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The Cannibal Build - 1993 Eddy Merckx Corsa Extra


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Why, oh, why?


There I was, tired, sweaty, dusty and firmly stuck on the side of the desolate Kogmans dirt road near Montagu, with a multiple snake bite puncture that destroyed my rear tube beyond salvage and brought my Eroica SA to an abrupt halt. I already gave my only spare to David, and he was also stuck, with his fourth puncture, and he’d already used up all Daniel and my own spares. Daniel, on the other hand, was full of dusty smiles, all teeth from ear to ear, enjoying his newly built ride (the Orange Explosion Alpina) without the slightest bit of rubber trouble – because his fatty 28 mm tyres floated magic carpet like over the rough and rocky bits while David and I rattled the fillings from our teeth and punctured repeatedly.

And that was where the process started! Even before we managed, with the help of duct tape, plenty of sealant, several patches, repeated pumping and kind help from a good Samaritan, to get home before dark.

Build a bike that can take bigger tyres! Simple!


Edit: Added an "after" picture at the start as well! (anything to add more pictures ;) )



Edited by DJR
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The search

Occasionally you stumble upon things that you are not searching for and those unexpected finds turn out to be real treasures. This whole build worked like that. Some, more superstitious and gullible than me, would say that the parts found me!

First, while searching for something else, I found an 8 speed Shimano Dura Ace group set in very good condition. With downtube shifters it is so good looking, I think it is easily comparable to the clean lines of Campagnolo C Record. (Apologies to the Campy brothers!)


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But what bike?


Right after Eroica 2018, I started looking for a frame to match the group set. I knew that it had to be something of great quality, but not Italian. That really left very few alternatives. In the end, for me, the first choice was a Belgian made Eddy Merckx because of its racing pedigree and the fascinating history behind the brand.

For six months I kept an eye on the Classifieds and, out of the blue, I was offered an Eddy Merckx Corsa Extra frame in team Motorola colours. The serial number confirmed that it was of 1993 vintage and it was the right size and in fantastic condition. A quick bit of initial research revealed that the original team bikes were equipped with Shimano Dura Ace, the cutting edge of shifting technology at the time. 


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The Cannibal, nickname behind the name

When Eddy Merckx, the most successful professional rider of all time, retired from racing in 1978, he set up his own bicycle manufacturing company in 1980. From the start Eddy Merckx Cycling Works produced high-end racing frames.

The top of the line model from 1985 onwards was the Corsa Extra. This extremely successful model was one of the best road bikes you could get and therefore the choice of many professional teams. It dominated in the peloton with its extremely well made frame and rigid Columbus SLX tubes. The SLX was a super butted steel tube set, designed for professional use and famous for its helical reinforcements inside the tubes. It made for a light, competitive and durable frame that gave an excellent, responsive ride.
The Corsa Extra was ridden to victory by a variety of professional riders and teams during the 1980s and 1990s and was famous for its reliability and strength in competition. The best known of these was the American 7-Eleven team, later, in 1990, renamed Motorola. Merckx was their bike sponsor from 1989 to 1996. It was one of the longest surviving steel frames in the peloton and stayed competitive into the titanium and aluminium eras, even rubbing shoulders with some early carbon bikes.

Since my frame is a 1993 model, I looked at what the Merckx Corsa Extra did in that year and found that a young Lance Armstrong won the World Championship road race as well as a Tour de France stage on one while with team Motorola. Also in 1993, Alvaro Mejia, on a Corsa Extra, won the Vuelta Espana for team Motorola.


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C'mon DJR, you gonna have to type and update faster than that. We've been waiting to see what the build looks like for what seems like months  :clap:

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Bicycle Maintenance Company

I left the frame at BMC in the hands of Jared Mahaffey to do a few minor touch ups of the paintwork. Jared does magic with paint while I can at best do crude touch ups. We decided to leave the smaller imperfections as they were and to only correct scuff marks where they would distract from the final appearance or rust in future. The aim was to end up with a frame that looks like it was used over its 25 year lifespan, but not to have paint blemishes that attracted the eye from a distance. Small imperfections that you could find only by looking closer, would be left as scars of honour. The fork was re-sprayed to match the frame colour because it was a slightly different blue, as if it faded faster, or came from a different batch of paint. Everything was preserved with a new clear coat. The end result speaks for itself.


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The Bike Hub – Wheels - Pedals

Suddenly it was time to get the last few outstanding items and again they found me!

