When I was 12 and 13, cycling was everything to me. I rode around 100-150 miles weekly, was on an informal team called “Le Voyageurs” (The Travelers), complete with jerseys, chamois-seated shorts, toe clips, the whole deal. A weekend ride would have us all ride from Santa Monica Canyon up PCH to Malibu Canyon Road, then up to Mulholland, and out to Malibu Lake. Then back home again. It was a long ride. The ultimate prize was going up Tuna Canyon road, just north of Topanga Canyon, without getting up off the saddle. I subscribed to a UK magazine called Sporting Cyclist, reading about the Saeco and St. Raphael Geminiani teams, the great Louis Bobet, Jacques Anquetil, and the disgraced UK cyclist Tom Simpson, who was busted for doping. Yes, I’m dating myself….this was a long time ago. This was before I went beserk for surfing.
One day, driving with my mother down Lincoln Boulevard near Westchester’s LMU, we stopped at a bike store where I beheld a beautiful Italian racing bike….a Legnano. It was all-Campy–all Campagnolo components, then the Dom Perignon of derailleurs, brakes, head stems, seat posts, chain sets. Beautiful Italian duraluminum that could have been designed by Leonardo da Vinci. I lusted and longed for that bike. It cost $199.00. My mother said no and I remained stuck with my older brother’s hand-me-down. Later I saved lunch money for three months and bought a Raleigh Grand Prix. But I never forgot the Legnano. It was the bike that got away.
It reminded me of a story I heard once on NPR: a kid who wanted a certain baseball glove for Christmas. He cut out pictures and showed them to his parents. He made it clear that this was the glove he wanted….it had some famous player’s name on it. Christmas came, and the little guy was almost peeing in his pants as he opened a square package smelling of neats foot oil, the stuff they put on baseball gloves. He opened the box and ! was devastated. Instead of the prized $20 glove, it was a cheap knock-off that his parents bought for five dollars. For them it was all the same. For him it was completely different, and painful.
Don’t ask me why, but I looked up this coveted Italian bike that never was, and found a link. Here it is: even in the same chartreuse color I remember so well: