Old Bloke On An Old Bike

The story of the restoration of a 1950s classic bicycle for a Land's End – John O'Groats charity ride in aid of Alzheimer's Society

15 May 2015: The joy of cycling museums!


I’m very lucky – I have lots of opportunity to travel for work. I’m writing this in Italy, where I’ve made a detour to Florence to visit the Museo “Gino Bartali”, in the small town of Ponte a Ema across the Arno from the city. Gino Bartali was born in Ponte a Ema and was one the great road race cyclists in the 1930s-1950s.


He was overall winner of the Tour de France in 1938 and 1948,  and the Giro d’Italia in 1936, 1937 and 1946. During World War II he was involved with the Italian Resistance and helped many Jewish people avoid persecution from the Nazis, becoming quite a national hero.



I was shown around the museum by (I think) its president, who had known Bartali well in his last years. The museum is run by a group of volunteers, with little or no public funding. It has several of Bartali’s own bikes, all in his yellow livery, and many trophies, jerseys, etc.


Bartali was one of the pioneers of derailleur gearing in road racing and the museum has a large collection of strange old bicycle transmission systems. After having spent so much time struggling with old gearing systems, I was fascinated. Some examples – the Campagnolo Corsa, Vittoria Margherita, Cervino, etc. – and a Simplex Competition ‘suicide’ shifter, like the one on my Ellis-Briggs…


Campagnola Corsa gears – late 1940s


Cervino gearing – late 1940s


Vittoria Margherita gearing 19 30s


Vittoria gearing on a 1930s Bianchi

Also some lovely details like these Legnano pedals – and note the laminated wooden wheel rims also…


There’s also quite a bit of truly bizarre experimental stuff like these weird adjustable-length cranks and an elaborate mechanism for a disabled rider with limited leg movement…

StrangeCranks StrangeCranks2


This entry was posted on May 15, 2015 by in The bike and tagged , , .
%d bloggers like this: