Would any of the frame builders on the list care to elaborate on the tack brazing vs. pinning issue discussed in this Mondonico marketing text? Are the benefits of pinning real and substantial? Which builders still do this?
Tom Dalton Bethlehem, PA
Chuck Schmidt <email@example.com> wrote: Walter Skrzypek wrote:
> I am seeking info on Mondonico bicycles. I have traded a bicycle not in my size for a Mondonico in my size and I want to know for about the Mondonico. I am familiar with the modern day Mondon bikes but not any older ones. The lugged frameset I have coming is SL tubing. When did Mondonicos begin being distributed in the states? I have some info that would lead some of us to understand that he had made framesets for Guerciotti. Is this true? And when? Any info would be appreciated. email me offlist. Thanks in advance.
> Walter Skrzypek
> Falls Creek, Pa
Walter, below is the result of typing in "mondonico" at http://www.google.com search engine. --Chuck Schmidt, South Pasadena, Southern California
Historic Mondonico photos:
Antonio's father, Giuseppe Mondonico, opened the shop in 1929 (to see some photos from this era, click here). He was soon recognized by the Milan cycling cognoscenti as a builder with talent. Antonio grew up with bikes and framebuilding as a way of life. He has spoken of growing up with iron filings under his fingernails. When Giuseppe passed away, there wasn't enough money to keep the Mondonico shop going. Antonio went to build for other great builders of the time as their master builder. Over the years, he has built for Motta, Cinelli, and Colnago. In the mid 1970's he reopened the shop and again the world could get Mondonico bicycles.
During this time, Antonio also worked as a team mechanic. Mondonico has said that when a builder not only builds the bikes, but goes into the field and assists the racer, he gains insights that are impossible to gain any other way. Faliero Masi, another of the great Milan builders, calls it the only laboratory for a builder. In this modern age of multi-million dollar teams, this laboratory is almost impossible to re-create.
Antonio built just a few bikes in the back of his house, for a few chosen clients, using only the most time-consuming techniques. In the late 1970's, Paolo Guerciotti needed a master builder to oversee the production of the growing demand of "Guerciotti" bikes. For a decade, Antonio Mondonico and Paolo Guerciotti were partners and produced over 2000 bikes a year, all under the careful, demanding eye of Mondonico. In 1988, Mondonico and Guerciotti parted ways. Mondonico returned to doing what he loved most: creating a few perfect bicycles.
Today, Antonio Mondonico and his son Mauro build fewer than 1,000 frames a year, all entirely in the back of their house in Concorezzo, near the Monza speedway outside of Milan, Italy.
There are many intangible reasons why a demanding rider would want a Mondonico bicycle: their beauty, their handling, among others. We'll discuss those, but there are some specific, quantifiable reasons why a Mondonico frame is the best of Italian bikes.
Nearly all builders assemble the tubes of a frame on a large steel flat plate called a jig. Each joint is heated to brazing temperature and a bit of brass is applied. This is known as "tack brazing". The frame is then put on an alignment table and made straight. The frame is then put in a stand much like bike shops use to repair bikes and the lugs are completely brazed up.
While this is the technique of nearly all builders, it is not the technique of Mondonico. Tack brazing requires that the tubes be heated twice, robbing the special, exotic cycle tubes of some of their special qualities. When the tubes are assembled on the jig, Mondonico drills each lug and inserts a tapered steel pin. Then the frame is aligned and brazed up. The joint is heated only once, preserving the resilience of the Columbus tubing that Mondonico uses. The pins are then filed flush with the lugs. Obviously, this is a vastly more time-consuming method. Feel the inside of the tubes of a Mondonico frame at the bottom bracket. You can feel the pins, your guarantee that at least one craftsman is dedicated to making the best, not the most.
If a Mondonico frame is so great, then why don't we see Tour de France teams riding these bikes? To equip a major pro team requires millions of dollars. A builder must pay 100's of thousands of dollars to equip even a mid-level team. There is no way that an artisan building a few frames can sponsor a team. It is an interesting paradox that the bikes that are often the most highly thought of by some enthusiasts because of their racing promotion are those that are the products of near mass production: "industrial frames", we call them. Yet, Mondonico frames have seen racing success at the highest levels. Mondonico is what is known as a "framebuilder of trust". This is a builder that builds for top pros, yet supplies their frames unpainted. The rider then has the frame painted in the team colors. This is an old tradition, because top riders often want that edge that the finest builders can give them. Singer of Paris built for Polidor, Masi built for Merckx and Coppi. Among others, Mondonico has built for Chiappucci.
It is time to discuss why an Italian frame and specifically a Mondonico frame should be the choice of a serious rider.
Why should you buy one?
There is only one place in the world where there is a happy meeting of a resident professional racing class, frame builders, raw material suppliers and component manufacturers. That place is northern Italy. The builder hears from the finest riders in the world, and can then communicate immediately to the tubing makers and other suppliers exactly what these demanding and skilled riders have to say. It's like a nuclear reactor with the carbon rods removed. There is nothing to slow down the communication. The proximity and the pride of these master Italian builders also fuels a competitive spirit that drives them to seek perfection. The closeness to the racing competition also makes them practical builders. There is a slow evolution of design grounded in the need to produce a bike that wins, not innovation for its own sake.
The great builders rarely enter the trade without a long apprenticeship. Many are former racers. Others, like Mondonico, grew up surrounded by bikes and framebuilding. To quote Will Durant in The Life of Greece, "...a long lineage of masters and pupils carrying on the skills of their art, checking the extravagances of independent individualities, ...disciplining them with a sturdy grounding in the technology and achievements of the past, and forming them, through this interplay of talent and law, into a greater art than often comes to genius isolated and unruled. Great artists are more frequently the culmination of a tradition than its overthrow...." So it is with bikes, and so it is with Mondonico.
Fashions in frame geometry change almost yearly. One year, seat tubes have to be ninety degrees. The next year, they have to be laid back. Mondonico spurns this sort of pop trendiness. There are a few unyielding rules of ergonometrics that generate the specific way a Mondonico frame is laid out. Only over the longest time will these measurements change, and only when the change is proven to improve the bike. Each size of a Mondonico has its own geometry. A 6'4'' man is not a scaled up version of a 5'5'' man. The proportionally longer arms and legs of the larger rider require specific solutions. This specificity is time consuming. Factories like to use the same jig settings, even the same length tubes in different size frames if possible. This does not happen with a Mondonico. The Mondonico of a given size is the result of many, many years of design evolution aimed at creating the ultimate stage-racing bicycle.
A Mondonico bike rides with a nimble, quick feel, well suited to the tastes of American riders. Yet, with this quickness, there is no loss of that most essential quality any good racing bicycle must have: stability. The rider must descend with confidence. He must know that a corner will be taken predictably. These important qualities are there in abundance in a Mondonico. Because Mondonico builds in steel, there is none of that harshness that comes with oversize, non-ferrous bikes.
There is the last question of value. Because Mondonico shuns a fancy factory, team sponsorship, and other expenses, a Mondonico is a stunning value. You will find it costs the same as most "industrial" racing frames. The discerning buyer will not be swayed by needless hype and will seek performance and beauty. This will come to him at the best possible price in the form of a Mondonico frame.
All Mondonico frames are built with Columbus tubing.