Readers’ Rigs: Oscar Winner’s 1982 Colnago Gets a Loving Overhaul
Readers’ Rig: A slightly different ‘Readers’ Rig’ today. Bob Shaver tells us all about a very special 1982 Colnago Super, built up with period Campagnolo Super record and owned by his friend, Steve Tesich who sadly passed away. This is a very special bike with a very special story.
Completed bike in Steve’s studio with provenance
Name: Steve Tesich (1942 – 1996) Overhauled by Bob Shaver, September 2021
Introduction: I met Steve Tesich and friend Chris on my first day working at a Denver bike shop fifty years ago. I was new to bike racing so they took me under their wings, schooling me about pace lines, tactics and sprinting. Little did I know then they would become lifelong friends. Bike shops are wonderful places, aren’t they?
Fifteen years ago I began organizing American Flyers movie nights to raise money for worthy nonprofits and to acquaint riders with Steve. The presentations included behind the scenes and other trivia along with extras from the race scenes and cycling stars. I thought adding Steve’s Colnago and the Masi used in Breaking Away would be great additions. Several of these were scheduled for 2020 but were cancelled due to COVID. Last Fall, I finally got around to overhauling his bike which had sat in his Colorado studio since his passing twenty-five years ago.
Left side pre overhaul
Front view pre overhaul
The following will show before and after shots along with photos of Steve, comments and quotes. It was a bittersweet adventure working on his bike; reliving our conversations, camaraderie and the profound impact he had and still has on my life. I miss him. My hope is this will give you a glimpse of Steve and inspire you to check out his other movies, novels, plays and essays. And, if you happen to be eligible to vote in the US Bicycle Hall of Fame, please cast your vote for Steve in the “Contributor” category. His contribution to our sport should be recognized and celebrated. Thank you!
Downtube pre overhaul
Rear gear hanger
Bike: 1982 Colnago Super
Groupset: Campagnolo Super Record
Wheels: Campagnolo Record Low Flange 36 hole.
Pedals: Campagnolo Super Record “Strada” with steel axels. (Pedal photo: Steve was known for pedaling through corners!)
Saddle: Selle Italia Turbo Special
Notes from Steve’s Colnago provenance:
Brake Leavers: Dia Compe internal cable. The bike was originally equipped with Campagnolo Super Record levers. I looked around Steve’s studio for the original levers but did not find them.
Brakes: Campagnolo Record. NOTE: These were “aftermarket” anodized dark red; matching the crank arms. They were severely faded and oxidized over the years. As I was cleaning them the solvent faded them considerably so I made the decision to hand polish them to Campagnolo original luster. This took several hours but the end result was well worth the effort.
Frame: I extensively cleaned the outside of the frame, inside the seat tube and bottom bracket; removing rust, corrosion and debris. I used rust remover on some of the chrome surfaces then made two thorough passes with rubbing compound to remove any oxidation. I put on three coats of Turtle Wax “Hard Shell” wax. The end result is excellent and should provide added protection against rust and corrosion.
The rear triangle pre overhaul
The bottom bracket area pre overhaul
Seat: Selle Italia Turbo Special. NOTE: The cover was secured to the seat base but was worn and very faded. I buffed out the leather and re-dyed it with very satisfactory results.
Shifters: Campagnolo. NOTE: The tension adjustment screws were rusted shut preventing removal. I used rust remover and penetrating oil allowing it to sit over several days, ultimately freeing the threads so I could disassemble the levers. The screws and washers took several hours of additional work to remove rust and oxidation. They now gleam and function perfectly.
Toe Clips: Christophe Special Steel. NOTE: These were oxidized and rusted in several places but I was able to use rust remover, polishing compound and wax to restore them to an almost new condition.
Toe Straps: Alfredo Binda Leather. NOTE: The straps were severely faded and beginning to crack. I was able to buff both surfaces and re-dye the top black with excellent results. The buckles were rusted and oxidized and could barely function. By using rust remover and polishing compound I was able to achieve good results in finish and functionality.
