I have a complete and utter love of old steel bicycles. I’ve owned several, and often find myself in posession of more than one at a time.
One of my all-time favorites is an old Bianchi Axis that I acquired from my good buddy D., down by Cheverly, near D.C.. I came upon this several years ago – maybe as much as 6 or 7 now, and I have held onto this bike through many chages in my personal stable.
Pic above – not mine – off the web. This is the only other pic of the same bike from the same time that I have ever been able to find. I’m sure the bike isn’t “rare” per se, but it certainly doesn’t appear to be your garden-variety, easily found bike or frame.
About this bike – I believe it to truly be one of the earlier cyclocross bikes. This model still exists for Bianchi and it is their dedicated ‘cross model. This one has the cables running on the top of the top tube, in typical cross fashion. It is made of Bianchi Superset tubing, double-butted and lugged, and was constructed in Japan. This model is black with interesting decals of shades of pink,purple, celeste, and teal. It also has an interesting seat-post size at 26.8 instead of the standard 27.2. My mechanic and I think that is because the tubing is thicker in order to take more abuse. It came to me orignally with its original Bianchi branded tires on it – 700X45 Knobbies. It also did not have fenders and also had interesting paddle-style, SIS shifters which attached to handlebars right near the brakes. (I was finally able to date the shifters to 1992, which I believe is the year of origin for the bike, as Sun Tour went out of business in 1994.The shifters are called Commander shifters.)
I initially pulled off the knobby tires, put on 700×32 Panaracers, installed fenders, and rode it like that for a while. It was my companion down the C & O canal for 75 miles one trip. I changed out stems, putting on a shorter one, and then rode it some more in that configuration.
Recently, I decided to run it in more of a cyclocross mode again, so I pulled off the fenders, put on some Schwalbe Smart Sams in 700X40 knobby and some thorn-proof tires. It’s been great fun to ride this one this way. I took it out on some gravel on on the York Heritage Rail Trail and I also plan on riding it in the gravel/logging roads in Michaux State Forest, which is near my home.
I decided to get a bit of a tune up done to the bike – the brakes were squealing pretty badly and I thought they could use some adjusting- so I sent the bike in to the nice folks at Hub City in Hagerstown – I got a phone call some days later – the washers holding the pads onto the brakes had disintegrated in their hands when they went to work on the brakes – what would I like them to do?
Choices, Choices, Choices.
I ended up putting new brakes on baord – I figured for 25 year old brakes, they’d done their job and didn’t owe me anything. I put new Tektro cantis on the bike, and life was good.
The bike is now ready to be run another multiple thousand miles. I’m looking forward to many more miles on this excellent old steel bike.
Get some miles in this weekend if you can.