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Retro grouch at training camp

How much for rare parts in the window? 

by Jim Cunningham, CyclArtist

(Jim is founder and president of CyclArt, which has specialized in bicycle finishing, frame repair and restoration since 1976.)

Looking back  to check on a fading ally or a charging competitor without wavering off-line is a staple of any racer's technique.  

CyclArt is co-sponsoring Team Edge, this season.  The team was hosting a training camp featuring recently retired pro Allen Peiper, Wheelsmith's coach Brett Hanson, Soigneurs Niki Detrick and Patty Spiller, Mechanic Chris Clinton, Medical Technician Earl Ditrick and Writer Maynard Hershon.  There were to be two lecture and two rides each day for four days.  Team President Robert Fuller invited me to attend, to lecture on CyclArt frame finishing one night and to participate with the team.  Perhaps he wanted to inject a little relief into the heavy schedule.  I'm sure I relaxed those weary riders into a near coma with my slideshow of pretty bikes, but it seems my role was also to build those "looking back" skills.

A year ago, I did some consulting to Serotta, assisting them in improving paint durability and paint shop performance.  Things went well and as a bonus a received their top bike, a Coors replica DurAce STI Colorado 2 bike. In fact, things went so well, a second bonus was paid, in the form of a made to measure Colorado 2 frame.  Now the Serotta's a great bike, and even a retro guy like me have to admit the click shifting brake levers are kind of handy.  I confess, I rode the new bike more than any of my old favorites.  But with nine other bikes I haven't worn out yet, I really did not need two neon chartreuse and blood red bikes.  And as much as I like and admire Ben Serotta, the bike with the mark of corporate beasts Shimano and Coors all over it had to go.  Besides I had given the STI a fair trial and if I felt retro grouchy at least I could  "been there and done that" with the best.  So I sold the STI bike.  (took a year to sell at $1,500 under the $3,450 list.)  I still had the custom Serotta frame to build up and my team was getting Mavic Zap equipment.  Electronic derailleurs !  Forgive me Eddy, for I have sinned.  I lusted after new stuff!  But how can I,  in good conscience,  continue to proclaim "Super Record uber alles" if I don't try the new stuff?  I have exorcised the Shimano.  I'll pray to St. Mafac,  Simplex, Huret, and Stronglight.  Come to think of it, maybe they wouldn't all be sainted (dead) if we had continued to buy  strange French stuff.

As if "stufflust" wasn't enough rationalization, I was sure I would need every mechanical advantage available to survive the training camp and counter my lack of mileage and excess of years.  Apparently Mavic has yet to mine the ore to make the 180 cranks my big feet require however, and I was promised NEXT years stuff if I waited a few days after I'm hammered to pulp at the training camp.  Parts so new nobody can buy 'em yet!    I'd been riding the Serotta almost exclusively and had sold or dissembled several other serviceable road bikes recently.

The 1978 Super Record Confente I rode probably got more miles last weekend than in any year since it was built.  Mario Confente died shortly after it's delivery and the heartbroken owner hung it up.  He recovered from his grief by selling it to me seven years later, insisting on three and half times the $995 he paid for it.  I have such respect for  Mario, I rarely felt worthy of soiling the original cloth handlebar tape.  We were close, I worked with him through his efforts to reestablish himself as an independent custom builder in the US and until his death.  The bike hung in my office as a reminder of all I learned from that time, but now it seemed to insist I ride it.  Mario focused on only doing things he could do very well.  He suffered terribly in his "love of the bicycle".  Riding his bike casually just isn't right.  Given my lack of miles, it seemed I was due for some world class  suffering in the San Gabriels, I deserved to do it on the Confente.

