Re: [CR]Italian lightweight tubing use

Example: Production Builders:Tonard

To: (Classic Rendezvous)
Subject: Re: [CR]Italian lightweight tubing use
Date: Tue, 04 May 2004 15:10:23 +0000

Peter asked:
> Can someone tell me when Italian manufacturers started using lightweight
> tubing (like Reynolds 531 or Columbus)? I ask because most of the late
> 1940s-50s Italian bikes I see offered make no specific mention of frame
> material. Were they indeed made of lightweight steel or....? Ditto alloy
> components.... when were these introduced in Italy and how common were they
> during the say pre-mid 1960s? Again, most of the bikes I see seem to have
> chromed steel components.

To the best of my knowledge:

Italian-made alloy rims, pedals, hub flanges, brake caliper arms, brake levers, handlebars and stems came out in 1930's. They were used on both racing and city bikes. The use of these alloy components was very widespread, with only very low end bikes not using at least some of these alloy components. I have seen some absolutely incredible city bikes from the 30's with all alloy components from Italy. Alloy Ambrosio rims, stems and bars were ubiquitous on Italian bikes. FOM and Sheffield alloy-caged and sometimes alloy-bodied pedals were also widely used and exported. FB (and its surrogates), Siamt and other full or partially alloy hubs were also widely available and widely exported, including to Britain. Universal and Balilla brakes commonly used alloy brake calipers from the 30's onward. Alloy brake levers were also used from the 30's onward on all top of the line brakes. For cranks, it was most definitely the French who made teh most use of alloy. Export data will more than likely show that the Italians and French were at the forefront of the use of alloy in bicycle parts. French cranks and chainrings were commonly used by the Italians and other Europeans, whereas Italian hubs, rims, handlebars and stems were exported.

For Italian tubing, lightweight tubing was used much earlier than the 30's, it was however not until the 60's that there was really any concerted effort to publicize the tubing type used. Prior to then the tubing type or manufacturer was generally considered of far lesser importance than the framebuilder or bicycle builder (I agree with this sentiment!) Libellula marked their tubes from the 40's onward in a way that the mark would remain visible even after painting (Mark Agree had an Olmo frame from the 50's for sale at le cirque with a visible Libellula tubing mark). Columbus also marked their tubing, however their brand almost always disappeared after painting. I have some Columbus butted tubing decals in envelopes dated March 1953, so they were already making high-end tubing sets by then, but very few builders ever used the decals (I picked up about 100 sets of these decals from a builder who retired in the 90's after more than 45 years of frame-building experience.) Falck and the Italian Mannesmann factory were also making high quality tubing in the post-war period (perhaps also prior to the war.)

Steven Maasland
Moorestown, NJ