Evolution of a Plan: Bianchi TSX

My Record 10spd Bianchi TSX
My Record 10spd Bianchi TSX

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:

[dmalbum path=”/velominati.com/content/Photo Galleries/[email protected]/TSX/”/]

Evolution of the TSX and Restoration of the EV2:

[dmalbum path=”/velominati.com/content/Photo Galleries/[email protected]/Evolution of a Plan/”/]



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107 Replies to “Evolution of a Plan: Bianchi TSX”

  1. Very nice, Frank! If I have one quibble (other than the wheels you’re looking at changing anyway…) it’s with the headset, but stunning job in all other respects.

  2. What about the position of the cranks, the chain on the small ring, and the valve stems not at 6 o’clock? Shoddy work son…

  3. The chain on the small ring was actually pointed out to me by Dan, of local Time distributor Sola Sports… check out his cool blog over here…

  4. @Oli Brooke-White
    Thanks, mate! Those Ksyriums are fine wheels, but they seem very out of place on there, don’t they? And they aren’t the most comfortable around, either. Kind of defeats the purpose of riding a steel…so the question is: what rims, hubs, and spokes?

    We’ve been over this before; the chain is just uncocked with the safety on in the lowest gear; my favorite to store it in and my favorite to photograph it in. Putting it in the big ring is only important when you’re layin’ down the V, not when it’s resting against the wall. But you got me on the valve stems…I’ll fix it when it stops raining. Which will be in a week.

  5. @Oli Brooke-White
    You know, I did the headset because my EV2 uses the Cane Creek…but I agree, not the greatest bit of componentry…they always seem to rattle loose. What do you recommend? Chris King? The threaded headset was a Mavic SSC. Stunning, as all their bits always were.

  6. @frank
    Rims and hubs–I don’t know. Maybe something that starts with “Campag” and ends with “nolo”. Just sayin’.

    Cool fucking bike. Now I’m moved to finish what I’ve started on my 1984 Reynolds 531 Mercian.

  7. @doug steers
    They seem absolutely spot on – just like you said, they are like new. I have to say as well, though, that the shifting on the stand with the Wipperman chain seems perfect. But, I haven’t ridden her yet, so we’ll see what we end up with after a few hundred k’s.

  8. Beautiful bikes, made all the more appealing that they’re works in progress for years. It’s good to get a reminder fom time to time to get off the endless consumer bandwagon and appreciate what it is you’ve got. Chapeau.
    +1 JPM silver campag hubs and I’ll have a new favourite bike.

  9. @Jeff in PetroMetro, @minion
    Yeah, agreed on the hubs for sure…not really an other option, is there? So – what about rims? Gianni gifted me a set of Mavics, but the rust on them makes me nervous. Maybe I’ll post a pic of them for consideration; those rims are dead sexy, but if they don’t support my fat ass, they’re not much good, are they?


  10. A beautiful bike, and great post.

    And +1 for this: “…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.” Fuckin’ spot on, mate!

  11. Lovely. And nice to see “metric fuckton” employed so soon after “shitton”. I am intrigued re the vocabulary you’ll employ to describe anything an order of magnitude heavier.

  12. @frank
    If the rims are aluminium the rust should be superficial and they’d polish up nice no? I have ambrosios and can attest to the quality.


    fuckton squared?

  13. sweet ride frank, is there anything you can do about chips in the paintwork? atm i’m just spraying on some gt85 to keep the water from getting at it. Currently learning to maintain/fix my bike by catastrophic error

  14. Brett:
    What about the position of the cranks, the chain on the small ring, and the valve stems not at 6 o’clock? Shoddy work son…

    Did I miss this somewhere? I don’t remember seeing it before, but that’s like a fuckton of genius.

    I’ll fix it when it stops raining. Which will be in a week.

    Sounds like a fuckton of a dry spring you’ve got going over there if the rain is going to let up that soon. Concerns yet about the reservoir?

    And, yes: I’m a fan of fuckton, too. I can see that getting dropped in class tonight…

  15. Valve stems can also be at 12 o’clock.

    @Sam: The beauty of the TSX is that the chrome plating covers the entire frame, so chips aren’t a corrosion issue. The chrome can be, but that’s a whole other issue!

    For general touch-ups I’m a big fan of careful application of modelers enamel – a close colour match can nearly always be found, and even if it’s not exact after a day or two the eye doesn’t fall to the chip any longer so it ceases to be an issue.

