I wrote this piece for RIDE magazine’s ‘Retro Review’ a few editions past. This would have to be one of the most particular projects I’ve taken on and have been scarred for life – in a very positive way. I have never professed to know all there is to know about Campagnolo and this journey made that crystal clear with amazing insight into the minutiae differences between groupsets, eras, level of components and put a few chinese whispers to bed learning about the changes to fonts, logos, screws and other obscure differences through the 70s and 80s. This is a first hand account of going down the Campagnolo rabbit hole.
RAISING THE HANDLEBAR.
The end of a completed bicycle project signals the beginning of the next – and with each project my own personal goal is to achieve a better result than the last, if possible. Projects can start with a photo, others a frame, sometimes as obscure as a single part which spawns a desire to build a bike around it. After recreating a duo of dazzling catalogue correct Pinarello’s for a client in Adelaide – it was shortly followed by an email from the client’s friend, wanting something similar, yet something different with an intention to take the bike on tour to Italy for the 2013 L’Eroica.
It was not so long ago you could not buy a complete bike off the shop floor and these projects highlight this. A bike was the sum of it’s parts, combined with the wheelset built to specification by an experienced mechanic. At the core was a custom frame made to the size of the client.
From the initial point of contact all the client had formulated in their mind was a Campagnolo Super Record groupset, for a classic steel frame of undecided make, with clean lines, and a simple palette. It’s worth noting that the client had never ridden a classic steel bike previously, and the current stable included a BMC Pro Machine Carbon, coming in at a paltry 5.5kg, and his ‘heavy’ bike – a 7.9kg Baum Corretto. Coming from a weight weenie background, the thought of a period correct ‘light’ bike was thrown around – which for the period involves the usual assortment of swapping steel for alloy / titanium bolts, and drilling components to an inch of their lives until the bike resembles a cheese grater. This idea was swiftly dismissed.
FOR THE LOVE OF CINO!
Cycling tragics, myself included are drawn to certain marques and eras for many reasons – often personal. The curve of the lugs, the design of the seat stays, the style of the font, the racers who won on them, or perhaps it’s a case of the era in which we were ‘kids’ and remember fondly. So it was in March 2011 that this initial email resulted in a NOS (New Old Stock) Super Record groupset, sourced from a bunker in Switzerland a month later. Friends in cycling had thrown around names of frames for client consideration and two stuck. Zullo and Cinelli. The former are extremely rare and ridden notably by Robert Millar and Phil Anderson during their time with TVM.
The later, Cinelli is perhaps the founding father of Italian cycling componentry and cast fittings for frames. Cino Cinelli never desired to industrialise his frame production, in part as to not jeopardise component sales to other frame makers, making Cinelli frames even more exclusive, particularly the Super Corsa which remains relatively unchanged since it’s inception in 1947.
THE VELO NETWORK
I put the client in touch with one of the world’s prominent collectors / fanatics of Cinelli, Greg Softley, equally well known for his extensive library of reproduction decals – Cyclomondo.
Hours of phone discussion passed, and Greg recalled he did have an unrequired 1972 Cinelli SC frame which of most importance was the correct size. A figure was agreed upon and the frame was sold with the condition it was given the respect it deserved. Super Record would not be appropriate to the frame – only Nuovo Record would do.
Within a day of the frame arriving it was forwarded to Peter Fleming of Star Enamellers, Bankstown for complete restoration. In its crudely repainted state, a light sand revealed it had originally been silver in colour.
The seat lugs which had been covered in paint were originally chromed – and once blasted the frame was sent to Electroplating Technology, Queenbeyan for chrome.
During this time I’d sent some inspiration for builds the clients way, one in particular was the period correct restoration of a Masi Gran Criterium by American frame builder, Richard Sachs. Period correctness is open to interpretation itself, and can be for a decade, a phase, or as was the case for the Cinelli, a year.
To me it seemed fitting that only NEW parts would be suitable for the Cinelli, particularly given the level of refinishing the frame was undergoing – and anything less would indicate a corner cut, a lack of patience and commitment to excellence. I used Richards example as the bar – one I’d hoped to raise along the way.
Another rationale for wanting items in top condition that would not be prone to fail during riding.Anyone who has had bars or cranks snap mid stroke will attest to this. Combine that with the smell that wafts out of box that hasn’t seen daylight in 40 years and you’ve got something special. While parts were sourced from each continent, and the frame was undergoing cosmetic surgery, Greg Softley worked on creating the missing Columbus decals that he did not have, printed on gold foil and correct to scale unlike the decals the frame came with.
FOR CHANGES SAKE
It is not only components that have come a long way since 1972. The paints used then contain a much finer grain of metallic flake, not unlike the paint found on a Lamborghini Miura. The appropriate paint was sourced, and the lustre and wetness of the look was paired down to replicate the period. The execution of the paint including decal placement by Star Enamellers is flawless.
