around to bidding on some sane items. Even though I overpaid, I dig two of the five postcards that I bought... just for the experience. They are photos from the Kiefholzstraße Velodrom in Berlin as far as I can tell...

The item of the day, however, was Lot #267... this Pierce Four-Cylinder motorcycle, which sold for $166,750! Whoah.

All photos - except for my postcards - linked without permission of the Copake Auction House, the photographer, or the owner!

Final Copake Auction is October 19th... see you there!

Monday, June 10, 2013

American Vintage

Remember the scene in Breaking Away at the end of the movie when Dave says to the new French co-ed, "mon dieu, ze French riders, zey are ze best!" Something close to that at least! At this point, post pump-in-the-spoke, he has totally given up on the mystique and sex appeal of being Italian and has found his new muse.

Greatest. Movie. Ever.

(Oh, be sure to check out this page and this page if you ever visit Bloomington! How many spots are still there?)

I can't say I've gone that far, but after relocating back to New England, it seems there are far fewer Italian vintage bikes to be found and I need to change nazioni. Fortunately, there's plenty of American bike history to be found here in Connecticut, once a hotbed of bicycle production.

The town of Torrington, for example, started as a wool mill town but quickly progressed to brass, sewing needles and eventually bicycle production. Torrington pedals are the standard for vintage American lightweights of a certain period, and the Torrington Company (the former Excelsior Needle Company) was once one of the largest bearing manufacturers in the world. The company at one point worked on the needle bearings for the Cannondale Headshok... 147 years after the formation of the original firm!

This American vintage wormhole has led me to 'new' brands like Iver Johnson, Persons, Lobdell, Torrington, New Departure and Mesinger. I ended up getting a couple Mesinger saddles and much to my surprise, one of them is stamped "Bethel, Conn."!  Hey, I work there!

New Lobdell wood rims for my Iver Johnson

Mesinger saddle from Bethel, CT!

I'm not sure where this will take me. Hopefully I'll be so enamoured with riding my Iver Johnson path racer that it will just end there... but I doubt it!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

New Tires For The Airolg

The Airolg from last year's l'Eroica is back on the road again thanks to a new bar/stem and some new treads.

Somewhere near Siena last October, someone had the bright idea of tossing out carpet tacks in tribute to last summer's Tour de France drama. Don't think it's a new trick - I'm reading the Ganna book and there are reports of Gerbi's tifosi (and Gerbi himself) littering the road with tacks back in the teens (that's the nineteen teens, btw). I ended up with a flat on the front and a smaller spare tubular than the big CX in the rear. It looked a bit odd, but rolled as well as my crude 70-year-old hubs would allow.

Thanks to Stu at and a UCI rule change, I quickly found myself in possession of a bunch of Dugast (gasp!) 34mm diamond tread (otherwise known as Pippistrello's) cross tubulars! They went on tighter than a Vittoria on a Campagnolo clincher rim, but I got 'em on at least, with minimal damage (and rim cement) to the wood rims. The ride is bliss but I have just one question... what's max tire pressure on these things?

Those old bikes have TONS of clearance!

In addition to the new tread, I finally replaced the bar and stem on this beast. When Enzo built it up for me last summer, he loaned me a bar and stem off one of his Gino Bartali bikes. Alas, after the big ride, I went to his house and swapped everything out, buying a 60's set from him. When I got home and mounted them... they were crooked as a Masini-mounted Dugast! My last trip to the boot found me back at Enzo's and again with another set of 60's era metal. Not exactly period-correct, but with these old brake levers mounted and a BUNCH of cloth tape, they do the trick. Enzo was kind enough to throw in the "R" decal!

Love this head tube.

Crazy old shifter.

Enzo threw this decal on. Not sure what it's from, but he liked it.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Time To Start Thinking About l'Eroica

Enzo sent over some photos of the progress of my bike build for this year's Eroica. Keeping with my theme of jumping back a decade each year, for 2013 I hope to ride this 1920's flip-flop bike. It's a "Touring" which, in your best Italian, is kinda pronounced "tower-ing". That doesn't mean it was a touring bike, just a sub-brand of Bianchi. The parts have been nickel plated, the frame painted by a new contact in Reggio Emilia, and now Enzo is midway through the build process.

So now, let's start counting the days until October! Uno... due...

From this...

To this...