Monday, June 13, 2016

I Said, Goddamn!

80s Italian Modern/Vintage Build

You know that scene from Pulp Fiction? Well my reaction was very much like that. Except, well, without the cocaine. But then who needs cocaine, anyway, when there are bicycles? Glorious, lovely bicycles in their endless iterations, ever-ready to give us a thrilling contact high?

He wheeled out the candy-red, chrome-tipped, white-accented, vintage-modern-sparkly concoction into the flickering mid-afternoon sunlight and what else could I say, but god damn?

80s Italian Modern/Vintage Build

After that, we joked that this was the bicycle’s name. Could that be what the mysterious G stamped into its fork crown and stay caps stood for?

I had also taken to calling the bicycle ol’ G.  For it was certainly a bit Gangster. As well as somewhat of a Geezer (in a good way, of course).

It so happens that G is also its new owner's initial - Gary. It was this that first drew his attention to this frame, with its Pinarello decals but an otherwise suspicious lack of identifiers.

Italian Mystery Frame

On receipt, these suspicions were confirmed. A Pinarello this frameset is not. But it is: Italian, handbuilt, elegantly finished, and made - judging by the stamped birdies and the weight of the frame and fork - of Columbus SL tubing. Not bad.

Italian Mystery Frame

I had delayed writing this post in hopes that we would know more about the frame's identity by now. But alas, research has proven fruitless so far. None of my connections have heard of an Italian builder who'd stamped "G" into their frames in this exact manner. And I can find no other example of identical markings online. And while, in theory, G could have also been the customer's initial,  the "R.T." written on the steerer in blue would seem to contradict that.

In any case, a plausible, I think, scenario is that the frame was a one-off, made (perhaps on the side?) for a friend of the builder. But just who these G. and R.T. were we might never know.

80s Italian Modern/Vintage Build

What we do know is what is what's in front of us. Which is: classic Italian geometry (low bottom bracket, "long and low" proportions, short chainstays, high trail), lugwork indicating mid-80s vintage,  beautiful paint, and some aftermarket Pinarello decals.

Whether it does more justice to the bike to remove the decals, or whether keeping them preserves its history, is something that is still being debated. But for now they stay.

80s Italian Modern/Vintage Build

As I mentioned in the previous post, this is my husband's fledgling attempt at a bicycle build. One day he decided he wanted a vintage steel Italian racing frame. And he wanted to build it up with components himself.

What followed were several feverish weeks during which he went from having only a very basic knowledge of bicycle fit, assembly, frame/component compatibility, and so forth, to that knowledge becoming encyclopedic. All I could do was sit back and observe in awe, answering the occasional question, as he read countless articles and hunted for bargain parts on ebay.

80s Italian Modern/Vintage Build

Finally, this here is the result. He's been riding the bicycle for a month now and has even changed a few parts already (the wheels, tyres, seatpost and bottle cage - if you compare to the first photo). But he reckons at this point it is finished.

The complete bike weighs in at just over 19lb. And, with a 520 x 540mm frame, it is set up to fit him exactly like his modern Honey road bike, to the millimeter. In that sense, he decided to go with a modern road-race fit when choosing the frame size. And also (in case it isn't obvious!) with modern components. He did consider doing it up with period-correct stuff at first, but ultimately decided not to. He reasoning here was that, fitting a vintage racing frame with today's technology is a sign of respect - a way of recognising that the frame was not made to look pretty or quaint, but to perform, and giving it a chance to perform with the latest technological advantages.

80s Italian Modern/Vintage Build

Of course the 13 year old Campagnolo Daytona group is not, strictly speaking "the latest." But he didn't want to spend too much on an experimental build. And in any case it is certainly a decent enough group (Daytona is the old name for Centaur) which he snagged for a song in excellent condition - supplemented by a Record bottom bracket, headset and front derailleur, at that.

A funny aspect of this drivetrain, though, is its massive gearing: This bike is a 53/39t in the front, 13-26t in the rear, whereas his modern roadbike is a 50/34t front, 12-32t rear. Quite a difference, and switching back and forth between them has quickly expanded his climbing technique repertoire.

80s Italian Modern/Vintage Build

The stem is a very elegant looking older 3TTT,

80s Italian Modern/Vintage Build

and the handlebars modern Deda Shallow Drop 215, which have considerably down-sloping shoulders.

80s Italian Modern/Vintage Build

The seatpost is a Deda subzero in black and white, which matches the stem and handlebar setup nicely.

80s Italian Modern/Vintage Build

And the saddle is a carbon Brooks Cambium C13, which is a topic for another time!

80s Italian Modern/Vintage Build

Finally, after first riding on some older Mavic Open Pros, he swapped over to the 4-year old Ksyriums from my Seven - my one contribution to this build (my own bike is getting a little make-over, as the crosswinds have driven me to abandon flat-bladed spokes).

It's funny how the red hub and spoke of the Ksyrium wheel match the red paint of the fork almost exactly, and personally I think it's a little too matchy. But he likes it, and that's the important thing.

With the exception of the French wheels and American pedals, everything on the bike is Italian - right down to the Brooks (made in Italy) saddle.

80s Italian Modern/Vintage Build

Overall, while red bikes are not really my thing (But how can they not be? They're faster!), I like everything about his build in the sense that I think it suits the owner very well. It is punchy and aggressive, yet elegant. And I like it that the - granted, rather unorthodox - modern component medley looks purpose-driven, yet still aesthetically pleasing in its own way.

80s Italian Modern/Vintage Build

And did I mention the lugs and the paint? What is it about paint from this vintage that makes it look so peculiarly delicious? {Edited to add: In fact it is translucent paint over a metallic basecoat, as explained here.} The resulting sheen is of a deeper, glassier quality than anything contemporary I've seen, and Gary is enamoured of it.  It is why he would not want to respray this frame, despite its few nicks here and there. But removing the Pinarello decals (which are not clear-coated over, so it would be simple enough) is another matter, and that's still under consideration.

One idea I suggested is to make his own decals; just make up a new identity entirely for the bike. If the bicycle has no past, perhaps it needs a future.

80s Italian Modern/Vintage Build

And the future, it seems, is already in the making. As I've mentioned, he has been riding this bike for a month and has made lots of interesting observations that have sparked off countless discussions between us on the virtues of different types of tubing, geometries, wheels, tyres, gearing and so on.

One thing that particularly took me aback, is that while riding this bike he independently discovered "planing" -  noting one day that, while not as stiff as his modern Honey, the flex of this frame seems to work with his pedal strokes when he puts in effort or pushes on climbs. He had previously assumed that the stiffer a bicycle was, the better (performance-wise), but now sees it as a more complicated matter.

Comfort-wise, he loves the bicycle's ride feel. And as far as speed - well, he wouldn't take it on a fast club ride instead of his Honey, unless deliberately looking to make things harder on himself. But when he rides with me, it subtly acts as an equaliser, is the way I would put it (so in that sense alone I am glad he has this bike!).

80s Italian Modern/Vintage Build

In describing Gary's return to cycling and initial search for a new bike last year, I had mentioned he went from wanting a carbon frame from a mainstream manufacturer to, in the end, choosing to go with modern lightweight steel from a niche maker. And while I am not entirely blameless there, I honestly never expected for things to go quite this far in the "steel is real" direction. That he grew interested in vintage bikes with such passion and intensity came as a great surprise.

Now here stands the result of all that: The Ol' G.

Mysterious. Italian. Smooth. And dapper as heck, with a new lease on life. True, we don't know what the G stands for. But today I say it stands for "Good job on your first build." And of course - I mean, jeez, just look at it  - G is for Goddamn! 


55 comments:

  1. Your gentleman's bike is quite the looker. I've been waiting to see the finished product.

    Just so happens that my red, mid-80s, Bianchi is slated to get a very similar look for itself. Though my build is a bit blasphemous in that I run shimano and Suntour parts, no Campy.

    Wolf.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Shimano?! How dare you sir.

      I jest. Japanese it to the max and enjoy. Around these parts riders have been using Shimano almost exclusively since the late '70s, to the point that some local cyclists I know had never even seen Campy components "in the flesh" until I appeared. The husband too, when he first rode back in the day, used Shimano. But he was curious to try Campy (sorry - Campag!) and is now - to my surprise actually; I wasn't sure he would like it at all - a convert. To each their own.

      Delete
  2. Yeah, that thing is the business. Did he cold-set the stays himself?
    Candy-apple paint (which is almost certainly what this is) usually consists of a metallic basecoat with a color glaze on top. When well done, the overall layers are thin, but show great depth. These photos really show off how pretty the bike is. Congrats on a beautiful build.


    Curious to see where you go with replacement wheels for Desdemona.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cold-set the stays himself, yup. In some frames it is very easy, in others harder, and this one was luckily the former.

