MY "TEN SPEEDS"

 

 

MY "TEN SPEEDS"

 

 

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MY "TEN SPEEDS"

 

MASI GRAN CRIT - INTRO

FINDING THE MASI

TEST RIDING THE MASI

FITTING THE GRAN CRIT 

 

BICYCLES OF ITALY

 

TEST RIDING THE MASI GRAN CRITERIUM

The Masi did not really need a great deal to make it safe to test ride.  Basically, the bicycle was all there and still in working order, but nothing was working perfectly.  Careful inspection revealed that the bicycle had been subjected to a good lubrication program over the years and visible grease still looked and felt like grease.

None-the-less, the bicycle was tuned and adjusted in an effort to get everything working the way it was supposed to.  WD40 was applied to the chain for cleaning purposes only and then followed up with a generous application of ProLink chain oil, my personal favourite.  Bottom bracket, headset and wheel hub bearings still operated smoothly with no apparent grinding present.  Two things needed doing to complete preparations for the test ride - pump up the tubular tires and install my modern pedals.  Though the pedals do not look the part, I find it unpleasant to ride without my modern clip-ins.  But that is just me.

With the pedals installed, I turned my attention to tire pressure.  The tires looked pretty good but old tires might well have failed and show little sign of having done so until that inevitable bang pervades one's tiny workshop.  Yup, the front tire blew itself right off of the rim with an astounding kapow!  Back to the drawing board.  I pulled the Miche Competition hubbed tubular wheel set seeking anything that could be installed and work properly.

Fortunately, I had a set of Campy Tipo high flange hubs laced to Super Champion tubulars sitting in the workshop, right next to me, and the tires were quickly pressurized.  With the compressed air apparently trapped, the wheels were installed and found to fit perfectly with no need to re-adjust the rear derailleur.  I donned my riding gear, carried the Masi outside and prepared for what would certainly be a cold ride as I ensured that I avoided the ice patches that had appeared the night before.  Winter was near.

As is my habit for every ride, I tapped each shoe in turn in an attempt to dislodge any imaginary crud that a cleat might have picked up.  The pleasant sound of the right foot clicking was quickly followed with the launch.  The Masi glided away from the curb and into the deserted street in front of my house.  Up the gently slope we went, seeking to determine if the frame set's structural integrity had been compromised over the years.  Once up to riding speed, I slowly relax my grip on the handle bars seeking any indication of the bicycle wanting to pull one way or the other.  The Masi tracked perfectly.  So far - so good!

At the top of the street, I make my customary U-turn and begin a slow decent, now demanding a bit more of the crud covered brakes.  Though no issue presented itself immediately, I would soon learn that applying the front brake, at slow speeds, would result in a pretty serious shudder.  As it turned out there was a nearly unnoticeable bulge where some previous owner had hit something solid, thus bending the soft alloy of the tubular rim.  Back to the drawing board.

A few months before finding the Masi a gorgeous 1973 Raleigh International found its way into The Old Shed.  The Raleigh was much too big for me to ride and was sold as a frame and fork set.  The Campagnolo Nouvo Record components were tucked away for later auction or used, depending on what opportunities might present themselves.  The Masi seemed like a pretty good place to hang the NR grouppo and I put the bicycle back into the work stand.  I should add that the Raleigh was not fitted with Campy brakes.  I was, however, lucky enough to have a set of period correct Campy stoppers still in the box but tucked away for something special.  Been there already and the NOS callipers were mounted in short order.  The levers selected were from the used Campy parts bin and not exactly period correct.  The levers were fitted with AME hoods that were still in very good condition.  Good enough for test riding purposes, but not for a final build, should I ever get to full restoration.

By this time, the Masi was fitted with a near full Campagnolo NR grouppo.  The "as found" Shimano 600 Arabesque rear derailleur and Suntour Cyclone front were replaced with their Campy counterparts.  The "as found" shifters were also replaced with a nicer set that completed the matched Nouvo Record transmission grouppo.

The two outstanding items Campy not installed were the seat post and crank set.  Though I had two 27.2mm NR period correct seat posts on hand, both were shorties.  I would need the longest post I could find to help fit the bicycle to me.  I did have a full length C-Record seat post handy which I decided would be just fine, for test riding purposes.  It has since been replaced with a repaired Super Record post that, once again, will do just fine for the time being.  I must add that the seat post sits about 1/4" higher than its minimum insertion mark.  This is a practice that I do not recommend but one that I will live with if it will allow for proper fit.

