Colnago’s Early Carbon Creations !

30 Oct


I thought it might be interesting to take a look at some of Ernesto’s early carbon creations. Just looking through these pictures from the gorgeous Colnago C35 to the C42 gives you an idea of Colnago’s long history of working with this mouthwatering product called carbon fibre!   


Ernesto has a long history with carbon fibre bicycles, going back to his first one back in 1986, the Concept, which had a sensational debut at the Milano bike show that year. This was developed in collaboration with Ferrari Engineering, who helped create this first carbon fibre model. The frame was developed with the same engineers who developed Ferrari’s F1 cars. It turned out very well and helped Colnago learn about carbon fibre construction. Back then it was unheard of manufacturers using this exotic composite material to build a bicycle.


The Concept model, which became the template for his future carbon fibre bicycles, was never sold to the public, mostly because the integrated universal gear change made the Colnago Concept just too heavy to market.

Three years later in 1989, Colnago wowed the bicycle world again with the Colnago C35, a swoopy monocoque beauty that was again developed with Ferrari Engineering. The C35 was a true race bike and was used by some of Colnago top riders back then. Its been around 26 years that Colnago have been working with carbon fibre.



Back in the early days of carbon fibre frames, many makers leaned by trial and error how to place the carbon fibre in such a way that it supports the rider properly, absorbs the road vibration and has all the appropriate mechanical characteristics to provide the best performance and lightest weight. 


Ernesto Colnago has compared carbon fibre to cloth, carbon fibre is woven, like cashmere wool. There are many grades of quality of carbon fibre. To make a bicycle out of 8 to 10 layers of high modulus carbon fibre is expensive! That’s why many bicycle manufacturers are willing to cut corners, to save money by using a few layers of good quality carbon fibre, then using inferior materials as filler. For many years Colnago had used same Italian supplier for carbon fibre, ATR. They are the same company that supplied carbon fibre to Ferrari, Ducati and others; and worked exclusively with Colnago.


The Colnago C35 is one of the first road bikes made with a carbon fibre frame. The C35 was launched in 1989 to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the company founded in 1954 by Ernesto Colnago at Cambiago near Milan.


Hence this limited-edition bike features monograms and lettering highlighted in gold leaf and some gold-plated parts. However its sculpted frame is its most striking feature. Unlike metal frames, carbon fibre frames are generally formed in one piece, known as a monocoque. The C35 was produced in association with Ferrari, which began using carbon fibre in its Formula One cars during the 1980s. In 1986 Ferrari and Colnago produced the first carbon fibre bike.


In 1989 the C35 was at the leading edge of road bike technology, which had been revolutionised only a decade earlier when the availability of TIG (tungsten inert gas) welding made aluminium frames possible. Carbon and aluminium frames are significantly lighter than the steel alloy frames in use until the 1980s; in addition carbon frames absorb some of the vibration and road shock produced by hard tyres and rigid frames. However the C35’s toe clip pedals already look antique, as do the tube-mounted controls of its Campanoglo gear set.




Colnago Ferrari LTD CF3 – Only 750 of these were made by Colnago -Ferrari









Colnago President – This one is in the LDV paint scheme 





Colnago C42 Pisa – Prototype



Colnago CF1



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