Behind a trim typically Belgian house in a small town in the province of Limburg lies a secret. In a recently finished purpose-built structure bigger than many a London art gallery, one of the finest bike collections in the world is displayed.
Hundreds of pristinely restored racing machines, almost every one formerly owned and raced by a professional cyclist, both current and past, vie for attention in a vast showroom-style space, each with a name tag to denote its former owner: Roger De Vlaeminck, Eddy Merckx, Eric Vanderaerden and their like; Cadel Evans, Tom Boonen, Paolo Bettini, Jan Ullrich from later years; Peter Sagan, Taylor Phinney, Geraint Thomas, Rigoberto Uran and co from the current crop.
Once the road bike section has been taken in, on another floor dedicated to track and cyclo-cross, Colnagos ridden by Sven Nys sit beside Zdenek Stybar’s eponymous bike complete with world champion’s bands.
It is a phenomenal undertaking, the work of one man whose life has been devoted to cycling. But the chances of you getting to see this Aladdin’s Cave of professional cycling in the flesh are slim…
Jos Ryan, who we featured in issue 17.2 alongside Tim Harris and their house for up-and-coming riders in Belgium, told us about this place. British teams in need of the best team roof racks in the world would send Jos to see Leo Moors, a master in the art of fitting nine bikes and a host of wheels atop an estate car.
The likes of Quick Step, BMC, Lotto-Soudal and Cofidis were regular callers at Leo’s atelier. He is now semi-retired, but became good friends with a host of team bosses along the way, especially Patrick Lefevere of Quick Step, who started donating ex-pro bikes to add to the rapidly-expanding private collection.
Leo’s obsession had got so out of hand that, when Jos visited a while back to talk roof racks, he proudly led her to the back of the house where this extraordinary collection is now situated in a shiny and spacious new building. And, thankfully, Jos tipped us the wink.
The collection ranges from a 1936 Bianchi Super Champion (one of the few in Leo’s hundreds of machines not to be have been ridden professionally), all gleaming chrome and rudimentary derailleur, through to WorldTour bikes from the last few seasons – the likes of Specialized, BMC, Giant, Pinarello and Colnago.
Aside from teams donating to the collection, many of the bikes have been passed on to him by former riders – apart from, it should be noted, the Eddy Merckx hanging in the reception area. There is a cackling smoker’s laugh from Leo to accompany his explanation of how The Cannibal’s trademark orange beauty came into his ownership, but we are not at liberty to divulge the details. Let’s just say it was unusual. And very funny.
As we leave the lower floor display area to enter the adjoining immaculate workshop, with lengths of steel racked and stacked ready for assembly should any pro teams come calling, I wonder how Leo managed to replace those hard-to-find parts on his older machines. Worn components are one thing, but perished brake hoods and those little rubber gear lever covers that Campagnolo fitted in the 1970s must be practically extinct.
Sure enough, in yet another area on the ground floor of his premises, there are racks of rims, stacks of bars, boxes of Nuovo Record rear mechs and, of course, a tray of Campag rubber gear lever covers. This man has everything – including hundreds of jerseys, again previously owned and signed by champions, but we are not even going to start digging in those crates. Maybe next time.
Leo has no intention of opening his collection to the public. He derives pleasure from showing friends and the occasional outside visitor around this remarkable assembly of racing history, and that is sufficient for him.
You will just have to make friends with Leo. It’s worth it.
Bianchi Super Champion, 1936
Whilst not raced by a professional, this beauty from Bianchi warrants inclusion for looks alone. The Super Champion gear system was invented by former Hour Record holder and Tour de France stage winner Oscar Egg. A wonder of steel, chrome, brass and celeste paintwork.
Specialized Tarmac, 2014
Specialized’s design department really went to town on this special Colombian-themed Tarmac for Quick Step’s appointed Giro d’Italia GC contender Rigoberto Uran. Nice idea, but the eventual runner-up to his compatriot Nairo Quintana didn’t approve of the look and refused to ride it, preferring the rather pedestrian team issue black and blue. His loss, we say, and Leo’s gain.
Eric Vanderaerden was still a callow youth when racing this handsome Guerciotti, yet to win Flanders, Roubaix, Gent-Wevelgem and several Tour de France and Vuelta stages in the 1980s. An arch rival of Sean Kelly, the Belgian’s 1987 Paris-Roubaix win in the iconic colours of Panasonic came in grim conditions, with a mere 47 finishers.
Simplex Prestige LJ, 1970s
Founded by Lucien Juy in Dijon in the 1920s, Simplex went on to become a major player in the derailleur market. This gold anodised rear mech was one of Monsieur Juy’s finest, whereas his insistence on using plastic for both levers and mechs on his lower range models led to a poor reputation for Simplex products. The company finally folded in the early 1990s.
Eddy Merckx, 1973
Merckx’s eponymous bike company was founded in 1980, but it was the legendary orange Molteni-era machines that are forever associated with the Cannibal. The man tasked with producing frames, including this example, for the famously fastidious Belgian, was Ugo De Rosa, framebuilder to many of the era’s pro riders.
Extract from issue 17.8 of Rouleur magazine