While out for a city ride, I stopped in to visit Thunder Bay's local vintage road bike Guru.  A knowledgeable fellow, to say the least.  I place great store on any information this guy has to offer.  And he always has something to tell when "Ten Speeds" become the topic of conversation.

In the front of the shop, growing through the concrete sidewalk, stands a lonely tree.  Though the neighbourhood is quaint and old, the tree still looks somewhat forlorn.  A wrought iron five foot high cage, surrounds this ancient tree.  The cage is there to protect the tree, I suppose.  Perhaps to keep the tree prisoner.  But at least it offers me a place to lock my bike to.  I have noticed that not one bike shop in my city has bothered to place a bike rack out front, or anywhere for that matter, to serve the needs of their customers.  Having to lock my shiny and precious old road bike to a tree cage is not my idea of meeting the customer's needs.  I wonder if this situation presents itself in other cities.

After hitching my Cannondale to the tree cage, I slipped my back pack off and went to see what I could see.  My Guru friend greeted me from the back of the shop as I let the heavy front door swing back into place.  Glancing this way and that as I made my way to the back, I could not help but admire a beautiful powder blue team something or other that carried a $14,000.00 price tag.  Dream along.  I'll get it in the Dump in twenty years - for free!  But is really is a nice bicycle.  But fourteen grand!

As I approached the tiny front workshop, it was clear that my friend was busy plying his Velo trade.  This guy is a mechanical wizard when it comes to setting up vintage road bicycles.  He has helped me with a few chores and taught me a great deal about super fine tuning.  Following his advice, I lap every set of hubs that I put into service for my own personal bikes.  I admire and mimic his attention to mechanical detail in my own quest to achieve mechanical perfection on my special rides.

Guru Guy was truing a wheel as I drew near.  He was quite capable of doing so on the Zen level, chattering away as he spun the wheel, snapped it to a stop, tweaked a spoke, and then repeated the process again.  With a nod of his head indicating a direction to go, he told me to take a look in the back shop.  He had something for me.  The something was the "Criterium".  And what a nice bicycle it was.

Apparently the fellow to whom the bicycle belonged had brought it in for a tune up.  The original owner had put the Velo Sport away in the early eighties and there it had remained in storage ever since.  Now, some twenty years later, he had decided that he wanted to ride his bicycle again.  He dropped the bicycle off at the bike shop, with orders to give it the works.  The bicycle was to be fully tuned.  New control cables, brake pads, inner tubes and tires, were to be part of the tune-up.  A few days later, the fellow returned to pick up his bike...

Remember, the bicycle had been put into storage twenty years earlier.  Prices change!  The guy was quite upset at the bill and left the bicycle in payment, suggesting to Guru Guy that the bicycle could be stored forever in a place where the sun never shines.  Of course, the bicycle would never have fit.  Without my knowing it, the Velo Sport "Criterium" had been tucked away in the bike shop basement for some time before it was offered to me.  As my luck would have it, the bicycle was much to big for me but the price was right.  For little more than the price of the new set of Bontrager tires, that had been installed already, I bought the whole bicycle.  The Velo had already been tuned up with new cables, brake pads and all.  I zoomed home on my Cannondale and a short while later I returned with my half ton to pick up my new Canadian made vintage road bicycle.

The "Criterium frame set is all but a work of art, as it should be for a higher end bicycle.  The tubing material is Champion #2 butted and made by Tange.  Though second from Champion's top of the line offering, the tube set has a lovely ring to it when flicked with a fingernail.  Once again, indicating to me at least a quality material.

Long pointed lugs join the chrome moly tubes in a flawlessly built fashion, once again indicating a quality bicycle.  The concave seat stay tops add a little extra to an already nicely presented frame set.  The drops are forged Shimano units, the rears set-up with axle adjusters.  The stays and fork blades enter the drops cleanly and with no apparent misalignment.  A nicely assembled bicycle frame set to say the least. One that couples quality materials with quality workmanship, the two fundamental ingredients that define a really good vintage road bicycle.

Even though the bicycle had seen near a quarter century pass, the art and paint was still in excellent condition.  Though I really don't like drab colors on a bicycle, the Velo Sport's simple sliver paint, coupled with plain but abundant art worked well from the aesthetics view point.  I should add that I prefer brightly coloured bicycles and for two reasons.  First, bright colors are easy for others to see.  Being seen, is step one to not being run over by a busy and inattentive motorist.  Secondly, I like orange road bicycles!  Every bicycle in my collection would all be orange, if I had things my way.  Unless, of course, all motorists promise to not run over me.  Then, my color choice would be black.  I like black bicycles, even more than orange ones.

Another thing that I really like on a vintage road bicycle is a head badge.  I know that badges serve no practical purpose what-so-ever, but they do, in my humble opinion, add a touch of vintage class.  That said, I did not like the badge on the Velo Sport.  It is a thick plastic affair that draws added on attention to itself and looks out of place on the head tube.  It is glued into place, rather than riveted.  Now this is a really minor concern.  At least Velo Sport was still making the head badge effort when the "Criterium" came to be.  A couple of years later the Velo Sport head badge would be no more, replaced with a decal so common on emerging bicycles of the day.

I have owned quite a few Velo Sport bicycles.  Most were of mid level quality, and one or two entry level steeds.  All were well made and cleanly assembled.  Though the component grouppos for the entry lever bicycles was nothing special, many mid level and better Velo Sports were set-up with partial and even full Shimano 600 Arabesque grouppos.  And the "Criterium" was no exception.  The component grouppo was, indeed, full Shimano Arabesque and in lovely shape to boot.

Several bicycles have come my way with this wonderful old grouppo installed.  The components are wonderfully ornate and work in an all but flawless manner.  For me, and after I have taken in the full picture of a complete bicycle, my attention immediately focuses on the crank set.  The crank and ring assembly is a big component, centrally located and tends to draw the eye.  In the Criterium's case, the crank set demands attention.