Monday, October 24, 2011

2011 Warrior Dash - Missouri

The Warrior Dash has come to Missouri. What is the Warrior Dash you might ask? "Warrior Dash is a mud-crawling, fire-leaping, extreme run from hell. This fierce running series is held on the most challenging and rugged terrain across the globe..." I don't know that rural Missouri qualifies as rugged compared on a world stage, but the folks from Red Frog Events certainly don't make the 3.1 mile course easy. The dash is a 5K obstacle course complete with barbed wire, fire, and mud; this is then all followed up with carnival-esque festivities, beer, live music, and food! For the runners, an excellent afternoon of achievement and partying. For the photographers, a goldmine.

I only just found out about the dash this year and while I did want to run in it (I found out the day after registration ended), I cannot complain about the experience of photographing it. If I do find a nearby location to run it next year, I will have to do an early heat and spend the rest of the day with a couple cameras around my neck. There is just so much going on.

Laura, Kelly, Nicole and Alexa get together for a "Before" picture.

As the girls were gearing up, Alexa (Nicole's sis), was giving me goofy looks. Like me, she was on the support crew, cheering the runners on, and she was kind enough to lend a shoulder for one of my lenses.

Walking across the event grounds to the race sign-in, we began to hear more clearly, the sounds and music from the stage where side-shows of all sorts were taking place. We also began seeing culture of the event. Diverse is hardly enough of a word to describe these folks.

Love this.

We also began catching our first glimpses at what was to come (for the runners at least...)

So the girls got checked in, got their numbers and trackers, and after a bit of meandering, we made our way to the race start. Since the course is 3.1 miles, and they didn't want photographers getting lost out in the woods, I was relegated to taking photos at the beginning and at the end, which included the last two obstacles, the fire and the mud. I wasn't complaining.

Alexa is once again giving me a face as Nicole laughs at what I can only imagine is some goofy comment I retort with.

Nicole : )

I can't actually take credit for the above image. The girls actually, while waiting in line, hoisted their comrade, Kelly, up to look back over the last heat to see the number of participants. I quickly threw the camera over to her for a shot.

Getting in line too early leads to moments like this... The ominous voice of the announcer counting down the seconds until the beginning of the race may have been a factor in why Kelly was completely unphased when she turned to find her friends creeping over her shoulder. That, or she is used to this sort of thing.


"And they're off!"

Yes even a bunch of bananas came out for some self-induced torture!

So the race began and Alexa and I had some downtime while the girls embarked on their run. We headed just a hundred feet or so away to the final two obstacle and the finish of the race to wait for our crew to return. Folks from the previous heats trickled in steadily. I was sure to snap a few of the colorful ones!

We found Batman cheering on runners through the final obstacles. And then our girls appeared! Laura, below, makes quite a leap over the fire.

Nicole and Kelly couldn't bring themselves to fully submerge like some of the other runners!

I'd say they got their share of dirty though.

Then, Nicole thought this would be a good idea.

What are friends for?

Justice was served though.

Even I got a little muddy.

I wasn't around when this broke out and actually credit for the image goes to Alexa. She was holding the camera at the time and began snapping away!

The local fire department was set up nearby with water trucks spraying runners off after their achievement. The way the sun was setting and the light fell made for the beautiful images. I am actually very pleased with how this part of the event turned out (photographically).

Nicole & Co. get cleaned up, sort of.

And the Victory photo! Conquerers.

It was a great time. I got some good images and a free beer and turkey leg. I can't wait until next year!

All images were made with the D700 and the AF-S 70-200mm VRII

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Bianchi Trofeo '87

UPDATE (November 2011)

Originally I billed this frame as a 1988 Trofeo based on some comments stating that a "1986-87 Campione del Mundo | Colorado Springs" sticker implied a 1988 model. However, I have been searching around for confirmation on the web and came across a user Bianchigirll, who has done some serious homework on the Bianchi line. She has some older manufacturer catalogs to reference models. Evidently, this frame is actually from 1987 as indicated by the font of the "Trofeo" model name. Thanks Bianchigirll!

After my experience with the Bianchi Rekord 848, I decided that, I was going to build my very own bike; I was going to build a bike on which I precisely selected each component and retained full control over the color scheme. In order to do this, I had to go "all in". No reservations. When I consider that decision in retrospect (now that the bike is complete), I can confidently say, I couldn't be happier with the result. The bike is exactly as I envisioned it....perhaps even greater than I imagined because the ride is far better than I expected.

Below are my thoughts on my first build, issues I ran into, some wisdom I acquired, and my satisfaction with the whole process (and the bike itself!)

Otherwise, allow for a bit of suspense...

First Decisions

Having learned some lessons in my previous experiment (see here), I began this project a bit wiser. Notice that I have included occasional links to explanations of many of the bicycle components since when I first began reading about bicycles, I was not familiar with the terminology. Rather than explain it all in this article (which would make it 10 times longer), and because so many others have already provided such thorough explanations, I figure I will just make finding that info a tad easier.

Style - Prior to buying anything, I first considered the style of bike I wanted. I wanted to build a modest race-style bike. I was not concerned heavily with weight (gram counting, being a weight weenie, etc.). I didn't want the bike to be a hoss, but since I was looking to buy performance components, weight wouldn't likely be much of an issue anyway since performance components are typically designed with weight as a major consideration. Frame geometry is another factor to consider. Again, I'm relatively new to all this so getting into the nitty-gritty of frame geometry is still a bit out of my league. Consequently, the tube angles were not of the utmost importance to me, though through more in-depth reading I now am all the wiser to the importance of frame geometry.

Wheelset - Wheels are a major consideration. Recall the maxim "where the rubber meets the road"; it is quite literal here. The wheelset includes the hubs, rims, and spokes (I suppose tires may be included as well). For my build, I wanted a relatively capable, yet practical bicycle. Road wheels which would do well in the city and handle slightly rougher, less maintained roads were the goal. The Rekord 848 had come with Bianchi branded hubs laced to Mavic tubular rims.

I am uninterested in tubular rims because replacing them or fixing a flat is laborious. The tire and tube are integrated and literally glued onto the rim (a process which takes longer than a day). So I disassembled the old wheelset, repacked the hubs, and intended on having the hubs re-laced to clincher rims of my choice. Clinchers rims are built with a lip inside either side of the rim. With this type of wheel, after laying a tube between the tire and the rim, you simply inflate the tube and the air presses the tire against the rim and a built-in lip in the tire (usually made of steel or another rigid material) "clinches" that lip in the rim and holds the two together. Also, by selecting new rims, I had another big control element in the overall bike color scheme (that is, IF I chose to go with colored rims...and why wouldn't I!?). For the rekord (pun! ha!...sorry), these Bianchi hubs are not particularly amazing, and most likely manufactured by someone like Ofmega then relabeled for Bianchi, but I like that they say Bianchi on them, so there!

Groupset/Components - The Bianchi hubs were design for a 7-speed freewheel. "Freewheels" are an older designed system for the gearing on the back of the bike. They have since been replaced by cassettes. The two look similar, a cluster of sprockets mounted on the hub of the rear wheel. They differ in that the bearings for those rear gears are actually integrated with the sprocket cluster in a freewheel design. With a cassette design, the bearings are built into the hub and the sprocket cluster simply slides onto the hub via a matching spline pattern. You can read more about why this design changed and the pros and cons here.

My Bianchi hubs required a freewheel. Since the design had been replaced, I essentially found myself looking for the highest grade components that . Downtube/Friction shifting systems can be found at great prices nowadays too since everyone has moved to integrated shifting (Shimano's is called STI - Shimano Total Integration) which are the systems in which the brake levers have indexing tabs built into them so your hands never leave the drop bars when shifting. They are quite functional but require a bit more finagling to retrofit to an older frame. And even that installation isn't all that much of a hassle, I just prefer the look of the downtubes on the older frames. If you have been skimming at least CATCH THIS POINT: while some components can be interchanged with those of another model line or brand, I would recommend to those who are new, choose one groupset model to fulfill your needs (e.g. If you choose Shimano Dura Ace 7400, use as many 7400 components as you can. Especially be consistent within the drive train - front & rear derailleur, bottom bracket, crank, front chainrings, freewheel/cassette, chain, shift levers, and brake levers if you opt for STI). You will have far less trouble calibrating everything in the end and will not have to worry about whether the parts function cohesively since they were designed to work together. I chose Shimano Dura Ace 7400 for the Bianchi Trofeo.

