Mid to Late 80s Merckx Corsa Extra

Vintage, yesteryear and retro biking

Mid to Late 80s Merckx Corsa Extra

Postby Joe H » Mon Mar 04, 2013 10:35 pm

I originally posted some pix of this Merckx on the before/after restoration thread. It's a cool bike that might be worth a thread of its own. The story starts back in the early to mid 1990s when I was single, lived in Germany and rode a lot. I couldn't afford the top end bikes at the time but really pined for a full Campy Merckx, Colnago, De Rosa or Tomasini…

I was training with a work associate for a ride from Wiesbaden to Cologne along the Rhine, about 110 miles. We were riding through Fishbach and I saw a poster of Eddy Merckx on a light pole. I asked my friend to read it as she was far better at German than I. She said "Some guy named Eddy Merckx is here in Fishback. He's doing some sort of European tour and giving a talk at the local school." I told her we had to go see him but she wanted to ride. I insisted and told her she'd regret it later as she developed into a cyclist. So we went to the school but the event was over. The local mayor met us and said Eddy was a personal friend of his and was staying at his house and insisted we drop by. We rode over to his house and I immediately noticed three beautiful red, white and blue Merckx bikes that looked like MX Leaders but with full pannier racks. Then it donned on me that The Cannibal wasn't touring Europe in a bus - he was on a bike vacation with some old mates. Sure enough two well built fellows in Merckx riding togs greeted us and we chatted a moment before I asked if it would be possible to say hi to Eddy. They said sure, he was just in taking a shower. The event at the school was held right after they arrived in town. I told them there was no need to interrupt his shower and that we would leave but they insisted and in a couple of seconds Eddy Merckx popped out for a brief chat. I was pretty stunned to meet the guy and at some point I think I recall him looking at my rather pedestrian Bianchi and saying, "Nice bike." He couldn't have been nicer or more gracious and I've pretty much wanted a Merckx ever since.

A few months later I got a call from a buddy of mine who was married to the woman I was with when I met Eddy. They were planning to divorce but I was still friends with both. He was discussing buying a Merckx when his soon-to-be ex-wife said "Oh, I've met him." He didn't believe her but she said I'd introduced her. Since he knew I was a bit of a cycling tragic he wanted to see if it was true. I told him about the story above and he said, "Now I can't buy the Merckx." I asked why not and he said, "I can't spend that much money on something that will always remind me of my ex-wife." He ended up with a flashy Cannondale and a hot young German girl, but I don't think he kept either one very long, no metaphorical implications intended.

Anyway, here's the bike I've always wanted but only just now built.

A couple of years ago I found the frame on-line in Germany. It was listed as NOS and was my size and in one of my favorite color schemes. I did a little research on the seller and took the plunge. It arrived in Sydney a couple of weeks later in near-mint condition, a cycling time-capsule that immediately took me back 20 years. A few pictures:

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Columbus SLX was the racer's standard back in the day. Being a light guy with no professional racing background I always wanted an EL-OS frame but some of my racing buddies poo-pooed the idea saying they were too fragile for hard daily use. I wonder what they think of carbon.

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Showing the SLX "rifling" in the fork's steer tube.

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Some more internal rifling in the tubes brazed into the BB shell. I read someplace that Merckx frames were zinc dipped before painting to prevent rust. It looks a bit like that to me in this picture. One thing for sure, it's nice to see a 27 year (ish) frame with no rust - I'll try to keep it that way.

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In the carbon era, these look seriously old school. I had the BB and headset installed in a local bike shop.

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Here she is on the operating table.

I decided to build it up not as a period correct reproduction but instead as a fast Sunday ride machine that would be a significant step up from anything I already owned. It had to look right to me, so that meant aluminum Campagnolo parts and down tube shifters, but I wanted access to modern wheels, chains and cassettes. I wanted it to be light but I wasn't willing to compromise looks to do it (so no Thompson lay-back seat posts as much as I wanted to save weight there). In the end I ended up with an 8.5 kilo bike with down tube shifting, really light wheels with light clinchers and latex tubes, modern brakes and at least to me, a really great looking bike I love to ride.

I'll post a few pictures of the little details that went into the build:

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Just a shot to show how well new components and an old frame can match.

