Bright colours and crazy shaped tubing had arrived. Straight-laced British frames were out and the new Italian glitz was en vogue. A young Mike Mooney was completely sold.
I wanted Italian. Years of cycle touring on a brown Dawes Galaxy were the catalyst for an about turn.
I’m sure now the town of Bognor Regis is rather beautiful, I’ll bet there is a good flat white to be had and a range of organic goods. However in 1988 the only draw for me was the main supplier on the south coast (as far as I was aware…) of the finest, sexiest race bred Italian frames.
It’s not a town that you would have immediately associated with such cycling pedigree. But squeezed into the high street, there it was, the ultimate bike shop. There were loads of them, Italian hand built dreams, just hanging everywhere.
My first was a Rossin. Multi coloured triangular tubing. On went my components and straight into its first road season. An amazing machine, it was ridden as hard as it was loved.
It lasted most of a season before the seat tube cracked (several crashes). Another visit to Bognor and new Rossin was selected. I seem to remember haggling with the owner about poor build quality and him reducing the cost of the new Rossin. Sorry I might not have been totally honest about ‘some’ of the crashes.
The new stead was even more garish and shared the same crazy miss shaped tubing. Another beauty to ride, it took me through to the middle of the following season. This one broke at the top of the seat stays, again might have the odd spill, but much loved.
Back to Bognor this time a slightly older wiser 19yr old… I might have started doubting the triangular tubings reliability as this time so I opted for a more classic design. Italy was still the only country I wanted a frame from but this time I settled on a Paganini.
This was the best of the bunch a true race bred machine. The tubes were a traditional round shape, the cables semi concealed. Painted Ferrari red with chrome forks and chrome chain stay this bike was more serious. Enough to take a youngster into a man’s world perhaps. Toe straps were replaced by the mighty Look pedal. Components anodised, seat posts highly polished…
This took me through another season to you guessed it… another cracked frame. My cycling career had taken a few turns and I was now lucky enough to be able to pick up a new much reduced frame at my local Bournemouth bike shop. Alloy was now in play and if was good enough for Sean Kelly then I was in. French frame builders Vitus was to be my next bike and the last in that current chapter of my cycling life.
It was black, no logos and no fuss. The components were functional but not fussy, a true racer would ride what he was given… This mighty machine took me as far as I could get to in the world of cycling and still some 27 years later its still being used as a static bike bolted to a set of turbo trainers in my cellar.
The Italians have always done it better than us Brits, food, weather, romance and bikes. I can certainly vouch for most of these however an Italian love affair I think is pretty unlikely for me now…
Although my final memories in this era were of the stealth like black Vitus and the dizzy heights we shared, my fond carefree times were for the Italians… no strings, no baggage, just pure…