Starting cycling in the 80′s (well to be honest, it was BMX racing) I had some amazing heroes to look up to in the cycling world. As I matured from BMX racing into road cycling, the greats of Miguel Indurain and Marco Pantani graced the telly at the time and watching them ride the tour was nothing short of inspirational.
Back then, South Africa was still suffering from sanctions, so although we received Tour de France coverage, it was usually a day later. Unfortunately there was no Intaweb’s back then (ok hang on, yes there was Roblist, but that was pants for anything like cycling back then). So, back to the history lesson, there was this teenager looking at these athletic monsters on telly and being blown away by how they rode and also the kit they had.
Unfortunately the chance of owning an Eddy Merckx or a Pinarello Banesto was nothing short of a dream. I often lusted at those steel steeds and had immoral thoughts about owning one with a set of Campagnolo Delta brakes, but often reality came crashing and I continued riding/racing on my steel Peugeot. Buying anything imported in South Africa in the late 80′s and early 90′s just didn’t happen easily.
Fast forward 15+ years and the opportunity to purchase a load of parts from those immoral thoughts presented itself. Automatically being taken back to watching the Tour at my grandparents house, I started to build up the bike I wanted when I was thirteen. This weekend, one of those bikes finally came a reality and was built up by myself and Rohan. A 1987 Eddy Merckx Corsa Extra with a mix of Campagnolo Record/Delta components.
It’s not a weight-weenie. There isn’t a hint of carbon anywhere and it won’t be to most peoples taste but for me, it’s a slice of heaven. Many belittle the Campagnolo Delta brakes, often citing that they were shit at stopping the bike (ok, then do explain how they were found on so many pro bikes back in the day on the Tour?) Thing is, they are quirky and yes, do require a considerable amount of skill to set up correctly. Thankfully Rohan possesses such skill and made them work.
On the anniversary of Il Pirata’s death, it’s all rather fitting that the bike is ready to ride. Alas, I won’t even climb mountains like the pirate, or power past opponents like Big Mig, but I can be happy with the fact that I finally get to ride a bike like they used to ride and pretend for a moment.
So here’s to you Il Pirata, a legend of cycling. R.I.P