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I was too cheap to splash for a silver pantographed stem but found a black anodized one that was the right length and reasonably priced. Many hours with sand-paper and polish convinced me never to do this again! Getting 10 speed indexing down tube shifters took some research, but the internet, a site called "tears for gears" and a bit of on-line shopping did the trick. Now I get to use titanium/steel cassettes, modern chains and really light hubs with ceramic bearings.

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Greg at TWE again came through with these beauties. They were key to keeping the weight in the 18 pound range and allowing for modern Campy cassettes. Just a bit of two-tone bling around the stem - a nice match to the electric blue QRs.

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In all, I think it ended up fairly clean and not too hard on the eyes.

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So there she is, two years in the making with parts from Germany, Australia, Britain, America, Hungary, and probably Japan but I don't really recall. And I still need a left brake hood cover and a few smaller bits. But she rides absolutely great so I'm happy to have her road-worthy, if not 100%. Sorry for the long post.
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by BNA » Mon Mar 04, 2013 10:50 pm

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Re: Mid to Late 80s Merckx Corsa Extra

Postby Dan » Mon Mar 04, 2013 10:50 pm

That is a ridiculously cool story. The bike, too.
Swoon.
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Re: Mid to Late 80s Merckx Corsa Extra

Postby Crowz » Mon Mar 04, 2013 11:11 pm

That is one of the nicest bikes I have seen on this forum/anywhere. Well done to you, and your journey!
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Re: Mid to Late 80s Merckx Corsa Extra

Postby landscapecadmonkey » Mon Mar 04, 2013 11:57 pm

The story... the bike...
I have this wave of inadequacy sweeping over me.
A pleasure to read and see the piccies of your bike.
chop wood
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Re: Mid to Late 80s Merckx Corsa Extra

Postby dayne » Tue Mar 05, 2013 5:24 am

Great story and a nice bike,
A little part of me dies when I see a steel bike in a stand with no rag around the tube, even more when it's over the Columbus decal.
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Re: Mid to Late 80s Merckx Corsa Extra

Postby sunho » Tue Mar 05, 2013 7:24 am

ditto 2 all the above comments...

It looks beautiful and i'm sure it rides that way too,

you should show eddy! ;)
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Re: Mid to Late 80s Merckx Corsa Extra

Postby TDC » Tue Mar 05, 2013 8:08 am

Awesome...very very cool bike. Well done!

I have got one the same size. The handling of these is phenomenal. Technical descents are a joy, as they are super stable at speed, but can change lines mid corner with ease. Started out as a weekender special, to become the bike that gets ridden pretty much every ride.

Enjoy it.
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Re: Mid to Late 80s Merckx Corsa Extra

Postby tripstobaltimore » Tue Mar 05, 2013 8:26 am

Wow, that looks absolutely fantastic. Well done, that is a super nice job. :D

Cool story too!
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Re: Mid to Late 80s Merckx Corsa Extra

Postby Discodan » Tue Mar 05, 2013 12:35 pm

Brilliant job there, a great mix of old and new. Certainly a keeper. I only hope the Bianchi build I'm just starting comes out half as nice (similar new/old concept but I've got rid of the downtube shifters, tough decision)
Image
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Re: Mid to Late 80s Merckx Corsa Extra

Postby humanbeing » Tue Mar 05, 2013 2:59 pm

Fantastic looking bicycle.
Well done.
Have a nice ride,
Peter
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Re: Mid to Late 80s Merckx Corsa Extra

Postby Joe H » Tue Mar 05, 2013 11:03 pm

Thanks for all of the kind comments! I agree about the bike stand clamp over the tube sticker. But the LBS did a better job reaming and chasing and pressing than I could have, but still, I do agree. No one should feel inadequate when looking at this build - I started with nice parts and a pretty big budget. It's the last "fancy" bike I plan to do. The rest will be fix-ups of salvaged bikes for rainy days and the stationary trainer. I tend to give them away a lot; I think my Malvern Star is the fifth or sixth one I'm on in that category since moving to Sydney in '09. But again, thanks for the kind words. It was a fun build and is a great ride.

Discodan, I'll do a separate thread on my old Bianchi and look forward to seeing how your project goes. I've always had a soft spot for Celeste! After 19 years I'm still trying to decide if I like the ergo-brake shifters. They are better for competitive bunch riding but I don't do that now. I'm thinking about a down tube shifter for the front and keeping the ergo for the rear. We'll see…

I've got some commitments on the 23rd but I'm trying to get family permission to visit the Sydney Classic Bike Show. If I can manage it I'll bring the Merckx along. I found some more pictures so I'll paste them below.

