‘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team in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, however due to a personal disagreement with the head coach, his invitation was later rescinded.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.
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.