Vintage Bicycles Done Proper :: Corvallis, Oregon
Meaning “most special” in Italian, the Univega Specialissima was the company’s top grand touring model from the early to late 80’s. And for excellent reasons. Especially as a Miyata 1000 in sheep’s clothing.What a decade the 80’s were for touring bicycles. During this time period, comparable Japanese models from the the same era include touring legends such as the Centurion Pro Tour, Fuji Touring Series V, Lotus Odyssey, Miyata 1000 and Specialized Expedition. But the Specialissima holds it’s own. Being an 80’s touring rig and a creation of Ben Lawee all but guarantees that the frame is built by Miyata. With a pedigree as such, one can rest assured knowing it is manufactured to exceptionally high standards.
Some argue that the Specialissima is the exact same bike as the Miyata 1000. Thanks to the cachet generated from the Sheldon Brown website, which claims the Miyata 1000 being “possibly the finest off-the-shelf touring bike available at the time”, the Miyata now lives in infamy and commands some of the highest prices around for a production bike of that era. That said, some frames, such as the more obscure Univega Specialissima sit in the shadows although they are just as capable a competitor.
This gem didn’t need much to bring back into shape and prepare her for another decade or two of riding. The Specialissima frame is made of Tange Champion Cro-moly double butted steel throughout which is the choice material for a loaded touring rig. The casted, long point lugs with diamond windows also show an element of grace and higher end production work. This, of course, is not quite what we see from the Italians but acceptable none the less.
Originally, the Specialissima sported a Suntour clamp on style cable stop. Although adequate, it was replaced with a modified NOS Huret clamp and Dura-Ace STI adjusters. The main reason was to allow for speedy derailleur cable adjustment abilities at the clamp level. The new adjusters have a lever on the right side to make quick adjustments to the rear derailleur and presets for the left, front derailleur adjuster. This modification also brings the frame into the modern era but keeps with a harmonious look and feel.
Other than a good cleaning and oiling/lubing, the drive train was left untouched as the Suntour Cyclone derailleurs were top of the line in their time. They are also quiet, efficient, shift phenomenally and are just plain beautifully sculpted.
Other notable features include the black, Brooks B17 saddle and Brooks Challenge tool bag. This addition is a discrete and tasteful way to tote a few small items along without the hassle of attaching larger bags or using bulky pockets. When it comes to long-distance comfort in the saddle, small details such as the fluted SR Laprade seat post take on the job with ease as the design provides phenomenal options for saddle angle.
The cockpit is outfitted with a set of SR Sakae Custom Road Champion drop bars which is par for the course when it comes to long distance traveling. The black twine finishes off the Fizik bar tape, matches the Brooks equipment and continues the color theme by accenting the top half of the bicycle in a atheistically pleasing way. The only significant modern upgrade to hardware came at the brake levers. Originally outfitted with Dia-Compe Gran Compe levers, although beautiful, they lacked a solid, comfortable spot for hand placement, modern return spring internals and the ability to hide the brake cable routing. To me, this sounded like a perfect application for a set of TEKTRO R200 levers. Debadged, they mimic Campagnolo levers, both in style and functionality, at a fraction of the cost.
This gem is a great find for someone interested in adding a vintage touring bike to their collection or for someone interested in getting into a lugged touring/ randonneuring “sleeper” on a fairly low cost compared to other comparable models. However, this build, I am proud to say, was created with my wife in mind as it is now a permanent part of our own stable and her main commuter. Future additions include Velo Orange fenders and racks along with a still undetermined brand and style of bags that will complement the build.
