The Masi Gran Criterium

Steve Maas, Long Beach, California

June, 2004

The Masi GC

It seems like an obligation for every classic-bike enthusiast to have at least one Masi, sometime in his life. I decided that, for me, now is the "sometime."

Suddenly, in June of this month, several classic Masi GCs showed up on the world's greatest classic-bike marketplace, eBay. Virtually all of them were between 58 and 60 cm in size, just right for me. So, I had my pick.

A couple of the bikes were exquisite--really, collector's items. Perhaps paradoxically, I chose not to bid on them. Not because they would have been expensive, but because I don't really want a bike that I can't touch, to say nothing of ride, for fear of damaging it in some way. I'd rather have something that isn't a museum piece. Then, I can ride and work on it in comfort.

So, that's what I got. This bike has really been used. It's been a working bike, which is what, in my opinion, a bike should be. It's also a project, to get it precisely into the shape that I want. 














One of the axioms of the classic-bike business is that even very old bikes usually don't show a lot of wear, because people just don't ride them much. This bike never heard that axiom. It clearly has been ridden--a lot. The components, as I received it, were an eclectic mix of Shimano and Campagnolo parts, everything from a Shimano XT rear derailleur to a Shimano 600 headset to a modern Campagnolo (Chorus?) crank. Together, the components were virtually a bicycle history lesson from the late 70s almost to the present.

The components showed quite a bit of wear and were pretty grungy. It was obvious that they would have to be removed to get everything spruced up. Also, I planned to refit it with period components, so it would have the overall appearance and "feel" of a period bike. 

The frame has the "MC58" marking on the bottom bracket, indicating a 58 cm Carlsbad frame. The serial no. is 160, making it a fairly early frame. See Greg Fletcher's Masi Lore page for more on dating Masis. There is also a serial-number chart on the Classics Rendezvous section on Masis. These data give the frame a late 1973 or maybe early 1974 manufacture date. The previous owner said it was a 1975; it's possible that it was bought that late, or that this is an example of the inherent uncertainties in dating a 30-year-old bicycle. 

The bike had been repainted about five years earlier, and the paint and frame artwork were still in remarkably good condition. The paint job was competently done, although a little thick. Masis look best with a lighter weight paint, which shows off the fine finish work around the lugs. Still, it's fine for now.

I had thought that the small labels on the seat tube were rotated 90 degrees from their correct positions. I was assured by local Masi experts, however, that they were installed in both orientations, so this is OK. 

Here are some pictures of the bike as I received it. Click on a thumbnail to see a larger version of each picture; use the back button of your browser to return to this page.

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As soon as I bought the bike, even before I received it, I started buying components for it. I bought a Super Record crank and Nuovo Record rear derailleur on eBay, complemented by a Nuovo Record front derailleur that I already had in my parts stash. I have a nice set of wheels, which I built for my Olmo project, but I'm not sure the Campagnolo high-flange hubs are right for a Masi. In fact, probably a set of (sigh!) tubulars would be most appropriate. I also like the Phil Wood hubs that came with the bike, and I plan to restore the rust-pitted hub to near-new status.

I discovered, in stripping the frame, that the cartridge bottom bracket had a nonstandard spline: 18 splines instead of the usual Shimano pseudo-standard 20. I could find no reference to such a BB in my Bartlett's manuals. Finally I checked with a local bike mechanic, who identified it as a Phil Wood BB. Makes sense, in view of the Phil Wood hubs. Knowing this, I found quite a bit of information on it in my 1980 copy of Sloane's book, indicating that it is more or less period-correct for a mid-70s bike. Fortunately, Bike Tools Etc. sells an inexpensive remover for it. I ordered one. 

Pulling the fork, I noticed that the fork S/N matches the frame, always a good sign on a Masi. 

I began by cleaning the frame with alcohol and naptha, where needed, then touching up the few chips that I could find. I then polished it with auto cleaner-polish. Cleaning around the plates of the fork took a little work with a Q-tip. I disassembled the wheels and started work on the hubs. The rear hub required only cleaning and polishing, but the front hub needed a little more effort. I chucked it in my lathe, and sanded it until the rust and pitting were gone. I then gave it a coat of nickel with my brush-plating equipment. Because of the large area, the plating took a fair amount of time. The result was pretty nice; it looks good, and I don't think it will rust again. I may yet make up a set of wheels with these hubs; as 1970s boutique components, they seem right for a Masi. Or, I may use them for something else. 

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First Build

July 3 came along. Our monthly classic-bike ride through Pasadena was scheduled for July 4, and the theme for the ride was American bikes! At the same time, a bunch of parts I ordered just happened to show up on July 3. The urge to ride it on the 4th was irresistible, so I spent all day getting it into ridable shape. I used my set of high-flange Tipo wheels and borrowed a seat and seatpost from another bike. Everything else was a recent purchase or something from my parts stash. Not always parts that I wanted to leave on it permanently, but Sunday morning it was ready to roll!

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There are some things I need to change. The nice, Cinelli stem is really too long for me, and the C-record brake levers don't quite do it either. I decided that I do like the high-flange hubs on this bike, so maybe they'll stay. The yellowed plastic coating on the brake-pad guides is ugly, so it will have to go, too. (They're actually C-record pads, but without the coating, they look pretty much like any older Campagnolo pads.) The pedals are actually MKS, a Japanese Campy copy. They look OK at a glance, but I'd like to have real, period, Italian pedals. Finally, although the Shimano headset is a nice unit, I'd like to install a Campagnolo headset instead. 

The bike got mixed reviews. Most people thought it was striking. One of our group, who is fundamentally opposed to repainting bikes, predictably was not terribly impressed. The twin-plate fork crown was met with approval. I do like the red Benotto bar tape; it really looks slick.  

Second Build

A bit of an overstatement, perhaps. I wasn't entirely happy with the bike's configuration, slapped together as it was, so I scrounged around eBay awhile and came up with some more appropriate components. These included a seat, seatpost, headset, and brake levers. I found a shorter Cinelli stem among my collection of older parts. After some consideration, I decided to leave the existing Shimano 600 headset in place. It's a good-quality unit, it fits the steering tube, and there's always the chance of an imperfect fit with a new one. The Nuovo Record headset that I bought will go fine in some future project. I started with a San Marco Rolls seat. It's not 70s-era, but it still has a classic appearance. I eventually scored a nice Cinelli Unicanitor, which is now installed. I decided to leave the existing wheels for now. They actually look pretty nice; high-flange hubs always add an elegant touch, regardless of the type of bike they're on. I eventually found some Nuovo Record pedals to replace the MKS ones. 

Below are some pictures of the bike with some of these new components. The later ones, the pedals and Unicanitor seat, were added after these pictures were taken. For now, I consider it finished. Or, at least as "finished" as any of my bike projects get.

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