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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.