while steel is enjoying something of a resurgence these days, particularly the lugged variety, attesting to the brazing and mitreing skills of the builder, there are regions of the cycling world where it has never gone away. racing cycles started departing the world of the round steel tube via both aluminium and titanium, but have seemingly settled on carbon fibre for even their mid-priced offerings. however, in the rarely-changing world of the proper bike, steel is still very much the material du jour. builders such as stratford upon avon's pashley cycles and italy's albabici seem about as far away from carbon nano tubes as it's possible to be, yet still inhabit the world of the bicycle. occupying a similar portion of the market is the italian taurus company who offer the rather splendid corinto model for those endeared of the more sedate regions ofurban commuting.
that last sentence was mostly what i set out to disprove. not so much that i think the corinto unsuitable for inner-city perambulations, but more to show the world (including myself) that it was every bit as much at home in the rural idyll.
the frame is handbuilt from unidentified steel tubing, quite possibly plain gauge, but i'm afraid i didn't saw anything in half to verify that statement. all is very cleanly connected via lugs at the head tube, seat tube and bottom bracket in the traditional double-diamond format. its traditional lines eschew the dubious advantages of the aheadset in favour of a threaded steerer and alloy quill stem. the reach of said stem is pretty much none existent, the swept back handlebars ending almost below the rider's shoulders for upright riding. the steel curved forks sport a beautiful, chromed square crown, adding to the the bike's stately appearance.
atop the stem, held in place by the centre bolt, is a natty magazine/newspaper rack, ideal for grasping either publication firmly as you ride home for an afternoon's reading in the conservatory.
the most fascinating aspect of the corinto is its reliance on rod operated stirrup brakes, custom engineered by taurus for this and the ladies model of the same bicycle. the levers, sited directly below the handlebar grips continue inside the bars, exiting adjacent to the stem. the front brake (set up uk style) has a rod that descends straight to the caliper, itself pulling upwards on the widened rims. the rear brake rod descends to a pivoted cam at the top of the down tube, connecting to a lengthy rod extending to the bottom bracket shell, where another cam points a third rod upwards to the seat cluster and the rear brake. aside from the fact that this all looks superb, it's pretty much the way all brakes were once constituted, exhibiting greater consistency than the modern cable operated version despite the intervening linkages.
thankfully, the handlebar height suited me admirably, but i was a bit concerned as to how the brakes affected the adjustability of the bar height. these are a modern marvel of engineering, for each rod is effectively sleeved, the inner part being clamped in place. to raise or lower the stem, it seems a (relatively) simple matter of loosening these small clamps and sliding the inner rod either in or out of its sleeve before clamping once more. i can't deny that it seems a bit of a faff, but once set, it's unlikely the procedure would have to be repeated.
the stirrup brakes use old-fashioned brake blocks held in place by threaded adjusters. thankfully i didn't experience any punctures during the review period, for i confess i'm still a tad unsure as to how to release the wheel from their grasp, though i'm sure the problem is not insurmountable. bolted front and rear wheels threw up a further consideration; those wheels featured threaded axles held in place by wheelnuts both front and rear. so aside from carrying a spare inner tube in the small leather saddlebag, i stashed a coated pdw 3wrencho to allow not only for tyre removal, but also that of the 36 spoked wheels.
the record rims are naturally wider than regular rims in order to accommodate a brake shoe on each side. this extra width rolls on a pair of schwalbe road cruiser 700x32c tan sidewall tyres, offering substantial comfort at relatively low pressures. it's also the first time i've seen a pair of woods valve equipped inner tubes for many a long year.
the wheels are shielded from the rider by way of a fabulous pair of mudguards painted the same colour as the rest of the bicycle and with a chromed stripe down the centre, offering that extra degree of luxurious detailing. the front guard features a mud flap, while the rear offers a guard at the front end to avoid any flailing clothing from catching in rotating spokes. fitted with a tyre powered dynamo, the rear light is an integral part of the rear mudguard, while the front light emulates a smaller version of a citroen 2cv headlamp just in front of the stem.
the taurus corinto rides on a sturmey archer three-speed hub gear, actuated by a slightly incongruous looking three-speed lever attached just ahead of the right-hand bar grip. the cable descends the right side of the downtube before heading hubwards via a bottom bracket mounted roller.
the chainset, with immensely practical rubber platform pedals attaches to a square-taper bottom bracket (ah joy), while the eighth inch inline chain is completely enclosed in an all-enveloping chainguard. no need for even so much as a single trouser clip. above the rear wheel is a very substantial tubular rack on which it seems possible you could carry a small fridge without unsettling the corinto.
taurus must be offered major congratulations for managing to combine serious practicality with a highly refined sense of style. this extends all the way to the saddle; a fabulous b66 brooks leather edition with an pair of efficacious springs below the rearmost portion. saddles such as this do not generally fit atop micro-adjust seatposts, and the corinto is no exception. the taurus seatpost is a chromed steel dumb version onto which the saddle attaches via a lateral clamp. the way all saddles used to.
security and convenience have not been omitted. there is an integrated rear wheel key operated lock and a highly practical kickstand mounted just behind the bottom bracket shell. the cycle also arrives with a pump fitted behind the seat tube, unfortunately the only accoutrement not painted to match the quality light grey paintwork (a british racing green version is also available). though unlikely to be the case from kennacraig westwards, i never had cause to use the lock; though the cycle was much admired during its holiday on islay, this is the sort of place where folks are happy to admire from afar without feelings of aquisitiveness.
perhaps unsurprisingly, my first outing on the corinto was the mere 15km from bowmore to debbie's for a coffee. there is something particularly satisfying about cycling in civvies, not having had to delve through acres of lycra before heading roadwards. on arrival at the hostelry of choice, i carefully parked the taurus by means of its sturdy kickstand before entering the house of froth, then nipped smartly back outside to park it against a wall. the prevailing wind was rocking the bicycle rather too violently for my liking and i had no wish for gravity to take its toll on the smooth paintwork.
on re-entering to the aroma of freshly ground coffee, the elderly gentleman occupying the first stool at the coffee bar was wont to remark "now that's a 'proper 'bike.". and how right he was.
my concern had been initially that i would unconsciously attempt to ride in a similar manner to that on my colnago; a foolish choice if ever there was one. however, given that the sturmey hub gear afforded a choice of three gears, it maybe does me little credit to admit that there and back, i did not once make it into third. the corinto provides such a marvellously comfortable and stately ride, that an extra twenty minutes to reach bruichladdich was of no nevermind. i'm sure the cows and sheep were greatly amused by my ringing the bell on approach, accompanied by the occasional royal wave on passing.
with the handlebar grips naturally positioned almost under my shoulders, i'll not deny that such an upright riding position was something of a revelation. with the front wheel disappearing into the distance, there was indeed a visible temerity in both my stance and bike control for the first few kilometres until a sense of grace and pride suffused my forward movement and i started to relax. the islay wave, whereby motorists and this particular cyclist offer a casual hand signal on passing, was initially curtailed to a waggling of fingers; i didn't feel confident enough to remove one hand from the bars. this does not imply any imbalance on the part of the taurus, but merely a lack of confidence on the part of yours truly. by the time i'd reached bridgend (about 5km from bowmore), i believe i presented a united front to the world.
on my lengthy commute from one end of the island to halfway across the middle, i switched the dynamo on during the outward section, mostly because it was still a bit dull before the sun came up (who am i kidding?), and though it's well nigh impossible to check how well the lights work while in the saddle, i'm assuming passing motorists could see better than i. the front mounted dynamo is easily clicked into contact the the front tyre, making a buzzing noise in use and definitely offering a modest degree of retardation when in use.
the sturmey gear lever sited adjacent to the right-hand bar grip could not have been more convenient for changing gear, an action that could be accomplished almost without thinking. though shifting into first was a tad stiff, in truth, the whole procedure was simplicity itself. the rod operated brakes were quite excellent. despite starting out with new pads on new rims, every braking manoeuvre was as smooth as the rest of the bike. it's worth bearing in mind that stopping is far less onerous on the taurus due to a less frenetic pace than more usual on a carbon framed racer. the rear brake offers a noticeably greater spring resistance than the front, principally, i believe, due to the greater distance through which the rods are required to operate. however, it took only a few kilometres to adjust; overall, the braking was rather impressive.
into an atlantic headwind, it was hard to move out of first gear, principally on the basis of not wishing to engender any swot and hettiness. riding this bicycle is the velocipedinal equivalent of practising yoga on two wheels. the legendary discomfort promised by a brand new brooks leather saddle never once made itself known, something i lay squarely at the upright riding position and those two substantial springs directly under my posterior. something that both pronto gara's malcolm glass and i agree on is the imposition of a taurus branded leather saddlebag as opposed to an arguably more fitting brooks version. the example that arrived already attached to the brooks saddle was barely large enough to contain an inner tube and tyre lever, but i offer that as a statement of fact rather than a criticism.
i also think taurus missed a trick by fitting a black plastic pump behind the seatpost, rather than one painted in similar fashion to the corinto. though such would scarcely affect the practicality of the attached example, it slightly undermined the totality of form that taurus had obviously worked so hard to portray. i had few occasions when it was necessary to use the rear rack, but when needed, it proved perfectly equal to the task. on my return from froth supping, i stopped in at the village newsagent to collect my newspaper, clipping it into the handlebar rack with ease. any more of this and i'd expect to feature in the new year's honours list.
i have already related my imitation of mrs washingmachinepost's grandfather's daily commute, in truth, the real reason why the taurus was on review in the first place. fortunately for many, islay is relatively flat, but there were a couple of short, sharp climbs to which the cycle's weight and limted gearing were simply not equal. however, while i would suffer from embarrassing mortification were it necessary to dismount the colnago to reach the summit of any gradient on islay, having to do so with the corinto seemed most acceptable, not to say pragmatic.
it's likely a tautology that the taurus is squarely aimed at the urban commuting market, intended predominantly to be ridden along city streets. galeforce headwinds did not, i fear, loom large in production meetings. yet, though i cannot truthfully say i had the opportunity to scrabble into a death-defying headwind, the upright riding position was not only more comfortable than i had expected, but offered less resistance to a forceful headwind than i would have thought possible. there's no doubt that the latter slowed progress to a degree, but such is the lack of hurry promulgated by riding this bike, that a few extra minutes onto a journey seemed perfectly acceptable and rarely worthy of remark.
though i've no idea of what brand or quality of italian steel the corinto is assembled, it's built like a brick sh1thouse, and will likely outlast any of its owners. though i'd be wary of riding it in winds much above 30mph, despite its urban business card, it's every bit at home in the rural idyll as it would be in glasgow's argyle street. i cannot think of a single individual on islay who would consider commuting from the oa, all the way to gruinart (or, if truth be told, from one end of the village to the other), but that undoubtedly says a lot more about the modern version of island tenacity than about the taurus.
though everything i have in thewashingmachinepost bikeshed weighs considerably less and owns a pair of drop handlebars, i'd be more than happy to add a taurus corinto to the stable, and i can guarantee it wouldn't just be for decoration or collecting the daily paper in the summer months.
very many thanks to malcolm glass of glasgow's pronto gara for the loan of the taurus and his endless patient assistance during the review period. | pronto gara
sunday 9 february 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................