Of the Games held during the Cold War era, after all the bickering and boycotting, the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics were the most attended by participating nations. One country that never shied away from a tournament, though, are the Russians.
The Russian Olympic cycling team has always been strong, especially at the track. The 1988 team rode bikes that were proudly supplied by Rossin and this finely restored example belonged to the coach: Alexander Kuznetsov.
Rossin itself was born from controversy, as a result of a dispute between Colnago and five men; one of Ernesto’s ex-frame builders — Mario Rossin — being one of them. Rossin rivalled Colnago in flamboyant marketing, paint jobs and innovation, but not volume.
The renegade Italian marque secured the contract to supply the national Russian cyclists with bikes, including the new aerodynamic Futura CX frame to the pursuit team. After a long search, one found its way into the hands of London’s Matt Townsend.
Matt has been a fan of lo-pro frames for years, and had been chasing a Rossin pursuit in particular. When one was offered for sale in Russia in 2013, he jumped at it. It was beat up, but rust free, and a previous owner had written his name on the top tube.
The name was Кузнецов, who turned out to be Alexander Kuznetsov, from Leningrad, Russia. Matt did some research: “Kuznetsov has been a cycling coach since 1964. He coached the USSR national team since 1985, was the coach of the USSR on the track at the Olympics in 1980 and 1988, head coach at the Olympics in 1992, coach of Russian national team at the Olympics in 1996, 2000, 2004. He has coached many world and Olympic champions in track cycling, including Vyacheslav Ekimov, who can be seen in many historical photos riding or standing next to Rossin frames.”
While there is truth in the maxim, “It’s Only Original Once”, sometimes restoring a bike to its former glory can be an act of mercy. Matthew began the process by stripping the paint, which revealed expanses of body filler in the webbed gussets.
Once the body filler had been painstakingly removed, the next task was replacing the fork clamps, which were missing. “I come from a 3D design background”, Matthew says, “so I knocked up some designs based on photos. I then had them 3D printed so I could test the shapes on the forks.
“After making a few tweaks and measurement changes, I sent the 3D model to my good friend Steve Major, of COFA Engineering in Bristol. He machined some aluminium prototypes for me to test and once I was happy with a final design, he crafted some steel ones. They bolted down and fit perfectly.”
Matthew continues: “All the other restoration was done at my friend Matthew Sowter’s workshop (Saffron Frameworks). He gave me some advice and guidance on fixing the steel issues as well as brazing some elements to fix them. I’d visit the workshop in my spare time and do a bit here and there, taking my time. It really wasn’t something I wanted to rush.
“Once all the steelwork was complete, I had to prepare to fill the gussets with body filler again. I filled and smoothed back the filler many, many times trying to achieve a smooth and perfect transition. It was very frustrating and stressful as they had to be perfect because as soon as the paint went on, that was it!”
“After body filling, I prepared the frame for paint. I sanded everything down giving a clean finish for the painter. The original paint had 3 colours to the decals and also some black too. The overall colour was an Italian pearl white so it was important for me to replicate these accurately.
Matt struggled to find decals that were up to scratch. After buying multiple sets from different sources, he decided to make masks of the logos himself, which would then be used to apply the logos with paint. It would be a different application to the original decals but would make for a better result.
The frame was sent to a bicycle painter in York called Tom Armstrong who carefully primed the body filler in a way that accentuated the transition. Then, he used the masks to recreate the red, orange and purple logos and stripes.
The final assembly was near: “Over the whole two and a half years I accumulated all of the necessary components from the era, including 3ttt Moscow handlebars — specific to the frame — and equally as rare 666/Fluidisk kevlar disc wheels. I’m extremely happy with the final outcome and stoked it’s finally finished! Now for the next project!”
Matt’s Rossin was a true labour of love, but the result is worthy of a gold medal. Matt also happens to be a fantastic photographer, and you can see more of the project on his Instagram feed. The restoration process was documented on Retrobike.
PS: Matt also photographed a Saffron Frameworks bike that ended up on the cover of the 2016 Cycle EXIF Custom Bicycle Calendar. Have a look here.