Steve was known for pedaling through corners!
Weight: 21 lbs.
When did you buy it? 1982
What made you choose this bike? Steve got his first Colnago in 1972, where it still sits in his home in NYC. The 1982 Colnago was kept in Colorado for riding there during the summer months.
Steve (center) on his original Colnago, leading the pack in the Denver City Park Criterium, 1973. The rider directly behind Steve in the white jersey is friend Chris, who Steve gave the Masi used in Breaking Away to in 1979
Have you done any modifications/additions to it?
Internal brake cables in 1984.
How many miles/kilometers do you do a year?
Steve probably rode 2,000-3,000 miles per year. Most of those were when he would spend the summer in Colorado. The rest of the time, he would ride in Central Park, NYC.
The finished front view
What do you love about this bike?
Steve liked Colnago for all the reasons: paint, graphics, history and ride.
Favorite riding area?
In Colorado: The mountains, foothills, eastern plains and Denver’s Washington Park.
In New York City: Central Park.
An artist’s vinyl cut from a photo of Steve in Central Park, NYC, circa 1985
Favorite riding experience on your bike?
I remember Steve telling me upon arriving at Indiana University, going for his first ride, hearing someone in the woods singing an operatic tune. It was fading so he pedaled harder, following it and rounding a turn, found the source: a guy riding a racing bicycle. That guy turned out to be Dave Blase, who became the inspiration for the main character in Breaking Away. Steve and Dave were on the winning team of the 1962 Little 500.
1962 Little 500 Winning Team: Dave Blase top Row right receiving trophy & Steve bottom row left
On the 1982 Colnago, I can think of three rides Steve might have mentioned:
We did a regular 100km out and back ride east of Denver. The terrain was mostly flat to rolling with the exception of a one kilometer descent that we had to climb on our return. At the top of the hill was a farm with a dog we named “Fast Eddy,” after our hero, Eddy Merckx. Fast Eddy had incredible hearing as most dogs do. Prior to the descent we would make sure we were in the big chainring and going fast. Then we’d call, “Hey Fast Eddy!” Eddy would come barreling out of the farmhouse door but of course could never catch us. However, on our return we had to be more cunning. No talking for at least 1km before the base of the hill, small gear stuff, pedaling as quietly as possible until… reaching the summit of the climb and then it was every rider for themselves. Most of the time this tactic worked. But on one occasion Steve’s gear skipped and Eddy, snapping at his feet, bit his shoe, taking a piece of leather out of it. I should mention here that Steve was powerful on short climbs and sprints so he was invariably the first at the top. In this instance he managed to get into gear and get away. You can see a perfect reenactment in American Flyers.
The Campagnolo Super Record rear derailleur
The rear triangle
Winning the annual Denver City Park Criterium. I cannot remember the year, possibly mid-1980. It is the longest held continuing race in Colorado. Sadly, its sponsor, Turin Bicycles will be closing their doors after fifty years. Thanks Alan and staff you will be missed! Please support your local bike shop as they have been and continue to be the cornerstone of cycling in your community.
The cut-out BB and Campagnolo sleeve
The ‘like new’ rear drop-out
Steve had his bike with him during the filming of American Flyers and rode the “Tour of the Moon” course with cast members and crew. He marveled at the stunning scenery, winding roads and challenging course. It is truly breathtaking; especially experiencing it from the seat of a bike! It is worth making the trip to Grand Junction, Colorado every September to ride the annual, excellently organized Tour of the Moon: https://events.outsideonline.com/tourofthemoon/ I’ll look for you there in 2022!
Completed rebuild back home in Steve’s writing studio in Colorado. September 2021
Every cyclist has stories of their rides and friendships. No one rider’s experiences are less important than another’s. That is what so special about riding a bike-the people. But in the case of Steve, it has been my ongoing desire to acquaint a wider audience to a loyal friend, inspiration, world literary icon and someone who loved cycling as much as anyone. I also want people know the enormous impact his two bike movies had on our sport because most readers probably weren’t riding in 1979 when Breaking Away came out. Bike shops ran out of bikes, bike racing got a huge, positive boost and even my in-laws from a small town in East Texas got into riding and admitting that maybe my wife and I starting a bicycle clothing manufacturing business wasn’t such a bad idea after all. In terms of American Flyers, many generations have been and continue to be inspired to get on a bike. His gift to cycling has been far-reaching and is ongoing.