    Some of the bad colour matching and sloppy touch-ups on my Bianchi are super obvious if you actually look, but people looking at it still say things to me like, “You obviously never ride this bike.” when I ride it constantly and have for 14 years…

  16. @Oli Brooke-White
    cheers man, gonna get on that, some just little annoying scapes and chips on my frame.

    love the downward sloping top tube, seems to be a thing of the past those Giant compacts seem to be the trend, having said that they do seem to be leveling out in the peleton

  17. As a longtime lurker around here, I feel myself compelled to finally come out of the woodwork to stand up and applaud. Stupendous build, especially once the wheel/headset thing comes together (my two cents: Ambrosios and Chris King). That classic bend in the bars makes it art, if you ask me.

    A wonderfully told tale and a true testament to the power of patience in pulling a build together. Chapeau…

  18. @frank I just built up a set of wheels on 23mm rims. Ever look into something like that? Wider rim allows lower tire pressures without increasing rolling resistance and are supposed to improve aerodynamics. Pretty damn comfortable.

  19. …and Rule #42 notwithstanding, I would imagine that the bottom half of a mermaid helps with the swimming. Of course, mermaids don’t exist, so what the fuck?

  20. You’ll also find you like the Connex, I’m sure of it.

    Welcome and you’re right, those bars really tie the room together don’t they?

    @all To be clear, a fuckton is a shitton times two which is a crapton times pi.

    Fuck me, the 32x open pros will be mounted on Il gruppo progetto today and I was going to post an updated pic but hell if I’m going to put that up against frank’s TSX.
    Dude, do you still have the Flite saddle pictured in stage one? That would look nice on that bike. As far as a headset, sure, you can’t go wrong with a King but what about a campag? Once you build up the boxsex with campag hubs you’d have a complete campag gruppo on that lovely steed if you went with campag headset.

  21. Nice Bike Fronk. As I’ve stated before I’ve always wanted a (celeste green) Bianchi (with a celeste green ’57 oval window VW all slammed to the ground to go with it).

    Headset = Stronglight Super Competition

    Hubs = Campy C-Record

    Rims = Mavic MA-40

    Oh, and I believe the word you were looking for is Ex nihilo.

  22. @G’phant

    Lovely. And nice to see “metric fuckton” employed so soon after “shitton”. I am intrigued re the vocabulary you’ll employ to describe anything an order of magnitude heavier.

    To take a leader from Team America – and who on Earth in their right mind takes a leader from Team Fucking America – with their “JESUS TITTY-FUCKING CHRIST”, would it be a titty-fuckton?

    Sorry, ladies. My VMH is in Vietnam which means I have no adult supervision here at Fort Awesome in Seattle this week. Things are getting ugly around here.

  23. @all

    What is the best way to tell if a set of Record hubs are 8-speed or 9/10 speed? It appears to be a challenge to determine…

  24. @ZachOlson

    I just built up a set of wheels on 23mm rims. Ever look into something like that? Wider rim allows lower tire pressures without increasing rolling resistance and are supposed to improve aerodynamics. Pretty damn comfortable.

    Nice suggestion; the wheels would not be a daily-use wheelset, which is why I’m going with the hassle of tubs vs. clinchers. I really want to find a wheelset config that maximizes the qualities that a bike like this can have. Which the Ksyriums are the oposite of.

    But a wider tire, lower pressure fits right into that spectrum – especially with an eye to the idea that I’ll take them on either the steel or the R3 for a ride over the stones in Belgium/France next spring.

  25. Frank,

    As I said previously, I love the yellow and black Bianchi, seriously a beautiful bike.

    The red one however, I feel like the black/grey fork is out of place. I think you need to keep searching Ebay for a red/chrome one to match. Otherwise it is a fine looking ride!

  26. …then Gianni – whom I didn’t know at the time – arrived in Seattle to visit Jim…

    We all revere Frank as the founder of this site, but I’m increasingly convinced that Jim is the Keyser Soze of this whole operation.

    * He rarely appears, yet seems to be the kingpin of all the relationships between the Keepers.
    * While we’re chatting away on our computers, who is out there putting rubber to pavement? Jim is.
    * When Jim posts, people don’t recognize that he’s a Keeper. “The smartest thing the devil ever did was to convince people he didn’t exist.”

    I rest my case.

  27. @minion
    I dare not suggest this because that means I’ll actually have to get off my ass and do something, but, I have a hardly barely rarely used set of cheap light race wheels I built around ’89. They are sew-ups, Campagnolo Victory Strada 32-hole. I’m embarrassed to say I laced them up to Shimano 600 hubs (they were cheap, I was broke). I wouldn’t cry if I crashed them. Turns out I only raced them a couple of times. They’ve hung in the garage for 22 years. They’re in good shape. I will cut the hubs out and send you the rims, if you think they are worthy of the TSX. At least they say Campy on them.

