MY "TEN SPEEDS"

 

 

MY "TEN SPEEDS"

 

 

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MY "TEN SPEEDS"

 

BOTTECCHIA SP - INTRO

FINDING THE SPECIAL

RIDE & BUILD THE SPECIAL 

 

BICYCLES OF ITALY

 

 

BUILDING & RIDING THE BOTTECCHIA SPECIAL

The Special was pretty much ready to ride "as found".  Other than a flat tire, the only thing the bicycle needed to get it on the road was a bit of "ProLink" chain oil on the chain and dripped into the freewheel body.  Though the Bottecchia had been well stored, time had dried up the lubricant in both.  My guess is that the bottom bracket bearings and wheel bearings need to be opened up, cleaned and treated to a fresh application of grease.  I never did get around to doing that since I had decided right from the word go that I would sell the bicycle, rather than keep it.  Initial measurement suggested that the Bottecchia was too small for me to ride comfortably and I no longer keep bicycles that do not fit me well.

I purchased the Special in the morning around 10:00am and by 2:00pm the bike and I were ready to get to know each other.  After the Yard Sailing portion of Saturday had passed, I turned my attention to a careful inspection of my new/old Italian prize.  As I cast a close eye over the bicycle, it became pretty obvious that it had seen little use.  There was hardly any wear.  The teeth on the front sprockets were still crisp and the original tires still had the mould rib down the center.  The original Universal brake pads were barely broken in and still supple to boot.  Normally the edge of the pedal will round off with use and the top edges will appear to be polished.  Neither was the case with the Bottecchia.  The pedals were practically mint and even the ends were unmarked.  All in all, a really nice vintage road bicycle in exceptional condition.

I did, however, take the time to thoroughly inspect the bicycle and adjust what needed adjusting.  I checked over all fasteners, ensuring that all nuts and bolts were secure.  I opened and closed the wheel hub quick releases, adjusted to my preference.  I forgot to do that on another newly acquired Italian bicycle one day and darn near broke my shoulder for failing to do so.  The last thing that I do when testing a new bicycle is pull the straps and clips if installed.  I do not really like the Old School system for securing the foot to the pedal.  With that in mind and my lack of skill in using the old system, I prefer to just try the bike out without the encumbrance of strapping in.  If the first couple of rides prove to be interesting enough, I install my clipless pedals and ask a bit more of the bicycle once I do.

As I recall, it was a nice warm afternoon when the Special and I took off for a wee test ride.  At very slow speed I tested the rear brake and then the front.  I pressed on the handlebars and then pulled.  Everything seemed to be working as it should and the important stuff seemed to be nice and tight.  I turned the bicycle onto the street and slowly brought it up to speed.

During that first test ride, I was surprised to find that the Bottecchia fit me very nicely.  The frame set measured 53+cm, as I recall, and I ride no less than a 54cm seat tube, measured center to center.  But the bicycle was a good fit.  Very pretty.  And Italian.  The ride would perhaps be the deciding factor.  Of course, I already knew what the ride would be like since I had already owned an identical but somewhat larger bicycle.  However, at 58cm the blue Bottecchia Special was a bit too big for me to ride comfortably.  So how the bike rode would mean nothing in this decision.  I had a very pretty Italian bicycle from the 1960's that had cost me twenty bucks and fit me like a glove.  Seemed like a keeper to me...

It never fails!  When I find a old nice road bicycle that I really like and fits me well, I always want to add it to my collection.  And that is exactly how I felt about the Bottecchia.  The ride would be the deciding factor - Ha!  Even before I took the bike out for a ride, I knew what to expect.  Anyway...

As my speed increased, I slowly and very carefully began to relax my grip on the handlebars.  I always try to ride a bicycle hands off and, in so doing, more or less prove to myself that the bicycle's frame and fork set is nice and straight.  If the bicycle begins to pull one way or the other, then something is amiss in the geometry and warrants investigation.  If there is no pulling this way or that, I assume that the frame set is OK.  The Bottecchia tracked like it was on rails, hands on or off.  Not only did this fine old Italian bicycle look great but it was, just as I had hoped and expected, in sound condition also.

Once satisfied that the frame's integrity had not been compromised, I turned my attention to fit.  I had to adjust the saddle up a tad to get proper leg extension and I rolled the bars a bit more forward but that was about all the fit tuning required to impart a fairly comfortable ride.  With frame issues out of the way and fit adjustments made, the bike and I took off to ride the Loop, a favourite ride that I often follow when testing bicycles for the first couple of times.  The ride takes me through a bit of traffic, then into an industrial zone that fringes the shore of Lake Superior.  The road swings away from the lake, cutting though a forest and ends up in a marsh that has been set aside as a natural preserve for wild life.  It is a beautiful place to stop, eat a nut bar and contemplate the Sleeping Giant, a peninsula that can be seen from the Thunder Bay harbour and looks like a slumbering human being.

After the marsh, the Loop takes me through a not too busy part of the city and then around Boulevard Lake, another truly beautiful part of the city of Thunder Bay.  From the lake, the Bottecchia and I rode through a residential area or two, finally following the path along McVikers Creek back to my own neighbourhood.

