Italian Steel bike

Happy 50th ItalVega!

I have only been the caretaker of this bike a handful of years, but it has become an old pal. Not much different than that favorite pair of walking shoes that no longer look pristine , but are so comfy you hope they don’t wear out. Unlike shoes , bikes can outlast us if proper care is given, even if at some point of their history they are neglected.

As found !

I got this poor , neglected bike and just knew with a bit (quite a bit) of effort it could be a fairly decent bike. I actually was going to harvest parts from it and let the frame go cheap to some other enthusiast to deal with. It was during “the harvest” that I became fascinated with the quality of it under layers of rust. Some of you may have seen my posts about the resurrection. It was truly a labor of love but every time I take it out I am glad I did it. At 63cm it is a perfect fit and I can ride for hours with no discomfort. Smooth and predictable, “Rusty” just behaves like a thoroughbred even in tight corners.

Heading up the Central California Coast, 2018 Eroica California with my good friend Rich on the left

The serial number states that this bike was made September 1972, I was almost eighteen years old at that time and someone with a larger budget than me bought this bike in Fresno California according to the bike shop sticker still on the bottom of the seat tube. I don’t know how many hands it has passed through or how it ended up in a field in Moro Bay California , but I am really happy to be part of the 50th anniversary of its build. I hope to have it for a long time as we both age together.

From today’s ride, 40 miles of cycling bliss. I made a handlebar mount for my water bottle. I prefer this set up for bikes without braze on fittings
I bought a new/used Cinelli #3 Buffalo Hyde saddle to commemorate the occasion, just like what it came with when new. The Zeus Competition seat post was added by a previous owner as an upgrade
The saddle shows wear like the rest of the bike

So, Happy Birthday, Rusty and thank you for the happy miles we have traveled. Looking forward to many more……. Joe

cycling, Italian Steel bike, Vintage Road Bikes

Confessions of a Bike Collector

I have accumulated several wonderful bikes . Some have come to me in need of complete refurbishing , while others have landed in my stable just needing a little grease and tweaking to fit my needs. I have been very fortunate to be able to have bikes that I could’ve only dreamed about when I was a young rider in apprenticeship at an aerospace company. I am also fortunate enough to have my own shop where I can store “the fleet”. I have built bike racks and now have a section with nothing but vintage road bikes and my wife’s ebikes. My garage at home is for whichever bike I am riding presently and in process new builds.

Some folks see my collection and feel compelled to ask ‘how many bikes do you have?” I usually give the same answer “a lot” . I must confess , the conversation makes me uncomfortable, I know I have way more bikes than any NORMAL cyclist should have and most would never understand. I love all my bikes and ride them regularly.

Lately I have been favoring my 1975 Colnago Super that I had painted by Jack at Franklin Frames in Ohio. I really love that bike , so much , in fact , that the tires have gotten worn. I have stabled it until the new tires arrive.

After Frank finished painting

So yesterday , I went into Ventura to run some errands and pick up a bike from my collection to ride. As I scanned through my shop , I saw my 1972 ItalVega sitting in the rack. I couldn’t remember the last time I rode that bike as I reached down to check the tire pressure, it was squishy so I thought I needed to pump the tires up anyway so that will be my bike for my Sunday ride. I have always loved the way it rides, just the right amount of tightness but still comfy for long rides. I wrote quite a bit about this bike because it was my most challenging refurbishment to date(see Rusty Resurrection).

ItalVega Grand Ralley

Well, the ride very well and I realized how much I missed riding it. I have a few that I haven’t ridden in quite a while and it may be time to revisit them. I do keep the tires inflated enough so that they don’t rest on the rims and all of them are in riding shape so no excuses….ride em’! I don’t want any of these bikes to be neglected . Why own them if not to ride?

Italian Steel bike, Uncategorized, Vintage Road Bikes

Off to the “spa” for my Colnago

After getting my 1975 Colnago Super late last year, I spent many happy miles enjoying it. I bought it reasonably priced ,due to its patina , from a fellow Bike Forum member and received it ready to ride so this one did not get any special treatment. I have just been riding it with very little tinkering except for flat repair and a nice set of mid seventies Campagnolo Superleggeri pedals.

