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What were some of the common 'trick' modifications to road bikes back in the 70s/80s?

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What were some of the common 'trick' modifications to road bikes back in the 70s/80s?

Old 12-22-23, 12:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Kontact
Cut the extra length off your seatpost. Alloy saddle rails. Alloy freewheel (Campy). Cello bar tape. Cut the ends of the bar drops off. Alloy chainring bolts.
I think of the Benotto tape as a late 80s thing though. I still remember doing that two color weave thing that was a trend then. It was annoyingly difficult if you ran mod 65 bars with aero routed brake cables as I did.
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Old 12-22-23, 12:42 PM
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Originally Posted by cegerer
Also, Modolo had carbon fiber downtube shifter levers available in 1980. There was much confusion about these, many believing they were plastic (which technically I suppose they were) and would surely break. I used them for years with no problem although I never cared for the curved design.




They live yet on my '83. Same bike got Modolo Master Pro brakes with Ti center bolts and the SR RD bolts are Ti.
Grams, Jerry, grams!

My first CF anything. Says it right there.
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Old 12-22-23, 01:12 PM
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The topic brought to mind the 1976 Palo Alto catalog that I saved and eventually scanned.
It was very conscious of component weight, and listed weights for just about everything.

Lightweight tires are one place to save some grams, although at the risk of punctures and short life of the tire. And of course, saving weight on anything usually means some sacrifice of durability.
This page shows that you could get some Clement Nuovo Super Seta Extra silk tires that weighed 165 grams for only $36 each...



You could drop quite a bit of weight by using titanium or aluminum alloy freewheels. Just don't expect the alloy cogs to last very long at all!



The Regina titanium chain also offered weight savings... although $150 back then was a lot of money!



There were an assortment of aftermarket alloy bolts that you could buy to shave off a few grams here and there, with a small risk of the bolt breaking at a bad time.



The editors of the catalog were nice enough to create a table of the potential weight savings! Their example produced a savings of 3.6 pounds over a conventional racing set-up. Not bad. I can't help but notice that they don't list the cost required to achieve this svelte condition, though.



Steve in Peoria
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Old 12-22-23, 01:18 PM
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Not a modification, but track-bike clearances on road bikes became an (unfortunate) fad in the '70s. I was not totally immune, but I still went with 75° parallel angles and a 39.5" wheelbase on my own 26" frame, which left a half-inch of rear tire/seat tube clearance with 19mm tires. That still leaves room for 28mm tires, luckily. Still do not have toe-overlap, either.

Eddy Merckx raced without the benefit of crankset dust caps, so everybody else did, too.

When national team member John Howard had nasal surgery to improve his breathing, everybody joked that he had his nose drilled out...

A local framebuilder and a young racer friend learned the hard way not to drill-out a steerer tube.

Racing wheels were definitely a thing. Before skinny clinchers came out, everybody who was serious rode sew-ups, and most riders who raced had a set of lighter-weight wheels for race days. Sometimes these were too light for the conditions - I heard several California riders around me cursing in the first Vuelta de Bisbee, after their Medalle D' Orr rims got dinged by the railroad tracks just after the start.

Clement made the best sew-ups then, all labeled Criterium Seta (silk):

lightest casing + thinnest tread - 195g
regular casing + thinnest tread - 220g
lightest casing + regular tread - 230g
regular casing + regular tread - 250g

Most folks trained on Clement 290s, labeled Campion del Mundos, iirc. If you were wealthy, and perhaps a bit pretentious, you even had wheel-covers for your racing wheels. Woo-hoo!!

Albert Eisentraut frames were truly works of art, with the finest-feathered lugs imaginable. In the mid '70s, the pantograph silliness had yet to begin. Cinelli had yet to hide their stem bolt, and the only people that had to tape their handlebars with cables underneath (which I still consider a kludge even now that I do it too) had barcons, with only the straight part of the drops having cable underneath the tape.

Tim Wilson won the ('76?) Mt. Lemmon hillclimb on a 17 lb. Speedwell titanium-frame bicycle. John Timbers rode a titanium Teledyne Titan, with an oversize down tube swedged skinnier to accommodate ordinary shifters and cable guides.

