Sunday, June 28, 2009

De Rosa Project

A few years ago when I first got into bicycle racing I began searching for the ultimate road racing frame set. My mentor Jacques told me that whenever in Europe I must go see the "House of De Rosa". Ugo De Rosa had hand built bicycles for Eddy Merckx and was considered the master and a true artist of hand built bicycles.

I was traveling on a cycling/camping trip in Europe soon after and I ventured to the House of De Rosa in outside Milan, Italy. What was interesting at the time, De Rosa was still working out of their original factory which was located at their farm outside Milan. As usual I was totally lost when I got to Milan and after a day of wrangling with Italian, English and French I found the proper road to their home and shop. The thing I will never forget was wandering through the country side and seeing pink roses beautifully painted on a mail box and post. That's when I knew I had reached my destination. The De Rosa family lived on a small farm north of Milan and their shop was actually in a converted barn behind the main house.

On another post I will get deeper in to DeRosa, but I was amazed how easy it was to just walk into their factory and home. Much of what Jacques educated me on started making sense about their passion of building bicycles. The whole family was involved in every aspect of the company. They lived, breathed, ate, drank, building the finest handbuilt bicycles. They were great hosts and welcomed me like I was the most important person to come visit them. Ugo's son Christano spoke good English and explained how they loved seeing cyclists and especially Americans, and rarely did they have visitors which amazed me.

Ugo did most of the talking with Christano translating. He educated me on the differences of their frames, never knocking a competitor but just stating why they did certain things. An example was the use of nickel versus brass on brazing. De Rosas are known for their smooth welds and perfect lines. Each bike is inspected by Ugo himself before it leaves the factory.

The whole experience was incredible and one of those things in life which cost nothing but you were educated and experienced something that you could not put a price tag on. Of course I left the factory with my wallet a little lighter. I was measured and had a custom De Rosa Professional built. With their building to such perfection they were of course six weeks behind on building frames, so my frame arrived in the USA two months after my visit.

Below are some before and after pictures of a De Rosa I am currently restoring. The bike originally was a green and white two tone which was common for the bikes, I decided to paint it Molteni orange like the Merckx frames. I am going to restore it with Campagnolo Super Record which would be the correct vintage for the age of the frame. We are fortunate to have a great painter here in town who did a fantastic job. I bought the decals and he did a great job of clear coating them after painting the frame.

The before shot showing the fading green and white, not bad considering the frame is 20 years old. The tubing is Columbus steel, but not SLX. Many of the bikes of that vintage were SL/SP combination which provided superior strength to weight ratio.

The after shot, sporting Molteni orange and vintage decals. The frame spaced 126mm which identifies the age and the fact it was built for probably 6 speed. Note the "Beefy T" fork a De Rosa design trademark.

I will try to post some pictures as the bike comes together. I am trying to keep it as vintage correct as possible.

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