The night bicycle collector Greg Softley came to Brisbane

In recent years collecting old bicycles has caught on more than ever. Events like L’Eroica and many copycat versions have fuelled the desire for steel vintage bicycles. Combine this with the popularity that cycling has recently gained, bike riders are now seeking out rare steel bikes to squeeze or sneak into their growing collections. Amongst us though are the rare few, the veteran collectors who’ve been at their game of collecting vintage bikes for decades. These collectors have the knowledge and possess bikes that some of us will never see, that’s unless you’re lucky enough to get a private viewing into one of these collectors sheds. There’s usually plenty of vintage paraphernalia also stashed away alongside these collections of retro machines, all of unlimited historic value. Greg Softley is one of these outstanding collectors and he was in Brisbane last Friday night to show off a very small number of his hard to come by bicycles.

Almost anyone who’s re-painted an old bicycle will have bought a decal set from Greg Softley. If you’ve delved deep into Greg’s Cyclomondo bicycle restoration decal site, some of you will also have found a link to Greg’s Flickr pages, chock full of pictures of some of Greg’s highly collectable old bicycles. Apart from a few avid bike aficionado’s who track Greg down and are fortunate enough pay him a visit, no one else gets see Greg’s amazing collection of old bicycles. That all changed when the Pushies Galore team had a word in Greg’s ear. So last Friday night a few lucky Brisbane bike enthusiasts got to see a small number of Greg’s rare old race bikes. It all started with Pushies – Gavin Bannerman, Richard Butler & Co encouraging Greg to pack some bikes, load them in a truck and run them up to Brisbane for a mid year viewing. No mean feat, I helped unpack, and re-pack some of these bikes, a privilege, but that task alone was considerable work, requiring a few hands on deck. Each of Greg’s bikes had been carefully wrapped and travelled in boxes, this required a fair amount of work on the spanners. With barely a tool stamped “Campagnolo” in sight, (no disrespect to the well equipped Crankstar Bespoke workshop, it just doesn’t seem right working on these bikes with modern tools) we got the job done with an hour to spare, before the punters arrived at Crankstar Bespoke for an evening with Greg Softley and his bikes.

Over the Pushies Galore weekend I spent enough time with Greg and two other bike collector’s to realise how lucky we were to see Greg’s bikes close up and listen to him speak about them first hand. One collector who will remain anonymous and has a collection on par with Greg’s, dropped in for a five minute chat with Greg. You won’t ever see this collector’s bikes on show anywhere, that’s just how it is, a private hobby. I got the impression that perhaps in years gone by, Greg may have been the same and not wished to show his bikes in public, that’s until the Pushies Galore guys coaxed him out into the spotlight. The other obvious collector is Ben Smith who’s ICS bike we’ll be featuring very soon. I’d asked Greg if it was okay for Ben to come along and help assemble the bikes, I knew he’d enjoy it and I needed space to take the pictures, as it turned out I had to down the camera anyway and help on the spanners for a while, it was that frantic.  So Ben had a couple of bikes on our Velo Aficionado stand at Pushies Galore on Sunday. Ben said that unless I’d asked him to bring along his ICS and Eddy Merckx Motorola, that he would not have come to show anyone these bikes at all. As it turned out Ben’s ICS bike won best road bike in the Pushies Galore show. I reckon all it took was a nudge out the door, just like Greg, for Ben to have a great weekend talking bikes. It was obvious watching Greg and Ben chatting that they were enjoying swapping notes that only collectors could swap. Bike collectors may be private people but when we get a chance like this, to see rare bikes and equipment of that ilk, you’ve got to count yourself one lucky velo aficionado. Thanks Pushies Galore for bringing Mr. Softley to town.

Once the evening got under way, Greg took us through a journey of the evolution of bike technology and racing stories about important races won on some of his bikes. The collection on show was jam packed with significant racing bicycles, both track and road. Greg Softley has a knack and the tenacity to track down equipment which others simply would not find. Greg’s techniques for finding old bikes are numerous, suffice to say it’s underpinned by networking, an extensive knowledge of bikes and a little bit of luck.

There was more than enough glinting gold plated frames and components to horrify a Swiss friend of mine, who muttered something about Nazi gold while pointing to an Ital Cicli Systems Zurich “Carriage Market” bike. Ben and Greg debated the origins of the gold plated finishes on the Colnago C-35, Ben reckoned the plating was done at a place near Lourdes in France, confirmed on our Instagram feed by someone who’s used the services of the same plater. No Italian gold plating in sight then? As Greg reckons some of the Italian work was done by a religious artefact manufacturer, and not necessarily the C-35?

Tulio Campagnolo's Cambio Corsa gear change, a demonstration on how it works.

Tulio Campagnolo’s Cambio Corsa gear change, a demonstration on how it works.

A 1946 yellow  Stucchi equipped with Tulio Campagnolo’s Cambio Corsa was a standout. Plus a demo unit to help illustrate how the Cambio Corsa gear shift works, was passed around. The next day while we were packing up I got to have a pedal on the Stucchi, I’ll do a full write up on how the Cambio Corsa works on this bike soon, it was a fun bike to ride. This answers a couple of questions, Greg doesn’t just leave his bikes sitting in boxes, some of them are ridden, he still handles them with extreme care though. Greg’s main question for me was how the Stucchi frame is to ride compared with modern bikes. The answer is simple and the one Greg had expected, all there was to know about how to build a sweet ride was already known by the end of the 19th
century (as Darrell McCulloch says, you can build a nice bike, that handles well, out of any material if you know what you are doing), so by 1946 the Stucchi wasn’t far removed from say steel bikes I’d raced on in the 1980’s. The other question Greg had about the Stucchi was how easy it was to shift using the Cambio Corsa and how that impacted on racing. I fumbled the first shift, got the second one right and from there you’d repeat it a million times over, so with a small number of gears available, and bugger all experience to get used to the gear change, it’s business as usual. Select the appropriate gear and keep pedalling hard. Another standout on the Stucchi was it’s beautiful and rare Fisea leather saddle.

There were two beautiful 1960’s track bikes an early Cinelli pista and a very early Colnago. The Colnago pista had apparently stirred up a storm in the forums when Greg first published images of it a while back. Some reckoned it was a fake. I checked the machine out close up and you just can’t fake that patina. Greg told us about another earlier Colnago which he’d got his hands on, a ladies bike, one of the first ever to come out of Ernesto’s workshop.

Each of Greg’s bikes had a story, you’ll see a nice vintage Malvern Star track bike raced by a Toowoomba racer, complete with wood rims. Then there’s a beautiful dark blue Molteni Arcore road bike, that was ridden to a stage win in the Giro d’ Italia, the race winner stripped of his credentials as the first pro rider to be drug tested in 1968 when new rulings were brought in. Apparently there was a fair degree of shock about how a pro rider could be done for such a thing. Before that pro riders were never tested, there’s a well known incident from the era where Jacques Anquetil organised a riders protest against the introduction of the new ruling. The idea being that pro riders raced on the gear and it was not fair to test them for something that they needed to race on and get their job done.

The Benotto road time trial bike was a show stopper complete with 3ttt stem and Moser’s 51.151 engraved into the 3 ttt handlebars, celebrating Moser’s world hour record of  January 23 1984. This bike was first shown when the Gen 2 Campagnolo C – Record groupset was released, an American importer had the Benotto bike built specially to show off the new groupset. After the Benotto was shown at Anaheim it was spirited off into the hands of a collector and remains in pristine condition today.