In the '70s, there were not yet any internet-educated idiots to tell you that light wheels didn't matter. An acronym ZPG stood for Zero Population Growth, which was actually something people talked about. Environmentalists would hold funerals to bury internal-combustion engines. It was a great time to be alive!

And 50 years later, the hippies were proven to have been right all along. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we fry...
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Old 12-22-23, 01:33 PM
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Funny when one thinks about it today, it was the psyche and gearing. If you wanted to hang with the big dogs, you went with their 53-54t chainrings and small cogs. You thought it would make you fast, but only busted your ego. Lol
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Old 12-22-23, 02:21 PM
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Drillium!
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Old 12-22-23, 02:24 PM
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Originally Posted by chain_whipped
Funny when one thinks about it today, it was the psyche and gearing. If you wanted to hang with the big dogs, you went with their 53-54t chainrings and small cogs. You thought it would make you fast, but only busted your ego. Lol
I ran a 52-49 chainring combo along with a corncob for years back then. Why?! Because I was riding fairly flat terrain and, more importantly, it looked cool!
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Old 12-22-23, 02:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Trakhak
Someone mentioned replacing the Cinelli 1A steel steerer bolt with the aluminum 1R bolt. I hope people knew enough to tighten the expander wedge with the steel bolt and then insert the aluminum bolt to secure the wedge in place.
No, I didn't "know" that! I used alloy stem bolts way back starting with the first one I saw, from Arnold Industries, early '70s. ("AI" meant something different back then)
Never tightened with a steel bolt first, especially since that's impossible, the steel and the alloy bolt have different threads so the cones aren't interchangeable.

Never even heard of one failing before now, your story about your friend. Considering how many pros raced on those for so long, I think if they were breaking we'd have heard about it, and/or the pros would have stopped using them.

7075 T6 aluminum is as strong as some steels, and those bolts are generally larger diameter than typical steel bolts. Almost certainly stronger than the bolts on some cheap stems. I have no qualms trusting them with my life.

How your friend managed to break one I don't know, but I'm not going to change my ways based on one anecdote. Did he have the break examined by an engineer? Any pics? I try to learn something from every broken part
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Old 12-22-23, 02:50 PM
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Originally Posted by AdventureManCO
I've got some of those very same 'Ace' pedals on the 'H' bike, w/ the titanium spindles. While they don't provide the biggest footprint, they are insanely light, right around 140-150g per pair.
I was surprised to see Bob use them but he was all in on how light they were.

I think he had that bike down to 17lbs.
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Old 12-22-23, 03:04 PM
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Cyclists in the 1970s and 80s were a pretty conservative lot. That is why Campagnolo was so popular. It always worked day after day despite being 10 years behind in technology.
Catalogs of the day generally offered 3 levels of groups. Nuovo , Record and Super record. I don’t remember if those were the exact names used to describe the 3 levels but the middle level deleted many of the titanium spindles and such from the Super record group. Most racers in practice used the group without the overly light parts because the top group was perceived not to be as reliable. Reliability was of upmost importance.

Just my 2 cents.
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Old 12-22-23, 03:08 PM
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Ditch the Campy brake blocks for Scott Mathauser shoes. Which looked exactly like what you can now buy from Kool Stop.
Add toe strap end buttons so you can tighten your straps for the sprint. Don’t forget to trim the toe straps to the shortest useable length.
Another post mentioned removing a bearing on each race. That was frequently done on track wheels but I never saw it done on road wheels. And if you’re gonna do that, you might as well remove the dust covers from the hubs. This does mean that you will have to use a little grease to hold the bearing in during assembly but it gets flushed out once the is together. Just remember to add some oil to each race before every ride.

