We all have missed opportunities and regrets from our youth. It might be a lost love, something we wish we’d done, words we wish we’d said (or hadn’t said), a potential purchase we prudently walked away from but forever regretted not buying.
Far fewer of us, however, are able to properly rectify those situations later in life.
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For cyclists, those missed opportunity usually consist of bikes we wish we’d bought, or ones we’ve sold that we instead wish we’d kept.
Bryce Gracey is the co-founder of No.22 Bicycle Company, a custom titanium frame builder based in upstate New York. Like many of us, Gracey caught the cycling bug early in life, but couldn’t afford the bikes that truly caught his eye. One in particular — a Colnago Olympic Master with Campagnolo Record — stuck with him, haunting his thoughts through the years.
“I bought one of the first bikes when I was 18, just out of high school,” he recounted. “But I lusted after a Colnago Olympic Master that was on the floor with full Record. It was way out of my price range. I pined for this bike as my first road bike, well before architecture school.”
Gracey never did buy that bike, but it clearly left an impression on him, in particular the gleaming hand-painted multi-colored finish and shiny polished aluminum Campagnolo Record groupset. He did eventually get his hands on his first Campagnolo-equipped bike in 1998 — but not that Colnago.
“I could not afford it at the time, and never owned it. But I’ve always been a Campagnolo fan boy.”
These days, Gracey is fortunately free to fully fulfill those early gear fantasies.
The North American Handmade Bicycle Show holds a number of competitions each year amongst the builders, one of which is the “Campagnolo Best in Show”. The Campagnolo brand holds a disproportionately esteemed position amongst this crowd — Gracey included, of course — so he made sure to put his company’s best foot forward.
And my, what a bike it created.
No.22’s entry was this truly stunning Aurora titanium road bike, built with a carbon fiber seat tube and integrated seatmast. As is rapidly becoming the default configuration these days, the bike was built with disc brakes and clearance for 34mm-wide tires, but it still retains a race bike-like position and handling characteristics — basically like what pro riders typically use at Paris-Roubaix.
Naturally, the bike is fully decked-out with Campagnolo’s best-and-brightest, including a full Super Record EPS electronic groupset and Bora One tubeless carbon clinchers.
The finish was inspired by that old Colnago that Gracey never got to ride, paying tribute to that complex multi-color finish that characterized the Italian brand in those years, but made using a faded anodized base along with some very careful masking and media blasting to produce the desired graphics.
“This is sort of an homage to that [Colnago],” said Gracey. “We started with our gold-to-purple anodized finish, and then worked with Jordan Low of Hot Tubes to overlay sort of an airbrushed abstraction of that Colnago in a contemporary way, in a way that isn’t kitschy, but in a way that reflects our brand’s aesthetic as well.”
On the back of the seat tube are key dates in Gracey’s history in terms of his relationship to the Campagnolo brand.
“From lusting for that first Colnago to the first time I got my hands on a Campagnolo group, to graduating from architecture school and spending the rest of my masters scholarship on my next bike with full Record, to launching No.22, to winning the best Campagnolo build back in 2017, and now to today.”
There are a number of stunning features on the bike, such as a made-in-house titanium seatmast head and the similarly made-in-house titanium dropouts. But it’s arguably some of the accessories that truly put this machine over the top.
The fenders are not only made of titanium, but have the same anodized graphics as the rest of the frame. Likewise for the Silca Sicuro titanium bottle cages and custom titanium-bodied Silca frame pump. Up top is a custom-covered Fizik Arione saddle made by Mick Peel of Busyman Bicycles, and featuring the classic winged Campagnolo logo and peek-a-boo color pops that follow the motif of the rest of the bike.
“We did the Silca pumps last year, and we thought they’d be a bit of a novelty,” Gracey said. “But we’ve actually been doing really well with offering those as a product. The titanium fenders are something that we plan to put into production now that we’ve got the length and width figured out. We made them a little longer at the request of some of our dealers so you’re not giving someone a power wash who’s riding behind you. They won’t be cheap, obviously. It’s expensive material to begin with, and to manipulate it in this way with this sort of smoothness is no easy feat. But we’ll see how it goes.”
No.22 may still be working out the kinks in that titanium fender project six months after the bike was first presented, but you sure couldn’t tell at the time. And the judges were clearly impressed — the bike not only won an award in that Campagnolo category, but also picked up the prestigious “Best in Show” prize.
You may have picked up on this fact by now, but it’s worth pointing out explicitly that this bike isn’t just something No.22 cooked up solely for NAHBS; it’s also Gracey’s personal bike.
“I recently returned to my hometown at the base of the Rocky Mountains in Calgary, so this bike was made to be an all-season bike out there and do some exploring off-road,” Gracey said. “This is a bike that I’m going to take out and re-explore those old roads in my hometown and go places I couldn’t go before on skinnier tires. If I get lost out there, at least I’ve got a titanium frame pump to help me out!”
Six months ago, Gracey notably described his intentions with this bike in the future tense, as he didn’t dare ride it before it was presented at the show.
But sadly — and rather incredibly, I might add — he still hasn’t ridden it.
“It is still unridden as we’re keeping it clean for dealer events,” he said. “I’m hoping to get it on the road next month, finally.”
I think I can speak for all of us, Bryce, in saying that you’ve waited long enough. Let the dealers see a dirty bike and ride that thing already. No one should have to wait that long to ride a bike so beautiful.