Susan, my wife and fellow CyclArtist, also came to the camp.  Her bike is a 1976 Raleigh Pro "repaired beyond recognition".  It has had it's toptube, downtube, head tube, fork blades , head lugs and all components replaced.  The fork crown, seat cluster and bottom bracket have had long tabs added.  The crown and dropouts were filed down to bare minimums and then the frame and most components were elaborately custom painted.  None of the original components remain and the current ones make all the correct click and pop sounds expected these days.  There's a custom rack attached to it's rear, as Susan likes to swap her racing shoes for sandals when she stops.  Susan was the only woman in the group, but the Confente got more attention cause it was the only bike with toe clips, a 42 tooth inner ring, less than 14 gears and without click or zap shifting.  Looks of puzzlement from the young guys, many smiles and much reminiscing among the older.  Hell, the bike was nearly as old as some of the guys on the team!  It took a few shifts to remember how bump the chain quickly up to the big ring with the Super Record derailleur, but it served me well and certainly wasn't the cause of my getting dropped.

On the first ride, the pace was furious as the hammerheads all worked to impress the pro.  Inevitably Susan and I slipped off the back.  I can imagine the Team captain, looking back, and saying, "we've dropped two, and they're sponsors dammit!   You and you, drop back and tow them up here!"  Robert, who assured us we could stay with the team got to demonstrate his Madison technique repeatedly flinging us back into the bunch.  Allan let the rabbits know he wanted to ride together and build team skills.  With a focus on learning, the rest of the camp was a blast although my suffering off the back was real.  Someone always dropped back for me.  I got a lot of personal attention on a long climb from Brett Hanson who had plenty of breath available for coaching.

On Saturday night, Maynard spoke about life on a "motor" escorting the peleton,  and read several of his finest pieces including the poem below,    reprinted here with his permission. It was originally written for the "BOB" club.  The "Bridgestone Owners Bunch" to those of you who are unfamiliar with that Japanese companies retro marketing stance.   The BOB newsletter offered a cool leather  bag of the highest quality, but you couldn't buy one.  The only way to acquire such a goodie was to write and explain why you had to have it.  Here then is Maynard Hershon's (alias Bob 450) entry.  If you get through this poem without a glossary, you're reading the right newsletter.

Good enough for Fausto
by Maynard Hershon

Would I like the old days back?
Will I ride my inch-pitch hack
Till they bring the Yardbirds back?
Do I love my Pletcher rack?
And do I want the old days back?
By Bianchi green - I do.

Do I like my Dettos black?
Am I tattooed (twice) "Mafac?"
Will I ride my early Sachs
Till the paneled downtube cracks?
So do I want the old days back?
By Kelly's clips - I do.

Am I put off by Kestrels act?
Do I take the Coni book as fact?
Will I ride 40 holes in back
Till proper wooden rims come back?
Do I wan the old days back?
On Gino's health I do.

Do I defend, face-to-face,
Merckx's "real-bike" hour record pace?
Do my shifters clamp in place?
Do I forget I never raced, just
ground along at tourist pace
But passed by women, always chased?
But do I want Dura-Ace erased?
Trust me; yes I do.

In my world short would all be black,
All young guys would ride the track,
And fix my silks at a buck a crack.
See, I speak Campy, but my voice is cracked,
I'm Clipped and strapped but I'm off the back,
I learned the lingo but forgot the knack,
I'm retro suffering in the laughing pack.
Getting dropped is what I do.

Enough already with the sordid facts;
I've admitted I want the old days back:
Like a red Bob Jackson in Santa's pack,
Beige-box pieces, front to back.
Cinelli, Bindas, S.L. blacks,
Each thread lubed in warm bee's wax.
We love our dreams but live by facts;
I'd settle for a BOB-club fanny pack.

Well, he about pegged me.  Although I'm not settling for any butt pack, not even one from a Japanese company, which was sharp enough to co-opt the Italians out of their own mystique. 

So... we studied motivation and dedication, position, tactics, technique, ergogenic aids, heart rate, VO2 Max, massage and nutrition.  We practiced smooth double pace lines, efficiency, time trial technique, cornering, warm-ups, stretching, bumping, feed zones, emergency braking, bunny hops, looking back while staying on the painted line and looking back to see where we've been.  ~JFC