Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"Italian Racing Bicycles" Book Review

"Italian Racing Bicycles: The People, The Products, The Passion" is a new book by Guido P. Rubino that was released on October 1st. The book is published by VeloPress. VeloPress provided me with a media review copy of the book.

The book is in hardcover, with a jacket, has 230 color and b&w photographs in 174 pages, and measures 10 3/4" x 9 3/4". The price is $39.95. The ISBN number is 978-1-934030-66-0. The book is also available in Italy under the title, "BICICLETTE ITALIANE, I marchi, gli uomini, le storie". The English translation of the book is by Jay Hymans.

The author, who is Italian (of course!) has been writing about cycling technology since 1996, with articles in such magazines as BiciSport, Cicloturismo, and MTB Magazine. He is the coauthor, with Paolo Faccinetti, of Campagnolo: 75 Years of Cycling Passion and author of La Bicicletta da Corsa and La Mountain Bike.

"Italian Racing Bicycles" begins with a brief introduction before continuing with its brand-based organization that begins with 3T and finishes with Wilier Triestina. In between, covered are Alan, Ambrosio, Atala, Bianchi, Bottecchia, Campagnolo, Casati, Cinelli, Colnago, Columbus, Daccordi, Dedacciai – Deda Elementi, De Rosa, Ganna, Gios, Gipiemme, Guerciotti, Legnano, Masi, Miche, Milani, Modolo, Moser, Olmo, Olympia, Passoni, Pegoretti, Pinarello, Rossin, Scapin, Selle Italia, Selle Royal–Fi’zi:k, Selle San Marco, Somec, Tommasini, Torpado, Universal, and Viner.

Rubino points out that, "Reconstructing the histories of companies was not always easy; often the people currently directing a company have difficulty preserving and handing on the historical record of their activity.....". Indeed, a problem that all vintage bicycle enthusiasts are very familiar with.

Each brand section begins with the origins of the company and progresses through to today. There is much to learn from the book. Just as an example, for Alan, "Although aluminum bicycle frames were briefly made in the 1890s, aluminum-save for a few experiments-was largely unknown to racing bicycle frames until 1972. It took the felicitous intuition of Lodovico Falconi to make use of aluminum a commercial reality. "The idea came to me one evening while watching television," Falconi says today. "Several parts of bicycles were already made in aluminum....why not make frames out of it?".

The sections vary in length, as examples: Bianchi (12 pages), Campagnolo (12 pages), Colnago (10 pages), Cinelli (8 pages), Pinarello (8 pages), Masi (6 pages), Pegoretti (4 pages, one of which is a full page photo of his workshop), Rossin (2 pages), Ganna (2 pages), Olmo (2 pages). In other words, don't expect the same level of detail for each brand.

The book can have a different approach depending upon the section. For example, the section on Cinelli focuses it's photography attention on past accomplishments (Super Corsa, Laser, Spinaci) whereas the De Rosa section has more of a focus on titanium (Doriano De Rosa builds all the Ti frames) and carbon.

The book has many wonderful photos like that of the winning Bianchi tandem ridden by Terruzzi and Perona to a gold medal in the 1948 Olympics in London, the Pinarello Espada with the 61 tooth chainring of Miguel Indurain, Cino Cinelli with Fausto Coppi, Coppi's 1953 Bianchi, and many others.

"Italian Racing Bicycles" gives a broad overview of key Italian manufacturers (I'm not sure about the inclusion of Milani rather than, let's say, a Chesini). I particularly enjoyed learning more about the history of these companies, the men that started them, and their reasons for doing so. It's a book that won't answer all your questions but will start you on a journey for learning more. Grab a cappuccino, sit back, and enjoy.

I should add that I was happy to see Rubino address the messy situation of "Made in Italy", of which he writes:

".....With mixed success, Italy's artisans have also summoned these qualities (technical skill, experience, road testing, fine design) to create a bulwark against the onslaught of foreign brands that have appeared on the market backed by impressive investments in technology.

In the face of this technological and commercial offensive, which took hold in the second half of the 1980s, Italy's famous names have been forced to revise their industrial strategies.

Brands from the far East, qualitatively sound and made at costs radically lower than those required by the labor-intensive methods of Italy, have put many Italian companies in crisis. In particular, those who have proved unable to effectively industrialize certain production cycles have suffered greatly from the explosion of inexpensive mass production in Taiwan and China.

The Italian response, though the industry continues to dedicate its manufacturing attention to the top of the range, has included the increasing adoption of manufacturing in the Far East. Not surprisingly, this change has generated a certain amount of confusion on the market: What now constitutes an Italian brand?".

Good question!

If you have a question about the book I may be able to answer write to me at email address below.

Follow on Twitter: ITALIANCYCJOURN

Stories for the Italian Cycling Journal about rides, granfondos, touring, having a good time cycling in Italy, Italian cycling history, etc. are always welcome.
Contact me at There are more than 2,100 stories in this blog. The search feature to the right works best for finding subjects in the blog. There is also a translate button at the bottom so you can translate each page.


  1. great write-up, but I know the French had used aluminum as a choice for tubing in before and after WWII, and some Barra built bikes were used in the Tour De France.

  2. "aluminum-save for a few experiments-was largely unknown to racing bicycle frames until 1972"

    Barra aluminium bikes took part in the Tour de France, and Caminade was making alloy racing bikes from the early 30s. Both makers produced bikes in quite high numbers for the time, so I wouldn't call this an experiment. But as both makers stopped production by the early 50s I guess that this was largely forgotten by the 70s, particularly in Italy.

  3. Nice review! I can't wait to get my own copy. Purchasing these books is a great way to get the Velogear folks to find more titles to bring to English-speaking cycling fans. (Disclaimer: while a big fan of Velopress and Ted Costantino we get nothing other than a free copy now and then for review purposes)