Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Reunited

Bella Ciao with Vintage Ideale Saddle and Wooden Grips
After what seems like ages, beloved Patrizia has finally returned to me. This is my personal Bella Ciao bicycle that has undergone many customisations and served as the "Superba" prototype guineapig. Having spent months in various states of disassembly, she then endured a long stay at the rack-maker's workshop - all without a word of complaint. And now she is back, her slender curves enticing me with promises of a romantic Indian summer.

Ideale Model 6 Saddle
I am also reunited with the wonderful Ideale saddle I'd acquired in a trade some time ago. I had installed it on a vintage mixte I owned at the time, but after that bicycle was sold the saddle lived in my closet for over a year, waiting for the right moment to re-emerge. It looks and feels quite at home here.

Ideale Model 6 Saddle
Ideale was a French saddle manufacturer and the Model 6 is a wide, short-nosed women's saddle that was made some time in the '70s. Although some have drawn parallels between the vintage Ideale and contemporary Berthoud saddles, in my opinion they are nothing alike and Berthoud is not an Ideale remake.

Finding a vintage Ideale in good condition is not all that common. After years of use, these saddles tend to suffer from the type of distortion where a painful center ridge forms that is resistant even to the "blocking" (wet reshaping) remedy. It is an amazing stroke of luck that mine does not suffer from this defect. Truthfully, I am somewhat torn between wanting to use it because it is comfortable and wanting to preserve it because it is rare.

SA 3-Speed Trigger Shifter
Finally, I am reunited with the wooden grips I began to experiment with a few months back. I've decided to keep them on this bike, and they have been surprisingly comfortable. I thought that I might get blisters on my hands, but it hasn't happened. I am also happy to report that they haven't cracked or distorted despite plenty of humidity and temperature changes over the summer. I am not going to finish them with any kind of sealant, because I'd like to see what happens to them in the winter. Vintage collectors who are experienced with wooden grips have told me that if the grips are made "in the right way" they should not need any sealant and will be fine as they are. We'll see. While I'd be reluctant to recommend these for mainstream use, personally I love them.

Customised Bella Ciao Corvo Citta
Riding this particular bicycle always makes me realise how weird my tastes are. Responses to it have included "Ew, that colour!", "How can you ride with those things on the handlebars?" and "Is that a woman's army bike??" - all of which I've found oddly gratifying. Looking with fondness at her wooden grips, pukey powdercoat, trigger shifter and mottled 40 year old saddle makes me want to put my arm around Patrizia: "Looks like it's just you and me, babe."

31 comments:

  1. Do strangers actually come up to you to say unkind things about your bike? That's such a bizarre impulse! I happen to think she's very beautiful. Enjoy!

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  2. Responses to it have included "Ew, that colour!", "How can you ride with those things on the handlebars?" and "Is that a woman's army bike??" - all of which I've found oddly gratifying.

    I actually love the color!

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  3. Count me in, I REALLY like this bike ;?)
    badmother

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  4. Beautiful in all her glory and imperfection. Thanks for posting your feedback on the details, like grips. It's great info.

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  5. I don't think the powdercoat is pukey. I actually slightly prefer this color to the color of the Superbas.

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  6. She is looking very handsome. I still think that the planned rack is crying out for those fab Swiss ammo bags especially given the bike's colours. Italian +Swiss = perfection!

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  7. Keep the Ideale saddle on the bike. It needs to live, grow, change and serve it's true purpose!

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  8. Those responses are crazy, that bike is so beautiful!

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  9. Why would you intentionally not seal the grips, knowing they could crack? Seems like a waste.

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  10. Ewwwwwwwwwwww, that color!
    just kidding.
    I like the new banner. It's fresh, new and still comfortably familiar - another updated classic.

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  11. kiwigem - I've been asked whether it's an army bike in person and also asked about the grips. They weren't so much negative comments, as expressions of curiosity. The idea that chunky wooden grips like these could be comfortable is counterintuitive, so it's completely understandable to me. The colour - some people really dislike it, but those comments have all been online. Some have written to me to double and triple check that the actual Superba will be a different shade of green before ordering it : ))

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  12. I recently picked up an Ideale saddle (by "picked up" I mean "a customer was replacing it and I said 'you throwing that away?'") Not sure what model it is, the surface is a bit too far gone to read the label, but it's a bit of a narrower "racing" style. A bit of leather conditioner and a bit of tension and it's pretty comfy, if not beautiful. They seem to be a good find, and very sturdily made, enjoy yours!

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  13. Anon 11:33 - I am not sealing them precisely to test whether they will crack or not. My understanding is that they most likely will not. If they can survive unfinished, I'd rather keep them this way, because I quite like the current texture.

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  14. Ha! Pukey! Love it. And the color. :)

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  15. By all means use that No. 6. Nothing more boring than a rarity in a box in a closet.
    Rarest I ever had was a Gloria La Garibaldina Extra, fitted with inch-pitch Old Record, Campy QR track hubs, Scheeren rims birdlaced, B-17 Swallow. It was the '70s. No one knew collectable. Bought that bike for $125, sold it for $125. It was great for two years and then it was in the way and someone else had a chance to play. You learn by riding, you learn precious little by cataloguing.
    Keep your eyes open for an Ideale TB14. Cycleczar has a nice photo. He doesn't show the underside, where a row of miniature graduated bungees give spring support. Great city saddle.

