Every now and again something special reveals itself, then enters The Old Shed.  On a cool Autumn evening, darker that an ape's armpit, the headlights of the Ford Ranger caught a glimpse of an anticipated bicycle leaning against the inside of a five foot tall hedge.  Accompanying the bicycle were two others, both hard used mountain bicycles, one kids and one adult.  All three bicycles had been donated to the Thunder Bay chapter of Bicycles for Humanity, an organization to which I volunteer a great deal of time.

Each year around the Thanksgiving weekend, the Thunder Bay Chapter of Bicycles for Humanity conducts Bicycle Donation Days.  The event spans four days and generally results in the collection of between four and five hundred bicycles of all sorts, sizes and vintages.  It is not at all unusual for a truck-bed, full of unwanted bicycles, will show up.  Volunteers quickly unload the bicycles, thank the person donating the bicycles into our workshop, offering a tour of our humble but effective operation.

Of the three or four thousand bicycles donated so far, roughly six to eight hundred are not appropriate for use in Third World conditions.  Antique balloon tire bicycles, old three speed and single speed roadsters and lots of old "Ten Speeds" are among those that do not cross the pond to live in far off Africa.  These inappropriate bicycles are recycled at the domestic level in a number of creative ways that the B4H-TB volunteers have come up with.  The Masi was one of these bicycles that I through the B4H-TB "Earn a Bike Program".  I might add that two other bicycles have entered my humble collection of vintage road bicycles through the "Earn a Bike" opportunity - a lovely Cambio Rino and an equally nice Norco Magnum Special Edition that was donated as a nearly bare frame set.

On day three of the four day Bicycle Donation Drive, a middle aged woman stopped off at the Bicycles for Humanity workshop and asked how she could donate her unwanted bicycles to the cause.  She pointed out that she had three bikes to get rid of (her words) but had no means of transporting them to our place of business.  This is never a problem since our group has people who will gladly go and pick-up bicycles when asked to do so.

When the lady mentioned that she used to ride one of the bicycles in triathlons, my interest was captured and I offered to pick the bicycles up the next day.  She agreed and told me that she would set the bicycles out for pick-up and I was to simply help myself.

Arriving at her house, I did not see any bicycles presented for pick-up.  I knocked on the door to no avail.  I wandered around the house hoping that she had placed the bikes in a not too obvious place in hopes of preventing theft.  No bicycles were there.  I had little time left to investigate since doing so would have made me late for that evening's Bicycle Drop-Off activities at the B4H workshop.  However, before leaving, I snapped open my cell phone and called the lady who had offered the bicycles.

The lady of whom we speak, was very apologetic when she realized that she had forgotten to put the bikes out for pick-up.  She promised to do so the minute that she got home from work and I promised to pick the bikes up shortly after nine that evening.  I thanked her for her time and headed off to the workshop with hopes of taking in more donated bicycles.  But the wait seemed to be a long one, flavoured with anticipation of seeing the triathlon bicycle.

The B4H event was supposed to end at nine in the evening and as soon as I locked up the shop, I jumped into the half ton and headed back to the lady's house.  This time, as I approached, I could see the wheel of an old "Ten Speed" jutting from behind the hedge that surrounded most of the property.  At least this trip would prove to be of some avail.  Some avail indeed...

As mentioned, it was pretty dark outside and I could not get a good look at the bicycle of interest.  The light falling from the one lonely street lamp was, however, adequate for quick identification.  Upon inspection, I knew that something special had just fallen out of that secret place where vintage road bicycles are often hidden.  The one thing that caught my attention immediately was the unusual chrome plated for crown.  I zoomed home with the three captured bicycles, filled with anticipation of having a better look at what just showed up.

Once the bicycle was indoors and properly lighted, I saw a smattering of Campagnolo components including only the headset and seat post.  Closer investigation revealed Campagnolo rear drops and the tubing, when flicked with a fingernail, rang like a bell.  Yup, this bicycle was something a bit out of the ordinary.  But what was it?

After scouring the Internet for a while, I could not determine what make the bicycle was.  Torpado came to mind but nothing matched well enough to offer even a tiny bit of confirmation.  The bottom bracket housing, at 70mm in width, suggested that the bicycle was of Italian origin.  The Campagnolo drops and inside fork blade braces indicated a quality frame set but still no real clue as to what kind of bicycle I had found.  My next course of action would be to present the bicycle to the members of the Bicycle Forums for identification and evaluation.  With that in mind, I took a complete set of "as found" shots.

I started a new thread on the a favoured bicycle forum and included a good set of pictures that clearly showed the frame set's features.  With-in minutes one of the other Forum members responded with something that sounded like - "Wow!  Its a Masi".  Sure it was?  It seemed unlikely to me that such a revered bicycle would show up in Thunder Bay.  Certainly not an impossible event (I fondly remember the day a 1971 Carlton Professional mysteriously appeared in my back yard) but one that would seem to be pretty unlikely.  Anyway...

More responses to my Forum query came in and the consensus seemed to be that the bicycle was indeed a Masi.  And to be more precise, a Masi Gran Criterium that was built in Italy and likely built by one of the foremost builders of the time - Mario Confente who was building Masi bicycles in Verona at the time the bicycle featured was built.  Incidentally, the only identification numbers on the bicycle were V43 and these numbers appeared both on the bottom bracket and steering stem of the fork set.  The 43 indicates that the bicycle's seat tube was 43 centimetres long, measured from the center of the BB to the top of the top tube.  The V indicated that the bicycle was built in Verona.  My excitement grew.  Perhaps I did indeed have a valuable and highly prized old road bicycle.  Perhaps, but I was still not convinced.

I began looking at pictures of every Masi I could find on the Net and sure enough, the frame set details would suggest that the bicycle was what others were saying it was.  Some time and careful searching helped me come to the conclusion that the bicycle was of 1971 vintage.  After a couple more hours of investigation, I was convinced.  I had indeed found a worthy Italian bicycle to add to my humble collection.  Of course, I already had two pretty decent Italian bicycles, an early eighties Tomassini Prestige and a late sixties Legnano Gran Premio.

And, as is usually the case, the question that was bursting in my mind was, will it fit?  Too often great bicycles reveal themselves only to prove to be too big or two small.  Though deemed to be a 53cm bicycle, in accordance with my method of measuring the size would be 52cm.  Generally, the smallest bicycle I can ride comfortably would measure 54cm(c-c).  The only way to know for sure would be to test ride the bicycle and hope for the best.