Legnano Condorino Sportivo – 1969

Legnano was established in the region of Lombardia in Italy in 1902 and became famous with riders such as Coppi and Bartali both of whom rode for Legnano on their distinctive lime green bikes. A feature of very Legnano bike up until the 70s is the seat bolt which is located in front of the seat post just below the top tube.

Detail of the Seat Bolt – Legnano Condorino

I had always fancied a Condorino which in the 50s/60s was a popular style in Italy for gentlemen that wanted something a bit sporty but not an out and out racer. These bikes are usually 5 speed and have straight handlebars.

Searching the Internet I found an example from 1969 located in Italy for sale by Mario. I was worried to purchase a bike in Europe post Brexit but Mario assured me it would be ok and he would complete the necessary paperwork and ship the bike priority with Italian Post.

The photos looked promising and I really liked the blue colour (did Park Tool steal this from Legnano?). Ten days later the bike arrived in a massive box with no delays at UK Customs or extra duty to pay. Mario had done an amazing job to protect the bike individually wrapping everything and bonus the unique seat bolt was there wrapped to the underside of the pedals.

At first glance the bike was in remarkable shape I gave the paint a polish with vintage car paint polish and it came up like new not bad for a bike made the same year I was born (1969).

In my haste I bolted everything together save the mudguards and chain guard and went for a spin. Disaster struck immediately when I sent the chain into the spokes which wrapped itself around the hub between the freewheel. Normally I am building bikes from scratch, so I had not checked the limit screws on the rear derailleur, which was the reason I was able to overshift into the spokes. A video call to me friend Jeroen in Holland followed and he suggested to knock the chain out with a screwdriver and hammer, this did the trick. Unfortunately some of the spokes were a bit mashed so I decided to try to remove the freewheel and replace the spokes. Luckily my modified sun tour freewheel tool did the job and I found some spokes the correct length to replace the damaged ones in the hub (note the slotted spoke wholes never seen those before).

Chain wrapped around the hub – Legnano Condorino
Damaged Spokes – Legnano Condorino
Replaced Spokes (note the slotted holes) – Legnano Condorino

Once the wheel was back together I was able to start the rebuild of the bike. I noticed however the dish was really out and somewhere along the line a washer had been added to the drive side. I am pretty sure that the drive side was missing a nut so I added a couple of spacers to bring the wheel bake into alignment before installing the wheel. It’s not perfect but we will see how it runs.

The modern chain I bought I cut too short and after much head scratching and another phone call to Jeroen, discovered that the modern chain was about 4mm narrower and that my calculations were out because I hadn’t taken into consideration the longer chainstays on a touring bike with 28 inch wheels! A search on the internet located a new chain.

Modern Chain v Old Chain – Legnano Condorino

This bike is 57cm C to C so a little bit small for me so I replaced the seat post with a nice Campy Gran Sport one I had in stock and at the same time replaced the Legnano branded saddle with a Brooks limited edition saddle in matching tan. Brooks was a supplier to Legnano and even produced a special Campy branded saddle (never seen one before but can imagine they would command large sums on eBay).

Brooks Saddle and replacement Campagnolo GS Seat Post – Legnano Condorino

I wanted to replace all the cables but found the brake cables to be neither Campy or Shimano style but an usual domed cable. The levers are Legnano branded (probably made by Balilla?) an internet search found nothing but Jeroen managed to find some cables with rounded balls on the end which should fit hopefully!

Unusual cable end? – Legnano Condorino

Detail of the beautiful chain set with letter L – Legnano Condorino

I have totally fallen for this blue bike maybe it’s an age thing since we have both worn the same years well but are showing signs of age. It was obviously cherished by someone and kept indoors out of the sun and the rain. I feel quite fortunate to be the new owner and wish I could go back in time to meet the previous owner. I have the same feeling as I had with my vintage Jaguar I once owned. I just want to look back over my shoulder and glance at his beautiful bike beaming at me in the spring sunshine and smile. Arrivederci

Holdsworth Mistral 1963 Barn Find

Since joining the Veteran Cycle Club (well worth doing by the way with excellent magazines for a very reasonable yearly sub), I had been looking for a 1950s curly lugged Holdsworth when this non curly 1963 Holdsworth Mistral turned up in Barn Condition covered in rust and corrosion.

It was for sale by Golden Age cycles located just 15 minutes down the road at Bicester Heritage. A reasonable price was agreed and the bike collected.

My initial impression upon collecting the bike was that this was owned by a Gentlemen who took his cycling seriously a 50/48 chain set (more of that later) and very high gearing on the rear. A mixture of French & Italian components including STRONGLIGHT cranks LYOTARD Pedals CAMPAGNOLO gears and high flange hubs laced to FIAMME tubular rims.

Miraculously I managed to get air into the tubulars and even took the bike for a quick ride around my neighbourhood. Everything worked perfectly. I imagine that this was its first outing for probably 20-30 years.

