Friday, March 2, 2012

Confente no. 65









Mario Confente was from Montorio, only a few miles from Verona. Due to his tragic death only 124 road bikes and 11 track bikes bear his name, all considered masterpieces. If you are not familiar with his story I suggest you use the search feature on the right margin to find all the related stories in ICJ, including photos of some of the other Confente bikes.

My thanks to Wayne Bingham for his photos and the story behind Confente no. 65. In Wayne's words:

"Here is some of the back-story about Confente #65 that I got from the original owner. The frame was ordered from Bill Recht at RexArt Cyclery in NJ, through a shop in Delaware called Wheels Inc. The original customer/owner was Rick Hoenin, I got the bike from Rick, and what I know about the bike was related by him. Ironically, Rick wasn't really much of a cyclist. Rather, he was a surfer. He also had apprenticed as a pipe-fitter while a student, and landed a job right out of school that paid a lot of money for the time. Much more, apparently, than most of Rick's friends. According to Rick, he had enough money to pretty much buy himself any toys he wanted at the time. He went to Wheels Inc. with a friend one day, and fell in love with all the cool bikes and parts that were on display. Even though he had never really had anything other than a beater bike, he decided he wanted "the coolest bike he could get". He even started buying some parts before he ever decided on the frame. Rick didn't know much about bikes, and other than having money for something good, he had no real notion of what he wanted and was open to suggestion. The shop recommended that if he wanted "the best" he should order a Confente, so he did. The order was initiated in early March and after receiving Rick's body measurements, was confirmed on May 11, 1977. Rick didn't remember the final delivery date, but thought it took "a few months". Most of the parts were purchased through the shop, not from RexArt, but an "R. Hoenin" pantographed Cinelli stem and probably the headset did come with the frame. An interesting thing I found is that the build instructions specify water bottle bosses, but they were not put on the frame. Those instructions indicate cable stops for bar-end shifters, not shifter bosses, and that the way the frame is built.

By now Rick was hanging out at the shop regularly and trying to learn as much as he could about bikes. He assisted in building up the bike, and supposedly even built one of the wheels after receiving instruction at the shop. I believe that this is true because one wheel is "correct" and the other one has the valve hole positioned improperly between converging, not parallel, spokes. The components are an interesting/eclectic mix too. Weyless hubs, pedals and seatpost were chosen, because they were also recommended as "the best" at the time. Drive train is Campagnolo Record with '73 date codes, mated to Shimano bar-end shifters, most of these bought before ordering the frame. Handlebars are SR World Randonneur, rims are Fiamme Ergal gold label and the saddle is an Avocet Racing III. An anomaly was that the bike had Dura Ace levers and long reach brake calipers, but the frame was built for short reach brakes. There were no brake hoods on the levers and the shoes on the front caliper had to be angled up just to contact the rim. Rick was "sure" all the parts were original, but I can't help but wonder it the brakes didn't get changed out by some roommate along the way. Rick confessed to living in a number of group houses with several guys, and that he occasionally lent the bike out to roommates. I changed the brakes out to the Gipiemme set on the bike now and also changed the chain, so that I or someone interested in buying it could ride the bike. I rode the bike maybe twice.

I think Rick's infatuation with the bike only lasted a few years, as he apparently rode it less and less until he was just moving it around from residence to residence over the years. Ultimately he got married and hung the bike in his garage where it languished for many years. Rick had a workshop in his garage and apparently someone visiting his shop saw the bike and, according to Rick, said "Do you know what you have there?". All Rick knew was that he had "an old custom made bike" but nothing about the lore, legend or collect-ability of Confente frames. Not being stupid, Rick started doing some research and learned that he, indeed, might have something special. Interestingly, in a couple of his early inquiries he was offered first $1000 and then $2000, but wisely decided to keep learning. He spent a year or more just holding onto the bike, and continued talking to more people and learning about it. At one point he contacted Brian Baylis, and Brian was one of the first who told him that the bike had serious value, and to proceed cautiously. Still, Rick had no real understanding of the collectable market or the vintage bike community as large, and in fact was pretty intimidated by the whole thing. Nevertheless, he kept searching and somehow along the way he found me through a recommendation, and the rest is history up to this point.

I chose to do as little as possible to the bike, leaving it in as-found condition as much as practical. It's such a time-capsule bike. I knew that I would not ultimately keep the bike because it's not really my size, and I really need the money invested back into my business. I therefore thought that the next custodian should be able to choose whether to "restore" it, and if so, to what extent. I think that one of the most interesting things about this bike is that it is so original and unmolested, but not "too nice". Just right for some thoughtful TLC and touch-up, and to actually ride."

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Stories for the Italian Cycling Journal about rides, granfondos, touring, having a good time cycling in Italy, Italian cycling history, etc. are always welcome. Contact me at veronaman@gmail.com. There are more than 2,300 stories in this blog. The search feature to the right works best for finding subjects in the blog. There is also a translate button at the bottom so you can translate each page

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