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 candy store!
"But Michele, don't you know what you could get on eBay for all those classics?!?"
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.
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!
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.
It's been a blur of late, what with planning all of our Ridebiker activities for 2017, working the custom club kits for next year, and of course a very quick trip to Vegas for Interbike! On top of that, l'Eroica is fast approaching and the lists are being checked, bags are being packed.
Interbike was great as usual, bumping into old friends from all over the world. Particularly nice was seeing the crowd form around Cipo as he interrupted his selfie session and came over for a chat.
Gary had a great show with Somec, USA. I keep saying that there is an aging crowd who cares less and less about winning the sprint on the big Sunday group ride or Wednesday night world championship. There may just be more unicorns like me who appreciate the artistry in old-world manufacturing, and damn the power numbers. Sometimes, style counts WAY more than your legs!
It was nice to run into Paul from handbuiltbicyclenews.com, an ambitious new website that is towards the top of my list. Brian Ignatin from HBG showed up to the Rose Bowl ride a couple months ago and posted this article on my Somec a while back. Obviously, more examples of those with a proper appreciation for Italian steel!
With that, I'm unpacked from Vegas and repacking for l'Eroica. I have a number of interesting stops both before and after the event and will have the camera rolling the entire time. More to come...
I'm responding on a forum about what I'll ride and wear in Gaiole this fall. Seems like the right time to upload these photos from 2014, when I failed to complete the long route on this "cancello" due to a dangerously out of adjustment front hub with a less-than-functional cup and cone assembly that prevented further attempts on the road to fix it! It's a 1919 Touring model made by Bianchi. Wood rims one usable gear, heavy, glorious!
To the point, I'll be riding this...
And wearing this...
This photo was actually the background image for the l'Eroica website for most of 2015!
It's finally done! My dream bike from my early days of pouring over Bicycling and Winning magazines back in the 80's. It took some vision, some time and a few bucks to turn this...
Paint expertly recreated by my friends at The Bicycle Stand in Long Beach. Original decals from the Joe Bell archive. Parts from all over the world via eBay. THIS was the dream bike, in THIS color, built just like THIS.
I already have a couple of metric centuries (possibly the only centuries I'm good for these days) and the ride is fantastic. The Campy Syncro II shifting leaves a little to be desired, as does the gearing. Other than that, I'm simply amazed at how well a somewhat heavy (22 lbs) but extremely well thought out and well built Italian steel bike rides. It just fits. You simply sit in and it feels like a proper bike should feel. You pour yourself into position because it puts you in the correct position.
A couple of points for the vintage crowd... Don't believe what most say about Delta brakes and SGR pedals. They both work very well if set up correctly. OK, they're heavy as it gets... but LOOK at them! Prettier components have never been designed for a bicycle.
Here is the build:
Saddle: Campagnolo Electa Pneumatic Seatpost: Campagnolo (not sure the flavor) Rims: Campagnolo Lambda Strada aero clincher Hubs: Campagnolo Croce d'Aune Water Bottle: Campagnolo Biodynamic Shift Levers: Campagnolo Syncro II Cables: Campagnolo Pedals: Campagnolo SGR-1 Bottom Bracket: Campagnolo Croce d'Aune Crank: Campagnolo Croce d'Aune Chainrings: Campagnolo, 53 x 39 Front Der: Campagnolo Croce d'Aune Rear Der: Campagnolo Croce d'Aune Chain: Regina 50 SL hollow pins Freewheel: Regina Extra 7v Brake Levers: Campagnolo Croce d'Aune Brakes: Campagnolo Croce d'Aune Delta Headset: Campagnolo Chorus Handlebars: Cinelli EXA, 44cm c-c Stem: Cinelli 101
Spokes are DT Swiss and tires are Clement Strada LGG 25's. Still working on alphabet icons for those!
I had fun with the build. Filling in the pantographing was fun, and the raised "Rossin" logo on the seat stay caps was another lesson in detail painting and a steady hand. Seat tube needed to have the overspray sanded out.
The headset proved to be the biggest issue. Many Ghibli's were sent to US customers built with Shimano groups. This one certainly did, as the fork threads were cut rather short. With a 10mm difference in headset stack heights between vintage Campy and Shimano, I was left with not even half of a thread's engagement! I first ordered a Tange Passage in order to use lower-stack races with the Campy Headset. That seemed logical, and was a good tip from a friend; however, the Tange uses smaller bearings so, no dice. The solution was quickly found at my grinder wheel. The Campy lock nut has a 1mm lip that fits over the locking spacer. Grind it down, file it flat, lose the spacer and add Loctite. It's that simple!
The final issue may actually be the culprit for my less-than-optimal shifting. This Ghibli's rear derailleur housing stop is unique and mine even more so, as it seems a bit "D" shaped and doesn't hold my step-down ferrule tightly.
Here are some more beauty shots, taken near Angel's stadium on the bike path. My apologies to the under-the-bridge crowd for the disturbance to your neighborhood. Hope I brought a little color to the area.
Hollow pin chain! And that odd housing stop!
Raised logo on the caps.
ESI mtb grip caps with bubble-printed logos from Poland!
The famous Ghibli bb shell, and more pantographing.
Not-so-common Cinelli front end.
Even more uncommon Campagnolo saddle with air bladder!