When an Old Bicycle Needs a Home…

Vintage Italian racing bicycles rarely turn up at church yard sales and I hardly expected to find one at Grace Presbyterian’s annual attic clean-out. But there it was; a 1970s Atala Grand Prix leaning against a tree among the racks of old clothes, rec-room furniture and kitchen appliances.

The old Atala has a few chips and scratches but looks good overall -- a steal at $40.
The old Atala has a few chips and scratches but looks good overall — a steal at $40.

When I stood the bike up it sagged pitifully on its rear wheel, which wiggled in the lugged steel frame, barely attached. A quick inspection revealed the rear wheel was from a newer bike. Its small-flange Shimano hub, which looks like it could have come off a 1990s Trek, gave it away.  But the derailleurs and shifters were the proper Campagnolo parts, as was the front hub with its big, beautiful flange. Such a throwback. All the pieces were there.

Unlike modern chain rings, the Atala’s 52/40 rings are bolted first to each other, then to the crank.

I love old bikes and this one needed to go home with someone who had the right wrenches. Besides, the seller wanted just $40 for it, so into the back of our old Subaru wagon it went. My plan was to clean it up and get it back on the road without buying a slew of new parts or trying to return it to like-new condition. Surprisingly the bike’s tires were new — another expense spared – so a few hours of my very cheap labor were enough to make it roadworthy and presentable. I kept the “wrong” rear wheel and bulky

Silk purse meets sow’s ear? Perhaps, but the indulgent Brooks saddle looks great on the bike.

center-pull brakes which, while correct for the period are totally wrong for this bike. Heaven knows what became of the original side-pulls.

The only indulgence was a Brooks leather saddle that cost more than twice as much as the bike. So much for frugality, but the modern, cut-out Serfas saddle that came on the bike ruined the look. Functionally it would have been fine, had my budget been tighter. I still got away for far less than what bike shops or eBay sellers are asking for similar machines. So now I have a 40-year-old bike that looks like it is, say, 10 or 20 years old – a satisfactory result.

Bikes like this cease to be good values if you try to “restore” them. The Atala Grand Prix is a classic and a sweet hand-made ride, but not one of the greats of Italian cycling. Best to clean it up and use it.

Road-ready and looking downright presentable.
Road-ready and downright presentable.

Now, had it been a 1989 Bottecchia in Greg Lemond’s ADR team colors, well, that would be different.

I will let you know how it rides after a few shakedown miles.


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