Beyond the clouds

8 Feb

Sttropez2-1

Colnago Con Brio would like to thank Matt over at the Inner Ring for writing the below article. Also, for being our first ‘guest’ writer. I always enjoy reading the Inner Ring and love Matt’s style of writing. Here is a blogger who has his finger on the pulse of the Professional cycle world and tells it how it is!
Bikes are tools, they take people to the shops, they transport goods  

project for Rwanda and yes you can race on them. As shiny as a frame may be, as elaborate the paint scheme or as sophisticated the composite engineering in the rims, for me a bike is a means to an end, a tool for a job. Personally artwork should hang on the wall and if you want comfort, might I suggest you just stay in bed on a Sunday morning?

 Yet somehow the mention of Colnago triggers feelings, my practical side retreats. I sense respect, a little awe, the idea of something special. Think of a Ferrari sports car, a Savile Row suit or a bottle of wine from a top château. Somehow we discover more than a car, some clothing or fermented grape juice and if there is artifice in branding and marketing, there are genuine traditions and craft behind these things as well. For me Colnago is more than a frame.

 I don’t know when I first saw my Colnago. Probably in a cycling catalogue as opposed to real life. As a teenager I’d look at the gear available and spotted frames that cost twice as much as the best Peugeot, Concorde or Vitus. It wasn’t the price tag itself, more the way this indicated something beyond my reach, a dream that could not come true and this only invited more curiosity and fantasy, like you might dream about a lottery win.

Columbus_gilco

 Photo credit- Italian cycling journal

 Technically Colnagos were different too. In the early 1990s the best frames offered a binary choice of Columbus SLX or Reynolds 753. Yet Colnago had a special relationship with Columbus and there was the “Master Gilco” tube set. These tubes were not the standard round shape but profiled, a cross section revealed a star shape. Looking back I’m not sure if there was any advantage but aesthetically this was something very special.

 Colnago wasn’t the only frame builder doing special things. For example Rossin’s fillet lugs had an incredible look, De Rosa was a premium name too and there were outlandish concept designs from Cinelli. Yet if these names were far beyond my reach, Colnago was beyond the clouds.
 

Colnago-master-bititan_bb

Photo credit – Tirides

 With time Colnago stayed ahead, both technically but also in terms of prestige. Whilst the likes of Merlin and Litespeed were producing some of the best frames, Colnago adopted titanium and gave it their special touch. The Bi-Titanio featured a twin downtube that probably defies sensible engineering but the Lombard firm certainly stood out.

 Then the C-40 was born for the 40th anniversary in business. There was nothing retrospective, the frame was way ahead of its time. Light and stiff and various iterations took many wins in the 1990s from Roubaix to the Alps. Even several years after it was released the C-40 was still one of the lightest frames around but with a solid ride too.

 That’s my history with the clover leaf from Cambiago, a short tale of boyhood dreams and unobtainable luxury. Not having owned a Colnago perhaps the name still resonates because it evokes feelings rather than practical thoughts of weight, rigidity or head tube angles. Perhaps sometimes we are better off with myths and imagination?

 Today its frames no longer stand-out like they once did, cyclists now have a vast choice and our gain is a challenge for Colnago but the name still means plenty and it’s fit for the best of riders. After all there’s enough to write a blog dedicated to it.

 We’ll see what the future brings. This is family business with an impressive heritage that trades on innovation rather than its past. Each time it’s faced competition, it’s provided a stunning response. I hope I’m around to see the C-100.

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One Response to “Beyond the clouds”

  1. pmark1bike February 8, 2011 at 11:00 am #

    I like you have looked in envy at Colnago bikes for many years but now I have just brought a Colnago EPS, it rides better than I had dreamed! There may be more expensive or stiffer and lighter bikes but none have the ride quality and prestige of a Colnago.

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