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Vintage Italian Bike Manufacturers: Innovation, Passion and Design

In our previous blog post we discussed how we thought the country could stake a valid claim to rival that of Flanders in North Belgium. The racing between Fausto Coppi (Legnano, Bianchi, Carpano) and Gino Bartali (Frejus, Legnano, Bartali) in the 1930s-1960s was perhaps the ‘golden age’ where two stars dominated road racing and often went head to head for victories.

During this era there was a proliferation of of highly skilled, artisan frame makers such as Cinelli, Masi, Colnago and Marastoni who were emerging from small villages in Northern and Central Italy. Many of these manufacturers have become renowned for their craftsmanship, innovation and attention to detail and are responsible for many classic Italian road bikes.

The establishing of these frame builders was driven by the Italian obsession for road racing during the 20th century. A combination of an innate ability to produce stylish design pieces with passion underpins the foundation of todays vintage road bike enthusiasts.

Bianchi is arguably the oldest, most famous and most recognisable manufacturer of Italian classics. Colnago and more recently Pinarello (based in Treviso where our Italian made products are manufactured) continue to produce modern classics as well as drive the high end classics market. However once you start to explore and delve a little deeper there are a many little known frame builders from tiny villages all over Italy who have produced some of the rarest jewels.

We thought we would spend some time exploring the famous and not so famous Italian cycling brands of yesteryear:

Bianchi 

Established in 1885, this is the worlds oldest cycling brand still in existence. Originally a small medical equipment business in Milan, Eduardo Bianchi began bicycle manufacturing aged 21. The 1940s saw Bianchi employ over 4500 members of staff and producing more than 70000 bikes per year. Under the guise of Autobianchi the company has also produced cars, motorcycles and commercial vehicles.

 


Colnago 

Founded by Ernesto Colnago in 1954 in Cambiago, the Collage marque is still revered and their full range of bikes were made in their own Italian factory until around 2006. The founder began as an apprentice aged 13 but his racing career ended prematurely due to a bad accident. Famed for high    quality, creative innovations and experimentation with new and diverse materials Colnago have generally been regarded as one of the world’s best builders of custom road race frames. Ernesto was also employed as head mechanic for the Molteni team.

Pinarello

Founded in 1952 by Giovanni Pinarello and based in Treviso, this brand is perhaps most famous for its Montello SLX model. Built in the the mid 1980s it was the frame with which Pinarello achieved their first five professional victories including the 194 Summer Olympics Road Race, Vuelta a Espana theGiro d’Italia and stages of theTour de France. Other iconic models from this manufacturer include the Treviso and modern day Dogma series.

 De Rosa

Ugo De Rosa founded his company in Milan in the early 1950s. Then pro cyclist Raphael Geminani  asked him to build a custom frame in 1958 and subsequently De Rosa supplied the Faema, Tbac and Max Majer teams with frames. From 1973 to 1978, Eddy Merckx the greatest star of Italian road cycling road De Rosa’s frames. The pair teamed up again when De Rosa was technical consultant for Merckx as he began his own manufacturing company in 1981. A vintage Italian bike brand with impeccable heriatge.

Olmo

Giuseppe Olmo (AKA Gepin), a former hour world record holder launched Olmo Biciclette on retiring from road racing. Manufactured in the town of Celle Ligure in Italy since 1938, where the company continues to manufacture to this day, Olmo are comparative in quality to the better known Collage bikes.

Benotto

Typical of great cycling frame makers, Benotto grew out of the passion of racer Giaciinto Benotto was just 24 years old when he established his business in Turin in 1931. Benotto road bikes were ridden to three world championships by 1951 and are now the leading brand in Latina America due to an expansion to Mexico around the same time. 

 Legnano

Originally the firm began as Vittorio Rossi in 1902 and produced bikes from 1906. Legnano was founded and named by Emilio Bozzi & Co in Milan. However the brand name Legnano was not established until 1924 when Bozzi teamed up with Franco Tosi. At the same time they offered a life long contract to house painter, Alfredo Binda, who went on to win 3 of Legnano’s 6 world titles among others. In the late 1970s or early 1980s the brand was sold/licensed to Bianchi. 

In conclusion, here at Shutt we are inspired by highly skilled workers who produce artisan products. Craftsmanship, innovation and attention to detail and are the elements we believe are key to making what you produce have the potential to become a classic. However, for us it isn’t until you add the passion and the obsession to the equation that you truly end up with the recipe that makes these bike manufacturers so successful.



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