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A Simple Job

Opening the package revealed a full chrome Frejus track frame, late 1960's vintage.   It was filthy dirty, in a way only city bikes can get, but the ornate decals were still 98% intact.  Rich transparent cobalt blue painted panels shown like Vatican glass.  Chrome had weathered just slightly, a testament to time passed, without yielding to rust.  The head badge, a tarnished metal lace, still proudly held all seven colors.  Gracefully aged.  Perhaps filth had protected this frame, filtering the evil from benign effects of time.   I hadn't seen such a fine example of this classic Italian marque in many years.  It made my day...

The Three R's

Now class... Who has done their homework and can list the three "R's"? Jimmie? "Refurbish, Renovate and Restore". Very good! What are their simple definitions? Anybody? Eduardo? "Refurbish... To clean and polish, preserving all existing finish and parts. Renovate...To make new, updating components, making modifications such as changing paint design or adding braze-ons. Restore...To rebuild, refinish and replace as necessary to return the bicycle to it's original new condition." Very, very good!

Now, presuming that all present have fulfilled the pre-requisite... ownership of a vintage race bike, I'd like to preview the semantics, economics and ethics chapters of your Vintage Racing Bicycles Textbook, as relates to the Three R's:

Santa was working overtime in Vista!

It's getting to be Xmas again. Last year, about this time, Mr. Stuart carried in an old girl's balloon tire bike. A J. C. Higgins, with horn tank, fenders, lights, rear rack... all the toys. Now rusty & dented, rotted and twisted, it must have been quite glamorous when new. Usually, when one of these comes in, the customer wants to know "how much it's worth", then tries to sell it to me. Not Mr. Stuart, he wants it restored, "just like new." He listens patiently to my "We can do it, but it will be expensive, much more than replacing it with something similar" speech, then says, "This bike is important to my wife, Becky. She's had it since she was twelve still rides it once in a while, but recently, she's been depressed about it, keeps saying she should have taken better care of it. She's tried to clean it, but she breaks out in tears. I've gotten her other bikes, but this one means something. I want to surprise her for Xmas, so to bring it here I told her I gave it away when I cleaned out the garage. I'm still in the dog house."


Museum Piece

They walk into CyclArt, glance over the display of restored or original vintage bikes & say, "Wow! it's like a museum, in here." They look at their reflection in the finishes of the custom & art bikes & declare, "That's too pretty to ride!"

I've seen bikes we've worked on go in collections never to be ridden again. I don't get it... bikes come in to get restored to original condition, then are put away as if this can never happen again. Road bikes can be maintained indefinitely. Evidence of usage is not unsightly, neglect is. Crash damage makes a good conversation piece. Damaging one's showpiece is painful, but what is life without risk? Make your safe investments in mutual funds; a bicycle is for experiencing the real world. Search out the old parts, send the frame out to refinish when needed, but stop using it? Not me. Not even the ones that DO go to the museum.

Money Exchange

A real life Email exchange about the cost of vintage parts.  Not for the squeamish…

Did you see that creep dealer advertising  the NOS (New Old Stock) Campagnolo Nuovo Record triple crankset for $700?  What a pirate!  I have one I'd sell for $200, just to make him look bad. I think that greedy bastards like that should be run out of business.

Slen@AOL  (not his real name)

Actually, he was much more vile, hostile and long winded than that, his prose filled with nasty expletives… but you get the idea.  The hostility troubled me, so I wrote back:

Retro grouch at training camp

Looking back  to check on a fading ally or a charging competitor without wavering off-line is a staple of any racer's technique.  

CyclArt is co-sponsoring Team Edge, this season.  The team was hosting a training camp featuring recently retired pro Allen Peiper, Wheelsmith's coach Brett Hanson, Soigneurs Niki Detrick and Patty Spiller, Mechanic Chris Clinton, Medical Technician Earl Ditrick and Writer Maynard Hershon.  There were to be two lecture and two rides each day for four days.  Team President Robert Fuller invited me to attend, to lecture on CyclArt frame finishing one night and to participate with the team.  Perhaps he wanted to inject a little relief into the heavy schedule.  I'm sure I relaxed those weary riders into a near coma with my slideshow of pretty bikes, but it seems my role was also to build those "looking back" skills.


've been restoring old bicycles and helping create new ones professionally for 21 years now. I learn at least one new thing every day. Some days I forget two.

My father used to build racecars. Car shows were always exciting events for us, the best of them were judged events called "Concours d' Elegance" filled with a wide range of race, show and classics. We'd go and I'd almost touch the cars I had admired in the stacks of magazines at home. In those days, I could identify the make, model and year of thousands of cars, each from a single photo. Still, to actually stand next to the real thing, to study it at close range, to absorb it's lines and proportions while walking around it, eclipsed all the glossy prints Frequently, the owner was with his machine, eager to answer questions; things the books left unsaid. At the best events, old rivals shook hands, swapped stories and maybe signed an autograph for a young fan.

The limits & ethics of bicycle restoration.

A DAILY QUESTION around here.  A guy will call up saying something like, "I've got an old bike.  Won some races on it when I was... ahh... younger.  It's got a lotta junk parts on it now I'm gonna toss, I got most of the original parts inna box, even bought spare parts like new, but the frame needs help."  I ask him for more detail, he seems stunned that I haven't tried to sell him a mountain bike, then goes on:  "Bought it in '62, from the 'ol man himself, toured Europe on it.  Rode it through college, and a couple of marriages. There are other bikes now, but I still like to ride it.  Only one I ever saw, even tried to contact the old man for decals when the rust first showed up, but he's gone.  Maybe it should be retired, displayed, with the jerseys and trophies an' stuff.  I think it might be valuable someday.  I'm concerned about rust.  I saw a job you did on an old buddy's bike, it was really sweet, but he went kind of custom, added braze-ons and changed the color.  I want mine to look like new.  How accurately can you restore a frame?