The Fleet: Grandis SL

grandis campagnolo vintage

Part of my ‘fleet’ is this vintage Grandis SL from 1986.  This was the first real racing bike I owned.  It wasn’t a Colnago.  It wasn’t a Pinarello,  Eddy Merckx, De Rosa or any of the luscious frames I lusted for.  It was a sturdy, Columbus SL steel-tubed bike.  A few years ago, I recovered what was left of this bike — the frameset, a seat post binder bolt, the front derailleur, one shift lever — in a basement, and set about restoring it.

Grandis was a small Italian builder, imported into the States — exclusively, if I remember correctly — by the guys at Branford Bike.  They were able to sell at a discount because they imported them directly from the builders and didn’t have to pay the wholesaler’s mark-up, which is why I had this and not something fancier.

My original bike had a mishmash of Campagnolo Super Record, C-Record, Cinelli and Modolo parts.  Campagnolo had just launched C-Record and all the bike mags were filled with ads showing Greg Lemond riding to his unprecedented Tour de France victory on a C-Record gruppo.  While Super Record was the stalwart, time-tested gruppo, for me C-Record was the future of cycling and I bought into as much of it as I could afford:  the crankset, rear derailleur and seat post.  I also had a beautiful set of tubular race wheels:  Mavic GL330’s, Campagnolo Super Record hubs, DT double-butted spokes and Vittoria CX/CG tires.  Those are all long gone now.

grandis campagnolo vintage

Grandis SL with Campagnolo Super Record

I wasn’t trying to reproduce the bike I had in the 80’s.  Because I had the chance to do it again, I went for the build I should have done in the first place:  Super Record. I restored the bike to working order with a combination of new-old stock parts and slightly used items from The Yellow Jersey and eBay.  Some nice finds were the virgin Mavic GP 4 rims and a set of pristine Campagnolo Nuovo Record brakes, which were the same as the Super Record minus the titanium hardware.

grandis campagnolo super record vintage rear derailleur

The Super Record rear derailleur: beautiful in its simplicity

All in all, I managed to get a consistent set of parts for the project:

  • Campagnolo Super Record front & rear dérailleurs, crankset, headset and shift levers
  • Campaganolo Nuovo Record brakeset, brake levers, and seat post
  • Campagnolo Record headset and Superleggera pedals
  • Cinelli toe clips, Alfredo Binda straps
  • Cinelli 1A stem and Model 66 Campione del Mondo bars, finished with Bike Ribbon padded tape
  • Selle San Marco Concor saddle, black suede
  • Campagnolo Super Record hubs, Mavic GP 4 rims, Vittoria Rallye tubulars
  • Regina CX-S 7-speed freewheel

Every component was completely disassembled, cleaned and polished with Simichrome paste.  I replaced and re-greased all the bearings, re-inserted pins and bushings, adjusted cones, tension springs and cables.  I cleaned, waxed and polished the frame.  I had considered repainting it.  I even contacted Grandis in Italy, but they no longer had the original decals, so I left the frame with all its nicks, dings and war wounds intact.  The build came together quite well;  everything worked smoothly and stayed in adjustment through some road miles.

Overall, I was pleased though I’m still not too happy with the cockpit.  The Cinelli stem is on the short side.  The handlebars aren’t the Cinelli Model 65 Criterium ones I used to have, the ones that once caused an Irish ex-pro to remark, “When I saw those bars, I knew you were a real racer.  You can only ride in the drops on them.”

grandis campagnolo vintage

I still ride the Grandis on nice sunny days or holidays.   I even have the old Detto Pietro shoes, with the wooden soles and the metal cleats hammered in with hobnails.  The bike is a time machine.  When I get on it, I relive that feeling of freedom that drew me ever deeper into the sport.  I remember some of my earliest races, the decisive moves, the victories, the failures.  I remember long training rides with guys who would become life-long friends.  I remember my youth and the promise, the untold potential of the future. Every so often, I’ll put it in the big ring and hammer on it.  It has a different feel than anything else I’ve ever ridden, be it carbon fiber, aluminum or steel.  This bike has a soul.

grandis campagnolo vintage super record mavic gp 4 vittoria

Pearlescent blue paint, chrome accents, lovely semi-sloping fork crown

I raced on this bike throughout my junior years.  Back then, an aspiring racer could, at reasonable cost, get virtually identical equipment as the professional racer — something that is no longer possible today.  I won a number of state and regional championship titles on this bike.  I crashed it innumerable times, each time getting back up and back on the bike.  When I graduated to seniors and started racing for Richard Sachs’,  I swapped most of the parts over to the  Strada Immaculata and hung this bike up in the basement.

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