Thursday, November 11, 2010
A Herd of Tin Donkeys: 1988 Basso
Following my experience riding Richard's singlespeed bicycles and with the endless rain here in Nordrhein-Westfalen, I thought that I would look into building up an inexpensive used bike into a cheap winter trainer with mudguards that would be light, simple and cheap. And cheap.
A quick search of the famous on-line auction revealed some attractive offerings. I thought it would be better to go with as complete a bike as possible so that I would not have to buy a lot of extra parts for the build-up. I missed the chance for a nice but not-quite-complete Vicini as my sniping software failed me but there is no shortage of bikes in Germany and patience is rewarded. Soon afterwards a blue Basso, in excellent condition, came onto the market and I was the successful bidder. By the time it reaches me, I will have a set of SKS mudguards in hand and will discuss with Richard how best to make it into a singlespeed if we go that route. And it already comes with a bell so I can make my presence known to the omnipresent German strollers on the bike routes here.
Basso bicycles are built near Vicenza, Italy and the family firm has been in operation since the late 1970s, first as a retail operation and then with the factory opened in 1981. The three Basso brothers include Marino, who was World Cycling Champion in 1972, but the main driving force is Alcide, who was a racer but made his mark as a mechanic. He apprenticed under legendary builder Ugo de Rosa. Giro d'Italia winner Ivan Basso is not related to these Bassos. The company has a rather low profile and there is not much out there about older models, unlike Colnago or Cinelli. While Basso bikes have been used by some celebrated racers, it has never had the publicity that comes from sponsoring a top pro team. Nonetheless, the company, which continues to produce all its bicycles by hand in Italy, has a reputation for quality and the bike I purchased looks very good. And it was relatively cheap as well!
The frame is made of Oria 0.9 straight-gauge tubing, suggesting that this bike was at the lower end of Basso's offerings, confirmed by the lower-end Shimano Sport LX parts. The components date the bike to 1988. Oria was drawn by the German steel firm Mannesmann and while fairly stiff it is not considered to be as light or responsive as the better Reynolds or Columbus tubing. However, not only is the bike in surprisingly good condition, but it has many nice details, including the Basso name engraved on the seatstays and the logo engraved in the chrome fork. The dropouts are also marked as Basso. The finish work on the lugs is very clean and I am curious how the bicycle rides compared to my premium bikes. The Concor saddle does not really match well but when the bike gets wet I will not feel bad about it. However, that Shimano Bio-pace chainring will be the first thing to go!
As mentioned, Basso continues to build bicycles and even offers a lugged steel frame, the Viper. However, it has impressive capability in carbon, aluminum and titanium, as you will see in this technical paper. The small but modern factory is located only 5 kms from that other Vicenza bicycle operation--Campagnolo.
"The racing bicycle is derived from practical principles! You need to be comfortable on the bicycle, whether you are riding a short distance or a long one. You can't go as well if the ride is unpleasant...you cannot win the race if you cannot finish the race." - Alcide Basso