Color: Silver metallic
Frame Size: 54cm (C-T) seat post & 53cm (C-C) top tube
Frame/Drop-outs: Tange Champion Cro-moly double butted steel
Fork: Tange Champion Cro-moly double butted steel
Handlebars: SR Sakae Custom Road Champion; Silver Fizik Microtex bar tape with black twine (shellac finish)
Saddle: Brooks B17 Champion Standard
Seat Post: SR Laprade
Crankset: Sugino AT; 52/47/34, 170mm
Freewheel: 5-Speed Suntour
Hubs: Suntour Sealed Bearing (40/36 hole; Suntour skewers)
Front Derailleur: Suntour Cyclone
Rear Derailleur: Suntour Cyclone
Shifting Levers: Suntour bar end shifters
Brakes: Dia-Compe 980 high profile cantilevers; Silver Kool-Stop pads
Rims: Araya 27″
Tires: Continental Gatorskin; 27″x1-1/4″
Pedals: SR SP-100AL
Special Features: Exceptional lug work with diamond cut windows; Suntour dropouts; Double eyelets front/single eyelets rear; Double bottle mounts
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Another beautiful restoration. I hope your wife enjoys her new ride!
Another beautiful restoration. I hope your wife enjoys her new ride! I love that you are rescuing these beautiful bikes.
Thank you for the wonderful comments, CJ. I too feel that resurrecting these fallen soldiers is a worthy endeavor. It brings me great pride to know that I can not only provide a touch of inspiration for those across the world interested in vintage bicycles (thanks to the power of the internet) but also take solace in knowing that my work will endure for another decade or two without any major overhauls.
As for the Univega, it’s my wife’s first Brooks saddle and sometimes I think she is more impressed with that than she is the bike! Haha!
V.V. Nice! I wonder how much this score set you back (before restoration)… There’s a Lotus legend here on Craigs asking $395, and a nice looking old Concorde for $550. It would be neat if I could pick up a nice one like this for $200-300.
Luckily, I picked up the Univega for a song and knowing it fit my wife, I was prepared to pour more into it than usual knowing that it would be used often as a main commuter and be part of our permanent stable. For each of the bicycles I restore, I keep detailed records on every part purchased, which helps me fairly price out the bike when I sell. The original cost of the Univega, plus all of the restoration parts and fenders cost me just $2 more than the Lotus you found on Craigslist. Of course, the hours and hours of meticulous labor I put in is not calculated. That is the only element of restoration that I don’t record. So, on paper, it looks like I’ve made a killing but for time spent wrenching per hour, it’s not pretty. But, it’s what I enjoy doing. It’s meditation for me plus, at times, a challenging puzzle.
Hey Josh, Lovely Ride!! I own an 84′ Univega Gran Premio (Miyata Made), and am a huge fan of it. Great way to own a Miyata for less 😉 Also last night, a time capsule 79′ Centurion Pro Tour wandered into my life, and I am very much looking forward to restoring up to perfection. Cheers!
Thank you for the comments however your two steeds are certainly nothing to scoff at! I would be thrilled to own either. Consider yourself a fortune fella!
Agreed 100%. There are many fine lugged steel machines out there. It takes great restraint not to reacue every one I come across! Cheers to a fellow bike nut!
I am an original owner of one of these bikes, and it was a pleasure to see this beautiful restoration. In 1984 I rode mine fully loaded throughout the lower 48 and Alaska, and I’ve kept it tuned with original era parts. I was trying to decide between upgrading it and selling it, but now I think that I should consider a restoration, too!
It makes me beam with joy to hear when someone comes to the website, usually looking for some kind of pricing structure to sell their vintage bike, then realizes what it could be with just a little time and energy. Please do consider a restoration. Or, if this idea is too daunting, please do drop me a line as I can certainly help with advice all the way up to a full restoration.
Very nice job. You motivate me. I got one of these for free from the former house owner. Been a beater and hasn’t been ridden for years. Could be a good winter project.
Only question I have is where did you get the lettering done? It looks factory original.
Thanks for the nice site.
Paso Robles CA
Lucky you! A free Specialissima?! Sign me up. A project or not you know the bones are there so take your time on your revitalization and reap the benefits of an extremely road worthy long-distance bicycle.
