Articles

4 Iconic Italian Bicycle Brands

October 12, 2019


– Italy is well known
for its cycling passion, its immensely rich
heritage making arguably the spiritual home of the
sport that we all love. Now along with some of
the most stunning roads, amazing cuisine, and
greatest cycling legends, Italy has produced some
of the finest bicycles that have ever been ridden. And here’s a look at
four of the most iconic Italian cycling brands. Bianchi is the oldest
bicycle firm in the world still in business today,
founded by Edoardo Bianchi way back in 1885. Now as well as its rich tradition, more so than any other bicycle company, Bianchi bikes are
synonymous with one colour: celeste, a pale turquoise. Bianchi sponsored their
first professional rider, Giavanni Tomasello, in
1899, and 15 years later, the company were producing
45,000 bicycles a year, as well as 1500 motorbikes and 1,000 cars. And by 1935 they were
selling an astonishing 70,000 bikes a year. In 1939 Bianchi bikes
were the first to use Campagnolo’s new invention, a rod-operated gear-changing system
called the Cambio Coursa, with a derailleur
situated on the rear stay, that shifted the chain to
the four available sprockets at the back. And in the same year, Giuseppe Olmo also set a new world hour record onboard a Bianchi. Success continued when Fausto Coppi signed to the Bianchi team in 1940. And in 1949, the “Champion of Champions,” as he was known, became
the first ever rider to win the Giro d’Italia and the Tour
de France in the same year, cementing himself and the Bianchi brand, in the annuals of cycling history. As well as Coppi, Bianchi
has been associated with other cycling greats,
such as Felice Gimondi, Laurent Fignon, Gianni
Bugno, and Marco Pantani, who rode his custom aluminium
Mega Pro XL Reparto Corseto, to give its full name, to a famous Giro d’Italia / Tour de
France double in 1998, the last rider to achieve
this Herculean feat, and the last rider to
win the Tour de France on an aluminium frame. Now Pantani was obsessive
about the geometry of his bike, and in one season rode
30 different frames, each one slightly different. The distinctive celeste can still be seen in the palette on it today, ridden by Dutch World Tour Team Lotto NL-Jumbo, who have three different
road frames to choose from, in the Oltre, Specialissima,
and Infinito models. Now you may be wondering about the origins of the distinctive Bianchi crest. Well this came about in the early 1890s when Edoardo Bianchi
taught Queen Margherita how to ride a bike, and for his troubles was given a royal appointment, or seal, allowing him to place
the Bianchi coat of arms on each frame. (upbeat Italian music) Colnago was founded in Cambiago, Italy, in 1952 by Ernesto
Colnago, and quickly built a reputation as one of the finest builders of custom road frames in the world. With Luigi Ariento winning the gold medal at the road race in the 1960 Olympic Games onboard a Colnago. As well as running the company, Ernesto was head mechanic
of the Molteni team, and the win by Michele Dancelli
in the 1970 Milan-San Remo sparked inspiration for the famous Asso di Fiori, or Ace of Clubs logo. In 1971 a certain Eddie Merckx
joined the Molteni team, and worked closely with Ernesto on developing the bikes that he rode, the highlight being the
Super light steel Colnago used in 1972 to famously
break the world hour record. This success led to the company jumping into the market
for production bikes, fueled by a bike boom in the early 1970s, which saw the introduction
of the centrepiece models, the Super and the Mexico, in
honour of the hour record. They continued to innovate
too, experimenting with ways of increasing
frame stiffness by using oval and crimped tubing
frames with Columbus tubing, which led to the famous Master range, Giuseppi Saronne winning the
Pro World Road Race in 1982 on such a frame. Through the ’80s and the ’90s, Colnago continued to explore
construction and frame design, with the introduction in 1994 of their first ever
carbon-fiber frame, the C40, built from carbon tubes
using light steel lugs. The C40 was an instant hit, defying performance expectations and winning Paris-Roubaix
on five occasions from 1995 to 2000, with Mapei riders Johan Museeuw, Franco
Ballerini, and Andrea Tafi. Further iterations of the
carbon frame followed, with each one raising
the bar for excellence, the bikes highly sought after. In 2014 they collaborated with
Ferrari on the V1R aero bike, the second time they had worked
with the luxury sports brand after working on carbon
fibre technology with them in the 1980s. Their bikes continue to be
ridden at the top level, with the UAE Emirates team now using the C60 and Concept aero frames with the likes of Alexander Kristoff, Dan Martin, and Fabio Aru. (upbeat Italian music) Pinarello was founded back in 1953 by former professional Giovanni Pinarello, who started out with a small workshop hand-building bikes in Treviso. In 1961 Cicli Pinarello,
