Writers’ Rigs: Leslie’s 14 Bikes!
Readers’ Rigs has been one of our most popular columns of the year but it begged the question – what do the PEZ crew ride? Well our Literary Editor in Germany Leslie has enough bikes in fact for almost the whole PEZ crew that range from a 1962 track bike to a modern day Specialized. Here’s a look at Leslie’s collection which has a strong emphasis on Classic builds.
Name: Leslie Reissner
Lives: Düsseldorf, Germany
Bikes: Lots! Vintage Steel: circa 1962 Bauer Track Bike, 1975 Rickert Spezial, c. 1978 Cicli Diamant, 1981 Masi Gran Criterium, 1981 Peugeot PXN-10, 1982 Colnago Super, 1984 Raleigh Team Professional, 1987 Chesini Olimpiade, 1988 Basso, 1991 Bianchi Limited, 1998 Marinoni Cicli.
Not-so-vintage: 2003 NYCBikes Cross II, 2005 Specialized S-WorksTarmac E5, 2006 Leader LD-735 time trial bike
Fourteen bikes, it’s a lot, where did your passion for vintage bikes come from?
My interest in vintage bikes really began in June 2009 when I spotted an interesting frame on-line. It purported to be one of the 26 bicycles built by Giuseppe Marinoni for Team Raleigh USA, a successful domestic racing team in the 1980s that was prime competition to the 7-Eleven team. I already owned a Marinoni that had been built for me in Montreal in 1998 and consider these frames to be easily the equivalent of more famous brands such as the contemporary Colnago. The Raleigh-Marinoni frame was in rather poor shape, with a fork that was not original and faded paint that had been “improved” with a spray can. Further research determined that the frame was not actually a Marinoni but was a Team Professional that came from Raleigh’s Special Bicycle Development Unit in Ilkeston, England.
I had never heard of SBDU before so took a chance and bought the frame for less than it cost to ship it to me! With more research I discovered the classic lightweight racing bicycle community and with the help of experts eventually refinished the Team Pro and chased down the Campagnolo Super Record parts needed to build it up. It is a spectacular bike and a joy to ride, being made from the very light Reynolds 753 tubing. Bringing this derelict back onto the road really launched my passion for vintage bikes.
You seem to have a collection that covers a number of different nationalities and eras whereas some collectors concentrate on one particular brand or time period – any reason for that?
The great majority of my bicycles are from the 1980s as prices are still reasonable and parts are not so difficult to obtain. In technical terms the bicycles are not much different from those of the 1970s, when the steel racing bicycle probably reached its apogee. Retro-rides generally allow only pre-1987 bikes so there is that element as well to consider. In terms of nationalities, I think these bicycles reflect different building traditions.
For example, the Belgian Cicli Diamant has extra-thick seat stays to absorb the shock of riding cobbles; the Raleigh Team Pro is a relaxed long-distance racer; the Colnago Super contemporary is more nimble. The Peugeot was produced in a huge factory and shows signs of being constructed in a bit of a hurry (the bottom bracket was installed before the paint was dry) but is very comfortable and accelerates very well. I have bicycles from England, France, Germany, Italy and Belgium. My two North American steel bikes, the Masi and the Marinoni, are New World interpretations of the Italian tradition. I guess all I am really missing is a Presto, Gazelle or a RIH from the Netherlands! And components run the gamut from Simplex to SunTour to Shimano to Campagnolo.
Now I know that your bikes are not museum pieces and that you love nothing more than riding them. How often do you get out on your vintage machines?
In the last two or three years I would say that I have ridden the vintage bikes more than my Tarmac, which seems now mainly reserved for really challenging rides and our annual week-long Lost Boys Tour of Europe, which involves a lot of climbing. My preferred training ride before work in the
morning is the 1988 Basso, which is ideal for riding in the city with 28 mm tires and cyclocross auxiliary brake levers.
Do you have a favorite retro riding event?
This is a difficult question as the retro-rides are very different in their characters. L’Eroica in Chianti is, of course, the gold standard and a truly fantastic event but riding the longer courses (Leslie just got back from that one and will write about it soon for Pez) is very hard work given the terrible roads and the steep climbs and descents. The Retro-Ronde offers shorter routes in Flanders but wonderful food stops and superb organization; Anjou Velo Vintage emphasizes the “vintage” angle and offers the chance to meet and ride with cycling legends. Smaller local events can be great fun too and here I would point to the monthly Klassikerausfahrt ride in Düsseldorf.
How strict are the rules at these events?
Although I have seen it, I don’t know why you would show up at one of these rides on a modern carbon bike. L’Eroica has a set of rules for the bike that require it to be pre-1987 steel with non-aero brake levers, downtube shifters and clip-and-strip pedals and a number of other rides have adopted this standard. But there is clearly some flexibility. Anjou Velo Vintage and the Retro-Ronde are somewhat more relaxed in their rules but nobody seems to check very closely. I have heard that l’Eroica has become more strict. Most of the events encourage period clothing as well and some riders really go to great lengths and look terrific. I, on the other hand, am fine with wool jerseys but do not like to ride without a modern helmet.
