It wasn't created from nothing by the concentrated will of an obsessive Velominatus, nor by the grace of Merckx out of pure ether. No, as with all of our stables, mine started simply, and grew over the years.
My first honest bike was a Cannondale SR600 with hot pink decals that I bought in 8th grade of my own money. Bit by bit, it became my own bike – cobbled together of bits I fancied and as I could afford them. First with some Scott Drop-ins I bought for it, then a Cinelli stem, then Time pedals, then my Regal saddle. Yes, I was a LeMan fan.
That Cannondale – or the 'Whale, as I called it – was my one and only bike through college and well into my responsible life, or such as it is. The parts changed (Superb Pro, GripShift, SunTour Power Shifters), but the frame remained. In the early 2000's, my commitment to Il Pirata demanded that I finally eBayed together my first dream bike, my cherished Bianchi XL EV2. That bike served as my one and only for several more years until I got the idea that I simply had to have a steel frame; after all, I still had the Mektronic group that had been rejected from my EV2 like an unwanted organ after a transplant, as well as the Shimano 105 group that had most recently adorned the 'Whale; these parts were just gagging for a frame to be installed on, so logic dictated that I start trolling eBay for the right frame.
Several years and missed opportunities later, I stumbled across a Bianchi steel with Columbus TSX tubing which the buyer knew almost nothing about; he'd got it from Bianchi who allegedly told him it been custom built for a Pro in Italy but the rider changed teams before it was delivered, so Bianchi unloaded it by using it as a warranty replacement. It's one of those impossible-to-verify and easy-to-love stories that aren't worth questioning. As far as I'm concerned, this frame was built by Pegoretti for Bianchi.
I missed the auction the first time around – the lot had a starting bid at $300 and I let it go; money was tight as it always seems to be, and I felt the money was better spent elsewhere. The regret was as palpable as it was instantaneous. But like a glimmer of light off a Delta brakeset, the item was re-listed on eBay with a Buy It Now option for $250. A simple click, and it was mine. It's funny how eBay together with PayPal doesn't even feel like actual money. I waited with baited breath for the frame to arrive – assuming I was to discover I was the victim of a wild fabrication. The frame arrive and was in perfect order, aside from some chips in the paint.
After acquiring a few more bits along the lines of bars, stems, and seatposts, I tossed the Mektronic on there and immediately set about never riding the bike. Eventually the Mektronic got dumped again and the 105 found a new home. But since no one rides a 30-pound bike with crap components, it spent most of it's time on the trainer in the basement, alternating between collecting dust and soaking up loads of sweat whenever I mustered the discipline to ride the trainer.
But I always knew what I had; the perfect steel frame that would one day be built with parts worthy of it's glory.
Then Gianni – whom I didn't know at the time – arrived in Seattle to visit Jim and needed a loaner bike. He looked at the Alu EV2 and then spotted the TSX sitting in the corner and said without hesitation, “I'll take that one.” Over ales at Brouwers, Gianni told me he loved the bike and complained what a waste it was that the bike only ever sat on the trainer. Here was a man who understood the shame of this machine's state. This was a man I could work with.
Something inide me stirred. My crime was brought into sharp relief suddenly and acutely.
Several months later, I bought my R3 and had to pull the components off the EV2 because I couldn't afford to also buy a new groupo. At that moment, I determined that when I upgraded the Cervelo, I would move the Dura-Ace over to the TSX, and convert the EV2 to a rain bike built with the old 105 group. The plan was sound in principle, and although I didn't like demoting the EV2, it made sense that the aluminum bike was the rain bike and that the TSX should hold a place of honor in the stable as the ranking steel bike.
Almost as soon as that plan was realized, two problems were immediately obvious. The first was that a rain bike running an 8spd 105 group (which I presume is made of solid lead) and mud guards (which, I believe, are made of recycled boat anchors) weighs in at an estimated metric fuckton and is much too heavy to be enjoyable to ride. The second is that a stunning, handmade Italian steel bike looks as out of place with Japanese components as a big slab of Spanish beef at a Tour de France rest-day banquet. Something had to be done, and a new plan was hatched: I would buy up cheap Campy Chorus bits on eBay – taking my time, of course – and once a set was completed, I would rebuild the TSX in it's fine Italian suit and restore the EV2 to her previous Pantani-inspired glory.
As it turned out, this plan was not so easy to operationalize for the simple reason that 10spd Chorus is as hard to come by as mermaid with a useful bottom half. What is available is expensive, and – as it turns out – the market is saturated with Record gear. A few crafty purchases, some help from a friend in the know, and a free chain thanks to the kind folks over at Wipperman (review of the ConneX chain to follow), and I suddenly and quite unexpectedly found myself with all the parts I needed to execute my plan.
So here she sits, built up and proud though she hasn't been ridden yet – dry roads only for this beauty, and those are at least a week away – but she's leaning against the wall in my living room, wagging her rear triangle like a puppy ready for a walk.
Aside from the switch to Record, she underwent some other cosmetic changes: the frame was carefully washed and waxed and the chrome polished, while the silver saddle and bar tape were replaced with Spinal Tap Black. The only remaining outstanding issue is the procurement of rims, hubs, spokes, and tires to go with it for maximum Love.
Ah, vive la Vie Velominatus.
Detail photos of the rebuild:
Evolution of the TSX and Restoration of the EV2: