Bikes of the Bunch: Baum Cortado ’90s racer remake

A fresh steel ride built to pay homage to the pinnacle years of steel racing bikes, square tapered bottom brackets and 9-speed shifting.

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If you were an aspiring racer in the 1990s you probably dreamed about owning a custom-made steel frame built with Campagnolo’s finest. That was certainly true for Paul*, who lusted after such a steed as a junior but didn’t have the budget for that dream to become a reality. 

Fast forward to today. Paul has succeeded in business and in celebration of that fact he chose to build his dream bike of yesteryear. Built with many rare and new old stock (NOS) pieces, this fresh Baum is built to be ridden, and yet, you’d have a hell of a time trying to replicate it. 

Fresh out of the paint booth, this bike was on display at the Handmade Bicycle Show Australia. At a show of that calibre, there’s no single show-stopper, but this one certainly had more than a few pausing in their tracks. 

*Not his real name. The owner of this bike wished to remain anonymous.

A throw-back racer 

“The inspiration for this bike was from a steel-tubed Coppi I raced as an under-17 in the early 2000s,” Paul said. “I had a steel bike because they were common, and it’s what I could afford, but it was brilliant fun.”

Rather than simply sourcing a version of that old bike, Paul wanted something modern, yet old. “I wanted to marry that classic feel with some modern touches, but putting old and new together well is much harder than it sounds.” 

And certainly getting your hands on a like-new condition Campagnolo Record Titanium nine-speed groupset or the matching Shamal 12-HPW wheels is no easy feat. And then finding a top-level builder that shares such a vision to produce something a little more traditional? That probably wasn’t so simple, either. 

A new-old-stock Campagnolo Record Titanium nine-speed groupset was the basis for this build.

It took over a year of thought before Paul found himself in contact with the Geelong-based team at Baum. ”I had been searching for the right person to tackle the project,” he said. “[They] fully understood what I was trying to achieve.”

According to Paul, Darren Baum (the founder and owner of Baum Cycles) quickly took on the project as if it were his own. “[He] ran with the project from the start, owning the design, and has produced a stunning product,” Paul said. “Obviously there’s a reason why people wait a long time for his bikes – he’s a true craftsman.” 

The Cortado 

Those familiar with Baum’s model range aren’t likely to know the Cortado. It’s a model that’s existed off-and-on in Baum’s range throughout the years, it superseded the Cappuccino, and has often lived hidden on what the company calls its “Secret Menu”. In other words, the Cortado has long existed if you knew to ask for it. 

The Cortado is not a new model, but rather one that Baum hasn’t advertised.

In essence, the Cortado is a classic road bike designed to match the best steel road racing frames before things quickly moved to aluminium and carbon fibre. 

“Cortado is about the peak of what I saw in steel tubes riding nice,” Baum said. “Round steel tubes peaked in 1996.” For Baum, the Cortado is somewhat of an ode to the best years of steel racing bikes. “[It’s] a round tube bike built with a huge selection of tubes that really suit the rider. It’s barely just stiff enough for them. It’s not an overbuilt bike. If you loved 531 back in the day, this is for you.“

Baum got his start building steel frames before the business naturally progressed to being predominately titanium-focussed. Those steel bikes (like this Cortado) continue to trickle through the workshop and Baum has deep tube stocks from Dedacciai, Columbus, and Reynolds to fulfil the orders. 

Baum Cycles is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

“Since about 1998 I never bought a [steel] tubeset,” said Baum. “I normally buy tubes in boxes of 20 that are a certain diameter and wall thickness. We select the tubes based on the diameter and thickness, and use a welding rod that can join any tube to any tube.” After all, stiffness is purely dictated by diameter and wall thickness, not by the name on the tube. 

For Paul’s bike, Baum matched a polished stainless steel rear end with tubing from Columbus. Baum then added a personal touch, courtesy of another legendary framebuilder.

A personal touch from Darren Baum

“It was probably one of my smiliest moments as Dario called me up and had told me he’d been stalking my work for a long time,” Baum said of the day over 15 years ago that Dario Pegoretti, a builder he idolised, called him out of the blue. “We had an incredible conversation, it was just all questions about my work. [It was] one of the highlights of my career.” 

That call was the start of a working friendship and it wasn’t long before Pegoretti personally handed over two of his early carbon fibre forks for Baum’s feedback. Those highly prized forks sat as treasured possessions in Baum’s factory for years. That is until Paul’s Cortado project came in.

Knowing what Paul was trying to achieve with his build and the parts that were going on it, Baum decided it was time to part with one of Pegoretti’s forks and complete the NOS build. By making that decision Baum became personally invested in this one-off ride. 

The build

  • Frame: Baum Cortado – custom steel, paint by Baum
  • Fork: Pegoretti Falz carbon, paint by Baum
  • Headset: Chris King threadless
  • Wheelset: Campagnolo Shamal 12-HPW NOS
  • Shifters: Campagnolo Record Titanium nine-speed
  • Crankset: Campagnolo Record Titanium nine-speed
  • Bottom bracket: Campagnolo Record Titanium square taper
  • Front derailleur: Campagnolo Record Titanium nine-speed
  • Rear derailleur: Campagnolo Record Titanium nine-speed
  • Cassette: Campagnolo Record nine-speed
  • Chain: Campagnolo Record nine-speed
  • Brakes: Campagnolo Record Titanium
  • Tyres: VeloFlex Master tyres, 23 mm
  • Handlebar: Deda Newton (NOS from Baum’s collection)
  • Stem: 3T Arx 2 Team, painted by Baum
  • Seatpost: Campagnolo Record
  • Cages: King Stainless Steel
  • Bar tape: Busyman leather, custom
  • Saddle: Selle Italia SLR with Busyman leather covering
  • Pedals: Campagnolo Record 


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