My Freschi touring bicycle

Submitted by Jim Zaun on Fri, 03/12/2010 - 19:38

Rare, hand-crafted, 1980s touring bicycle from one of Italy's master builders

Freschi: side view

History. This frame was handcrafted in May 1980 by Emiliano Freschi when he was in his 50s. Before going off on his own, Freschi worked for Sante Pogliaghi, one of the top frame builders in Italy. During his 16 years with Pogliaghi, Freschi became chief engineer and shop foreman. In the mid 70's, Freschi opened his own custom frame shop on the Piazza Gramsci in the North-West section of Milan. While not as well known as Pogliaghi, Freschi was a well respected frame builder creating works of beauty like these examples on Classic Rendezvous. Based on the serial number and year of my frame, it appears that Freschi only built 100-200 frames per year during the 70's and early 80's (compared to Pogliaghi and Colnago at 800-900). More on Freschi the builder here.

Freschi's touring frames (and many of his road frames) had a unique shift cable routing setup. The shift cables were routed above the bottom bracket rather than below via three brazed bosses on either side of the down tube and one on the seat tube. On these bosses three self-centering tunnels were attached via screws to guide the cables. The fastback seat stays, full-sloping fork crown and the clean elegant window lug style reflects Freschi's more modern aesthetic compared to Pogliaghi's. An extra eyelet was brazed onto each of the Campy dropouts.

The frame pictured above was ordered through Bikecology as pictured in this catalog page:

Freschi: Bikecology catalog page

and delivered to me in June 1980. The frame was then immediately sent to Jim Cunningham of CyclArt to be custom painted without decals. The last thing I needed was to advertise that I had an expensive, hand-crafted Italian bike while out touring. This was especially uppermost in my mind after another rider in my San Diego bike club, Kickerbikers, had his Masi stolen while on tour in Baja California. Hence, the frame purposely has no identifiable markings aside from one Columbus decal. The paint color, metallic champagne, was chosen to be the same as my car at the time. CyclArt did a beautiful job with some really nice hand detailing on the window lugs.

Once the frame came back in August 1980, I built up the bike myself from the best touring components available at that time. After doing a number of tours in the rain and snow, I upgraded some of the components in 1983 to deal with wet weather better, hence the bottom bracket, hubs and pedals were all upgraded to the best sealed-bearing components available at that time. Later that year, I toured the entire length of Baja (~1200 miles), and sure enough, one of the riders in our group had his bike stolen after we stopped for something cold to drink at a cantina. Just a few careless minutes was all it took. His bike was never recovered. I'd like to think that my no-name bike saved me from that fate.

The bike has served me well on many bike tours covering thousands of miles during the 80s and early 90s. Despite the number of miles, there is not a single dent and barely a scratch on the frame. I kept the bike in the house up until 2000 when our kids needed their own bedrooms. The bike was then moved to the basement. While the basement protected the bike from the elements, it wasn't quite dry enough to keep the exposed steel parts from rusting somewhat over the past decade. A bike like this deserves a better home. And, it got one, as I sold the bike to a nice, young lady who lives in Oakland, CA on March 11, 2010. She plans to tour with it. I wish her many happy miles enjoying the bike's fine watch-like craftsmanship, smooth ride and beauty as much as I did.

Touring frame #1115 hand-crafted in May 1980 by Emiliano Freschi.

  • 54 cm seat and top tube with relaxed 72° head-tube angle; (75° seat tube).
  • Wheel base 102 cm (40 1/4 inches).
  • Columbus SP double-butted tubing with window lugs;
  • Fastback seat stays;
  • Fender eyelets on chain stay and seat stay bridges;
  • Campagnolo long dropouts with double eyelets, (one braze-on eyelet broke off on the drive-train side). Drop-out spacing: 120 mm front, 126 mm rear.
  • Custom painted in 1980 within weeks of receiving the frame with four-part Sherwin-Williams gold metallic enamel plus clear coat by CyclArt.
  • Color matched Silca Impero tire pump with Silca Presta head.

Touring wheels were rebuilt by yours truly in 1983 as part of a more weather resistant component upgrade.

  • Phil-Wood sealed-bearing hubs;
  • Wider 700c Super Champion clincher rims;
  • Fitted with 32c Specialized Touring II tires (Presta valves);
  • DT Swiss Champion, straight-gauge, stainless-steel spokes (14g rear, 15g front), 3X lacing.

Touring Components are all circa 1983 or before except for the items listed under Upgrades below.

  • Campagnolo Super Record brakes and levers (with recessed alloy center bolts and alloy domed nuts); headset, 27.0 mm seat post (consistent with Columbus SP tubing), and shifters (with black detailing);
  • Phil Wood sealed-bearing bottom bracket;
  • Cinelli Giro d'Italia 38 cm handlebars (measured center-to-center at drops) with sewn-on leather grips and Cinelli 1A stem;
  • Sugino Aero Tour crank and rings 24-34-44;
  • Suntour Superbe Pro sealed-bearing pedals;
  • Suntour Vx front derailleur;
  • Shimano Deore XT M700 rear derailleur (1st generation 1983 model which replaced the original Suntour Cyclone GT);
  • Suntour Winner Ultra-7 freewheel 13-14-15-17-20-22-26 (which still runs well and is very quiet);
  • Avocet Touring II leather saddle;
  • Blackburn black-anodized bottle cage and racks, (SX1 rear, Low Rider front);
  • Kirkland Tourpak panniers; rear ones made with 3M Scotchlite reflective-bead fabric (made only for a short time and now quite rare).

Upgrades made after 1983.

  • Replaced the chain more than once due to wear over the years. The present chain is a SRAM PC-40 chain from the early 90s.
  • Replaced the worn out Christophe steel toe clips with the identical Christophe equivalents.
  • Replaced the worn out original Colnago leather straps with modern Soma leather straps.
  • Replaced the original SR gum lever hoods, which had fallen apart, with some non-SR NOS Campy gray ones that I happened to have on hand.
  • Replaced the rusty dropout adjusters and springs with identical Campy NOS replacements.

More photos of this touring bicycle are listed below: