Brooks Saddles

If you’re buying a new top of the line bike today, chances are it would be very different from an equivalent bike a century a go. The one exception could be the saddle, which in both cases might well be a Brooks.

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Left to right: Professional, B66 and B17

Brooks originate from Birmingham, the powerhouse of British bicycle building in the twentieth century. They stand out as British components exported all over the world, along with Reynolds tubing and Sturmey-Archer gears (all three Companies were part of the TI Raleigh group for a time). Brooks managed to weather the storm of the European cycling industry’s fallow years and are now booming again, producing both classic designs and new models. Even in France, which had it’s own Ideale brand, Brooks were reputed as the best.

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The B17, ‘the most comfortable saddle of all time’

Shown here are three common models; the ubiquitous B17, a Team Professional and a B66. The B17 is often referred to as the most comfortable saddle in the world – the choice of club riders and long haul cycle tourists. The Professional is a narrow racing model with characteristic copper rivets. The B66 is a sprung model for upright bicycles.

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The Team Professional has large copper rivets

I’ve been riding a San Marco Rolls saddle for years and it’s very comfortable, but for my Coppi build I want something more classic. I’ll be putting either the B17 or Professional on it, depending on which I find more comfortable over a few test rides.

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!

Campagnolo Record

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Campagnolo Record/Super Record Groupset

Among bicycle groupsets, none is more revered than Campagnolo Record. It has been the Italian component manufacturer’s professional grade set since its introduction in 1958, having won 32 Tours de France (more remarkably, Campagnolo Record was used by all but five Tour winners 1963-1998).

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1978 Super Record rear derailleur

 

Record has come in various guises over time, Nuovo Record was introduced in 1967, so called C-Record in 1985, Titanium Record in 1996, but perhaps the most famous is Super Record, introduced alongside Nuovo Record in 1974 (the Super Record name was also revived in 2009 for the current top-end group). From 1967 to 1987 Record, Nuovo Record and Super Record were sold concurrently. The rear derailleur is the only part that is specific to each group, the other parts being shared across two or all three of the groupsets.

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Painted crank arm flutes.

I was lucky enough to pick up a noname frame with an almost complete Nuovo/Super Record mixed group recently. Aesthetically it’s a pretty stunning groupset. A previous owner has cut out the gear levers and front derailleur band, and painted the crank arm flutes with “World Champion” colours. Going on the stamp on the rear derailleur, this is a 1976 group. I’ll be saving these components to one day build up a Sunday bike for myself. I need to source some brake levers as the bike was fitted with first generation Dura-Ace (sacrilege!)

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Cutout and painted shifters and derailleur.

*Update* : a couple of months later I found the matching levers – see Part 2.

What a difference a wheelset makes

A couple of months ago I picked up a pair of wheels at a Vide Grenier.

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Cassette on and ready for tyres!

My wife begrudgingly pointed them out to me so I wandered over to have a browse. I’m always on the lookout for alloy rimmed wheels for my vintage builds. They turned out to be rather more modern – 90’s Campagnolo 8 speed aero wheels, no good for my vintage bikes, but maybe for my 90s Look. I asked the price, expecting something around €100 (sets like these go for €150-€200 on Ebay)… but the guy said €20. Whether I was planning to keep them or sell them on; I couldn’t say no at that price (even my wife agreed).

They are from the lower end of the Campag spectrum, the hubs being perhaps Stratos or Mirage (older campy hubs don’t say), and the rims 22mm Delta. Back when they were made these were perhaps considered aero, even though nowadays carbon rims of this depth are for climbing wheels. They are neither eyeletted nor anodised, which should keep the weight down where it matters.

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I’m becoming a bit of a Campy addict.

My current wheels are handbuilt Athena on Mavic Open SUP, a very nice and sturdy wheelset. It would be useful to have two sets ready to go so I can swap over if I have a problem, and the spare pair could be used on another bike for houseguests to ride

This weekend I repacked the hubs, mounted tires and took them for a spin. Although they seem a bit more sporty than my Mavics, I didn’t know how this would translate into ride quality, or even if I would feel a difference. I certainly think their bare alloy colour looks better than the grey anodising on the Opens.

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Delta is most closely associated with Campy’s record brakes from the late ’80s. Their rims in the ’90s were named with Greek letters.

I was surprised to find the ride incredibly smooth and fast feeling (although this may be partly psychological). I never really gave too much thought to how the wheels could affect the ride of a bike. I was aware of the effect tyres, tubing and geometry, cockpit and saddle, but I had naively ignored this vital element. I guess I’d just assumed that a given rim depth and spoke count would feel similar across different builds.

They look and feel smooth!

They look and feel smooth!

I suppose part of me is surprised that my flashy ‘new’ aero rims run smother than the famous Opens. I’ll be using them as my go-to wheelset from now on, keeping the Mavics for spare/winter riding.

Shimano 600 Groupset

In 1971 Shimano introduced a professional quality rear derailleur, the Crane, to compete with Campagnolo racing models. The Crane was the first step towards Shimano dominating of the pro peloton from the ’90s onwards (for 2014, 10 of the 18 UCI World Tour teams use Shimano components.) Shimano pulled out all the stops, constructing it almost entirely from Aluminium, and priced it accordingly. In order to increase appeal, they also launched a part steel model, called the Titlist (pronounced Title-ist like the golf brand – stop sniggering…) The Titlist was a great success with leisure cyclists, and in 1976 it was tweaked a little and relaunched as part of a new Shimano 600 Groupset. The 600 Group was renamed 600 Ultegra in 1988, and the 600 part dropped in 1998. The Crane derailleur would similarly become part of the Dura-Ace group.

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The idea of a coherent groupset for leisure cyclists was a new one in the ’70s. Components were individually assembled from a variety of smaller European manufacturers; Weinmann or Mafac brakes, SunTour or Simplex derailleurs, T.A. and Stronglight chainsets are just a few examples. Now weekend cyclists could kit themselves out all from one manufacturer, making them look and feel a lot more pro.

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I came across this first generation 600 groupset mounted on a Coppi. Whilst the group was in good condition, the frame is in dire need of a repaint (more on that in a future blog.) I opted to sell on the 600 groupset as I don’t think a Vintage Italian racing bike should have Shimano components, even if they are period correct.

Whilst the second incarnation of 600 (often called Arabesque  due to its patterned finish) may be better known, I love the simplicity of the original group. It’s combination of form and function perfectly matches how I believe bicycle components should be.