Guest Article: Ron’s Tommasini

Guest Article: Ron’s Tommasini

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In our first installment of reader-submitted The Bikes articles, we bring you this drool-worthy Tommasini, fully equipped with Delta brakes, classic-bend bars, a Regal saddle, and three-cross wheels.

Ron takes us through a story of how being the Cycling Sensei sometimes works out to the benefit of not just the student, but also the teacher. Enjoy.

Yours in Cycling,

Frank

A few years ago I was helping a friend find a new bicycle. As the resident Velominatus amongst my friends, I’m drafted into this duty whenever a mate has finally heard me discuss the beauty of cycling for so long that they can’t stand it, they need in on it. He was after a road bike and his budget limited him to used ones. Knowing his frame size, which happens to be the same as mine, I set to scouring the interwebs for the right bicycle. I had been looking around for a few weeks, checking classifieds on various forums and watching eBay for strong contenders. One Thursday morning I logged in to check out my watched items list and realized a gem of a find had moved to the top. Somehow, in searching high and low, I’d added this bicycle to my list, but forgotten about it. Now as I stared at the photographs of it, I found it hard to believe such a fine bike had passed largely unnoticed. It was a sharp looking Italian bicycle, steel, mostly red, with some white and yellow, plus a chrome fork and rear triangle. The paint scheme was busy and a bit loud, yet still classy in that Italian way.

A few months before that morning, I had started planning my dream bicycle. I was a budding cyclist enthusiast, a nascent Velominatus, and had been riding my used, ill-fitting, aluminum Cannondale for five years. Thus, I set out to choose what bicycle I was going to buy for myself as a gift upon finishing my university degree. Hey, I needed a carrot, I thought. Or at least a way to waste away those hours when I should have been working and progressing, but couldn’t get bicycles off my mind. Brand new carbon, I wondered. The allure of riding what the pros ride. Titanium? It looks pretty sharp, in an understated way, and will last forever. But I’m too young, still in my twenties, I can’t buy my last road bicycle at this early age. I had always found thin-tubed steel racing bicycles with classic geometry to be the most stunning breed of road bikes. Maybe my attraction to them was linked to the summer days when I wasn’t away at a sports camp and would spend the afternoon in my cool basement watching the Tour de France on ESPN, back when they actually covered sports beyond the NBA and NFL. I watched LeMan and Fignon ride like mad on high-quality steel bikes with pretty rad paint jobs.

I knew the Dream Bike, my carrot towards graduation, would be steel, and hopefully something made in Italy. Arriving at this conclusion, I got back to my studies and kept on riding my Cannondale, finding the fact that it was too big for me just more inspiration to push myself up new hills, using only my internal V-meter.

But that Thursday morning I sat staring at the fine bicycle, the properly-sized red Italian steel road built when I was only eleven, wondering what I should do. I was only a few months further along with my work than when I’d settled on the Dream Bike. Still, how could I resist? It was in my size, it was essentially new old stock, and the bidding was rather low, at least for such a prized machine. To complicate matters, I’d recently received a small inheritance from my grandfather’s estate. It felt odd to get something prized, money, when I was still having memories of him pass through my mind on a frequent basis. I know some people spend years waiting for their relatives to die so they can grab their money, but it felt strange to me to suddenly grow wealthier when I was still thinking about his passing. The money, inherited by my parents and given in equal parts to me and my two siblings, was to be used for something we’d never normally buy, something that we didn’t really need. My father told me that his father had worked long and hard for the money as an airplane mechanic and he wanted me to spend it on something special, a gift across generations. A beautiful red road bike I’d cherish and meticulously polish and ride on special, warm, sunny days seemed like the perfect way to spend some of the money.

By Friday I decided to investigate the bicycle further. It was being sold by a bicycle shop and I tracked down a number for them. I spoke with an employee on the phone and he informed me that the bike was in pristine shape, basically new, with an original Campagnolo C-Record gruppo, original Continental Grand Prix 3000 tires, Sigma computer, Campagnolo hubs and rims, a Cinelli stem, and white Cinelli tape. My excitement was tempered by the fact that he told me there had been a great deal of interest for the bike, including a guy who collected bikes from this builder and had called from Australia to inquire about shipping costs; he was willing to pay $500 just for boxing and shipping. That was grim news.

The only thing I could do to keep my mind off the bike was to go out and ride. Friday seemed infinite. The bidding was ending on Saturday and I had a nervous sleep the night before. I went out for a ride Saturday morning and spent the entire time thinking it over. Do I need this bicycle? Wasn’t I supposed to wait until I finished school? My only road bike to date has been a mid-level Cannondale. Am I worthy of such a bicycle? When I got home the bidding price was at the same level it had sat perched at since Thursday. I wasn’t sure if I should be nervous or confident. Around three hours before the auction closed I decided I was going to bid, and bid aggressively. Screw it, I had the money, and the bicycle was stunning.

