[CR]Riding Vintage and dealing with Vintage Brakes

Example: Humor:John Pergolizzi

From: "Dave Novoselsky" <dnovo@ix.netcom.com>
To: <classicrendezvous@bikelist.org>
Date: Sun, 16 Mar 2003 04:58:00 -0600
Subject: [CR]Riding Vintage and dealing with Vintage Brakes

I constantly surprise my very skillful, but much younger dealer friend who is kind enough to help me assemble and adjust my vintage rides as they come out of the shipping boxes by actually riding them on a nice day. When we are putting them together, and since he has been hanging around or working at an LBS since he was in single digits, the fact that he is only 35 does not prevent him from saying "I remember these from 'back in the day' when an early 80s Tommasini or De Rosa comes out of a shipping carton. (I am also fortunate for the fact that he has a superb feel for how things work or should work on a bicycle, and inherited the former owner's store of old parts from the days when he was riding or sponsoring teams begining in the late 50s. Lots of old Campy, TA, Huret, Simplex and Stronglight parts still sitting in bits and pieces in the storage area.) Nonethelss, when a nice day comes along, when I take a vintage bike rather than something like the 2003 Serotta Legend Ti Compact out, he just shakes his head and says, "they look better sitting in your office, go out and ride something more responsive and relaxing."

Okay, so nostaglia may not be all its cracked up to be, but I still won't own a bike I can't or won't ride. I buy a frame or a bike in a size I can fit or that I can modify slightly at ride time before putting back into its 'original' configuration. (That can be worked with by a simple answer for my primary issue of bar height with an injured back that prevents me from getting down very far over a set of low drops. The solution was given to me by Jim Cunningham at Cyclart, who did a superb job of 'touching up' my 1976 Masi Gran Criterium so it looks and performs like a brand new bike, and solved the low bar to saddle issue by sending a bar extender along in the box of extra parts. A few turns with the right tool, and the stem gets raised for the ride, and then off and back to 'normal' appearance when it is ready to go to its home next to the computer where I am now sitting.)

Yesterday it was near 60 here in extreme SE Wisconsin. The Nagasawa the I picked up last weekend, which Richie 'outed' at this group, got its first ride, and that was a pleasure. (Surprisingly comfortable, very much like my Serotta CSi and not as 'crit-like' as other Japanese frames I have experienced, such as the 3Rensho.) I also had time to take the Masi out and and enjoy that before giving my recently-acquired Colonago Oval CX its first ride.

The Colnago is in like new condition, having spent all or nearly all of its first ownership either in storage or as a 'wall hanging' belonging to a collector who does not ride. When I bought the bike, it had the original tires on it, which were age brittle and replaced by a good set of Vittoria tubies of the right type and then glued on an left to settle in for a few weeks. I didn't expect any mechanical issues as the gruppo was mostly SR, which had been checked (and the old Campy grease cleaned up and the HT repacked) before my ride. The only things that were going to be out of the ordinary for me was the Modolo shifters and the Kronos brakes.

The shifters proved to be just fine. The Oval came with a Colnago-pantographed set of composite material Modolo shifters mounted with internal cable routing as part of the supplied frameset on this model, part of the 'aero' theme. (They are pictured in the catalog scans at the Bulgier site.) They shift the SR mechs fine and the internal shift and brake cables give the whole bike a very clean look. Nice looking, nice feel to them, a bit 'springy' in feel, but that is a function of the composite material, and the reach is easy and the action perdictable. The brakes on the other hand, well . . . . . . . . .

The dealer who had brokered the purchase for me is another young, but very attuned fellow, who loves bikes and knows quite a bit of the history of them and their components from the early 80s forward. When I purchased the bike, we discussed the non-Campy bits, and I got a lecture on the Kronos brakes and their successors, the Campy Deltas. "they look slick, they don't work for diddley. Keep a lot of open road in front of you when you try them, you will need it."

Boy, he wasn't kidding. The first time I tried them, they did nothing to slow the bike. I squeezed as hard as I could on the 'composite' (hell, the damn things are plastic) levers and they bike slowed just a tiny bit. I would have done better just putting my feet down and dragging it to a halt!

Got off, checked to see if the brakes were working properly, found they were, and decided that the adage that form follows function sure did not apply to these brakes. What were they thinking when they built these disasters? Aero is one thing, high tech is great, but these things don't work!

I would be curious to see if anyone else has had the same impression of these monsters, or am I simply asking too much of them? The rest of the bike is fun, and it looks great (albiet with a BIT of flex when you really honk on it). I can see that no blind corners for this elderly kid when he takes this one riding, nice long straight stretches and open curves for me.

No wonder the Kronos had such a short life span, they really don't work -- at least that's what I think.

Dave Novoselsky,
Chicago Illinois