Vintage Road Bike Manufacturers
The obsession of the Italians for road bike racing during the 20th century led to the establishment of a proliferation of small, highly skilled, artisan road bike manufacturers scattered all over the country. Their passion combined with an innate eye for style and design led to the creation of many exceptionally high quality and unique road bikes leading to what is todays world obsession with vintage road bikes.
A large number of these Italian road bike manufacturers went on to become renowned for their craftsmanship, innovation and attention to detail. They produced wonderful and highly sought after road bikes which Retrospective Cycles actively seek out when we visit Italy adding to our stock.
Bianchi is arguably the most famous, the oldest and most requested maker of classic Italian road bikes , then Colnago and of later years the Pinarello , but the real gems are from little known frame builders, one man shops dotted in villages and towns all over Northern Italy.
From the French border town of Frejus to Venice, Como to Sienna then onto Milan where a lot of great builders originated including Colnago and Masi. Heading east to Verona and Vicenza, the home of Campagnolo, there are many builders including Chesini. The renowned capital of the racing bicycle in Italy is Ferrara largely because of the flat terrain. Nearby Bologna has some great cycling and this is where Patelli and Viner hail from.
A few of the Italian road bike marques, large and small, that you might find on our site include:
Typical of great cycling frame makers, Benotto grew out of the passion of racer Giaciinto Benotto who was 24 years old in 1931 when he established the business in Turin. During their first 20 years, Benotto road bikes were ridden to three world championships. In the early 1950’s they expanded into Mexico which led to them now being the leading brand in Latina America.
The world’s oldest bicycle maker, established in 1885, continues to be one of the most well-known Italian road bike brands. Edoardo Bianchi was just 21 years old when he added bicycle manufacturing to his small medical equipment business based in Milan. By the 1940’s they employed over 4,500 people and produced over 70,000 bikes per year. Interestingly, they were also responsible for manufacturing cars, trucks and motorcycles at various times up to the late 1990’s.
High end Italian road bike manufacturer founded by Ernesto Colnago in 1954 in Cambiago. Colnago started as an apprentice when he was just 13 but his racing career ended early after a bad accident. He is famed for his creative innovations and experimentation and has a reputation as one of the best custom road race brands in the world. The marque is still exceptionally highly regarded and until as late as 2006 their full range of bikes were made in their own Italian factory.
Started in Milan in the early 1950’s by Ugo De Rosa. De Rosa’s first pro bike was made for Raphael Geminani in 1958 and he supplied frames for Faema then Tbac and Max Majer. De Rosa’s most famous partnership was between 1973 and 1978 with the greatest star of Italian road cycling, Eddy Merckx. They teamed up again in 1981 when De Rosa was technical consultant for Merckx as he began his own manufacturing company. A real classic vintage Italian bike brand.
Originally founded by and named Emilio Bozzi & Co in Milan (1908), the brand name Legnano was actually established in 1924 when Bozzi teamed up with Franco Tosi a businessman from Legnano. At the same time they offer a life long contract to house painter, Alfredo Binda, who goes on to win 3 of Legnano’s 6 world titles and numerous other important races.
Giuseppe Olmo (AKA Gepin), a once world record holder, retired in the 1930's and launched Olmo Biciclette with his brothers Franco, Giovanni and Michele in the town of Celle Ligure in Italy in 1939 where they are still manufactured to this day.
Based in a small store on the edge of Bologna, Patelli Cicli still hand build highly sought after cycles and frames. Retrospective Cycles is one of the only businesses that imports vintage Patelli cycles to the UK (when we can find them) so keep a close eye on the site if you are after something like a Super Corsa SL or perhaps a Professional Eco.
Founded in 1952 and based in Treviso, this marque was perhaps most famous for its Montello SLX frame of the mid 1980s which was the winning ride in the 1984 Olympic Road Race, Giro d’Italia, stages of the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana. Other popular models were the Treviso and the Gavia.