Seller image.

Frame - Now, having considered all that, I happened upon this gorgeous blue Bianchi Trofeo '87 frame that was nearly NOS. It has apparently been built up once and ridden only a few miles before it was garaged. The owner then passed it along to his friend who was the seller that I purchased it from. The seller, Randy, actually operates the My Ten Speeds Blog (Warning: The page is a little intense on the graphics, but to each his own! Randy's a great guy!). The frame was italian threaded BB, 126mm rear dropout spacing (just what my Bianchi hubs needed), had braze-on fittings for downtube/friction shifters and was 54cm (Measurement philosophy can vary to be sure to understand how the seller is measuring. This bike was measured from the middle of the BB to the top of the seat post.) which is probably the smallest I could go as a 5'10 fellow.

Tips for Assembling Your First Bicycle

Building a bike requires a lot of unique tools. Don't think a crescent wrench and a couple allen wrenches will get you by. This is especially true when working with older bikes because standards have changed and the new tool kits don't bother to include a tool for every size whatchamajig these manufacturers designed. So you end up buying a base kit. And then a-la-carte tools as you run into these odd-ball sizes. I recommend the Park Advanced Mechanic Tool Kit (AK-37) - Amazon has a great price on it, and no I don't get money for advertising, I just thought they had a good price and reliable service. I picked this up and the Park Big Blue Book of Bike Repair as well. Even still, with these tools, you will run into curious cases unexplainable by the book and perhaps not even discussed online in great detail.

I suggest pestering a local bike shop enough to become friendly with a bike mechanic to get tips and tricks. These guys do this stuff day-in and day-out. Chances are, they've seen it before. Most of the guys around town here were very nice at first, then once they found out about my project somewhat reluctant to talk (perhaps because I wasn't much of a sale?) but eventually, after I showed up enough and bought a few things, they warmed up. And some of the guys were immediately helpful. The cycling community, is like other disciplines for which people become very passionate about. It can get cliquey and at times straight rude. Ultimately, you have to just delve in, beyond those who don't want to let new people in, to find those who truly love sharing knowledge with others. Those people will become such an invaluable resource that it will all be worth the initial snubbing.


As I have already stated, this project was as much about building a functional machine, as it was customizing a fully coordinated aesthetic. I loved the blue of the frame and even more the ghosted decals. While I could have introduced a third accent color (which could be black, though I consider accent colors to have a real "pop" to them.), I thought sticking with the white and blue would just keep the bike clean and modern. So from the frame, I went with as many white accessories and I could find, ghosting as much of the rest of the Trofeo as I could.

A Few Problems I Encountered

The build went quite smoothly. It was so much fun I may or not have already picked up another frame...I did however encounter a couple issues to note.

Finding White Brake Levers and Hoods
- First off, keeping the colors consistent was a beast. White, while a basic color, is tough to find. Most likely because it will dirty quicker than anything out there but like my buddy says, "It's not easy being a baller." The brake levers for example were the most drawn out process. Finding brake levers is simple. But BEWARE. On many of the older brake levers, the rubber hoods may have begun to deteriorate. These hoods were often individually designed to fit that specific model lever. Finding a replacement hood, let alone a hood of another color for some of those levers might as well be a the proverbial needle. So I looked for a modern lever, which had white hoods readily available. Simple right? No. Since most bicycles now utilize STI type shifting, most levers are designed with the shifting tabs built it. Since I was using downtube/friction shifters I needed a lever without STI, but that did have a white hood option. Ideally I would have loved white levers. A couple companies like "Origin 8" make a lot of boutique stuff for the fixie crowd but I am unsure of their quality. Being that I spent what I did on the other components of this bike, I figured I wanted to be sure to get a great set of levers. I really liked the SRAM S500 silver levers when I found them and wouldn't you know it, they had white hoods, NEW! Guess what, only three stores stocked them according to google and after some phone calls to the west coast shops, none actually had them in stock, nor could they get them. And so I waited...patiently. And one day, eBay granted my wish! But it was an arduous task to say the least.

