One of four bikes bought on New Year's Eve 2015, for the full story of buying these 4 bikes, plus two others, all in the space of a few mad weeks - see "One Mad Christmas and Crazy New Year" in the "Vintage" dropdown menu.
The frame was in excellent condition, tig welded (not lugged) and made from Dedacciai Zero Tre tubing (which I think is the bottom of the pile tubing), no rust, and appeared to be straight and true. The paintwork was excellent, seemed very high quality and thick with almost no chips/cracks. It came with a complete Campognolo Mirage 8 speed groupset including the fabulous looking monoplaner brake calipers. But this groupset was too good for the bike and was destined to be moved onto the Colnago Super that I bought at the same time (see "Colnago Super Team Buckler" in the dropdown menu for all the details of this being fitted). The bike also came with Shimano copy hubs (likely to be Formula brand) and Sram cassette (shimano compatible) which should not have worked with Campag 8 speed systems. Don't know if it did as I never tried it. My plan for this bike (which was essentially the free bike I got for buying the other three together) was to turn it into a cheap winter/wet weather training bike. So the plan was to use the wheels and frame and then add bits and pieces leftover from the builds of the other bikes. However, I spotted a cheap Shimano Sora 9 speed groupset on eBAy and the plan was modified to put this onto the bike instead of a mish-mash. So, I bought a new 9 speed cassette and a some gear cable adjuster/adapters and I was good to go. I would have a winter bike for less that 300 euro, and as I also managed to sell my current winter bike (Felt F85) for over 600 euro. I was ahead before I even started.
The Headset : This could have been a problem, but it wasn't. It would have been purist of me to move it to the Colnago along with the rest of the groupset, but the Colnago already had a lovely Stronglight headset and I'd have had to take it out. Sounds like a lot of special tools for both headsets. And, to me headsets are simple things to do a simple job. They either work or they don't and in this case both headsets were working perfectly where they were. I took the pragmatic option and left them both in situ. A potentially difficult problem solved.
The Bottom Bracket : How I hate Bottom Brackets. If I thought the BB on the Colnago was difficult, I was in for a real surprise when I got to this one. First of all, this one looked like it needed a special tool. There were notches in the lock ring, but they had circular profiles and did not look like they'd lend themselves to a hammer and chisel approach. The BB was obviously Campagnolo Mirage and a sealed unit type. So I put some WD40 on both sides and left it overnight and while I was at it, I posted a query on a Facebook Cycling Group asking for advice on using a hammer/chisel approach or a proper tool. The advice was instantaneous and unanimous - "get the right tool, Campagnolo BB of that type are notorious for being stuck tight". Some even went so far as to say that as the BBs were among the first sealed units, Campagnolo designed them not to be removed as they were expected to last forever. Especially the italian threaded BBs (as mine was) because these needed to be tight to prevent loosening during use. Other websites/discussion forums backed up this view. So I researched the tools and the Cyclo Tool version seemed to offer the best option for clamping against the lock ring to prevent slipping (see photos). Bought one of these from Chain Reaction Cycles and set to work. Believe me, I tried, put the frame on a secure base, locked the tool against the lockring using spacer washers and crank bolts. Tried turning, tried hammering the wrench with small and then larger hammers. Nothing budged. All that was happening was the Cyclo Tool was deforming as it was made of an alloy. Gave up and went to sleep on it and do a bit more internet research. Out of desperation, I tried some heat treatment. Poured a kettle of boiling water slowly over the BB shell and quickly rigged up my tools after that - hit the wrench with a hammer and...... it actually moved a bit. The lockring came out rather easy. Repeated the process on the other side and again it was rather easy. It was a rather sweaty process all in all, as I really needed to get the BB out without damaging it - it was going into the Colnago with the rest of the groupset and if it was damaged and unusable, I'd have to buy another one and they were scarce (and expensive). Alls well that ends well as they say.
The assembly part was pretty easy. Frame and paint were in great condition, so no prep there. I had used the original bars and stem on another bike, but I had one quill stem in stock with bars attached and I used these. The Shimano Sora Groupset was an easy fit and I was able to use cables from some stock I had lying around. Build up was real quick and before fitting bar tape (reused from old bars) I took the bike for a spin around the block. Everything was good but the bike fit was a bit to stretched for me - the stem was too long and the brake hoods were uncomfortably too far away. Looking through my bits and pieces I decided that the cheapest way to reduce th estretch was to use a short modern stem that I had and buy a quill stem adaptor (actually Chain Reaction Cycles were cheapest for this and delivered it, free post the next day - great value and service). Had that done in a flash and the bike reach is perfect.
Completed the bike is specced as follows :
Bike was setup and road tested around the block after which the steering was centred. First real test was a 30km cycle involving about 400m of total climbing that included 3km at 9%. Everything worked perfectly. Not only that, but the bike felt really smooth and fast. I followed that up the next day with a similar spin and pushed it quite a bit - got close to some of my PBs. Despite the bottom line tubing, the bottom line groupset, and old fake shimano wheels, and the bike not being the lightest, it seems to go pretty good and it's handling seems fine. In fact on a twisty downhill fast stretch called "The Cannonball Run" I was only 10 secs off my best time - not bad for a cheap winter bike.
I'm not a bike snob, well not that much of a snob. I don't swear by Campagnolo or Italian bikes, I am happy with most frames/bikes/components as long as they are not too basic. But, when I look at frames I usually don't consider anything less than Reynolds 531 or Columbus SL tubing and when I look at groupsets or components, I'm looking for Campagnolo Veloce or Shimano 105 or better but am willing to settle for a bit less occasionally. Yet this bike is below that minimum spec in almost every single part and it cycles beautifully. It's fast, comfortable, handles really well and very sure footed, it looks great. So what makes a good bike? Is it just the frame and builder? Maybe my frame is not a mass produced one although Sab did produce both custom and mass produced and I suspect mine is the latter. Anyway, it has made me think.
A few winters later, after a bit of a layoff from cycling, I felt the Sora levers were bothering my hands. I think I was holding the levers with my thumb permanently raised to hit the upshift lever, or perhaps the RX100 front derailleur required a harder push of the levers than it should have required. Either way I decided some replacements were needed, and as luck would have it, I spotted a nice Shimano Tiagra 10 Speed Groupset for sale. This is now parked in my shed ready for fitting and is a nice upgrade - along with a set of robust mudguards. It;s becoming a really nice, still inexpensive, winter bike.