When I shared the pictures of the bike with my fellow Eroici friend Philip he became very excited about some of the French components that they were quite rare and difficult to find these days especially the light weight STRONGLIGHT Cranks (this was before the dominance of CAMPAGNOLO), TA Competition Rings and LYOTARD pedals. In the 50s and 60s the French dominated lightweight components in the pro peloton.

The Chain Set was coated in an especially nice furry corrosion It took me two weeks just to be able to remove the crank covers with plenty of plus gas and lots of swearing and fiddling around with nose end pliers. and 50p coins (inserted in the slot in the cap). They finally came off. Philip had sent me the crank remover for SunLight cranks as the bolt is 14mm, smaller than the 15mm the standard for CAMPAGNOLO, Suntour etc. I had a real hard job to get a socket in between the narrow space surrounding the crank bolt and the crank but got them both off eventually with a 3/8 car socket.

Stronglight Cranks Heavily Corroded

The cranks however were a different story although I cleaned the threads and applied plenty of grease the drive side was not very happy going into the crank arm. Eventually it went in and after applying some leverage to the tool it came off. The tool was well and truly stuck in the crank and my 3/8 socket had slightly nicked the tool. I apologised to Philip who took it well (considering I damaged his tool) and ordered him a replacement tool. Eventually a ring spanner got the tool out from the crank.

Stronglight Cranks after sanding and polishing with NEW TA Rings

I sanded the cranks with various grades of wet and dry paper and polished them by hand with wire wool and metal polish. The outer TA Chain Ring was toast as some of the teeth were chipped. SJS CYCLES came to the rescue they had a few bits of TA NOS and two new chain rings were purchased a 50 and a 47. The STRONGLIGHT cranks have an adapter plate to enable TA cranks to be fitted.

The frame was stripped of all of the rest of its components and I stripped and serviced the CAMPAGNOLO rear derailleur. I was surprised to find individual ball bearings and cup and cone in the jocky wheels. The ball bearings and races were in mint condition. The front derailleur being the old match box style was also stripped but the sliding arm stuck fast (these often get bent) so that will have to be eased out with a vice and straightened.

The handle bar tape came off pulling with it a cloud of aluminium dust from the corroded bars. These have subsequently been filed to remove the worst of the corrosion and won’t be seen under new bar tap anyhow. However I would like the bike to last another 50 years for someone else to enjoy when I am long gone.

The Racer brakes I cleaned and removed as best I could the corrosion. Probably I will replace them as although they are very light weight I don’t like the feel of them and would prefer to install UNIVERSAL MOD61 brakes which I am a fan of and these will still be in keeping the age of the bike.

CLB Racer Brakes & Campagnolo Front Derailleur after refurbishment

The frame was very rusty I was hoping that I could save the patina but after the application of several coats of rust remover all that was left was a white dull paint that I could not tell if it was primer or top coat and the down tube remained heavily pitted. So I have made the decision to repaint the frame.

The seat stays have some very unusual decals that I had not seen before so I was really keen to replicate those. My buddy in Holland Jeroen who is a genius at pretty much everything managed to design some similar ones on water transfers that should do the job nicely.

At the same time Jeroen and I hatched a plan it might to paint the bike in the same colours as the LOTUS driven in 1963 by Jim Clarke to the F1 Championship. Jeroen found the paint codes and I contacted HLLOYD decals to ask them if they could reproduce the down tube decals in LOTUS yellow which they promptly sent to me in the post. Great service as always with those guys.

The next step is to get the frame off to BOBJACKSON CYCLES to be repainted and chromed. The rear triangle will be chromed together with the bottom of the forks. This will take around 12 weeks so I have time to build the wheels laced to replacement FIAMME rims and to source the brakes.

Hopefully by the autumn this bike will be back on the road and who knows I might take it round the track at Silverstone!

Legnano Gran Premio

I haven’t written anything for a while, probably because I have been pre-occupied with work and busy with various bike projects. As the UK is now under a lock down and many of us are working from home or on forced leave it has given me a chance to complete some projects and start new ones that I have been putting off.

The first of these projects is a Legnano Gran Premio. I am not sure of the exact date but I would say it is from the mid 1970s. They came in two colours a Metallic Orange (which mine was received in from a vendor in Austria) and the typical metallic lime green of Legnano.

Apologies if I back track slightly but I became fascinated with Legnano after watching a documentary and movie about Gino Bartali the winner of several Giro d’ Italia (1936,1937, 1946) and the Tour de France (1938 & 1948). Gino Bartali https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gino_Bartali was also a hero of WWII having smuggled documents for Jews in hiding to allow them to escape to freedom. Bartali rode for Legnano as did briefly Coppi before he transferred to Bianchi. The Legnano team was established in 1906 and ran until 1966 which must be some kind of record.

