Modern Vintage: Finding Perfection With Italian Framebuilding and Japanese Components

The Gilco formulation of Columbus steel was a high-point for frame-building, but the vintage drivetrain of the era left much to be desired. We built up a vintage Colnago Master frame with an assortment of carbon fiber trim and modern components to keep the performance high, and the price down low. A few tricks are required to make the adaptation, but well worth the entry fee.
Photography by Curtis Chen

We have established in this magazine what has been before established, frame design and material matter. Perhaps obvious, but the large sums of money paid to the manufactures of frames are due to the benefits a frame provides the rider. It is much more than just a perch to dangle parts. It acts as a dynamic balancer of compression and tension, acting to absorb the bumps and bruises of a worn road, while not also absorbing the effort put in by the rider.

Of the various options available to the builder, the Columbus steel of the 1980’s offered a rare combination of flexibility and strength that stands the test of time. That cannot be said for -any- carbon or aluminum frame, materials that both suffer from embrittlement and fatigue failure over time. In the case of aluminum, the material has only so many ‘flexes’ before it fails. This is untrue of the steels used in making bicycles. If kept free of corrosion, the material is made for your life and a couple generations after.

Taking these principles as the genesis for this build, the idea was fixed on the pinnacle of late 20th century steel frame building, in this case a Colnago Master frame built with the Gilco formulation of Columbus steel. The sentimental feelings don’t continue onto the drivetrain, where down-tube shifters, ghosting derailleurs and toe-clips are left to the Eroica crowds.

The ‘Golden Nail’ that matches the joys of Italian steel with modern drivetrains is actually an alloy adapter from Profile Design that brings a 1 1 /8″ thread-less stem to the 1″ forks found on most vintage frames. With a $2000 budget, the build mixes 105 and Ultegra with Taiwanese commodity carbon wheels, handlebar and seatpost. Total weight is just a hair under 20 pounds. The ride? Sublime.

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