[CR]re: Galli/Sannino/Balilla

Date: Tue, 31 Jan 2006 10:16:27 -0700
From: Christine and Derek Vandeberg <frameref@digisys.net>
Organization: Frame of Reference
To: "classicrendezvous@bikelist.org" <classicrendezvous@bikelist.org>
Subject: [CR]re: Galli/Sannino/Balilla

I'm surprised we haven't heard from Wayne Davidson on this one, as he's an even more fervent Galli lover than I. Anything in those catalogs, Wayne? I'll happily wax poetic while he's looking through the stacks...

Regarding this particular pair of Balilla brakes, I suspect this is probably nothing more than some serious auction embellishment, quite frankly. Galli-badged brakes from the early '80s were vastly superior to those pictured in the auction, irrespective of who actually made them (more on that in a moment.) Perhaps it's just bad photos, but these calipers look like '70s bike boom era pot metal. There was certainly a connection in the US between Galli and Sannino, in that they were both imported by Bicycle Parts Pacific, but I think that had more to do with which lines were available for distributorship than with any company relationships in Italy.

Galli didn't actually make much (if anything) beyond about 1978 or thereabouts, preferring instead to rebadge and anodize others' nice bits. Cranks were clearly Stronglight, as were the roller bearing headsets. Derailleurs were Simplex Super LJs, pedals and hubs were Maillard, and the Criterium brakes were Universal 77s. The KL-Aero brakes that started appearing around '81 or '82 could have also been Universals -- certainly the plastic used in the lever bodies was very similar, though the levers and cable routing were unique to Galli -- although I thought at the time I'd remembered hearing from BPP that they (Galli) built the calipers and levers themselves. Anyway, I suppose it's possible that Giovanni Galli actually bought rights to the designs and produced them in house, but I sort of doubt it. Many of the other small component makers of the era were also rebadging; Gipiemme and Edco both used Simplex derailleurs, Ofmega brakes were Universals, and lots of the midline hubs out then, particularly the "sealed bearing" models, were eerily similar.

Not that any of this was bad, in my mind. I love my full SR bike, but Simplex Super LJs shift infinitely better than Campy, particularly when paired with the Retrofriction levers. Maillard 700 hubs are silky smooth, and the cranks, though a little on the flexy side, were undeniably lovely. And those KL Aero brakes...best on the market for stopping, despite the torture of drilling bars (and replacing them at the end of every season) and the inability to fit big fatty Paris Roubaix sew ups inside them, at least on my bike. When all of the big Italian builders were going nuts with pantographing, I always saw a quiet elegance in a relatively simple frame -- Sannino or otherwise -- with gold, blue or red parts. We built many a Vitus 979 with matching color components, particularly fun when the owner ran the matching Galli Top Criterium rims. And the Olmo Firenze, pearl white with your choice of blue, black, red or gold Galli Criterium, was a phenomenal deal at the time (although a couple of years off topic, I think.)

Told you I'd wax a little. Sorry for the length. To add a new twist to the thread, does anyone know of the approximate date of Galli's demise? It can't have been too long after the SIS bullet, late '80s, perhaps? I remember a set of shift levers appearing on ebay a short while ago that looked more modern than any others I'd seen. Wish I'd bought them...

Derek Vandeberg, Bigfork, Montana