Life

Back to the Future

A common paradoxical thought experiment poses the question:
What happens when an immovable object meets an irresistible force?

This was the kind of question Jim Gerpheide set out to answer when he hatched the idea for this no-holds-barred Masi Speciale Corsa Crono custom build. He learned that when traditional Italian craftsmanship (the immovable object) met the most technologically advanced component groupset on the market (the irresistible force), it results in a beautiful orange supernova of a bike that simultaneously celebrates the past while excitedly looking to the future.

Although the bike is built in the restomod hotrod style, this Masi is not vintage. It’s brand new. Jim reached out to Alberto Masi through Facebook to see if the legendary framebuilder could make his dream a reality. To Jim’s delight, Masi was happy to build it for him. Alberto is the 76-year-old son of founder Faliero Masi, the man that started the company. Faliero built race bikes for some of the biggest names in cycling, including Fausto Coppi, Jacques Anquetil, and Eddy Merckx. Today, Alberto still works in the original shop his father set up at the Vigorelli Velodrome in Milan, Italy. 

Jim’s love of Masi bikes goes back to the years when Masi set up a framebuilding shop in Carlsbad, California in 1973. Expert Masi framebuilder, Mario Confente, ran the shop and hired a young Californian framebuilder named Brian Baylis to work with him. Baylis went on to become one of the most celebrated lugged steel framebuilders of his generation. As a massive fan of both Brian and Mario’s work, this new Masi serves as a tribute to both, but it is not a museum piece. Jim rides it regularly on both tarmac and gravel roads.

His most recent adventure on the bike was at Eroica California, an event that invites vintage bike owners to ride some of the most beautiful roads on the Central Californian coast. The bike has hundreds of miles on it already. When we approached Jim about taking some photos of his bike he said, “It’d be good to get some good photos of it before I crash it the first time.” 

Gerpheide lives in San Luis Obispo (SLO), California—the same town where SRAM designs, prototypes, and tests its cranks, chainrings, bottom brackets, and front derailleurs. To build the bike, Jim reached out to Sandy Bohn at his local bike shop haunt, Flanders Bicycle in SLO. 

While assembling the bike, in addition to the mind-bendingly precise cutouts found on the chainstays and fork blades, Sandy was delighted to find hidden framebuilding gems throughout. Details that he would be the last one to see before the bike was complete—carved playing card suit symbols instead of standard round vent holes at tube joints. A spade is cut into the headtube where the downtube meets it, and a club is carved into the headtube where the top tube is attached. A heart is cut into the seat tube where it meets the top tube, and a diamond is cut into the bottom bracket shell where the downtube attaches. 

It should go without saying that Jim is the kind of guy that sweats the details. This includes his drivetrain choice. Before selecting the 1x RED eTap AXS drivetrain, Jim pored over gear charts to ensure he would have every gear he needed to ascend the steep, but relatively short climbs nearby. He was happy to report that his 40t chainring and 10-33 cassette setup worked great for the 74-mile (119K) Eroica course with 5750ft (1750m) of climbing that included 20 miles (32.2K) of gravel with some steep technical sections. He commented, “I can always switch to a 38 [tooth chainring] if I need to later.”

And should he ever get the itch to build the bike with full vintage mechanical components, he had shifter bosses brazed to the downtube and cable guides to the top of the Italian threaded bottom bracket shell. 

Ultimately however, this bike is about having fun and inspiring others, “Steel frames bring me back to the days when I first started riding back in the 1970's.” Jim said. “The frames are like art and are unique to the person that creates it in their mind. In the case of this Masi Speciale Corsa Crono it is more for everyone else to see and enjoy than myself."

Special details include:

Fausto Coppi saddle with serial number

Masi pantographed stem and seat post

Columbus SL frame tubing

 

All photos by Michael Degutis