Wednesday, March 22, 2017


NAHBS 2017 was chock-full of so-called "gravel" bikes. Even our friend Favaloro showed one.

As you can see above in this photo of Larry back in the mid-1980's, this idea isn't really new. The bike was a Bridgestone MB-1 that Larry modified, getting it ready-to-ride just before walking into the old BDS bicycle show in Anaheim, CA to find that Bridgestone was now offering almost the exact same thing right out of the box!

Larry could have just waited a year...but who knew? This was a great bike for what they today call gravel riding, as in SoCal fire roads. Larry dragged it east to New England and quickly found out there weren't any fire roads there! This setup was far from optimal for roots, rocks and tight trails, probably why the bike wasn't a big seller?

Or was it simply 30 years ahead of its time?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Bici d'Epoca - HUFFY/Landshark

A tribute to the only USA winner of the Giro d'Italia

Regular blog followers remember this POST  Finally, here are photos of the completed project. Things were held up while we sourced a replacement part for the hubs bought via ebay italia which were, uh, a little rough. They're better now. Not perfect, but for an occasional epoca event, they're just fine.

Everyone knows Hampsten's "Huffy" was really a Landshark and that his bike used components from those "other people", but we just couldn't go that far. 7-Eleven used Campagnolo components in the previous years when the Serotta-built team bikes were branded as MURRAY, so why not?

It's a close-to-replica paint job, thanks to our friends at The Color Factory and Velocals who supplied the headtube decal along with the Tange Prestige tubing decal. After a bike made by Serotta using the team sponsor's tubeset failed, Hampsten then asked John Slawta of Landshark to build him a bike using the tried-and-true tubing from Japan. This bike was made from the same tubing with a similar seat lug, though the straight-bladed fork is certainly not like Andy's bike.

Polished alloy Campagnolo triple cranksets look the part and are perfect for the steep, unpaved climbs of events like EROICA CA, which we'll attend next month. Larry couldn't resist using an old-time crankbolt.

He also couldn't resist painting in the tiny cutouts in the dropout in contrasting green.

We think these Campagnolo hubs might be the most beautiful....ever?

Same for the rear wheel. These vintage hubs were laced up to new rims with 2 mm spokes in a 3 cross pattern for durability. Wheels take a beating on the unpaved portions of the epoca event courses so we also mount up some fattish tires. These are 27 mm.

The handlebars are a bit modern for this project, but they were on the bike during its other lives (and paint jobs) so why not "back date" them a bit with a NOS set of Campagnolo Victory levers with the beautiful (but hard to keep clean) white hoods?

You might wonder what those black things are? You can see one better in the photo below. 4ZA calls them QUICK - simple, inline brake cable releases. The brake calipers on this bike, one of the most beautiful ever made, are the Campagnolo mono-planer design where the arms intersect each other, making for a firm action with excellent stopping power. Until the dual-pivot design came around these were the best, but built (like the dual-pivots) without a Q/R as Campagnolo moved it to the brake lever, same as they do today. 

The combination of the older levers without this feature and the slightly-more-modern brake calipers with no Q/R would have left us with no way to open the brakes to easily get the wheels out. QUICK saves the day - you just push the piece at right angles to the cable housing in and instantly your brake opens up. In this photo you can also see the one dead-giveaway that this is not a HUFFY or Serotta - the LandShark logo cast into the brake bridge. 

Tange Prestige tubing decal

Larry couldn't resist putting this Passo Gavia wine bottle in the cage since that's where Andy sowed the seeds for his victory on the epic day. Note the Suntour retrofriction downtube shift levers and the fact the wine bottle is EMPTY! Hey, the souvenir is the BOTTLE, right?

A view of the bike with no pump or bottle. The ugly, scratched up seatpost will be replaced but otherwise she's ready-to-go for EROICA CA 2017. Hampsten's supposed to be there, perhaps we should get him to autograph her? We plan to sell this (and the SCAPIN) right after the event so let us know if you're interested.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

North American Handbuilt Bicycle Show 2017 - Finale

We'll end our NAHBS posts with favorites...

