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Feast your eyes on these 7 stunning classic road bikes: The Flandrien Hotel bike collection

In-depth
23 Dec 2021
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This collection of bikes – owned by an Australian in Belgium – includes gems from a period when technology began to win over nostalgia

Words Joe Delves Photography Kevin Faingnaert

As a sometime professor of strategic management, Jamie Anderson has a neat line on market dynamics as it applies to collecting bicycles.

‘It parallels demographic shifts,’ he explains from his house in Flanders. ‘In the past 15 years we’ve seen an explosion of prices for Eddy Merckx and Colnago bikes of the 1970s and 80s. It’s not rocket science. People get to a certain age, the mortgage is paid, they’ve got disposable income and they want the bike they loved as a kid.’

Yet while the bikes Anderson lusted after as an aspiring racer increasingly fall into this category, his collection of around 80 machines is more than an exercise in retroactive wish fulfilment. Instead, having grown up in an age where technology could still potentially win races, Anderson’s big passion is innovation.

His collection focusses on the three decades when steel gave way to aluminium and carbon, charting a period when European craftsmanship was overtaken by international firms using processes more space-age than artisan. Living in Belgium has also helped in building the collection, which sprawls across Flandrien Hotel, which Anderson owns.

‘My wife is Belgian. We arrived here ten years ago and I was looking for a bike,’ he says. ‘I started coming across amazing ex-team bikes on second-hand websites and then it clicked. Belgium has been the epicentre for pro team service courses for the last 30 years. Team Telekom, a German team, had its service course in Belgium. US Postal [later Discovery] had its service course 3km from the hotel.’

Countless others still do. And with each team disposing of vast numbers of bikes each year, many Belgians find themselves nonchalantly whizzing around on machines previously employed in the pro peloton. Yet without a famous (and ideally Flemish) name attached, most of these ex-team bikes go straight into the discount pile.

This period of unconstrained innovation is undoubtedly due a reappraisal. It was one of the most creative for bicycle design, and here are seven bikes from Anderson’s collection that define this time of rapid change.

For more details on Anderson’s hotel, his bikes and the region, go to flandrienhotel.com


La Vie Claire Team Look KG 86 (1986)

The first carbon bike to win the Tour de France

American Greg LeMond did much to shake up the staid and overwhelmingly European world of pro cycling. In 1986, while riding for the Look-sponsored La Vie Claire team, he became the first rider to win the Tour de France on a bike made of carbon fibre.

‘It wasn’t just the bike, though,’ says Anderson. ‘Why did Look sponsor a cycling team? It was because they wanted to promote their pedals.’ The logos on the down tube may have said Look, but it was actually the French aerospace company TVT that was responsible for producing the frame.

This wasn’t the first time carbon fibre had appeared at the Tour, but bikes such as those made by Vitus had used aluminium tubes with an exterior carbon wrap.

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Despite the KG 86’s success, steel still had many years left in the peloton. More universally accepted were Look’s clipless pedals.

They were rapidly taken up across pro and amateur ranks, and LeMond would again score a huge technological first when he used Scott’s clip-on aero bars to win the Tour a second time in 1989.

Cannondale Saeco CAAD 3 Silk Road (2003)

An elegant prototype suspension bike made for Paris-Roubaix

No race drives innovation like Paris-Roubaix. So when Anderson had a chance to snag Jörg Ludewig’s prototype Cannondale, made especially for the race, he wasn’t going to pass it up.

‘There’s always a lot of experimentation around Paris-Roubaix,’ says Anderson. ‘Sometimes this can be disastrous, but the Headshok system taken from Cannondale’s mountain bikes and used here worked really well.’

Created for the Saeco team in 2003 and eventually making it to market as the Silk Road, this bike must have performed pretty well – Ludewig’s teammate Dario Pieri came within inches of winning that same year.

As it happens, Anderson recently hosted UCI development team SKS Sauerland NRW, some of whom knew Ludewig. At the time the bike was sitting unbuilt.

‘One of them called him up and said they’d found his old bike,’ says Anderson. ‘So I’m there holding the frame, and Jörg is saying how great a bike it was. Then he told me what wheels he was using and his saddle height. One of the young guys was so excited he went and built it up.’

Giant MCR (1997)

A futuristic Mike Burrows design that survived half a season before being outlawed

Apparently a discreet call to the UCI prevented Giant’s compact geometry from being banned (see below). However, the organisation was starting to worry the era’s radical designs were giving some an unfair advantage.

The MCR was the brainchild of Mike Burrows, famous for creating the carbon fibre Lotus 108 time-trial bicycle for Chris Boardman for the Barcelona Olympics in 1992.

‘It was a step too far for the UCI because it didn’t look like a bicycle in terms of having a traditional double triangle,’ says Anderson.