As for the lettering, that is the stock graphics package. Does yours not have decals?
Reblogged this on Velo Finds and commented:
Univega Specialissima = Miyata 1000? Hmmmm. In the words of our friend Josh:
“Some argue that the Specialissima is the exact same bike as the Miyata 1000. Although thanks to the cachet generated from the Sheldon Brown website, which claims the Miyata 1000 being “possibly the finest off-the-shelf touring bike available at the time”, the Miyata now lives in infamy and commands some of the highest prices around for a production bike of that era. That said, some frames, such as the more obscure Univega Specialissima sit in the shadows although they are just as capable a competitor.”
Thanks for sharing the great pics and information on your restoration. I have an opportunity to pick up a Specialissimi that is a 3 x 7 with bar end shifters, seller believes it is a 21″ c-c frame so maybe a 54cm if he measured correctly. Any idea of the widest tires these frames will accomodate? I assume at least a 700 x 28c but have you tried anything wider?
I would look around for a Specialissima brochure from that year. Many times they have the stock sizes of the frame offered. It will support your idea on the sizing.
As for widest tires, the Gaterskins I have on it currently are 32mm haven’t gone any larger than the 28mm tire that fits the 27″ x 1-1/4″ wheel. However, depending on what kind of fenders installed, I do believe one could bump that tires size up just a touch.
Dang it Josh! I really need to stop looking through your site as I am getting this overwhelming urge to hunt down a vintage touring frame to restore. I have had the same problem with the FB page Mixte Heaven and frankly I don’t have any more room for project bikes. Sigh. Lovely resto on the Univega btw and a good tip that this is kind of a Miyata 1000 in sheep’s clothing so to speak.
With this post you clearly have won the award of “Most Posts by a Reader” award and for that, I tip my hat to you. It pleases me to have regular readers as I feel as we all grow our knowledge base we can contribute to enlightening and informative discussions (to us at the time and to future readers).
Currently, in the stable, this is one of my very favorite bicycles. Too bad it’s my wife’s and too small for me as I would love to take it out for a multi-day tour. At least, that’s how she uses it. Or for long days commuting across the city. Either way, it is a cherished bicycle in our own fleet.
If you see one, nab it!
I would like to thank the academy for this award…. I am currently tracking a mid 80’s Centurion Elite GT on the local CL and its all your fault Josh! I am giving it some time so that either A) someone else will snap it up and remove the temptation or B) it can linger long enough that the poster will realize their asking too much and my offer will seem reasonable. We’ll see…I can see why this Univega is one your favs
I have what I believe to be the same bike, albeit in a 23″ frame. I say believe, because there are some differences. The color of my bike came in a lighter more sand colored brown/gold. The cranks were SR Apex, 52-48-32 (same half step – granny gearing). It also came with a custom fitted rear rack. I was the original buyer and still have it. Also think mine was labeled an 1982, but not sure. I have re-purposed the bike several times. Mostly notable was a repaint to a powder coat of deep metallic red and outlined lugs in gold. It started as my bike touring rig, than lived on as a commuter with shimano 105 (but 8 spd bar end shifters) and a dynamo hub & fenders for many years. Now it serves as an E-bike with a hub motor. Some traditionalist would be horrified by my changes. I feel I have used this bike for nearly 40 years and it keeps up with the times. I treat it nice. Why get rid of it, when it can morph in to what I need it to be next? Only bits original on the bike are frame and brakes and rack. It is still a Univega Specialissma in my mind!
I’ve got an 84/85 Gran Turismo and there’s something unique about the handling. It’s got a 42″ wheelbase, 27×1.25″ Schwalbe tires and 3×5 drivetrain, and there’s a really stable, smooth acceleration as I’m stroking it up to full speed. Chromoly double butted with magnalight forks and hi-ten stays. I’m tempted to coldset the back and put on modern components and sdi shifters!