A few days ago on a visit to the musty cellar of my 1912 Arts & Crafts Style “museum” (as my son calls it), I came upon my dust-covered and long-neglected road bike. This is a vintage 1981 custom-made Leonard that I had made just at the time we bought our first home (with a massive mortgage and 18% interest rates I figured this would be my last spending hurrah for quite a few years!). By 1980 Mr. Leonard was at the tail end of his bike-building career, and without a successor, he retired and closed the shop a couple of years later. This is probably among the last 30 bikes he made. But in the 1960’s and 1970’s, Leo, as he was called, was the preeminent builder of custom-made bikes for Quebec’s racers. In the late 70’s a young whippersnapper named Marinoni immigrated to Canada and began building traditional-style Italian racing bikes that would soon eclipse Leonard, bringing a new level of affordability to high-end bikes through better technology and a larger “factory” as opposed to Leo’s small one-man shop where every bike had to be built by The Master.
The bike features a Columbus SP double-butted chrome-moly frame, mixed Campagnolo Nuovo Record and Galli titanium drivetrain, with Cinelli titanium stem and bars, Nisi heat-treated rims on Campagnolo hubs, ttt seat-post, and lots of nice, yet subtle, artistic touches (notice the beautiful drilled out shifters). And yes, those are “sew up” tires (where the tire and tube are sewn together and the whole thing is glued to a flat rim).
Being Amish at heart, I had asked Leo to keep the bike quite muted and understated in its decoration (when you’re my size, the last thing you want is to attract a lot of attention:-) ). I remember Leo measuring my leg inseam, torso, and arms pretty much as the tailor of a fine suit would.
I rode this bike very heavily from 1981 to about 1995 when I got into serious mountain biking. It has lain dormant in my cellar since 1995. The boys at Paul’s Cycle in Pointe-Claire did a wondeful cleanup job last week, stripping it down and reassembling it with fresh bearings and grease. I rode it for the first time the day-before-yesterday, and was amazed at how smooth and silent it is…as well as how “twitchy” it feels in comparison to my mountain bike and Electra Amsterdam.
All pictures taken with my new Apple iPhone….reproduced here at half their native resolution. Not too bad!!!