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Re: Mid to Late 80s Merckx Corsa Extra

Postby fatfixie » Wed Mar 06, 2013 1:33 am

Beautiful . I'm a bit of a Merckx tragic and have a few tucked away...nice neo retro build you have yourself there........ :-)

Andy
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Re: Mid to Late 80s Merckx Corsa Extra

Postby rebelcontender » Thu Mar 14, 2013 10:09 pm

Great bike, do you mind telling us which shifters you used and where online you purchased the 10speed internal mechanism?
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Re: Mid to Late 80s Merckx Corsa Extra

Postby GaryF » Fri Mar 15, 2013 1:12 am

It is a beautiful bike. A good steel frame can always deliver the wow factor - just like your beautiful Merckx frame.
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Re: Mid to Late 80s Merckx Corsa Extra

Postby Joe H » Sat Mar 16, 2013 10:11 am

Fatfixie, "…a few [Merckxs] tucked away?!? I'm impressed! Thanks again for all the kind comments. The down tube shifting was less difficult than I thought it would be, but I stuck with a 10 speed rear end. Since it took me a while to sort out the process, I'll spell out what I recall here as best I can but the topic has been discussed at various sites on the web by way smarter guys than me.

For background, eight speed down tube shifters were available at different quality levels from Campagnolo as standard issue or as an option once Ergo was introduced in the early 90s.

I don't believe down tube nine speed or above was ever an option; you had to use bar-end shifters like I did here. I have read on-line that Campy nine speed could be tricky in terms of the spacing of the rear cassette cogs versus the options for the shifting system. I wasn't looking for a nine speed rear end so I can't say much about that.

The 10 speed groups are all compatible from what I've read but I chose to stick to 10 speed Record UD (Ultra Drive) for the chain rings, chain and cassette. I doubt using 10 speed ED (Exa Drive) or any other Campy 10 speed drive components would have mattered, but I wanted to eliminate variables where I could. I used Record bar end shifters along with an old Chorus rear derailleur as I couldn't find a Record model that didn't have carbon. I don't have anything against Campy's carbon stuff, but I wanted this bike to be fitted with silver aluminum parts. For the front der I used a new 10 speed Centaur model because it was cheap and available. I'm sure I don't have to point out to this forum's readers to be sure to stay with conventional drive or compact in front, and not to mix the chain rings and front derailleur.

One last thing, obviously you need down tube shifter bosses or braze-ons. It's not an issue on old steel frames but the bosses started disappearing from the down tubes around the mid or late 90s for most bikes. I know a lot of really old bikes use a bolt-on collar and cheaper models had shifters on the stem, but I think this process is likely to be applied to high end steel bikes that have the bosses on the down tube.

So once you get all the drive train and shifting parts, you have to "convert" the shifter. To do that you take the shifter and remove the parts that make it compatible with the bar ends. Then pop them on the down tube bosses. It's really that simple! The handlebar plugs come off easily but the rubber shift lever covers took effort. And there was some glue left on the shift levers that you have to remove without scratching anything. But it can all be done without damage by even me.

This if a before picture from the web.

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Here are the bar end parts removed.

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And the final result. Notice that under the black rubber lever cover was the pretty engraved Campy logo.

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I'm told that you can buy eight speed down tube shifters and replace the internal notched ring (that I believe is blue) with the 10 speed notched ring (black I believe), but since I found the 10 speed bar end shifters for less than I could modify 8 speed down tube versions, I don't have any direct knowledge on this. The site, Tears for Gears, has a lot of info on old Campy friction and Syncros (indexed) shifters.

I have yet to find the little aluminum stops that slip over the down tube boss before you slide on the shifters. They prevent you from moving the lever too far forwards and causing slack in the cables. It has no effect on the actual shifting as the derailleur high/low adjustment screws prevent the slack from moving the mech past the set limit. I don't have them on my Merckx but as soon as I can find an inexpensive pair I'll install them.

