One of the most successful professional cyclists to ever live was Eddy Merckx. After his retirement, he decided to start manufacturing his own bicycles using his expertise and life-long passion for the sport. But how did he reach this stage?
Here is the great man himself, Eddy Merckx, being photographed by teammate and friend Vittorio Adorni in 1968.
The unparalleled success of Eddy Merckx
Merckx was born in the Flemish speaking Meensel-Kiezegem, Brabant in Belgium in 1945. He was always into sports growing up, but truly found his passion with cycling. His parents, who ran a grocery shop, bought him his first bike when he was three years old, this would prove to be a defining moment in his life. Over time, Eddy began amateur racing but eventually took it increasingly seriously and after 8 amateur wins, he began to make a real name for himself. However, his parents were not happy about the possibility of leaving school to pursue cycling, as they believed a career in the saddle was a difficult one to succeed in. Eddy, undeterred, became professional in 1965 by signing with Solo-Superia at the age of 20.
After finishing second in the 1965 Belgian national championships, team BIC approached Eddy to sign for them, but instead he signed for Peugeot-BP, where Merckx would achieve his first monument win of the Milan-San Remo in 1966. In 1968, he signed with Faema where he would race alongside some other legends like Zilioli and Adorni. In the same year, Merckx won his first Giro d’Italia.
Following many major successes, when Faema disbanded as a team in 1970, Merckx joined Team Molteni, where he remained until 1976. Whilst with Molteni, Merckx cemented himself in the history books with an unbelievable number of victories including the Tour de France, Vuelta, Giro and the World Championships. Sadly after leaving Molteni, Merckx realised that his body was noty keeping up with his demands and after season-long stints at both Fiat and C&A, he officially announced his retirement in 1978.
Merckx leaving the pack behind in the final Milan-San Remo he would take part in whilst signed up with Faema/Faemino, in 1970.
Merckx is one of the most decorated cyclists of all time with 525 victories to his name across his career. Listed below are some of the largest and most famous wins from The Cannibal’s career:
Grand Tours and World Championships
Tour de France
1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1974
Vuelta a España
1968, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1974
1967, 1971, 1973, 1974
1966, 1967, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1975, 1976
1968, 1970, 1973
Giro di Lombardia
Tour of Flanders
1969, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975
Merckx also broke the UCI World Hour Record in 1972 with a distance of 49,431m which stood until the year 2000. These tables also do not mention the endless list of stage racing classifications - one could really lose themselves in trying to keep a record of just how many wins Merckx had.
The foundation of Eddy Merckx cycles
Following the end of Eddy’s illustrious career, he found himself in somewhat of a self-proclaimed ‘void’, as he still wanted to compete but his body no longer allowed him to do so. He was still incredibly passionate about bikes and extremely knowledgeable. After a few years away from cycling and trying to decide which direction he would go, a discussion with friend and ex-team mechanic Ugo De Rosa would convince Merckx to open his own cyclery in 1980. De Rosa trained the first few employees of the company as a gesture to his friend. The brand went on to be extremely successful throughout the 1980s and 1990s as Merckx’s name always drew attention.
The appeal of Eddy Merckx bikes
The training that De Rosa provided for Eddy was invaluable for the business. The bicycles that were leaving the Eddy Merckx factory were of the highest quality and were made with an incredible level of attention to detail. The frames were extremely strong and very well put together.
Eddy Merckx first released a few different varieties of bikes: the Corsa, Corsa Extra, TSX and the Leader MX. The variations showed that Eddy Merckx cycles were listening to feedback from professional riders on how they could improve their bikes. Merckx himself had learnt that being able to talk to the frame builders was an important way of being able to optimise your rides and be better the next race. So the company prided itself on taking on comments by professionals about what changes they wanted to see in the bikes. Therefore, each new model was slightly different than the one before, but maintained the same incredibly high build-quality and attention to detail.
The Corsa was the initial launch of the professional racing bike, and featured light yet strong Columbus SL tubing, these are identifiable by the C that appears on the frames.
The Corsa Extra was a development on this- featuring the letter X on the frame - in essence the same bike with the same construction method but was made with Columbus SLX tubing for that added rigidity and control that professional riders were looking for.
