The Bianchi X4 Diaries Part SIX
Just over two years ago a battered 1988 Bianchi Specialissima X4 frame arrived, well overdue for transformation back to it’s long lost, race-ready form. First the chrome finish was restored, followed by new paint and decals. While Joe Cosgrove and myself were finessing the celestial Bianchi paint, chrome and fine details, I was busy fishing around in obscure corners of the internet. Efforts to find 1980’s vintage Campagnolo, Weinmann, 3ttt, Alpina, Ambrosio, Look, Clement, Regina and Selle Italia components were met with denial at every step. Sounds familiar? The frame's refusal to comply at every step of it's restoration equalled the challenge thrown up in finding components to finish it with. Below is the image of the original 1987 Specialissima X4 Bianchi Piaggio team bike which I'd raced on. We based our reproduction of the original team bike around it's representation in this photograph. Here also is a matching photo of the finished 2015 version. The new version represents the bike in the same format as it was raced, so some changes to the pedals, an extra bidon cage and bar wrap ends received black electrical tape.
Finding a new old stock, Weinmann Carrera 400 brake set, threw up a challenge that seemed impossible to crack. Using search terms in English proved to be fruitless, so when the search was conducted in German for “Weinmann Carrera 400 bremsen”, bingo, the Swiss goat farmer’s unassailable hoard of bicycle components appeared. There were two sets of Carrera brakes to choose from. Unfortunately for foreigners, during the decades our Swiss goat farmer was busy filling his barn to the roof with antique bicycle parts, he was also busy preparing a list of terms and conditions as long as War and Peace. The Swiss German Goat Farmer Proclamation of 2006, clearly stated that no foreigner was allowed to use a telephone, postal service nor computer to communicate with him. In no way would this keeper of goats and bike parts, talk to anyone who did not live within the cosy confines of the twenty six cantons of the Confederation of Helvetica. The irony of this struck me, as I used to live nearby at Sulgen and often rode the original Bianchi X4 team bike, right past this goat farmers door while training.
What do you do when a problem like this crops up? You call Maulwurf, who lives in sunny Bettwiesen, not far from the goat farm, Maulwurf being Swiss, qualified as a prospect who may have some luck purchasing Weinmann Carrera 400 bremsen. First we had to fully read and check every detail in the Swiss German Goat Farmer Proclamation. Next Maulwurf jumped through some hoops which included interpreting the ten pages on “How to correctly setup an appointment and related protocols” section. Finally Maulwurf rode his bicycle to the goat farm, arrived at the appointed correct and true time, made the exchange and shipped the Carrera brake set to Australia. Even the grey Weinmann brake cables which were original on the team bike arrived in Australia, in a foreign land far away from the Swiss goat barn!
The Selle Italia Super Turbo saddle. So you want a new celeste Bianchi saddle, one that doesn’t look like a sagging bridge on the point of collapse. In fact finding a Selle Italia Super Turbo saddle in any colour without cracked, plastic end parts, is near impossible, you just have to look sideways at a NOS saddle sitting in it’s box and the plastic will crack at the screw holes. Then if you can find a Super Turbo in the celeste Bianchi colour, with an intact plastic carcass and half decent end plastics, usually the celeste covering will have taken on a new form, it’s faded celeste colour now a scoured and wrinkled remnant.
I wanted this Bianchi team bike to represent the special attributes that Bianchi Reparto Corse had bestowed upon the original. A black new old stock Super Turbo saddle was found and sent to Busyman Bicycles for re-covering, together with a celeste hide that had taken weeks to track down. The first celeste cover proved to be a bit too turquoise-blue not celeste at all, then Mick from Busyman found an almost exact match for the original Bianchi celeste, so the saddle went back for a second re-covering.
3ttt Record LA 84 stem or AR84 Tracking down a mid 1980’s 3ttt stem that has the correct 3ttt engraved logo and Bianchi engraving is near impossible.