Sorry for such a long post but I figured I'd put down what I recall from the process all in one spot. It's a pretty neat way to get a traditional looking bike compatible with modern wheels. I was told by Greg at TWE that 10/11 speed would work equally well so long as the frame's rear hub spacing was 130 mm.
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Re: Mid to Late 80s Merckx Corsa Extra

Postby Saro28 » Sat Mar 16, 2013 11:15 am

Great post Joe. :D Not long at all, very detailed :D

This has got to see the pavement on the nx ride (Let the fine weather gods shine :lol: ) I'll have to lift my game to be in the same bicycle company :P
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Re: Mid to Late 80s Merckx Corsa Extra

Postby QuangVuong » Wed Mar 20, 2013 2:31 pm

Howd you keep the stem shiny? I polished my stem up, but its beginning to lose the shine and only after a couple weeks.
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Re: Mid to Late 80s Merckx Corsa Extra

Postby jacob_T » Wed Mar 20, 2013 5:57 pm

Brilliant! Thanks for sharing.
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Re: Mid to Late 80s Merckx Corsa Extra

Postby munga » Wed Mar 20, 2013 6:16 pm

shiny alloy needs car wax.
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Re: Mid to Late 80s Merckx Corsa Extra

Postby Joe H » Wed Mar 20, 2013 8:56 pm

Ah yes, this baby gets babied - it's true. After I polished the stem I waxed it up with a hard candle wax, and then I tend to spritz the bike with a car detailer/spray every now and again. The seat post is also non-annodized aluminum. and it doesn't tend to oxidize as far as I've seen. Plus it lives in the house when not being ridden; all of my others live in the garage. My old Bianchi's non-anodized stem is definitely more dull than this one, but it's almost 20 years old. A good polish would bring it back but I can't be bothered.
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Re: Mid to Late 80s Merckx Corsa Extra

Postby Joe H » Mon Apr 29, 2013 10:05 pm

Sorry for resurrecting my own old thread topic but I saw a bike so similar I thought I'd post a couple of pix and a description. I saw this at the end of a Sydney retro ride and if you look closely you'll see both bikes are in the big chain ring - I don't normally make it a habit to get up in the dark, ride around (sedately it must be said) with the retro crew, ride to meet up with the family, and then chase guys half my age down in the big ring but you will see it was worth it:

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The other bike is an 86 Merckx Corsa Extra that the owner had resprayed in Melbourne in Panasonic team colors and then had it built up with a Campy Athena silver group. He had Fyxomatosis build it up and added his own hand-built wheels with Mavic silver alu box rims and blue anodized hubs. It looked great and was a dead ringer for my NOS frame. He gets extra credit for running Vittoria Evo Open Corsa skin walls. All in all a great build and a good way to get a new looking bike in the paint scheme you want. I don't know what he paid for the used frame but the perfect paint job cost $700. It ended up weighing 9 kilos and was obviously fast! Who knew?!? Two in Sydney.
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Re: Mid to Late 80s Merckx Corsa Extra

Postby QuangVuong » Mon Apr 29, 2013 11:01 pm

Your Merckx would be the second Ive ever seen around. First was the orange one at a Burwood bike shop. To see your same one in a day would be a huge coincidence!

And, do you need those stops you asked about a couple posts up? Like number 6 in this pic? If you need them, Ive got a pair you can have. The dished bosses.
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Re: Mid to Late 80s Merckx Corsa Extra

Postby Joe H » Mon Apr 29, 2013 11:38 pm

Thanks QuangVuong,

I was stunned to see such a similar bike since they are both about 27 years old. The only real differences to the frames is that mine is a 54 cm and his was a 55. His also didn't have a chain hanger on the right seat stay - the first time I've ever seen that.

The parts I'm after look like the round pieces with the square holes in the upper right part of the picture at this link:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Campagnolo-Down ... 3f244e227b

The little "dog-leg" protrusion acts as the stop. It's not a big deal (the left brake hood cover is more noticeable). But thanks for the drawing/image! One of these days I'll have to get that adroit at posting images!

Joe
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Re: Mid to Late 80s Merckx Corsa Extra

Postby Dan » Tue Apr 30, 2013 5:47 am

Quang, the boss lever covers you've pointed out are shimano specific and mate to the inside face of the stop washer/sis unit, while campagnolo shifters have a flat washer face in this location.

Joe, I can't recall ever seeing campag covers designed to fully abut a round downtube - all examples I've seen are like the ones in the link you posted. Re: posting images - the tags are what you need - see this thread for details.
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