Bianchi – Complete

The Bianchi project is finally completed and just in time for Christmas. A few freezing cold nights were spent in the workshop attaching brakes and cables etc.

The head tube proved to be a bit too long so had to be cut to size to accommodate the brake hanger. I must say I am very impressed with the quality and feel of the diacompe brakes.

Bianchi Restoration- Eroica

My goal was to recreate as close as possible (and within budget) the Bianchi Eroica bike. Most of the components are a mixture of modern Diacompe and Campagnolo vintage. I love the ease of set up for the rear and front Mech on the old Campagnolo.

Details of the chainset on the Bianchi Restoration

I’ve since ridden the bike and it’s quite smooth despite my attempt at rebuilding the rear wheel. There are a couple of tweaks to be made such as minor adjustment to the front Mech and/or cable tension to get the front shifting perfect and the seat post needs a bit more chopping off so that I can lower it an inch.

Overall I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. The next project is another Holdsworth, this time a Professional. In the meantime I’m selling a couple of bikes to both raise cash and make room for these new bikes.

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Bianchi – Complete

Finally after months the Bianchi project is complete. My aim was to create a vintage bike with modern sympathetic updates. This has been a steep learning curve. In particular don’t buy a bike with damaged forks. That really held the project up sourcing replacement ones with the correct brake drop.

Rebuilding the rear wheel was a little troublesome. I’m still not 100 percent confident but hopefully it will hold true.

I had to shorten the steerer on the forks which was a bit nerve racking and took a couple of attempts to get right. Better to take off too little than too much.

In order to get the bike ready for Christmas as this is my present to my Wife, on several occasions over the last week I had to brave the freezing cold garage. I could only manage hour stints but it was satisfying to tick off jobs and make progress.

The other thing I’ve learnt about vintage bikes is that it’s allways handy to have a box of its. Never throw anything away as you just don’t know when you might need it. Several times I had to dig into that box.

I’m really looking forward to see my Wife’s face when she sees the bike for the first time Christmas morning and I hope she  loves it and it will kindle in her the some love that I have of vintage bikes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holdsworth Professional – Part1

My 1974 Holdsworth Professional

My love of Holdsworth bikes commenced when PlanetX produced a limited run of Holdsworth Professional Bikes in bright organge with king fisher blue bands. Unfortunately they were over £2000.

Although I own a modern Holdsworth Competition in the race team colours and whilst this is my favourite bike to date I’ve lusted after a Holdsworth Professional.

The professional was the top of the Holdsworth line back in the late 60s and 70s. The team were issued these bikes and they could be bought from the shop or factory. Usually Specced out with full Campagnolo Nuovo Record.

On Friday night I happened to look on Gum Tree and found a genuine 1970s Holdsworth Professional Frame for sale for £135. The only problem was it was located in Dundee, Scotland. I phoned the vendor George as early as I dared without being unsocialble to find it was for sale and would I like to pick it up today. I knew this was a case of I would have to strike whilst the iron was hot so after walking the dog I set off on the 430 mile drive to Dundee by car. A beautiful drive through the edge of the Lake District, Yorkshire Moors and Lowlands of Scotland ensued before arriving in the dark outside a cobbled Street in Dundee.

You never quite know what to expect when you are about to meet a complete stranger on a dark street in Dundee. Well George the vendor was an eecntric. His flat was littered with curiosities including shrunken heads a McEwens beer sign that lit up and Star Wars storm troopers.

It turns out that George back in his day (I still imagine he could hold his own today) was a bit of a hell raiser on the bike scene. The Holdsworth was a gift from his dad after he won several races including the youngest ever Medalist at a Scottish championship race. George turned pro and raced in Ireland and Holland against the likes of Stephen Roach and Sean Kelly, the former he described as unstoppable.

George would freak out his opponents by wearing a pair of false Dracula teeth and coming up alongside them nashing them. He also told me the Irish didn’t understand why he didn’t use his brakes downhill!

In those days there were no carefully prepared calorie and fat controlled pre race meals. Fuel consisted of a few pints the night before and fish and chips. If you had a hangover then you might struggle on hoping you could make it to the next mileage marker taped to your handlebars.

My time with George was too short but I’ve promised him that his bike will be restored to its former glory and who knows I might even ride it to Scotland.

Bianchi – Part 7

I picked up the Bianchi from Argos Cycles the other day and it looks splendid in its dark blue paint job. I had them install the head set as well. Unfortunately the forks were a little too long and so the plan was to install long reach brakes such as Tetro etc.


In the meantime I’ve decided to replicate as close as possible the Bianchi Eroica bike so I’ve been busy purchasing bars and stem from Velo Orange and centre pull brakes from Dia Compe, which look stunning. With the brake drop being much shorter the replacement fork was too long so it was back to eBay to find a replacement. I had to order 2 forks (it seems either I cannot add up correctly or folks can’t measure) before finally arriving at the correct size.

The plan now is to have Argos Cycles install a new head tube on the forks then I should be good to go. The lesson I have learnt is never to buy a frame without forks and ensure you take accurate measurements of the fork crown to the drop outs versus your brake drop!

I have also purchased some beautiful dia compe retro cranks which are exactly the same ones used on the Bianchi Eroica replica (together with the brakes I’ve purchased).


I haven’t yet sourced the front and rear mech and can’t decide whether to go for Modern Campagnolo or something vintage. The Bianchi Eroica replica actually has “Veloce” that’s slightly modified.

I’ve got to fix the rear wheel which has a slightly damaged spoke and a cassette that won’t budge. The rims are quite nice but as they are French and not really suitable to the Italian heritage! I may try to build some new wheels as well. It all depends how my first solo wheel build goes for my Holdsworth. 

I’m hoping that I can complete the bike for Christmas as this is a gift for my wife and will be ridden by her next year at a Eroica Britannia.

Bianchi – Part 6

Not to much to update other than I’ve finally given up on the seized seat post and dropped the bike at Argos in Bristol this week for a full respray in “Oxford Blue” plus removal of the seat post.

Customer frames awaiting collection at Argos Cycles


Argos know a thing or too about vintage bikes and quickly advised the forks I had purchase pd were a little on the large size ( take the diameter of the wheel divide by 2 and that’s the brake drop). Consequently this would raise the bottom bracket height and the brake drop would be about 15mm too much. The only solution would be to fit extra long reach Tektro brakes which I really don’t like.

I think I’ve now found another set of forks that look to be ex Bianchi (certainly the right colour) and they are about 5mm away from the ideal brake drop.  These were only 10 quid on eBay so not too much of a risk. 

The frame and forks will take about 7 weeks to complete which will give me time to procure the remaining items. I’m unsure whether to stick with then Shimano or go the Campagnolo route.  I’ll need a nice seat post, bars, brake levers and I’m hoping my universal brakes in stock will work out.

I hope to rebuild the wheel on the Holdsworth Mistral as the spokes have been a bit chewed and possibly sell plus get the Canondale sold. Then it’s one to my next project which is the Holdsworth Jubilee edition which I’m currently enjoying using as my run to the shops.

Eroica Limburg 

Last weekend I travelled to the border of a Belgium and Holland to attend the 2nd Eroica Limburg.

After a long drive across Europe in Friday afternoon traffic I arrived at the camp site in Schin op Guel. I am always amazed at how much better campsites are in Europe. This one had flat pitches for tents, power supplies, wifi and a pub/restaurant. All for 20 euros a night.

I had programmed my Garmin edge to take me to the festival site and after missing the turn initially I soon found myself cycling through a tree lined avenue in the grounds of a chateau before emerging into Valkenburg town itself and the start/festival site. The festival (unlike Eroica Britannia) is open to everyone and a mixture of cyclists and locals were enjoying some of the local “brand pilsner”.

After quickly registering and obtaining my ride numbers and pack I purchased tokens to enable the purchase of food and drink. As I was in Holland my dinner of choice had to be a cone of frites with a big dollop of mayonnaise on the top washed down with a local beer.

50s music was being played from a Cadlliac by a suitably Elvis lookalike DJ next to a vintage merrygoround.

My Holdsworth Les West Autograph edition was getting a few looks as most of the bikes there were Raleighs (Raleigh had a Dutch cycling team in the Tour de France) or Italian exotica.

 


Holdsworth Les West Autograph edition – Eroica Limburg


As the mornings start would be 8:00 am for the 100K route I thought it best to head back to the campsite to get some rest.

