Sunday, August 26, 2012

First Generation Campagnolo Vento Clincher Rims (20 Spoke)

In my traipsing around the web, searching for information about Columbus TSX, I noticed a lot of the 8-speed 1990's bikes, which were built with TSX, sported a distinct wheelset. The deep-V campagnolo Ventos and Shamals. While I am typically not into restoring things historically, I am not one to shy away from good design. I simply love how these wheels look. 

Pictured, are what I believe to be the first generation Ventos which had 20-spokes. Later versions, annotated with HPW-16 and HPW-12s, had 16 and 12 spokes respectively. Aesthetically, I prefer the decals of these earlier versions. Simple, black. Later iterations appear with purple/magenta graphics and sometimes with blue lettering. Oi.

I will have more review after some more riding! I think it is safe to say, there are plenty more, technologically advanced options in terms of wheels, but as can be seen from the rest of this build, an advanced, light build, is simply not the goal here. The ride is sweet though!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Hand Polishing Aluminum Bicycle Parts to Mirror Finish

Go from the part above, to the part pictured below it, in about 30 minutes, no power tools necessary. I looked all over the web for more information about hand polishing aluminum parts, in this case, for a bicycle. I actually had a surprisingly hard time trying to find a good step by step. It probably has something to do with this instant gratification society. I want to know (in this order), What Will The End Result Look Like?, What Will I Need?, How Long Will This Take?, and then if I decide it's worth it, The Steps....with LOTS OF PICTURES! So for those with this impatient affliction, see above image. Worth it? Read on.
What You Will Need

- Varying Grits of Sandpaper (Depending on the condition of your original part, how much initial sanding is required.) I started with 400, 600, 2000, and 3000. 
- Mother's Mag & Aluminum Polish.
- Terry Cloth or Terry Application Pads
- Some paper towels and some water. I used a small bucket to sand over (wet sanding so there will be drips).

You can get all of these items at most automotive places like Pep Boys, or Autozone. I don't think the home improvement stores really carry sandpaper over 1000 grit or so (but they might?).

How Long Will This Take?

This is completely dependent on the size of the part you intend on polishing. A bicycle seat post took me about 30 minutes. You do not need any power tools, just the items listed above.

The Steps

So this all started when I picked up a Campagnolo seat post for a great price relative to what they typically sell for. The part was, however, in pretty rough shape. If only it could be revived...

*For those saying to themselves, "That before picture looks terrible, like one of those get in shape quick info-mercials, of course the after looks so much better..." In my defense, I forgot to take a before, and had already begun sanding the post. SO, I used the eBay seller's picture. This is why they look very different.

The condition of your part will determine the grit of sandpaper at which you should begin. Obviously you need to assess whether the part can afford to lose some material (through sanding) relative to the kinds of issues affecting it's finish. Deep scratches would require you to sand the whole part to the depth of the scratch to make it disappear entirely. Since many tolerances on bike parts are fractions of a millimeter, you likely can't afford to sand out really deep scratches but scratches add character right?

STEP 1. 

I started with 400 grit. You will be wet sanding (soaking the sandpaper in some water and sanding with the paper wet). I did this over a small bucket. You'll need to put some elbow grease into it. You want to sand as many of the scratches out of the metal as you can whilst being cognizant not too take too much material off. Beginning with 400 grit, you shouldn't worry, but starting with a more coarse, dry sandpaper, you can really get into the material quickly.

The sandpaper will leave a grey residue. You can use this to your advantage to see the scratches you want to sand through. See in the image above, the seat post was improperly, or rather violently removed from the bike leaving scathing lacerations in the lower part. These were too deep to sand through in my opinion.

STEP 2.  Once happy with the results of the first sanding, step to a finer grade sandpaper and thoroughly sand the part again. Some sites recommend sanding in a single direction and then sanding in the opposite direction with the next grade of sandpaper. I did some of this, but I didn't find it to be imperative to the success of the polishing. Just be sure to sand through what you had done with the previous grade of sandpaper.

Using 600 grit.

I stepped from 400, to 600, to 2000 (I skipped 1000 because I ran out and forgot to pick some up), and then finally, 3000 grit. 

STEP 3. At this point, the part should take on a smooth, semi-gloss sheen. Now you're ready to apply the Mother's. This stuff is magic!

Above you can see how my part looked as I progressed through the sandings. In the third image, the top part of the post is sanded to 3000 grit. The bottom has the mothers applied. Amazing! As per the directions, I just dabbed a very little bit on the Terry pad, and began scrubbing intently, until the material literally dried up and began to appear glossy and brilliant!

The seat post now has a beautiful mirror shine. As you can see, I did not sand down far enough to take the deepest scratches in the post out, because that might have caused issues with the seat post fitting securely in the seat tube of the bike.


And mounted on the bike. Much nicer than before!


