The making of a parts bike

Over the years I’ve been slowly accumulating bicycle parts. Not through a conscious effort but more as the by-product of working on older bikes as a hobby. You might buy a bike as a project and not use all of the components that came with it, trading some parts out for others and throwing the rest in a bin. I never imagined that some of these leftover bits and pieces would actually get used on a bike again! These extra items might be an off brand, lower quality or simply a component that was not well regarded. The question of what to do with some of these orphaned parts was answered for me recently when a solution of sorts presented itself.

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Silverton Oregon

It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to get out and ride an organized cycling event but with this one so close to home I thought that maybe it could mark the beginning of a return to riding events. This ride starts at the fabulous Oregon Garden, just outside Silverton Oregon. The forecast was for a 100% chance of rain, but being an optimist I just assumed that the weatherman would be wrong again!

Gallon House Bridge over Abiqua Creek
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Bicicletta classica per tutte le strade

I’m trying to find the right category to classify this bike as and I haven’t quite got it yet. Retro Italian gravel bike, vintage all roads rider, old school adventure bike, Strada Bianca speciale? All of these come close but in the end it is probably just a Franken-bike.

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I recently found this interesting map on Ebay. It was a limited and numbered edition and no longer seems to be available. It covers not only bicycle manufacturers but also components!

Image by Andrea Bonfanti

Urago Bicycles was a French manufacturer which was founded in 1935 in Nice by brothers Joseph and Francois. They were known for the high quality of their handmade frames, many of which were built by artisan frame builder Anicet Cattanéo who continued working through the early 70’s. Francois Urago was a track racer in the 1920s -1930s and his likeness was on the head badge for many years. Outside of these scant few details there is limited information readily available on the Urago marque other than the few bikes that are out there to observe.

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This post isn’t really going to be about cycling. In fact, the best I’ll be able to do is to sneak a couple of bicycle related images and locations into this brief account of our off season trip to the Veneto. The trip for our family is about a little mid-pandemic relief and trying to reclaim something of a normal life during this not-so-normal holiday season.

Early December evening, Piazza San Marco
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A few years back when this bike was built I was looking to create a nice vintage rider, an all purpose machine that would be both versatile and a little sporty. At the time I lived in the high desert and contending with rain was almost never an issue. Now we spend much of our time in the Pacific North West where conditions couldn’t be more different. It was time to revise the Lygie to be more suitable for it’s new locale.

The Lygie before it’s transition to an Oregon bike
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Here is a bike that is not one of my own but turned into a project for me anyway. Owned by a family member but neglected for many years I decided it was time to resurrect it.

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When this bike came to me it was a sad sight. It had not been heavily used over its previous life and does not appear to have been stored outside, but it was incomplete and had been treated callously by previous owners. Regardless of that it seemed to be sound mechanically and the blemishes to paint and other metal surfaces could be softened with a little effort. The logos and other original graphics were still relatively intact so I chose to preserve the frame “as is.” Once altered “originality” can never be regained, and having a few imperfections on a 35 year old frame is not unreasonable.

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Here is a recent acquisition from Ebay, a 1986 Nishiki Prestige road bike. This one was the same model and year of bike that I once rode back in the 80’s and it was my first “real road bike.” I sold it more than 30 years ago so when I saw this one come up I thought it would be a fun trip down memory lane. It was pretty much just missing the wheels to be complete so I pulled the trigger!

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The traihead in Banks, Oregon

The Banks – Vernonia State Trail is an old rail bed turned into a recreational trail which has become quite popular. It is one of the longer rail-trails in the area and runs 22 miles from it’s beginning in Banks to the end at Vernonia Lake.

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An interesting article published in 1897 in London’s National Review was originally intended to dissuade women from pursuing cycling as it was considered unbecoming for them to do so. Some doctors argued that bicycling was an excessively taxing activity, unsuitable for women, telling that it could induce exhaustion, insomnia, heart palpitations, headaches, and depression.

“The unconscious effort to maintain one’s balance tends to produce a wearied and exhausted Bicycle Face.”

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It begins to take shape!

Here are couple of pics of how things are going so far on this vintage gravel bike winter project:

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Adapt and conquer!

