Classic Corner

Best of Show Award for goes to, gasp, Schwinn!
By Greg Overton
In September, Classic Corner made its annual road trip to the Interbike show in Anaheim, California, with the mission of finding things like Campagnolo's reintroduction of the Super Record group, or frames brazed by a rested and rejuvenated Faliero Masi, or that Simplex has taken the bike world by storm with a new integrated shifter for five speed drivetrains called Retro-Ergo! Didn═t happen. In fact, the closest thing we found to a French made component was a mediocre croissant, and my bet is the shifters would have cost less.

We did, however; find some really cool stuff there, uh, you know, behind the heavy, er full suspension, er downhill, no wait FREERIDE BIKES! Yeah, way back there were indications that road bikes are alive and well, and that beyond the reach for higher technology - a short reach - classic style bikes still have the greatest appeal in the road market and are being built by some surprising companies.

Let's start off with the second annual Best Of Show (at least as far as we care) award. Last year's winner was the Fausto Coppi Campionissimo frame, and it will be joined by this year's winner: Schwinn. Schwinn? Yep, these guys have done what we wish another major company or two would do. They've created a beautiful, steel, lugged road frame to recreate the Paramount model. While other companies cut corners, a few grams and ride quality to give us a mass produced tig-welded or carbon frame only to see the most popular bikes remain Colnago, De Rosa and Eddy Merckx lugged steel models, Schwinn decided to compete on that level.

The new Paramount is built with the tig welder's dream material, Reynolds 853. But its tubes are connected with beautifully sculpted investment cast lugs reminiscent of the original Nervex lugs on the classic Paramount. Geometry is traditional as well - nothing "revolutionary."

The only concessions to the fact that it's made in the 90's are: the use of double bend stays which Schwinn feels gives increased compliance to the stiff tubing while adding heel clearance, and the option of a carbon fork. The standard fork is a straight steel unit similar to the Colnago steel fork. The carbon fork was necessary because Schwinn will also offer a titanium frame built for them by Serotta. The steel bikes come from Seattle and frame builder Tim Isaac, who has worked with Schwinn for some time. Paint work on the bikes displayed in Anaheim was impeccable with deep blues and reds topped off with terrific white panel decals on the seat and down tubes. Very nice work.

You know that companies like DeRosa and Colnago always have cool stuff for the classic bike lover, but this year they threw a couple of curves at ol' Classic Corner. We're cruising through the booth for Gita Sports checking out Pinarello, Merckx, Giordana and DeRosa (we've got a soft spot for DeRosa so we save them for last); and "hey, what's that?"

We get closer and it becomes clear! It's a DeRosa alright, but it's fat, and, and . . . welded! It's a *#@+!* aluminum frame! What gives?! Just then, Ross from Gita comes over and says "Hey, it's light Duuude." We gotta get out of here. So we rush to the Todson booth for Colnago and comfort. Okay, I'm feeling better, then Steve from Todson says "Hey, Classic Corner, you gotta check this out."

Now, we're thinking some new goofy shaped tubes or something. But what we see is round tubes and nice paint. We say "Uh, Steve, it's a good looking bike and all, but we gotta tell you, Ernesto has lost it on the geometry for this one."

He smiles at us and says, "CC, man, it's a mountain bike". After the DeRosa booth, we're open to anything, so we let it settle for a moment, check it out and look it over from all sides. By the time we═re finished, we'rethinking "Okay, sell the Fat Chance, keep the Campy OR group, stick it on one of these babies, and my friends will still talk to me." Hi, my name is Classic Corner and Colnago is in the mountain bike business, but I'm okay with it.

Some of the other bikes and frames that we spotted this year and wanted to take home were from Red Rose Imports in the form of Carrera and Francesco Moser frames. We don't know who does the building, and they weren't telling, but Carrera frames are terrific looking machines. As you may recall, these frames showed up in the European peloton a few years back with riders such as Stephen Roche, Abdujaparov, and Chiapucci winning on them. The frames were actually designed by the mechanics for the Carrera professional team to meet the needs for ride, handling and durability of the European season from the Classics to the year ending criteriums.

