Before heading off on the Gardin Anniversary for a test ride, however brief it might be since night was fast falling, I tucked a couple of wrenches and a screw driver into the back pocket of my jeans - just in case I needed to tune the tranny or adjust fit.  I slipped on my miserably worn riding shoes, clipped in and rolled away seeking first, above all other things, to test safety related concerns.  All seemed well, as I gingerly headed up the gently slope of Queen Street.

The first test ride for any bicycle that I acquire is up the street and then down.  As I am going up-slope, I lightly test each brake to ensure that they are actually working.  Next, I look for stability by slowly releasing my grip on the handlebars.  If the bike tracks well with "hands off" the bars, I feel pretty comfortable the the frame set's geometry has not been compromised.  In other words, the frame set is not bent.

Though the brake callipers selected for the Gardin were more than adequate, a set of C-Record Delta callipers were found fitted to a mid eighties Marinoni Special.  The Marinoni was sold as a frame set but gave up its complete C-Record grouppo, some of the pirated components targeted for the Gardin.  The C-Record seat post and Delta callipers were the first of those to be fitted to the Gardin.  The only C-Record stuff remaining to be installed are the hubs which will be laced to a near mint set of Mavic MA40 rims.

The Delta callipers were a touch difficult to learn set up, but worked just great, once installed.  New (expensive) brake pads probably do much to help the brakes work as well as they do.  Although I think the original callipers worked just fine, the Deltas look so much better, adding just a bit more visual interest to an already stunning bicycle.

Once satisfied that the bike can actually slow down and go in a straight line, I do a U-turn and head down-slope.  The down slope part of the ride is to test transmission performance.  I do my best to get up to speed by shifting through all gears, very carefully at first and then with increasing degrees of confidence with each successful repetition.  I continue with this part of the test until shifting is all that it can be.  To make this part of the story short, everything performed exactly as it was supposed to.  That allowed me to move on to the next part of test riding - adjusting fit.

The Rolls saddle, supported now by a C-Record seat post, had already proved itself to be a comfortable perch but it can, and usually does, take me a few rides to nail fit adjustment.  I am pretty good at getting saddle height defined but tend to fuss with fore/aft position as well as angle of saddle tilt.  I do not expect to get the fit adjustments right on the test ride.  Fit will be determined in small increments and after the first three or four meaningful rides (a couple of hours or more each), the bike should be set up to best meet my size and riding style.  Then and only then can I begin to evaluate a bicycle's ride qualities.

Even though the Rolls was just about perfect for the Gardin, I did try another saddle.  The Turbo Super that came with the big green Marinoni was close in color to the handlebar tape on the Gardin and I figured, why not?  I quickly swapped the saddles out, fitting the Rolls onto an early eighties Tommasini Prestige and the Super onto the Gardin.  Good choice.  The saddle looks better and is every bit as comfortable as the Rolls first chosen.

I should emphasize a concern when first putting a rebuilt bike on the road.  Keep an eye on your cranks set, particularly if they are tapered.  Though you might have tightened them into place, in accordance with specified torque values, the crank might still loosen off - just a bit.  Once any looseness presents itself in the crank-to-spindle assembly, wear will begin to occur and that wear will be RAPID!  The soft alloy internal taper of the crank arms will begin to stretch and round-out.  And with each pedal stroke the wear will get worse.  The result - buy a new set of crank arms.  And vintage crank arms, Campagnolo and Stronglight coming immediately to mind, can be horribly expensive.  So get this installation task right and check it right away once you begin riding the bike.  Then check it again a while later.  Re-torque as required.  Back to the ride...

I must always caution myself that I am testing a bicycle's ride qualities when first getting to know a bicycle, if that is even an accurate way of describing the process.  It is easy to get excited and experience what might almost be called an endorphin rush.  With this in mind, I consciously ask myself how the brakes feel when applied.  Are the levers a comfortable reach for me.  How would they be for a five foot two woman with smaller hands?  Do the brakes feel positive and confidence inspiring?  In other words, does the bike slow down well.  To these types of answers I add previously gleaned information.  Are the brakes easy to install and tune?  I try to consider everything I can when evaluating brake system performance.  The final test is a full speed stop that usually takes place on High Street Hill, an appropriate name if there ever was one.

