Friday, October 05, 2007


My late 60's model Bottecchia steel-framed bike has been through a number of incarnations. I'm sure that since the late 60's until the latest few incarnations, there are even some that I don't know about. Judging from the way I found the bike, I'm sure it has quite the history. It is named after Ottavio Bottecchia, the first Italian winner of the Tour de France clear back in 1924. His death is still mysterious and his legendary status was preserved into the last half of the 20th Century by the bicycle company bearing his name. The model that I have is the model that was ridden by the 1966 "Campione del Mondo" (World Champion). So, back in the heyday, it was quite the bike... Nice polished chrome lugs, lightweight steel frame tubes, and classic geometry. Regarding the time between the year it was built and 2005 (when I found it), who knows the stories that it could tell. Even Greg Lemond won one of his Tours de France on a Bottecchia bike in 1989. What more can I say, it's got heritage!

Despite it's proud heritage and not unlike many other 60's-70's era bikes, I found the bike in my Uncle Stu's garage one day when we were over there for a family get-together. Another bike, a Gitane, also caught my eye, but it was too small for me. The Bottecchia was dust covered with faded paint and some of the chrome was pitted and had a rust sheen to it. Most of that cleaned right up with a little TLC and some elbow grease. When I found the bike, it didn't have anything exept the frame, fork, handlebar/stem, and a crank. I figured it would be the perfect bike to reincarnate as a fixed gear. (see here for the bike in "fixte form")

The fixie worked great and was a blast to ride, but I ran into some problems. The main one is that I live 1,000 feet above the valley floor and there are some brutally steep hills that I have to ride to get home. Sometime I would need to ride it a couple of times a day. With a geared bike this is no problem, but with a fixie, it gets a bit tiresome. Not to mention going back down you have to keep pedaling the whole way because you can't coast on a fixie. I did gain a love for fixed gear bikes and really wish there was a velodrome around here to race on. If we ever live somewhere flat, I'll definitely be riding a fixie around again.


Continuing on, I decided the life of the Bottecchia as a fixie was over. I needed some gears and a freewheel (to coast). I didn't like the look of a deraileur and all the clutter that comes along with it, and I didn't want a single speed because that would still only leave me with one gear going up and the same gear coming down. So, for me, I fell in love with the planetary gears of an internally geared hub. This allowed me to keep the clean chainline of a fixed gear or single speed but still have 7 speeds to choose from. I decided on the Shimano Nexus 7-speed and Cyclesmith happened to have one. I picked it up and started the task of reincarnation. This included adding brakes, re-lacing the rear wheel, and installing the shifter mechanism. Today was the re-inaugural ride and she rode and handled like a champ! Now enjoy some pics of her in the current state.

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gina bina said...

So that's what you've been doing down in the garage all these nights. Uncle Stu is probably going to want that back now...

Ron said...

very interesting piece of trivia there. and gino bartali came a long way after ottavio. the bottechia website has some pretty lightweight bikes.

it'd quite intense to go those long climbs like u say on a fixie. i live in a pancake flat area so i like my fixie experience.