Italian Beauty

You quite often hear people say how Italian made products have a lot more flair than many other European products.

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I have had limited experience of Italian cars over the years and have always found them either to be built for people with small feet or clients buy them to look at rather than drive . This experience is from working at a combined Alfa Romeo and Fiat dealership approximately 13 years ago , so things might have changed since then .

 

My experience of Italian  made bikes has previously been based on a couple of Olmo’s that I have owned over the years. I found them very lively to ride and they always seem to bring the hooligan out of you in your style of riding .

olmo

About 18 months ago I managed to get hold of a Simoncini road bike that looked like it had led a relatively easy life . After using it quite a bit straight after I purchased it , it has been tucked up in our garage awaiting its turn to get back out and play on the asphalt which happened on Bank Holiday Monday. It also received a different set of wheels from the set it was stored with as I felt that the set it came with never really fitted with the rest of the running gear , so they have been swapped for a set of Rigida shallow vee rims laced to a set of small flange miche hubs that has a 7 speed cassette fitted to match the Shimano 7 speed indexed gear leavers . I was tempted to upgrade the whole running gear for a much more modern 2 x 10 system but the jury are still out on that for one reason or another .

 

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Simoncini

Its first ride out in 2017 happened in the afternoon of 1st May, initially it was only going to be a gentle 6 mile ride to make sure no other work was required but as it seemed to be going so well I pressed on and ended up covering 20 miles in total , ok I know it’s not far, but its far enough to get a feel of a bike and to check out how its running .

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Simoncini

 

The most amazing thing is that my average speed for the first part of the journey from the top side of Wellingborough across to Wollaston via Mears Ashby and Grendon was a whopping 17+ mph , I normally only see those kind of speeds descending hills . The return journey was marginally slower as I came home via Wellingborough town centre and the main A509 .

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The Deddaiciai Zero Uno tube set is fantastic for ironing out the bumps and lumps of British roads and has all the stiffness I will ever need , it also makes a nice change from the more normal Reynolds or Columbus tube sets offered by many top bike makers . The Simoncini original paintwork is still in fantastic condition and I still like the mainly white and red colour scheme a lot more than I expected to do when I first picked it up .

 

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Simoncini

My aim is to do quite a few miles on this fantastic Italian stallion during 2017 as it seems such a shame not to use and enjoy the experience of riding such a nice bike more . At some point I might upgrade the gearing to a 2 x 10 set up but at the moment the 2 x 7 set up is fine although a slightly ratio set wouldn’t go amiss on the rear cassette . And some better tyres will find their way on to the Rigida rims as well once I make a decision re the gearing .

2016 So far

 

It’s no wonder my garage is full when I look at the list below of what I have bought during 2016 , the only good thing is that 65% have also been sold during 2016 along with a few others I purchased in 2015 .

 

The ones that I have not sold are either in use or in the  “awaiting work” corner of the garage . As can be seen in the list below it’s been a diverse year for sure, quite a few out and out touring style bikes and a few non road bikes just for a bit of variety and a fair few more modern than normal machines as well .

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Giant Terrago

A few of them have been a pleasure to own and ride, others have been just a means to an end so to speak , whilst some have been a real disappointment . The biggest disappointment must have been the Planet X pro carbon. It had all the reasons to be a long term keeper for sure but it ended up spending less than 2 weeks in the garage before being sold on due to the amount of noise it emitted as I rode along on anything less than billiard table smooth tarmac and as we all know there are not that many smooth roads in the United Kingdom .

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Wester Ross

The highlights for 2016 are harder to decide, it was certainly a pleasurable thing to have owned and ridden one of the 477 Wester Ross’ ever made. Other notable bikes have to include the 1950’s Pollard which was a real delight to own for a few months before selling it on to a friend of the Pollard family who now has the largest collection of Pollards . The Simoncini that arrived in June is another high point in the year , having been looking for one for a few years it was nice to finally get one just a shame it was a bit on the larger side of rideable but for the moment it’s in the keeping section and I keep thinking about updating the gearing system to include sti’s .

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Simoncini

The bike that I think I have done the most miles on in 2016 is either my long term keeper red Ian May or the Ian May that turned up in June both of which have covered close to 500+ miles each . Whereas the Carrera Virtuoso that turned up in November only did 1 lap of the cul de sac i.e. less than a mile before being sold  .

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So with less than 15 days to go before the end of 2016 I doubt there will be any or many more arrivals but you never know ……

 

January =  Peugeot savoie, Genesis flyer and Peugeot Professional

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Peugeot Professional

Febuary = Wester Ross and  Raleigh royal

 

March = 1950’s Raleigh Roadster

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Raleigh Roadster

April  = Pollard & Webster by Lee cooper frameset

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Pollard

May = No New Arrivals

 

June = Simoncini & Ian May

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Ian May 4th

July = Mans & Ladies Bromwich & Sigma

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Bromwich Mixte

August = R.E.W Reynolds & Giant terrago mtb

 

September = Pennine , Lee cooper frame & Lomas

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G.E.R Lomas

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Pennine Italia

 

October = Specialized allez , Planet x pro carbon & Puch Mirage

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Planet x Pro Carbon

November =  Claud Butler Odeyssey , Trek 1.1, Carrera Virtuoso ,Genesis cdf & Trek 400

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Genesis cdf

December =  Neutron frameset & GT Outpost Trail mtb

28 bikes in and 18 of them sold

Well the weekend is approaching fast and for a lot of people that means they will be out consuming lots of alcohol. To me it means I get to spend some quality time with my family and that I can hopefully get a few early morning bike miles in .