Saddle choice was to be a no brainer.  The summer preceding the Masi find I managed to purchase a near mint early seventies Falcon for twenty five dollars.  I sold that beautiful old English bicycle but not before saving the little used and beautifully presented Brooks Professional saddle.  What better place to use the Brooks Pro than on a 1971 Masi Gran Criterium.

Even though I salvaged a gorgeous Campy crank set and transmission from the Raleigh, I did not have a Campy NR Italian bottom bracket with the older taper on the spindle.  With that in mind, I simply replaced the eighties something "Custom" cranks that were fitted after servicing the "as found" bottom bracket.  The BB, incidentally, was in very good condition, both mechanically and cosmetically.

Since then, a correct Nouvo Record bottom bracket arrived, thanks to a local fellow who needed this and that from The Old Shed.  Two frame sets later, the 115mm bottom bracket was mine.  And with-in a day, it and the Campy NR crank set had been fitted to the Masi.  The Old Shed produced the dust caps and that was it for both the transmission and the drive - done.  Though of slightly later vintage than the Masi, the cranks and drive are identical to those that would have been fitted to the Masi before leaving the shop in Verona.  Though it would be nice to have everything of 1971 vintage, the cost would likely be prohibitive.  But who knows, with patience all of the 1971 stuff might appear.  A rear derailleur already sits waiting somewhere in The Old Shed.  Perhaps it will find itself attached to the Masi once the bicycle has been restored.

Since I had pretty much rebuilt the Masi by this time, I decided that I might as well spend a few dollars and install some new handlebar tape.  I grabbed a box of black tape, the kind I usually buy because it does have a somewhat vintage appearance that appeals to my aesthetic sense.  With the bars taped and after one final checking over I took the time to shoot a few pictures.  In my humble opinion, the simple elegance of the bicycle, coupled with its patina of age proved to be very pleasing.  I donned my riding gear for yet another test ride.

There is no doubt about it, the Masi is a charmer, both in appearance and ride.  The bicycle has a very smooth feel to it, whether accelerating or simple coasting along.  The bicycle feels fast but I have no way of really proving that since there is no computer mounted, nor will there ever be.  Handling response is about as non-invasive a you can get.  The bicycle just goes where you want it to, seeming almost to respond to thought alone.  I know that sounds corny but it is how I view the feeling of riding the bicycle.  And, I might add, that the non-invasive quality of a bicycle is something that I always consider.

Yup, the 1971 Masi Gran Criterium was a keeper.  However, there were features that proved to be horribly invasive.

The Cinelli track bars had to go!  I have been running a set of these bars on my 1976 Marinoni and just cannot get used to them.  They are just too narrow and there was no flat spot on the bar tops to comfortably rest my hand position.  It took little time each ride before I began to feel pain in the heels of my hands.  I must admit that I really like the appearance of Cinelli's top of the line offering but looks cannot precede comfort or safety.  I should add that when selecting a replacement set, I made a couple of mistakes that negatively impacted ride comfort.  A correct set of bars has yet to be found.

The Campy high flange tubular wheels initially selected for testing the bike were not round nor would they ever be.  A better set of wheels would have to be found, if proper test riding was to continue.  As luck would have it, I already had a set of wheels salvaged from a 1973 Raleigh.  The high flange NR hubs were laced to AVA tubular rims and covered with sew-up tires that held air - what more could one ask for.  Well, perhaps tires without cracks in them...

On a good day and on a good bike, I can exceed 60kph descending High Street Hill.  I must admit that I have done this one time only and learned from the experience.  Don't do it again!  But for any bicycle, part of the test ride is speed oriented.  I like to get a bicycle going fast so that I can to see how it feels at speed.

The test riding of the Masi, prior to Winter freeze-up in Thunder Bay, was not going to be an expensive endeavour.  The old tubulars, spider webbed with cracks, separating from the rims and with strings sticking out here and there, were scary looking and the cost of a good set was out of the question at the time.  I could, however, still work toward fitting the bicycle even though I would not be able to ride fast on the Masi until the following Summer, by which time the bicycle would be fully restored.  Assuming that I could find a way to fit me and the bike together.

NEXT - FITTING THE MASI

 

 

 

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