Friday, 15 August 2014


I've just picked up this mid to late 80's Vitus 979 (in fairly rare 'bronze') on eBay. 
It comes with vintage 105 downtube shifters and rear derailleur, but an Ofmega oval triple chainset (a 90's mod).

Photo from the eBay ad

Although I bought the Holdsworth with a view to restoring it for L'Eroica Britannia I couldn't resist the Vitus having seen the one used by my friend Andy Bell at L'Eroica 2014:

Possibly the lightest bike used at L'Eroica Britannia 2014?

It's also a perfect fit (59cms) whereas the Holdsworth is a bit on the small size (56cms), especially with the 45mm stem. 
There's plenty of info on the net about the Vitus 979, but they're famous for; being one of the earliest widely available aluminium frames, being lugged and glued, and being used by cycling legend Sean Kelly. Oh and they're apparently a joy to ride, although they do say the larger frames can feel a little bit flexi. 

Check out the 'bronze' anodised finish!

And as for buying too many bikes? Nah. The Holdsworth and the Vitus were great value, and there'll now be two awesome vintage bikes stored in the in-laws' garage in Suffolk, meaning two people can hit the rolling hills, something that gained my wife's approval. Very sociable!

Picked up the Vitus today (Ben, the seller, bought the bike when it was new back in 1987) and I'm pleased to say it's in great condition. Having not been used for 20 years or so the tyres needed replacing which I expected. 
The chainset being a 90's oval Ofmega triple will also need replacing before L'Éroica, so I'm on the lookout for a correct period 105 chainset.
And further down the line I guess if I wanted to upgrade the bike, a 600/Ultegra groupset would fit the bill. 
Decisions, decisions. 

New tyres fitted I set of for a quick ride on the quiet roads behind Taunton station, and I have to say the whole experience was much more like riding a nippy road bike than the usual ride on all but the most high end steel vintage bikes. Not only that, the ride was super smooth. 
I loved watching the oval chainrings doing their thing and the triple chainset provided a huge range of gears for a vintage bike. 
But I've found an NOS 105 chainset on Hilary Stone, and a 105 Golden Arrow front dérailleur so that the bike will pass the 1987 Eroica Britannia test. 

At Taunton station, ready for the journey home:

The plastic bottle cage will have to go

Update 24th Aug 2014
I've just had a great first ride round Richmond Park and am happy to report that it was one of my favourite ever. 
Now I've circuited Richmond Park on at least eight different bikes and this was up there with the best of them. I wasn't trying to break any records but when I did put a little power down I was recording my second and third best times on Strava. 
The gearing, with the Ofmega oval triple, was as easy as any bike I've ever owned, the only downside being that it wouldn't change into the big ring, perhaps not a surprise after the bike's been mothballed for 20 years. Would fettle if I knew what I was doing. 
I'd always heard that the Vitus offers a smooth ride and it's certainly the case. No road buzz to speak of, and the handling was nimble and responsive. 
And when I went for a short sprint I couldn't feel any flex at all, whereas with the steel Rossin the frame went a bit bendy when I got out of the saddle. 
I didn't even have to adjust the Vitus's saddle and the bike seems to fit me like a glove. 

 Sistema Ingranaggi Ovali indeed

Bottom Bracket Shell looking good. Will probably polish at some stage.

Bought at Simpson Cycles, 116 Malden Rd, London NW5 back in '87

The shop's still there in 2014, same phone number!

This blog is called The Search For The Perfect Bike(s) and in some ways this is it. Fast, light, comfortable, and quite elegant. And very cheap. 
Three people at Richmond Park came over to chat about it, and that sort of gives you a warm glow. 
This could be love. 


I made the classic mistake of buying this frame on eBay in a hurry without doing my research. I was using the mobile App and after I paid for it was shocked when I had a look at the photos on a bigger screen. Check out the bottom bracket shell:

It almost looks like parts of the shell have corroded away! 
Below you can see how the shell actually looked - not nearly as bad. A rare example of someone making an eBay item look worse than it actually was! 

BB shell cleaned up, serial number revealed. It's been bashed about a bit. 

Yes it´s the magic rim block and autosol that has done the business. 
This is clearly a well used frame, but somehow even with the scuffs and scratches it looks great. People talk about patina, but keeping the bike in original condition, and not replacing faded decals for example, maintains the personalityof the bike/frame. 

After panicking about the frame I found the complete bike for £200 on eBay. 
I then cleaned up this frame and it sold on eBay for £220 which is just shows few people want to buy complete vintage bikes but loads of people want to build their own. 

Here are some more photos from the clean up/polishing:

I've bought this Peracinni badged Vitus 979 with a view to building it up for one of my boys when they are bigger. Looks nice!

A frame like this could be built up with period kit you can afford, or even a modern groupset and lightweight wheels?
The choice is yours. 