I was determined to restore the bike to as new from the factory condition including the fitting of Tubular Tyres and rims. The frame was dispatched to Bob Jackson in Leeds, UK and they did a splendid job applying the Lime Green Flame paint work which absolutely zings in the British sun shine (when we get it) and also replaced the chrome to the chain stay and fork crown.

Legnano Gran Premio 1970s
Legnano Gran Premio – 1970s basking in the UK sunshine

The Gran Premio would not have been Legnano’s top bike but never the less it was a quality bike made (unusually for Italian bikes) from Reynolds 531 steel and with all Campagnolo Gran Sport equipment with the exception of the brakes which were Universal Mod 68.

I had trouble sourcing the chain set as it was a rare 3 spline Gran Sport (GS) but found one in Italy on eBay which looked like new after cleaning and polishing. The brakes proved a bit of a problem as they did not have the correct reach for the wheels (the rear being too short) which was a shame as they were both NOS. I therefore purchased another front brake and modified it to fit the rear. The levers were all scratched up so I filed these and rubbed them down with wet and dry sandpaper before polishing them.

Rare Campagnolo Gran Sport Chain Set
Universal Mod 68 Rear Brake Calliper Modified to fit

I normally don’t worry too much about pedals but I bought a rather poor set of GS pedals which I tried to clean up. Unfortunately one of them had some impact damage on the spot where the cover cap screws in and when I tried to dress it it the metal cracked, so I was forced to buy another set in slightly better condition.

I sourced Fiamme Tubular Rims from Italy and these I laced to GS Hubs and glued on a set of Victoria Tubular Tyres. Readers will know that wheel building is not really my thing. I don’t think I did a great job with the front wheel either its not quite 100% true or I glued the tyre on a bit wonky!

The bike was finally finished recently and the last thing to do was to install the distinctive red cloth bar tape (I always leave this until I have completed the bike and test ridden it to make sure everything works). The weather has prevented a proper ride of the bike and I don’t have any spare Tubular Tyres so I am a bit nervous to take it out on a long ride. The plan is to ride it at an Eroica event later in the year and I will probably switch out the wheels for some clinchers in this case but I like to keep the bike original for now.

Fiamme Rims sourced from Italy
Distinctive Red Bar Tape – Legnano Gran Premio

Rapha Festive500

The Rapha Festive500 is a challenge offered every year by the Rapha cycle cloathing brand. The idea is to cycle 500km between Christmas Eve and New Years Eve.

It sounds simple and perfectly doable at an average of 70K per day but when you factor in commitments to your family, weather and various other external factors it’s not so easy. Miss a day and Immediately the next days ride is 140km!

To make it slightly more challenging (not that it needs to be) I was going to be doing it on a pair of vintage steel racing bikes from the 1970s both with down tube shifters and inappropriate gearing.

Day 1

I was early to rise in order to do all my preparations for Christmas Dinner and to get out on my bike as soon as possible. The ride was a game of two halves. The first perfectly pleasant I made it up the Oving hill climb after a stop at my favourite pub for a pint and the best burger (they sousvide it first before caramelising on the grill), Then came freezing rain and high winds blowing icy cold rain into my face. Very refreshing.

Balance = 443km

Day 2

I was cooking Christmas dinner so only had a narrow window (after walking the dog) to get out. The sun was shining and although not everyone responded to my shouts of Merry Christmas, some did and I even got a friendly wave from a family in a Land Rover Defender. I throughly enjoyed the short 43k ride along quite single track around Buckinghamshire on my vintage Holdsworth soaking up the views across the countryside.

Balance = 400km

Christmas Day Sunshine in the Buckinghamshire countryside – Festive500

Day 3

Our house guests did not leave until early afternoon and it was raining all day. After a crap nights sleep and totally exhausted from hosting Christmas I decided to stay indoors.

Balance = 400km

Day 4

Holy crap skipping a day has left me with a whole lot of work to do. I’m fond of vintage aircraft so decided to head to Old Warden Aerodrome for their engineering open day. This would mean an 90 mile round trip across the Chilterns to Bedfordshire. Setting out before light I headed up the cycle path out towards Stewkley (I would pass through there a number of times during the challenge). A pit stop was necessary at Stripes Cycle Cafe for Coffee and and to attend to a slow puncture after about 50k. It wasn’t long before I had to stop and replace the tube in the freezing cold damp weather. Arriving at Old Warden I headed straight to the canteen for a slap up Pasty with beans and chips and then had quick wander around the collection of Aircraft and Vehicles. The engineering day is a genius idea you can talk with the pilots and engineers, see vintage aircraft in various states of repair and even sit in a WWII Spitfire. I was conscious of time since it had taken me over 4 hours to get to Old a Warden and I was worried about my lights holding out for the duration of the ride back home. I made it back just before dark absolutely exhausted. The last 30k was a real slog and my knees were screaming at me. I was happy through to have made a serious dent in to the mileage.

