In 1983, Tullio Campagnolo, founder of Campagnolo of Vicenza passed away, and his son Valentino assumed the reins of the company. Shortly thereafter, members of the cycling press made the pilgrimage for an audience with the scion of the house of Campagnolo. One reporter, finding himself surrounded by equipment representing milestones in cycling technology, remarked to Signore Campagnolo, how wonderful it must be, to be surrounded by these mechanical marvels everyday! Valentino is reported to have smiled and uttered the words, "The metal is cold", adding that the passion and glory was supplied by the riders; by their legs, lungs, courage and sacrifice. The quality of the parts allowed riders to make history, but the hubs, derailleur and cranks didn't pedal themselves. The human element brought the heat.
I was reminded about the importance of the human element quite recently. George Horning called up in January, inquiring about a wheel set for a '71 Masi he intended to ride in the Eroica California in early April; he wanted a wheel set that fit with the bikes' character and vintage. The bike had been in the family since it was new; twenty year old Jim, Georges' father drove from Riverside to John's Bikes, the Masi dealer in Pasadena to put his savings down on this exotic Italian (dubbed the Ferrari of bicycles by Cycling Magazine). He paid the stratospheric price of $375, or six weeks wages, for this Campagnolo equipped machine and, owing to the Longshoremen's strike at San Pedro, John's had the bike air freighted for an extra 50 dollars. He moved to the Bay Area a short time afterwards and raced for Santa Rosa Cycling Club, competing in the first Tour of the Sierras, among other events, and eventually hung up his racers number in 1979. The Masi went into storage and got dusty. As a boy, George saw the bike on the garage wall every day, but had no sense of its place or significance. There actually came a point in 2010 that Jim almost sold the bike; problem was, he didn't feel comfortable with any of the interested parties. The Masi was hung back on the wall.
In 2013, he got the bug to get back into shape and sign up for the 2013 Eroica California, but, while out training in Santa Rosa he was hit from behind, resulting in three fractures of the left pelvis and two in the left scapula. His body healed, but the spark was extinguished; the Masi went to the wall and got dusty again.
In 2018, son George got it into his head that entering the 2019 Eroica California would be a hoot and started to plan in earnest for the event, albeit without a machine that fit the period. Hoping for things doesn't always make them happen, but this time, it did. Jim offered his Masi to George for the ride, so we met in my workshop in early February to plan the new wheel set. He had hubs (Campagnolo large flange) and had a rim in mind; the Velo Orange PBP in polished silver, 36 hole. This 19mm wide rim has an internal width of around 13.5mm and a low 12mm profile; I couldn't think of a more appropriate modern rim for the job and told him so. We decided on Wheelsmith straight gauge silver spokes with silver brass nipples to complete the specs on a modern retro build.
The mix of old and new parts went together smoothly and fit the bike like prodigal sons. Everyone was pleased by the outcome; George had a swell time in Paso Robles and Jim was jazzed to see the beast in action again. I believe the Masi was pleased to be off the garage wall.
This I know; Campagnolo is right about racing, how the courageous struggles of racers endow both man and machine with heroic status. But it's not the only way to turn rubber, aluminum and steel into precious metal.