I picked up two stems at the LBS and applied the above polishing technique to just one of them. Initially, they both appeared identical, save for their size. Because these looked rougher than the seat post did, I started with 220 grit sandpaper. A more thorough sanding job would have yielded a nicer result but I was in the middle of conversing with the neighbor and an early afternoon beer!

Installed on the ol Bianchi (The previous stem was a bit too long). P.S., this bike still rides like a dream!


Another good visual Russian. Thanks Google Translate!!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Nikon D7000, Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII

Photo of Nikki at sunset on our beach in Destin, FL. I love the way those summer dresses look on her.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Bianchi Reparto Corse TSX with Campagnolo 8-Speed - A True Classic

Allow me to explain my absence with this: I'm engaged. Work has had me traveling a lot. Also my interests have been shifting. Photography is still a great passion in my life but bikes have really taken over my focus for the time being. Also, my D700 took a bath (on my account) when I decided to take it into the ocean. Hey, no pain no gain. So that will have to be sent in for repair (it's only minorly affected). All that said, still Nicole is the center of my world right now and I have been enjoying every minute of it. Seeing as how this is not a wedding blog though, I will spare the details. Just because I spend all my time with her, doesn't mean we don't maintain our own separate hobbies. Many many bikes have been in and out of my (new) apartment since my last post and I have been learning so much about building bikes as well as cycling. I look forward to continuing to grow and share in the same way  I did with photography. So on with my latest project!

I will be adding to this article but it has been sitting in draft a little long and I just want to get something posted so things may be changing over the next couple days.

The Bianchi Reparto Corse TSX

Considering the money it takes to marry a girl these days, either I have plenty of money (*cough* not the case) or an important monetary lesson that is yet to be learned. So yeah, I keep an eye on the markets and when the right bikes come along, I can't help myself!

I came across this beauty on eBay. I don't normally look for older vintage bikes on eBay since shipping costs often make them cost prohibitive. This bike, however, happened to be located in my city. And it was strangely absent from craigslist, which I would think would be the go-to for bikes. At the BIN price listed, I had to have it. And it was so.

I was now the owner of another Bianchi steel frame ride complete with classic Campagnolo 8-speed components, which is actually my first experience with Campagnolo integrated shifters, or Campagnolo ErgoPower. Until now, it has been downtube shifting for me. I love the color. I love the Celeste detailing. I love the quality craftsmanship that can be found throughout the bike. Little pantographed "B" here, completely chromed frame there...truly a work of art. And best of all, wonderfully functional.

Build Specifications
This build is not original to the manufacturer. The person I bought this from claimed to have purchased in from a shop (not specified if he got it new). Though he wasn't a builder I don't believe I received this bike as it was originally sold. The wheelset didn't match, hubs of different periods and cues. I went ahead and began to change some things myself and they are noted below.

Brand: Bianchi
Model: Reparto Corse TSX*
Year: Late 90's
Frame: Columbus TSX Cyclex Steel
Headset: 1" Campagnolo Athena
Fork: 1" Threaded Steel Unicrown (unbranded) 
Stem: 1" quilled ITM aluminum (also branded "Bianchi") 
Handlebars: 3T (TTT) Forma
Seat post: 27.2mm Campagnolo Athena Aero (originally Nitto - Ritchey aluminum)
Saddle: Flite Titanium (Celeste)
Bottom Bracket: Campagnolo Veloce 68 x 111mm (campagnolo square taper)

Brake Calipers: Campagnolo Veloce Monoplaner
Brake Levers and Shifters: Campagnolo Veloce ErgoPower 8x2
Front Derailleur Mount: Braze-on
Front Derailleur: Campagnolo Chorus double (originally Veloce)
Rear Derailleur: Campagnolo Chorus 8-speed
Crank: Campagnolo Croce D'Aune 52/42 double (originally Veloce)
Cassette: Campagnolo Veloce 8-speed

Rims: FIR Nettuno (front) Mavic CPX33 (rear)
Hubs: Campagnolo Chorus
Tires: Vittoria Rubino III (celeste)

*In all my searching around the web, I seem to find this model most often a combination of  what are typically just characteristics of bikes. It was developed in Bianchi's separate Reparto Corse (Race Division). It also features Columbus tubing, Columbus TSX to be precise. And thus the name I find associated with it is the Bianchi Reparto Corse TSX.  

Columbus TSX Tube Set

"Columbus TSX (Cyclex Steel) - Tube set for professional use coupling maximum performance with reduced weight. It is particularly suitable for stage races of more than 150Km of mixed terrain. In addition to butted walls, this set has five helicoidal reinforcements thus giving greater rigidity against tube flexing and torsion." -

TSX appears to have been the next step in evolution from the SLX tubing. The weight is noted in the above link: heavier than EL and MAX, but lighter than most of the other Columbus tube sets. Admittedly though, weight is not everything. I also noticed other people have Columbus stickers that read "TSX Ultralight" and have heard it called TSX/UL. I am unsure at this point if that is different from simple, TSX tubing.

