Build Project: Marinoni

Last summer I was able to pick up a very cool Marinoni for a great price. Earlier, I had purchased a pink colored Meile that had a decent stock spec of Suntour Sprint and Ambrosio rims. I had been wanting to get a steel bike in my collection for a while and found it in a local classifieds.

After a few rides on the Meile, I was pretty disappointed with the ride. It could get up to speed, but the ride was dead. It definitely was not the type of bike that is leading the charge in the current ferrous renaissance. However, I was in need of a commuter, so I decided to hang onto for a while.

As luck would have it, I had a friend who always wanted to own a pink bike. He also happened to have a Marinoni frame that was too big for him. I proposed a frame swap and he happily accepted.

The first ride on the newly built up Marinoni was a revelation. There was a marked difference in the ride: it was so much more lively and responsive. With this, I could understand the appeal of a steel bike. I don't know where the differences come from, be it the Columbus SL tubing or the craftsmanship, but the result is significant.

In need of a project

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I used the Marinoni for my summer commuting bike for all of last year. Over that time, I had a few mechanical issues, the most significant involving breaking a few spokes on the rear wheel. I had some spokes at the right length in my parts bin, so it wasn't a terrible fix, but pretty inconvenient and time consuming. As a result, I was often without my main mode of transportation.

Earlier, I had fantasized about rebuilding the Marinoni with a modern drivetrain. Rather than investing time and money into a drivetrain I was going to replace, I decided to go all in and build it up right. I have found that it is best to just do things right the first time, rather than stop-gap solution.

A modern drivetrain means 11-speed. As a (fast) commuter bike, I didn't want to spend too much on the project, so cost vs performance was at a premium. The default answer in such cases is Shimano 105. I have been especially impressed with the latest 5800 series group, and, given that it is available in silver, it seemed like a no-brainer.

However, given that Marinoni’s sport a bit of an Italian soul, I felt like the only real choice was Campagnolo. Doing a bit of shopping around, I was able to pick up a silver Campy Athena groupset for only about $150 more than Shimano 105 would cost, including hubs. In order to achieve this, I did have to make some minor concessions in the spec.

The most obvious of these is the cassette. Campy does not make an Athena level cassette, so you are normally forced to buy a Chorus level one for around $185. Pretty steep for a wear part. The same goes for the chain. As a way to save cost, I decided to do the build with a 105 cassette and a KMC chain, which were about $65 combined. As Lennard Zinn had pointed out on many occasions, the 11 speed cassettes of all of the brands are perfectly interchangeable with no reduction in shift quality, so it is a guilt free solution. Also, I went with Campy Skeleton brakes rather than the Athena branded ones. To be honest, I don't really know what the difference between them are other than the price and labeling.

For wheels, I had my friend Brahm at Troubadour Cycles do the build. We discussed the performance and style that I was going for and came up with a plan: Miche hubs and H+ Son Archetype rims. They are 36 spoke front and rear, using DT Swiss straight gauge spokes and nipple washers for maximum strength and durability. I was considering the H+ Son TB14 rims for the true retro look (and eyelets), but the Archetypes had better availability. The Archetype seems to be a pretty popular rim with builders, with good looks and modern dimensions at a reasonable price. Brahm said that some of the drillings were a little rough, but once he had deburred them and added the washers, they came together really nice.

The rest of the build-up was pretty uneventful, with the only hiccup being trying to find the tools to chase and face an Italian threaded bottom bracket. I ended up having to take it to a shop for the install. Big thanks to Guri ar Pedalhead Road Works for squeezing me in before his trip to Italy. (note: apparently Marinoni switched to English thread in the early 90s, so this frame at least pre-dates that time.)

I ordered some parts and accessories from Velo Orange to finish it off right. Their light weight, internal cam skewers have been great in form and function, and the retro bottle cage really completes the look.

The result so far has been fantastic. The bike attracts a fair amount of attention. Most casual observers think that it is build with original parts, so I think it is safe to say that the Athena's vintage style matches the frame perfectly. The final build came out at 22.5 pounds with pedals and a cage. Not light by any means, but neither am I so I can't complain.

This has been a really fun project and it feels great to have it come together so nicely. I plan on doing a write up on the Athena group once I get some more kilometers on it. The only downside is the bike is so nice as it is, that I don't think that there is much that I would add or change. So I guess that means I need another project. Disc brakes, perhaps?