Ok, example time: It’s a nice day, you’re in the mood for a flattish 60km ride – which bike do you take? How do you choose?
This sounds very much like a typical Klassikerausfahrt ride, held the first Sunday of each month for most of the year, and my usual ride of choice is the Chesini Olimpiade, which is painted in a very stylish Italian tricolore paint scheme. If more climbing is involved I would take the Raleigh and if cobbles are on the menu the Cicli Diamant is the way to go.
Where did you find and buy all your vintage machines? Any tips for our readers who might like to get into the retro scene themselves?
Most of my bicycles were purchased through the very well-known on-line auction website but there are some real dangers to this and caution is advised. I bought a really beautiful bicycle by a noted German builder that turned out to be too small for me but I could pass it on to a friend. Another friend purchased a Dutch frame that I had bought on-line and originally planned to build up but he discovered a number of since-resolved problems with it. But there a lot of bikes out there waiting to be discovered–I know someone who found an all-Campagnolo de Rosa at a Salvation Army thrift store!
When I arrived in Germany three years ago there were some good deals as classic lightweights were just seen as tired old bikes in this age of shiny carbon but that seems to have passed with the popularity of fixies and the growing interest in retro-rides. You can have a lot of fun for not much money still. My Cicli Diamant, hand-built with Reynolds 531 tubing and Shimano Arabesque parts, cost me 340 Euros (US$475) in May 2013 and I have added a new retro Selle San Marco Regal saddle, new leather toe-straps, Continental Grand Prix Classic vintage-style tires with tan sidewalls, a new freewheel to replace the sprinter’s version that was on the bike, and some replacement Reynolds 531 tubing decals. I was fortunate that the other decals were good as these can be difficult to find for a more obscure brand. Some cleaning and waxing and I received compliments about this rather rare bike at two retro-rides in Belgium.
If you are not buying a museum piece—and I have to admit I have never actually ridden my Bauer track bike in two years of ownership—and stay away from cult marques such as Colnago. de Rosa, Merckx, Masi and Gios you can still find excellent deals.
Collectors adore Campagnolo parts but if you are riding you will find vintage Simplex Super LJ and SunTour Superbe Pro are as good as anything from Vicenza. The economics of old bikes are such that it is more profitable to strip a frame and sell the parts separately so if you buy a frame and expect to build it up you better have parts on hand or expect to pay; better to go for a complete machine. And don’t forget safety: two of my bicycles have had worn wheelsets so I had new wheels built using the old hubs. No longer original but secure.
The key to any hobby like this is self-education and there is a great community of old bike enthusiasts out there, with lots of web resources to tap. I would recommend the Classics-Rendezvous list, which is a very active group, but there are many forums where old bikes are discussed.
What are the disadvantages of owning a retro ride?
Generally speaking, the brakes on old bikes are terrible. I am reminded of this whenever I switch to the Marinoni Cicli, which is steel framed but has integrated shifters, clipless pedals and dual-pivot brakes. However, Kool-Stop offers new brake pads to fit old brakes and this not only stops the squealing of those ancient dried-out pads but actually helps the braking. Sometimes there are strange parts problems, such as the bizarre shifter bosses Shimano came up with in the early 1980s, or the fact that the French seem to have different sizes for everything from stems to pedals but we are still living in an age where there is no real standardization in the bike industry. And once you start your collection it becomes hard to stop until you have a storage and/or domestic crisis.
Any plans for more purchases?
There are some wonderful small Italian shops that have produced gorgeous bikes: Zullo, Sancineto, CBT Italia. But I am considering a chocolate-coloured Tommasini Tecno with polished stainless lugs and modern Campagnolo Athena aluminum (not carbon) parts. Clearly you can never have too many bicycles.
Now the most difficult question . . . do you have a favorite?
This is cruel but as much as I am attached to the Raleigh Team Pro and the Colnago Super (in Saronni Red!), I would say the Marinoni is the favoured child although only 15 years old.
It is the only bicycle that was custom-made for me and fits perfectly so that 200 km rides are a joy. It can also be used for light touring with braze-ons for racks and a third water bottle. We have experienced a lot on the road together: the Swiss Alps; the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route; the Tour of Flanders for amateurs; the Roman Limes route; Spring in Mallorca and in Sicily; the 11 City Tour of Friesland in the Netherlands with 15,000 other riders; the three-country one-day circuit of Lake Constance.
Got a nice rig of your own or even a collection of rides that you’d like to see here on PEZ? Send a brief description and a photo or two to [email protected] and your bike(s) may be chosen for an upcoming Readers’ Rigs article!