      I am researching wheels madly now and will write about that soon.

      Delete
  3. Why ever should this bike be disqualified from fast club rides? Looks like bikes I use and see on those rides. Where would there be any difference in potential speed? All I can even think of is he prefers the more familiar bike in fast company.

    This is not what is usually referenced when speaking of thin Italian paint. When you see thin Italian you will know it. This is not thick paint by any means, nor is it close to what would be found on a vintage Masi or Cinelli.

    Should you build those wheels without flat spokes go ahead and get flat rims at the same time. If you ride with both flat and tall rims it is very noticeable that tall rims are kicked around more by crosswinds. Most of us adapt pretty easily, many current riders have never been on anything but tall rims and have no problems. If you are going to a lot of trouble building wheels you may as well go all the way. Flat rims are also more comfortable. You can also experiment with spoke tension for comfort. Heavy riders need tension, light riders have a choice. Speaking of light, I've built lots of wheels for lightweight women with 18-24 spokes and flat rims, and did that long before people were used to seeing low spoke counts. No problems. What you do need to watch out for is older rims that will not take the tensions required by 130 hubs with lots of cogs. There are fewer good choices in modern flat rims but they are still available.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. > Speaking of light, I've built lots of wheels for lightweight women with 18-24 spokes and flat rims

      That is basically what I want, with round spokes.

      The bike is fast, but his modern bike has a bit of an advantage. It's not an extreme difference, but is there.

      Delete
    2. Should be a straightforward build. Given that Ksyrium is not particularly reliable and definitely not light you could have wheels that are superior in every way. You will however have a different degree of involvement. Something happens you don't get to call Mavic service. You are the designer. Your wheels.

      If the modern bike is faster that would be because the bike-rider matchup works better for this individual. The G bike has clipless, aero wheels, brifters. Absolutely nothing in Columbus versus Seven proprietary steel that makes any difference to end speed. Mere modernity doesn't make a bike fast.

      Delete
  4. If memory serves, didn't Guerciotti stamp "G" in its seat stay plugs and on the fork crown in its 1970s era racing bikes?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Re this and other suggestions: There are lots of Italian builders with G initials, and I've looked at most of them, but there's no match. The "G" in this particular frame has a very DIY quality to it too, and there are no other identifiers (on, say, the bottom bracket), that you would have seen with the other names. To me this indicates the bike was a builder's personal, on-the-side project, whoever he was.

      Delete
  5. It might be a Guerciotti.

    Red bikes aren't my thing, either, but I like the looks of that one.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Apropos to vintage red paint:

    http://davesbikeblog.squarespace.com/blog/2015/6/16/candy-apple-paint.html

    Beautiful build. Aesthetically it reminds me very much of my own red Fuso (mentioned in the article above). It even has the same gearing! I'd love to know what your husband thinks of the old race gearing compared to that of the Honey.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That seems like it indeed! Thanks for the link.

      Delete
  7. Replies
    1. I had looked at all the makers mentioned in the other comments already (no match), but missed this one.

      {off to image-browse madly}

      Delete
  8. "G" could point to Guerciotti, perhaps?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Guerciotti could be it. Dunno why one would relable such a bike to Pinarello.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Whats more with "G". Gios, but I think the lugwork looks different. Grandis is another framemaker from Italy...

    ReplyDelete
  11. Possibly one of these - https://www.flickr.com/photos/42523160@N05/sets/72157654580433413
    This now belongs to a friend of mine. I can get more pictures and details if wanted. It will be at the Eroica this weekend

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. https://www.flickr.com/photos/42523160@N05/sets/72157654580433413/with/19726021864/
      This might work better

      Delete
    2. That's a nice looking bike, and enjoy Eroica!

      Doesn't look like the same signature, though, as it were. Lots of Italian makers with G initials, but all I've seen so far are not done quite in the same style as Gary's frame.

      Delete
  12. That bike has personality, personality goes a long way.

    Those wheels look wicked on it also.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Been thinking about the pantographed 'G' on your frame. I don't think it is a Guerciotti as the G tended to be inside a star on the fork crown. A possibility may be Gimondi as Felice Gimondi did have bikes made with his name on.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I am reasonably sure it's a Guerciotti, they were extremely popular in that era, also I believe in the 80's there were shops in Italy turning out frames for various different Italian margues that were more or less interchangeable, good quality lower to mid price level bikes. Swap the lugs out, different decals, Bam it's a Pinarello, this ones a Guerciotti, oh, this ones a Masi. So the Pinarello decal is probably not far off the mark.
    Still, it looks great and definitely a good grab. - Mas

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I betcha any steel Geurciotti came from Geurciotti's own shop. Aluminum ones were Alan's of course. Carbon? Who knows but I suspect Geurciotti never had so many orders to keep up with that they had to resort to having them made outside. In fact it's more likely they were building bikes for some other bigger names that had trouble keeping up when they were the hot bike of the season.

