Tuesday, 30 September 2014

AND A VITUS 979 FOR LUCAS AGED 11

I bought my son a Jamis hybrid bike a few years ago, but he's going to outgrow it soon, so when I saw this 50cm Vitus going cheap in France (complete except for wheels) I thought it might be worth seeing if he'd take to it. 
It was in decent nick and after a bit of a tidy ended up looking like this. 


It has an indexed Shimano 105 SLX gearset and brakes, a Stronglight chainset, and I found a nice set of wheels with Shimano 600 hubs in excellent condition. Better kit than my Vitus in fact. 


It looks great and even received a complement from the normally hard-to-please Nick Van Vader at The London Cycle Workshop. He actually wanted to buy it as it fitted him perfectly. No comment. 


The chainset has typical cyclo cross gearing (46/34) which happens to be ideal for an 11 year old. I don't think it was a cross bike, but who knows. 








Lucas is getting used to the downtube shifters, although he hasn't tackled any hills yet. To be honest, he'd probably prefer STI levers, but that's tough :(

Monday, 29 September 2014

MY VITUS 979 READY FOR L'ÉROICA BRITANNIA


The Vitus 979 'restoration' is now complete.















Nick in The London Cycle Workshop swapped the Ofmega triple chainset and Deore front derailleur (early nineties) for an eighties quite rare Shimano 600 Tri Colour triple chainset and vintage 105 triple derailleur. I tried to find a 600 front mech for a triple but couldn't track one down. I've heard that they do exist. If you have one, let me know!














Brooks bartape and Open Corsa tyres provided the finishing touches and although I'm still looking for a vintage Brooks Swallow saddle, I think the results look pleasing on the eye.
See previous post for more details of the build.












I used to be a bit of a Campag snob (not that I knew what I was talking about) but now have a bit of a thing for Suntour and some of the earlier Shimano groupsets. The 'Tri Colour' version of Shimano 600 looks especially neat.
600 became Ultegra, as you probably know.
The build is mainly 105 (derailleurs, shifters, hubs, brake calipers & levers), with the 600 triple chainset being the only correct period triple I could source.



I managed last year's Eroica Britannia on a very heavy Koga Miyata 'Gents Tourer' (just about), so the reasoning behind getting a triple wasn't so much for getting me round L'Eroica but more that I could keep the 12-24 gearing, and will now have a vintage bike 'for life'. I'm 58 at the time of writing, and now I won't need to swap to a triple when the legs start complaining.

Friday, 15 August 2014

FINDING A VITUS 979 FOR L'ÉROICA BRITANNIA 2015

I've just picked up this mid to late 80's Vitus 979 (in fairly rare 'bronze') on eBay. 
It comes with vintage 105 downtube shifters and rear derailleur, but an Ofmega oval triple chainset (a 90's mod).

Photo from the eBay ad

Although I bought the Holdsworth with a view to restoring it for L'Eroica Britannia I couldn't resist the Vitus having seen the one used by my friend Andy Bell at L'Eroica 2014:

Possibly the lightest bike used at L'Eroica Britannia 2014?

It's also a perfect fit (59cms) whereas the Holdsworth is a bit on the small size (56cms), especially with the 45mm stem. 
There's plenty of info on the net about the Vitus 979, but they're famous for; being one of the earliest widely available aluminium frames, being lugged and glued, and being used by cycling legend Sean Kelly. Oh and they're apparently a joy to ride, although they do say the larger frames can feel a little bit flexi. 



Check out the 'bronze' anodised finish!


And as for buying too many bikes? Nah. The Holdsworth and the Vitus were great value, and there'll now be two awesome vintage bikes stored in the in-laws' garage in Suffolk, meaning two people can hit the rolling hills, something that gained my wife's approval. Very sociable!

Update:
Picked up the Vitus today (Ben, the seller, bought the bike when it was new back in 1987) and I'm pleased to say it's in great condition. Having not been used for 20 years or so the tyres needed replacing which I expected. 
The chainset being a 90's oval Ofmega triple will also need replacing before L'Éroica, so I'm on the lookout for a correct period 105 chainset.
And further down the line I guess if I wanted to upgrade the bike, a 600/Ultegra groupset would fit the bill. 
Decisions, decisions. 

Latest:
New tyres fitted I set of for a quick ride on the quiet roads behind Taunton station, and I have to say the whole experience was much more like riding a nippy road bike than the usual ride on all but the most high end steel vintage bikes. Not only that, the ride was super smooth. 
I loved watching the oval chainrings doing their thing and the triple chainset provided a huge range of gears for a vintage bike. 
But I've found an NOS 105 chainset on Hilary Stone, and a 105 Golden Arrow front dérailleur so that the bike will pass the 1987 Eroica Britannia test. 

At Taunton station, ready for the journey home:

The plastic bottle cage will have to go

Update 24th Aug 2014
I've just had a great first ride round Richmond Park and am happy to report that it was one of my favourite ever. 
Now I've circuited Richmond Park on at least eight different bikes and this was up there with the best of them. I wasn't trying to break any records but when I did put a little power down I was recording my second and third best times on Strava. 
The gearing, with the Ofmega oval triple, was as easy as any bike I've ever owned, the only downside being that it wouldn't change into the big ring, perhaps not a surprise after the bike's been mothballed for 20 years. Would fettle if I knew what I was doing. 
I'd always heard that the Vitus offers a smooth ride and it's certainly the case. No road buzz to speak of, and the handling was nimble and responsive. 
And when I went for a short sprint I couldn't feel any flex at all, whereas with the steel Rossin the frame went a bit bendy when I got out of the saddle. 
I didn't even have to adjust the Vitus's saddle and the bike seems to fit me like a glove. 

 Sistema Ingranaggi Ovali indeed

Bottom Bracket Shell looking good. Will probably polish at some stage.

Bought at Simpson Cycles, 116 Malden Rd, London NW5 back in '87

The shop's still there in 2014, same phone number!

This blog is called The Search For The Perfect Bike(s) and in some ways this is it. Fast, light, comfortable, and quite elegant. And very cheap. 
Three people at Richmond Park came over to chat about it, and that sort of gives you a warm glow. 
This could be love. 

VITUS 979 FRAME BOUGHT IN HASTE!

I made the classic mistake of buying this frame on eBay in a hurry without doing my research. I was using the mobile App and after I paid for it was shocked when I had a look at the photos on a bigger screen. Check out the bottom bracket shell:

It almost looks like parts of the shell have corroded away! 
Below you can see how the shell actually looked - not nearly as bad. A rare example of someone making an eBay item look worse than it actually was! 


BB shell cleaned up, serial number revealed. It's been bashed about a bit. 

Yes it´s the magic rim block and autosol that has done the business. 
This is clearly a well used frame, but somehow even with the scuffs and scratches it looks great. People talk about patina, but keeping the bike in original condition, and not replacing faded decals for example, maintains the personalityof the bike/frame. 

After panicking about the frame I found the complete bike for £200 on eBay. 
I then cleaned up this frame and it sold on eBay for £220 which is just shows few people want to buy complete vintage bikes but loads of people want to build their own. 

Here are some more photos from the clean up/polishing:
























I've bought this Peracinni badged Vitus 979 with a view to building it up for one of my boys when they are bigger. Looks nice!


A frame like this could be built up with period kit you can afford, or even a modern groupset and lightweight wheels?
The choice is yours.