Balance = 259km

60 years separate these two machines – Holdsworth Jubilee in front of the AVRO Tutor – Festive500
1977 Holdsworth Jubilee outside the gates to Shuttleworth House in Old Warden – Festive500

Day 5

This was going to have to be a recovery ride of sorts. I did not feel like getting on the bike at all. Still pretty tired from the ride the day before. So it was a gentle ride to Bicester Village to the Rapha Store for a quick coffee and a chat before heading home. I decided to swap bikes from the Holdsworth to my Claud Butler as I think the set up is better and hoped this would address the knee pain.

Balance = 208km

Day 6

I woke up with the slightly mad idea that I would cycle to London and catch the train home. With no more preparation than google maps and a phone on 65 percent charge I headed off through Stewkley once again towards the direction of Tring. There is nothing like exploring new territory and I suppose you could just cycle round and round your usual circuits to crank up the km but I think this is part of what the Festive500 forces you to do is to head out into the wide blue yonder! The weather was cold but bright and I soon gave up the crazy idea of trying to make it to London after realising I would be cycling most of the way on busy A roads. Instead I back tracked and headed up into the Chilterns around the Ashridge Estate and Invinghoe Beacon. It was a stunning route with long reaching views and a fast down hill through a forest to a picture postcard village, complete with duck pond and pub. By now I wasn’t worrying about the mileage and was simply enjoying myself. So much so that I forgot to eat or drink properly. When I got home I totally binged on all the wrong stuff and suffered a terrible night sleep and awoke feeling like I had a hangover.

Balance = 102km

Steep Descent from Ashridge Estate on the Festive 500

Day 7

I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it out on my bike. Finally I got out of bed and headed out it was misty, cold and foggy and I was under dressed for it. My plan was to do an easy ride and head to Rapha again in Bicester for a coffee since I couldn’t face anything other than Corn Flakes for breakfast and one of those small pots of yoghurt that according to my wife old people drink! After about 30 minutes the sun started to break through and bits of blue sky appeared overhead. Arriving at Bicester the place was totally mobbed so I stopped at McDonalds. The poor manager there was so overwhelmed he closed the restaurant until he could clear the back log. So I hatched a plan to get some more distance under my belt and headed to Weston on the Green where I was able to refuel successfully on a baked potato and beans! The ride home was in the golden light of the setting sun along single track roads and estate roads. A glance at my Garmin and I could tell that I was going to be on track for at least 60k and finally in with a shout with completing this challenge.

Balance = 28km

Golden Hour on Day 7 of the Festive500

Day 8 – The final push

So for the final days riding I decided to mix it up a bit and headed out into the wet and cold drizzle on my Holdsworth to try a bit of off road riding along Cycle Route 51 to Bletchley, Milton Keynes. It was lovely and quiet with just the odd dog walker and horse back rider. I kept in a low gear to avoid slipping and sliding too much in the mud. The Holdsworth 27″ tyres did a great job of keeping me on the straight and narrow! Once in Bletchley my original plan had been to circuit around the edge of the Chilterns back to Stripes Cycle Cafe in Woburn Sands but I had forgotten my phone so I had to rely a bit on my internal navigation, eventually reaching the Grand Union Canal which I cycled along until I found a road going in the general direction I thought I should be going in. The road meandered around but then I hit a T junction and was faced with a tough climb up to Great Brickhill. I now had to decide whether to carry on to Stripes, or to head back home. I decided on the latter and after once more crossing through Stewkley and Swanbourne I was on the cycle path back home with the knowledge that I had exceeded the Km needed to complete the #festive500