  28. Fine write-up, Frank! I’m glad you’ve sorted things out properly. Sourcing parts for a build can be fun, but it can always be a long, slow nightmare. I’m pretty pumped that I have all my bikes in order and can just spend the spring getting back to riding and finding my old form.

    “It’s funny how eBay together with PayPal doesn’t even feel like actual money.” I couldn’t agree more. It is crazy how easy it can be, especially after you’ve had a few beers, put in a lot of riding that day and think you deserve a treat. Click, click…new bike gear I didn’t really need…Dangerous stuff!

    I like low profile rims on thin-tubed Italian bikes. But, I did just put some Mavic CXP33s I have on a thin-tubed frame and they kind of look good.

  29. Bel mezzo indeed Frank!
    I’ve to say that Cane Creek was used extensively in Dario Pegoretti workshop few years ago.
    That said a good pair of Macic Open Pro or Ambrosio Excellence would be in my opinion just perfect on your bike, campy hubs well they would be the icing on the cake…

  30. @Jeff in PetroMetro
    *pfff* man…those are stunning.

    The sun unexpectedly kind of came out and I took some updated shots of the bike and updated the photos in the article. Brett, you happyish now?

    Man, I hate those K-Wings on the EV2. For sale: a pair of 42cm FSA K-Wings, excellent condition.

  31. All ribbing aside, you know how much I love that red bike, Fronky… you’ve done a fine job on her indeed.

    I’d go with Ambrosios on Campy, 3x of course, probably Competition spokes to support the fuckton of girth and power you’ll be putting through them. The set Oli built up for me (Chorus hubs $60 on TradeMe, new rims) have been bombproof and ride smooth and lively. We’ll see how they stand up to Welli-Roubaix this weekend (they survived the pre-run no worries; I’m more concerned about the Bozzie’s fork snapping!)

    Speaking of forks, I agree with mcsqueak, the bike craves a chrome steel Columbus to really set it off.

    And a Campy headset. Which reminds me, the Bozzie needs one too…

  32. Brett:
    I’d go with Ambrosios on Campy, 3x of course, probably Competition spokes to support the fuckton of girth and power you’ll be putting through them.


  33. @frank
    Maybe look into some cross-specific rims? I don’t know much about them but I think that cross riders rely on wider tubular rims to run some pretty low pressures. My wheels are clinchers, but with a 25mm tire I can run 60-65psi with no issues. I’m going to try going even lower just to see when it starts to feel mushy.

  34. After months of mental anguish and finally settling on Titanium for my new bike, you have made me throw all my plans to the wind and am now again considering glorious steel. What a fine steed indeed.
    P.S This is my first post after a long time lurking so hi to everyone.

  35. @Brett, @mcsqueak
    Totally get the chrome fork notion from a “classic” standpoint – and you know I’m all about tradition – but some things really are better with modern technology, and carbon forks are one of them. I have the original chrome columbus fork that came with it and a titanium 140mm stem Gianni gave me, but the reduction in weight and overall improvement in ride is worth the loss of traditional looks for a bike that I’ll enjoy riding more.

    All that said, my rule with bike mods such as this is, NEVER make an irreversible changes. I have the fork, I have the stem, and I will never get rid of them. I even have the headset, although it is really not usable anymore. I can always go back.

  36. @ZachOlson

    p.s. I weigh around 180lbs, so I’m no twig.

    Are you also the Duane Allman-looking bloke layin’ into a G Major bar chord with the harp in your avatar?

  37. @Lepidopterist, @Brett
    Titanium is definitely fantastic. The one alloy missing from my quiver. Ah, the Caloi or (LiteSpeed-built) Merckx TI is the apple of mine eye.

    I’m in a Panel-Approved (budget yet to be determined) market for a Cross bike. Toying with Ti as the material of choice. Discuss.

    As for Ti and buying more bikes, as I mentioned to @EightZero on our Ronde Tribute Ride on Sunday, titanium isn’t the last bike you’ll buy – it’s just the last bike you’ll need to buy. Rule #12 always persists.

  38. @Pedale.Forchetta
    I am so glad you mentioned his name. I know I already said this in the article, but for some reason it really sticks with me that maybe – just maybe – Pegoretti built this one. That really is the amazing thing about hand-built frames, both the Bianchis I have have such a phenomenal feel to them…whomever built these bikes had the perfect amount of Grappa prior to assembling these frames.

    Next Spring – when I’m in Europe again – I will look you up and commission you to photograph my bikes. Having you shoot them will be worth the expense of having them all shipped with me.

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