I have taken the bike apart so it can be restored to its original beauty . It now sits stripped of all the components that make it a bicycle so Jack at Franklin Frames in Ohio can do his “magic”. This will take a while as Jack does nice work and us vintage bike people are willing to wait for the results. Jack strips the old paint off, prepares the metal for paint adhesion, primes and paints , applies decals , and finally adds clear coat to protect and preserve the paint and decals. I am having him match the color that is already there because I like this golden orange . He will add the yellow highlighting in the lug cut outs .

The bike was actually presentable the way it was but as you can see, it had areas of steel that were completely exposed. The bottom bracket shell was already starting to rust and there were many chips in the paint that also exposed the metal. In other areas , there was checking in the paint that means it was getting ready to start exposing more raw steel to the elements. So I wait patiently for the return of the frame , updates………..soon?

cycling, Italian Steel bike, Uncategorized, Vintage Road Bikes

1975 Colnago Super, Welcome to California!

I bought this bike back at the end of November as a gift to myself to celebrate full retirement age. I will keep working but reduce my hours grinding tools and increase my hours riding my bike(s) plus spend more time with my wife . This Colnago came from a fellow Bike Forum member who had two , a 1973 which he restored, and the one I bought. It should be restored at some point as the original paint is showing its age although still somewhat presentable. The mechanics of the bike are very good as , though it was ridden a lot , it was maintained. I am riding the bike the way it came to me and when I am ready to part with it for a few months to let the painter/restorer paint it and reapply the decals then clear coat , I will have that done.


This is the photo from the ad on Bike Forums taken by the previous owner. It is a 62cm frame which is the sweet spot for me. This photo shows it with sew up rims and tires (tubular) which would not work for me.I average 2-3 flats a year and sew ups require carring a spare tire . If you get a flat you have to get the old tire off which is glued on and replace it , usually riding without glue to keep the tire from coming free, so corners are sketchy. I had him change to clinchers where you can patch or replace the tube and continue riding. Sew up tires are said to have a much better ride quality so they are very popular with racers. I had him put some Panaracer tires on the clincher wheels which are period correct for this bike. Gentleman Super Champion wheels with stainless steel spokes laced to Campagnolo Record High Flange hubs. This is my preferred set up for most of my vintage racers.

SCGent-1 These are the wheels that are now on the bike and will allow me peace of mind while riding the rural areas of Ventura County. He installed a nice vintage 6 speed Suntour Perfect freewheel with a 28 tooth low to help with the hills. Originally these came with much higher close ratio gears , probably Regina brand , which not only require very strong legs but are not as trouble free as the Suntour FW’s. I had to true the rear wheel when I got the bike unpacked , but the front was nice.Colnago 1975 (10)

This is an ad for the bike I bought, maybe a few years later 1980 or so , but the same bike. They didn’t change significantly for several years. Ernesto Colnago built a lot of bikes for many racers and sponsored quite a few. He was quite prolific as I am told, and when my bike was made , he had about 8 people producing bicycles . The bikes are not rare at all but they comand high prices because they were such wonderful bikes and many are still on the road. Colnago did not have serial numbers until a few years after mine was made , so getting any exact dating can be tricky. You have to go by subtle frame features like lug cut outs and fork details to get an acurate mfg. date. Due to the fork crown embossing and the club shaped cut outs in the lugs and fork stiffeners,(The bottom bracket has the matching club cut out.) mine is between 1975 and 1976.

The first photo shows the cut out under the bottom bracket shell , the second shows the stiffener cut out inside the fork, and the third shows the cut out on the lower head tube lug and the fork crown detail. These details and the lack of brazed on top tube cable guides helps date the bike. The other nice thing about this bike is that the seat is an early buffalo hyde covered Cinelli seat that, even though old and worn, is quite comfy.

I have enjoyed riding this bike while still making time for my other classsic racers. Colnago’s are worthy of their following and I can see why folks who own or have owned them speak so highly of the ride quality . I just wish I would’ve had this when I was in my twenties and able to put it through its paces, but , for now I will pedal as I am able and enjoy all that it offers. I have introduced this bike to the west coast after spending most of its life on the east coast , from New York to Maryland . IMG_2462This was from my first ride to the beach after unboxing and tuning it for my personal fit. That is Santa Cruz Island in the background and the Ventura Harbor Getty. This is our Winter here in Southern California and I am taking full advantage!