High Street hill is a short distance from my home.  I climb to the summit, turn around and then sprint to achieve a fairly good rate of speed, perhaps 50km an hour which is the legal speed limit for that part of town.  There are no side street visibility issues and the only thing to really be aware of is the traffic light at the bottom of the hill.  However, top speed can easily be reached less than a third of the way down the hill, leaving lots of room for a drag your foot stop if everything else attached to the bike fails to slow it down.  I should add that it is a good ideal to leave one's self plenty of room to stop.  I almost blew it one day riding a nice early eighties Olmo Grand Prix.  In fact, that old Olmo taught me more than one valuable lesson, but that is another story.

With speed achieved on the hill, I fully apply both the front and back brakes.  I think about how quickly I am slowing and will I be able to stop by the time I reach the gray house?  The best stopping bikes will be still by the time I reach that spot on High Street hill.  I should add that I watch to ensure that I do not actually lock up the wheels, presenting skid conditions.  All that said, most good bicycles, equipped with quality brakes, pass this test well.  Back to the Gardin...

I did not put the Anniversary through the entire test the first evening.  With dusk looming, I decided to put the bike back into the stand and check it over from end to end, ensuring that all was well after use.  Everything was fine and switching off the light to my shop I tried, unsuccessfully I might add, to put the bike out of my mind so that I could finish up a couple of other things.  But the last thing I thought of, as I settled into bed, was how nice the bike felt as I rode it up and down the front street.

The next day dawned bright and brisk.  After all, it was still Spring in Thunder Bay and cold weather is not unheard of at that time of year.  In fact, Thunder Bayers all look forward to the long weekend in May since frost rarely occurs after that date.  With this in mind, and hoping that the sun would burn away the morning chill, I completed my chores before suiting up and heading out.

To make this long story short, the Gardin Anniversary is a joy to ride and the great ride quality could be felt almost immediately.  I had to focus on test considerations since the bike and I seemed to meld into a single unit.  I have been lucky enough to ride a few bicycles that felt this way and this is not a factual evaluation.  Some bikes are just right and the Gardin Anniversary was one of them, becoming an instant member of a fairly small group that includes a 1971 Carlton Professional, a Miele LTD and perhaps a 1973 Atala Professional.  I would even add an eighties something Vitus 979 to that list, however and even though the bike felt absolutely great, compatibility issues did begin to surface as I got to know it.  The Vitus was too flexible for a guy my size and I was worried about breaking the frame set.  All that said...

At the time of this writing the Gardin Anniversary and I have not shared the saddle long.  I keep planning a special ride but just can't get the time to do so with the Spring rush thing and all.  Heck, I haven't even taken out my early sixties Peugeot PX10, which I restored during the winter.  However...

My son recently found an early eighties Tommassini Prestige for me and that bike also offers a wonderful ride.  In fact, I have spent about a month comparing the Gardin Anniversary's ride to that of the Tommassini.  They are both impressive and the jury is still out on which one offers the best ride.  I must, however, suggest that the Tommassini just might win out since it is truly a wonderful bike.

But my guess is that the Gardin Anniversary will hold a high position in the favourites category of my humble collection of vintage racing bicycles, both for appearance and performance.  And I must add one final comment about the Anniversary.  I think that it is one of the nicest looking bicycles I have owned.  How I wish it had chromed head tube lugs!

But, chrome head tube lugs or not, the Gardin Special is an incredible bicycle.  Now, several months after acquiring the bicycle and after a series of upgrades, I can honestly say that the Gardin rivals anything else in my collection when ride and appearance are the concerns.  The Gardin is a beautiful bicycle to behold and a treat to ride.  The other two bikes in my collection that compete for best rider in the collection are, a mid eighties Tommasini Prestige and a recently found 1971 Masi Gran Criterium.  Pretty impressive bikes in their own right.

And since the first build, the rest of the Campagnolo C-Record grouppo has been added, along with a white Turbo saddle and matching handlebar tape.  The bike is now finished, though finished can be a moving target, and a permanent part of my collection.