Over time, towards the end of the 1980s, riders wanted to be in a different position to improve their aerodynamics, so Eddy Merckx moved the seat post back on the Corsa Extra and the TSX was born with a T featuring on the frame.
The final development was the Leader MX. The MX-Leader was the most developed steel frame, Eddy Merckx developed in the 1990s. The strong Columbus Max tubes were fitted into evenly strong oversized lugs. The frame is legendary for its power transfer, its comfort and safe handling.
So what is the Eddy Merckx brand doing today?
Merckx’s ‘never say die’ attitude translated into the business and after some financial difficulties at the beginning, the brand has managed to establish itself within the industry. Merckx’s understanding of cyclists' needs and the way in which the sport naturally had to develop has meant that he has not been shy about making decisions about how the brand should adapt.
Although the man himself stepped down as CEO of the business in 2008, he still visits the factory regularly to check up on the lightweight carbon machines that are being produced today.
3 of the most iconic Eddy Merckx Cycles bikes
Early Eddy Merckx Professional Classic Road Bike from the 1980s
Eddy Merckx Corsa from the 1980s
Here is a fine example of the first road bikes that were leaving the Eddy Merckx factory. Brilliantly assembled, consisting of the best parts and all brandishing the name of the most successful rider proudly.
This model includes Eddy Merckx pantographed components and is in the distinctive deep 1970s style orange to bring back memories of the creator’s golden years.
Eddy Merckx Professional Classic Road Bicycle
Eddy Merckx Corsa Extra from the late 1980s.
Once Merckx started producing bicycles, he didn’t have a wide catalogue of models to choose from, only one: the Professional.
This is one of the bicycles that Ugo de Rosa would have overlooked before it left the production line and thus is a real relic as a lot of the first bikes to leave the factory have made their way into museums across the world.
Eddy Merckx Leader Udo Bölts' Team Telekom Bike from 1993
Eddy Merckx MX Leader from 1993
The MX-Leader was one of the strongest steel frames Eddy Merckx developed in the 1990s. The oversized and uniquely shaped Columbus Max tubes were fitted into strong oversized lugs. This construction made the frame slightly heavier, but a reliable ride.
The frame became well known for its power transfer, comfort and safe handling characteristics. Cornering, sprinting, rapid descents - the MX Leader mastered all disciplines brilliantly. This is an example of a team bike for the Team Telekom, which was built in 1992 for use in the 1993 season by German rider Udo Bölts.
‘Like Henry Ford, I will sell you a bike in any colour you like… As long as it’s blue.’ - Alfredo Gios
You will definitely already recognise the brand Gios and will certainly be familiar with the deep blue that goes hand in hand with the name - but how did this come about?
The iconic Gios logo and deep blue on a beautiful Super Record from 1979.
How things got going for Gios
The brand Gios was created by Tolmino Gios, born in 1916 in Tolmin - an area of Vittorio Veneto in Italy that is nowadays a Slovenian territory. However he didn’t stay here for long, as at the age of 2 his family moved to Turin, which was the eventual birthplace of the Gios brand in 1958.
In Tolmino’s youth, he was an avid cyclist and event became a rather successful rider as he was recruited for a professional team and competed in a few Giro d’Italias in the early 1930s. He was even selected to race for the Italian national team in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, however due to a personal disagreement with the head coach, his invitation was later rescinded. Undeterred by the setback, Tolmino continued to race in major events and alongside some very recognisable names: Guerra, di Paco and Bartali to name a few.
After the Second World War, in 1948, he decided it was time to settle down and open a bicycle shop of his own. Initially a very small company, they gained a lot of popularity through Tolmino’s influence within professional racing, where he advised young cyclists on ways to improve as well as operating his own amateur team. In 1958 he recruited the legendary Italo Zilioli, who won the National Junior Road Championships the following year, under the watchful gaze of Tolmino.