Fixing the unbroken Medici

I have been enjoying this bike since, after purchasing it, getting it mechanically working perfectly. It is nimble and quick , yet as comfortable a bike as I have ever ridden. There was no functional reason to change it at all. In fact, I was afraid to mess with it other than cleaning and maintenance. Then there is the fact that this bike came with a mix of components that, although are not original or correct to its original build , are very nice. The original components that would have come with this bike are no better in performance or functionality. The only reason I would have to change anything would be to put it back to the way it would have been as new, or close.

This is pretty much the way it came when I bought it except the the Campagnolo Super Record pedals with titanium spindles from my parts supply. The freewheel was changed for more of a touring application and a much needed new chain. I rode this bike many miles in this format and had no complaints. I just could no longer overlook the mis matched components. By 1982, Medici would have had mostly Campagnolo Super Record components and a nice set of black anodized handle bars with the Medici lions engraved on them. I have been gathering the correct components over the last few weeks and hesitantly took the bike apart to replace the non original parts.

The first thing I did was change the chainrings. The bike came with a 52/42 front set that were Nuovo Record.

This is the large ring that was on the bike and it worked well. I will keep it as a very nice spare.

This is the Campy crank with Super Record chain rings. Notice the absence of webbing around the the bolt circle. This was done for weight saving as far as I can tell. This time I went with a 53 tooth for slightly better downhill speeds.

Next I needed to change the rear derailleur from a patent 74 Nuovo Record to the correct Super Record with an 82 patent date.

A nice Nuovo Record with a 74 patent date that came on the Medici

The Nuovo Record is just as good functionally as a Super Record . The differences are that the Super Record has a black anodized trim , and , being a 1982, has changed graphics. The other difference is the two hex head bolts are titanium instead of chrome plated steel bolts.

This is a patent 82 Super Record that would have com with the bike

The next thing on my hit list were the GB handle bars that I actually really like. They were too early for this bike and the wrong lineage. GB are the initials of an English racing legend from the 1930’s by the name of Gerry Bergiss . There were a lot of racing components made in England that paid tribute to him. These were probably from the seventies

Note the contrast with the original Cinelli stem.

After searching for a set of 3ttt handle bars with the correct engravings , I found a set that were listed on eBay without designating them as Medici handle bars. I was the only bidder so I won them for $23!

The correct finish and the tell tale Medici lions engraved on the front of the handle bars

After mounting the new bars on my Medici , I wrapped them with new black cork tape. I also took the opportunity to replace the old brake cables.

As I said earlier , I would love to say how much better my bike rides now. Other than a slight weight saving , it is just as nice as before. It is no better in function or reliability. It is better in the sense that it is now true to its original build. I did a 40 mile ride today and it is still the most agile and nimble bike I have ever ridden, yet comfortable for longer rides. I will continue to ride my other bikes to change the routine and add a little variation to my riding. I like the part of my commitment of keeping them original while having bikes that I can take out reliably. The only reason I would change them is for reliability.

From today’s ride. A brief water stop at my shop in Ventura before heading back to Santa Paula