Introduced at the end of 1996, the UCI’s Lugano charter aimed to ensure all riders competed on an equal footing. It also specified bikes should look pretty much as they had for the past century. This bike was one casualty.

Taking Burrows’ monocoque concept and applying it to a general road racing bike, the MCR was radical and futuristic yet cost around half the price of a top-end bike from a European maker. Unfortunately, once made inadmissible in competition, they soon disappeared from Giant’s range.

‘Few people know that they were ridden in competition,’ says Anderson. ‘Late in 1996 some prototypes were used by the Belgian National Team. I met one of the guys who was on the team and he said, “We loved them. We weren’t sure if they were aerodynamic, but we knew they were cool.”’

Giant TCR 1 (1996)

Mike Burrows’ compact geometry simplifies frame sizing and almost gets banned

With lax regulation regarding the styles of bikes admissible in competition, things in the 1990s often got a bit crazy. One of the more thoughtful and enduring innovations was Mike Burrows’ invention of compact geometry.

Before coming up with the controversial MCR (above), in 1986 the British engineer designed the most famous of his bikes for the Taiwanese manufacturer. The aluminium TCR boasted a frame whose geometry has influenced everything that came after.

‘I remember walking past the bike shop and thinking how cool and radical the design of the TCR was,’ says Anderson.

Unlike traditionally proportioned frames, the low-slung TCR was both stiffer and lighter. ‘Plus it had a smaller rear triangle allowing it to offer better power transfer.’

From an industry standpoint, its ability to fit a wide range of riders meant Giant only needed to produce it in three sizes. This allowed Giant to massively increase efficiency and lower costs, and it could bring its compact bikes to market with greater economies of scale and lower prices.

Aided by Taiwan’s cheaper labour costs, it marked a huge market shift.

Trek 5200 (1992)

The original mass-produced monocoque with Shimano’s first integrated shifters

The shape of the future arrived courtesy of American firm Trek’s radical 5200.

‘For a century, framebuilders had been brazing tubes into lugs,’ says Anderson. ‘So when they got new materials like carbon fibre and aluminium, what did they do? They created tubes and stuck them into lugs.’

By contrast, Trek’s director of technology, Bob Read, was attending aerospace conferences. What he learned about carbon bonding convinced him Trek should focus on entirely new approaches. Bringing in production methods from other industries, this exploration eventually led to the Trek 5200.

Using heat and pressure inside a mould to create a monocoque structure, the result was the world’s lightest frame. Weighing just over a kilo, not only was it light but it was also incredibly stiff. Its design has been influential ever since and it still looks modern today.

Add in some clever marketing, plus Lance Armstrong’s run of Tour de France ‘victories’, and the 5200 helped establish Trek as one of the world’s leading brands. Shimano’s first integrated STI shifters also factored in making the Trek 5200 a genuine step-change.

Chesini Innovation (1992)

The pinnacle of steel and the last lap for midsize framebuilders

By the time this beautiful Italian bike was making the rounds, most racers had switched to carbon or aluminium.

‘I love this bike, but it’s also a bit sad,’ says Anderson. ‘By this point, Chesini had been around for almost 70 years. These midsize Italian companies were made up of engineers and artisans. Out of all of them it was only really Ernesto Colnago who understood the writing was on the wall for steel and had the financial muscle to invest in carbon.’

Of Europe’s many other famous makers, most would soon be gone or drastically diminished in size.

‘What you often see in traditional industries using established technology is that they do try to innovate with their products to keep up,’ says Anderson. Striving to match the pace of American and Asian brands, this beautiful La William Duvel Team bike features a radical compact geometry that prefigures that introduced by Giant a few years later. Clever, but not enough to stop the tide.

Pinarello Dogma AK61 Magnesium (2004)

Aluminium waves goodbye to the peloton

Pinarello’s Dogma has been a regular sight at the front of bike races for a number of years. However this magnesium version of Alessandro Petacchi fame represents its final metal-framed incarnation. Even as it was being overtaken by carbon, this bike and its maker were pushing what could be accomplished with alloy.

‘A lot of aluminium innovation started with Gary Klein,’ says Anderson. ‘A decade later you can see how much has been achieved through processes like hydroforming, using massive liquid pressure inside the tubes to shape them.’

Enjoying a comparatively short time in the sun, aluminium and later magnesium provided many excellent qualities. ‘This magnesium frame was incredibly stiff,’ says Anderson. ‘But the uniqueness of magnesium is its ability to absorb vibration.’

That was often a weak point for oversized aluminium bikes, however the downside was how brittle magnesium proved to be.

‘It was notoriously challenging to work with and weld. As a result it’s very difficult to find an AK61 Dogma that hasn’t cracked.’

This Fassa Bortolo team model is a rare intact example, and as such it is one of the few bikes that Anderson doesn’t let his hotel guests ride.