19 February 2014

It Wasn't Eddy's Bike

Ever since I started cycling, I've heard no end of debates about which frame tubing is "best." And, as long as I continue cycling, I'll probably never hear the end of such arguments.

Of course, for the first two decades or so I was a dedicated cyclist, nearly all frames were made of steel.  Even after other frame materials such as aluminum, titanium and carbon fiber first came onto the market, it took about a decade for them to appear in European pelotons.

So, in my youth, the Great Tubing Debate was mainly one of Reynolds vs. Columbus.  A few cyclists preferred Tange, Ishiwata or Vitus tubing, but nearly anyone who had a custom frame built--or simply had any pretensions of being a "serious" cyclist--chose Reynolds or Columbus.

Deep down, I always knew that it made only so much difference.  All of the tubings I mentioned are of high quality and can therefore be built into light, responsive and sturdy bikes.  The design and build quality of the frame matter far more than which company's metal is used.

The bike about which I am going to write today helped me to learn that lesson.

Back in the 1970's and '80's, a Mexican bicycle company called Windsor made a frame and bike called the "Profesional."  (Note the Spanish spelling, with one "s".)  If the decals were removed, most people would have had trouble telling it apart from the work of De Rosa, Colnago and other legendary Italian bike makers.

Like its old-world counterparts, the Profesional featured Columbus SL tubes (SP on the larger-size frames) joined with long-point lugs.  The Profesional even had the sunset-orange finish (which I have always liked a lot) of the De Rosas and Colnagos Eddy Mercx and his Molteni team rode to victories in the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and just about every other race you can think of.

As a matter of fact, in 1972, Mercx broke the hour record on a Colnago painted in that color, but covered with Windsor decals.  That ride in the Mexico City velodrome probably was the first time cyclists outside Mexico knew that Windsor bicycles existed.

A complete Windsor Profesional bicycle with Campagnolo Record components could be had for about half the cost of a Colnago, DeRosa or other Italian iron.  The Profesional frame was available for about a third, or even less, than what one of those old-world steeds cost.

Not long after I bought my Colnago Arabesque, I acquired a somewhat-used Profesional frame with a seatpost and headset for $100, a good price even then.  It became one of my "parts bin bikes":  clincher wheels with Shimano 600 hubs, Sun Tour dearilleurs and Sugino cranks and, perhaps incongruously, Mafac 2002 centerpull brakes.

Aside from the fact that they were in my parts box, there was another reason I used those brakes:  They were gold anodized.  You can just imagine how they looked on the sunset-orange frame. And, oh yes, I installed a brown Ideale saddle and wrapped the bars with a brown leather tape Cannondale sold at the time.  That tape was one of two items I bought for the bike:  The bottom bracket that I used with the Sugino crank on another bike was made to fit an English-threaded bike, but the Windsor was built to Italian specifications.  

So how did it ride?  Well, this is where I come back to my point about frame tubing:  Although it was built from the same materials as the Colnago I'd just recently bought and the Gitane Professional I would later acquire, the ride did not compare with either.  The Windsor was at least as stiff as either but its rigidity felt more like that of a bike made of heavier materials.  In other words, it felt "dead" and not very responsive.  My perception didn't change when I swapped the wheels for the best set of tubulars (with sew-up tires) I owned at the time.  

I don't know why the ride was so unpleasant:  If I recall correctly, the wheelbase and angles were the same as (or close to) those of the Colnago.  As far as I could tell, the fit was about the same on both bikes, and I used handlebars and stems with the same dimensions as the ones on my Arabesque.  

For a season, the Windsor Profesional was my commuter and "rainy day" bike, though I did take it on a couple of long-distance fair-weather rides.  Some might say I needed more time to develop a mutually supportive relationship with the bike but the Colnago, Gitane, my Mercians and other bikes I've owned felt "right" to me immediately, even before I'd become acclimated to their particular idiosyncrasy.    So, the parts on the bike went back to my bin--for use on the next frame I would acquire--and I sold my Windsor Profesional for $50 more than what I originally paid for it.      



  1. I've lusting after a new bike. I've had my very lovely tourer for eight years and have done much with it. I can't put a cover on the chain & the rear basket makes getting on quite tricky. The bike is used for commuting rather than touring now. I recently trialled a step through frame from I company I admire. Their mixte and diamond frames are lovely so I hoped the step through would be too.

    Not so. Just not comfortable, varied the saddle height, handlebar reach, still just not right. It confirmed how much I love my bike & that I don't want to change.

  2. Accord--How does the saying go? If it ain't broke, don't fix it. (I should follow my own advice, right?)

    Dan--It's actually easier, in a lot of ways, than I thought. I started with Tom Cuthbertson's "Anybody's Bike Book."


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  4. Nice article. I think it is useful and unique article. I love this kind of article and this kind of blog. I have enjoyed it very much. Thanks for your website.
    Carbon bike wheels

  5. Just floating around a few sites when I came across this page. I have a 1974 Windsor Profesional that I bought with a good chunk of my summer earnings when I started college in the same year, attracted by the price and the similarity to the Cinelli bikes that were well beyond my wallet at that time. In addition to years of club rides I also fitted the bike with a rear rack, panniers and a front handlebar bag and made several tours of Europe and the UK. I purchased the frame only and then had the local shop build it up with first generation Dura-Ace. After a couple of decades in my parent's basement, I had my old friend professionally restored at Velocolour. Too bad I can't post a picture here because it looks better than when it was new. I always enjoyed riding the bike and I still do more than 40 years later.

  6. Mark--The Windsor Pro was a good frame. It just wasn't right for me. If you like the ride--or cherish the memories the bike holds for you--keep on riding it!

    Thanks for stopping by.