Eroica Germania – Edition II

One year on from the first edition of a Eroica Germania it was time once more to revisit the town of Eltville located on the Rhine river in the Rheingau region of Germany. This time I had persuaded my friend Miguel to join me from the Netherlands. Miguel and I met a few years ago through Instagram after riding Eroica Limburg together and have been friends ever since. We drove up from Limburg in the Netherlands where the day before we had made our own mini Eroica veteran ride with another friend Jeroen that unfortunately could not make it to Eltville. After settling in to our modern apartment in nearby Wiesbaden we headed to Eltville for registration. The Eroica Germania HQ and registration is at the Baron von Knyphausen winery a local producer of excellent wines typical of the Region. We headed to the registration to pick up our rider numbers and goody box. I had my 50th birthday this year and to my absolute delight I received rider number 1969!! This will be for ever cherished as it had been hand painted by Silke one of the organisers.
Eroica Germania – Race Number 1969
Around the registration there were some great bike stalls selling clothing, shoes, complete bikes all suitably vintage off course. I bought several items for my future projects at the fraction of the price I would have normally paid elsewhere. We grabbed some hearty German food and some refreshment from the winery who had set up a relaxed area to sit down and enjoy a glass of the local wine and then headed back to our apartment bottle of chilled Reisling in hand. The next morning we arrived at the start line hoping to meet some German friends Santo and Monica, whom we had previously met in Limburg earlier this year, only to find they were nowhere to be seen. We headed off in pursuit after getting our route books stamped by the Eroica team.
Eroica Germania Start Line at 0800
We were soon climbing up the hills amongst the vines of the local vineyards on gravel roads. Stopping at the magnificent Abbey St Hildegard we took in the views down the hill side towards the Rhine glistening in the distance. After a nice down hill making the most of those views we made a sharp right where we bumped into Santo and Monica at the base of a steep climb. We struggled to get our down tube shifters to get into our lowest gears for this steep section of gravel and our wheels slipped around as we dodged the folks walking to reach the top of the climb. Time for a quick photo to congratulate ourselves and the first rest stop at 23K.
Eroica Germania – Abbey St Hildegard
We snaffled delicious Cherry Kuchen (German for cake) and sausages (don’t forget the protein) before refilling our water bottles. As Miguel and I were cycling the long route (130K) and Santo and Monica where cycling the medium route (77K) we bid each other goodbye and vowed to meet each other at the end.
Santo, Monica and Miguel
Heading into the forest we were back on gravel roads and farm tracks. A feature of this ride is that apart from some sections you are constantly heading in and out of the dapple shade of the forest. Given the days temperatures of 29c this was very welcome. Eventually we came out onto a plato with wide ranging views across the valley the other side as the twisty road descended down towards the village of Presburg. Several of the riders including Miguel and I stopped to take pictures taking it in turns to hand each other’s phones around.
Eroica Germania – Miguel and I enjoying the views
Heading out of Presburg the road started climbing up and twisting through the forest. We noted that this section would have to be performed twice on the long route. We found ourselves in a nice gruppetto of riders and we we were all busily chatting away when the spilt came for the long and medium route. Miguel shot up the nasty climb which had me swearing and cursing the organisers as I struggled to maintain a rhythm and crawled up in my 28 gear only to find ourselves presented with next rest stop.
Eroica Germania – Climbing through the Forest (chasing Miguel again).
Whilst the rest was welcome we soon realised we had made a mistake and missed the split meaning we had to go back down the way we had just came adding another 14K. Philippe from the UK had done the same thing too and said in typical English fashion “we have to go back and do this thing right”. Ok Philippe off we go then.
Eroica Germania – Philippe and I climbing again!
On the way down I met my ride partners Klaus and Stephane from last years Eroica Germania coming up, both wondering what the heck we were doing coming down. We explained our mistake and were reassured we were on the right tack and made plans to drink some wine together later. We came across some Dutch riders in the forest near a beautiful lake who had got lost and as luck would have it for them needed the use of a pump supplied by Miguel. After a quick selfie we carried on with a new group to our next rest station. A quick refuel and we were off again this time we picked up two Russian riders living in Germany, for them this was their first Eroica experience and they were enjoying themselves.
Eroica Germania – Lost and laughing about it
I put the hammer down a bit as I needed to shift position on my saddle, plus I confess I was wondering how I was going to cycle the next 50K and thinking of that horrible climb coming up for the second time around. We passed through villages with ruined castles which pleased Miguel as he likes a bit of history, before an absolute killer of a descent slicing straight through the valley and on my vintage Holdsworth I was hitting over 60k per hour. My brakes were squealing to high heaven and I was catching up vehicles and motor bikes. It was totally exhilarating. I waited at the bottom for Philippe and Miguel to come down the mountain.
Eroica Germania – Miguel maintains his steady pace like a Pro!
We were now close to the split point again and had completed the extra loop required of the long route. Up we go again I stopped to check my Garmin as Miguel and Philippe climbed up ahead. Secretly relieved for the respite and the opportunity to mentally prepare for the grind fest up to the last rest station. Motivation came from the English rider on what looked like a heavy bike with a largest gear of 22! The second time up was not so bad and this time the organisers had put on warm potato soup which despite the hot day was just what was needed to see us through the last 30K.
Eroica Germania – Heading through the last forest section catching up with a family of Bianchi riders
I recognised the route home being the beginning of the previous years Eroica Germania and after a slippy steep section in the forest we headed down a rutted concrete logging road back down to the vineyards on the hillside around Eltville. My heart sank as instead of turning right to head down towards the Rhine we had to go left and climb once more. That extra 14k had taken its toll and I had to fight with myself to convince myself to go on to the finish line. Fortunately we made another right and zoomed down to Eltville and the ride was soon over. The Eroica Motto is “thrill of the conquest” and never can this be truer than the wonderful ride put on by Eroica Germania. It was challenging and beautiful and the sam time. The ride delivered in bucket loads, stunning scenery, great companions, superb food,  wine and friendships made and reacquainted. Until next year then.