Moser frames have been gaining a following over the past few years as top notch bikes, but the hit this year was the Moser cyclocross frame. This is a traditional steel frame with wide stays and fork blades for plenty of clearance, and traditional cross geometry for professional racing. The Moser also has a beautiful flat fork crown. This adds clearance while lending aesthetics to top off a neat bike. Much like the Waterford, Rivendell and Colnago, the Moser cross bike seems almost too nice for the intended use. Get one anyway.

Speaking of cyclocross, the most popular cross frame ever has a new importer, and (for the U.S.), a new name. The venerable Alan frame from Italy will now be imported by Torelli Imports, and will be labelled Torelli as well. This is nothing new for Alan which makes frames that are labelled Pinarello and Guerciotti, but it's quite a coup for Torelli! Another long-lived aluminum frame company introduced a cross frame at Interbike. Vitus now offers an affordable, bonded aluminum cyclocross frame similar in appearance to its road frames and available in any color you want as long as it is blue. Great bike for the person needing a low priced, high quality cross/rain/commuter/second bike.

Another familiar face with new stuff was Marin Mountain Bikes, which may be bucking for a name change if it continues to introduce road bikes into its lineup. Last year we saw an aluminum mid-range model as the first Marin road bike. This year they hit us with three steel Italian-made bikes available with Campagnolo components. This is a bold step for a growing mountain bike company to venture into Columbus tubed, Campy equipped, Italian bikes when the easy, cost effective way would have been more of the same thinking we see from its competitors.

It's always fun to visit the booths of the various tubing manufacturers and suppliers because they display frames from all sorts of builders who choose their particular products.

The Reynolds booth had frames from Waterford, Landshark, Serotta and others, while Nova Cycle Supply - distributor of frame supplies - had some very nice frames from builders like Erickson, Rodriguez and Della Santa. Nova also had two frames of particular interest to Classic Corner. One is from Steve Casmano, a young builder from Portland who is very much interested in keeping the torch burning, so to speak, for old world craftsmanship to the point that his catalog pays tribute to legendary builder Mario Confente.

The second frame was a Brian Bayless frame. Bayless actually has a connection with Confente from the days of Masi USA. A Bayless frame is the pinnacle of framebuilder═s art and craftsmanship with exquisitely ornate lugs and crisp detail, made complete by flawless paint work and etching. On the component front we saw only minor changes, with a few additions. For Campagnolo, all groupsets above Mirage will have nine speed drivetrains and dual pivot brakes. The brake hoods (or is it shifter hoods?) have been redesigned to soften the point at the top to enhance cruising with your hands up there. As usual, the winning bike from the Tour de France, this year's Pinarello of Jan Ullrich was displayed at the Campy booth. The major addition to the Campy line is its new pedal. This is a compact design that uses a cleat very much like a Look cleat in appearance, and will mount on a three hole pattern the same as Look cleats use. But the engagement of the cleat at the rear of the pedal is toward the ball of the foot instead of the rear. This gives a large support platform for the foot, with a smaller more compact pedal.

Shimano displayed its new Ultegra group, now available with a nine speed triple drivetrain, and a much improved appearance. This is where Classic Corner risks losing its friends, but we actually liked the appearance of the new Ultegra group. Not as much as Campy═s parts, but we did like it. It's about time that a group appearing on bikes up to $2000 isn't painted or dura coated or whatever they call it. Bike components should be silver, and we═ re happy they finally agree.

Shimano won the schwag sweepstakes this year, however, with a very cool and highly detailed rear derailleur key chain. Campy gave the usual posters, pens, pins and a keychain of their own, but this thing that Shimano gave us was the coolest. Probably had more hand craftsmanship than any of their parts, but we're waiting for next year's lighter reverse pull 11 speed version.

That's about it for the Classic Corner's view of the glitz, glitter, hoopla and trauma of Interbike 1997. Here═s hoping you have a great Winter of riding and an early Spring with lots of base miles. And hopefully by Spring we'll be over that DeRosa thing.

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