In the mid 1980’s 3ttt updated their Record stem lineup and produced a handlebar stem named after the Los Angeles Olympic Games, hence these stems are sometimes referred to as Record LA 84. The 3ttt catalogue shows the model as AR84, meaning Attacco Record 84, using the Italian word for stem, Attacco (joint, connection, attachment, coupling) or in English - Record Stem 84.At the same time 3ttt updated their logo three times. The first was a more traditional re-vamping of 1970’s engraved logo, the engraved logo then received a contemporary look, followed by this logo being transformed into a print on the front of the stems. Most 3ttt stems available for sale are of the newest printed type from the 1990’s and wrong for a mid 80’s Bianchi. If you’re restoring a late 1980’s Bianchi X4, 1988 onwards, ITM bars and stems were fitted.
Finding one of the engraved 3ttt logo stems with the correct clear anodising is no easy task. Typically parts are missing, including grub screws, rubber inserts and stem bolt end caps. First I began collecting 3ttt engraved stems which all were black anodised, the black stems seemed more readily available. Eventually enough grub screws, end caps and rubber inserts became available to make up some complete 3ttt engraved stems. Using heavy duty oven cleaner and a brush, the black anodising was removed, then the stems were polished.
Then there were many months of trying to track down someone who could reliably pantograph on curved surfaces. A contact was found in Europe, another long wait. The design had to be established using Photoshop then sent to the the pantographer. After pantographing the stems were polished for a second time, returned to Australia and then anodised in clear. Using slow drying oil based model paint, thinners and fine brushes, the pantographed details were painted in.
The right side NOS Campagnolo C Record friction shift lever and NOS Campagnolo C Record 180mm seat post were also pantographed then polished to retain their original finishes.
3ttt Competizione Tour de France bend 44 cm handlebars and 3ttt handlebar end caps. Both these items, bars and end caps proved to be relatively easy to find, compared to some of the components that were re-worked and restored.
Ambrosio Bike Ribbon Bianchi Celeste coloured handlebar tape.
The GS Bianchi Piaggio team bikes were originally fitted with Celeste Ambrosio Bike Ribbon. Another needle in a haystack search. After more than a year of sifting through endless listings for Ambrosio Bike Ribbon, part of the hide supplied to Mick at Busyman was cut up and Mick made some custom celeste bar tape, to look as close as possible to the original. Afterwards, two rolls of the original Ambrosio tape came up for sale, one of these is now installed on the bike and the leather version can be used on another project. Black electrical tape (pvc insulating tape) has been commonly used to finish bar tape ends for decades, so this remains true to the original bike. The factory built bike came with the Bike Ribbon promo end tape, but this was quickly changed on the original bike.
NOS 1980’s 14 Gauge Alpina Inox spokes. Try finding new old stock Alpina spokes in the right lengths! Then to find the right length before purchase, welcome to the world of effective rim diameters and spoke calculators. Another round of midnight oil burning sessions and enough genuine NOS 302 mm Alpina Inox spokes with the correct “A” head were found. To make the search more difficult, most of the available Alpina spokes are “S” Alpina’s. Steven at Craftworx wheel builders helped out with trimming the drive side spokes to length, then Ben Smith “The Collector” threw his hat in the ring and built up the wheels, the Alpina spokes being mated to NOS Weinmann Carrera 32H rims and NOS Campagnolo C Record low flange hubs.
Clement Criterium Servizio Corse Production of Clement tyres began in France in 1888, eventually moved to Italy and a hundred years from it’s inception during the 1980’s, Clement was bought by Pirelli and production moved to Thailand. Finding old tyres in pristine NOS condition usually means finding some extra dollars, even if they are Thai made and not original Italian production that made Clement so famous.
