Vintage Bicycles - Francesco Moser - Colnago - Cinelli - Lapierre - 1990s-2000s Bicycles

Vintage Bicycles - Francesco Moser - Colnago - Cinelli - Lapierre - 1990s-2000s Bicycles
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The colourful history of Colnago

The foundations of the brand

The brand Colnago is the creation of the genius Ernesto Colnago, born in 1932, he grew up riding bikes as much as he could. At the age of 13, he forged his birth certificate so that he could get a job in the Gloria bicycle factory in Milan. 

Ernesto loved cycling so much that he not only worked in the shop but also entered amateur races. After a few years, he sadly suffered a career-ending injury - making his future extremely clear: he would build his own bikes. So, in 1952 at the age of 19 he left Gloria and set up Colnago in the small town of Cambiago, just outside of Milan. 

The legendary ‘clubs’ logo that is synonymous with Colnago comes from a conversation with Ernesto’s friend Michele Dancelli. He remarked that Colnago bikes were ‘in bloom’ after a victory by the first Italian in 17 years at the Milan-San Remo in 1970. San Remo is known as the city of flowers and Ernesto had always hoped to be a manufacturing ‘ace’. He left the race that year with the image imprinted in his mind.

An example of Colnago’s vision realised on a Colnago Mexico TT.

 

Colnago’s road to success

A chance encounter on a leisurely ride around Milan would propel the brand towards their legendary status. In 1952, Ernesto met the extremely successful Fiorenzo Magni who was complaining of pains running down his leg. After a quick survey of the bike that Magni was riding, Ernesto deduced that the crank arms had been badly fitted on his bike. Magni listened to the advice and upon returning home altered his bike and knew right away that Ernesto was a man that knew bikes and could be trusted.

For the 1955 Giro d'Italia, Magni chose to bring Ernesto along as his mechanical assistant. Magni went on to win the illustrious Pink Jersey and as a result the Colnago brand gained a huge amount of popularity.

Ernesto’s success with Magni meant that he was scouted to work with the Molteni team through the 1960s. During this time, many great cyclists rode Colnago bikes for the team. One particular rider who was just emerging was Gianni Motta, who achieved wonderful victories during his time with Molteni between 1964-1968.

 

The Eddy Merckx years

Following the collapse of the Faema team, the legend Eddy Merckx was approached by Molteni to ride for them. Some of Merckx most inspirational and successful races were done on Colnago bikes. He also had extremely high demands and his own ideas about how to get faster and be more successful. This time working so closely together helped Colnago gain invaluable experience.

Merckx was so content with the construction of Colnago bikes that when he attempted to break the One Hour World Record, there was only one made for the job. Then in 1972, Merckx headed to Mexico City to do it. Colnago designed a custom track bike for Merckx to attempt the challenge - which he succeeded in demolishing.

The steel framed bike that Colnago produced weighed a tiny 5.75kg! It also took over 200 hours of work to be realised; however the results were phenomenal and worth every second of effort. 

 

Colnago and the end of the steel frame

After the success of the SCIC Cycling Team sponsorship of Colnago in 1974, Colnago was allowed to put its logo of the ace of flowers onto clothing and frames - meaning the brand became instantly recognisable. 

At the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, the Soviet Union entered a technical and commercial collaboration with Colnago. The USSR team won Gold, a massive victory for the world of cycling and even more so for the brand that made it all possible: Colnago. 

In 1983, after feeling as though perfection was in his reach, Ernesto went back to the drawing board to make the ultimate steel road bike. With the help of the infamous Columbus Tubing, the Colnago Master was born. An innovative bicycle that included beautiful star shaped tubing to increase rigidity of the frame. It would also turn out to be one of Colnago’s final ventures in the world of steel frames. 

The 1980s saw a boom in new technologies being introduced into professional road bike racing - one of particular importance to Colnago was the reliance on carbon fiber as opposed to steel for frame manufacturing. Colnago invested heavily into it and reaped the rewards after success with the Mapei cycling team throughout the later part of the 80s and well into the 90s. 

