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Cameron Smith collects bikes, and it’s a passion that has come to shape his life. He admires steel bikes from the 70s and 80s, collects era-correct parts, and runs a small business restoring frames.
Cameron Smith started collecting bikes in 1985 and to date, he has 20 bikes or frames in various stages of restoration. He is fascinated with bikes, rides often, and has an encyclopaedic knowledge of bikes and parts from his preferred era, 1968-1985. It’s an era that was defined by some great cyclists such as Coppi, Motta, Merckx, Moser, Hinault and Fignon, and beautiful steel bikes. It’s all about the ride, according to Smith, and the elegant craftmanship it entails.
Cameron is a sophisticated collector–he still browses the listings on eBay–but leaves most of the work to a small network of European suppliers. Collecting retro bike parts is highly competitive, so he wouldn’t go into detail about his suppliers other than to affirm his loyalty to them. Judging from the size of his parts stash, I’m sure he’s constantly adding to it, if only because there’s about a dozen framesets hanging in his shed, awaiting restoration.
Smith works as an aircraft engineer which has allowed him to travel the world. He lived in Europe from 1990-2004, was based in France for a large chunk of that time, and he immersed himself in Euro cycling culture. He visited Italy, Germany, Holland and Ireland every other week and met a variety of cyclists from ex-pros to frame builders and devoted collectors. As a consequence, his interest in retro bike restoration quickly grew into a full-blown obsession.
Cameron credits his wife for encouraging him to develop his interest in frame painting. She suggested he learn the basics while waiting for his first frame to be painted and he was soon filling his shed with spray equipment. His hobby turned into something more serious after Smith met Nico van de Klundert during his second stint in Europe in 2011. Aside from having a pro cyclist for a father (Jacques) and brother (Peter) that owns a bike shop, Nico owns and operates Nicolor, a Dutch frame painting business. Cameron spent a lot of time with the van de Klunderts while working in Holland and ended up serving a short apprenticeship with Nico before returning to Australia. The experience was enough to inspire him to start his own frame painting business in 2012.
Smith now has a collection of customers’ frames awaiting restoration that rivals his personal collection. He prefers painting steel bikes, though many of the frames awaiting attention are carbon that have had crash repairs. “To have a customer request me to beautify their ride with paint, customised or original, gives me not only great satisfaction but also pride in that I am a part of keeping these trusty steeds alive and on the road.” Smith seems well suited to painting and restoring frames; he has a sharp eye for detail and an engineer’s devotion to perfection. And while he is delighted to give his time to customers, part of him longs for more time to spend on his own projects.
Running through the list of bikes in Cameron’s collection, there are several recognisable names such as Gios, Tommasini, Concorde, Merckx, and Colnago, but there are almost as many unfamiliar, such as Cornelo, Bruno Brazzo, Jan Jansen and Huissoon. Smith attributes his familiarity with these lesser known brands to the time spent living in Europe and the opportunity to meet the frame builders. Every collector has their Holy Grail and for Smith, there are a few bikes that he’d like to add to his collection such as Chasini, Bottecchia, Pogliaghi, and an Olmo Gentleman.
Cameron enters into a relationship with each bike he restores. Every affair starts with an appreciation of the art and craftmanship that goes into the creation of the frameset that deepens as he strips, paints and rebuilds the bike. “This is where the attachment grows, with the final nail in the coffin being that first ride.” That’s right, Cameron rides his restored bikes regularly. His riding buddies like to tease him about his “vintage” bikes, but he doesn’t have any trouble keeping pace with them on a hard ride, despite the perceived handicap of an old steel bike. “My trouble is that I have this affinity with every bike I complete and will never get rid of any of them.”
Cameron Smith is the owner and operator of CycleColor (firstname.lastname@example.org), a frame painting business located in Perth, Western Australia.