The New Old Stock Campagnolo C Record Rear Derailleur Where do you find an extremely rare Campagnolo C Record rear derailleur in new old stock condition, that has the correct Gen 1 derailleur cage cutouts. Almost nowhere, and then if one can be found, at what price! Getting my hands on the Clement tyres and the correct rear derailleur meant only one thing, so I headed down to the cross roads at midnight ........... There were three different versions of the Gen 1 Campagnolo C Record rear derailleur, one of the most desirable cycling collectables of all time. The most familiar of the three has a completely enclosed derailleur cage face plate. There’s a second version with a cut-out in the bottom half of the face plate, this style became standard on the Gen 2 Campagnolo C Record rear derailleur. The version that I eventually found for the X4 team bike was the third type with both top and bottom face plate cut-outs. This version looks more like a prototype Campagnolo derailleur with a shield engraved parallelogram.
The Campagnolo Corsa Record front derailleur was one the easiest components to find. For more on this iconic derailleur I wrote a post about the complete history of the Campagnolo C Record front derailleur.
Look PP65 Pedals. The original pedals supplied with the Bianchi X4 team bike were Campagnolo Corsa Record, these were immediately swapped out for Look PP65 white pedals, 1987 was the year when nearly every bike racer on the planet ditched toe straps and clips in favour of these new “safety” pedals, as they were called at the time. The ski binding company had set the trend with their new clipless pedal, changing cycle sport forever. When it came to finding a set of these pedals in NOS condition, they just appeared at a bargain basement price and I snapped them up. The easiest find by far on this build.
Campagnolo C Record Gen 1 Crank Set 53/42 At the beginning of 1987 Campagnolo was still shipping 1st Gen C Record rear derailleurs with stamped - engraved shield logos, the transition had not been completed to Gen 2 derailleurs. Though the matching cranksets now had printed shield logos. I’d missed this subtle detail when searching for the cranks. I vaguely remembered the crank set having a shield printed logo, and recently I made a 1,200 dpi scan of the original bike photo and sure enough, the cranks were issued in January 1987 with a printed shield logo, yet the derailleur was Gen 1. Obviously it wasn’t long after that the Gen 2 printed logo rear derailleur appeared alongside the printed logo cranks.
NOS Regina CXS Freewheel - NOS Regina CX Chain Relatively easy to find these 1/2 x 3/32 chains are almost always available and it takes a bit of searching to find the right freewheel.
Bianchi Water Bottles - Bidons Rare and expensive, some inventive conjuring of search terms in different languages revealed some hidden gems at a sensible price.
REG aluminium water bottle - Bidon Cages Again hard to find in NOS condition, then there's the sellers like our Swiss goat farmer who will only talk to locals. Eventually I found a seller in Germany who had a whole box load of REG cages and was happy to ship to far flung antipodean lands. All still sealed in their factory bags .... a bulk buy, now there's enough spare stock here for any X4 I'll ever own.
Subtle Differences for Accuracy. We began the project with a frame that turned out to be a 1988 Bianchi X4 frame, by that year Bianchi had made some changes. Some early Bianchi X4’s were produced with a “Square” seat stay bridge, the team bikes were supplied with these bridges. The bike we restored had a different Silva bridge style which is more common on later Bianchi X4 frames. Rear brake cable routing on the 1988 frame was internally routed, earlier frames were external. There’s a pump peg which we left intact, obviously this should not be on a team bike. Above the difference in the crank logo’s was mentioned, because of the difficulty and expense finding mint, early C Record crank sets, the ones fitted are 170mm, not 172.5 as the originals. The super expensive C Record rear derailleur is the two cut-out version, the original bike had the other cut-out type with one cut-out to the cage, but near impossible to find in NOS condition, so the next best thing was the double cut-out cage. Some of these details will be updated in the future if the correct components can be found.
Final warning, digging up old dogs can be expensive, time consuming but extremely rewarding. One of the best and most fun projects I’ve ever undertaken. When you can get right up close, the end result is one stunning Bianchi X4 well worth every minute of work, suffice to say this is my favourite bike. If you’re anywhere near Brisbane this July, we’ll have this bike on display at the 2015 Pushies Galore.
All images by Robert Cobcroft