A tricky question for sure but here's a few thoughts to toss into the mix:
- go off the peg steel, there are loads of options but the re-ssued Colnago Master would have to be in the mix
- go fully custom steel, either US (Vanilla, Sachs, Waterford, the already mentioned Steelman, IF, Inglis - some of the waiting times could be lengthy!), UK (Mercian or Roberts although if Robin Mather is back up and running he'd certainly need to be considered) or possibly Italian (Pegoretti for sure although there are of course others)
- go off the peg ti with the usual suspects
- go custom ti as above but including De Rosa (are they still doing custom?)
- go off the peg carbon, perhaps as a whole bike from Planet X or the Boardman range, super value and allows for some great holidays/kit
- go custom carbon, which I know little about
Then there's groupset. If it is Italian it has to be Campag. But then the new Record/Super Record is not pleasing to my jaundiced eye, particularly the horn shaped Ergo hoods which could bring Shimano and SRAM into the fold. Best compromise - some NOS alloy Campag 9 speed.
Wheels? Depends on frame choice but likely to be handbuilt, traditionally spoked ones.
Bars? Shallow drop, traditional bend in silver if possible.
Saddle? Fizik Arione.
Ok, so loads of choices but I've got to plum for someting so here goes:
- custom steel IF Club Racer. Why? I like the classic steel lines, has mudguard eyelets so offers versatility, top quality. I would say Mercian to keep it British but have heard mixed reviews of customer service. If Robin Mather was definitely back I'd choose one of his frames over the IF.
- groupset would be alloy Campag, Chorus or Centaur. Why? Fairly traditional appearance, modern performance.
- wheels would be traditionally spoked for appearance/ease of service as much as anything else. I'd get Pete Matthews to build them.
I'm not sure how much that would cost, say £3,500 with fittings etc. That leaves £500 for kit and £1,000 for a cycling holiday.
Kit - shoes will have to be a pair of those Dromartis (because they are beautiful, traditional in appearance - see a theme emerging? - and top quality) and I'll add in some Assos bibshorts (leaving cost aside, simply the best) and a Vintage Velos Molteni wool jersey (looks classy, really well made). Probably leaves just enough chance for a cotton cycling cap.
Cycling holiday? Italy I think, for the combination of history, great riding and top notch food and drink. I'll stay a fortnight and gorge on the lot.
I haven't really given this much thought, have I.