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Book excerpt: Italian Racing Bicycles

Editor’s note: VeloPress is pleased to announce the release of the new book, Italian Racing Bicycles: The People, The Products, The Passion. VeloNews will be posting new excerpts from the book over the next five days. Check back in daily for more. Today we are presenting an excerpt from the book’s introduction.

Italian Racing Bicycles
Cover image. Photo: Italian Racing Bicycles

As with high fashion or sports cars, when the world speaks of racing bicycles the conversation turns to the products of Italy.

Italian bikes have a long history in the annals of racing due in no small part to the way Italy, in the 1880s, immediately embraced the nascent sport with a fervor that continues unabated to this day.

Present at the dawn of cycling, Italian bicycles made an important contribution to the basic design of the bicycle and to the sport of bicycle racing.

The story of the Italian bicycle begins at the end of the 1800s, with Turri and Porro in 1873, Monon in 1880, and Bianchi in 1885.

The new mechanical device was used for transportation, for communication, and for a host of work-related activities.

Racing at first represented only one aspect of the phenomenal popularity of the velocipede, and during the pioneering epoch of cycling, the racers made do with bicycles that most often had not been made specifically for racing.

The riders themselves made the difference with their legs and with how they responded to unexpected events along the route.

Italian Racing Bicycles
The frames have changed over the years, but the passion remains unchanged. Photo: Italian Racing Bicycles

Indeed, in the days of its origins, cycling had to contend with roads that were made for the wheels of carriages and the hooves of horses.

The bicycle pioneers faced perils of every type on their routes, along with the dust that rose in blinding clouds under the sun and the mud that caked ever thicker on the wheels in the rain.

Races covered hundreds of kilometers, distances difficult to imagine even on the smooth asphalt roads of today.

Italy’s bicycle manufacturers took their first steps between the end of the 1880s and the early 1990s.

Brand names that today rank among the most famous began in cramped back rooms and tiny workshops in big cities, especially Milan.

There was also activity in the provinces, primarily in Lombardy, the Veneto (a cycling stronghold to this day), Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany.

Over the years, some of these pioneer builders got lost along the way, and little remains of them today save a memory.

In some cases the name survives, although the right to use it has been acquired by another company.

Yet there are also those who made their fortunes and survived to reign as stars, quintessential Italian brands revered around the cycling globe.

Italian Racing Bicycles
The brands that represent Italian racing. Photo: Italian Racing Bicycles

Italian Racing Bicycles: The People, The Products, The Passion traces the rich history of 40 landmark Italian cycling brands that are intimately connected with racing.

Tracing their lineage back more than 100 years to the early days of the velocipede, Italian Racing Bicycles reveals how these manufacturers have evolved into the brands beloved by the world’s cyclists today.

The brands: 3TTT, 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, Viner, Wilier Triestina.

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