At 4:00am I awoke to the pitta patta of rain against my tent which then turned into a terrential down pour. The weather app on my phone was predicting heavy rainfall all day. At this point I was wide awake and considering abondoning the ride and calling it a day. Luckily my Dutch friend recommended a weather radar website for the Netherlands and this showed the worst of the rains would be through by about 7:40 (never trust weather reports). At 7:40 I donned my wool jersey and cycling shorts and headed outside into the drizzle. Halfway to the start of the ride the heavens opened and the bike and I were soaked through.

At the start there were just 3 other riders, I assume the others had either abondoned or had the good sense to start after the down pour. A brief respite came after entering into a series of caves with a light show, this was quite fabulous although a bit chilly. We were soon out of the cave and into a steep climb. My rear Mech was skipping into the big gear so I could only maintain cadence by holding the bar shifter down in one arm and the handle bars with the other whilst chatting to a Dutch father and son. I very nearly missed the first turn if it wasn’t for the Son shouting to warn me. This was to be a problem the whole ride as the sign posts were quite small and you really had to hunt them out.

After about 15k I came across a fruit stand  offering fresh pressed juice and peaches. Alongside the stand stood two working horses and country gentlemen standing in the wet. I must say the fruit juice went down a treat as I missed the opportunity to grab a coffee or a cup of tea at the start.  I then hooked up with an English rider living in Holland who was riding his fathers Claud Butler which only had about 2 working gears.  He quizzed me on my Holdsworth and my Brooks gear and I was quite ashamed to say with the exception of the bike all of the accessories were not vintage.

The next stop was at a castle and friendly ladies served up beautiful fluffy cherry pancakes. Also a chap was offering black pudding and caramelised apples. All local delicacies. As my breakfast consisted of a Belvita biscuit this was VERY APPRECIATED. The coffee was pretty aweful but the caffeine did its job of waking me up.

By now we had done quite a bit of off-road work along farm tracks that were now getting quite rutted and muddy. The bike was coping well despite the grime and the rain. In places despite the rain the countryside was quite beautiful and I could see why the organisers picked the route as it reminded me in some ways of Tuscany. As we passed through villages the smell of freshly made waffles would linger in the air.

We took a ferry to cross the river Meuse. On the bank on the other side a line of geese zig zagged their way down to the key to great us until a local dog chased them into the river. Once on the otherside we were in Belgium and cycling along cobbled streets. In my mind I was Sean Kelly riding with the pleton to win another Paris Roubaix.

We followed the river Meuse before heading up a steep hill alongside a massive cement works and into a forest before heading back down the otherside. Once again I found myself lost and without any other riders around so I backtracked and found a small sign pointing to a track across the grass that ran through a water mill.

After crossing back over the Meuse and onto a steep climb, my friend with limited gears did a great impression of Contador and surged ahead dancing on the pedals.  Meanwhile I chatted to a French rider and we both waived goodbye to my English friend as he headed off on the 160K route, though soon we were lost again having missed another turn across a farm track. That would teach us to talk about bikes!

At the lunch stop I took on board some warm mushroom soup and noshed a lovely fluffy tart made with rice. I did not want to hang around too long for fear of a) getting too cold and b) not wanting to get back on my bike!

In the town there were signs going every direction so I took a bit of a guess as to which direction to head and followed one of the signs. Once again I found myself completely alone and cycling along next to a cherry orchard. It’s a little unnerving  being in a foriegn land and not quite knowing where your heading.

After a while a few other riders joined me, Eduardo an Italian from Giaole in Tuscany (home of the original Eroica), his friend and a Belgian rider. I quickly discovered that I was now on the 160k route. I decided to try to keep with these guys and Eduardo and I chatted about Holdsworth bikes. He was keen to know more as he was working for Steel Vintage bikes in Berlin who assemble new build Holdsworth bikes. I also chatted to a Belgian who spoke fluent Italian. I was about spent before we hit the next stop sponsored by Red Bull. I opted for freshly made pancakes with syrup and a proper freshly made coffee. God bless the lady of Club Diana (apparently a high class sex club and the the double decker bus was visited by many a tour rider for a massage).

Club Diana Bus


Best pancakes ever!!


Again I didn’t want to hang around and as the road split decided to stay on the 160k route as I didn’t want to risk double backing on myself. Once again the signs disappeared and I found myself unsure if I was on the correct route. I then bumped into a bunch of guys exiting a farm field who were also wondering where to head to next. Apparently they were on the 100k route. I began chatting to a Canadian rider (appropriately as it was Canada day) and we headed back to the Finnish line together having scrambled up a steep muddy incline not suitable for a mountain bike let alone a vintage racer.

Holdsworth Les West or mountain bike?


Across the finish line we were greated by two lovely ladies and handed our medals which were also beer bottle openers! A souvenir photo was taken inside a photo booth and that was that it was over.

I was absolutely starving so quickly polished off a hamburger and another cone of fries with a couple of beers in celebration. After all the wrong turns I had cycled 120K in pretty nasty conditions. Mud was splattered everywhere, my feet wre soaked but I had a great time and despite the rain loved Holland/Belgium.

Eroica 2017

This years Eroica Britannia has now passed. Sad though it was not to be in Bakewell the new site is much more spacious and no doubt some of the Bakewell residents will be relieved from the congestion.

This Year we took 2 bikes; a Holdsworth Mistral and a Holdsworth Les West autograph edition.  Both bikes were looking good and had some remedial work doing on them together with a bit of fine tuning prior to heading to the Peak District National Park.

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Team Holdsworth at the Eroica Britannia 2017

 

This year the festival site was right on the Peak Trail and so riders immediately exited the site and into the trail which meant the first 10 miles were a gentle jaunt and enabled us to chat easily and enjoy the countside.

At 8:00 am it was already warming up at 18C a bit concerning since we had another 45 miles to cycle and some serious hills coming up.

The down hill to High Peak junction is always a bit of white nuckle ride as you hang onto the brakes and hope no one decides to stop in front of you and you do your best to keep left to avoid any walkers on their way up!

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Holdsworth Mistral and Holdsworth Autograph

The first test of the legs came shortly after with a long drag uphill towards Cromford. My buddy Paul shot up the hill despite the higher gear selections on his Holdsworth.

There was no stop at Chatsworth this year after a monster downhill which really tested the brakes. Though the uphill climb that followed really tested both the legs and mind as the latter was screaming for me to jump off and join the others pushing their bikes uphill. However once over the top I was rewarded with a nice downhill into Bakewell and onto the Mondal Trail, where after 35 miles we stopped for lunch. Lunch is always a highlight at the Eroica bike rides and this was no disappointment with typical English fare of Sausage Roll, Cheese and Pickle Sandwich and a Bakewell Flap Jack. All pretty delicious and welcome.

The heat was really ramping up now at around 29C and my head was beginning to feel like it would explode on some of the remaining climbs, particularly the step climb out of Hartington. A final stop at Biggin enabled us to refuel and obtain some water before joining the 25 mile group back onto the High Peak Trail. We followed Mums and Dads and Grandfahers and their Grandsons all on vintage bikes and suitably attired. Very handsome!

Ringing our bells we crossed the finish Line to applause and immediately headed to the beer tent for a pint before hitting the road and heading back to Bakewell. Fortunately this was mostly downhill with the exception of the 1/20 steep switchback.

Both bikes behaved themselves except the Les West Holdsworth which the quick release would come loose and the rear wheel would come out of alignment. I have a feeling that the frame my be out of alignment as the back end of a bit twitchy sometimes. I’ll have to investigate that. I may send it to a framer for a respray as I have the decals now.

 

 

Update

Well folks after the Cytech course I have been quite busy working on all of my bikes, which suddenly require attention. It seems they knew I was about to take this course and decide to develop all sorts of issues.

The Holdsworth competition Bottom Bracket started knocking under load, which it has been subjected to on several rides with my super fast neighbour. This took a while as I had to order all sorts of equipment including torque wrenches and bottom bracket tools. The installation was relatively simple accept that I couldn’t get the crank bolt to screw in. After a bit of jiggling I think I got there. The crankset itself has a small amount of corrosion on it. I hope that wasn’t from using the hose at low pressure the other day.

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Devinci Road Bike – 2001

Next up was the Devinci which was not changing gears from the small to the big ring efficiently. That required just a bit of fine tuning. I also treated it to good clean and lube (no hose this time) and in so doing scraped the rear drop out removing the rear wheel. Still not sure why wheels are such a struggle to remove sometimes. I filed off the damage and applied some black paint to hide the worst of it. Poor thing. It did get a polish though and it now looks rather splendid and rode very well indeed on 35 mile round trip to the pub!