Eroica Hispania 2019 – Rioja

Last weekend my wife and I packed ourselves and our bikes off to Madrid (this was the nearest/cheapest option) to visit the Eroica Hispania (the old Roman name for Spain!).

To be honest travelling with bikes is a bit stressful. We nearly had a major hick up when the stem became seized in my wife’s Bianchi. After some head scratching and internet searching and several hours of banging with a hammer I discovered I could just unscrew the bolt and leave the wedge stuck in the frame.

Before departing we watched gingerly as the baggage handlers gently lay our bikes onto the ramp into the aircraft (I am not being sarcastic they actually did.  Thanks Luton).

Once we got out of Madrid and successfully navigated our way through Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur supporters (thank you for being so quiet so that we could get a good nights sleep) we headed North to our destination in Cinicero, Rioja.

We were totally blown away by the scenery. On the one hand rocky mountains and on the other beautiful lush plains as far as the eye could see covered in patch work fields from lush green to red ochre.

Arriving in Cinicero the Sat Nav took us down a small street which was being dug  up resulting in a bit of a detour and a drive up some very narrow streets to the Piazzo de Espania where we drove straight through the START/FINNISH line next to the band stand. Parking was a bit challenging, parallel parking up a steep hill with the hope that the hand brake would hold!

The registration was straight forward in the town hall (which was decked with the smiling face of Luciano patron of Eroica). Outside there was a small bike jumble and vintage bikes were stacked up all over the place (mainly outside the local bars!).

Town Hall Registration at Eroica Espania

We soon arrived at our boutique hotel for the night in Brinas where we tried to explain that we need somewhere to put 2 bikes together in the afternoon heat. In the end we smuggled them into our room and assembled them before heading to the bar to enjoy some local Rioja wine.

In the morning we rose early to make the 0730 start for the short route (70km!!). We were both a bit nervous as it was our first time in Rioja and we were not sure what to expect. We set off with the local bike club (kudos for their custom knitted woolen jerseys). We were soon heading up the hill through the town and then sweeping down to the river before, as I have accustomed to on Eroica, a steep climb on tarmac through some woods and then up onto a plato where you could see across the vineyards of Rioja to the mountains beyond.  We were now on dirt roads and crossing the railway tracks. The light was gorgeous and the temperature was perfect. All around us we could smell the scent of the local honeysuckle which combined with the scenery was making us feel quite heady.

Views across the vineyards of Rioja – Eroica Hispania

First of the off road sections – Eroica Hispania

After about 35K we could see in the distance the ancient hill town of San Vicente de la Sonsierra as we crossed back across the river over a medieval bridge and then steeply upwards to the hill town. We both had to dismount half way up to  the church that crested the hill, deciding we should preserve energy plus by this time we were starving having eaten half a banana and a cereal bar for breakfast.

San Vincent de la Sonsierra – Eroica Hispania

After a steep down hill dodging a tour party walking up the hill (which parted like the red sea when I rang my bell and shouted “Gracias” , Brunch was served outside the town hall located in a piazza.  The centre of which contained  a fountain with snake spewing swans (latter I figured out these were Cranes). I particularly enjoyed the frittata (and I don’t like eggs) and the Crochetas.

We decided we had better crack on so mounted our bikes to carry on the ride. We were now about half the way around and felt pretty good but it was starting to get a bit warm.

We must have crested at least another two hill towns (not many people around on a Sunday at 10 am) and we were following the mountain range that separates the Rioja and the Basque country. We took a sharp right and began a very steep climb on tarmac. Stopping for a breather we watched a Spanish rider shoot up on a single speed which made us both feel very inadequate.

The Rioja region is 3000ft up and so the hill towns have a nice breeze which was just about keeping us alive in the 34C heat.

The final climb came about 56K towards the end nearing the last rest stop and feed station it was so steep very few people could ride up it (I bet Mr single speed did though) so we once again walked the steepest part. At this point we were out of water and pretty parched so we downed quite a bit of water and scoffed the local potato soup with chorizo and bean stew. I dived into an Irish Bar to grab two cold cokes (caffeine was required) and we savoured the views across the vineyards of Rioja.

We reckoned we could just about make the last 15k as we had done all the climbing or so we thought! My wife punctured on the first dirt track and luckily it was the front so not so tricky to repair. We then headed down a rutted concrete road which all riders agreed was a bit “nasty” and rode past the Frank Geary designed winery and hotel Marqués de Riscal.

We both really enjoyed the smooth tarmac for a change as we cycled along the main road before a sharp right turn onto the gravel again and steep climb over the main road which and we all cursed a little as we crests it. We also had a little curse when on the outside of town we vibrated along a long section of cobbles next to the railway tracks. Finally we hit the Eroica signs in Cinicero and people began to waive at us and shout “Benga” and “Oppa” we arrived into town  to a heroes welcome at the finish line where were presented with our medals. We were tired, emotional and happy as lambs.