Last edited by Mr. Spadoni; 12-22-23 at 03:57 PM.
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Old 12-22-23, 03:39 PM
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Originally Posted by embankmentlb
Cyclists in the 1970s and 80s were a pretty conservative lot. That is why Campagnolo was so popular. It always worked day after day despite being 10 years behind in technology.
Catalogs of the day generally offered 3 levels of groups. Nuovo , Record and Super record. I don’t remember if those were the exact names used to describe the 3 levels but the middle level deleted many of the titanium spindles and such from the Super record group. Most racers in practice used the group without the overly light parts because the top group was perceived not to be as reliable. Reliability was of upmost importance.
Probably true for some guys but the only thing keeping me from using SR Ti stuff was cost. As a poor bike frame builder, I just couldn't justify the cost, except when I got cast-off or hand-me-down stuff from customers or wealhier teammates. Then I used it without qualms. Or if not SR exactly, often cheaper aftermarket stuff like OMAS Ti-spindle BBs. Definitely strong enough for me, a clydesdale-sized sprinter, so probably strong enough for you too.

Yes Laurent Fignon did famously manage to break a SR Ti BB spindle, and that's extremely rare with the steel spindles, so I'd have to agree that steel was more reliable. But I was happy to settle for "reliable enough" if it was that much lighter. Many racers chose less reliable stuff for racing, such as the lightest tubular tires. We had a local guy who always won his age group at Masters Nationals if he finished, which was about half the time because he often flatted his stupid-light tires.

BTW I think the 3 gruppi you're remembering were Gran Sport, NR and SR. NR and Record referred to the same gruppo, which Campy referred to as "Record" (see catalog scan below). The gruppo we call NR consisted of almost all Record parts, with only two major components being actually NR, namely the rear derailer and the bottom bracket. Not the whole crankset mind you, which was still called Record. Just the cups and spindle of the BB were NR.



Nowadays we mostly refer to the gruppo as NR to distinguish it from the later stuff named Record. Ironic that Nuovo means "new" in Italian but it means "old" in Campy parts.
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Old 12-22-23, 03:40 PM
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Originally Posted by nlerner
Most of us who were actively riding back then weren’t racing. In 1986, I built my first wheel: a tubular rim laced to a Sturmey-Archer 3-speed hub, which I used to commute to my job at the bike shop, as well as to leave at the Menlo Park, CA, Caltrain station for my commute to San Jose, where I went to grad school. I had various cheap bikes stashed at that train station, and learned that bike thieves will steal something cheap if you use a cheap lock. I don’t remember the frame I mounted that wheel to, but I did have a Trek 412, which I purchased new from Palo Alto Bicycles in Dec 1982 to use for road riding. I don’t recall changing any of the stock components on that bike; they all worked well enough for my purposes, and by 1984 I wasn’t riding it much as I had had a head-on collision with another cyclist on Stanford’s campus which bent the top and downtube. It didn’t handle very well after that (and was eventually stolen at the MP Caltrain station).

Wow, I’m impressed - hanging on to the receipt for 40+ years.
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Old 12-22-23, 03:44 PM
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I am in my early 50's so my "era" falls mid to late 1980's.
"Trick" was panto parts, aluminum toe clips, "crit" bars, titanium crank bolts and silk sew-ups. Drillium was on it's way out by then, and everyone that I knew was just waiting for some major break through, you could only go so light with what we had to work with.

For example, one of my older brothers had 28 hole Ambrosio Synthesis Durex rims laced to NR hubs and "silks", his wheelset was pretty exotic for it's day in that he was riding 28's
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Old 12-22-23, 04:24 PM
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As alluded to above, the top of the line Campy groups of 60s into 70s was mostly a derailleur thing, the chrome plated bronze “Record” was introduced in 1963, it evolved into “Nuovo Record” in 1967 when derailleur became constructed of aluminum, and then became “Super Record” in 1974 with the addition of titanium bolts (to the derailleur). All these were the classic embossed metal with raised lettering and dimples. Pick your era, then pick your components if you are striving for “period correct.”

Last edited by Markeologist; 12-22-23 at 04:44 PM.
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Old 12-22-23, 04:31 PM
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Originally Posted by bulgie
Probably true for some guys but the only thing keeping me from using SR Ti stuff was cost. As a poor bike frame builder, I just couldn't justify the cost, except when I got cast-off or hand-me-down stuff from customers or wealhier teammates. Then I used it without qualms. Or if not SR exactly, often cheaper aftermarket stuff like OMAS Ti-spindle BBs. Definitely strong enough for me, a clydesdale-sized sprinter, so probably strong enough for you too.

