BUILDING THE SUPER MONDIA SPECIAL
To say the least, I was impressed with the Super Mondia "Special" even though I did notice craftsmanship deficiencies. Reynolds 531 tubing, ending in Campagnolo forged drops, formed the foundation for the Mondia's beautiful frame set. The beauty, in this case, has little to do with the bicycle's cosmetic state. "As found", the Special's paint was absolutely shot, having flaked, cracked and pretty much worn completely off, in many places. I assume this situation occurred, thanks to the poor adhesion of the original paint to the fully chrome plated frame set.
The Super Mondia Special is, reputedly, a very high end bicycle. The frame and fork sets are made of the best materials available at the time. But the workmanship is shoddy, at best. Of all the Campagnolo drops I have been lucky enough to view, the Mondia's were the most poorly installed. Deep grinding marks were abundant and detracted from the bicycle's appearance. In my book, this type of assembly flaw is unacceptable on a quality bicycle. Two things are absolutely necessary for a bicycle's quality base, and both have to do with the frame and fork set. To achieve quality status, both quality materials and quality workmanship must be included. Remove one, and the overall quality will drop like a rock. This is my opinion, of course and not a hard and fast rule.
In all fairness to this wonderful old road bicycle, the example of poor craftsmanship demonstrated on the drops, and I mean three out of four drops, was not typical of the entire bicycle. The balance of the frame assembly was very good. The lugs were all cleanly installed and looked great. There were no casting or file marks to be found on any lug. Why the two different situations? My guess is that the Mondia frame set might have been built by more than one person. And the one who installed the drops was the less skilful of the two.
Interestingly enough, much of the art had survived the bicycle's thirty plus years of use, abuse and seclusion. The Reynolds 531 tubing decal is about the most damaged frame document and hardly an uncommon situation. In fact, this kind of decal damage is a common cosmetic deficiency that I come across frequently. The pump or pump umbrella clip is the culprit, coupled with slipping the tire pump, in and out of its storage fit, over and over for the life of the bicycle. Sooner or later, the decal will be worn away, as was the case on the Mondia.
It was the Mondia's fully chromed frame set that impressed me the most. I really like the looks a vintage road bicycle with chrome lug work and I have owned several over the years. Of those owned, the Super Mondia Special sports the nicest chrome lug work of any of them, with one exception. The beautiful chromed Carpella lugs on my 1958 Carlton Flyer far surpassed anything else I have owned.
Actually, the Mondia's lugs were painted over but with what I believe was supposed to be a clear paint. Today, thirty two years after application, the clear paint had yellowed, offering a gold like hue. Perhaps, the original clear coating was intended to have the gold tinge, perhaps not. Either way, the clear coating does clean off easily, leaving a pristine chrome plated surface beneath. Once the lugs are cleaned off and the bicycle repainted, these beautiful BCM lugs will all but glow in the dark. The long flowing lug work will offer a wonderful contrast to just about any color chosen, once the bicycle is restored.
There was one other cosmetic/structural issue that presented itself. The top of the left seat stay had been stripped of chrome plating for some reason. The Mondia's serial number should have appeared on the flat of this seat stay. It is certainly possible that the Mondia had been stolen at one time. The thief would have probably removed the serial number to protect himself. Just a thought and probably not all that far off of the mark. After all, a Super Mondia "Special" with a full Campagnolo Nouvo Record component grouppo would have represented considerable value in the mid seventies. A perfect target for the serious thief.
In my heart, I pretty much knew that the Super Mondia Special, at 52cm, was too small, but just a tad so. With that in mind, I wanted to go completely through the bicycle and prepared it for test riding. If the Super Mondia came close enough to fitting, the bicycle would be added to my personal stable of vintage road bikes. Though I have never lusted after a high end Swiss bicycle, it would not have hurt my feelings to add one to my humble collection.
When I got into building up the Special and after I had carefully inspected/measured the frame, the first order of business was a full striping of components. The frame set, laid bare, was then measured up to determine if any structural or geometric issues, were present. Once assured that the frame's structure was not compromised, the entire set was cleaned thoroughly. Frame cavity issues were addressed. Finally, the entire frame and fork set was coated with waxed in preparation for assembly. No attempt was made to improve on the state of the bicycle's cosmetics. If the Mondia proved to be a good fit, my intention was a full restoration.
This cleaning process includes careful inspection and cleaning of the seat post, bottom bracket and steering stem cavities. Any and all burrs were removed from the seat post cavity. Often times the little burs and/or sharp edges left inside the cavity can, and will, cause horrible gouges in an alloy seat post. The bottom bracket, as often as not, is full of road grime and other assorted debris. On one occasion, the skeleton of a dead mouse presented itself when the bottom bracket was opened up. And the poor little guy's supper meal was also part of the debris that had found its way into the bottom bracket cavity. In addition the wide range of debris, water frequently enters the bottom bracket housing resulting in the formation of rust. Rust, which needs to be wire brushed away and exposed surfaces treated before final cavity preparation can be completed.
With both the bottom bracket and seat post cavities address, the head tube cavity fell under the microscope. The head tube cavity is the least of the three culprits, but still warrants a decent inspection and cleaning also. In the Mondia's case and as expected, there was no damage or debris related concerns to the head tube cavity. A good cleaning, followed by a thorough in inspection was all that was needed prior to assembly and adjustment.