Thank you Eroica Hispania for showing us the beauty of Rioja and the thrill of conquest.

Benotto 800EX Paris Roubaix 

This year I rode the Eroica event in Limburg and teamed up with a couple of Pals that both ride beautiful gold Benotto vintage bikes.

By chance a random search on eBay, well ok not so random as I’m always looking for a vintage bikes for reasonable money, I found a gold Benotto for sale in Cambridge.

There was only a single picture so I wasn’t sure what model it was but the Shimano 600 hinted that it was probably a lower end model.  At 300 British Pounds this seemed like a bargain so I hit the “Buy Now” button.

This weekend I finally picked the bike up from a backstreet bike shop in Cambridge. There was a que of students from all over the world patiently waiting for their bikes to be fixed and a line up of second hand bikes outside. This was a proper bike shop with parts and bikes all over the place.

Eventually it was my turn and the Benotto was wheeled out. First impressions were not that great it looked tatty with rust spots on the frame and rusty spokes. The shop assistant explained they get shipments from Holland of bikes and this was amongst the shipments they received.

Since getting the bike home I’ve given it a good inspection and tried to do some research on the model.

The thing about Benotto bikes there is very little information available. From what I can understand this is a 800EX Paris Roubaix edition. I believe it’s from the 70s as the components changed in the 80s and the tubes were thicker Columbus tubing.

The Shimano 600 components are in good condition as is the stem and handle bars which are all unmarked. I believe the rims are both Mavic but one of the stickers is missing so it maybe a replacement. The hubs are Shimano too but look like lower end rather than the dura ace I was hoping for.

The frame will need a complete refurbishment and the wheels wil need new spokes. This will be my winter project together with the Hercules that I have had for nearly a year!

Holdsworth Professional – Completed

Ever since Planet X re-released the Holdsworth Professional in team colours I’ve lusted after one of these bikes. Finally I managed to locate one in Dundee of all places owned by an ex Scottish Pro.

The restoration started in earnest this spring when the frame was restored into the racing team colours of the 1970s. I elected for the more lurid “tango orange” (there are two schools of thought on the correct shade of orange).

I wanted the bike to be as period correct as possible with some subtle upgrades. For instance the rims are H Plus and Son modern rims but with a vintage feel and a lovely new set of Ambrosio bars have been installed.

The biggest challenge has been getting the chain line correct. Period brochures for Campagnolo listed this as 113-115mm. However in reality it has been nearer 118mm. I always install modern Shimano bottom brackets as I prefer the ease of maintenance (you don’t have to worry as much about water getting in there). In this case though I’ve been unable to completely tighten the non drive side to the frame. I have discovered the bottom bracket shell measures 66.5mm instead of 68mm. This was probably a production error which does go to show the frames hand built nature and probably would not have been an issue with the old cup and cone installation. I’ll have to either live with things as they are, install a shim, or try to find a NOS cup and cone.

The other slight issue has been the rear drop outs. These measured 122mm (should be 120mm) and so I built the wheels up around a 120mm axle on Campagnolo hubs. Unfortunately the chain would catch on the frame when changing gear from high to low. Probably this is because on the Holdsworth Professional a small close ratio block would have been used. I fixed the problem by adding 1mm shims to the axle but it’s not an ideal solution and I may have to fit a longer axle. In hindsight I learnt a valuable lesson which is to have the frame cold set to 126mm which would giver better options for gearing.

 Finally I couldn’t decide between blue or white cotton bar tape but elected for blue. I started at the top and wound down to the drops so as to give a nice neat look.

Overall I’m happy with the finished bike. I chickened out of riding it at Eroica Germania as it had not been given a real test run but I’m looking forward to taking it for a spin around the Buckinghamshire countryside this autumn.

Holdsworth Professional - Crankset

Holdsworth Professional - Brooks Saddle

Brooks Anniversary Saddle on Holdsworth Professional

The Head set is original and has some patina

Holdsworth Professional Campagnolo Brakes

Blue Cotton Bar Tape on Ambrosio Bars

Holdsworth Professional Complete

Eroica Germania 2018

Just this weekend I visited the Rheingau region to take part in the first ever Eroica Germania.

Eroica for those who don’t know is a vintage bike ride that first took place 20 years ago in Italy. It was the brain child of GianCarlo Brocci a native of Giaole in Tuscany. His idea was to recreate the old Giro and Tour de France races ridden on steel bikes with down-tube shifters. The franchise has been a huge success and more than responsible for the resurgence of the vintage bike scene.

The newest venture in the franchise is Eroica Germania set in the Rheingau region of Germany near Wiesbaden.

Eroica is about a challenging ride, great food and companionship set amongst beautiful countryside. Eroica Germania delivered on all of these fronts and more.

