The One That Got Away......A Molteni Colnago Made for Merckx?
Let me tell you a funny story........
When I was a kid, I was mad for bikes. I am still kind of mad for bikes. Now I am a former mediocre bicycle racer, and all that is behind me. Once I was a young and promising bicycle racer in Indianapolis. It was in that scenario that I had a very special bicycle in my home for two weeks. That bicycle looked exactly like the one in this picture.
There were four people I seem to remember that can attest to this story. Three of them are gone. They would be the legendary Pino Maroni, The legendary Cecil Behringer, the father of the legendary Stetina racing family, Roy Stetina, and an Indianapolis Time Trial specialist and all around great rider, Ralph Brandt.
Ralph had several Behringer bikes. Ralph rode for the Speedway Wheelmen. Construction had begun on the Major Taylor Velodrome and there was much anticipation about track racing returning to Indianapolis. That excitement must have spread up North, because a whole bunch of track bikes were collected up by some guys in Minnesota and driven down to Indianapolis for all the folks needing track bikes in the coming year.
I went to the track every day to see the construction. It was an amazing thing to observe. When they started laying the concrete for the turns, the erected the fence around the facility. I frequently would ride the three miles from my house in the dark so I could jump the fence and practice track stands on the first turn after they put it in. One day I rode by, and the gate was open and there were a bunch of older men there. One of them was Roy Stetina. I rode over to him and asked how his sons were and what was going on. I remember he introduced me to several men about his age. I was such an oblivious young person. I do not know how I have survived.
I later learned that one of the men was Cecil Behringer. I still remember his face because I was told he was an old "Six Day" rider. The fact that he was a Master Frame Builder and a very important bicycling legend was lost on me.
I also remember a man smaller than Mr. Behringer. He was one of the people who gathered all the bikes to bring to Indy. I was told a couple years later that I had met Pino Maroni. My goodness, I was such a foolish kid.
To get back to the bike, I only remember driving to Ralph's house to pick up the bike. I was permitted to bring it home for a couple of weeks while I decided if I wanted to purchase it. There were many bikes to choose from, but I seem to remember Ralph thought this was the bike for me. Let me tell you about this bike. Try to remember that I made a decision then based on the fact I needed a good track bike and I really had no idea what was in my possession.
I rode it around the block a few times, and spent some time with it on the rollers. I remember it was winter and cold. The track (Major Taylor Velodrome) was not completed yet, but I remember jumping the fence with the bike and riding it on the sections that where the concrete had been completed. I was a crazy kid and I had track fever.
The frame itself was amazing. I had never seen a real Molteni team bike, and one was in my basement. There wasn't a spec of chrome on the bike. I remember the cloverleafs on the fork crown, and the fork tangs had all four suits from a playing card cutout and painted blue on the inside of the fork. There were lovely cloverleafs on the top of the seat stays. It looked, to sound like I am telling a tall tale, exactly like the frame in the picture above. The guy holding the bike in the picture above is Ernesto Colnago. There is no way that a bike like this wound up in a kids basement in Indianapolis, Indiana. That would be crazy.
I think about that bike a lot anymore. Here is what I have learned since that bike was in my possession:
Pino Maroni played a part in the technical work done to equip Merckx for his record. He manufactured the titanium stem Eddie used when he set the record in Mexico City.
Several bikes were made for Merckx as he trained for the event.
Eddy Merckx rode a bike around size 57. This was a 57, and had a long top tube.
These points sure make me wonder what I had. I gave the bike back to Ralph. It was too big, and it felt whippy like it had been worn out on the track in Ghent or something.
Not one of my best decisions. Maybe I am not crazy. Indiana was an interesting place to race a bicycle back then. I heard they made a movie about it, and one of the guys I knew back then. Who knows, I've seen crazier things.
Be Well, and Happy New Year!