1977 Fiorelli Coppi Campionissimo

This will be the first of many posts about my Fiorelli Coppi bike, which I am building up as a Sunday bike for myself. It all started when I spotted a rusty bike at a flea market in May 2014 – I noticed it had Shimano 600 parts, Mavic rims, and was pretty light; all signs of a good build. The owner wanted €15, and I talked him down to €10 due to the poor quality finish on the frame. I walked away with my mystery frame and an ’80s Peugeot for €25!

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The paint and chrome on Coppis is notoriously poor – as you can see!

The frame was rusty and the decals had been almost entirely (deliberately) removed, save for a triangular ‘Fiorelli’ sticker. There was a distinctive C in the fork crown, and the corner of a Columbus decal peeling away. After a bit of googling, I found that I had a Fausto Coppi bike, built by the Fiorelli brothers company in the Campionissimo’s native Novi. I found another bike online with exactly the same spec, confirming the components were original equipment. The crankset was dated 1976, putting the bike probably a year or so later.

Knowing the frame would need a repaint, I decided to keep it for myself. Repainting a frame is a costly and/or time consuming process, and is rarely worth doing if reselling is your goal. The process both costs a lot (perhaps more than an equivalent frame in usable condition) and reduces the value of the bike as it is no longer ‘original’. Knowing it would take years for me to get round to painting and rebuilding the bike, I decided to strip and sell the valuable parts.

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The remaining Coppi head tube and Fiorelli seat tube decals, along with the distinctive ‘C’ in the fork crown.

In the meantime I have been putting parts aside for my eventual build; a Campagnolo Record Groupset, Brooks saddle, Cinelli handlebar and stem. As of today then, my dream bike is in several boxes upstairs in my barn.

To be continued…

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Campagnolo Super Record Part 2: Brake Levers

A couple of months ago I blogged about the Campagnolo Record groupset I recently got hold of. I had basically everything except the brake levers, so I’ve been looking out for these ever since.

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Three pairs of Campagnolo Super Record brake levers

Super (Superleggera in Italian, meaning super light) Record was introduced in 1974 and was based heavily on Nuovo Record. It made use of titanium axles in the bottom bracket, hubs and pedals. Aluminium replaced steel in the pedal cages, brake pad holders and headset cups (steel bearing race inserts are used on aluminium and titanium components). The chainrings had material removed to make them lighter (and look cooler!), and the brake levers were drilled in typical ’70s style. To top it off, sexy black anodising was added to the derailleur and pedals. Other components (seatpost and front derailleur) were added later. In 1978 a second version of Super Record was introduced, with a cleaner look that differentiated it further from Nuovo Record, ushering in the end of the drilled and fluted look for high end bicycle components.

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Drilled to allow the brake cable to pass under the bar tape

I recently picked up three pairs of Super Record levers from a fellow enthusiast. I got a good enough price that by selling two pairs I would essentially get to keep the third for free.  Two of the pairs had been drilled for a primative (and by all accounts poorly performing) aero cable routing under the handlebar tape. Two came with original hoods, one the earlier ‘globe’ logo, the other the newer (post ’82) shield logo. The third had Modolo hoods.

I’ve cleaned up and sold two of the pairs, with the third (free!) pair sitting in a box waiting to be installed on my slow moving Coppi project!

Columbus Tube Decal Timeline

Until relatively recently, all bike frames started life as a box of steel tubes. Like any components, there are expensive, sought after brands and cheaper, generic types. Three frame tube manufacturers stand out; Reynolds from England, Ateliers de la Rive/Vitus of France, and Columbus of Italy. Being Italian, Columbus was the obvious choice for builders like Colnago, Gios and Masi. Reynolds tubed bikes have won the most Tours de France; 27 for their ubiquitous 531 tubing! However many riders claim to prefer the smoother feel of Columbus (see this blind test conducted by Bicycle Magazine in 1987). I ride my Columbus tubed Look weekly, and am in the process of restoring a Columbus SL Coppi.

The goal of this timeline is to help with the dating of Columbus frames based on their decal, or to find the appropriate reproduction decal for a refinished frame (although unlike Reynolds, Columbus does not have an official distributor of repro decals). The date under each decal gives its year of introduction to the best of my knowledge. Until the late seventies all Columbus tubesets shared the same decal; I have not listed all tubesets. For simplicity, I have only listed Italian versions, although English and French versions exist. Original fork decals are very rare prior to 1980.

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Columbus tube decal timeline for the ’50s, ’60s and early ’70s

The first decal appeared in 1953, red on gold foil. The basic design remained unchanged for two decades, however the colours were updated. The background became gold, there are subtle changes to the colour of the border around the red oval. The final incarnation with the gold dove also appears in oversize versions, about 1.5 times the usual size.

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Columbus tube decals of the ’70s

The first major change happened in ’72 with the introduction of a simplified dove logo. The text ACCIAO SPECIALE is in bold on the ’73 version. In ’75 the dove became white for the first time. The 3 Tubi (main tubes only) decal from ’77 is the first time the tubeset was identified on the decal – full Columbus frames continued to use the gold one.

