Bikes of the Bunch: Eddy Merckx MX Leader
Peter Chisholm is not your average cyclist.
As the former long-time owner of renowned Boulder, Colorado bicycle shop Vecchio’s Bicicleteria, Chisholm’s love for metal bikes and all things Campagnolo has been well-earned. The shop primarily concentrated on service, and the complete bikes it sold came from more traditional outfits such as Moots, Waterford, Gunnar, and Ritchey.
Chisholm’s skin is adorned with four tattoos, and although he spent two decades as a pilot for the United States Navy flying F-4 Phantoms and F-14 Tomcats, none of them are related to his years of service. Instead, his Scottish family crest is inked on to his right arm, and a tattoo on his left ankle depicts the cover from The Tao of Pooh (except with Pooh wearing a kilt); his other arm and leg are decorated with Campagnolo icongraphy.
When he sold Vecchio’s to business partner Jim Potter in 2013, Moots and Campagnolo surprised Chisholm with a gorgeous custom road bike, built with modern tubing and an 80th-anniversary Campagnolo Super Record EPS groupset, but adorned with retro features such as polished seatstay caps, polished chainstays, full-length rear brake housing, and custom decals with throwback graphics.
Most cyclists would spend every possible moment riding such a creation, but today, that bike hangs on the wall at Vecchio’s; Chisholm feels that, as wonderful as it is, it’s simply too special a machine to ride regularly. Instead, he spends the majority of his pedaling time on an old Eddy Merckx MX Leader.
“When I was at Vecchio’s, I was talking about how I loved MX Leaders with Michael Robson [a local photographer],” Chisholm recounted. “I had one of the last 100 Motorolas [Eddy Merckx sponsored the US-based Motorola team from 1991-1994] and I said I’d love to have a spare — and he says, ‘I have one!’ He brought it over and showed it to me, and it was kind of knackered up, and he wanted to trade stuff for it. I said, ‘thank you, Michael, but I don’t think so.’
“About three years later, my wife and I were doing our Christmas lists, and on mine, I wrote, ‘Michael Robson’s MX Leader — ha ha ha ha.’ So Christmas comes and goes, but my birthday is on January 3, and we’re doing it here with our two sons, and my wife says my oldest son, ‘Go get it.’ And there it was.”
That bike originally came to Chisholm with a Campagnolo C-Record groupset that included friction shifters and Delta brakes, but after seeing a fellow cyclist in town with a “retro mod” EPS-equipped Ciocc, he was inspired to replace it with an EPS setup.
Chisholm broke his back when he was hit by a truck while riding in 2002, however, and while he thankfully recovered from that completely, his spine shortened significantly, to the point where he had to alter his usual bike fit. Swapping from a 12cm-long stem to 10cm one mostly did the trick, but there was still the issue of the longer reach of modern Campagnolo EPS levers to contend with if he wanted to pull off the upgrade.
As it turned out, Chisholm wanted to keep the original levers and Delta calipers, anyway, so he instead decided to repurpose the time trial shifters that Campagnolo normally intends to be used on the end of aero extensions and instead use them as traditional bar ends.
“I talked to Dave Wages [of Ellis Cycles] and David Kirk [of Kirk Frameworks] and told them I’ve got this MX Leader and want to drill holes in it for EPS wires, and they both said, ‘Go ahead; you’re not going to hurt anything.'”
Chisholm and Potter were already deep into the process of transferring ownership of the shop, and it was but a small matter at that point to work in the cost of an Athena EPS groupset into the cost. With that in hand, he was off to the races.
“I confirmed with Campagnolo North America that the wires would be long enough, and then I got my Athena EPS group, took out my 5/16″ drill, and drilled holes in the damned frame.”
Why Athena EPS, you might ask, instead of Super Record EPS?
“It was going to be a daily driver and I wasn’t going to upgrade it,” Chisholm explained. “I wanted metal derailleurs, and I wanted a metal crank.”
Chisholm’s preferences in componentry are also reflected in the wheels: a set of aluminum Campagnolo Lambda shallow-profile tubular rims he built himself with DT Swiss straight-gauge stainless steel spokes and brass nipples (36-hole and three-cross, natch) and Campagnolo Record hubs.
“I do not own a clincher wheel or rim; I only ride sew-ups. I haven’t had a flat in two and a half years. [This bike is] just a magical ride. You get on it and just go, my god, this thing is amazing.”
Although now happily retired from the mayhem of retail life, Chisholm still regularly gets his hands dirty, spending part of the week helping tend to his young grandchildren, and much of the rest doing what he loved most when he was at Vecchio’s: building wheels. Chisholm Custom Wheels now operates out of the back of his garage, and he estimates that he’s built roughly 400 sets just since March 2014, with every set recorded by hand in a small notebook.
Those remaining days, however, are still spent doing what pulled him into the bicycle business in the first place: riding bikes.
“I prefer to ride alone,” he says. “The who/where/when/how-fast/how-far gig is tiresome. I also ride with no electronic stuff (except for EPS). I seldom know where I’m going to ride when I pedal out my driveway; I kind of decide on the run. And, although I know where I’m going, I don’t know a lot of the road names I’m on. I ride because I like to ride; I don’t care if I ride the same place everyday.”