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  16. That saddle always reminds me of vintage luggage and those old European leather pouches and bags that you sometimes see in army surplus stores. I think it looks absolutely perfect on that bike.

    I have a collection of various leather ammo pouches, goggle cases and antique boxes for fly fishing reels and that sort of thing. I never intended to collect them but they tend to be so well made and useful that I kept buying them whenever I saw one. I use them for all sorts of things bike and art related but like you and that saddle, I'm torn between using them and preserving them.

    If you take any kind of care of that saddle I suspect it would take years for it to show any real damage and then it hopefully would be gradual and give you time to take it off and put it in the "permanent collection".

    Spindizzy

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  17. FWIW, I like the color, kind of a "goes-with-anything" vibe, like a comfy pair of khaki trousers, just waiting for a bright red bow tie to jazz it up (maybe that's just me, with the khaki trousers and bow ties, I dunno)

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  18. The Bella Ciao has a special place in my heart because I tried sketching it once. And, granted not my best work, but I still like how it came out.

    I love the tones of color you chose for the new banner.

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  19. You are a true bike lover and I appreaciate that. I have a fave that has only 5 speeds, heavier than most of my bikes but rides like a dream when I'm just cruisin. Her name is Carmen, a candy red Raleigh Sprite mixte 5-speed. Love is love is all I can say. Ride on!

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  20. Spindizzy - My main worry is it getting wet in unexpected rain, but I suppose that I can just make a habit of putting a saddle cover on it whenever I leave the bike. I know what you mean about old luggage; I try very hard not to start collecting such things or there would be no end to it!

    Sue - I remember that sketch, and the one of Dottie - thank you!

    Thanks Liz and everyone. I thought that I might get jealous of the real Superba bikes when they came out, but I am happy with my "old" bicycle for personal use. When I have the energy, I will re-attach the rack, replace the stem with a non-riser one, and maybe look for a crankset with skinnier cranks that will still fit inside the chaincase (not possible at the level of commercial production, but I may be able to find a vintage one-off). Oh and I'd like to eventually get a set of cream elastic dressguards and drill the fenders. Should be interesting!

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  21. "Is that a woman's army bike?"

    "Yes, and I'm on a special mission right now..."

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  22. Patrizia is a very pretty bike, indeed! You should ride her as is, even with the old saddle. Bikes are meant to be ridden.

    I love, love, the new banner. It speaks to your love of photography and bikes with a more updated and less Victorian-ish photo. Bravo.

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  23. MelissatheRagamuffinSeptember 7, 2011 at 9:34 AM

    I like that color too. I guess there's no accounting for taste.

    Random Question: Considering that I REALLY don't like clip pedals are there any recommendations you or anyone else would make for pedals that your feet won't slip off of in the rain. I don't recall ever having this problem with my mountain bike, but it's a big one on Miss Surly.

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  24. Anon 6:33 - Ah, I looked up the Ideale TB 14! I am actually very sure I've seen one of those, in Vienna. Will check next time I am there. I am not a fan of the "double butted" saddles but they are certainly interesting.

    Melissa - Have you tried Power Grips?

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  25. I have two Ideale saddles, I love them both, best place to get one is ebay.fr if you don't mind buying based only on photos and paying the shipping....I am much closer to France than you so the shipping is not too bad from my point of view

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  26. That is lucky. Almost everyone I know who's bought Ideale saddles on ebay lately has had bad experiences - mostly that center ridge being worse than the seller let on or the pictures revealed. I guess it's largely a matter of luck. Still I suggest asking thorough questions about the saddle's condition if you don't know the owner and can't see it in person.

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  27. I love this bike and think it is absolutely gorgeous! I do have a technical question:

    I am intrigued by your wooden grips and have a friend who is an amazing wood turner. I asked him if wooden bike handles were something he'd be interested in making and he's game. He did ask me how you keep the grips on the handle bars. Did you use any kind of epoxy to secure the grips?

    Also, I was one of the folks who wanted you to keep the old banner, but now that you have a new banner up I really like it! Well done!

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  28. LanzaMarie: It's not difficult. Either permanent 3M double sided tape or spray on rubber adhesive will work. It's similar to attaching cork grips.

    I suppose you could use epoxy, but you need to be able to remove the grips relatively easily in order to replace brake levers, shifter or change stems, etc. I wouldn't use too permanent of an attachment method.

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  29. LanzaMarie - I've seen several types of wooden grips, and I think that one of the things that makes these comfortable is their ergonomic shape. I'd suggest that your friend buy a pair of cheap reconstituted cork grips and copy the shape of those in wood if he is able to.

    As for attachment, I agree with MDI's comment.

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  30. Thank you so much, MDI and Velouria for the advice! Both the info on the adhesives and shape of the grips is valuable and appreciated!

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  31. Been away from 'net. You still check these? TB14 is a mattress saddle. The "double butted" feature is there so the type of failure that plagues Troxel or Terry's saddles won't happen - where one spring gets all the load. The leather on these is thin. Without springs it might go longer than a Troxel that had vinyl only, it wouldn't be a lot of miles.
    Patrizia is perfect w/the 6. TB14 would be more for the Gazelle.
    I purchased two TB14s back when they were still in production, gave them to girlfriends. Both loved them. One saddle has been resprung and releathered, and the owner is not a super-collector, just someone who appreciates what's good and what's comfortable.

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