If one name has been seemingly ever-present in road cycling over the last 70 years or so, it’s Colnago. Following a career ending crash in a bike race, Ernesto Colnago decided to get into the bike trade. From humble beginnings working for Gloria Cycles in a small town near Milano, Ernesto soon had loftier ambitions. He opened his own shop in 1952, selling his own hand-built frames.
Colnago World Championship winning bikes - Photo Colnago.com
Merckx’s Spanner Man
Ernesto was head mechanic at the Molteni Team in 1963, twirling the spanners for the legendary Eddy Merckx. Through the 60’s and 70’s Colnago was widely regarded as the best, or one of the best frame producers in the world. Many iconic frames were produced in this era including the one Merckx used for his Hour Record in 1972.
Colnago Hour Record Bikes - Photo Colnago.com
Steel the One
Through the 1980’s, Columbus, Colnago’s steel tube suppliers started to create more different shapes and experiment with tube thicknesses. This enabled Colnago to offer more alternatives and greater choice with models. These included the very much sought after bikes, including the Oval CX, Master and Master light.
New interpritation of 1980's Classics - Photo Colnago.com
At the end of the 1980’s Colnago, with the help of Ferrari, produced the C35 their first Carbon production bike. In the book Colnago: The Bicycle, by Pier Augusto Stagi, a chapter is dedicated to Colnago and Ferrari. At an early meeting in 1986, Ernesto Colnago recalls Enzo Ferrari saying, “I know from my technical people that you want to work in carbon fibre; that’s a good idea. It’s the future.”
Colnago C35 Ferrari 1986 – Hydraulic Brakes & Auto gears (but very heavy) – Photo Colnago.com
The early C35 with Ferrari had similar lugs and straight forks to the Colnago C40, a bike which was to transform professional road riding in the 1990’s. Where as early Carbon frames like Lemond’s TVT featured carbon tubes and aluminium lugs, the C40 featured carbon lugs and carbon tubes.
There was a lot of reluctance to use carbon bikes for the toughest pro race the Paris Roubaix, which features rutted tracks and cobbled sectors. The owner of the Mapei pro team is reported to have telephoned Colnago the night before the team were to use the C40 for the first time at Paris Roubaix. He demanded reassurance that the bike would be okay. His rider Franco Ballerini was 3rd and the C40 won 5 out of the next 6 editions and so banished any talk of any ‘fragility’ in the Colnago C40.
Paris Roubaix Winning Bikes - Photo Colnago.com
As well as using steel and then carbon fibre for it’s top-end models, Colnago also used Titanium for models such as the mid 90’s Titanio, many riders prefered the ride feel of titanium. Aluminium frame tubes were used on entry-level to mid range bikes through the 90’s and 2000’s – including popular models such as the Dream. Regardless of their construction materials all Colnagos left the factory with a high quality finish.
Colnago C60 Paint Process
From 2000 onwards the successor to the C40, the C50 was followed by the C59, C60 and in 2018 the C64. Each new edition tweaked to offer more improved performance and the mythical, ‘magic carpet ride’ qualities. All of the C range were always, and are still, hand-built and hand painted in Italy, the latest C64 included. As well as the C series top end carbon frames, Colnago introduced a series of frames at a more cost-effective price point for riders wanting the Colnago name but without the high price tag. Throughout their history Colnago have sponsored pro cycling teams. These include the infamous Mapei team, Thomas Voeckler’s Europcar team and in 2018, the UAE Team Emirates including Rui Costa and later, Tadej Pogacar.
In addition to more affordable models, the ‘racey’, aero design of the VR1 (and later VR2 & VR3) frame and the ‘Concept’ have captured the hearts of those wanting a more aero ‘top end’ Colnago.
Tour De France Glory
2020 and 2021 were incredible years for Colnago. Tadej Pogacar Team (UAE Emirates), stamped his authority onto the biggest stage race in the world. The young Slovenian, onboard his Colnago V3Rs, won two consecutive editions of the Tour De France. The first ever victories for a Colnago branded bike.
Colnago’s latest C68 and C68 Titanium move the legendary bike firmly into the modern era. The latest modern features include, 3D printed Titanium lugs on the titanium version and an NFT linked to each bike which acts as a transferable proof of ownership.
See the GCN Colnago C68 review below;
Colnago Range at Merlin
We are very proud to stock Colnago at Merlin Cycles – Check out the full range here;