Now then Rouleurs,
I've been loitering on the MTB forum for a few years, but hadn't got it together to produce a Racer, until now.
However, I had managed to gather a hatful of frames and a bunch of assorted kit, but the cold light of reality broke in recently and bullied me into selling most of it with the intent of buying something that I could actually ride.
And while I was contemplating what sort of retro roadie to go for, this bike came up, and I couldn't let if pass:
Its 56cm c-t-c with a longish toptube and simple lugs (Prugnat?). No name drop outs; slotted BB shell; internal cable routing; pump peg and chain hanger; no other markings or serial number, just a 56 stamped into the BB. Paint job is very average and it will be off to Bob Jackson eventually.
I've seen similar bikes that the owners say were Dolan built, but I've no idea who made this for the shop. My guess is it is early to mid 1990's. Any ideas who built for Ribble back then?
As a self confessed amateur geek when it comes to steel frame materials, what made me pull the trigger on this otherwise unassuming shop bike was the fact that it's made of Reynolds 653 Record
653 is widely reported to be a sweet frameset with its blend of 531 front and 753 rear tubes, but I'd not heard of the Record variant.
After a bit of googling (actually, a lot, 'cause there is loads of opinion out there to winnow), the best info I can find is that 653 Record is a late incarnation of 653 with finely drawn out main tubes (like 531 Pro), coupled to the usual 753 rear stays.
Comparing top tube measurements, those made of 653 Record are 0.7/0.4 butted; regular 653 and 531c are 0.8/0.5; while 753 are 0.7/0.5 or 0.7/0.3 (track). There is an often copied internet rumour that 653 was developed with Eddy Merckx, but I'm not sure I buy it.
I'm hoping there are some steel experts on here who can chip in with more info on the material: e.g when was it manufactured; did you have to be 753 cert'd to build with it, etc.?
Soooo.... after 20 odd years away from road machines, how does a thin tubed steel bike ride? Sensationally. After using MTBs on and off road, I was afraid I wouldn't be able to stomach a bone shaker ride - but this bike is beautifully supple and intuitive, even with skinny tubs over the back lanes (although I must confess reaching for the brake lever extenders a couple of times - muscle memory from my old Raleigh Winner ....)
And when you stomp on the pedals (despite the photo, I have got some) it leaps into life. I haven't got much experience to compare it with, but I've heard complaints about 531 being a bit flexy when you whallop the power: this won't be an issue.
Perhaps most noticable for me was the steering. I'm still getting used to how subtle you can be with steering inputs using pedal pressure, knees and body. And I've realised I don't really know how to pedal, and that it is quite important (for the first time I can see the advantage of clipless).
On first impressions, the 600 group is workman like: brakes are much better than expected and the sti units are intuitive if a little lacking in bite/precision. But given the frame material, I think this is going to be a bit of a weight weenie build.
I'm leaning toward an upgrade to Dura Ace 7410 in time. So far I have changed the original 105/MA40 wheels for some radial bladed Wolber tubs laced to Mavic 501s. Another survivor from the shed exodus was a Campy alloy 7 speed freewheel that I'd been hoarding for years. With these on it's down to around 20lbs and very lively. The Flite saddle is quite comfy, but I think a brooks will be a weight penalty worth conceding.
Anyone recommend a good book on how to pedal?