The same year, Tolmino’s eldest son Alfredo Gios joined the family business to help them deal with the ever-increasing demand. One aspect that, surprisingly, took off for the business was interest in city-bikes. At the turn of the decade, the market was crying out for well constructed and reliable bicycles. The volume of business continued to grow well into the 1960s, so in 1966 Aldo, Tolmino’s third son, also became involved with operations. By 1968, Tolmino had handed control of the company over to Alfredo and Aldo, but still remained part of the business as his knowledge of bicycles was immense.
Brooklyn Chewing Gum and Gios collaboration
A chance encounter at the Milan exhibition in 1972 would change the trajectory of Gios and spawn one of the most iconic colours that professional cycling ever saw. When displaying a new city bike ‘Easy Rider’ at the Milan exhibition, the owner of the Brooklyn Chewing Gum company Giorgio Perfetti became infatuated with the bike. He told Alfredo that he wanted 100 right away so that they could be the prize for the boys cycling competitions that the company ran. Needless to say, Alfredo accepted and the brand began production of many Brooklyn branded Easy Riders.
Having Gios to help manufacture bicycles for them, Brooklyn decided to create their own professional cycling team the following year as a form of marketing. The company chose to use a deep, electric blue and red and white stripes for their team as a way of paying homage to the U.S. flag, as well as being colours that featured on their packaging. So when Gios were asked to design racing bikes for them, there was only one colour that seemed appropriate.
Here is a beautiful example of a 1970s Gios Super Record in the iconic Gios blue.
De Vlaeminck and the lasting legacy of Gios
One of the most remarkable and famous cyclists of the 20th Century Roger de Vlaeminck was with Brooklyn from 1972 until they ceased sponsorship in 1977. De Vlaeminck had some of his most successful years whilst riding Gios bikes:
The success of de Vlaeminck, or The Gypsy, during this time turned the dazzling styles of the Brooklyn team into not only an icon of professional cycling in the mid to late 70s, but also something of a cult-classic; with the jersey appearing on many comedy shows and television adverts throughout the 70s and 80s.
A retro Brooklyn team cycling jersey, showing the choice of colours the team used whilst in partnership with Gios.
But the Brooklyn team jersey and colours were not the only memorable parts of the collaboration: the bikes which Gios produced for the partnership and that assisted de Vlaeminck dominate the podium so much would become legendary.
Legendary Gios bikes
Gios as a brand reached legendary status through de Vlaeminck’s success. However, the build-quality of every bike that left the factory was also impeccable. The expertise of Tolmino was passed down to his sons, which was then translated into creating one of the most sought after vintage bike brands. The care taken by every person involved in the construction process is very evident with Gios, as they are all of the highest quality with exquisite componentry.
Here are some of the most desirable vintage Gios bikes that were released around the time of de Vlaeminck’s domination:
Gios Compact 40th Anniversary Bike from the 1980s
Released in 1986, the Compact is one of the best frames ever produced by Gios. Apart from technical innovations already introduced with the Professional model in the same year (such as the patented and waterproof seals for the internal routed rear brake cable and the one piece BB-shell with integrated bridge), the Compact features an adjustable dropout system, its most significant development. Tire width could therefore be changed by bringing the dropouts further to the front or to the back too.
Gios Torino Super Record
Gios Torino Super Record from the 1980s
The Gios Torino Super Record is a true monument of its time; manufactured between 1973 and 1982 in three main different versions, the Gios Torino Super Record is - thanks to great riders like Roger De Vlaeminck - one of the most decorated and widely admired racing bicycles of all time.
The first models that were built between 1973 and 1977 were ridden by the Brooklyn professional team, they were constructed with light and sturdy Columbus SL tubes. The professional success of the bike meant that this tubing was adopted for use in the bikes that were available for purchase from Gios dealers. This is a true classic road bike and a huge part of sporting history.
Gios Professional Road Bike Classic 1980s
The Gios Professional was a bike developed by Gios and the famous rider De Vlaeminck. It was a really fine design, which meant a leap forward from the former Super-Record model. The fork was Aero-tapered. The lugs were intricate and advanced, the waterproof internally routed brake cable also gave cyclists the edge. These advancements kept Gios riders firmly in contention for podium placements at major races and secured the brand as a brilliant example of a collectible vintage bike brand.