Greg uses the Bob Jackson as his daily ride, the only British machine on show. One of the gold plated bikes was a 1988 ICS Magni from the design and engineering firm out of Zurich, Ital Cicli Systems. The ICS has a dark blue veil coat of paint over a gold plated frame, hung with Campagnolo second Gen, gold plated components. Greg also had on display ICS gold plated Super Record Campagnolo cranks, inlaid with Swarovski diamonds. There’s a full post coming up on the ICS bikes including the catalogues.
Colnago was represented with a mint Arabesque, and gold plated Super Record era frame and more gold components on the Carbon C-35 Campagnolo 35th anniversary version. The room was gleaming with gold everywhere, when some collectors mention bicycle components in the same sentence as “jewel like” they’re not far off, especially when talking about the 1980’s and 90’s.

Rounding out the set was a Gal Mozzi in a greenish celeste and the pièce de résistance was Greg’s Cinelli Laser road time trial bike, circa 1982, a 20th century design icon.

Spending time with Greg Softley you begin to notice how many small details go into maintaining a bike collection as important and rare as Greg’s. For example, the two track bikes were kitted out with early A. Dugast singles. I asked if they were more recent as they looked to be in perfect condition, Greg reassured me that the secret to keeping these old tyres in working order, not perished and still capable of holding air, was NOT to have them mounted on rims. So for each bike we removed the A. Dugast tyres from their storage bags and installed them on the bikes. The next day the process repeated, this time tyres removed from the rims, all of the air released and the tyres stored in an almost vacuum state, for utmost preservation. So a tip from Greg, if you want your old singles (tubulars) to keep holding air, don’t expose them to air unless you are showing the bike, and even then only pump them up with the bare minimum of pressure.

Without the help of Pushies Galore, Crankstar Bespoke and Greg Softley himself, this post would not have been possible, a big thanks to all. All photos by Robert Cobcroft

 

The big job begins Friday afternoon, unpacking Greg's rare custom bicycles

The big job begins Friday afternoon, unpacking Greg’s rare custom bicycles.

Unpacking the Gal Mozzi

Unpacking the Gal Mozzi.

Spanners everywhere as the long afternoon begins, Gal Mozzi bici detail.

Spanners everywhere as the long afternoon begins, Gal Mozzi bici detail.

Greg Softley assembles the 1946 Stucchi with Tulio Campagnolo's invention, the Cambio Corsa gear change.

Greg Softley assembles the 1946 Stucchi with Tulio Campagnolo’s invention, the Cambio Corsa gear change.

Malvern Star track bike originally raced by a local Toowoomba rider when it was new

Malvern Star track bike, complete with wood rims, originally raced by a local Toowoomba rider when it was new.

Ben Smith talking bikes with Greg Softley at the Crankstar Bespoke bicycles workshop.

Ben Smith talking bikes with Greg Softley at the Crankstar Bespoke bicycles workshop.

The Malvern Start track bike, ready for the Greg Softley bike evening.

The Malvern Start track bike, ready for the Greg Softley bike evening.

Tightening up the nuts with a shifter, wooahh, there was a 15mm Campag track spanner floating around somewhere.

Tightening up the nuts with a shifter, wooahh, there was a 15mm Campag track spanner floating around somewhere.

BSA chain ring and crank, from an era in Australia when everything that wasn't made here was mostly imported from Britain. That changed in the 1950's when guys like Kevin Thompson began selling warehouses full of Italian and french gear.

BSA chain ring and crank, from an era in Australia when everything that wasn’t made here was mostly imported from Britain or the USA. That changed in the 1950’s when guys like Kevin Thompson began selling warehouses full of Italian and French gear.

Cinelli road frame, equipped with Campagnolo Cambio Corsa ready dropouts

Cinelli road frame, equipped with Campagnolo Cambio Corsa ready dropouts.

Stucchi road bike 1946 with Cambio Corsa gearing

Stucchi road bike 1946 with Campagnolo  Cambio Corsa gearing.

Greg looking like it's gonna happen in time .. but it did with an hour to spare.

Greg looking a bit worried “it’s going to happen” in time .. and it did with an hour to spare.

Ben and Greg with the Stucchi

Ben and Greg with the Stucchi.

Steve from Crankstar Bespoke showing Greg the run of the workshop

Steve from Crankstar Bespoke showing Greg the run of the workshop.

Cinelli Pista in the workstand

Cinelli Pista in the workstand.

Ben Smith working on the Cinelli Track Bike

Ben Smith working on the Cinelli Track Bike.

Bikes were flying in the door of Crankstar Bespoke all afternoon

Bikes were flying in the door of Crankstar Bespoke all afternoon.

The workbench at Crankstar Bespoke bicycles

The workbench at Crankstar Bespoke bicycles.

The early 1960's Colnago pista in the work stand.

The early 1960’s Colnago pista in the work stand.

Gavin Bannerman from Pushies Galore lends a  hand.

Gavin Bannerman from Pushies Galore lends a hand.

This is what happens when you have couple of collectors in one room, gold plated parts everywhere .. this time a set of gold ICS Design Zurich Campagnolo Super Record Cranks.

This is what happens when you have couple of collectors in one room, gold plated parts everywhere … this time a set of gold ICS Design Zurich Campagnolo Super Record Cranks.

Record Campagnolo brakes, mint in the box.

Record Campagnolo brakes, mint in the box.

Campagnolo record brakes, box. Wish I'd kept all the Campag boxes I'd thrown out, the price they bring today.

Campagnolo record brakes, box. Wish I’d kept all the Campag boxes I’d thrown out, the price they bring today.

Cinelli pista handlebars and stem, 1960's

Cinelli pista handlebars and stem, 1960’s

Wheels for the Colnago Pista, no shellac and no tyres, the A. Dugast vintage tyres only go on when the bike is on show.

Wheels for the Colnago Pista, no shellac and no tyres, the A. Dugast vintage tyres only go on when the bike is on show.

The Colnago Pista takes shape

The Cinelli Pista takes shape.

Baxter from the Pushies Galore team working away in the background on a time lapse of the entire afternoon of building up bikes

Baxter from the Pushies Galore team working away in the background on a time lapse of the entire afternoon of building up bikes.

Colnago pista in the workstand

Colnago pista in the workstand.

More work than you'd think and Greg got up early and drove all morning before setting up then speaking all evening.

More work than you’d think and Greg got up early, drove all morning before setting up then speaking all evening.

Polishing the 1960's Colnago Pista

Polishing the 1960’s Colnago Pista.

More gold plated ICS cranks. There were more gold parts everywhere, in boxes and on bikes.

More gold plated ICS cranks. There were gold parts everywhere, in boxes and on bikes.

1960's Molteni road bike, won a stage of the Giro d' Italia

1960’s Molteni road bike, won a stage of the Giro d’ Italia

The Molteni 1960's road bike in the stand

The Molteni 1960’s road bike in the stand.

A show stopper, the Benotto team time trial road bike. Never ridden, first shown at the Annaheim bike show with an early second Gen C-Record group set.

A show stopper, the Benotto team time trial road bike. Never ridden, first shown at the Anaheim bike show with an early second Gen C-Record group set.

Benotto TT bike out of the box

Benotto TT bike out of the box.

Molteni Arcore 1968 team bike

Molteni Arcore 1968 team bike.

The Molteni 1968 team issue machine waits for it's seat post.

The Molteni 1968 team issue machine waits for it’s seat post.

Benotto, everyone wanted to see this road time trial bike.

Benotto, everyone wanted to see this road time trial bike.

The Colnago pista lined up ready for Greg Softley's talk

The Colnago pista lined up ready for Greg Softley’s talk.

Cinelli pista no velodrome in sight, just eager bike porn lovers hovering about.

Cinelli pista no velodrome in sight, just eager bike porn lovers hovering about.

The front of Crankstar Bespoke with some serious racing heritage on the floor

The front of Crankstar Bespoke with some serious racing heritage on the floor.

Early Cinelli strada frame with Campagnolo Cambio Corsa dropouts

Early Cinelli strada frame with Campagnolo Cambio Corsa dropouts.

The Benotto has to be post, January 23 1984 when Francesco Moser set the world hour record of 51.151 Pantographed into the 3ttt stem on this bike is the distance that Moser covered that day.