Hand-built bicycles and Roland Della Santa are one-in-the-same. Larry was so happy to see his bikes displayed here.

Sadly, none of Larry's photos of an entire bike were any good.

So you'll have to be satisfied with the detail photos... these, or use the link above to visit Della Santa's website. Larry loves the old time BB cable guides and sometimes wonders why they went out of fashion?

Seat lugs and seat stays don't get any prettier than these!

Flat crown forks are always gorgeous!

Think the Fat Bike fad is a recent development?

In 1992, this was FAT before there was FAT! Yep, two rims laced side-by-side to improve flotation, just like a modern Fat Bike.

This vintage Mercier was stunning!

"Drillium" forever! Well at least to look at, Larry's not so sure about riding some of this elegantly lightened stuff.

Steel bicycles just look "right"...

...back or front.

A gorgeous recreation of a classic vintage Raleigh track bike


This modern steel Merckx looked pretty retro with the classic paint job and polished Campagnolo Potenza groupset. Only the clamp-on stem mars an otherwise beautiful machine.

Larry's favorite bike in the show was this - Davis Phinney's old 7/Eleven "MURRAY" race bike.

These were built by Ben Serotta in the mid-80's before the more famous HUFFY branded bicycles which came later.

The polished aluminum Campagnolo components combined with the chromed steel stays and brake bridge exude class. Pantographing adds even more.

The entire idea of sponsor branding vs bike building is interesting. Back in these days did anyone actually believe these bikes were made by Murray or Huffy instead of Serotta? When Eddy Merckx was racing on bikes with his name on the downtube did anyone believe HE actually made them instead of DeRosa, Colnago, Masi, etc?

Of course Eddy went on to start (with DeRosa's help) his own bike factory, but nobody was fooled into thinking the bikes he raced on were his own creations. But these days, multi-millions of dollars change hands with these sponsorship deals, so those putting up the big wads 'o money want you to believe the bikes ARE actually the products of the company whose name is on the downtube.

For most of the team members that may still be true, but quite often the big-stars get made-to-measure machines created for them by "builders of trust" that look just like the ones you can buy. For example, John Slawta of LandShark built bikes for Andy Hampsten despite the HUFFY logos on the downtubes and Serotta stickers on the chainstays while Antonio Mondonico was the "builder of trust" for Claudio Chiappucci.  Lots of cloak-and-dagger hide this fact though it might even be more prevalent than ever since so many modern bikes are created with a big, expensive mold, making t-shirt sizes (too small, too big and close enough) the only sizes available. If it's really obvious some brands will spend the loot to create a properly-sized mold to create a bike that truly fits the star, but that's pretty rare.

Final note on NAHBS - Among all the beautiful, artisan and truly hand-built bikes present, Larry noticed a large display from a US bike factory, one that makes their bicycles pretty much the same way they're created in Asia - using huge, expensive molds. When asked how these bikes might differ from those made in Asia, the factory rep could point only to the closeness of the factory and designer and the possibility of using materials that could not be sold in China. Otherwise they're the same as the big (and small) brands of molded bikes, the vast majority of which are created in huge factories in Asia with Brand
S coming out one door while Brand T or G come out of others. 

This begs the question - what is HANDBUILT and how soon before one of these big-brands inquires as to why their brand can't be displayed and promoted at NAHBS?

Monday, March 13, 2017

North American Handbuilt Bicycle Show 2017 Part 3

More from NAHBS 2017

Gianluca, partner at Albabici used to be a decent bike racer like so many in the Italian bike biz. We've convinced him to join us in riding EROICA CA next month. Here you see the start of his training as he tries out the Favaloro gravel bike in the hotel parking lot. Michele Favaloro rode his creation on Saturday morning in an industry-sponsored ride while the sensible ones avoided the 7 AM start in the cold in favor of sleep!

Larry gets wound up when people say Italy is a disorganized country. Really? Well, the event venue espresso machine was out-of-commission Friday morning and again on Sunday.  Larry found one on Sunday that seemed operational ....on the other side of the Salt Palace.  It was even warmed up...but could find nobody to operate it! Finally he resorted to this truck outside in the street. Italians would never tolerate situations like these.

