In the spirit of Giro d’Italia we’ve brought together a few of the most iconic Italian road bike brand marques to see what makes them so special.
What is it about the combination of cycling and Italy that seems to create such emotion? Whether it’s cycling events such as the Giro d’Italia or L’Eroica, or legendary riders such as Fausto Coppi right up to today’s hero Vincenzo Nibali, a little bit of Italian influence can turn anything pedal-powered into something magical. Cycle brands enjoy the association more than most, with Italian bikes prized not only for their style, quality and performance but just as much for their heritage and history. So we’ve brought together a few of the most iconic Italian bike marques to see what makes them so special.
Forget the green, white and red of the Italian flag, Bianchi bikes are so famous they have their very own colour: Celeste. This unique shade of turquoise has become as legendary as the bikes themselves, and a full Celeste frame can be one of the prettiest things in cycling. But the beauty is far more than skin deep: Bianchi is the oldest bike manufacturer in the world, started by Edoardo Bianchi in his small shop at 7 Via Nirone, Milan in 1885. In the last 130 years the brand has won everything, with its bikes piloted by legends of the road such as Coppi, Felice Gimondi and Marco Pantani. Bianchi is still in the pro racing game now, as supplier to Team LottoNL-Jumbo, and it makes a pretty mean competitive mountain bike, too. But — arguably more importantly — Bianchi is also a hugely popular brand among amateur riders, with a vast range of models available that offer high-quality Italian style, yet remain impressively affordable.
Colnago says it is the creator of most successful bikes in the world, having won almost everything since being set up by Ernesto Colnago in 1952. But to begin with, young Ernesto was more sought after as a race mechanic and actually worked as head mechanic for Eddy Merckx’s Molteni team. He also built Merckx some incredible custom frames, such as the super-light steel bike he used to beat the Hour Record in 1972. Ironically, Molteni and Merckx would later go on to ride De Rosa — see below — however, there’s never been a shortage of other elite riders keen to hop aboard a Colnago.
Even if you’ve never owned a full Cinelli bike, you may well have had a Cinelli component or two, as this Italian brand is just as famous for its stems and handlebars as for its superb frames. Former Milan-San Remo and Tour of Lombardy winner Cino Cinelli founded the firm in post-War Milan after becoming interested in bike technology following mechanical failures during his own races. Perhaps a slightly less commercial brand by Italian bike standards, at least in terms of having focused on producing well-manufactured products over chasing huge, public competitive success, although Ole Ritter did use an aero Cinelli to extend his Hour Record in 1974. In recent years, the brand has also become hugely popular within the urban, fixed gear and singlespeed scene.
De Rosa might not have quite the same public prominence in the UK as other Italian brands, but when it comes to heritage and sporting history it more than justifies its place in this line-up. Begun by Ugo de Rosa in 1953, the company’s first moment of note came in 1958 when former Tour and Giro King of the Mountains Raphael Geminiani asked Ugo to make him a bike. Since then, De Rosa has supplied a huge number of pro teams, although the zenith was probably an official supplier to Eddy Merckx’s gloriously successful Molteni squad.
Lewis Hamilton might not be driving for Ferrari (yet), but the marriage between world-leading British sports stars and Italian equipment started a while ago in cycling, with Team Sky riding Pinarellos ever since they started in the sport in 2010. Indeed, it was a Pinarello that helped Sir Bradley Wiggins to become the first British Tour de France champion. The Pinarello timeline dates back to 1952, but the brand only really started rising to prominence among the pro peloton in the 1980s. It’s made up for lost time since, though.
Of course, Italy’s not only famous for brands that make frames or complete bikes: Campagnolo has been creating exquisite groupsets, components and wheels for more than 80 years. Indeed, we’d even go so far to suggest that riders on bikes fitted with a Campag groupset have even more kudos than somebody simply riding an Italian frame. Campagnolo parts might not be as widespread as Shimano, but they tend to be a little prettier and work really beautifully.
And where would cyclists be without Italian fashion, style and garment design? Italian materials and workmanship still lead the way, and Castelli kit is up among the very best. This year’s pro peloton showcases the marriage of such Italian craftsmanship with British excellence in the form of the new Team Sky kit.
Evans Cycles will also be stocking Castelli Giro d’Italia jerseys – the pink jersey and three exclusive jerseys inspired by some of the iconic stages of the Giro.