I have never owned a new bike frame. I’ve always bought them used from friends,swaps, and ebay.
As a messenger I only rode lugged steel fixed gear. When I was introduced to high performance racing bikes in the late 90’s steel was on the way out of style and aluminum was the new standard, usually with a carbon fork. I got a 59 c-c Pinarello Paris frame from a friend around 2001 and dresssed it up in Record 10speed components by 2005-and a Pinarello Saddle and Bartape I ordered from Italy.
The Paris was stiff, and fast, and not very comfortable when you weren’t going full speed, but it was a Tour quality stage racing bike and I loved it, and I learned to ride road on it. After 7 years riding it, and a move to a more geographically varied area, I wanted to get a new steel, lugged Italian frame and I wanted to buy it from a store, not from the internet, and I wanted it to fit right.
In the Philadelphia region there are many new and old options for stores that sell racing bikes, many that now offer “fits” for cannondales and specialized, but not many options for purchasing Italian bikes, let alone Italian Steel.
Before moving to New York from Philadelphia in 1999, after breaking my back (literally) as a messenger, I did a brief 6 month stint working as a mechanic at Cycles BiKyle in Bryn Mawr.
My first training day with Neil at Kyle’s, Antonio Mondonico was taking measurements for custom frames at a wine and cheese party. I realized quickly that there was much more to cycling than my narrow view point had allowed in.
In those years the top shelf of frames at Kyle’s was an astonishing collection of shining steel and aluminum- Pinarello, Merckx, DeRosa, Mondonico, Torelli, Guerciotti, and on and on.
I had gotten a fit and was picking components for a yellow,aluminum DeRosa Planet and then scrapped it all and I went to New York to write graffiti, ride bikes and make art.
Twelve years later I sat down with Kyle, discussed the options-Mondonico had retired- and decided on a new 2012 Torelli Delirio.
Shortly after Kyle contacted me to tell me the Delirio would not be available in my size until later in the summer, but they were willing to offer me a Lugged Countach frame that had been built as part of a trial run of lugged models at the same price.
I decided on my paint and chrome options, left a deposit and began the wait.
Here’s the first picture I got of the frame:
Financially I made the decision to swap the components from the Paris onto the Countach.
As the day I was scheduled to bring in the Paris to be stripped approached I started feeling some anxiety-
What if the steel was going to be to soft and slow?
What if all my times dropped off and I turned into one of those fat old velo-orange guys who rides around in the granny gear looking at cows or whatever?
What if I liked the Pinarello better?
I am happy to report that in the week since I’ve had the bike all of my concerns were unfounded.
I’ve improved my own personal times on my local hills. I’ve enjoyed the far more comfortable steel ride, had my own small personal victories, and I’ve been able to go faster on the Torelli than I ever did on the Pinarello.
Granted their is my own improved conditioning to consider in the equation, and the switch in frame size from a 59 to a 60, plus Kyle’s other fit adjustments, but at the very least I am not being held back in progressing in anyway by the switch of frame material.
The First Week
Here’s my first 6 rides logged on strava, nothing big, topping out a 50mi, but it contains the evidence, at least for me, that quality lugged steel with modern components, can easily compete with, and perform as well (or outperform) any carbon or aluminum frame ridden at an amateur level.
This is more of a commute than a ride, from BiKyle home, but I was able to take back a local KOM by 1minute on the way and logged my best midvale time to date. I forgot to wear my gloves-On the Paris I would have paid for that, on the Countach I didn’t realize that I forgot them till I was halfway home.
Same thing-basic ride, this one was fun, I really got to open it up on Kelly Drive in the early morning, legs were a little sluggish feeling but still did their job. Two days in a row with 54mph glitches, weird.
With some details for the more detail oriented:
-Columbus Life tubes x Microfusione Lugs
-Built by Bilatoan in Paduva, supervised by Silvio Bilato.
-Paint and Lug Finish by Jim Allen in California.
-Color/Chrome/Decal Scheme: Me (inspired by the Wilier-Trestina copper color of the early 80’s and the chrome of the Neo Primatos and Master Piu’s)
-Fit/Faced/RustProofed/Prepared/Built: Cycles BiKyle, Bryn Mawr PA
After looking at the performance this frame has given me in its first week please take a couple minutes to admire the handiwork of Bilatoan’s frame building and Jim Allen’s beautiful painting and chrome work.
For those of you who don’t know the Bilato brothers have built for many top Companies throughout the 70’s until the present. Bilatoan is a 5 man shop that produces steel, aluminum and carbon bikes for Torelli amongst others.
Jim Allen was the painter for many Italian American imported frames from the 70’s until the present. He was Masi’s American painter and came up with the US Gran Criterium serial numbers we all look at.
When making a commitment to a new road frame you should not be limited by the current sales trends in bikes.
Industry standards should not make your decisions for you: your passion for cycling should guide you to your proper place.
Personal performance and achievement can be achieved on the same style of frame Merckx, Anquetil, and Coppi rode.
Beautiful Bicyle Craft deserves to be raced on the street, the style and class of your ride sets you apart.