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Other collectors are often surprised by the relatively few bicycles we have in The Horton Collection, particularly in contrast to the sheer volume of different categories such as race-worn jerseys, vintage posters or original photographs and art. The simple reality is the decision to cap our bicycles at 24 reflects nothing more than the physical capacity we had at the time to store the bikes correctly in crates. Funny thing, this somewhat arbitrary limit has helped me immensely. Any time I am looking at the possible acquisition of a race-provenance bike, I simply ask myself if the target bike is more desirable than the current No. 24. If yes, without exception, No. 24 has to go. If only I had been granted this epiphany before going deep into the rabbit hole with jerseys and posters!
With 24 bicycles in our collection, each one is there for a specific reason. One common thread is that of personal connection or affinity. I either personally know the rider or have significant respect for what they accomplished as a rider. Also, each bike has solid race provenance.
The only bike I have in rank order is No. 24. It helps simplify the process when looking to acquire a new addition to the collection. The target bike has to be better than my current No. 24 or it is not acquired.
I often get asked which is my favorite bike in our collection. In a weird way, asking me which is my favorite is akin to asking a father of five to rank his children in order of preference. Who am I kidding? Ranking one’s children is easier.
Two bikes that mean a lot to me are Freddy Maertens’ 1981 World Championship-winning Colnago and the Pinarello Erik Zabel used in the spring classics during his incredibly long duration as the No. 1 ranked rider in the world. I am fortunate to know each of these gentlemen on a personal level and consider both to be friends of my family.
I love the design of Freddy’s bike. Colnago designed the bike for the last 500 meters of the race. It had a mix of various Columbus tubes and is much closer to a track bike than a traditional early 1980s road bike. While he had to ride for several hours on a stiff steed, in the end, it was worth it; he won the bunch sprint ahead of Bernard Hinault and Giuseppe Saronni. I was beyond thrilled when privileged to acquire the bike directly from Freddy. In addition to the bike, I also have the trophy and his shoes from the race.
Erik’s Pinarello screams speed and oozes elegance. Erik, like many pros, is very particular about his bike set-up. Everything is always precisely in place. Also, he embraced the latitude to modify the bike with certain final touches he liked that were not integral to the sponsorship package. One such item was cable housing. He felt the German made alloy linked housing both fit the aesthetic of the bike and delivered higher performance than the housing that was standard team issue. This bike took a couple of seasons for me to obtain, mainly because of what I felt was imperative: provenance. I wanted a log made of every time the bike was ridden at a race. In the end, in addition to the bike, I got an excellent letter on Team Telekom letterhead detailing each race in which Erik used the bike. Erik, his mechanic and team owner Walter Godefroot signed the document. Few may or may not care right now but with time, the ability to document provenance becomes nearly as important as the item itself.
N+1? No. Exactly 24 bikes is the formula…and I’m sticking with it!
1. Greg LeMond’s Gitane.
2. Bruno Risi’s Colnago.
3. Freddy Maertens’ 1976 World’s bike.
4. Mario Cipollini’s 2003 Giro d’Italia bike.
5. Jean Alavoine won 17 Tour stages.
6. Erik Zabel’s Pinarello.