Vintage bicycle components are often wonders of simplicity. They were designed to do a specific job with lightweight, reliability, ease of use and often with a little bit of style. Sometimes when you are trying to get more versatility out of a bicycle you must also work to expand the capability of the components. After all, the complete bicycle can only do what it is possible for it’s individual components to accomplish. Following is a summary of some of the modifications I have undertaken to adapt these otherwise unremarkable components into more functional versions, so that the complete bicycle it is greater than the sum of it’s parts.

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Re-interpreting the wheel?

These days, even with the many categories of bicycling that are now currently popular, it is still easy for vintage cycling enthusiasts to see their projects through the narrow lens of a “period correct” view. That perspective can limit what a project bicycle could become to whatever they did “back in the day.” If we consider where cycling is today then we have many more options as to what a bicycle can be. Randonneuring, gravel biking, cross bikes, touring and commuting are all disciplines which are gaining in popularity while traditional road racing has entered a kind of decline. In deciding how to build this Girardengo I will adopt a broader view of what a bicycle can/should be. To re-interpret a classic bicycle with the possibilities of today in mind!

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Entry level racer

This Girardengo is an early to mid-60’s intermediate level frame and probably just the sort of bike that a beginning racer might ride. Not top shelf but still good enough for local competitions and a pretty good performer overall. A bike like this would have been the envy of many aspiring young bike racers on a Saturday morning back in the day!

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Sometimes it is hard to categorize a unique type of bicycle. This Girardengo in all likelihood began life as a proper Italian city bike, probably 5 speed, with fenders and an upright riding position. Not a race bike by any means, rather a very civilized and practical means of transport. I have however re-invented it into another category altogether!

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Well, that’s what I’m calling it!

What exactly is a Condorino? Well in the direct translation from Italian it means little condor. However, in the world of bicycling it is a reference to a unique style of handlebars most often seen on Italian city bikes. The resemblance to a bird wing like shape of the bars is the reference. The “condorino” handlebar is a uniquely Italian concept with Bianchi, Legnano, Torpado and others having offered this style of bars on their city bikes over the years. To me it offers a sportier upright riding position than the more common swept back style of bars do. Not often seen in the US they are also a quite comfortable riding position even though they may be a bit narrow for some tastes.

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Well, it took about 6 months from when I initially inquired about this bike to actually receiving it. The process was somewhat delayed by the pandemic but continued to move forward regardless. I have to say that in the end it was worth the wait!

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15 years a Randonneur!

I became a member of Randonneurs USA in 2006 as RUSA #3100, just 8 years after the organization was formed. The things that initially drew me to randonneuring were simply the idea of riding my bicycle over long distances, often through new and interesting countryside and usually with a good friend at my side. The traditions of the sport, the self sufficiency, determination and resourcefulness required to do these rides were characteristics that I valued and admired. But, over my years of participating in the sport I’ve noticed that some things are changing and it has me thinking…..

My riding partner Clair Jensen on the Central Coast in 2006

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Four and counting!

My information page, the Girardengo Barn has prompted many people who are seeking information on Girardengo bicycles to contact me, hoping to get more information on the marque. Occasionally some of those who come seeking knowledge on their intended project end up not following through with the plan to restore the bike and move on to something else. That is the case with this frame which was offered to me as a result. This is the Fourth Girardengo bicycle to find it’s way into my stable!

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Sheltering in shop!


Well with the current situation requiring that people stay at home, I have found time to make some progress on getting the workshop organized. Creating a productive and attractive workplace from an empty space is a challenge. The room seems large at first glance but when you put in a few bicycles, motorbikes, ski gear, a convertible, wood working shop and other storage, well it soon becomes obvious that you don’t have as much space as you thought!

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Piemontese

After a fruitless effort to identify the marque of this bicycle I have decided that it should not remain a no-name bike. Lacking its true identity I can at least give it an alias, or perhaps a stage name. Bicycles have personalities of sorts and any name should reflect that. To give it a signature to display on the down-tube seems only proper. A few of the naming criteria for me are as follows: First, that it be Italian, offers a complimentary image, and should reflect something about the character of the machine. Italians bikes are often unique to the region in which they are manufactured, in the case this bike the Piedmont region of northern Italy. That makes this bike Piemontese in origin and would also make a fine label for this bike. Hey, I think I just invented a bike brand! (more…)

This is the second post in a series on the creation of my recently ordered Battaglin Marosticana.

