Chuck from Velo Retro’s Vitus Kas Team Bike Built with Mavic – Sean Talkington

Chuck from Velo Retro’s Vitus Kas Team Bike Built with Mavic
Words and photos by Sean Talkington, with fact-checking by Chuck of Velo Retro

This Vitus Kas Team bike belongs to Chuck Schmidt from Velo Retro. I first met Chuck when we opened the doors to the original Cub House a few years back and am pretty sure we have seen him every day since. He is a graphic designer/lettering artist by trade and quickly became a shop legend when we discovered that Chuck created the coolest Eddy Merckx logo ever. The guy is also responsible for the lettering on some of the most iconic album covers and posters spanning across multiple generations of the world’s best stuff. Take your pick: Star Wars summer release poster, re-design of Hot Wheels logo, re-design of Road & Track logo, Parliament/Funkadelic, John Denver, Donna Summer, Sports Illustrated 25th Anni cover, fonts for ABC and CBS… It’s wild!

On top of his talents with a pencil, Chuck also happens to have quite a wild collection of bicycles that he slowly trickles into the shop for all of us to drool over. He likes to dangle the fancy bike carrots to keep us chomping at the bit (and it works). The most recent to roll through is this Kas Team bike from the late 80’s. The bike was produced in France by Vitus. Kas was a Spanish-based professional cycling team which was active from 1958 until 1979 and again for three years 1986-8 and they have been sponsoring pro teams since the late 1950’s.

The anodized and lugged aluminum made them quite unique when Vitus began producing aluminum lugged frames in the late 70’s. I have never owned or ridden one but have heard some mixed reviews on the ride quality. (Ride quality great, handling on steep descents not confidence inspiring.) Regardless of what it’s like to ride, the build and sponsor stickers make this bike one of my personal all-time favorites. Kas was a Spanish soft drink company with some upper management who happened to fancy the Tour de France. When the person who dreamt up the team from Kas passed away, the team was disbanded soon after. Once Kas was finished the remaining framesets from the team were then sold to Euro Asia Imports where Chuck bought this frame in the 90’s. Most Americans had zero connection to a Spanish beverage company and removed the stickers but good ol’ Chuck kept them on (luckily for us) and the finished product has remained intact. Some people might say that this bike is a French noodle and that could actually be true, but Sean Kelly raced on one and even won The Vuelta in 1988 while racing for Kas, plus it sure does look cool, so whatever…IT’S RAD! If you know Chuck then you know that he has an eye for the details. Nothing is ever overlooked and this bike is no exception.

Velo Retro hosts a monthly vintage bicycle ride from the Rose Bowl on the first Sunday of every month and I highly suggest you visit if you ever find yourself in the area. All types of bikes are welcome but you will most definitely see some great old bikes if you happen to partake. Find out more at Velo Retro!

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  • As French as a fresh baguette.

  • Richard Sachs

    I love e-CHUCKIE.

  • Jordan Muller

    No easy spinning with gear ratios like that. Looks like you’re left with choosing the size of your cramp more than anything. Respect.

    • Lewy

      We have all gone soft. As a 17 year old my bike was like this 52-42t with a 18-13t 6 speed freewheel. I did a 9 day tour through Victoria on it and didn’t even notice the gearing up the hills. Now I have a 30t front ring and an 11-42 cassette and winge it’s not low enough :-)

      • Peter Chesworth

        Lucky we’re not all ageing at the same rate. Oh, hold on a tick … 🚴🏼

  • O.Carltop

    Beautiful. A college club teammate had one of these in ‘89-90, in black with full Campy Chorus. It was a rare frame indeed in New England at the time. A sight for the eyes, but the one test ride I did on it told me how noodley it would feel under me. But for her, it was just fine since she must have weighed 102 lbs soaking wet. A true testament to Sean Kelly’s handling skills that he could win sprints on it!

    • M.R.

      I have the same thoughts about Kelly every time I see one of these old gems.

  • Peter Chesworth

    We didn’t appreciate it at the time but jeez the eighties threw up some beautiful design. That headset, the seat cluster … and the simplicity of it all. Normal derailleur polished with the name of the manufacturer … who’d have thunk it? Sean Kelly made this supposedly noodly frame fly. Cycling’s answer to the split cane fishing rod.

  • J Kevin Carmichael

    Tell us about the saddle…..

    • Jim Skinner

      Jonathan “Jacques” Boyer. A convicted sex offender.

      He also happened to be the first American in the TdF.

  • Dave Pelletier

    Sean Kelly was one of my favorites back in the day. Who was it that said he was, “toof as fookin’ coffin nails”? As for the Vitus, a couple of guys I rode with had these frames. The one I recall the most had Super Record hung on it.

  • Matt VanEnkevort

    I raced on several Alan (same construction as the Vitus frames) cyclocross frames in the 90’s. Whippy as hell, but oh so comfortable. I could sit on the saddle, grab the bars, and twist the head tube several inches in either direction. Definitely not subject to the current “stiffness” trends.

  • Theodor Rzad

    Bibendum!

  • Tranquillo

    Boyer’s post-conviction story is the subject of a movie, Rising From Ashes: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2088883/

    • Jim Skinner

      Not to dwell too much on this tangent, but the film helps whitewash his no-contest plea to a years-long predatory sexual relationship he had with his (barely) teenage step daughter. That man has enjoyed a shady reputation, from years of grey market imports to sexual abuse, that his “rebirth” as a born again christian hopes to nullify. It could be true penance paid, or the marking of a real psycho/sociopath. Time will tell.

      Those bikes are beautiful! Unfortunately not very durable. There are stories of tubes unbonding from the lugs, and top tubes being spun on the head and seat lugs as you rode down the street!

      No debating Sean Kelly’s palmares, nor his steeliness.

  • Tranquillo

    If the film is an attempt to whitewash it fails miserably – albeit in a fascinating way. Elite athlete, a pioneer, god-like status – abuses privilege, shows no apparent conscience until caught – falls (precipitously) from grace – finds an obscure corner of the world where it may be possible to re-establish some sort of status and authority – attempts to associate the newly found status and authority with altruism toward the entire society, ultimately on the world stage (the Olympics). However, it is structured a la ‘Memento’, so you don’t get the reveal until you’ve pretty much reached saturation with the altruism part. Highly recommended, especially if you have ever found yourself inclined to idolize an elite athlete for anything beyond athleticism.

  • Dexter

    She’s a beaut!