The Benotto has to be post, January 23 1984 when Francesco Moser set the world hour record of 51.151 Pantographed into the 3ttt bars on this bike is the distance that Moser covered that day.

The road time tiral bicycle from Benotto, the 3 ttt stem pays homage to Franceso Moser's hour record of 51.151

The road time trial bicycle from Benotto, the 3 ttt stem and bars pay homage to Francesco Moser’s hour record of 51.151

Steel sprinters bars and steel Cinelli stem on the Cinelli 1960's pista

Steel sprinters bars and steel Cinelli stem on the Cinelli 1960’s pista.

Getting closer to the show, it was about here I had to put down the camera and pitch in building bikes before we ran out of time.

Getting closer to the show, it was about here I had to put down the camera and pitch in building bikes before we ran out of time.

It was a bit of a rush as things heated up in the Crankstar workshop

It was a bit of a rush as things heated up in the Crankstar workshop.

Bikes lined up ready to go in the Crankstar Bespoke sales room

Bikes lined up ready to go at Crankstar Bespoke.

ICS with Magni decals

ICS with Magni decals.

Cinelli gold plated 1R stem. Ital Cicli Systems Zurich organised their own gold plating

Cinelli gold plated 1R stem. Ital Cicli Systems Zurich had their own own gold plating completed, Ben reckons somewhere in Switzerland.

Colnago Arabesque, more gold plated parts

Colnago Arabesque, more gold plated parts.

Colnago in the stand at Crankstar Bespoke

Colnago in the stand at Crankstar Bespoke.

Colnago's everywhere

Colnago’s everywhere.

Vintage steel in the stands, by this time there were bikes everywhere

Vintage steel in the stands, by this time there were bikes laid up all over the place at Crankstar Bespoke.

When you thought you'd built them all there was another bike being liberated from it's carton

When you thought you’d built them all there was another bike being liberated from it’s carton.

Not long to go and we were still building up bikes

Not long to go and we were still building up bikes.

As the sun went down Greg Softley's bikes began to fill the room at Crankstar Bespoke

As the sun went down Greg Softley’s bikes began to fill the room at Crankstar Bespoke.

The Benotto time trial road bike, ready for action.

The Benotto time trial road bike, ready for viewing.

Benotto road funny bike

Benotto road funny bike.

Crankstar bike studio - plenty of coffee served up here

Crankstar – plenty of coffee served up here during the day.

Ben Smith, still working on the Colnago Arabesque

Ben Smith, still working on the Colnago Arabesque.

Super record campagnolo equipped Colnago plenty of pantographed parts and gold plating

Super record Campagnolo equipped Colnago plenty of pantographed parts and gold plating.

Gold plated Colnago

Gold plated Colnago.

Colnago with gold plating - Super record rear derailleur

Colnago with gold plating – Super record rear derailleur.

Colnago C -35 finally comes out of the box

Colnago C – 35 finally comes out of the box.

Greg begins unwrapping the Cinelli Laser

Greg begins unwrapping the Cinelli Laser.

The Cinelli Laser has matching bar warp and seat cover in an animal skin look.

The Cinelli Laser has matching bar wrap and seat cover in an animal skin look.

Ital Cicli Systems Design Zurich Magni Gold Plated C Record

Ital Cicli Systems Design Zurich Magni Gold Plated C Record.

Cinelli Laser bears a Columbus "Air" decal

Cinelli Laser bears the stamp of Columbus with an “Air” decal.

Mint Colanago C-35 with gold plated 35th anniversary Campagnolo groupset. Gold plating completed somewhere near Lourdes in France, not Italy!

Mint Colnago C-35 with gold plated 35th anniversary Campagnolo groupset. Gold plating completed somewhere near Lourdes in France, not Italy!

Carbon Colnago C 35

Carbon Colnago C 35.

C -35 colnago under the spotlight

C -35 Colnago under the spotlight.