After all three cavities had been cleaned, each was smeared with a thin coating of synthetic grease. Grease acts as both a sealer against further oxidation and as a lubricant, for either threading or the seat post insertion. Always - ALWAYS - lubricate a seat post and steering stem before insertion, be they steel or alloy. Smear each with a light coating of grease. Failure to do so could well result in a seized component! As often as not, a seized seat post or steering stem will have to be destroyed, in order to be removed from its respective fit. Lubricate it before shoving it in - a pretty standard rule for many things in life.
There was no head badge on the bicycle "as found". I made a point out of locating a proper head badge, as quickly as I could. At this point in time, it was still my intention to keep the bicycle, in my own collection of vintage bikes. With that in mind, I contacted a fellow who sells badges on Ebay and, sure enough the seller had what I needed. A PayPal click later and a Super Mondia head badge was on its way. It was not my intention to install the badge immediately. Rather, the badge would rest in its spot until I had fully restored the bicycle, something I would never get a chance to do.
Satisfied with the frame set's preparation, it was set aside and my attention turned to the components, most of which were in very good condition. The period correct Brooks Professional saddle was removed and immediately treated to the first of several liberal applications of Brook's own leather treatment product - "Proofhide". I am not sure if the Brook's product is the best way to go, but it is my choice for saddle maintenance. I have several leather saddles that I maintain on a regular basis, weather I am riding the bicycle or not. Time will ravage any leather saddle, be it in use or in storage. If you want to ride leather, be prepared to for a little bit of saddle maintenance. I might add that I always carry a plastic grocery bag, to cover the saddle with in the event that wet weather surfaces when the saddle is away from the Old Shed.
The transmission was supposed to be full Campagnolo Nouvo Record but the shifters, at some point in time, had been changed out. An early Shimano Dura-Ace set had been substituted. Though there is nothing wrong with the Dura-Ace set, they did not fit the theme of the bicycle. Additionally, I wanted something a bit special for the "Special". My shifter choice - Campagnolo Barcons.
I had been hanging on to the Campy Barcons for a while knowing that I would definitely find a place to hang them one day. I have used both Suntour and Campagnolo Barcons on other bicycles and I really like the shifter characteristics. The Suntour set had been mounted on an early eighties Raleigh "something or other", that I spent a full season commuting to and from work on. The second set came mounted on my 1971 Carlton Professional, that mysteriously appeared in my back yard one Friday afternoon.
The brake set that came with the Super Mondia, a Campagnolo Nouvo Record side pull set, was cleaned, rebuilt and put back into service for the test ride. These brakes work really well and look very good doing it. About my only issue with the side pull set-up is that the brake calliper can, given the right conditions, damage the bicycle's down tube. Several nice bicycles that I have found sport the side pull dent near the top of the down tube. This dent occurs when the forks are allowed to swing fully one way or the other, allowing the side pull calliper to bang into the thin tubing. The result, sooner or later, will be a dent that is very difficult to remove. It is also important to note that any damage to a vintage road bicycle frame set significantly reduces the value of the set. Dents, gouges, bends or purposeful modifications are all very unwanted, in my opinion.
A choice of wheels would be an issue. Since the front wheel was not included in the Mondia's purchase, I had to choose a decent set of wheels to use for my test ride and, as luck would have it, an all but perfect set appeared shortly before the need surfaced.
Less than a block from my house in the city, I got into conversation with a fellow who was hosting a Yard Sale. Though he had no bicycle on display, he did respond positively when asked if he might have an old "Ten Speed" that he would be willing to part with.
As it turned out, he was only helping with the Yard Sale. Needless to say, the "Ten Speed" was at his own home. He did tell me that the bicycle was top of the line. Uh huh! I've heard that before and my bet is that it cost $1,500.00 when new. It seems like every old road bike I find cost fifteen hundred dollars when new. At least that is what the original owners tell me???
Later that day, on my way to the summer cottage, my wife and I stopped off at the Yard Sale host's other house. Well, the fellow was right on with his the top of the line description. Leaning against the fence, waiting for me to arrive, was a 1972 Gitane Professional. Of course and as usual, the Gitane was too big for me! That was immediately obvious, but so what. The bicycle and its components were very appealing. Leading the list was a mint, actually never used, Brooks Professional large rivet saddle. A Stronglight Model 93 crank set drew my attention next. The list of interesting components continued, and included a very nice set of high flange Campagnolo Tipo hubs, laced to very early Mavic clincher rims. The set, like the saddle, was practically new, though a bit dirty. And those were the wheels that found their way onto the Super Mondia "Special". And what a nice wheels they were, complete with barely used tires that had not been destroyed with the passing of time.
It was pretty obvious that the Mondia had been used for racing purposes, perhaps at a professional level. The cranks, Campagnolo Super Record, carried a 56/45 tooth combination, driving a near straight block five speed freewheel. One would need a good set of legs to push this drive hard for any period of time in my humble opinion. I found the gearing to be way too tall and planned to change it out, if I decided to build the bicycle up as a keeper.
As mentioned, Campagnolo also supplied the brake system. The Super Record levers were in surprisingly good condition and were reused, as were the side pull ccallipers. The levers were mounted on a set of newer style TTT handlebars which, in turn were supported by a matching TTT steering stem. Both the bars and steering stem came "as found" on the Mondia.
I never did ride the Mondia, with this control set-up, though. When I built the bicycle up for test purposes, I opted to install a nice set of pantographed Italian Primo Extra "Tour de Sicily" handlebars, I had acquired with my Carlton Pro. To that set, I mounted the Campy levers and my one and only remaining set of Campagnolo Barcon shifters. If I was going to test a bicycle of the Super Mondia's quality, I was going to do it in style.