Vintage Bicycles Done Proper :: Portland, 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