Of Colnagos, and Lamberts, and Other Things.

The Colnago Super Sprint I’ve had hanging around was feeling neglected the past couple of days so I pulled the cranks and tightened up the bottom bracket and we went out for a short, brisk late afternoon ride. The roads are pretty grimy after all the recent rain, and the overcast sky coupled with the lateness of the day left me with little ride time as darkness loomed. Still, I figured to at least zip around in town for forty-five minutes or an hour if I could dodge enough potholes and patches of errant mud to make the outing somewhat worthwhile.

I’ve been riding the Shogun so much lately, that I’d forgotten how good it feels to ride low and somewhat stretched out on my Italian bikes. Long stems on this and my Freschi allow me to ride in a drop position that I find to be very comfortable. I’ve got bar end shifters on the Colnago which, when I ride with my hands at the end of the bars, allows me to easily shift using a very slight pressure from the back flat of the palm of my hand without taking my grip off the bars or adjusting my hold at all. It’s a very, very subtle thing to shift into higher gears when I ride this way: so difficult to describe, but I feel like the bike and I are one machine at that point.

The gearing, with a 53/42 front and 12-21 seven speed in back, is moderately tight and certainly not designed for riding hills, but the bike is wonderfully responsive on flat road and loves to just take off. Riding in town is always a disappointment for both me and the bike, frankly, because stop signs are simply an unwelcome necessity of city riding. And while I simply flew down the steep hill on Nashua, the return trip was somewhat of a grind with my lowest gear-inch combination of 52.4.

I’ve done almost nothing with this bike other than build it up with a mix of 600 and 105 components, my favored racing saddle – a Selle Regal – and Cinelli bars and stem. The tubing is Columbus SL and fairly lightweight. The chrome lugs and other bits are in excellent condition but the paint shows a number of blemishes and I’ve debated about a re-paint. But I don’t want to source new decals, nor do I want to lose the original blue fade color scheme. So, for now at any rate, the bike stays as is. Perhaps that only thing I’ll do is simply swap pedals out for my SpeedPlays when I really want to ride.

For the past several weeks I’ve noticed a young fellow riding by the house on a vintage-ish road bike. He zips by, clearly comfortable with his ride, a ball cap perched atop his brow: an oddly compelling blend of hipster and throwback rider. I’ve been tempted on several occasions to shout out at him, get him to turn around and show me his bike, but I’ve always thought to react too slowly and the bike remained a mystery. One time, as I stood near the front room window and saw the blur of bike out of the corner of my eye I decided to run to the garage, jump on my own ride, and chase it down. But in the time it took to get to the bike, allow the door to raise, and head down the street in pursuit he was gone; all was for naught.

Yesterday evening, as I toiled up the hill on Nashua, I saw him wheeling the bike down the hill. A quick U-turn and I finally got to satisfy my curiosity. From a distance, all I saw was the appearance of seat tube banding and I presumed he had some type of Raleigh: I was correct about country of origin, but not the builder. The bike is a Viscount, “Handcrafted in England” and not in terrible condition either. The mostly original Lambert components were in place, other than the obvious replacement Shimano downtube shifters. Cabling was terra cotta in hue from rust and needed to be replaced, and the chrome bits could do with a dose of Windex and aluminum foil treatment. But it all looked solid enough.

The rider told me he thought the bike was a 1973 and I, noting that the frame appeared to be fillet brazed, replied that it looked more like an 80’s era bike to me.  However, upon checking out some internet references later on, it turns out that Lambert was producing seamless tubing as early as 1972, so the rider may well have been correct in his original guess. If he rides by again, I’ll be sure to let him know I was probably wrong. Guessing again – and of course that got me nowhere the last time I did so! – I’m left thinking the bike is either a Super Sports model or possibly the Grand Prix model. I wish I’d taken a closer look to note whether or not it had the Alpine derailleur, which would help to identify it as the Grand Prix.

My neighbor, Jack, has a nice 60’s era Peugeot in his garage. Jack is Dutch and bought the bike while still living in Europe. The Peugeot emigrated with him many years ago and looks to be in fine, if rather dusty, condition. He invited me down last summer to take a close look at it and – again! – I wish I’d spent more time making notes about the components because I’m a bit puzzled about which model he has. He claimed it was a PX-10, but it’s orange and other details about it struck me as “not PX-10,” but to be honest I don’t recall what those details were now! I’m keeping my eye open for Jack this morning because I would like to ask his permission to borrow the Peugeot and make a set of detailed photographs. In the back of my mind I hope that one day he’ll ask me to buy his bike.

My office mate has a nice Peugeot that she bought new in 1970 or ’71. She’s been telling me she had it for over a year now but only last week sent me photographs… and what a treat! Nice chrome “socks” on the fork, but not the rear stays. Brooks saddle, original frame pump, tool kit and bag, twin handlebar mounted bottle cage and bottles. Totally sweet! And her husband apparently has the larger twin. She retires next week and would like to clean it up to do some vintage riding this summer and I’ve offered to get it ship shape for her.

In the meantime, I have only one more day of teaching before the summer break begins. I’m heading for the Ozarks tomorrow morning and with all of the very steep, long climbs I’ll probably be bringing the Shogun. Perhaps if the crud burns off this morning I can take the Colnago out to the flats of Airport Road and run several circuits. It’s probably time to find out what she can really do besides hang on a rack and look pretty.

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