The start of the ride and registration was in the beautiful Rhein side town of Eltville in the grounds of the Baron von Knyphausen winery. Comfortable couches had been laid out and a small group of vendors gathered to sell Flamme Kuchen, coffee, vintage jerseys and best of all there was a Weinstube (Wine bar) selling the excellent wines from the winery.

After a restorative glass of Riesling and a Flamme Kuchen I headed to my AirB&B for some rest as I would be up early in the morning for the 8am start of the long route.

The weather was not looking too great at the start and it started to rain but the dampness did not effect our mood which was a mixture of apprehension and excitement at exploring this region.

I was in the lead group for the start and at precisely 8am we rolled out of the winery and then immediately passed by the Rhein before heading out of town.

Like most Eroica rides it’s not long after the start before it gets a bit challenging and we soon found ourselves in dense pine forests on unprepared roads heading upwards and ever upwards through the tree canopies with glimpses every now and then between the trees of the Rheingau below.

At a steep gravel section I dismounted together with two other riders Klaus and Stephan who would become my ride buddies for the rest of the ride and drinking partners!

At times we lost the signs as they became washed away and so between the three of us we would figure out which way to go. This seemed to work and we only went wrong once.

After the uphill we were rewarded with a beautiful downhill on paved switch backs with distant views of nearby towns nestled in the klefts of the valley. My brakes were squealing away as I picked up speed. After a short while we came to a T junction where the short route split with the long route. We continued onto the second rest stop (we missed the first one) and a slightly worried father in law of the organiser Uwe (this is a family affair) informed us we were the first of only 12 riders to make it through. After stuffing ourselves with delicious smoked sausages and hand made sandwiches we continued on our way and cycled through the rolling hills of the Rheingau.

After a steep climb (Eroica always plans this straight after lunch) we were rewarded with the most marvellous view across the landscape and the best descent I think I have ever experienced on two wheels let alone on a vintage bike. I nearly overcooked it a couple of times but squealed “yahoooooo!” like a small child all the way down.

As any cyclist knows what comes down must go up again and sure enough after some KM we were directed of the asphalt onto a forest track and a 4K climb on gravel. I must confess I was cursing Eroica and the organisers for including this route and cursing myself for not having changed the rear cassette for something smaller than 22. My knees were screaming and I hung onto Stephan’s wheel wishing the pain to end. It did as we emerged into a sun lit upland and a picnic this time with the local Riesling wine to go with the sausages.

It was now 30k to the finish and mostly downhill. I wondered why I was feeling much cooler and the realised that I had left my helmet at the rest stop. My ride buddies told me not to worry as I would look way cooler at the end and it would give me an excuse to buy a new one.

We cycled through the local vineyards amongst the vines and we could now see the Rhein from our elevated position. Before too long we entered a village where the smell of steak on the grill made us all hungry and determined to push on to the finish.

After a brief ride along the Rhein we doubled back to the winery and we slowed down to ensure we all crossed the line together as a team for the photo finish.

We sat amongst other riders from Italy and Holland sharing our experiences and the Riesling was flowing thick and fast. We toasted the major of Giaole (he was amongst the Italians with our group) and grabbed a selfie with GianCarlo the founder of Eroica.

In the evening all of us got together again in a local restaurant to enjoy a well earned steak and toasted each other and Eroica Germania with Schnapps and vowing to meet again at Eroica next year.

Holdsworth Mistral in the picturesque town of Eltville

Klaus and a Stephane push on up the hill

Klaus tearing it up the 4km climb

The excellent Riesling from Baron von Knyphausen at Eroica Germania


Picnic spot at Eroicagermania

Lady Mistral – Completed

I recently finished the Restoration of an early 1980s Holdsworth Lady Mistral for a friend.

The Lady Mistral was only produced for a short period of time in the early eighties by Holdsworth before disappearing until Planet X revised the brand. It’s therefore quite a rare bike these days.

This Restoration was a bit of a challenge as the intention was to reuse as much of the original bike as possible, rather than replace with new items or eBay finds. In addition the frame was painted with spraybike powder coat. I therefore spent a great deal of time cleaning and polishing with wire wool and metal polish.

The Mavic rims I was especially pleased with the final results and they were very nice to build into wheels.

The bottom bracket was very stubborn to come out and the new sealed unit didn’t line up so I had to take it to a friend in a bike shop to tap new threads and after a bit of giggling it fitted.

The bike was finished off with a set of vintage Blumels “Olympic” mud guards which after a bit of fettling fitted just about.

I had intended to install handle bar grips but they looked very cheap and didn’t actually fit so I installed Brooks bar tape instead.

I’ve ridden the bike and found it great fun to ride. I’m on the look out for another now as I think my wife would like one!

Holdsworth Lady Mistral Holdsworth Lady Mistral - Weinmann BrakesHoldsworth  Lady Mistral - Mavic RimsHoldsworth Lady Mistral Holdsworth Lady Mistral- SunTour