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Looking at the weather forecast for this weekend it looks dry and fairly still so hopefully I should be able to get a couple of 35+ mile rides in . At this moment of time I am intending to use my Sigma road bike by Chas Roberts for at least one of the rides on what ever route I take .

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Sigma by Roberts

This is a fairly new bike to me and is still undergoing evaluation as to whether it will be kept or sold.  So far, on the couple of short 12 mile rides that it has been used for all has gone well but I must admit the gearing on the bike does not lend it self to any hill climbing activities very easily . Luckily enough there are not that many steep or long hills on any of my usual routes .

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Sigma by Roberts

In a previous life this bike was used for either time trials or road racing from what I was told , hence the gearing . The rest of the bike is ideal and should not cause me any issues or problems . It’s a nicely made frame using Reynolds 531 competition tubing from around 1995 and is fitted with nice Shimano 105 groupset that all works as good as the day it was fitted. It does not look like it has had a hard life at all with just a few storage related marks on the paintwork . The seat cluster on this bike is one of the nicest ones I have seen and is a very good indication of a quality frame by somebody who takes pride in his workmanship .

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Sigma by Roberts

The only modifications I have made to the bike is the fitment of one of my Selle Smp lite 209 saddles along with garmin mounts for my camera and trip computer units, a set of lights and a pump assembly .

All Change

It’s that time again where I swap my bikes around and dust off some of the ones that have not seen any regular use for a few months , a few weeks ago I got Ian May the first back on the road and have so far covered approx 200 miles on it .

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Ian May

This month it’s the turn of the Tony Butterworth decaled bike to feel some fresh tarmac under its wheels, again this bike has been in my custody for about 18 months and has seen very little use in its whole life , I covered about 120 miles last summer on it before it was put up for sale . Although I have had a few enquiries about it, nobody has handed over pound notes for it yet .

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Tony Butterworth

It’s a nice, fairly light weight bike being made with butted Tange steel tubes and matching forks that is finished in a nice shade of blue paintwork with matching white decals . From what I found out from the previous owner he bought it as a frameset after it had sat in Tony Butterworth’s Sheffield shop for a fair while and when said shop changed owners it was reduced to clear and was sold to the gentleman I bought it from who built it up using a mixture of new and low mileage used parts .

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Tony Butterworth

It sits on a nice set of Shimano rs10 wheels with semi aero rims and matching Shimano hubs , truativ crankset , Shimano Tiagra sti units and mechanisms along with a set of Radius calipers . It has a nice quill to A-head stem converter with a 110 mm planet x stem and a wide set of matching black anatomical profile drop bars along with a black Kalloy microadjust seat post that currently has my Selle smp lite 209 saddle on .

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Shimano rs10

The bike rides and handles as good as many other better known brands but has the kudos of being different to everybody else . The blue paintwork is as near to immaculate as you would expect and can get . It simply glides along without too much effort and soaks up any lumps and bumps thrown at it as any quality steel frame does .

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Tony Butterworth

In one respect I would love to see this bike sold and being used on a more regular basis but for the time being I am looking forward to clocking up some miles on it over the next few weeks . When you think of what else you get for sub £300 this represents good value for money in my mind .

You Choose

If I was in a position to have a frame commissioned for myself there are two things I would specify over the basic requirements list:

The first would be chromed rear stays and front forks .

Hardisty Pics of Hardisty rear stays

Hardisty

The second would be some nice hand cut lugs , not really fussy what style just as long as they are a bit fancy.

Dunelt Frame After Refinishing

For some reason I just think chrome gives a bike a timeless classy look, where as other chromed items can look a bit tacky and over kill to me but not on a nice steel bike frame .

The cut out lugs all add to the classy look that the chrome gives, so what would chromed lugs look like if the rest of the frame was painted , I think it would or could look stunning and I don’t think it would need any luglining either .

Hardisty's Chromed Headstock lugs

This kind of craftmanship is normally only seen on steel rather than alloy or carbon machines and I should think it goes a long way towards making steel bikes even more individual compared to the masses of Alloy framed bikes that only seem to change colour with each new model year introduction .

My other must haves would be mudguard eyes front and rear along with at least one set of bottle cage mounts on the seat tube rather than the downtube and I always think brazed on front mechanisms look nicer than the clamp around variety. I would also like a pr of pump pegs on the rear stays and the ability to run up to 700c x 28 tyres and down tube lever mounts these are all personal things .

