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In the fall of 2014, I acquired one of my “grail bikes,” a Jo Routens randonneur.   I wrote it about it here, after it arrived from France and I had ridden it around the city for a few months.  Then in the summer, I took the plunge on a full restoration, with the goal of bringing it to the 2015 Eroica California event in Paso Robles, California.

JR_05It was quite an undertaking, and definitely the most expensive and technically complex restoration I have ever embarked on.  The results were spectacular!

I began by having the frame, fork, stem, and front derailleur re-chromed.  These were all hand made by Jo Routens, just for this bike.   I had the chroming work done at Epner Technology, in Greenpoint Brooklyn.

The guys at Epner did a perfect job, and at a very reasonable price.  For $500, they chemically stripped and prepped the bike, gave it a bright chrome finish, and polished it.  The chrome is exquisite, with no flaws anywhere.  I highly recommend their services!  They did try to up-sell me on a 24 karat gold finish for $5000, but it just didn’t seem right for this bike.

Read on for more details on the restoration and the hi-res picture gallery.

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A few months ago I acquired a 57cm Bianchi Campione del Mondo that I believe to be from the early 1960s,  serial number 201-533.  This gorgeous masterpiece was Bianchi’s top model back then, created in the late 1950s to commemorate the World Championship victory of Fausto Coppi in 1953  at Lugano, Switzerland.  I bought it from an older gentleman in the East Village, NYC, who said it had belonged to his brother.  It was bought new in 1960 and rode it in several races in Italy and France around that time.

bianchi_cdm_10_24172958543_oIt was in truly impressive condition; the previous owner had it in dry storage for several decades after his brother’s untimely death. It still had a faded Italian flag tied around the brake cables.  There were a few small scratches in the paint and some of the Bianchi decal on the downtube had come off.
I made zero changes to this bike – I did not even clean or lube it. The original dust around the bottom bracket was still intact.  Normally I enthusiastically restore bikes, but I knew better than to mess with this one.  I’ve never acquired a vintage bike in cleaner original condition and I decided to leave it to the next owner to decide whether it belongs on display or on the road.  As for me, I took the photos and then hung it up in my living room.
Read on for the full parts specification and photo gallery!

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I completed this frame last summer when I was between jobs.  Like the first frame I built, I used vintage lugs and traditionally-sized steel tubing.  The size and geometry of this frame was based on the famous Bridgestone RB-1, of which I owned a 1990 edition, and which had the best handling characteristics of any steel road bike I have ever ridden.

Read on to see more of the build process and results!

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Vitus 979 Restoration


It’s been a while since I’ve updated the ol’ blog, and a whole bunch of bikes have passed through my workshop since last fall.  First up is this gorgeous Vitus 979.  This particular example was purchased “new old stock” about ten years ago from the back stock of a Manhattan bike shop. The logos and paint have been professionally removed to expose the beautiful raw silver of the underlying aluminum, which I hand-polished to a nice shine.

Read on to learn more about the Vitus 979! Continue Reading »

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Remember that song called “I’m A Believer” by 60’s boy band The Monkees?  This bike had me singing it the first time I rode it.  Why? First, some personal history:

cdale_r500_03In the past, I’d always looked down on vintage Cannondale bikes.  Having ridden an aluminum fixed gear for three years in NYC, I came to conclusion that aluminum was not a good choice for city riding.  This, combined with a distaste for the fat tubes and incongruous steel fork of vintage Cannondale road bikes, left me wondering how they rose to become one of the big three bike manufacturers.

Then one day I picked up this frame set, a 1988 Cannondale SR500.  Their entry-level road bike model, it has the same frame as its pricier siblings but with the Shimano 105 groupset.  When I got it, only the cranks and headset remained from the original component set.  So I dug around in my parts boxes and rebuilt it as a flat-bar city bike.

I added Campagnolo Veloce front and rear derailleurs, and a set of Suntour LD-2800 thumbshifters.  A reliable and smooth-shifting blend of old & new.  Some new wheels (with matching white Suntour Ole hubs), a Modolo stem, riser bars, and a Selle San Marco saddle finished off the build.

I took it for a first ride and… WOW.  Yep, I’m a “believer” now.  The aggressive geometry and light weight of the bike allow for quick acceleration and handling, while the steel fork mellows out the ride.  As soon as you ride one of these bikes, it becomes clear that Cannondale had a unique and very impressive product in the otherwise steel-dominated 1980’s and 90’s.  I’ll be on the lookout for these frames in the future!

Check out more hi-res photos of this bike after the jump…

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Unknown Bike Co. is a new California-based manufacturer of fixed gear bikes.  Based in Long Beach, they currently offer five different frames.  Most are aluminum and all offer an extremely lightweight and stiff ride.  This particular bike is their “Combat” model, which is more of an urban fixed than a purebred track beast.  I got a size 52cm new in a trade earlier this year, complete with Unknown carbon fork and their “K6” track crankset.

unknown3The Combat is a surprisingly well-made frame, considering the $175 price tag, making it very competitive with aluminum fixed frames from the big names like Bianchi or Cinelli.

The fork will set you back an additional $225 and the cranks are $200, bringing the overall cost up quite a bit.  However both pieces of kit are impressive, both in looks and manufacturing quality.  Where many other companies cut corners with steel forks and cheapo single speed cranks, Unknown sets the bar high.

I built it up with a brand new Bianchi Pista wheelset, matte-black track pedals, classy black saddle, SRAM PC-1 chain, Specialized stem, and lightweight OS aluminum riser bars.  The logos are very low-key and blend into the frame and cranks beautifully.  It’s up on NYC Craigslist right now as I’ve got too many bikes already, and hopefully it will go to a good home soon.

Check out more hi-res photos after the jump…

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In 2014, I acquired two San Rensho (also written as 3Rensho; “san” is Japanese for “three”) road frames.  One, pictured above, was a 53cm and the other 58cm.  While they came from different sources, they were both Super Record Export versions.  3Rensho, which translates to “triple victory,” was a highly regarded bicycle manufacturer from Japan in the 1970’s-90’s.

Founded by Yoshi Konno in 1974, 3Rensho bikes were made by a team of Konno, Koichi Yamaguchi, and Masahiko Makino.  While 3Rensho made both road and track bikes, they are most widely known for their track bikes which were custom made for Japan’s Keirin racing sport.  Tragically, in 1995 Konno was responsible for a drunken car crash that killed five people and left him paralyzed from the neck down.  3Rensho closed down shortly thereafter.

Despite this ignoble end for one of Japan’s most prestigious bicycle brands, Yamaguchi and Makino went on to great success building frames under their own names.  Yamaguchi has made frames for the U.S. Olympic Team, and continues to make custom frames as well as running his own frame building school in Colorado.  In addition, Cherubim Bicycles, founded by Yoshi’s brother Hitoshi, continues to create amazing bicycles under his nephew Shinichi Konno.

Read more to learn about these frames and the restoration process!

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