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A special Legnano Roma Olimpiade

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A special Legnano Roma Olimpiade

Old 05-07-16, 04:06 AM
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A special Legnano Roma Olimpiade

A very special Champion Strada/Legnano

In the mid fifties Thord Lönnquist, Stockholm, Sweden, started his company ECI (Europeiska Cykel Importen) and soon his bikes started to break the Crescent/Monark dominance among racers. He established contacts in Italy and France to go about it seriously. In the early sixties he started his own team, CK Champion, and some of Sweden’s best cyclists joined him. “The orange” (Crescent) and “The blue” (Monark) teams now had stiff competition to meet in “The green” team. Thord also registered the name Champion as a bike brand.

The earlier fifties frames are said to have been made in-house but during the sixties frames were bought from, among others - Legnano, Urago and Torpado. Thord pioneered in bringing continental race parts and frames to Sweden. The seventies and eighties saw Colnagos, Cinellis, Bianchis, Gelianos, and a lot of other brands rolling out thru the shop doors. Thord ran his bike shop, jammed with top of the line frames and components, up to the late eighties and then his son took over and still runs it. Thord died in 1998 - much too early.

As the early team frames were Legnano I do have a theory that the green colour of the team was just a function of it being Legnanos signature colour – and being that - the team adopted it.

The bike presented here is a Champion Strada but it is also a Legnano Roma Olimpiade. Legnanos top of the line offering. The bike is probably from 1964. Apart from the obvious difference regarding the decals it has all the tell tale signs of a LRO – the longer and slotted seat lug, 27 mm seatpost, the seatstay attachment to the seat lug, investment cast Campagnolo dropouts, etc. The LRO normally has a serial number horizontally at the back of the seat lug – and so did this frame. I write “did” as it was ground away at the factory or at least before it got painted (see pictures). Instead this frame has a totally different kind of serial number on the bottom bracket shell. There are indentions on the head tube where the Legnano head badge was supposed to be mounted and fastened.

The only thing that puzzles me is the Vitus decal. It probably has nothing to do with this frame. But who knows.

Equipment is Campagnolo Record, a Milremo stem, a CTA handlebar, Mafac Racer brakes. The bike originally came from Thord Lönnquists own collection of vintage bikes (along the way he had became one of Sweden’s leading authorities on the subject) that, after his death, was sold among fellow collectors. I am its third owner after Thord. I do believe it has its original parts but I am not that certain about the brakes – they seem to be of newer age. As almost all racing bikes in Sweden at that time it was built for its owner and there is no such thing as catalogue correct (I believe there was no catalogue for Champion at the time). I have not had the time to check the hub lock nuts yet but the hubs have the “Record” text. Sorry for the sad looking tires but they do not hold air anymore…

I am really glad I got hold of this bike. I normally only collect bikes in my own size (58-60 c/c) but for this one (57 c/c) I make an exception. I have been trying to get one of Thord´s Champion bikes for a long time. Thord was sort of a character – he had a reputation of being kind of harsh and reserved. The first time I met him, in the mid eighties, I got that impression too. But we soon got to talk about vintage bikes and I – at that time a young and novice collector, soon got to see a passionate and warm person – willing to share and help. I knew him as a fellow collector and we helped each other out with parts and restoration problems many times. I do miss him.

My plan for the bike is a cleanup, lowering the saddle height a little to get it to harmonize better with the frame size, sliding the saddle a little bit forward, a new set of tires and last but not least – adjusting the handlebar lower grips parallel to the ground.

I believe I have one of the nicest examples of early Champion: s known and I will cherish it not only as an example of a nice high quality vintage race bike but also as the legacy of an important man - for me - and for the Swedish bike community.

Ground away Legnano serial

This is Campagnolo Record (ie pre Nuovo Record).

