Thursday, September 29, 2011

La Mirella Mia

While on the topic of cobalt, I remembered my early fascination for another thing cobalt: the Campagnolo Gruppo Cobalto. If you don't know, Campagnolo SPA is the the name of an Italian high end bicycle component manufacturer. Campagnolo (Campy) parts dominated the high-end bike component markets for years until the Japanese moved in on them, offering more for less. But Campagnolo still led in form plus function.  Here is a photo of the Cobalto brake set I coveted but never owned.

In 1979, I bought a 10 speed bicycle called a Mirella. Here's a link showing what one used to look like.  Mine was gold and not blue. Same chrome lugs. Mafac brakes. I rode that bike 15 miles a day, weather permitting, commuting back and forth to campus. I also rode it around Dane County and around the lakes on weekends.

I crashed the bike once on University Avenue going over some railroad tracks. The front wheel came loose and I planted the fork in the asphalt. I cracked my forearm in the fall but managed to carry the bike back to State St. where I worked before seeking medical attention for myself (the bike was more important to me). The guys at the old Yellow Jersey Coop on State St. were able to straighten the fork for me and a month or so later I was at it again, biking all over Dane County.

Years later I had the original paint stripped and added braze-on fittings for the front derailleur, water bottle cages, and brake line guides across the top tube. I had it painted a bright Italian red. I also upgraded the components with Campy Super Record brakes and a gorgeous Campy Chorus aluminum crank (I still have the original three-pin Campy crank made of chrome-plated steel. I tried to sell it once on eBay but no takers). I also added front and rear Chorus derailliers. And a Cinelli stem. The only thing original (besides the frame) left on it are the high flange Campy hubs and the drop-outs which are part of the frame and thus non-negotiable.

Somebody vandalized my Mirella in Denver. They took the Campy Record quick release skewers, the Super Record brakes, and they were working on taking the seat post. Bastards. I suspected someone in the apartment building because the bike was in a security locked basement at the time.

Here's photo of it now, stowed up in the rafters in the garage. It still works fine:


Real 10 speeds are so 70's.


  1. Great story, Bruce. I get the idea your younger life may have been a whole lot like that wonderful movie "Breaking Away."

  2. You're not the first to suggest that, Pete! Except I never got into racing. I did go looking for the Campagnolo factory in Vincenza, though. Didn't find it.