      In any event, that bike, neat as it is, aint a Guerciotti(listen to me pretending to be an expert) but one of the other wonderful old "Etceterini's"...

      Spindizzy

      Delete
  15. Could it have been a special (skunk works) build for a racing chap racing under the Pinarello banner?

    ReplyDelete
  16. Has anybody mentioned that it may be a Guerciotti?




    In the absence of real facts, total balderdash is the only way to go. Give it a lengthy, and colorful, history. Speak reverentially of its many, many victories over the years, at the hands of masters. Proclaim it being far "too much" for them to handle, and explain that as the reason for the ever-changing-ownership over the course of time. Perhaps hint at the time it has spent in France. Don't permit anybody to touch it, and if they do, pull a clean cloth from your jersey pocket and wipe it down, muttering indignantly all the while. Made for a king! Adored by all! Retired to the hills of Ireland!



    Wolf.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I suspect that the frame was relabeled as a Pinarello because it was made for some pro or high level amateur racer who was on a team sponsored by Pinarello but the rider preferred to ride something else and had his own frames made. This was not uncommon at all in racing until the carbon fiber era mostly brought that to an end.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just like the Ralianchi that was written about previously!

      Delete
  18. It's probably a bike someone thought they needed to pass off as something "better" than what they could afford. It's sort of a shame in this case because while it's not a Pinarello, some builder deserves to get a little credit for some first rate work. Like you say, it's obviously a quality bike and the fact that it rides like a Thoroughbred makes it one, right?

    That man of yours could just do like Peter Weigle does with his little added "NOT" painted over the 531 Decals. You could discreetly letter "Faux" or "Pretend" by the Pinarello script. It's unknown backstory sort of adds some appeal over some other bikes anyway, I'd rather have it's twin(in 59cm) than most of the Celeste Bianchi's my friends were riding in the late 90s when Bianchi was busy milking it's heritage in sort of a cynical way...

    Spindizzy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It struck me that way too at first, rather than the alternative possibility of the rider being Pinarello-sponsored, yet choosing to ride a frame made by his local builder. However, the more I look at the bicycle and in particular its finishing, the less certain I am.

      The NOT thing is funny. But I generally don't like defining a thing by what it is not (this is also why I dislike terms such as un-racing). Seems unfair to the thing, a bit like describing a fox as "not a wolf," or a bicycle as "not a car," you know?

      Delete
    2. The thing about resisting defining things by what they are not, that's a powerful idea when you spend some time with it. I suspect I do that a lot more than I realize...

      Anyway, in regards to this Bicycle, till you figure out where it came from and who it's parents are, all we know is that it's a good one and it was traveling on a bogus Pinarello passport. Does that make it more or less compelling than if it was picked up with empty pockets and no I.D. at all? Either way it's another interesting thing that would make that bike a pretty satisfying thing to have around...

      Spin

      Delete
  19. Oh, and another thing, If he wanted to make it faster he could just put the biggest sew-ups he can squeeze between the stays on it. It's true potential and personality would then be loosed upon an unsuspecting world...

    Spin

    ReplyDelete
  20. 3 stripes under the Bottom Bracket... Maybe it's an Adidas.

    ReplyDelete
  21. A possibility for new decals?
    http://www.rivbike.com/product-p/m11.htm

    ReplyDelete
  22. How do you say "Goddamn!" in Irish? I could see making up some decals...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not sure anything quite like that exists. Cursing tends to be very specific and creative : )

      Delete
    2. Maybe "Bloody Hell," in English, at least.

      Delete
  23. What a BEAUTIFUL build. And I'm sure it rides even better than it looks. Also, if there is still no luck on finding the builder's name, Gary might as well put his name or GODDAMN down the side of it in vinyl decals, just to make it his own ;) It's funny - I just took a ratty 1977 Takara 10-speed frame and built a retro-direct drive train on it. If that wasn't attention-getting enough to those who would care, I'm about to put "DAMSON" on the down tube, as in "damn, son!" Ironically, it's also a red frame with white letters.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, Damson is a great one : ) Actually passes for a framebuilder's name before you realise what's up! Pictures please?