When the final hour arrived I was nervous to the point of having jittery hands. The minutes ticked by and I couldn’t do anything else but sit and wait and watch. The clock went under five minutes and still nothing happened. I was a very green Velominatus at this point so wasn’t that aware of what price it might go for, nor smart enough to simply enter a high bid significantly beyond the current bid. I wanted to win this thing in a shootout, guns blazing. I bid as the clock went under a minute. “You have been outbid.” Oh no. I bid again. “Reserve not met.” Huh? I bid a third time, all within the final forty-five seconds. The screen rolled over and the new screen loaded. Momentary freak out. “You won the item.” I sat in shock, not knowing whether to scream or cry or jump up and down; I was completely worn out from the stress and had a hard time believing I’d actually won the bicycle. I cringed when I realized that my winning bid was just $100 below the “buy it now” price which had been up until the final day of the auction. For less than the cost of a new saddle I could have saved myself all that insanity.

It now hangs on the wall in my house, taken down only on the finest days, when the sun is warm and bright. I love riding the bike and I feel fortunate to own it, as if I’m a lucky fellow, entrusted to ride and polish and cherish this wonderful machine sent straight from Italy. It might violate a recently brainstormed Rule about buying built-up bicycles, but a NOS 1990 Tommasini Diamante is hard to pass up. And possibly the best part about the whole thing is that whenever I ride it I think fondly of my grandfather. I hope I spent your sweat-soaked wrenching money well, Jerald!

// The Bikes

  1. Well, you could put red, yellow, orange, and white drinking straws on the spokes. (Cut them length-wise and they pop right on.) Oh, and install an orange safety flag–like the recumbent folks use. Oh, oh, and a kickstand.

  2. The bike arrived with a black Specialized Body Geometry saddle, circa 1991. It was around 5″ thick.

    I waited awhile to find this Regal saddle. It’s a Ti one with silver rivets and rails. Easier to find the copper ones.

    Happy Friday everyone. It’s warm and sunny where I am. Great riding weather. Hope to get in a group ride both Saturday and Sunday and I think I’ll take the Tommasini out both rides. All this positive feedback has me feeling like I’m neglecting it and not riding it enough.

  3. @Jeff in PetroMetro
    If we’re going the orange safety flag route, might as well go whole-hog and add some of these.
    No disrespect to your beautiful bike, Ron. Just jealous of “warm and sunny.”

  4. @Cyclops
    manpons, heheheheheeeeeee

  5. Can’t let Cyclops and the manpons be the final word here, though it was pretty funny.

    Thanks for all the kind comments everyone. Like I said, I feel honored to own such a fine machine and love to share it with anyone who appreciates nice bicycles.

    Can’t wait to get it out soon for its first Spring ’11 ride.

  6. Fresh Man! Lovin’ it!

  7. Since I picked up a cx bike this spring my place reached maximum cycle capacity. The Tommasini has been relocated to a friend’s place, as it was the least ridden of my bicycles.

    But, do not fear, it’s in the company of a Calfee, Moots, Vanilla, Serotta, Litespeed, and more. My pal was kind enough to store it for me. And, I can ride a bike to his place, drop it off, grab the Tomma & go. Not bad.

  8. Ha, this popped up in the random article archive. Thought I’d check out the pics, since I don’t get to see this bike on a daily basis anymore. Oh well, in the near future I hope to be buying a house and far, far more importantly getting a basement or shed. Then I can house the Tommasini again.

    Oh, and I raised it in the recent white bar tape article, but this bike needs new tape sometime soon. It still has the Cinelli cork tape from 1990.

    I’m not sure what tape would look best on it. Regular Cinelli cork? Some new stuff, like Microtex? I’m open to any good ideas! Thanks.

  9. Ahhh! The lead photo for the Amstel Gold 2012 VSP has me thinking about this bike…and there it was in the random article list. I’ve already ridden today. Have to get out on it sometime soon!

  10. Guest article pop-up. Hey…still haven’t gotten much feedback on the bar tape route. Gonna have to swap it out one of these days, not sure to stick with Cinelli cork or go with something different.

  11. @Ron

    In this particular case I’d stick to white Cinelli cork bar tape.That’s all you need mate.Have fun wrapping them bars.

  12. @Ron

    Stick with white — what else would you do with that brilliant saddle?  Get fi'zi:k if you are worried about keeping it clean.

  13. Thanks, Tommy & Nate. Oh yeah, definitely sticking with white tape. Was thinking of sticking with cork, but maybe giving the Deda Treforato tape (perforated) a try. I have it on my Casati, pretty nice stuff. Thought fi'zi:k tape might be too modern and not jive well. And haven’t tried the soft touch yet.

    And Nate – nah, this bike gets treated like royalty, only ridden with very clean hands/gloves so not too worried about getting it dirty.

    The Regal saddle – I kind of want to pull it off this bike and put it on one I ride more…very tempting.