The Cinelli Pista ready for viewing

The Cinelli Pista ready for viewing.

Colnago vintage track steel

Colnago vintage track steel.

Colnago gold coated vintage steel

Colnago gold coated vintage steel.

Professional road racing bike 1946, the Stucchi

Professional road racing bike 1946, the Stucchi.

Greg's small sample of rare vintage steel, finally ready for an evening of bike porn discovery

Greg’s small sample of rare vintage steel, finally ready for an evening of bike porn discovery.

Greg softley talks bikes

Greg Softley talks bikes.

Adrian Knowles explains how the Campagnolo Cambio Corsa gear change works

Adrian Knowles explains how the Campagnolo Cambio Corsa gear change works.

Greg Softley talking about the finer points of the 1960's vintage Colnago Pista

Greg Softley talking about the finer points of the 1960’s vintage Colnago Pista.

1960's vintage Colnago Pista

1960’s vintage Colnago Pista.

Ben Kamenjas and Greg Softley talking about the 1960's vintage Colnago track bike that had questions raised about it's authenticity. I viewed it close up and there's no doubt about it's vintage.

Ben Kamenjas and Greg Softley talking about the 1960’s vintage Colnago track bike that had questions raised about it’s authenticity. I viewed it close up and there’s no doubt about it’s vintage.

Talk about a "talked about" bike,the Colnago Pista

Talk about a “talked about” bike, the Colnago Pista.

Complete with A Dugast tyres that were vacuum packed the next morning.

Complete with A. Dugast tyres that were vacuum packed the next morning.

Authentic 1960's Colnago decals

Authentic 1960’s Colnago decals.

Greg Softley's Cinelli Laser

Greg Softley’s Cinelli Laser.

Greg Softley and his Cinelli Laser

Greg Softley and his Cinelli Laser.

The Cinelli Laser a design icon of the 20th Century

The Cinelli Laser a design icon of the 20th Century.

The next morning all of Greg Softley's bikes had to be packed back into their boxes, it took most of the day.

The next morning all of Greg Softley’s bikes had to be packed back into their boxes, it took most of the day.

The last of them after two days hard graft for a couple of hours show 'n tell, well worth it.

The last of them after two days hard graft for a couple of hours show ‘n tell, well worth it.

Comments

  1. Adam Liversedge says

    Great article . I’ve talked to Greg a few times , and found him to be a true gentleman of the bicycle world . Beautiful bikes .

    • Ricardo Fiorelli says

      Wow stunning bikes, what a collection .. beautiful photos, nice in b+w. Greg’s passion shines, gold! Thanks for a good read. Ric

  2. Tony Hooper says

    Fantastic article about Greg and his bikes. Greg is great to deal, he has done a few one-off decals for my restoration projects – nothing was problem.

  3. John Caskey says

    Wow. Great stuff. Is there a practical or beautiful bicycle part made that can surpass the Campagnolo Super Record derailler from the 80s? It worked and kept going and always looked good. Here is the equipment list you need for an 80s dream bike. Super record deraillers, cranks, BB, original concealed cable brake levers (sorry don’t know the model name) and seatpost, Turbo saddle, Look black pedals, Modolo brake callipers, simplex gear levers, Pellisier hubs, GEL 280 rims, Clement Paris-Roubaix tyres, Suntour New Winner free wheel, Cinelli stem (1A) and bars (64-42). Any ideas? We used to build our own, not let a marketting guy in the US decide for us.

    • Robert says

      John, Whatever you could lay your hands on / afford / beg steal borrow / or in very rare instances a sponsor might appear. The “concealed” levers were just an evolution of Super Record, “Cobalto’s”, developed as replacements for the Delta’s. Those Pellisier’s were the dream hub, smooth free running, KWT imported those. Cinelli always the favourite for Aussies, I told Joe Cosgrove about 3ttt and Bianchi, he just replied Cinelli is the only brand I knew. For some, Cinelli and Campagnolo were just about the only brand names you needed to remember. R

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