as it was known then, sponsored their first ever
rider, Guido de Rosso, who won that year’s Tour de l’Avenir on a cream and blue Pinarello steel. 1975 saw Pinarello take their
maiden Giro d’Italia win, with Fausto Bertoglio
onboard a special steel model with Columbus tubing. And 13 years later in
1988, they made history when Spaniard Pedro Delgado captured their first of 13 Tour
de France victories, although he was actually
riding in the mountains on an aluminum-lugged, carbon-tubed TVT92, badged up as a Treviso. Throughout the 1980s
the brand was most famed for its Montello SLX frame, which, courtesy of U.S. rider Alexi
Grewal, claimed road race gold at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. Whilst other popular
models around this time were the all-steel Treviso and Gavia. In an effort to match success on the road, Pinarello also explored the
world of time-trial machines, experimenting with curved
tubing and innovative design, launching their first low-profile machine with the striking Prologo in 1988. The arrival of Miguel Indurain
to the world stage in 1991 thrust Pinarello to new heights, the Spaniard winning five
back-to-back Tour de Frances on a series of custom Pinarellos, with 1994 being the last year that the Tour would be
won on a steel bike. In ’95 Indurain rode an aluminium Keral Lite frame to his final win, with Bjarne Riis taking the
’96 edition on the same frame, whilst Jan Ulrich
completed a remarkable run of seven straight wins
for the mark with victory in the 1997 Tour astride
a custom TIG-welded aluminium Pinarello Paris
with Columbus tubing. The foray into TT frame design continued through the 1990s and bore rich fruit, aided by Indurain’s
otherworldly physiology, with the unveiling of the company’s first full-carbon TT
bike, the Espada, in 1994, upon which Indurain smashed
the world hour record and piloted a road version
to devastating effect in time trials. Into the new millennium, and the new generation of
primarily carbon-fiber frames were ushered in with the Prince, and more recently the Dogma range that saw Bradley Wiggins
win the 2012 Tour de France. Four Tour de France victories courtesy of Chris Froome followed since, the latest being in 2017
on the new flagship F10. (Italian electroacoustic music) A truly celebrated, but now
almost forgotten Italian brand, the Legnano legend dates back to 1902, with the Vittorio Rossi & Company, who produced bicycles in Milan with the brand name “Lignon.” A few years later, the
company was acquired by Emilio Bozzi, who in 1906 established what was to become one
of the most successful professional cycling teams in history, the Legnano Cycling Team,
that ran until 1966. The highly regarded Legnano
bikes were defined by their distinctive colour,
known as “Lizard Yellow,” and unique frame design,
where the seat clamp was nestled to the front of the seat tube just underneath the top tube. In 1920 Bozzi adopted the figure of Alberto da Guissano,
the iconic Lombard warrior, to symbolise the Legnano brand. His image cast in a brass stamping and riveted to the head tube would adorn their bicycles
for the next 50 years. The fortunes of the brand
changed forever in 1924, when the team signed young
upcoming star Alfredo Binda to a lifetime contract. It was a stroke of business genius, as Binda would go on
to incredible success, with palmarès including five
editions of the Giro d’Italia, three World Road titles,
four Tour of Lombardis, and two editions of Milan-San Remo. In fact Binda was so dominant
that the Giro organisers paid him the equivalent of
winning the Giro overall to stay away from the
1930 edition of the race in order to reinvigorate interest in what had become almost a one-man show. Binda went on to win the race
for the fifth time in 1933. This ushered in a golden era for Legnano, with the signings of Gino Bartali in 1936 and Fausto Coppi in 1939. After forming one of the most potent yet combustible duos in
history, the pair split in 1942, when Coppi left to ride
for fierce rival Bianchi, splitting a nation into
two camps in the process. This rivalry continued after World War II, with Bartoli taking a truly epic win in the 1948 Tour de France
onboard a Legnano Roma with Campagnolo rod-activated
rear derailleur. After the retirement of
Bartoli at the end of 1954, the fortunes of Legnano gradually faded over the following years,
save for the gold medal at the 1956 Olympic road
race, with Ercole Baldini. The company struggled
through the 1960s and ’70s before being bought by
longtime rival Bianchi in 1987. And a final glorious hurrah,
when Maurizio Fondriest won the pro World Road
title in Ronse, Belgium. The Legnano brand still
lives on in name today, owned by Cycleurope. There are some really
interesting stories there. I certainly learned a lot; I
certainly hope you did too. But what I’d like to know is,
what iconic cycling brands you’d like to see in future videos. Leave your comments down
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