      Delete
    2. Oh! I did not realize there was a reply. Sorry for the delay; here it is. And that was the idea - to make it seem like a lesser-known name until the individual looks more closely.

      http://stuffjaydoesforfun.blogspot.com/2016/06/another-monster-emerges-1977-damson.html

      Have you ridden retro-direct before? It is quite funky but well worth it.

      Delete
  24. Looks good it does! It appeals to me as it seems to package aggressive and fun all into one.
    I am curious about the frame size...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 52cm seat tube and 54cm (more like 54.3) top tube.

      Delete
  25. It's a Gnemo (that's Latin for gnoname). The Fossil

    ReplyDelete
  26. That bicycle has real presence – your husband has a great sense of aesthetics, but I suppose like attracts like... :)

    Concerning the gearing, I’ve got a Carrera TdF with a 53/39 chainset and a 12-26 cassette. You just learn to live with it and adapt your technique accordingly – I find I get out of the saddle when climbing as opposed to sitting and spinning, but I’m one of these loonies who likes hills. I sometimes wonder if compact chainsets / triples / low gearing makes us lazy, or at least makes us less strong. I remember your friend Emily O’Brien saying in her blog that when she was doing brevets on her fixie she often had to get out of the saddle when climbing so she used her upper body a lot more, not just her legs. Curiously, I also find that standing up works as therapy for the back – I used to have a sore back but not any more.

    You should watch the YouTube video of Chris Horner and Vincenzo Nibali going up the last climb on the Vuelta a Espana in 2013 – Nibali sitting and grinding, Horner standing up almost all the way, jogging on the pedals. You can be Nibali, Gary can be Horner. :)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYqQ7vAetCE

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The (in some ways very similar!) Francesco Moser I rode before I got my Seven, was geared 53/39t front and 11-25t rear. I survived, and frankly it didn't even feel as awful as it should have, considering I was a lot less fit in 2011 than I am now. I still prefer low gears. But really we can adapt to almost anything, which is pretty great.

      (Emily though, thats a different story. She's just superhuman!)

      Delete
  27. The "G" in the logo of a certain well-known internet search engine bears a remarkable resemblance to the stamping on this bike.



    Wolf.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Maybe a Grandis,from Verona (Italy).

    ReplyDelete
  29. Absolutelly a Grandis, Chesini's brother in law. Not a Pinarello, nicer for me.
    JOAN (FROM CATALONIA/SPAIN.

    ReplyDelete
  30. To all those suggesting various specific manufacturers (for which I thank you): can you show me an example of a bike that actually has the G in that specific font, style and location? Because I have yet to see that. Also, all the G-named manufacturers inevitably have their full name stamped into parts of the frame, in addition to the G, which is not the case with this, wholly nameless, bike.

    ReplyDelete
  31. The serial number of PL-1 also plays into your idea that this was a one-off build. But goddamn, if so, that is a beautiful first effort. The three stipe cutout on the bottom bracket shell is distinctive enough but I haven't found anything similar. Also the bottom bracket shell in itself has a distinctive web between the chainstays. Nice bike - I look occasionally for the builder but I haven't found a match yet either. I have seen Gitane with a single "g" but I think it was lowercase. This is a fun mystery.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Wow !
    I like what you've done with the place ! ...
    It's been a while. I have metric tons of catching up to do.

    First of all red metallic and red anodizing are my catnip and induce Pavlovian salivation.

    My commuter Olmo Competition is equipped with Shimano 9 speed and happy with it.
    My red Peugeot 531 and drainpipe PA-10 has parts from almost all the regular nationalities - English Bluemels fenders, Shimano/Stronglight/Campagnolo drive train with red prism derailleur and brake cable housing.
    Whatever works and makes one happy.

    For total DNA analysis of that frame I suggest taking closeup pix of all the lugs, dropouts, joints, brazeons etc, measure the seatopst diameter, and asking the cognoscenti on the Classic Rendezvous list.
    We love a good dissection of frames and vintage goodies.

    In the meanwhile, good to see you writing profusely and prolifically !

    vsk




    ReplyDelete
  33. Until the provenance is known for sure, the idea of a new name reflecting the nature of the bike is certainly appropriate.

    How about "Goforth"?

    Cheers,
    Bill in Roswell, GA

    ReplyDelete