This specific frameset features internally routed cabling. I have worked with some other bikes that had internally routed cable and this Bianchi has been by far, the easiest installation yet. Perhaps the Raleigh Techniums I was refitting had an internal issues with their cable routing but they didn't install as smoothly as this. With the Bianchi, I slid the new housing in, and it popped right out the other side as if guided perfectly internally.

I never weighed the frameset despite it sitting bare for a number of months while I pieced together the components. It isn't an exceptionally light frame, but it is certainly not heavy. Again, TSX sits toward the top of Columbus's hierarchy of tubing in terms of quality and weight (being lighter than most) since it was designed for professional racing use. I'm not much of a weight weenie since the first step to cutting grams would be for me to stick to one beer, or pass on the ice cream next time. 

Campagnolo 8-speed Groupset - ErgoPower

As I said before, this is my first experience with Campagnolo's ErgoPower system. And like many other folks I see on the forums, I have been drooling over those little silvery shift lobes since I began assembling bikes. They sit sculpturally nestled in behind the brake lever. Unlike the Shimano STI stuff I have played with, they index firmly, and intentionally. I actually had a set of Record levers I bought on eBay to swap out but decided I liked the look of the Veloce better. 

The front derailleur is a braze-on fitting as seen below.

As for the crank, this Croce D'Aune is not original to the bike. I would not have changed it out had it not been for me stripping the threads with the crank puller. And just a note, even though I had done this, be sure the crank puller is fully threaded into the crank when you attempt to remove it, otherwise you risk stripping the threads and putting yourself out of a crank while creating a very pretty paper weight. Even though I did this, the threads stripped. As it turned out, even after I scrapped the attempt to carefully separate the crank from the bottom bracket non-destructively, using the right tools, degreasers, time (2 days), and other methods, I resorted (out of pride) to merely attempting to part the two whatever the cost. Once the two, still melded together, were removed from the frame, so as to prevent damaging the bottom bracket, I tried a gear puller, a ball joint separator, I got a correctly sized bolt to partially thread into the drive-side. With the crank arm support, I attempted to hammer the bottom bracket out of the arm. No such luck. I finally admitted defeat and sold the challenge for $8 to someone on eBay (with a full description). Best of luck!

Campagnolo Monoplaner Brakes

The very sexy monoplaner brakes have often been talked about for their style however their braking power is nothing to write home about. They stop just fine, but I find my dual pivot Tektro R736 along with H+Son rims to still be the most amazing caliper braking I have used to date. But again, look at those monoplaner brakes...

The Ride Quality

I love Bianchi bikes. They just didn't make that many bikes that weren't worthy of keeping for at least some reasons. They look great. They ride better. I harp on it all the time but to me, they represent functional art to a T.

This TSX is no exception. Obviously with the tubing and components it was stocked with, it was built for performance. The steel rides firmly. As in the article in the resources section, while I am not nearly as seasoned a rider as the writer, I definitely feel the flex of the steel despite the claim that the rifling gives added stiffness. While it may do this, the frame still has some movement to it. But it is a lively movement. Not out of control or unnerving.

The geometry of the frame aids in giving the bike an overall responsiveness perfect for nimbly zipping across town. The weight from the various components on this build do not keep this bike light and thus it feels quite substantial as I cruise down declines. The road just sort of whispers softly below.

For me, creating a ride with a coherent color scheme is also a large factor in my enjoyment of the bike. I love the chroming of the frame. The stays are chrome, the silvery parts gleaming in harmony alongside. The celeste details abound including the "E. Bianchi" signature on the top tube, the pantographed "B" and "Bianchi" on the headtube/downtube lug and bottom bracket, respectively. The standard logo on the headtube brandishes the small celeste colored banner. Matching cables and tires were a must with this one.

The only part of the bike I am rather confused about is the fork. People on the forums seem to agree and rail against "unicrown" forks. I am not a fan either. Unlike the lugged forks of the past, these unicrown fork possess that clumsy, lazy looking curve rather than an elegant form with matching lugs which Bianchi often pantographs with their "B" or crest. I at least appreciate the matching frame color that extends partially down the fork with this model, then is masked off to reveal the chrome.

Another drag of the unicrown fork is that it often leaves very little room for any tired larger than a 700x23c. And lastly, whats with the decals? These don't match anything, stylistically, on the bike. I find them strange and am still contemplating removing them.

Future Changes

I am still considering a few changes. I'd like to add a classic aero campagnolo seatpost in chrome. I'd also like a better, more cohesive stem. I have been looking everywhere for a forged, quill stem that has a dual bolt installation for the handlebars so that I wouldn't have to remove the brakes from the bar to change out the stem. This stem currently has that which is why I have failed to change it because it's a nice feature.

I also may change out the cable stops to Campagnolo silver, instead of the black plastic. I tend to prefer metal and the color would match a little better.


This is a pretty neat scan of a classic article describing a cyclists chance to ride several steel frames, all set up exactly the same. The only difference, the steel. The results are quite surprising. Columbus TSX is among them: