Monday, January 29, 2018

Retrogrouch Reads: Vintage Bicycles

As I have been pining with the arrival of winter weather for a good bicycle rehabilitation project, I recently finished reading Gianluca Zaghi's Vintage Bicycles: How to Find and Restore Vintage Cycles. Zaghi is a collector, buyer, seller, and restorer of classic lightweight bikes, and one may occasionally find his wares through his business VSB Vintage Speed Bicycles (on eBay as user vintagespeedbicycles, naturally).

As the title would indicate, Zaghi's book is written as a "how to" guide for people who are interested in restoring vintage bikes, so it is loaded with advice - much of which would probably be most useful for those who are just beginning their love affair with classic bikes, but perhaps a little rudimentary for those who have more experience. But it really doesn't matter, because whether a person is new to bike restoration, an old hand, or just a lover of vintage bikes with no intention of ever actually getting his/her hands dirty, the book is loaded with sumptuous full-color photos of bikes and related ephemera.

Looking through the photos, I can't help but feel envious of Zaghi's workspace -- well lit and spacious, with huge storage and display cases, and walls covered with old photos, vintage jerseys, classic tools, and old components. My own cramped, dimly lit corner of the basement is a poor comparison. And then there are the bikes. Mostly Italian racing bikes, but also some lovely randonneur bikes, city bikes, and more. Some of the bikes are restored like new, including new paint - while others are more conservatively done to maintain their aged patina. All of them are "lust-worthy."

The book has contributions from Giancarlo Brocci, the founder of Eroica, as well as an introduction by Mike Wolfe from the television show American Pickers. Other contributions come from California Eroica promoter Wesley Hatakeyama, restorer (and source for restoration decals) Greg Softley, and the "face" of Eroica, the recently departed Luciano Berruti.

A few snapshots:

Vintage Bicycles is an enjoyable read as well as a nice source of inspiration. If I have any criticism, it would mainly be that I'd love if the format were a little larger (the book measures roughly 10 x 7 inches). With so many wonderful photos, nobody would complain about having them even larger. But the main issue for me is that the text font size seems really tiny and strains my aging bifocal-bespectacled eyes. There's lots to read, and I found myself struggling a bit with it due to the size. Other than that, and an occasional typo (or perhaps a translation error or two - the book was originally published in Italian), the book is a nice addition to the vintage bicycle enthusiast's collection. The book is currently selling for about $25 from Barnes and Noble, or check your local bookstore. Also, to see more photos of Zaghi's bikes and workshop, check out his Flickr page or his Instagram.


  1. Any book that includes photos of classic bikes along with images of grimy hands--and a Universal 68 brake in drillium--must be interesting. I'll check it out!

  2. Very interesting, but I must say those drilled-out brake arms are scary. After the stem, the front brake is the part I'd least like to weaken, and it's drilled in two different axes. It appears that the holes are painted, and maybe countersunk, to make them look even bigger than they are.

    Jon Blum

    1. I agree - I think drilled brakes look cool - especially when done as nicely as those ones are. But I'd be really hesitant to do any fast descents with them.

  3. I met the author at LEroica in 2017. A great ebullient guy. He signed a copy for me. It was in Italian and he said that would help. It's a good book.