I have given up on the Bianchi project for the moment after trying Cola to remove the seized seat post and decided that I will leave it to a professional to remove. So the frame will be dispatched to Argos in Bristol for a repaint just as soon as I can’t get there.

The Eroica Britannia is almost upon us and so I am busy trying to get the bikes together for myself and my buddy to ride. The Holdsworth Mistral 1977 may not make it as the wheels are still with the local bike shops for a replacement spoke and truing. I should have done this myself but it required more tooling that my budget would not stretch to. I intend to ride the Holdsworth LesWest Autograph edition. This has received some serious fettling to the gears , brake alignment, replacement cables with CAMPAGNOLO inners and outers and finally if there is time I managed to get some replacement decals from HLLOYD CYCLES which I hope to apply. I bought 2 sets as I may respray the frame at a later date.

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Holdsworth Les West Autograph Edition

 

 

 

 

 

Cytech Training & Bianchi update

For the last two weeks I’ve been on a CYTECH 1 and 2 bike mechanics course in Aylesbury. My aim was to achieve CYTECH creditation to give some credibility to what I may do in the future but more importantly to make sure any bikes I build will be safe for people to ride.

Rather appropriately I was given an old ridgeback mountain bike with square cranks and an older style headset. By the end of the 2 weeks I would be capable of striping the bike to its bare frame and rebuilding it again with new cables. The V brakes proved a bit of a challenge if I am honest and it took me quite a while to figure out their set up. Annoyingly in the final build I made a couple of mistakes but otherwise I was pretty happy with the bike.

Our tutor Julian Thrasher was an absolute star explaining everything clearly and being quite patient with me after the 3rd time of explaining front derailleur set up, which I only finally got to grips with after some late night fettling on my modern Holdsworth Competition, which now runs sweet as a nut.

The knowledge I’ve gained has been inavauluable and already has been put to practical use with the Bottom Bracket threads having been chased/tapped (which by the way on an Italian thrash is a bit like Patti g your tummy and rubbing your head as both threads are Right Hand) and the face of the BB also skimmed on the Bianchi project. My fellow class mate Andy (a natural at wheel building) serviced the hubs and trued the wheels but unfortunately we couldn’t remove the cassette as it’s stuck solid. The seat post remains firmly stuck and so my last resort before visiting a frame builder is to try coke poured down the seat tube!

Finally last week I removed the cable guide on my Holdsworth Mistral which was installed the wrong way around on the seat tube instead of the downtube. Unfortunately as it was a bolt on the paint got a bit chewed up. A spare Holdsworth decal went over the damaged paint to hide the worst. After replacing both gear cables I adjusted the rear Mech High and Low settings and got the gears running smoothly.

Spring ride out and Eroica training – Holdsworth Mistral

I don’t normally like going out on my bike on a Friday afternoon as it can be a bit less than calm with drivers racing the country lanes to get home early for the weekend.

This Friday after a particularly busy morning and feeling a bit anxious about various things I thought I had better get out on a bike.

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The beauty of riding a vintage bike is that it forces you to slow down a little and take in the view. I decided to take out the gold Holdsworth Mistral, mainly as it’s the only one of my bikes fully serviceable at the moment (the other Holdsworths wheels are in the shop to be trued).

My journey took me into Northamptonshire through Akeley Wood which must be at its peak for Bluebells as the whole place was covered in a gorgeous purple. A quick stop at Blakesley to photograph the Holdsworth in front on an old MG car garage and then on up to Canons Ashby. As I climbed up the valley I noticed the grass across the other side of the hill being blown around in the gusty wind and giving the impression that the hillside was covered in velvet. Here and there the lush green of the countryside was dotted with bright yellow patches from rape.


I always find it easier to cycle a long distance if I have a goal and in this case my goal was a slice of Victoria sandwich at NT Canons Ashby after 24 miles!

The journey home fuelled no doubt by the cake and several cups of tea was swift and the legs were feeling good so I decided to add a couple of extra loops. I was tempted to pop into the winery in Gawcott but it was getting late and I don’t think they would have appreciated a sweaty cyclist on a Friday afternoon.

Despite my fears the traffic was light or I just didn’t notice it as took in the countryside. I arrived home after 47 miles and was surprised to see my average speed was 15mph. Not bad for a 40 year old bike!