Long Reach Brake Calipers - Many older bikes were designed for 27" wheels. Eventually wheel size moved to 700c. Consequently, when fitting a frame with wheels, it is possible to put 700c wheels in a frame designed for 27" since 700c's are slightly smaller. The mounts for the brake levers however will not be slightly further away from the rim's braking surface. One solution to this is getting "Long Reach Brake Calipers" which are designed just like the name would imply, a longer caliper for the brake pad to reach further down. The Bianchi Trofeo was designed with 700c wheels so I initially picked up SRAM Apex white brake calipers. I was psyched that I found such a slick looking set for a reasonable price and they appeared to be a good quality. However, when I mounted the calipers to the bike, the front calipers reached the brake track perfectly (though the brake pads were sitting in their lowest position). The rear caliper however, even at its lowest position, was still sitting above the brake track of the rim by half the pad. Apparently, whatever brakes the bicycle was designed with sat outside the typical brake caliper reach sizes and consequently I had to begin looking for a new set of calipers. Fortunately the Tektro R736 Long Reach Calipers look great, function excellently, and were also priced extremely well.

I also had typical installation issues with brake cable etc but overall it came together quite well. I am proud to say I could not be more impressed and thrilled with this build. The fantastic! Why don't we have a look at the finished product finally?


The Bianchi Trofeo '87 in all its splendor!


Size: 54cm from center of bottom bracket to top of seat tube
Bottom Bracket: Shimano unmarked (italian thread)
Crank: Sakae FX SLP white
Pedals: Shimano PD-M530 Double-sided Clipless
Front Derailleur: Shimano Dura Ace 7400
Rear Derailleur: Shimano Dura Ace 7400
Drop bars: Bianchi
Stem: unknown
Head: Gipiemme
Brakes: Tektro R736 Long Reach white
Friction levers: Shimano Dura Ace 7400

Frame: Columbus Formula Two
Dropouts: Gipiemme
Rear spacing: 126mm
Seat: San Marco Zoncolan white
Seatpost: unknown Aero

Rims: H+Son SL42 machined 700c (clincher)
Hubs: Bianchi
Tired: Fyxation Session 700x25c steal bead


"Steel is Real" - I now understand the maxim well. The Bianchi Trofeo is a wonderful frame. Granted, I have little experience but where else do we start. Years down the road from now I may look back and laugh but that is learning. What I know, is that until now I have been riding the Specialized Allez Epic carbon fiber bike with the Shimano 105 gruppo. Hoping on this Trofeo is an entirely different world. A smoother ride. A tighter handle. And on the obvious side, a lot more flashy! I will continue to put miles on this bike and keep posting as I discover new things!

And like I said earlier, I do have another frame en route. A Bianchi of the same tubing. I couldn't help myself. In the meantime, I'm going to continue getting out on this thing as much as I can before the beautiful weather disappears into sleet and snow.

Friday, October 7, 2011

My First Bicycle Build and the Bianchi Rekord 848

I have been riding bikes as far back as I can remember. They provided me with a sense of independence at an early age. When you're young, your bike is your primary transportation. I still remember the first time I rode to another township, which wasn't more than a mile or two out of the way. Somehow a different, unique name made the journey that much more of an accomplishment. Bicycles are awesome. I love their practicality. I love the fitness they provide. I love the hardware. These multipurpose machines represent such a harmonious coalescence of form meets function. And materials and colors are flat out cool. So I want to build one. That's all there is to it!

After a few years on a garage sale find, the 1990(?) Specialized Allez Epic (which is by no means a slouch of a bicycle), I have developed a desire for more. Of course I want a robust bicycle with great components. But more importantly, the aesthetic-junkie within me cries out for full control over the bike's color palette. Please forgive the superficial nature of the following comment, after analyzing the kind of money it takes to build a robust, higher-end performance bike, it might as well look amazing physically too!