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Columbus tube decals of the late ’70s and early ’80s

In 1977 Columbus tubing separated from its parent company and introduced a new single winged dove. Within a year or so a purple border was added to the decal. Columbus then diversified with new high end tubesets: SLX, Air, Record, which got their own decal. Entry level tubesets like Zeta, Aelle and Tretubi (3 tubes) got new decals too, with the mid range tubesets like SL and SP using the generic purple decal. 1984 brought along separate decals for all tubesets, with COLUMBUS now written at the top and a funky ‘80s metallic backround.

All graphics are proprietary. Reposting permitted for non-commercial purposes with credit & link.

For further information on Columbus tubes see the Columbus website for history and current tubesets or the Equus project for info on ’80s/’90s tubesets.

The greatest Mechanics of all time

There are countless ‘greatest rider of all time’ lists, but what about the men who kept them on the road? I thought I’d do a quick blog on some of the ‘spanners’ (or wrenches) behind the giants of the road (and the rest of us cyclists!). Rather than rate them, it’s simply in chronological order.

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Fausto Coppi and Pinella da Grandi

Pinella da Grandi “Golden Spanners” was responsible for keeping Fausto Coppi’s Bianchi team bikes in good order. In the ’40s and ’50s, mechanical reliability was much more important than it is now; the roads were poorly surfaced and there was no neutral support (that’s why riders of this time often carried spare tubular tires around their shoulders). Coppi himself switched from Simplex derailleur gears to Campagnolo’s less comlicated lever actuated gear in order to race (and win) Paris Roubaix in 1950. Even today this race tears tires, wheels and even bikes to pieces, yet Coppi’s Bianchi men probably wouldn’t so much blink at the worst of the remaining cobbled stages. While his main rival Gino Bartali would jump on any bike and race away (often suffering faults), Coppi needed the peace of mind that nothing was going to go wrong; he put his complete trust in da Grandi.

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Eddy Merckx and Ernesto Colnago

Ernesto Colnago might be better known nowadays as a framebuilder but he was for many years also a mechanic to many top riders, most notably the great Eddy Merckx. Colnago started out working for Gloria cycles, but quickly moved out on his own, where he built wheels for Italian greats of the ’50s including Coppi himself. In 1955, Colnago came to the aide of former Giro winner Fiorenzo Magni, who was experiencing chronic and potentially career-ending knee pain. Colnago made adjustments to Magni’s drivetrain, and the champion then went on to win that years Giro. Magni was so pleased he took Ernesto on as head mechanic for his team. Colnago joined the Molteni team in 1963 and then in 1970 Merckx, already a Tour winner, was brought in. So began a relationship that would culminate with Colnago building frames and customising parts for Eddy’s 1972 hour record (the bike weighing just 5.5 kg!) Merckx, like Coppi before him, was a perfectionist when it came to his equipment, he would leave nothing to chance. There are stories of him having his handlebars (including cables) changed mid race, or sending a mechanic back to his garage in Belgium to get a particular frame during the Tour de France. Colnago was also a perfectionist, so this worked well. They parted ways in 1974 due to the fact that Colnago wanted his name (rather than Merckx’) on the frames the team rode, in order to build his brand. Colnago moved to the SCIC team as framebuilder, and rival Ugo de Rosa built Merckx frames from then on (eventually helping Merckx start his own frame workshop after he stopped racing). Colnago continued to build frames, regarded as ‘the Ferrari of bikes’ (not least because he often collaborated with the sports car maker).

Julien DeVries What do Eddy Merckx, Greg Lemond and Lance Armstrong all have in common? World Championships and multiple Tours de France victories, plus mechanic Julien DeVries. DeVries took over at Molteni following Colnago’s departure, working alongside De Rosa. Like Merckx, he was a perfectionist and somewhat nervous. He worked with a range of teams, working some 50 Tours de France. He worked with Lemond at ADR and Team Z, followed by Motorola and US Postal. Lemond and Armstrong were both innovators constantly looking for a technological edge (the latter also with regards to doping). It makes sense that they would seek out the best mechanic in the business.

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The late, great Sheldon Brown

Sheldon Brown Moving away from the world of the professional peloton, Sheldon was the everyman’s mechanic. After spending time in France (begining a life long love of French bicycles) Brown worked at Harris Cyclery in West Newton, Massachusetts for most of his career. Meanwhile he built and maintained SheldonBrown.com, a veritable online bicycle encyclopedia. Seriously, if you’ve got a question about a bike, chances are the answer is on Sheldon’s site. Since his premature death in 2008 the website has continued under the guidance of friends of his. For someone who worked in a bike shop, Sheldon had a very “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude and resisted marketing bumf and commercialism. He saw bikes as a practical machine that must above all fit their user and suit their intended purpose. A keen tinkerer, Sheldon kept a collection of unique bikes that he details on his site.

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Lennard Zinn in his workshop

Lennard Zinn, following the death of Sheldon Brown, has a good claim to knowing more about bicycles than anyone else in the world. He rode for the US national cycling team in his youth, and went on to become a framebuilder and author. Zinn Cycles also offers a range of components, many of which cater to taller cyclists (Zinn is 6’6″). As well as his numerous bike maintenance books, Zinn writes a Technical FAQ for Velonews, to which readers can submit questions. Zinn is more of a modernist than Brown, and has closer ties to the industry. Contrary to Brown’s workhorse approach, zinn is performance orientated, he specialises in high end road, cyclocross and mountain bikes. Following a recent heart scare, he has written several pieces on cardiovascular health in older athletes.