But things improved in the afternoon when the Best Campagnolo-equipped Bicycle awards were handed out. Favaloro's Puma NTO took 2nd place! Not bad for Michele's first entry in this sort of competition, eh? Complimenti Michele!!! Buon lavoro!!!

 Here's the trophy.

From there it was a scramble to vacate the exhibit space - they clear things out pretty quickly, so we boxed everything up and made a couple of runs to Larry's hotel room to stash things before a trip to the airport to put (l-r) Gianluca, "Pitz" and Michele on the plane back to SoCal.

Since Larry was flying back to Iowa the following day he volunteered to take the boxes to the shipping center and return the van before heading to the airport (where he's typing this). Above you can see everything shoehorned into the van. There was barely room for Larry and his luggage!

Next post will feature other interesting bikes from the show.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

North American Handbuilt Bicycle Show 2017 Part 2

More photos of our new bicycle

We've received a LOT of positive comments on our tricolore paint job. Certainly not an original idea, but in the days of way-too-many matte finished black or even colored bikes, this one just looks "right" to a lot of visitors to the Favaloro/SMP stand.

Head-on view. The handlebars will be replaced with classic round instead of this flat-top version and will be fully taped. No word yet on the "Best Campagnolo-equipped Bicycle" Award winner. "People's Choice" is still up-for-grabs as well.

Favaloro chose an L-shaped brake bridge design.

Ya gotta have the "Handmade in Italy" sticker, right?

More smooth, easy to clean and easy on the eye details in back.

Next post will have photos of other bikes, we promise!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

North American Handbuilt Bicycle Show 2017 Part 1

Our new bicycle debuts!

The prototype for our 100% Made-in-Italy full-carbon made its debut at NAHBS today. These photos were taken yesterday, the first time Larry got a chance to see and touch it. It's currently dressed up with a few Campagnolo parts we won't have on the rental bikes you can ride - the carbon wheels will be replaced with URSUS Athon wheels and the insanely expensive NOS Campagnolo seatpost will be replaced with an aluminum 4ZA post. The fancy (not to mention expensive - thanks Albabici!) parts were installed for the bike's entry into the "Best Campagnolo-equipped Bicycle" contest.

Above you see the builder, Michele Favaloro posing behind his creation. He's been making bicycles since he was just 15 years old, so he's well on his way to becoming one of the masters of the craft. Each bicycle is created from sheets of raw carbon fiber entirely by Michele from start to finish. The painting (our bike has also been entered into the NAHBS judging) is done locally by a guy who has painted bikes made by one of the true masters whose name we can't publish here - but let's just say it's beautifully done and has gained a lot of positive comments.

After the show this bike will be shipped to us with the "standard" parts we spec'd so Larry can finally take it for a ride. Once that's done and everything deemed OK, the rest of the fleet will be ordered. Join us and ride one this season*!

More NAHBS posts to come.

*limited availability - first come, first served

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Spring Break 2017 - finale

Our last day "training" here in sunny SoCal.  Why does everyone write training instead of just "riding"?  Of course we need training but we're mostly here for the cycling fun and nice weather.

Today was by far the nicest weather day, but we've done the other rides on our list so this short one got the nod to wind things up. First thing was a climb out of Cold Canyon (the way we descended yesterday) then along Mulholland Hwy to the turn for Stunt Road. Back in Larry's moto daze this was a very popular road though he's been up and down a time or two on a bicycle as well.

The climb starts out gently, but kicks up soon enough.

And you can see the road snaking up above you. Folks claim this climb averages 8% but we always wonder about comparisons to European climbs where it often seems they're steeper than indicated and domestic ones overstated. But in any case, it was a good workout for us!

And a nice reward, as you can see in this photo of Heather posing at the top with a view of the inland valleys and mountains.

And this view of the coast. This ride was just over 25 kilometers but still took us almost 2 hours! From here we continued in the reverse direction of Saturday's ride back to our lodging.

Tonight we'll indulge in some hedonistic pleasure HERE.

Tomorrow we'll pack the bikes up and from there Larry's off to NAHBS on Thursday