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Bike Collections No.2: Rohan Dubash

Jordan Gibbons
10 Jan 2017

Master bike mechanic Rohan 'Doctor D' Dubash shares some of the stories behind his extensive bike collection

Rohan Dubash is described by many in the industry as the ‘mechanic’s mechanic’. His knowledge of bicycles is fathomless, and following his mechanical exploits on Facebook is fascinating.

If you have 10 minutes to spare, it’s worth a look to see how he resurrects bikes from the dead, stripping them to their constituent parts and then inspecting, washing, replacing, relacquering and polishing them to within an inch of their lives because, as Dubash says, ‘Rust never sleeps.’ 

Alongside his work, he’s also proud owner of a collection of immaculate bicycles, as well as a garage-load of parts from Campagnolo.

‘I’m not really sure why I’ve got all this stuff,’ Dubash says. ‘Maybe it’s just a memorial of 35 years’ worth of cycling. I think I’ve met too many people who sold bikes or just threw them away and regretted it.’ 

When it comes to bicycles and bike parts, some people’s collections have logical order. Perhaps they’re collecting derailleurs or every model of Colnago, but Dubash’s collection is more of a journey through time.

He’s like the protagonist from High Fidelity who knows precisely when he bought each record and what it meant to him at the time. 

Tools, glorious tools

Alongside the bikes are the tools, which double up as both the things needed for his day-to-day work but also as a collection in their own right.

‘It’s not that I actively started collecting, it’s just that every few weeks you come across a job that you need a new tool for, so I keep them and they sort of build up. Just random things, like Royce bottom bracket tools or something,’ Dubash says.

‘Or this Campagnolo left-handed C-Record crank remover for when you’ve taken the captive bolt out. C-Record cranks used to ship with a captive bolt extractor, but they used to back out.

Everyone used to take them out, so to remove the crank you then need a left-handed crank extractor. These go for £50 on Ebay now.

‘When I rode L’Eroica with my mate, his captive bolt fell out and it uses a 7mm allen key. It took us 30 miles to find a service van and I had to go through this box of hundreds of allen keys before I finally found one. That’s part of reason people hated them. 7mm, seriously?’

Destination grease

Some parts of Rohan’s tool collection are more precious than others, simply for their rarity. He produces a fading plastic tub.

‘This is original Campagnolo grease. It’s getting low now though. I’ve had it for years. It’s quite an iconic thing, the Campagnolo grease pot. I have this other grease, which has the period correct aesthetic but obviously isn’t the real Campag grease as I don’t want to waste it. I’ve still got this for very special jobs if I need it.’

Dubash’s favourite item is clearly his Campagnolo toolkit. ‘I bought this in 1989 with my life savings and I had it for 10 years and never used it.

‘It just sat under my bed, so I sold it to a guy because I wanted to finish my home cinema, and as I soon as I sold it I thought, “What have I done? I’m going to order another one,” but they didn’t make them any more.

For 15 years I rued the day I sold it. Then I got a Facebook message saying, “You probably don’t remember me but I bought your Campag toolkit years ago, do you want to buy it back?” Well, I bit his hand off. I use it regularly now.’

Labour of love

Spending time around bike collectors, it starts to become clear why it’s so appealing. It’s about the beauty of the parts, and the knowledge that the bike you are constructing is as close to the original as possible. Unfortunately not all parts of a bike stand the test of time.

‘I paid an eye-watering amount for some brake levers once, as I didn’t want scratched ones. The rubber hoods are a sod too – you can get copies now but life’s too short so I get the genuine ones.

‘It’s terrifying because if they’re perished they can tear when you put them on and, well, there’s no way back from that, is there? There’s no “emoji” for that – a torn lever hood and a sad face.’

Other items haven’t stood the test of time for different reasons, like the Modolo Kronos time-trial brakes that at the time must have seem flawed but now seem ludicrous. 

‘Yeah, they were terrible. They came with an instruction book to give to a framebuilder so you could make your frame fit them.

‘I set my fastest-ever TT time using these: it was pouring with rain and as I approached a roundabout I put the brakes on and nothing happened. I just shot straight over without losing any speed.’

Maybe someday...

And what is Dubash’s goal for all these bikes and parts? ‘My intention is to get them all working and have them ready to go. I’ve got 13 bikes in total I think, but I can’t ride any of them.

‘That’s the worst bit really. I could build them all back up but it’s just a case of finding the time to make it happen. Certainly not until the house is finished, anyway.’

--

Moser Pro Team SL

‘This is the bike I rode in L’Eroica this year and I’ve had it since 1986. Well, not quite. I sold it in 1986 but then I bought it back and… oh no! Look! Rust never sleeps. I missed a bit. Oh man, I’ve got to sort that out!’

And with that the bike is taken next door, placed in the workstand and hurriedly disassembled to attack the rust.

‘I was working at JE James in Chesterfield and these came through Caratti Sport, who were the first ever distributors of Specialized products back in 1983, I think.

Anyway, one of the owners rode for Moser and they had contacts in Italy. Well, they turned up in a van and said, “Do you want to have a look at what I’ve got?”

‘Back then there wasn’t a distributor like now so he had this, a Rossin, a Battaglin, a Pinarello and a Daccordi. And basically I bought them all and this was the first one I sold.

‘The guy had it for six months until he sold it to someone else, who then sold it to someone else who was a mate of mine. He wanted to sell it to buy one of those Look carbons.

‘Back then we had no money, so if you wanted a new bike you had to sell your old bike. I think I gave him £60, a headset press and a bottom bracket cutter.

‘When I got it home I was a bit sad as I noticed there was some cable rub, but the thing I was more sad about was the fact he’d be running Shimano on it.

‘He had a Dura-Ace headset, which was about 5mm lower than Campag so the headset didn’t fit. I put it away in 1987 and it sat in a box for years. 

‘Anyway, I heard about Cliff Shrubb [the late London-based framebuilder] and I thought maybe I’ll get the forks dechromed, take the old steerer out, put a new one in and get it rechromed.

‘So I took it to him and he said, “Why? Why don’t I just braze a new bit on top?” and I looked at him like he was mad. I asked him how he’d match the thread and he said, “Don’t you worry about that,” so I went back a week later and it was perfect. You can’t even see the join.

‘Anyway he charged me £10, then gave me a KitKat and a cup of tea.

‘The brakes have a special story. Many, many moons ago, when C-Record first launched in 1984, the Campag wholesaler rang me up and said, “I’ve got something you might be interested in.

‘They’re the Campagnolo cabinets from the Milan show – do you want them? The only caveat is that you have to buy the groupsets in the cases.”

‘There was Triomphe, Victory and C-Record with Cobaltos, as the Delta brakes had been sidelined at this point. I had to sell off the groupsets but the guy who bought it wanted Deltas, so I kept these Cobaltos [right, complete with a blue ‘gem’ on the mounting nut].

‘I suppose they’re the most Campag thing I own.’

--

Colnago Mexico

‘This is my Holy Grail bike really – it took me a long time to get this. I had one in 1982 and sold it to buy a Colnago Master.

‘After I sold it, I just regretted it constantly. I’d kept a lot of bits with the thought that I’d get another but finding a Mexico in
a 59cm that hasn’t been resprayed is almost impossible.

‘One came up on Ebay but I didn’t have the money to buy it there and then. I’d got this old DeKerf mountain bike that had been under a sheet for six years that a mate was interested in.

‘We thrashed out a deal, and I put exactly what he gave me on Ebay with 15 seconds to go and won the Mexico. I drove up to Leicester to get it and, well, they’re never as nice in person are they?

‘It was all rusty and it had some bird shit on the saddle. But anyway, I got it home and just slowly brought it back to life.

‘It’s a bit of a bastard child, the frame. It came with Columbus Air forks, which are very rare and it’s supposed to have a crimp in the top tube and the down tube, but it hasn’t got a crimped down tube.

‘I was a bit gutted when I saw that but I couldn’t just walk away from it because I’d never find one again.

‘I’d kept some of the groupset. Rings, cranks, gear levers – the brakes came with the bike. The bars are from Germany. They’re SuperLeggera, which I didn’t have at the time.

‘They’re super-rare now, especially in larger sizes. You can get them, but they cost hundreds. Some of the prices of these things have escalated beyond all comprehension.

‘New old-stock Super Record headsets are about £300 now. But if you’ve got a project and you want to finish it, you’ve not got a choice.

‘It’s not just any chainset. That’s my original chainring from 1982. A friend of mine was a dental technician and he took off all the anodising by hand, then went around all the engraving and tidied the whole thing up.

‘It’s original paint on the frame too – there’s a little chip there, and one there.

‘The only thing that’s sad is that this has become the definitive retro bike. If you do a retro ride there are always going to be loads of red Colnagos of varying standards.’

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Raleigh Team Castorama 753

‘This hasn’t been out of the box for a long, long time. It’s a homage to Laurent Fignon. You couldn’t buy these, so it’s not actually a Raleigh.

‘It’s a bit convoluted but basically in 1988 I’d switched on to Fignon as being my favourite rider and I really wanted to build a replica of his Gitane because I used to have a thing about building replica team bikes.

‘I went to this little bike shop in France and tried to order a Gitane team frame in 753 [Reynolds steel]. He rang up the company that made them and it worked out around £700, when a Master at the time was about £500.

‘A few weeks later they announced Raleigh would be the sponsor for 1989 and I thought, “Phew, that was a close escape, wasn’t it?”

‘So I said to the Raleigh rep, can you get me a team frame? He said they weren’t selling them as they’d got rid of all their builders. I could buy a replica bike, but that was 653 not 753.

‘I bought the replica and built it up as close as I could but in my heart I knew it wasn’t right. Anyway, I had this cunning plan.

‘I got hold of a set of transfers and then I did some digging. A rep told me he’d been to a place in Worksop that had a load of Castorama [Fignon’s team] frames hanging up – turns out they were doing the contract work for the team.

‘So I drew up the frame and ordered it from Columbia in Worksop but I didn’t get them to paint it. I took it to Roberts and got them to spray it pearl white and then I stickered it up.

‘Fignon used Simplex, which breached his contract with Campag so he put these little rubbers on the gear levers [above right]. They’re not easy to find. Green ones, yes. Black ones, yes. But blue ones? Took me about a year to find them.

‘The big joke is I couldn’t get a head badge, so this is ripped off an old Raleigh Mustang mountain bike and I’ve just taped it on.’

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