History of Classic Italian Bikes
Even if you know very little about vintage bikes, most people are aware of the heritage, passion and skill of the Italians when it comes to road racing and classic Italian bikes, especially in the mid to late 20th century.
Going back a bit further, this interest might have stemmed from the fact that there is strong evidence that Leonardo Di Vinci and a student of his, Gian Giacomo Caprotti sketched very early examples of the modern bicycle as far back as 1493.
However, the Italian’s true love is down to a long and complex mix of practicality, accessibility, working class cycling heroes, passion and political upheaval all combining to create a long list of heroic riders, passionate teams and technological development that drove the sport of road cycling forwards from the early 1900’s right through to late in the 20th century.
The modern day obsession with Italian cycling probably started with the age of Constante Girardengo, Alfredo Binda and Learco Guerra who were the stars of the 1920’s and 30’s. But the true “golden age” of Italian cycling was the era of Fausto Coppi (Legnano, Bianchi, Carpano) and Gino Bartali (Frejus, Legnano, Bartali) (photo right) which covered the 1930’s to 1950’s during which time these two stars dominated the sport of road racing. This was also the time that many of the artisan frame makers such as Masi, Galmozzi, Cinelli, Pogliaghi, Marastoni started to emerge from the small villages of northern and central Italy, creating some of the classic Italian bikes that are so sought after today.
Moving ahead another decade or two, the biggest character of the 1960’s and 1970’s was the man known as “The Cannibal”, Eddy Merckx (photo right). Despite being Belgian, Merckx, rode for Italian racing teams and, as he rode during the first era of televised sport, he became both a national and international hero. During his reign Italian racing bike brands such as De Rosa, Tommasini, Benotto, Pinarello and Rossin emerged and you will often find one or two of these in the Retrospective vintage racing bike Showroom.
It goes without saying that the bigger brands such as Bianchi, Legnano, Olmo, Olympia, Chesini and Wilier Triestina have always made exceptional racing bikes too and we always try to ensure we have a selection of their bikes in stock too. You can read a little more about a few of the key vintage road bike manufacturers that featured so prominently during these times.
Great rivals - Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali
Eddy Merckx during the 1970 Tour De France
Fausto Coppi's 1952 Bianchi Specialissima and one we sold recently