In 1978 the Consumer Product Safety Commission (US) demanded changes to cycling components – for Campagnolo this included a number of modifications including:
- Lip on the front derailleur
- Increase of spacing between the crank arm and spider by 2.5 mm to accomodate it
- Longer BB spindle
- Curving of QR levers and ball end nut (previously conical)
- A dome-end QR for the brake calipers
- Plastic tabs added to the brake shoes
- Plastic covers for derailleur shoes
- The word PATENT replaced with BREV.
When it came to sourcing components which were listed online in little detail, observations were made using the above as a guide – but with each purchase came more and more variances in component details, from font types, addition of circlips, and thanks to the online audience of velospotters who were giving their insight on the project, it became obvious that a line had to be drawn somewhere where the project was a 6 month window of time from 1972 – but NEW remained the minimum requisite.
The client started trawling through his library of old RIDE magazines, but now with great interest in the Retro Reviews. Warren Meade was contacted in the hope he could share his experience and knowledge, in particular on the brake levers. As it turned out, Warren himself was stumped and learned something new about the mechanisms, which around the time featured a small variance, a slot and not a hole cable access as well as the length and curve of the lever blade. The point of splitting hairs had been reached.
A major stumbling block was period spokes, for which Robergel Trois Etoilles (3 Star) were used. They came supplied with nipples and washers for the rims, but the 303mm spoke length was not correct for the 36h hubs. Cutting and rethreading the old spokes, which aren’t of amazing quality to begin with became a highly involved task and frustrating task for Dan Hale of Shifter Bikes, but one accomplished to perfection. Shifter Bikes also prepared the frame, assembled the complete bike, down to soldering cable ends, and some other deft touches reminiscent of the care an old fashioned barber takes.
A preliminary post of the final build returned the subjective opinions of velospotters / retro grouches who raised some valid points. The logo on the christophe toe clips was post 72, as were the plastic rollers on the Alfredo Binda straps – they should be steel.
The most frustrating part of these projects generally comes at the point when only one or two gaps remain to be filled. This means when the right part appears on the black market, a bidding frenzy will ensue. The client was unaware of auction sniper style sites and bid live for all items, often at 2am in the morning to win the remaining pieces.
Ironically, it was Richard Sachs who was clearing much of his accumulation of NOS 70s parts at this time, and the rear derailleur was just one of the items on the bike from his stash. Later, negotiations took place with Richard directly for the correct Christophe toe clips and forwarded directly to my own mail box to expedite the project.
Prior to the assembly the client had two visions in his mind for the bike. A show bike, with all the period correct parts, and a rider version, where the chainrings, chain, freewheel, wheelset and tyres would be changed to suit. Once the time came to assembling it was obvious this bike should never be ridden. It is a piece of art – a window into 1972 and truly the best available at the time.
In the 18 month process it has take to complete, the client had amassed a box of spares for the ‘next’ project.
A bike he can ride at L’Eroica 2013.
For the velospotters here is a list of the components and some key distinguishing features for their time:
- Cranks – Prior to 1973 no date stamping on arms.
- Font for pedal thread slightly smaller.
- Dust caps and chainring bolts are PATENT CAMPAGNOLO not BREV
- Headset – Features on the lower race
- Bottom bracket – flat cups, rifled opening to prevent dirt from entering
- Brake calipers- Known for the flat QR instead of domed and no plastic cover on brake shoe tabs
- Shifters – Unchanged for a long period, same as Super Record. Had redundant cable stops which phased out in mid 70’s
- Brake levers – Curve was critical and correct – long reach lever. Ceased in 1973. Slot access for cable when it should have a hole is not totally period correct.
- Post – Unfluted, two bolt design, unchanged since from 60s to mid 70s. 26.2 unique to Cinelli – made it very hard to source new.
- Saddle – Standard Cinelli unicanitor
- Cable clips – Campagnolo
- Bars – Cinelli Giro D’Italia for short drop and Cinelli Shield design
- Stem – Milano stamping and on cusp of 1972. First year of manufacture. Previously had a nut for bar clamp.
- Hubs – Period incorrect. These should not have date stamping on the threaded side. Straight Quick releases and 1972 lock nuts were sourced to replace the 75s. The hunt continues for a correct pair.
- Rims – Martanos. Sourced NOS, Polished and new Cyclomondo decals
- Rear Derailleur – PAT 72
- Front derailleur – No lip, and 1972 was the first year the circlip was introduced to join the swing arm to body.
- Freewheel – Regina oro, theoretically it was in circulation but more prevalent in mid 70s.
- Chain – Regina oro
- Bar tape – Benotto tape, Cinelli plugs