  14. Beautiful!  I had a Basso Ascot, also with Columbus MS tubing, although it was nowhere near as beautiful as the Tommasini.  I hope you’re still setting it free for a gallop once in a while!

  15. I can’t resist clicking when this pops up in the old posts.

    HigherGround – thanks! Yeah, this bike is darn nice, I feel lucky and proud to own it. Yep, I ride it every so often, less now that it is winter. But it gets ridden for sure.

    The MS tubing is wacky. The best thing is that one of the DT cables used to rattle and ping a bit, but it stopped. Nice!

  16. Sad news for me today, the rear rim is dead. I was trying to install a new tyre without levers (suggested for “open” tyres + latex tubes) the other week and the wheel flexed. I took it to a superb local mechanic and he has declared it’s dead, too out of true to be safe to ride.

    Very sad, this was the original wheelset from when the bike was built in the early 1990s.

    Open to suggestions – try to dig up another Campagnolo Delta rim (clincher) in 32 holes? Or, go with something new/different? These rims were absolutely nightmarish to mount tires on, always feared puncturing on a ride. In light of that, leaning towards new rims. But, also hate to mess with the original build, especially since the front wheel is still rolling.

  17. @Ron

    Period mavic rims are reasonably easy to come by and keep the hub?

  18. I find it very hard to believe that the wheel could buckle so bad that it’s beyond repair – I would get a second opinion on that. It’s possible it might need a rebuild, but even if it’s fully potato-chipped once you cut the old spokes out it should spring back to close to original position. Campag rims are strong enough to last for ever as long as the sidewalls aren’t worn out.

  19. @Oli

    I find it very hard to believe that the wheel could buckle so bad that it’s beyond repair – I would get a second opinion on that. It’s possible it might need a rebuild, but even if it’s fully potato-chipped once you cut the old spokes out it should spring back to close to original position. Campag rims are strong enough to last for ever as long as the sidewalls aren’t worn out.

    This.

    And, barring that…

    @Teocalli

    @Ron

    Period mavic rims are reasonably easy to come by and keep the hub?

    This.

    Just for the love of Merckx make sure a bike that beautiful has both wheels matching.

  20. @Ron

    Campagnolo Strada XL Chromium Delta ’80s vintage rims 32H — $170 plus $60 shipping from Italy. You would then have to glue on some tyres. Here

  21. @unversio

    @Ron

    Campagnolo Strada XL Chromium Delta ’80s vintage rims 32H — $170 plus $60 shipping from Italy. You would then have to glue on some tyres. Here

    Ok, scratch @Teolcalamari’s alternative. THIS.

    @Ron, it’s about time you got tubs anyway.

  22. @Ron

    And when you do, fucking get some FMB’s FFS.

  23. @Ron

    I really dig this story. While I was at U of Pitt, my grandparents home was a good ride across town thru Schenley Park and Squirrel Hill, across the Monongahela River and up the hill from Homestead to Munhall. I spent many an afternoon in my grandfather’s “shop” stripping down the ol’ Schwinn and cleaning it up. Grandfathers are cool. You’re a lucky dude with this bike. Cheers

  24. @Ron, another opinion: find yourself a pre-loved pair of Campag Nucleons (again, preferably of the glue-requiring ilk) on flea bay or the like.  I know you are tubular-curious.  This is not a problem; it is an opportunity the Gods of Mt. Velomis have presented you with.

  25. As if my ride to work on ice/snow for 40 minutes didn’t rattle my nerves enough, I arrive to find this…the carrot and the stick for my tubularosity. I should have known that was coming. I should have. I’ll ponder this. Rims will definitely match, I’ll be using the Record hubs already on the wheelset no matter what rims I go with. I’m leaning towards Ambrosio Excellence in silver, silver spokes, silver Record hubs. Italian bike, Campa hubs, Italian rims, not so bad. Just about the same profile as Deltas, but not the tire mounting struggle.

    But, there is the lure to start gluing…This spring I might be building my bike shed, maybe a two-for-one project, as it’ll give me space to work, stretch, glue.

    universio – Yep, I know I can source NOS Delta rims. I’m checking into my LBS ordering some through Euro Asia Importers, which seems to have them. I just don’t know if I want to deal with the pain of mounting tires. Any tires I’ve used have been a nightmare.

    Oli – I know, I thought the same thing. How could I bugger a wheel during tire install. I think the wheel was built very poorly from the start. When I got it, the spokes were loose but the wheel was true, so I left it. My LBS worked on it, got it close, but thought it was shot. He put on a lot of tension. Then I sent it to the local mechanic guru, he works on all of my pal’s ace bikes (Colnago C60/59, Vanillas, Moots, Litespeed, Calfee). He worked on for awhile, took all tension off, retensioned, tried everything and he said he wouldn’t ride it for the sake of safety.

    wilburrox – Glad I could share, glad it brought back nice memories for you too.

    Nate & Frank – why, why are you tempting me? Hmm, this low-point could be an opportunity though…I shall ponder this.

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