Saturday, September 22, 2018

Colnago Master Ibex

I've been searching for a Tommasini Monte Amiata to hang my Record OR group on for a number of years. One failed attempt with a Yo! Eddy that was too big got me to rethink my options. While any Columbus-tubed Italian frame could work, to really have something special, you need to start with a special frame.

I've disliked, or rather been non-plussed with, Colnago's 80's and 90's colors for quite some time. Most likely I was jaded by the silly top tube rider or their odd fades and color combos. Whatever they got wrong on their classic road bikes, however, they got totally right on their mtb offerings.

The Master Ibex is now something that I'm going down the rabbit whole with. They can be had for good prices (the latest Monte Amiata frame is listed for $1700) if you know where to look, and come in a variety of tubing configurations (toss in a Gilco tube somewhere in the main triangle or even find an alloy version). So long as it's post U-brake (so, 1988 and on), I think I have a winner. I mean, just look at those gaudy colors!

I've read that the Master mtb frames are heavy as can be. No worry, so was the Record OR group! Also, scroll down far enough and you'll see the shoes that MUST be worn with it!

Friday, September 14, 2018


99 years ago today, in a tiny village called Castellania above Novi Ligure, Fausto Coppi, the second Campionissimo, was born (the first being my hero, Girardengo, born just down the hill in Novi some 26 years earlier).

I was lucky enough to make a pilgrimage there in 2012. You begin to sense the history on the long road up the hill towards the town in the middle of (or on top of) nowhere. Around twisty bends, 100-year-old buildings are covered in mega posters of their champion.

I was able to talk my way into his childhood home, normally a museum and closed for most of the year and certainly on a January evening. A modest donation to the caretaker and the guided tour was on by a cousin of the great Coppi! Honestly, I think everyone in town claims to be a close relative. Why not?

The great Italian sports writer (and much more than that) Gianni Brera described Fausto Coppi:

“The bicycle is his the other half. He forgets about his looks, with his breastbone that could be stolen from a chicken, his short neck, his shoulders practically attached to his face, and his two feet that look like seal fins. The bike becomes a part of himself and his lopsided bones.”

Not what you would expect from someone who would become the most important sporting icon in Italy and the cultural symbol of a postwar nation trying to enter the modern age. He seemed fragile, but unbeatable on a bike. The kind of thing that every scrawny kid imagines when turning his pedals in anger...

Fausto and Serse's final resting place.

Fausto's childhood bedroom.

Serse's room.

Local shops still post his photo in the window.

Guide to monuments around Italy dedicated to Coppi.

To the left of il Gira, Coppi's wall at the Museo dei Campionissimi in Novi Ligure.

Friday, April 6, 2018

il Drali, Marnati and Fantini. Classic Italian Cycling Videos for your Friday Enjoyment

Masters of the trade. An artisan industry that today's market can't comprehend. True innovators of a process that may get lost in today's hyper technical world. Personalities. Legends.

This is the music we should all listen to in our shops! OK, either this, Vasco or RPI (Italian Prog)

il Drali's new partners reached out to me recently to discuss the US market and get my advice. Life is odd. Were I to stop in to il Drali's shop, I would sit and ask him about his father's work with Stucchi and listen for hours. I just put down another bullet point on my next l'Eroica trip planner!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Pelizzoli, Ciöcc, Gion Italia and John the Star U.S.A.

I posted a reply in a Ciöcc thread over at Bike Forums and thought it should be on here as well. I typically go in the opposite direction but the content from a long phone call was too good to pass up. Here is the post in all it's glory...

Yes, that's my old video of Giovanni finally pronouncing and translating his nickname. I just got off the phone with him and after a LONG conversation, have a few more things I can offer... I hope ANY of it is useful or at the very least, interesting!

Gio was born in 1942 and at 25 built his first Ciöcc in 1967.

Here's an interesting one... my friend Claudio wasn't the first Corti to win aboard a Ciöcc. His brother Mario won the Vuelta de la Juventud Mexicana in 1971 for C.S. Fiat as a dilettante. Check out this image...

The Corti's, like Giovanni, were born in Curno. The first Ciöcc frames had just a "C" decoration, taken not from the nickname, but from the town Curno, which then merged with two other locales to form Curdomo, a model name used today under the brand Pelizzoli. Evidently, as Italian towns expanded there was plenty of name shuffling - reminds me of the direction Iowa schools systems are going!

Branding: The "C" with tail was inspired when Giovanni saw a Cimatti model with a similar tail. His new logo was met with consternation by the moto brand but was easily explained away in that his tail was curved while theirs was straight. When asked the exact timing of this, his only recollection is "Certainly after Claudio's win". Take that with a grain of salt though. I have seen mixed frames where the seat stay cap has no tail while the original decals do. Italian inventory planning of small raw materials was never precise!

Iper: Yes, literal translation is Hyper, supposedly "better" than Super. BUT - this name was applied to bikes sold in a local Curno/Bergamo bike shop owned by a close friend of Giovanni's! If you see this on a bike... I suggest buying it, as it represents a very narrow production range for a local marketer, hence rare and likely of top production - reputation locally was everything!

He names his Golden period of Ciöcc as 77-81 or 82... top of his head, he can't remember exactly when it was sold! He still retains the rights to the brands Gion Italia (Italian spelling of John) and John the Star U.S.A. I've been in his shop a number of times and have literally spent weekends there fishing around his piles of old junk frames - I've never seen evidence of a John the Star frame. It also deserves a good story, and there is one...