From paper to Steel!

My Marosticana on paper.

To order a bicycle from Officina Battaglin the first step is to find out who you are, or more precisely what your measurements are! To get to the proper end result you must start with the basics.

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Officina Battaglin

Officina Battaglin is the workshop founded by Giovanni Battaglin, the legendary cyclist who won both the 1981 Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a Espana in a span of just 48 days! In 1982 Giovanni began producing bicycles in his home town of Marostica in Italy. He produced bicycles for several major racing teams who realized many victories through the 1980’s and 90’s. However, the bike industry is always hungry for new technologies, and so in the late 90’s the workshop started experimenting with lighter materials like aluminium and carbon. Sadly, as demand for steel bikes diminished, the company shuttered the factory where these fine steel frames were built. The equipment sat unused and the skills of the craftsmen who built them began to be lost!

The revival of a classic line!

After a time, Giovanni began to reflect on the state of things and asked himself if “saving weight was the only thing that mattered?” After 12 years of professional bike racing and more than 30 years as a bicycle manufacturer he recognized that something was missing. So, in 2014 he decided to go back to brazing custom custom steel frames and dusted off the old machinery that was still in the workshop. With the revived Officina Battaglin brand, he returned to his roots, and resumed production of  the exceptional racing frames that had made his name known all around the world.

Giovanni’s son Alex now manages the workshop in Marostica, Italy where they build custom steel bikes to each owner’s specifications, with comfort and craftsmanship as their hallmark. Each frame made features custom geometries designed by Giovanni Battaglin himself, is finished beautifully and bears the founder’s signature. It’s the place where the legacy of Giovanni Battaglin is being revived as the only maker of Italian steel bicycle frames that is also a Grand-Tour winner.

The Marosticana

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No Number

Here is another Girardengo example which was recently acquired and then set aside for the future. It came as the frame only, without any components or fork. Mounting holes for badges on the head tube as well as the seat tube are typical of an early to mid 60’s Girardengo. There is no frame number at any of the likely locations so that adds a bit to the mystery.

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The end of the Oregon Trail?

Well, we have been in Utah for over 26 years but the time has come to make a change. We are entering that “downsizing” time of life and are relocating to Oregon City, south of Portland Oregon. We have family in this area and have visited for years so it just makes sense.

The new shop is still a work in progress!

It is a big job moving most of what you own over 1000 miles, but our move is more of a slow motion transition and we will have a foot-print in both Oregon and Utah for a awhile yet. While the overall goal is to downsize a bit there is also an opportunity to up-size the workshop space. I should be able to gather all of my cycling interests and do a nice reorganization of the shop space. This will provide me with the space to create a nice display for some of the old and special bikes as well as some work space for not only cycling, but other interests such as motorcycles and wood working. I should even be able to sneak in a paint booth! I know that winter can be long and gloomy in the PNW so a warm, dry and well lit refuge will be welcome.

It also nicely eliminates the argument about not having enough space for that new project!

Information on Oregon City.

A sporty all roads rider!

 

Sometimes it takes a while to get where you are going, and so it was with this build. I had gathered all of the parts that I wanted to use on the bike pretty quickly but the time to put it all together just never materialized. Finally over this past winter I was able to get a start on it and by Spring it was ready to go!

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I was back again this year to attend one of my favorite cycling events, Eroica California. This year the event shifted to a new venue on the coast in the little town of Cambria California. For those of you not familiar with the Eroica concept it is a gathering of vintage cycling enthusiasts who then ride their classic bikes on a challenging mixed surface route. It is the original gravel grinder type of event!

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I don’t really shop for bike projects anymore. I have several underway currently and others seems to just appear out of thin air. This frame came to me from an individual who had visited a page that I maintain, “The Girardengo Barn.” He was apparently in a similar situation and needed to offload this project to someone else. Call me a sucker but I took on the challenge!

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