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Ex-pro bike, May 21, 2008

Andy Hampsten's Hampsten Cycles Strada Bianca Ti Travelissimo

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Photo ©: James Huang

Life is good for a former Giro d’Italia champion

By James Huang

Andy Hampsten won the 1988 Giro d'Italia
Photo ©: Marty Caivano
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S&S couplings in the down tube and top tube
Photo ©: James Huang
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The wild boar, or cinghiale, is the mascot
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Weld quality is second to none,
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The bottom bracket area
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There isn't any monkey business going on here;
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The seat stays take a straight path
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The chain stays are bent ever so slightly
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Massive dropouts
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Former pro cyclist Andy Hampsten earned fame and fortune for his epic ride over the Passo di Gavia and overall win in the 1988 Giro d’Italia (still the first and only American to do so). Yet in spite of its now legendary status, that performance is far from Hampten’s sole notable achievement having also conquered consecutive running’s of the Tour de Suisse in ’86 and ’87, finished fourth in the Tour de France twice, and also won a TdF stage atop Alpe d’Huez before finally retiring from the sport in 1996.

Hampsten now occupies himself with a number of diverse activities although cycling and Italy remain a common threads throughout. Much of his time is spent organizing and running bicycle tours through Tuscany and the Dolomites with his touring company, Cinghiale Cycling Tours, and he also provides assistance to his brother, Steve, in designing bikes under the Hampsten Cycles label. More recently, he has also been dabbling with the cycling clothing business and started up "a little olive oil company" with his girlfriend.

Hampsten’s racing career may be over a decade behind him but you’d hardly guess by looking at him. Now in his mid-40s, he is still barely 4kg (9lb) over his old 60kg (132lb) racing weight thanks to plenty of saddle time (both recreational and commuting) exploring the mountains around his Boulder, Colorado home base.

These days, Hampsten’s primary road rig is a Moots-built Hampsten Cycles Strada Bianca Ti that, ironically, is nearly perfectly suited for the type of steep mountainous dirt roads that he had to cross on that fateful day in ’88. "If I had one bike, this would be it," he said. "I ride this 90 percent of the time."

The cleanly welded titanium frame and carbon Wound Up fork are designed around the larger 28-33mm tires that he prefers for their ability to handle smooth pavement or cobbles with near-equal aplomb as well as their awesome cornering traits. Built-in S&S couplers on this ‘Travelissimo’ variant add obvious weight but they also allow for easy transport when it comes time to fly.

As a naturally gifted climber, Hampsten made do with the somewhat limited gear ratios available to him back in the day but now admits an affinity for today’s new compact offerings. "[Back then] I used 39/53 [up front]," he said. "For a mountain stage I would do 23, 21, 19, 17 etc. or 25, 23, 21, 19, 17. If there was something nuts in Italy like the Tre Cime Lavaredo or the Mortirolo then I would go to a 28. I never used even-numbered climbing cogs other than the 28. Never. Not that I am superstitious; I just hate how every time I looked at even numbers for climbing cogs my palms would get sweaty. Odd only. I can only really get excited about my bikes now if they have compact cranks; not having super climbing gears on my bikes limits my rides to boring terrain. Compact gearing for racers is for silly steep climbs, although the 50-11 would have worked for a top gear for me."

Hampsten’s current titanium creation admittedly bears little physical resemblance to the old John Slawta-built (of Land Shark fame) steel frame depicted in that infamous Gavia poster, but he insists there are still strong similarities between then and now.

"Basically [it’s] the same thing: neutral handling where if I lean a little bit, it goes the way I want to," he said. "I don’t like criterium bikes or quick handling bikes that steer quicker. Sometimes racers want that; it’s some old myth that criteriums are faster if your bike oversteers or whatever they do. In coming with that, we get low bottom brackets: European racer-bike bottom brackets. With that neutral handling, it’s not rocket science. It’s pretty much bikes like they’ve been made for 80 years or so."

While the general personality of his bike apparently haven’t changed much, the position certainly has. According to Hampsten, "In '88 I had a crazy high seat position, nearly 2cm higher than now. It worked then and feels all wrong now. I used to be longer on the bike, too. I shortened my top tube length by 2cm when I stopped racing, and raised my bars up at least 2cm."

Higher and shorter position notwithstanding, Hampsten is still as graceful on the bike as ever and impressively fit as evidenced by our leisurely (by his standards, that is) jaunt up to the old mining town of Gold Hill, roughly 900m (3,000ft) above Boulder at an elevation of 2530m (8,300ft). Life is easier for Hampsten these days but he certainly looks back at his racing career fondly.

"Bike racing was the most fun I’ve ever had," he said. "I have a hard time reading interviews for racers that grumble too much about how it is, that no one understands... it’s a blast. I had a blast. But I’m having a super, super good time now. I’m pretty happy not being any busier than I am; I’m as busy as I want to be. Life is awesome."

As it should be, Andy, as it should be.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Marty Caivano

Images by James Huang/Cyclingnews.com

Full specification

Frame: Hampsten Cycles Strada Bianca Ti Travelissimo
Fork: Wound Up long reach

Critical measurements
Rider's height: 1.75m (5' 9"); Weight: 63.5kg (140lb)
Seat tube length, c-c: 528mm
Seat tube length, c-t: 555mm
Top tube length: 560mm (horizontal)
Saddle height, from BB (c-t): 722mm
Saddle nose tip to C of bars: 542mm
C of front hub to top of bars: 590mm

Front brake: Shimano BR-R600 long reach
Rear brake: Shimano BR-R600 long reach
Levers: Shimano Dura-Ace STI Dual Control ST-7801
Front derailleurs: Shimano Dura-Ace FD-7800-B
Rear derailleurs: Shimano Dura-Ace RD-7800-SS
Cassette: Shimano Ultegra CS-6500, 12-27T
Chain: SRAM PC-1090
Crankset: Shimano R700, 170mm, 50/34T
Bottom bracket: Shimano Hollowtech II


Rims: Ambrosio Excellight SSC clincher, 28h (front); Mavic Open Pro clincher, 32h (rear)
Front Hub: Chris King Classic, 28h
Rear Hub: Chris King Classic, 32h
Spokes: Wheelsmith 14/15g double butted with alloy nipples, 2x rear, 3x front
Tyres: Rivendell Jack Brown 700x33.3c

Bars: Ritchey WCS Logic 31.8mm
Stem: Ritchey WCS 31.8mm
Headset: Chris King NoThreadset 1 1/8"
Tape/grip: fi'zi:k bar:tape with bar:gel

Pedals: Shimano Dura-Ace SPD PD-7410
Seat post: Moots Lay Back
Saddle: fi'zi:k Aliante
Bottle cages: King stainless
Computer: n/a
Other: Blackburn frame pump, Blackburn saddle bag, Douglas flashing light plug

Total bike weight: 9.05kg (20.0lb), without accessories