The Vitus decal

More pictures here:

PS realized Legnano might be somewhat unknow to some. Recommended reading:

Last edited by styggno1; 05-07-16 at 04:21 AM.
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Old 05-07-16, 07:18 AM
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Beautiful! Great history too. So much to look at on that bike. Classic.
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Old 05-07-16, 07:23 AM
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This is a knockout bike; very cool.
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Old 05-07-16, 07:58 AM
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Thank you for the history lesson !
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Old 05-07-16, 08:01 AM
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never seen a seatpost binder bolt in front of the lug. pretty cool.
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Old 05-07-16, 08:04 AM
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That is one beautiful bike. We rarely see examples from Scandinavia here. And very interesting history. But did Thord really take Legnano frames and grind off the number then rebadge them as Champions? The distinctive front mounted seat post binder bolt and the furrow, grind channel at the rear of the seat lug certainly seems to corroborate the theory. Very interesting.
I love the dark green accents to the Legnano chartreuse. Fantastic looking cycle.
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Old 05-07-16, 08:23 AM
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Wow! Another wonderful bike and more importantly, the story behind it. Just terrific and thanks again for sharing~
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Old 05-07-16, 09:06 AM
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Thanks for sharing your beautiful machine. Yes, the color and the forward-mounted seatpost binder shout "Legnano" to me.
"Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." --Theodore Roosevelt
Capo: 1959 Modell Campagnolo, S/N 40324; 1960 Sieger (2), S/N 42624, 42597
Carlton: 1962 Franco Suisse, S/N K7911
Peugeot: 1970 UO-8, S/N 0010468
Bianchi: 1982 Campione d'Italia, S/N 1.M9914
Schwinn: 1988 Project KOM-10, S/N F804069
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Old 05-07-16, 09:13 AM
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What a special bike.
Thanks for the story.
A new member with fresh contributions, keeps me coming back.
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Old 05-07-16, 09:30 AM
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@styggno1, you're really throwing us some great stories. Keep 'em coming!
● 1971 Grandis SL ● 1972 Lambert Grand Prix frankenbike ● 1972 Raleigh Super Course fixie ● 1973 Nishiki Semi-Pro ● 1979 Motobecane Grand Jubile ●1980 Apollo "Legnano" ● 1984 Peugeot Vagabond ● 1985 Shogun Prairie Breaker ● 1986 Merckx Super Corsa ● 1987 Schwinn Tempo ● 1988 Schwinn Voyageur ● 1989 Bottechia Team ADR replica ● 1990 Cannondale ST600 ● 1993 Technium RT600 ● 1996 Kona Lava Dome ●

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Old 05-07-16, 09:30 AM
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Great bike.
Great story!

I like the modified MAFAC rear brake cable hanger at the back of the seat lug and the subtle red highlighting on the calipers, not to mention the painted highlights on the stem!

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Old 05-07-16, 09:31 AM
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Amazing that you have taken care to learn so much of the history of these bikes, and the people that are part of the story as well.. I learn so much every time that you post here, thanks for sharing this Champion/LRO with us, as well as that history education about it. You write very well, smooth, flowing text and never boring.

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Old 05-07-16, 10:27 AM
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Writing this on the phone...a little fiddly.

Thank you all for the kind words.

About Thord and the grinding away of Legnano serial on the seatlug. He got the Legnano frames made for him in Italy. They were probably already made but not yet painted. For some reason they ground away the serial and put a new one (not a Legnano serial) under the bottom bracket. Then they were painted and decaled according to Thords directions - in Italy. I opened up by saying "or at least before painting" because I do not know if Legnano had their own paint shop. The Champion serial on BB is under the paint. All decals have clear coat. It is a Legnano Roma Olimpiade with diffrent decals.

Last edited by styggno1; 05-21-16 at 12:24 PM.
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Old 05-07-16, 11:46 AM
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Beautiful machine. The brake lever reach is massive!
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Old 05-07-16, 11:56 AM
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Cool bike and story!
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Old 05-07-16, 01:17 PM
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Thanks for this fabulous post and sharing this fascinating cycle.

The forum has an existing thread on Swedish bicycles. You might wish to add this history information there as well, or link to it, as you deem best.


Thanks again!
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Old 05-21-16, 11:39 AM
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Oh my! Truly impressive. The Roma, incidentally, is on my very short Grail List.
"98% of the bikes I buy are projects".
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