The Bottecchia proved to be a great bicycle to ride.  No, it was not nearly as responsive as some of the exotic high end bicycles in my collection, but it did offer a wonderful vintage feel that tends to slow my pace down while inviting me to enjoy the moment and forget about performance.  None of my high end bikes impact me this way and I first noticed the difference while riding an entry level Legnano that I found at the Dump one day.

The bicycle was very comfortable and certainly fun to ride.  Keep in mind that I never worked hard to push the bicycle.  I did bring it up to top speed a couple of times just to see what it would do and I am convinced that it will do much more that I can.

The Campagnolo Velox transmission is entry level but worked well enough.  Shifts were never fast and that is OK with me because I am not looking for performance from a bicycle like the Bottecchia.  I am looking for vintage feel and comfort.  I do not mind a slower shift because I am in no hurry when riding such a bicycle.  With that in mind, I took the time to get used to the transmission and it proved to be easy enough to use as long as I did not hurry it.  I should add that it was very easy to get used to the shifters and it took little time to simply hit the sweet spot with every friction shift.  A tribute to a shifter of the Velox's quality level.

The Universal brakes did their job well but keep in mind that I never really put them to the test.  When I tested the bicycle's top speed potential I did haul on the brakes hard to see what they were capable of and they are capable of plenty.  The bicycle slowed dramatically and confidence in the Old School center pull brake system increased.  There was nothing to complain about with the Bottecchia's stopping capability.

The Old School Universal brake levers are both comfortable for me and classy looking.  They reek of vintage appeal. Perhaps their greatest virtue is the clean look of the levers themselves.  No lightening holes drilled.  No pantographing.  No pattern to supposedly improve grip.  Just clean curved and smooth flowing lines with nothing to detract the eye from the simple statement made by these clean old levers.  I might add that the levers are not anodized.  A little scratch or gouge can be easily polished away in very short order, if the need to do so arises.

Another thing that catches the eye with the Bottecchia's Old School brake system is the need for brake brackets.  These brackets, mounted front and back facilitate the removal of each wheel by allowing a quick release mechanism to be opened, allowing the tire to clear the brake pads when removing or install a wheel.  This little chrome plated brackets are appealing in the vintage sense and certainly do increase "user friendliness" when doing any wheel work.

The wheels did not need truing and were left pretty much "as found".  The Campagnolo high flange hubs, though not Record, are one of my favourite hub sets and the Bottecchia's were in excellent condition.  The hubs were laced to Dolomiti Super Chromed, 27" x 1 1/4", steel patterned wheel rims.  And, I hate these rims.  Not just the Dolomiti brand, but all patterned braking surface rims.  The Rigida patterned rim is just as bad, if not worse.  The pattern on the braking surface causes the wheels and brake pads to buzz when the brakes are applied.  And that buzzing sound is quite loud and certainly annoying.

The patterned surface is to help dispel water, increase coefficients of friction and improve braking efficiency.  Well, the idea works well enough and the brakes do a great job of slowing the Bottecchia down but the noise is just too distracting.  Had I decided to keep the bicycle, I would have swapped the steel hoops out for a set of period correct alloy ones and said goodbye to the buzz.  That modification, incidentally, would have offered a considerable improvement in the feel of the bicycle.  Anytime you can reduce rolling weight (i.e. the weight of a wheel, or tire) you will improve performance and ride feel.  Rolling weight is a very important performance factor when considering how much a bicycle weighs.

I had to replace the saddle that came with the Bottecchia.  The original owner had replaced that "stupid leather saddle" - his words, not mine - with a more modern and much wider unit that I removed as quickly as I could.  The mere sight of it made me feel uneasy and certainly detracted from the Bottecchia's visual appeal.  The saddle I selected came from somewhere and had been tucked away in The Old Shed for some time.  The suspended leather perch did prove to be reasonably comfortable but one must remember that I did not ride the bicycle for great length of time.  Were I to have kept the bike, I would have installed one of my own leather saddles(I have a couple of spares that have been remade in my image, so to speak).

I spent a few days riding the Bottecchia Special and liked the bicycle a lot.  I suppose the one thing that tended to negatively impact my appreciation of the bicycle was that stupid brake buzz.  Everything else was just fine, in my opinion, and I gave very serious thought to keeping this nice old Italian road bicycle.  I was also facing the same decision with a recently acquired Falcon in amazing condition.  And to make matters worse, I had already added a few bicycles to my growing collection.  In fact, 2008 saw five really nice bicycles join my collection of high end or special issue Canadian bikes - a 1982 Marinoni Special, a 1981 Peugeot Course, a late seventies or early eighties Norco Magnum SE, a seventies something Cambio Rino and a very old CCM Westonia.  Five keepers in a single year is pretty unusual.  Most years I am lucky to add one bike to the stable.  Oh, I forgot about the pinnacle of 2008's finds - a 1963 Peugeot PX10.

So, even though I like the bright red Bottecchia, I decided to let it go.  The bicycle fetched a fair price on Ebay and now lives in Japan.  In an effort to reduce shipping cost as much as I possibly could, and with the new owner's permission, I took the bicycle apart so that it would fit into a smaller box.  The box was mailed, via surface post, to Japan and arrived about four weeks later.  I never did hear from the fellow who purchased the Bottecchia but he did leave positive feedback so I guess that he really liked the Italian bike that I had to let go.

 

 

 

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