Something I should note for those reading, especially those who are seasoned riders, I am "new here". The purpose of these bicycle-focused writings is to give information to those who also may be entering the world of cycling, and who also possess the desire to build their own ride. I have not been riding for very long, nor do I possess an acute eye for the many ride characteristics of a bicycle that a seasoned vet would have. I am discovering things. Comments are quite welcome but realize I am not speaking from the demeanor that I am any expert! That being said, in the spirit of this blog, my writings are as much to help others learn, as they are a platform for my own learning. I am eager to gain all the knowledge I can on the subject of cycling and I very much appreciate others' input!

Finding a Project Bike

If I try to retrospectively trace this desire to build my own road bike back to its roots, I think it just like photography, my first exposure to serious bicycles coincided with my experience at the Cleveland Institute of Art. A few of my friends down in the Industrial Design lab were very interested in cycling and bike builds. Some had history with bikes while others were very new to the sport. One graduate student, I recall, was actually specifically emphasizing in bicycle design and was TIG welding his own designs. I remember hanging around the shop to watch him weld a few times. It's a glorious process. Physically constructing your own frames is probably the ultimate satisfaction in bicycle building but I am not quite to that level...yet. So I would here the "shop talk" on bikes and always thought it would be a great project. I can't say I really recall ever picking up on much though in terms of where to start with it all. One thing I do remember, and it is something which has not left me, is my love for the design and color of Bianchi bicycles.

Bianchi, named for it's founder Edoardo Bianchi, is the world's oldest bicycle manufacturer still in existence (Bianchi Wikipedia Page). Their bikes are often demarked with their signature "celeste" color, a bluish green. The color has changed over the years from model to model and sometimes possesses a pearlescent quality. For whatever reason, I just love the color, the look, the details, and overall design of these bicycles. Honestly, I have no further explanation than that.

So in my quest to build a bike, Bianchi was my starting place.

Enter the Bianchi Rekord 848

I did not make any of the images of the Bianchi Rekord myself since I begun to tear it down almost immediately after I bought it. These images are from the CL listing.

Strange how life works sometimes, but the day or two after I began looking for a bicycle project to begin with, this Bianchi appears on CL (Later I would discover the bike had been listed for a few weeks, just at a higher price. A rather telling fact.) Knowing next to nothing about bicycles save for some basic knowledge I picked up in my stunt bike days as a younger kid, I was consulting a friend of mine who had also more recently picked up cycling and been working on his own projects. I knew I wasn't looking for a newer modern bike, but also, I didn't want to end up with something so old, I couldn't exactly upgrade it to modern standards either. So I called my buddy about the Bianchi listing, told him I was looking for a bike to sort of "fix up", and asked his thoughts on the price.

He pointed out Columbus brand tubing to be pretty quality and the fact that since most of the components were Campagnolo, the bike was probably not low-end. He figured I should go for it. I took a glance at eBay, searching "Bianchi Rekord" to find that a couple bikes (which at the time appeared very similar) had sold a week earlier for a hefty price. So I contacted the seller and set up a time to come see the bike.

Immediately, I was taken with all the elaborate, extra detailing on this frame, such as the Bianchi logo on the fork, matching pump, etc.. The bike felt like a special opportunity. I loved how ornate the shift levers and quick release (QR) skewers were. The color.....oh the color! Signature celeste. This bike unfortunately showed its age in the many dings in the paint but definitely still possessed a gleaming beauty about it. I had the fever and couldn't help myself. I bought it. Little did I know what I had gotten myself into.

As I said earlier, my original goal with this project was to learn how to build a bike and come up with a product that was my own rather than something off-the-shelf. My bike. I wanted to pick an older bike up and swap out a few parts to fit a color scheme I had in my mind and leave it at that. Also, I was hoping to do so for a little bit of money. As soon as I bought this bike, that all pretty much went out the window.

Bianchi Rekord 848 Specifications

Size: 60cm (24") from center of bottom bracket to top of seat tube
Bottom Bracket: Ofmega (italian thread)
Crank: Bianchi labeled (Ofmega screws on the chainring, so perhaps made by them)
Front Derailleur: Campagnolo Gran Sport
Rear Derailleur: Campagnolo 980
Drop bars: 3T (TTT) Gran Prix
Stem: unknown
Head: Bianchi labeled
Brakes: Modolo Flash
Friction levers: Campagnolo

Frame: Columbus Tretubi (Top, seat, and down tube most likely Columbus SL)
Dropouts: Gipiemme
Rear spacing: 126mm
Seat: Italia Sprint (brown)
Seatpost: unknown