He got a phone call from a company in Milan threatening to file a suit against his use of U.S.A. Not sure the legal validity of such a case - we're talking Italy here. Giovanni replies with a question... 'well, what do you think U.S.A. means?!?' and the reply is obvious, followed by 'well, what do YOU think it means?' to which Giovanni replies his unassailable use of "Unione Saldatori Artigiani". The agent goes silent and the Union of Artisan Framebuilders never hears another word about the case.

The crew...

Hope this was interesting!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Paletti - Not Everyone Can Own One, Not Everyone Should

My earlier post about the frameteller site was an easy entry to post two recent eBay items and some innovations from Paletti. Always a sucker for Columbus MS and Max frames, these are three great examples from this builder, as well as a couple of examples of Mario Martini - painted frames.

Luckily for me, of the three, only the MS frame is my size. I have a feeling that at some point I'll end up with a Paletti and that one is a great example. MS, Martini paint (possibly), 56 - the check boxes are there, but it'll have to wait. $2700 is a bit out there right now!

With an orphaned Record OR group, this MAX OR would be a great fit... if only it fit me! Definitely Martini paint here. I have a strong feeling that lugged MAX OR is not a weight weenie bike, not even in the early 90's! At $1000, it's a great price, but not a great size!

The Paletti front derailleur direct-mount.

Internally routed down tube shifters!!!

Much like Somec, Paletti seems to have adopted the cavallo Baracca / Ferrari at least on this model!

Anyone else remember this ad BITD?

Frameteller - My New Favorite Website

The Milanese and Venetian schools of classic builders are fairly well known. You have Gloria, who begat Galmozzi and Masi and Colnago who begat Rossin and on and on. Venetian brands are fairly well known as well, even if their lineage is a bit murkier. A visit to Turin and my eyes were opened to that incredibly talented school, which is known locally but not as well worldwide, what with folks like Ernesto and Ugo hogging the limelight still to this day.

After my visit to Emilia Romagna's Somec, a favorite brand from my teenage years, my eyes were opened to yet another innovative classic Italian school of builders. I recently found, where regional pride has led to an incredible archive of this region's highly innovative and influential builders. Here, Manuel Dall’Olio has curated stories, innovations, publications and more, all with a narrow focus on the output from Emilia Romagna.

Known to serious collectors, but still fairly hidden from the "easy" collectors, names like Marastoni, Somec and Rauler rise to the top fairly quickly; however, the important contributions of Vicini and Dosi (two builders of Marco Pantani's early bikes) lead down the rabbit hole until you find a Paletti, an Ortelli and all of a sudden you're reading a long complete history of Neri e Renzo and then you find your saved eBay searches has doubled!

It is thanks to this site that I now know the creator of the greatest 90's paint jobs... Mario Martini. The amazing stars, neon argyles and fades created by Martini graced the bikes from this region and I now know the story behind it thanks to frameteller.

The list of innovations and patents to come from this region is in itself worth a visit. Too long to list here, but incredibly important are such items as internal cables, brazed on bottle mounts, shaped steel tubing, and even rollers for training!

One common thread from E-R to Milan to Turin to the Veneto is that the artisan construct remains: local "houses" doing business to finish a hand made work of art, with little regard to systemization beyond the idea that you've worked with this chroming house or frame painter for years. It's something worthy of many business theses and a way of doing business that still exists in il bel paese. But this is also lost to many new world collectors who can't wrap their heads around the idea that the hard rules of production are thrown out the window when working in this manner. Yes, this builder used this certain lugset for this period - until he ran out, lost interest, found something new or whatever... but then eight years later found the last box of them and used them again. These are the mysteries that are best appreciated by accepting and understanding the artisan environment.

A tip of the hat to Manuel, who has researched and listed 340 historic brands to emerge from this region since the 1920's. His completeness and dedication to the project sets the standard for the archiving of and lifting the covers off of a very narrow but important focus.

To translate the site into english, you can start at the Patelli link here and navigate around. Note that some of the flash pages won't translate in this manner, but most articles will. Also, be sure to enjoy the awesome photos and publication archive.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Pierfranco Vianelli

Time to finish up an old post, now that a sale is pending and I need the images posted!

With the entire house sick and sleeping off illness I found time to retire to the shop to dress up my latest Italian build, an 80's Vianelli that remained in Basel after we moved (not sure why) and with the help of a few friends, found its way back to me last year.

After l'Eroica I stayed with close friends who live close to Vianelli's shop on the west edge of Brescia. I took the frame to its 'home' and to meet Pierfranco, who won the 1968 Olympic gold medal in the road race in Mexico City.

He was very gracious and left me with two interesting facts. One; when asked which model my frame is and which decal set on the sheet to place and where, he replied that there was no real rhyme or reason for the models or decal placements. The ones I've found online seem to show a little randomness but those with Olympic rings on the forks or in the legwork seem to be declared with "Mexico" so I'm going with that. Two; he has about 300 raw old steel frames in the basement just waiting to be finished and sold, but no real interest in doing so!

With a new fat bike project in the works, my Vianelli is now headed to that great auction site in the sky - I mean eBay. I built it and rode it a few times. It's very nice and typical of a workmanlike Italian 80's bike. Not fancy or with a lot of frills, but will get the job done. My example, in fact, can trace back to a dilettante who raced the 1981 Coppa d'Oro.