I went in to the local bike shop a few weeks ago and……

There it was sitting in the back of the shop. I noticed it right away because a De Bernardi is not a bike that you see everyday. A local seasonal actor had brought it in to be sold on consignment. He said that he had the bike for many years and loved it very much but had to sell it since he was moving far-away. He was asking $450, which might have been a fair price had the bike been in good condition, sadly this one was not. Even though it appeared to be complete and original this one was poorly taken care of. It had not been ridden a lot but had been handled roughly and tossed around a bit. I offered a token $200 for it and walked out.

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Well, a few weeks later the shop called and told me that the seller would accept my offer. I went down to the shop, laid $200 on the counter and took the bike home. I felt a little bad, like I might have taken advantage of a guy in need. But, the bike wasn’t worth more than that to me and I would have walked away otherwise. I also feel like if the guy had taken better care of the bike he could have gotten more for it. If I think about it that way I am okay with the price.

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After bringing the bike home I should have taken some “before” pics. I usually do that, but I hate to see a neglected bike so I stripped it down to the bits to see how bad it really was. After disassembly it looked like most of it would clean up pretty well, everything except the frame that is. The paint was badly chipped on almost every tube, not from use but from rough handling over almost 20 years. There is even ding in the top tube, probably from some non-riding accident. Sadly, this will need to be repainted which is something I am quite reluctant to do. Usually I am okay with bad paint as long as it looks like came from regular use. It’s called “patina” when it is age or use related, but when it comes from neglect and just slamming the bike around then it is not so good.

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The original components on this bike include:

  • Full 1999 Campagnolo Veloce Gruppo, crank, bottom bracket, derailleurs, brakes, seat post, shifters etc.
  • 3T bars and stem
  • Wheels are built with FIR rims (Italian) and DT spokes
  • Miche headset
  • Avenir saddle

Here is the thing about De Bernardi bicycles. The end of the 1990’s also marked the end of any large scale production of high quality Italian made steel bicycle frames. The new millennium was a turning point towards the use of other frame materials. From 2000 on (in general), carbon was king and there were almost no Italian builders making large numbers of steel racing bicycle frames. There were of course holdouts among fabricating artists like Dario Pegoretti (in Italy), and Richard Sachs and Sacha White (in the US), which because of their craftsmanship, their work will always be in demand! But the mass market had gone plastic and steel’s day seemed to be done.

Yet there is still hope, many of the traditional marques are once again offering high quality steel bicycles and frames, made mostly in Italy. Among them are Bianchi, Colnago, Holdsworth, Wilier, Battaglin. Other makers are also showing renewed interest in offering new classic steel frames. A renaissance is underway for steel and that is a good thing! But, for now I cannot let this neglected (end of an era) steel bike go unattended. I will bring it back to it’s former glory as a piece of Italian performance art! Check back for intermediate posts on my progress. I expect to have this build done by next summer!

 

 

 

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