Thursday, 14 August 2014


Having sold the Koga-Miyata touring bike that I rode at L'Eroica Britannia my search for a replacement began here:

          1980's Holdsworth Élan


Bought for a decent price on the London Fixed Gear Single Speed forum the Élan arrived boxed and in 'original' condition. 
The frame is good for its age: There are one or two rust spots, but all decals are intact. 
The Campag gears and brakes are in need of a clean up but are rust free. Where there is work to be done is in the wheel department. The tyres have perished (as advertised) so they'll be replaced by amber walled Vittoria Open Corsas. The hubs need servicing which is to be expected, but the galvanised spokes have gone grungey (oxidised?) and the rims are a bit blackened in places. 
I've already started work on cleaning them up using the magic 'rim block' that I was introduced to at The London Cycle Workshop. 
Talk about a trick of the trade! Rub away at the spokes for a few minutes and they start returning to their former glory. 
The same applies to the rims. It's hard work though. 
I also have a tube of aluminium reviving cream (Autosol) and this really gets rid of marks and adds a shine to the finish. 

Below is a picture of the two wheels, one with the original tyre, one with a new Open Corsa. I've started cleaning up the former. 

Here are some close ups of the wheels demonstrating the clean-up process. 
Original condition: 

And post some hub cleaning:

Rims, one original (but with new tyre)...

One cleaned up a bit...

I'm quite looking forward to getting stuck in with a tooth brush and some elbow grease. Cleaning the spokes will be hard work. I was tempted to replace them, but hopefully that won't be necessary. 

The good news is that the Élan is quoted in the original spec sheet as 10.8 Kgs which although not super light, is at least 3 Kgs lighter than the Koga-Miyata. 
After my holiday I'll get back to work on the wheels and when they're done will take the bike into the London Cycle Workshop for a full service and new bartape. 

Rim block, used and unused. 


Rust removed with Autosol and my secret tool. A fingernail. 

With low expectation I set about the rusty headset with some Autosol which brought about a nice shine but didn't get rid of the rust spots. 
I had a little scrape at the rust with a fingernail and was really surprised when the rust spots came off quite quickly. 

Seatpost made by 'Strong' of Japan pre clean up

After 10 minutes of rubbing with Autosol. 

I'm not sure if I'll keep the seatpost which is a bit basic and heavy.

The stem is interesting in that it's a size 45mm. To be honest, I'd never heard of such a short stem. The bars are GB so I'm assuming the stem is GB too?

The stem has also cleaned up quite well although the scuffs on the top will need some work. Again, I'm tempted to replace the bars and stem. I have a couple of suitable bars but would need to source a stem. 

The big decision concerns the groupset. 
The rear dérailleur is a Campag 980 or Victory. It's not the finest Campag ever made. 

I have a very nice Suntour Vx (GT) gearset that would look great on the Holdsworth. 

The Wiemann brakes seem ok and I've started cleaning them up:

After a couple of wipes one side of the brakes looking better already. 

The chainset is made by SR and seems good to me:

The frame has quite a few small rust patches, but I'm not going down the respray route. 


Nick at The London Workshop did his usual sterling job with the rebuild. There were, as expected, quite a few issues. The bottom bracket shell needed reaming, brakes needed removing and reseating, hubs needed servicing etc etc 

The Suntour Vx groupset looks great and works well, and the new Campag seatpost/Turbo saddle combo looks nice.
The Weinmann brakes function well, but I still need to polish them up.  
Rounded off with new bartape and Continental 'Classic' tyres (keeping the Open Corsas for the Vitus) I think the results have made all the work scratching away at the spokes and polishing the rims worthwhile. 

SR Apex chainset

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Inner Tube Recycling

Ever felt a pang of guilt when you've discarded a perfectly decent inner tube after a puncture rather than patch it up for later use?
Heard of any councils offering a rubber re-cycling service? Thought not. 
But all may not be lost. 
Today I visited a 'marché nocturne' at Meyssac in the Lot region of France, and spotted a table of bags, rucksacks and other items made from recycled inner tubes. 
BackToBag offer 'Original bags made from inner cycle tubes - strong, waterproof 100% recycled product'.

They're made by Annemieke Bod, Dutch born but a French resident and they're sold on her website (which may be under repair at the moment - watch this space). 

Messenger bag:

Tool bag at 15€


Sunday, 3 August 2014

L'Eroica Britannia Weekend

The Team:

Joe Quill (1956 Mal Rees)

Andy Bell (1984 Vitus 979)

Craig Bell (1984 Holdsworth)

Jim Dutton (1977 Koga-Miyata Gents Tourer)

Amongst our number the tandem 10 mile time trial record holders, Joe and Craig. 

My teammates all rode proper old school pre 1987 racing bikes, as per the rules. I was on a heavyweight 'Gents Tourer' which, while awesome on the Strada Bianchi, was a bit of a disaster on the climbs. Craig and Joe bestrode Holdsworths, whereas Andy used one of only two aluminium bikes allowed, a Vitus 979. Incredibly light and appropriately colour matched to 'Fosters blue'. 

Pre race line-up:

And in the heat of the action:

Finish line relief:

Blessed as we were with fine weather the 60 mile ride provided a reasonable challenge for our team, although I suspect that a couple of our number could have handled the full 100 miles without too much of a problem. 
The route directions were spot on, the feed stations well stocked and the glass of Pimms (or sparkling wine) with fine sandwiches at Chatsworth House was a real treat. 

Post race refreshments:

What an incredible weekend. Many beers, many miles, great organisation, great companions. 

And if you were overtaken on the hills, chances are it was by someone like Team Peugeot!

Team Bell finished a creditable 327th.  Probably.