I talked with a local shop owner, Paul (Paul's Recycled Cycles) who has been in the industry for over two decades and knows his stuff. He believes this bike is probably pretty close to, if not completely, original (save for the shimano brake levers, which clearly do not match the group). The other components all appear to match the period. Sounds like this was probably on the lower end of Bianchi's line at the time though. Campagnolo components would have been the higher end and this model uses a lot of Ofmega. Also, the 980 derailleur was apparently not a popular design and was in production for less than a year. Columbus "Tretubi" (three - tubes) is essentially an economical means to use nice Columbus tubing, while keeping the price down. The seat tube, down tube, and top tube are Columbus tubing and the rest is something else.

First Lessons Learned

If you are looking to buy a bike and thinking an older "vintage" type bike off of the used market is a means to saving money, think again. You could score and find a great deal, it is always a possibility. But be aware you have just exposed yourself to a whole host of variables that are not present when purchasing from a reputable dealer. Not that that info should come as a shock to anyone who has bought used before. I'm not even talking about sleazy sellers. Because that too is always a risk on forums like CL. I'm talking about the details which may not be immediately observable, especially to an untrained eye.


With so many models of bicycles, outfitted for so many markets, on top of the fact that bicycles are so simple to modify (so owners may add/replace parts), the chances of you finding an older bicycle, that has any semblance to that of its original, out-of-the-catalog state get slimmer by the day. The problem with this is that despite the fact that bicycles are fairly simple machines, the components function best as designed with their original group. But owners often change out components with something close to the original thinking one part will function just as the other as long as everything sounds OK, etc. These types of adjustments can sometimes lead to poor performance, premature wear, and component failure. Sometimes components are designed to work with others outside the group (Seasoned bike builders I have talked with all seem to agree these components are never as good as just buying the whole group). A newbie to the scene would likely be unaware of just what should be on the bike and may spend lots of money dealing with the fallout from previous owners mistakes. Even a seasoned builder might have to open up some of the components to verify the make (such as some older bottom brackets).

Changing Standards

Like with most goods that are manufactured, companies and industry attempt to standardize things. Bicycles are no different. And like cars, with so many manufacturers spread across so many nations, multiple standards exist. As a beginner looking into building, consider taking a look at bicycle standards. The late Sheldon Brown is the Ken Rockwell of the bicycle world. His old shop has kept up his webpage which consists of seemingly endless pages of practical information covering all aspects of bicycles. If you are looking to build a bike, you need to be familiar with these standards so that when you buy components, you are buying components that will work together with each other and the frame you have begun with. Rear hub/frame spacing, tires, seatpost size, headset size, bottom bracket threading, freewheel threading are just a few of the components that will be built to a standard and require a match to function correctly. You could wind up spending a fortune on eBay trying to find the right components that will work together.

The Result of My First Project

After buying the Rekord 848, I read quite a bit of material and became something of a pest at the local bike shops. I realized the 848 was not an ideal project bike. Namely because it was cost prohibitive. The modifications necessary to produce my ideal result were expensive, and even still I would wind up with a product not totally to my personal specifications. So the frame sits in pieces in my room. I was able to save a couple parts I really liked but for the most part, the frame will be moving on.

Understand, that to do a project like this, will cost money. Or cost a lot of patience (waiting for deals on auction sites). Or you must "know a guy" (who can get you parts for cheap). Because the older parts in nice condition are still fairly costly on eBay and used markets. And there are more parts to buy than you may initially think. So in order to build a bike, a good bike, you will spend the kind of money you might pay for a brand new road bike at the bike shop. But again, that shop bike won't be yours. Once you accept this fact, you are ready to build your bike.

Later that week, as I was perusing for components on eBay, the soon-to-be heart and soul of my first build revealed herself to me. My first build was underway and I was ready this time.

Seller image. Bianchi Trofeo '88.

Go big or go home.


Bianchi Rekord 848 - A gentleman by the name of Randy operates an extensive blog detailing his bicycle finds. It seems he has LBA (Lens Buying Addiction) in bike form, so BBA? This particular post is on the Rekord 848.