Yes Laurent Fignon did famously manage to break a SR Ti BB spindle, and that's extremely rare with the steel spindles, so I'd have to agree that steel was more reliable. But I was happy to settle for "reliable enough" if it was that much lighter. Many racers chose less reliable stuff for racing, such as the lightest tubular tires. We had a local guy who always won his age group at Masters Nationals if he finished, which was about half the time because he often flatted his stupid-light tires.

BTW I think the 3 gruppi you're remembering were Gran Sport, NR and SR. NR and Record referred to the same gruppo, which Campy referred to as "Record" (see catalog scan below). The gruppo we call NR consisted of almost all Record parts, with only two major components being actually NR, namely the rear derailer and the bottom bracket. Not the whole crankset mind you, which was still called Record. Just the cups and spindle of the BB were NR.



Nowadays we mostly refer to the gruppo as NR to distinguish it from the later stuff named Record. Ironic that Nuovo means "new" in Italian but it means "old" in Campy parts.
I am speaking somewhat out of just what I read in advertisements and talking to others. The truth is a never actually touched a piece of Campy until 1987.
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Old 12-22-23, 05:36 PM
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Mid 1970’s-

Campagnolo superleggera pedals.
Cinelli saddle, later, Sella Italia Superleggera.
TA alloy waterbottle cage. (The welded version)
stealth- Campagnolo Superleggero seatpost, $10 less than Super Record and nearly as light.

race wheels, approx 300 gram rims, Clement Criterium Seta 250’s, 32 spoke wheels if you could find the rims.

at every race, fresh white handlebar tape. Just like Eddy.

‘after I won races, 350-400 gram rims, Clement 260 cottons or 275 gram silks. Gotta finish to win.

I watched other go drill wild on a parts. One guy slotted his sugino cranks, think two 1/4 wide slots with a 3/4” interruption. He broke a crank at the start of the Long Beach Grand Prix 1975. He was fit and could have been there.


on the track-
Clement #3’s or #1’s 10 atm’s
weight? Did not matter except for pursuiting.
I think my track bike weighs 18#+, Cinelli steel stem and bars, the bars were old, no more current production in 1975, one could get new stems.
‘Only bested in one final that year. Gibby Hatton coaching Mark Whitehead, payback for putting Gibby out in a miss-n-out race.
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Old 12-22-23, 05:56 PM
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Originally Posted by repechage
Mid 1970’s-

Campagnolo superleggera pedals.
Cinelli saddle, later, Sella Italia Superleggera.
TA alloy waterbottle cage. (The welded version)
stealth- Campagnolo Superleggero seatpost, $10 less than Super Record and nearly as light.

race wheels, approx 300 gram rims, Clement Criterium Seta 250’s, 32 spoke wheels if you could find the rims.

at every race, fresh white handlebar tape. Just like Eddy.

‘after I won races, 350-400 gram rims, Clement 260 cottons or 275 gram silks. Gotta finish to win.

I watched other go drill wild on a parts. One guy slotted his sugino cranks, think two 1/4 wide slots with a 3/4” interruption. He broke a crank at the start of the Long Beach Grand Prix 1975. He was fit and could have been there.


on the track-
Clement #3’s or #1’s 10 atm’s
weight? Did not matter except for pursuiting.
I think my track bike weighs 18#+, Cinelli steel stem and bars, the bars were old, no more current production in 1975, one could get new stems.
‘Only bested in one final that year. Gibby Hatton coaching Mark Whitehead, payback for putting Gibby out in a miss-n-out race.
For decades, every time I've ridden one of my usual routes through a neighborhood in Pikesville, MD, and have seen a sign for Hatton St., I've thought, "Gibby!" It's annoying, actually.
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Old 12-22-23, 05:59 PM
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In the 1970's and 80's the steel frame design matured to the point that innovation was found in mass producing them with higher quality. Little innovations like brazed-on bits came along but mot much else.

In the 1970's graphite composite frames and aluminum frames became a "thing", as did titanium frames.

What did go through a "revolution" of sorts were the components.

* Shimano Crane and Suntour Cyclone rear derailleurs, for instance.
* Better performing brakes, across the board.
* Sealed bearing helped a LOT (bottom brackets and hubs, in particular).

All that "weight weenie" stuff was nothing but BUNK.

It wasn't "trick" but a good set of light weight wheels has always been prized. That meant tubular tires before high pressure clinchers came along. By the 1980's tubulars were all but gone from non-racing bikes.

Through it all, the BROOKS Pro saddle provided a good foundation.


ETA - I focused on the OP's use of "road bike" rather than "race bike", so I may be off the mark a bit.

Last edited by Bad Lag; 12-23-23 at 11:30 AM.
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Old 12-22-23, 06:00 PM
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Originally Posted by repechage
Campagnolo Superleggero seatpost, $10 less than Super Record and nearly as light.
The only Superleggera seatposts I weighed were slightly lighter than the same-era two-bolt SR. I think they thickened the wall slightly to compensate for the grooves. You can for all practical purposes consider them the same weight.

Same with SR "drilled" brake levers (actually punched not drilled). Just slightly heavier than the undrilled Record lever blades.
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Old 12-22-23, 06:16 PM
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Originally Posted by bulgie
The only Superleggera seatposts I weighed were slightly lighter than the same-era two-bolt SR. I think they thickened the wall slightly to compensate for the grooves. You can for all practical purposes consider them the same weight.

Same with SR "drilled" brake levers (actually punched not drilled). Just slightly heavier than the undrilled Record lever blades.
I think the biggest difference came with the aluminum lower saddle rail cradles, but those were weird, not every SR post had them.
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Old 12-22-23, 06:23 PM
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Originally Posted by MooneyBloke
I think of the Benotto tape as a late 80s thing though. I still remember doing that two color weave thing that was a trend then. It was annoyingly difficult if you ran mod 65 bars with aero routed brake cables as I did.
It started in the mid '70s and was out of favor by '88 or so. Bike Ribbon padded tape became big around then.
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Old 12-22-23, 07:30 PM
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In the So Cal 80's , If you had one of these stickers on your bike you went Faster.. . Much FASTER .

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Old 12-22-23, 07:31 PM
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Interesting to see all the little regional and national variations, idiosyncrasies and application of The Knowledge across this thread.

Cinelli 1/r stems had aluminium expander bolts out of the box. Working for a national distributor 1984-1998 I can’t recall ever getting a 1/r expander bolt back, unlike the stem forgings themselves which very occasionally cracked.

Brooks saddles were non-existent on racing bicycles in New Zealand by 1985. It was all Sele Italia Turbos and San Marco Concors, occasionally the Superleggera/SL aluminium-railed versions. Rolls and Regal followed soon after.

Putting aside the evolution of integrated brake/shift levers, hydraulic disc brakes, electronic shifting and carbon fibre frames, perhaps the biggest difference between then and now is that no two racing bicycles were the same. With virtually every bicycle starting as a frame only, and built up part-by-part from a vast selection of carryover and new options, each creation reflected the preferences, budget and style of its owner.

As a national distributor, we’d think nothing of splitting up hubsets, rims and even boxes of spokes so a particular customer could build a 28h front Mavic GEL280 with 15/16g spokes and 32h rear GL330 with 14/15g race day wheelset, because we knew we could reorder individual hubs and rims from the factories, and that they would be unchanged next year, and they were unchanged from last year. From the outside looking in nowadays it seems the extent of variation is little more than a race day set of wheels, selected tyres and preferred saddle/pedals, with even handlebar and stem variations increasingly unobtainable or punitively priced.
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Old 12-22-23, 08:04 PM
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Bikes: 1959 Capo Modell Campagnolo; 1960 Capo Sieger (2); 1962 Carlton Franco Suisse; 1970 Peugeot UO-8; 1982 Bianchi Campione d'Italia; 1988 Schwinn Project KOM-10;

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Don't forget those aluminum minimalist front skewers from hi-E. (Or maybe do forget them, if you care about keeping your front wheel on while riding. My vote for the most questionable attempt at weight reduction.)
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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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