Jon ‘Gear Ed’ Minster’s 1990s Sancini.
II bought this bike because of an Instagram post. Emile Kruger from The Whippet Cycle Company in Brixton, Joburg, posted a pic of it about two years ago. I was at a kids’ birthday party surrounded by screaming, sticky toddlers, and my wife Jess couldn’t understand why I was glued to my phone and not helping her control the sugarmad children. It was because I was busy doing an EFT.
I’m a huge fan of classic steel-frame bikes, especially those built in South Africa during the bad old days when sanctions prevented the import of European frames. Homegrown heroes like Le Jeune, Peter Allan, Alpina, Hansom, Sancini… yes, they’re heavy compared to modern carbon bikes; but they have heritage, and they ride so
smoothly and silently, it’s like the tar melts beneath your wheels. And those lines!
It was love at first sight, but the Sancini was in a bit of a state. The frame had been in storage for nearly 30 years, exposed to light, and the paint was peeling. Rust had clawed its way in. There was only one thing to be done: a full restoration.
And there was only one man to do it: Jared Mahaffey at the Bicycle Maintenance Company (BMC) in Salt River, Cape Town. Jared is a true artist, and he did a spectacular job.
This Sancini isn’t new – it’s better than new!
Frame: Back From The Dead
Sancini might sound Italian, but the bikes were built right here in Mzanzi – in Joburg, to be precise, by the Bloch family. Apparently, they had a contract to build bikes for the Post Office; Sancini was their racier side project. The business seems to have petered out in the early 1990s when democracy arrived and sanctions were lifted, opening the door to cheap aluminium imports.
All the logos on the original bike were stickers. Extinct stickers. If you want to restore a Colnago, for example, you can order period decals. If you want to restore a Sancini… you ask Melane Mahaffey, Jared’s wife and business partner, to create bespoke stencils that Jared will use to paint new logos. Yes – paint! Like I said, he’s an artist.
The original fluoro yellow was so bright, the bike probably glowed in the dark when it was new. Paint like that fades fast, however; which is why Jared chose something very similar, but longer lasting.
Hey, it’s all about being visible on the road.
The frame is made from Columbus SLX tubing – top-end, lightweight stuff in its day. But it’s a little rough around the edges. The bottlecage bosses on the down tube, for example, aren’t centred; so the cage leans out to one side. The top tube also seems to be slightly bowed. The seat tube is flared where the seat post goes in, so I’m using a horrid Coke-can shim until I can make a better plan.
Jared is a perfectionist, and these things freaked him out a bit. But I like that the bike isn’t perfect. It speaks to a moment in time when a frame-builder got bored with churning out clunkers for postmen, and started experimenting with racing bikes.
The Other Stuff
The groupset is Shimano 600, the precursor to Ultegra. The components might be vintage, but they’d never been used when Emile at Whippet did the original build. Besides the odd scuff mark here and there, everything is pretty pristine.
The rims are Gran Compes by Dia-Compe, a Japanese company that makes retro parts, laced to Shimano 600 hubs. The tyres are 28mm Panaracer Paselas. The TIME pedals are a special ‘World Championship’ version, which I’ve owned since the 1990s. (I think they were on my old Giant Iguana.)
A classic bike needs a classic saddle – in this case, a Brooks Cambium C17. It’s the secondwidest in the Cambium range, designed for maximum comfort over long distances.
I never planned to hang this bike on the wall. It’s my go-to road bike for events like the Cape Town Cycle Tour, and I do a coffee ride on it almost weekly. I know that I’ll eventually scratch or chip the paint – and I’ll be sad – but luckily Jared is just down the road for touch-ups…