I was still short of the right wheelset, but when I posted a teaser picture in the Retro Bike thread on the Bike Hub, a fellow bike nut noticed and immediately offered me a pristine pair of wheels with Dura Ace 7403 hubs, built with French made Mavic Open 4CD rims. The Open 4 CD is a clincher rim with a hard anodized grey “ceramic” surface finish and stainless steel eyelets. That is exactly the right wheel set to match the frame and the group set. The same source also got me the right Dura Ace seat post.



Edited by DJR
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The classifieds brought me a perfect set of Shimano 600 pedals, toe clips and cleats, all brand new old stock. I made up a pair of leather straps for them and dyed it black to go with the saddle and bar tape.



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Find a saddle. I talked to Gareth O’Brien from Velobrien, a Cape Town leather goods company that also recovers bike saddles. Some digging finally got me an old no-name saddle of the right shape and I explained to Gareth what I had in mind. I wanted the old saddle restored and covered to complement the Cinelli Kaleidoscope bar tape I planned to use. The Kaleidoscope is a black tape with small perforations showing brightly coloured little dots underneath. The idea of a perforated Eddy Merckx logo was his, and the masterstroke was to use the red, white and blue Motorola colours.


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The Dura Ace group set was so pristine, a bit of a wipe was all it needed. That gave me the time to read up a little on Shimano, a subject I knew nearly nothing about, other than that my mountain bike runs perfectly fine on it.

Shozaburo Shimano founded the company in 1921, in Japan, in a rented workshop with one borrowed metal lathe and from there it grew to become the multinational corporation it is today.
In 1973 Shimano introduced its new flagship group set, Dura Ace, with the specific aim to break into the top end professional racing market. In 1984 the Dura Ace 7400 group set was introduced. The major innovation of 7400 was SIS (Shimano Indexing System). This major improvement gave racers the competitive edge of faster, more reliable and precise shifting. Dura Ace 7400 was the tool Shimano used to break into the European racing peloton. In 1988 Andy Hampsten, riding for Team 7-11, won the Giro d’Italia with a Dura Ace group set. With that win Shimano arrived on top of a grand Tour podium for the first time.

Some parts of the group set, like the stem, stayed the same throughout the decade from 1984 to 1995 that Dura Ace 7400 was the top of the line Shimano line-up. Other parts like derailleurs, brakes, and shifters changed and were updated throughout that period. The Dura Ace 7400 and the later 8 speed 7402 version, in both downtube and STI (Shimano Total Integration, combined shift/break) levers, is known to be one of the most bullet proof group sets of all time, delivering superior function and extreme longevity. It was great to discover that I bought something solid, not just good looking.


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The build - Woodstock Cycle Works

As in the past, I decided to let Niels Hansen do the build for me. 

At the front door I was greeted by a sign that says “Bike Friendly”, and with the high roofed warehouse and literally hundreds of bikes, frames and parts hanging from everywhere, the space can rightly be described as a cathedral of vintage cycling. The hustle and bustle of the city doesn’t penetrate those walls. 

I had the first of a few very good coffees while Niels started working. What I got was a peek into the life of a pretty unique bike shop. Every so often a customer would walk in and Niels would leave the Merckx to talk to them. It was clear that people came to talk to him, ask for advice, sometimes to buy or to ask for the impossible. The customers ranged from people simply looking for a cheap dependable bike as daily transport, to vintage bike nuts searching for something special. Cyclists delivered problem bikes, collected repaired ones, some just came for the coffee. Slowly the Merckx started to take shape. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate place for a quarter century old bicycle to be re-born.

Niels asked politely whether I really planned to use the 3T handle bars that I brought him. They were correct for the period, but I had to concede that their shape was ugly. They were too wide and with an odd shape, so I started searching for a better one in the haystack that is Woodstock Cycle Works. I found 5 that I liked, but Niels found some fault with each one and then started searching the dark corners of the shop to come up with the perfect bar for this bike! It turned out a 3T as well, but with graceful curves and anodized gunmetal to match the Mavic rims. The moment I saw it, I knew it was right!

Through all this Niels kept putting my bike together, asking every now and then how I preferred things. I asked him to position the handlebars a little more upright. With a disarming smile he said I can change them after I’ve taken pictures! I have to agree, the bike looks more graceful his way! I’ll keep them like that for now.

Suddenly it was all done! 


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