It was supposed to be forever. A bike I would have throughout my life. The components might be replaced, but the steel heart would remain.
It was supposed to be forever.
A bike I would have throughout my life. The components might be replaced, but the steel heart would remain. Something I had always wanted, that had my own story and I could be proud of.
2 years ago I had an amazing opportunity. Through my cycling friend Chris Haworth, we were working with Ernesto Colnago, the Greatest Ever Italian Framebuilder to create unique bikes for The Fireflies, a super tough but friendly charity ride through The Alps, in aid of Leuka. It was a genuine dream come true. To be involved with my childhood heroes, and help create the very frame I had lusted after as a teenager, plus raise money for a fantastic charity.
The Colnago Master was THE steel racing frame of the 70s and 80s. Its what pros rode on before the advent of quality aluminium, titanium and of course carbon. But I could never afford one. Here was my chance to make good on a dream, but actually with Colnago!!
This was and is a unique project for Colnago, creating frames designed specifically to help raise money for a charity and charity cyclists. We were getting top-end EPS Carbon and Master-X Steel frames made. I went for the Master. Much prettier, with its chrome lug work, classic looks and slim silhouette.
The project got a fair bit of presss attention. Here’s some stuff with nice photography, especially of the EPS. You’ll be able to spot my grinning face holding up Chris’ EPS if you’re inclined!:
The frames arrived (after much archetypal Italian delay!) in late May, just a week or two before the ride. A ride organiser had connections with Rapha and they gladly gave us space to hand them out, built up with Campagnolo groupsets, from their pop up cafe in Central London. There were about 15 EPS and 15 Masters, all handbuilt in Italy to each rider’s exact measurements.
For Those Who Suffer We Ride – Motto of The Fireflies
It was a massive day for me. A frame built exactly to my specifications, unique in the world. And here I was handing them out to other grinning faces. Chris had come from his home in the Alps to be there. He’d been the lucky bleeder who’d been travelling to the Colnago factory to see work in progress.
I built my bike from scratch. I’ve always loved building bikes, choosing each and every component myself, deliberating over it in the months before. I loved the curl of fresh paint popping out of the rear-mech hangar as I screwed out the specially designed nut, to give a clean thread. I loved tighten up the Record cranks and starring at them gleaming on an otherwise bare frame….I made sure I was alone that morning, savouring every component as I tightened each piece of metal and carbon onto my dream bike.
This is no lightweight by contemporary standards. For a high-end bike, it is heavy. But it is super-light by steel standards. So I expected a comfortable but sluggish ride.
The first trip out was a genuine revelation. The acceleration was the real eye-opener! This bike is spritely. It kicks if you kick and corners with utter confidence. Colnago are famous for their superb geometries and awesome handling. Now I got it.
That acceleration was coming from a great tubeset and frame building technique. The tubes are uniquely crimped to add stiffness. I admit to thinking this was just cosmetic, but I could feel it. What a bike! I was in love.
But this was never going to be my Forever Bike. When I sent my measurements sheet off to Colnago I was sending them as a chap with back problems that I thought were solved. When the frame arrived I was receiving it as a man with permanent spine problems and degrading disks. I couldn’t get it to fit.
My clubmates teased me for my maximum stack height on the fork, and up-turned stem. It ruined the sleek racing lines of the bike.
I’ve ridden this baby 5 times, for about 200 miles in total. Every time was bliss. I even managed to ride 95 miles in a hilly sportive. It was a last hurrah and the bike was joyful. I threw it round corners, my favourite pastime. Bliss.
For the last year or so I’ve just been looking at it and hoping I could get to a state where I’d be back on it. But I’ve got worse and the saddle/bar drop is a no-go.
Friends have said I should keep it. I helped create it. But I believe bikes are meant to be ridden, not hung on walls. And more to the point, if I sell this, I can get something else that’s beautiful, that fits me and actually RIDE it!! So off it goes.
If you love someone, set them free…Nothing like a bit of Sting to polish off a blog.
Frame: Custom Fireflies Master-X. 54cm seat tube, 55cm top tube.
Fork: Steel chromed Colnago Master.
Headset: Campagnolo Record 1".
Head spacers: 4cm stack.
Stem: Deda, 11cm.
Bars: FSA Wing Pro 42cm.
Seatpost: Campagnolo Chorus Carbon 27.2mm.
Saddle: Selle San Marco SKN.
Chainset: Campagnolo Record 53/39, 172.5mm. (In my opinion the most gorgeous cranks available).
Bottom bracket: Campagnolo Chorus Italian thread 102mm.
Rear mech: Campagnolo Chorus long cage.
Front mech: Campagnolo Centaur.
Cassette: Campagnolo Centaur 13-29.
Chain: Campagnolo Record.
Shifters: Campagnolo Centaur.
Brake calipers: Campagnolo Centaur.
Wheels: Campagnolo Zonda clincher.
Quick release: Campagnolo classic chrome, not nasty black ones.
Tyres: Continental GP4000S
Bottle cages: Elite Ciussi Inox.
Pedals: Time RXS Carbon.