Steve was true to himself, his family, his friends and most of all, to his writing. He had no interest in expensive cars, mansions or a lavish lifestyle. He was generous, though, helping those in need here and in his home country, Yugoslavia, where he immigrated from at the age of fourteen.
Beyond cycling probably the best way to know Steve is through his movies, stage plays, TV shows, novels and quotes. It is said that artists are the bearers of truth. Not only can they see in us what we don’t see in ourselves, but occasionally see into the future. Steve saw thirty years ago what we have been living through during the past six-plus years: “Post-Truth.” In 1992 Steve said: “We are rapidly becoming prototypes of a people that totalitarian monsters could only drool about in their dreams.”
“Post-Truth” was Oxford Dictionary’s 2016 Word of the Year. It defined the word as referring to “circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” According to Oxford, it was first used in a January 1992 article in THE NATION magazine by the Serbian-American playwright Steve Tesich.
And finally, four of my favorite Steve Tesich quotes:
On Cycling: “What I loved about bike racing was that it was not a mainstream sport. My heroes were self-made. There were no coaches, no training centers, and only a handful of sponsors. Training rides were not totally devoted to bike talk. I got to know a lot of riders this way, not just as good sprinters or good climbers, but as people who had ideas different from mine, jobs different from mine, and dreams different from mine.”
Steve crossing the line in the Little 500
On Friendship: “No birth certificate is issued when friendship is born. There is nothing tangible. There is just a feeling that your life is different and that your capacity to love and care has miraculously been enlarged without any effort on your part. It’s like having a tiny apartment and somebody moves in with you. But instead of becoming cramped and crowded, the space expands, and you discover rooms you never knew you had until your friend moved in with you.”
On Truth: “Life’s too short not to tell the truth.”
The above quote is on the inside of the collar. His movies are listed on the left in the clapboard, stage plays on the right, one sleeve has his novel “Summer Crossing” and on the other sleeve, his last novel, “Karoo” published right after his death. The typestyle for the jersey was taken from the typewriter that most of Steve’s writing was written on. The photo on the right is from the Steve Tesich Memorial Bike Race 1998
On Life: “Life, it seems, is not meaningless but, rather, so full of meaning that its meaning must be constantly murdered for the sake of cohesion and comprehension; for the sake of the storyline.”
Steve with 1979 Best original screenplay Oscar and… Steve’s typewriter
Steve died on July 1, 1996 while vacationing with his wife and daughter in Nova Scotia.
To me, friends never cease to emerge nor do they ever die. So expand your “apartment,” your peloton, relishing those you ride with and have ridden with, remembering always, our common ground is On the Open Road*.
Special thanks to Alastair Hamilton, all the great people at PEZ CYCLING NEWS for excellent, in-depth reporting, product reviews, historical articles, photos and of course the advertisers who make it all possible. I honestly think of all the cycling publications available today, Steve would have preferred PEZ for its wonderful lack of pretentioun.
*On the Open Road is the title of my favorite stage play by Steve.
Notice the “Sprint Tree”. It was one of the oldest trees in Denver approx. 125 years old. It’s the tree that we used to sprint to every lap and when races were held there that was the start/finish line. It is only significant to me and a few other 70-year olds
# All photos supplied by Bob Shaver. #
Thanks to Bob for sharing Steve’s ride with us. Got a bike that you’re proud of? Well how about sharing it with fellow PEZ fans and getting it featured in Readers’ Rigs so we can all stare at it! Send us a Readers’ Rigs submission direct to [email protected] and your bike could be featured in all its glory here on the pages of PEZ.