 

The most breathtaking Colnago’s to ever exist

During Ernesto’s time at Gloria bicycles, he learned to love intricate lugwork design that featured on their bicycles. He wanted to pay tribute to the company that helped him along his way to success by mimicking the ornate lugs on his Arabesque. The joints of which are decorated with designs that are reminiscent of Arabian intricacies and makes the bike breathtaking to behold.

The lugwork on the Colnago Arabesque are extremely ornate and beautiful. On this vintage model from 1984, you can really see the contrast between the striking chromework and the paintwork

 

A replica of the Colnago Super that Merckx rode during his time with team Molteni as he achieved title after titled in the early 70s.

 

Following Merckx’s astonishing world breaking record in the Hour, the Colnago Nuovo Mexico was released. This spawned from the success of Guiseppe Saronni in the 1982 World Championships in the same city Merckx achieved greatness.

 

Here is a Colnago Super dating back to the 1970s, when frames manufactured from steel were the only option for professional teams. The matte black paintwork pairs beautifully with the yellow detailing which is then enhanced by the chromed front fork.

 

The long-lasting legacy of Colnago

Due to Colnago’s involvement with high-end professional racing, the brand earnt itself a prestigious reputation. This is something that it still very much enjoys to this day, as the brand is still in operation and producing top of the line road racing bikes. Although the steel frames have widely been replaced, the ethos of providing the ultimate vehicle for the athlete to achieve great things remains at the centre of the company.

They still sell 2 retro bikes: the Colnago Master and the Arabesque. These are two of the most successful models that the brand ever released and have stood the test of time, as they are both still extraordinarily popular. 

 

A fine example of a vintage Colnago Master. Looking closely, you can see the star shaped tubing on the top tube and of course the unmistakable Colnago logo.

However, nowadays the brand enjoys unparalleled success from their carbon frames - although it is a venture away from the origins of what made the brand great in the first place, it shows the innovative nature of Ernesto.


A History of Cinelli

Cinelli’s story started in 1948, when Cino Cinelli was tired of mechanical failure during his time as a professional racing cyclist. He tirelessly attempted to sell his ideas of a number of companies, but no one was interested in his pursuit of faultless components; they seemed to forget his expert knowledge as a winner of Milan-Sanremo. Giotto – Cino’s brother – manufactured parts like stems and handlebars from steel in Florence; Cino saw the opportunity for development and together they moved the factory to Milan.


Through years of research and development of their craft, Cinelli produced the Unicator saddle in 1962, expanding the line of products and allowing the Cinelli name to grab wider attention as cyclists in Europe continued to seek the finest parts for their racing bicycles. This interest became worldwide when Japan required bicycles and components for their 1964 Olympics team; Cinelli obliged to supply them and at the following Olympics, Mexcio used Cinelli products too. In their history, Cinelli-supplied teams were awarded 28 gold medals at the Olympics.


At the heart of Cinelli is a desire to move bicycle design forward. Naturally, there would be some unusual designs along the way – Mario Cippolini’s alter stem adorning Pamela Anderson being one of them – but some would become legendary. ‘Legalise Spinaci’ is the cry of many nostalgic fans of the World Tour, and they refer to the notorious Spinaci bars of Cinelli – used in le peloton between 1993 and 1997. They were part of the revolution in aerodynamics, allowing riders to get lower on the bike and assume a faster position. However, the UCI began to see the dangers. Crashes were caused by riders unable to react to danger; they were preoccupied by their Spinaci position and couldn’t reach the brakes. This element of danger and their ban from racing in 1997 only adds to their legend.


Contemporary Cinelli components are some of the best available and their frames are always made with the finest Columbus tubing (including the infamous MASH Histogram and Vigorelli). It is a testament to Cino’s legacy that the winged ‘C’ is one of the most recognizable images in the bicycle industry.