A break from anxiety

As we all navigate this new uncharted territory, we are learning how much information is healthy and how to deal with the information we have. My wife and I are, like most, house bound for the most part and getting good use of our Netflix and Amazon Prime subscriptions. With the new technologies a lot of us have home viewing situations rivaling big screen theaters. We have seen some truely great films and documentaries that we would have normally overlooked. I am fortunate enough to have my own shop in Ventura that allows me to keep working with an essential work noticed taped to my locked front door. I work alone save for the few times I am joined by my life partner and wife, Lynne. I usually ride my bike on Sunday to clear my head and get mental and physical excersize. Last weekend I was not in a place to ride and instead we went for a drive up old coast highway just to get out and noticed that a lot of people had flooded the beach area. It was business as usual and the county of Ventura was actually allowing camping at the Rincon Parkway. When we returned home I shot off some emails to local county officials and media outlets. It seems now, however late, the county has shut down hiking trails and areas that got inundated with folks ignoring the information of distancing and stay at home orders.                                                                                                                  Yesterday I decided to go on my Sunday ride as cycling is on the list of acceptable activities with our current situation. I had been working on my latest bike a 1982 Medici Pro Strada getting it ready for Eroica California. After the expected postponement, I would be surprised if it happens at all this year, the Medici sat on my bike stand with no where to go!                                                                                                                               One of the few modifications I made to the bike and probably the most necessary was the gearing. This, being a racing bike, came with some very high gearing that was not what I needed at my age and meant walking up a lot of hills on my way home from several shakedown rides and tweaking. I went for a 14-28 five speed Shimano(old school) freewheel that I had in my spare parts bin. I put a new chain on as the old chain was stretched to the point of actually giving a grinding feeling when accelerating or trying to muscle up a hill. Image 3-30-20 at 8.47 AM (3)  This improved the functionality of the bike, making it more of a touring type of bike yet with the agility and responsiveness of a fine racer. With Eroica hanging in the wings and not knowing the fate of that event, I was anxious to try it out. I had run up and down our tiny cul de sac a few times but no open road touring. I left our house on a perfect spring morning. It was a bit chilly , but sunny skies and no wind! The road leaving Santa Paula to the west through miles of citrus orchards was void of people, even more so than usual. This made my self imposed ten meter distance rule easy to achieve.Image 3-30-20 at 8.47 AM (1)

I rode along allowing all the noise in my head to escape and the fresh air to fill my ( to date) healthy lungs. I thanked God for all our blessings as I pedaled along. I decided to change my usual route through east Ventura which includes some very nice multi use paths that would make my ten meter rule impossible. I instead opted for bike laned roads which would allow me to alter my path to give healthy distancing that some do not observe. When I arived at my shop I found that even here in Ventura, it was pretty much a ghost town with very few people. The churches that are now common in industrial areas like this, that are normally crowded with folks coming and going are empty, just me and my bike. I stopped at my shop and got the mail as I sat in our empty parking lot and enjoyed my drink of Nuun.Image 3-30-20 at 8.48 AM

I texted my wife to tell her I was on my way home and let her know I was altering my normal route. The return ride was just as gratifying as the ride in. The sky was beautiful as the clouds hung over the mountain tops and for a couple of hours my anxiety about the events we are all trying to deal with , slipped away as if I were in a utopian dream state! After climbing the last hill to our home , I did one last picture before putting my Medici back on my bike stand for cleaning. I was then OK with a bit of isolation with Lynne and our cats. Image 3-30-20 at 8.47 AM










A Break In The Rain!

Yesterday I woke up to find cloudy skies and a wet patio deck. I fixed coffee and looked out at the weather trying to decide whether or not to do my Sunday ride.With all the talk of the virus and exposure for those over 65, I nearly opted out. After a cup of joe(pun intended!) I decided to get dressed with my cycling gear and give it a go. I told Lynne to stand by with her phone in case it got too wet to ride. I started out towards Ventura from Santa Paula, California and the cool damp air actually felt refreshing after being house bound on Saturday. A few sprinkles of rain , but hey that’s not too bad, yes I will keep going.IMG_2207When I got to Ventura a slice of sun pierced through the clouds and with it a bit of warmth. There was no wind and the wet road was my only nemisis , leaving that tell tale skunk stripe up my back. A price for not having fenders on my racers. I rode my Rusty Resurection(see post) bike , a 1972 ItalVega, which has survived far worse than the less than optimum treatment it was receiving this morning. I will think of the joy of the ride when I clean it. IMG_E2210I arrived at Ventura Harbor Beach to see a low tide and slick ocean , still no rain! I could see out toward Santa Cruz Island a squall that looked as though it was delivering a pretty good amount of rain. Knowing the prevailing patern of flow in this area , I could anticipate that it was only a matter of time before it would be upon me. I carried my bike up to the parking lot and started back as I thought of my decision to ride. It really could’ve gone either way with the rain, but this time worked in my favor. Here in Southern California we rarely have to even ponder whether we will get rained on when we head out, today was somewhat refreshing. Heck, if I were further north I might have to consider fenders! That is something I don’t think about( fenders), but after removing my bright jersey proudly diplaying the “skunk stripe” I would certainly consider. I have often thought about moving to another area like a thousand miles north or something because the crowds can be overwhelming at times but I would certainly need fenders and I am sure there would be a lot of days that are just not rideable. For now this is my home and , as the saying goes, bloom where you are planted. I am in full bloom!  Joe