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I think this about makes my ideal bike an Audax style machine rather than an out and out race machine but not quite a relaxed touring bike .

I have no preferance over caliper , v type or disc style brakes mainly because most of my riding has been done with single or dual pull calipers and very little experience of the other two styles . In fact the only bike I have ridden with disc brakes is our family Tandem .

As for tube material it would have to be steel , so would I go for Reynolds , Columbus or one of the Japanese variety like Tange never mind all the other brands of steel tubing you can have offered to you . Not really sure if my experience or expertise is good enough to tell the difference between any of them .

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What colour paintwork would I go for ? Now this is really a hard choice and a difficult one to say but my thoughts are a nice shiny deep red but most definitely not white as for some strange reason I do not like like white bikes . I think I would have to have a plain colour panel on the seat tube or even a barbers pole . Seat post and handlebar stem would be chromed to match the chromed forks and stays .

As for groupset and wheels I have no favourite and not even sure if I would go for sti’s over downtube shifters , I think Shimano groupset would be my choice but no idea which one .

The Difference

I tend to ride the same basic route and depending on the actual distance I am setting out to do depends on where I either turn off or carry straight on .

Somebody asked me over the weekend to time my Sunday am 13 mile ride to see if I was quicker or slower than normal due to the bike I was using !

My intended mount was my Motobecane Super Mirage , normal time for this ride is approx 50 – 52 mins which I am more than happy with no matter which bike I ride along this route . I set off at 06.45 am by the cooker digital display and upon return it was reading 07.37 am so 52 mins for ride is about right .

I actually thought it would be a bit of a slower ride due to the following reasons: bike was equipped with big clunky flat pedals so no cages or clips , a lot wider and more padded saddle than I normally ride with , down tube mounted non indexed gear levers and riding into a head wind for 2 of the last 3 miles and I was riding a semi gas pipe frame rather than a nice Reynolds 531 or Columbus tubed frameset so had an extra 1 or 2kg’s to push around .

Motobecane Mirage

I was surprised in one respect but must admit not in others as I have ridden the same route for over a year now using a variety of bikes from single speed machines to 21+ geared bikes and always seem to be about the same time . One day I will have to try out a carbon fandango machine to see how much quicker I would actually be .

BH Carbon Road Bike

All of my rides are done with no tracking or gps equipped devices hence why I check the cooker clock before and after my ride , I must admit one bike does have a trip recorder fitted but purely for checking distance compared to what Google map says for same route . I also try and ride at a pace that I am comfortable with rather than going hell for leather . The same goes for my attire no lycra in sight .

Soon I shall be able to get my Sunday best Ian May out and give that a blast round and see what happens , now I am not expecting it to be much if any quicker at all but let’s just say it will be a nice ride that should be able to put a smile on my face , as do most of my rides . My cycling is done for exercise and a bit of relaxation from the day to day stresses of normal life .

My First Ian May

It Aint Broke So Dont Fix

Why do some manufacturers change a proven product and yet others don’t ?

I can think of two products that are totally different yet one has changed and the other hasn’t as far as I am aware although I am sure the makers could prove it has over the years .

The first item I am going to deal with is the McVities Digestive biscuit which was first produced in 1892, although I can’t claim to remember that far back , I do remember them always been called “TIMMY’S” biscuits in my household for the simple reason that I went to stay with my cousin Tim in my early years and tasted them there and for whatever reason the name has stuck over the following 30+ years . I would also like to think that during that time there can’t have been many weeks when I have not dunked a Digestive into a nice cup of tea and enjoyed the taste and sensation .

Digestive

Over the more recent years more and more people make their own version of the “Digestive” biscuit and there can’t be many large supermarket chains that don’t sell their own version of said biscuit , and they all taste very similar to the genuine article . About 7 years ago I noticed a big change in the taste of the genuine item and contacted them to voice my disappointment and from what I can remember they replied explaining the difference .

For some strange reason the chocolate variation or any other variation has never really hit the spot for me where as no matter who’s brand they are, a standard plain digestive does and is normally my first choice of a biscuit whenever I am offered a selection to choose from . And I even prefer them over other biscuits when eating with cheese especially if it’s a nice tasty blue one .

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The other product that I am saying has had very few if any changes is the Brooks B17 saddle. Yet again I can remember this product from my childhood days and can even remember my parents mentioning them when they talked about their cycling days in the 50’s & 60’s and one of my first road bikes . According to the Brooks website you can trace it back to the 1890’s so well over 100 years . I wonder if any of those early examples still exist anywhere , I am sure none of the original Digestives do !

Brooks b17

Again there have been various other saddle makers who have released similar products , some of the names that spring to mind are Middlemores, Wrights never mind the more modern Spa copy amongst others . My experience with B17’s is limited but I do think they are a nice saddle and loads of other cyclist swear by them so they cant be that bad can they .

With the variations of themes available to cyclists these days it must be a wonder to many a cyclist why or how Brooks saddles are still in existance !