03 March 2013

Mondonico Criterium: A Beginning And An End

From looking at this blog and my bikes, you have probably figured out that my favorite color is purple.

Today, I'm going to write about my first purple bike.

From what I'm told, Antonio Mondonico himself built this bike back in 1992.  I got new around Christmas of that year.  At that time, many of the Italian "master" builders like Mondonico and Colnago were still building their own bikes, though some were raced with the names of teams or sponsors on them.

This was the fourth Italian bike I owned, if I recall correctly.  Although I went through a period in which I would ride nothing but Italian bikes (the Mondonico was part of it), I was never entirely convinced of the Italian mystique, though the bikes I had were quite good.

There were two ways in which this bike stood out from the other Italian bikes I've owned and ridden.  One of them is in the finish and details.  Some Italian bikes were quite pretty; others were garish (like the Gios, in my opinion) and others simply gaudy.  My Mondonico was, I thought, distinctive and surprisingly crisp for a purple Italian bike.  The lugwork was very sharp-edged, and the outlines were clear.  And, the paint was not only pretty; it seemed to hold up better than the paint on other Italian bikes I had.

The other way this bike distinguished itself--from my other Italian bikes (and, for that matter, other bikes I've owned) is in its handling.  If I'm not mistaken, it had slightly steeper angles than other road bikes I've owned.  In fact, its geometry was remarkably similar to a track bike I would acquire about a year after I got the Mondonico.  A post about that bike is coming soon.

Its geometry meant that this bike was intended for criteriums: the sorts of races in which large numbers of riders pedal through a short course of closed-off city streets.  The length of the race is usually determined by the number of laps or the time; in either event, a "crit" typically lasts an hour or less.  

The Mondonico had what one might expect of such a bike:  quick acceleration and snappy handling.  I used to have a lot of fun riding it in Prospect and Central Parks (where I raced it a few times), and on similar kinds of courses. However, it wasn't the most comfortable of bikes on longer rides, even after I changed the seatpost to one with more setback than the one I originally had and fiddled with the saddle position.

Also, the Mondonico was a smaller size (53.5 cm, if I recall correctly) than my previous racing bikes, as I wanted a shorter top tube.  However, I think using a longer seat post than I used on previous bikes exacerbated the strain the steep seat angle created on my thigh and shin ligaments.  That would also be part of the reason why I would sell this bike after about three and a half years, when I realized that criterium-type races would never be the "main event" of my cycling life.

One other way which this bike is noteworthy, at least for me, is that while it was my first purple bike, it was also the last I rode with tubular (sew-up) tires.  In addition to the sew-ups, I had a set of clinchers for this bike; they were the wheels I rode most of the time.  When I sold the Mondonico, I also sold my last pair of tubular wheels and tires.

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