An Italian steel touring frame by Basso which I bought about 26 years ago to cycle all over Europe and I have been riding it ever since. Back in the day Italian steel frames were the gold standard of craftsmanship. Using the best tubing, the attention to detail and the finish were a long way above the early aluminium frames or any of the comparatively crude stuff German, French and English manufacturers turned out at the time. I knew that when I bought that bike, and customised it by choosing every single component individually. The frame was pricey at the time and since steel frames have turned into something of a boutique item a comparatively well built specimen now costs a small fortune. Front and rear drop outs(the bits on the frame that hold the wheel) are forged steel, the lugs are beautifully hand-filed and brazed onto the tubing. It is Italian Columbus tubing with double butted ends, high strength steel less than 0.5 mm thick. It has something of a racing geometry but all the attachments of a touring frame and fully kitted it still makes for an incredibly sleek, elegant and minimalist look.
Where and how is it used?
I used to cycle long distance trips across Europe when I was younger. Over the last decade and a half however it's turned into a commuter bike. I also use it for week-ends family rides, but really it wants taking out on a big one again.
What did you or someone else pay for it?
The whole bike set me back 2200 Deutsche Mark which by modern standards probably amounts to around 2000 pounds
Why do you want to add it to the museum?
After 26 years of hard (ab)use the bottom tube snapped. Luckily with that kind of brazed frame individual tubes and lugs can be replaced. I sent this bike to Vernon Barker frame makers for repair and they returned a fully restored little gem at a fraction of the price a similar quality hand build frame would cost new. Now I have my Italian frame back with an addition of skilful English craftsmanship, a bike with a story, to which I am accustomed like a part of my body. Here is what Dave from Vernon Barker wrote about fixing it:
"The frame is in good condition and gritblasting showed that the quality of the brazing looked good. It is an unusual frame in that it was clearly designed for touring which is very unusual for a branded Italian frame. I replaced the down tube by cutting the tube at both ends near the head lug and near the bottom bracket shell. I then carefully placed saw cuts into the head lug and then carefully melted the braze holding it to the head tube and peeled the lug away. I removed the stub of tube left in the bottom bracket shell by carefully making internal saw cuts into the remaining piece of tube, carefully melting the braze holding it into the shell and peeling the piece of tube away. I obtained as similar a head lug as is available and modified it to closely match the other head lug. I then mitred the new tube to fit the lug, cut it so it protruded slightly into the bottom bracket shell and brazed it into place. I then shaped the protruding end of the tube inside the bottom bracket shell using a die grinder. I then checked the alignment of the frame in our jig and stress relieved the tubes to bring them into alignment. Finally I added the braze ones, gritblasted, primed and painted the frame, stoved, lacquered and stoved the frame again."
There is also a wider point to be made: Amongst enthusiasts, frame builders and bike mechanics, it has been widely recognised that pretty much across brands, the quality of bike parts has been declining since the mid nineties. People who are after durable gears and components desperately browse the jumble sales where battered rear derailleurs fetch higher prices that their new equivalents. But also the design has taken an unfortunate turn, becoming ever more convoluted without any of the clear lines that could be found on the old components by Campagnolo and Shimano. The life expectancy of new parts is a fraction of the old ones, a perfect illustration how the needs of customers are failed by marketing strategies aiming at continuous and permanent sales.
How was it made?
Is made in a factory
Is produced by local cottage industry
Is made to particular specifications
Is craft / hand-made
Is a service
Materials & Making
Who made or produced your commodity?
Basso Cycles, Italy, repairs by Vernon Barker Cycles UK
Who was paid to make it?
A bicycle frame builder
What skills does it take to make it?
Probably apprenticeship level skills
Where was it made?
Italy with a skilful UK intervention
What does it cost to make it?
Don't know really, materials aren't too expensive but the attention to detail will cost
What is it made from?
cast steel, hand filed to shape
Double butted high strength steel tubing by Columbus
Silver brazing to connect the tubes to the lugs
Buying & Owning
Who decides how much it costs?
Manufacturer, retailer, customer
Who or what assesses its quality?
Manufacturer, retailer customer
Where is it sold?
Good bike shops in the 90s
Who or what sells it?
How did this thing arrive from where it was made to where you got it?
Where is it used?
On the road, for leasure and commuting
Where is it kept?
In a secret spot
How and by whom is it cared for?
How long will it last?
With repairs virtually indefinitely
Where will it go when it's finished with?
What is it worth?
Probably quite a bit of money for a bike
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