My New Medici

I had been watching a Medici on the local Craigslist and when the seller lowered the price I decided to meet up with him to look it over. It seemed to be in good shape with some pretty nice components and very little wear. The tires were crumbling so I could not ride it to test it out , but I had read a bit about these bikes and knew they were nice bikes.This one , I believe , is a 1982 model Pro Strada. It is a beautiful tangerine orange with gold pearl topped with nicely applied clear coat. It sports Mavic wheels and cartridge hubs laced with Wheelsmith bladed stainless steel spokes. The derailleurs are Campagnolo Nuovo Record as is the headset , bottom bracket , crankset , and seat post.
I decided to run Bontrager Race Lite tires that I already had in my stash they are 25cm wide 700c that are nearly new . I removed the modern clipless Look pedals and went with some Campagnolo Superleggeri pedals, again from my stash(titanium spindle).The brakes that this bike came with are Gran Comp with Modolo pads that stop very well.

Before riding the bike , I took it apart to clean and grease the bearings. A bike with rotted tires is a good indication of a long history of non use. The bottom bracket greased had solidified to almost clay , the headset seemed ok. The crankset was dirty but not too badly worn.The date stamps were not a match with one being 1982 and the other 1983. Both the drive and non drive arms were very nice after a light cleaning. I was going to replace the seat post binding bolt with a Campy one that matched the seat post , but when I removed what I thought was a generic bolt , I discovered very small engraving that told me it should stay on the bike. It was engraved “Medici” and opposite it said “Techart”. It was hard to photograph because it was such a small detail.I am glad I noticed that it was original to the frame. I could have easily overlooked that detail.

I have ridden the bike about 20 miles or so and still doing some minor adjustments before doing a long ride. So far the light weight and race geometry is very comfortable and the smooth bearings glide along very well. These were pretty expensive bikes in their time and a lot of them were ordered with various components that differed from frame to frame. The company was a splinter group from the Masi Bikes that were made down near San Diego California. In the late seventies and until the nineties , the Italians had realized the growing American market for high end racing bikes. Masi was experiencing some infighting so one of the Italians , the frame welder , and the painter moved to Los Angeles and built these. Medici closed sometime in the nineties and the painter started Cycleart in SanDiego which recently closed. The paintwork on mine is still very nice and the color is beautiful in sunlight with the gold pearl. Aside from a few small chips and a couple of scratches it is in-amazingly good shape and ready for many more years and miles.


No pedals? A different Sort of Steed!

Last weekend Lynne and I celebrated our 44 years of marraige at the Circle B Ranch in Refugio , California. We have been to this very special place before , but it had been a while. It was refreshing to see that things have not changed over the time since we last visited. The cowboys were just as friendly as in the past and we were greeted with a nice handshake and a smile. We got there early as it was predicted to be a hot day even on the coast. We saddled up at about 9:30 am and, after a brief but informative instruction , we started up the hill. This ride takes us from the Sycamore tree lined canyon all the way to the top of the mountains that follow the wonderful Central California coast. The ride up the canyon follows a rugged trail that switchbacks and crosses a couple of small streams. We were surprised to see so much water still in the canyon as the last time we rode this canyon it was an extremely dry year and there was no water at all.


After a steady climb and some tricky stream crossings Jimmy, our cowboy guide stopped at about  halfway to the top for a special photo op. He had us do an aniversary pose !


We continued our climb to the top of the mountain where we would make another stop, this time to see the spectacular California Coast and a glimpse of the Channel Islands that were our home away from home for several years when we were younger. Along the way Jimmy pointed out bear tracks and coyote scat that told us that these hills are inhabited by more than horses and humans. It is good to know that there is room for widlife in such a densely populated state. It is nice to have areas that are reserved and left undeveloped. This canyon and adjacent beach park are a couple of our favorites. An easy drive from our home and a complete change of scenery for us. Once we arrived at the top of the mountain we were greeted with one of the most heavenly views we have ever expeienced. There was a little fog in the channel with the islands poking through. Blue skies prevailed where we were , it was a bit cooler and very clear along the mountain range . I still am amazed at this view and have never tired of seeing the coastline, especially from up there.IMG_1953IMG_1976IMG_1967After enjoying the rest we had our celebratory kiss and headed back to the ranch where a cold bottle of sparkling cider was waiting.IMG_1963.JPGBy the time we got back to the ranch the temperature had risen significantly and we were so ready for refreshment. Coincidentally, there was a wedding party at the ranch and there was quite a few people enjoying the great weather by the pool. The Circle B Ranch also has cabins and a bar . We have never stayed there but it seems as though it would be a relaxing retreat for maybe a winter getaway. It was a very special day and one of our best anniversaries ever!! We highly recomend this spot , they are open year round but probably not in rainy weather! The canyons become a wash ,we were told.


Raleigh Rear Derailleur Failure

I just rode my 1977 Raleigh Competition GS for the first time since a rear derailleur failed on me a few months back. 1977 was the first year of the Campagnolo Gran Sport package for the Raleigh Competition. I have ridden this bike quite a bit since I bought it in 2016(about). It always seemed to shift well and I never even experienced so much as a flat tire on this bike. It is just a very reliable bike that takes me just about anywhere I care to go, as long as it is paved. Imagine my surprise when, as I was approaching a stop light and down shifting , there was a strange sound coming from my normally smooth sounding drive system. When I stopped the bike and carried it off the road , I saw where the rear derailleur cage had come apart! I have never had any major problems with Campagnolo components as they are, to me , the gold standard for these early steel racers. This is the only bike that I own that has the Gran Sport type equipment as most of my bikes all have Nuovo Record or Super Record equipment which were a step up from the Gran Sport. Well , fortunately I was only a mile or so from my shop in Ventura so I adjusted the chain so as to allow the bike to be wheeled along “Velocipede” style . I sat in the saddle with my feet as my new drive train( picture Flinstones!) and coasted along to my shop and changed bikes to complete my ride and head the 15 miles to my home in Santa Paula. I had a spare Nuovo Record RD that I mounted on the bike as I waited for the right opportunity to fix the Gran Sport RD. fullsizeoutput_660After I put the replacement derailleur , I didn’t really ride the bike much other than a test ride here and there . It seemed OK , but I really never took it on an extended ride to really see any difference in performance. My Sunday ride is usually around 30 miles or so , depending how I feel. I finally got the urge to ride the Raleigh , so I pumped the tires to the correct presure and headed out . I immediately felt that quick shift change that the Nuovo Record gives you. Not that the Gran Sport was slow, but , there was deffinitely a major difference in changing from gear to gear. After about 10-12 miles I was hooked!

On the left is the Gran Sport derailleur that came with the bike and on the right is the Nuovo Record that I had in my spare parts box for back up. On close inspection , I found that the jockey wheel cage that failed on my Gran Sport was stamped metal, on my Nouvo Record it is machined aluminum. I think I will repair the original RD and keep it aside , but use the Nuovo Record from now on as the bike really is quicker shifting now and hopefully won’t suffer from the failure that had me “Velocipeding ”  my way back on that fatefull day. I really like to keep the bikes I have original , but , it is more important to me to be able to ride the bike reliably. The Nuovo Record is an early version date stamped Pat 72 so it is period correct for my 1977 steed. The Raleigh is now back in my regular rotation of bikes that I ride. It has a short cockpit that fits my build just about perfectly. It is a 23.5″ frame which is a bit small but works with the seat post adjusted taller. I am 6.0′ but have a 35″ inseam , “all legs” as my Irish Mum would say. The top tube measurement is 22″from the center of the head tube to the center of the seat tube and I am using a GB 3.5″ stem so this bike is very comfortable for my short trunk. Now with the “new” derailleur , it is close to perfect.   Joe