Giro special: 12 exotic Italian road bikes
With the Giro d'Italia about to enter its final week, here's a roundup of the hottest Italian road bikes
We're celebrating the Giro d'Italia with a roundup of 12 of the most exotic, beautiful and lustworthy Italian road bikes from Bianchi, Colnago, Pinarello, Cinelli, Legend, Zullo, Tommasini, Passoni, Scapin, Olympia, De Rosa and Wilier, with carbon, steel and titanium models featured.
Some say there’s nothing quite like owning and riding an Italian road bike. The romance of beautiful artisan-made bicycles made by companies with a rich history makes an Italian bike among the most coveted by cycling enthusiasts.
It’s fair to say the Italians have built themselves a reputation for road bikes that are 'special' in a way that no other nationality has managed. If you own an Italian road bike, you tell people that you own an Italian road bike, or you at least get a warm glow inside from it. Nobody boasts about their bike being from any other country in quite the same way. The fact that a bike is from an Italian brand gives it a certain degree of reverence, which is why Italian manufacturers rarely miss the opportunity to stick a tricolore on a frame tube.
Bikes from the likes of Bianchi, Colnago, Pinarello and De Rosa are all imbued with decades of experience and racing heritage, even though the bigger brands have outsourced manufacturing to the Far East in order to remain competitive and in business. Others like Passoni, Legend and Zullo still manufacture in Italy. Logically, you might argue that you're not really getting an Italian bike if it hasn't been made in Italy, but you don't necessarily just buy with your head, you buy it with your heart too.
This then is a collection of some of the finest Italian road bikes we've ever featured on road.cc, and you can find out more about each bike by clicking on the heading.
Bianchi Oltre XR2 £6,800 (Dura-Ace build)
Of the countless Italian brands still in business, Bianchi is the oldest of them all, and has been manufacturing bicycles since 1885. The Oltre XR2 is their lightweight race-bred road bike which has been updated for 2014. it’s made from UMS 40 and CN 60 ultra high modulus carbon fibre and weighs just 895g for a 55cm frame and uses novel X-Tex technology, extra strips of carbon fibre with a grid-like structure to provide extra stiffness in those key areas you need it in a frame.
Wilier Triestina Cento 1 Air £5,499
Another Italian company with a long history, Wilier are still at the cutting-edge of road bike design and their Cento 1 Air is a great example of this. It combines features from two other bikes in their range, the Cento 1 SR road bike and Twinblade TT bike, producing a fast-looking aero road bike. Like many aero road bikes, this one uses a Kamm Tail shaped tubeset to cut down drag and uses an integrated fork - the crown cuts into the down tube - to further minimise drag.
De Rosa 888 Superking £4,799 (Campagnolo Record build)
De Rosa was founded in the 1950s by Ugo De Ros, and supplied frames for teams like Faema, most famously partnering Eddy Merckx during the 70s. Their top-of-the-range road bike is the 888 Superking, one of the most striking road bikes we’ve ever clapped eyes on. Curvaceous tube profiles made from three grades of carbon fibre to provide a low weight frame that is high in rigidity and adept at smothering road vibrations. It’s available in three models, the Superking E has a port under the down tube to hide away a Campagnolo EPS battery. £4,799.99 with a Campagnolo Record groupset.
Olympia 849 £3,392 (Shimano Ultegra build)
This company last year celebrated their 120th birthday, making them one of the longest running bicycle brands in the world. And to mark such an occasion, they launched the 849, an 849 full carbon fibre frame that represents their lightest ever frame. That’s a seriously impressive birthday present to give yourself.
Pinarello Dogma 65.1 Hydro (price TBC)
They’re a forward thinking bunch are the Italians, and over at Pinarello, Team Sky’s sponsor, they’re taking disc brakes seriously with the release of the Dogma 65.1 Hydro. It’s based on the same Dogma that Sir Wiggo races with a Torayca 65-ton 65HM1K Nano-alloy carbon fibre frame using the same asymmetric design and distinctive swoopy fork and seatstays, but has been modified to take hydraulic disc brakes, hence the Hydro in the name.
Colnago C60 £3,499 (frame only)
Colnago’s latest and greatest, the new C60, of which we just happen to have a world exclusive review here on road.cc. It’s a complete overhaul of the popular C59 and users in a new press fit bottom bracket and hugely oversized lugs and main tubes, neat internal cable routing. Oh, and there is a disc brake version coming later in the year. The C60 can trace its roots back to the iconic C40 which Pavel Tonkov used to win the 1996 Giro d’Italia aboard, and was produced in collaboration with Ferrari.
Scapin Eys £2,089
Scapin can trace their history back to 1957 when Stefano Scapin first put his name to a bike. The brand might not be the best known in the UK but they’re well regarded for interesting frame construction (blending full carbon fibre seat tubes in steel frames for example) and stunning paint finishes, something they take great pride in. We could have picked their top-end model, but we’ve gone with the more affordable Eys which at just over £2,000 shows you don’t (quite) have to remortgage the house to own an Italian bike.
Passoni Top Force £5,499 (frame only)
Yes, that isn’t a mistake in the headline, that’s the price just for the frame, fork and headset. It’s a titanium masterpiece and fully custom and bespoke to your measurements. The Milan-based company started life in the early 80s when Luciano Passoni had a dream to build the best, most luxurious bikes in the world. He recruited a custom frame builder who had been one of the first to build with titanium in the 70s.
Zullo Vergine £2,995 (frame only)
High-end steel from the company started by Tiziano Zullo in the 70s, and who made frames for the Dutch TVM team for which legendary climber Robert Millar rode between 1985 and 1992. Rather than move with the times and adopt carbon fibre, Zullo have stuck firmly to their roots and work mainly in steel. This one uses the excellent Columbus XCr stainless steel tubeset and it’s covered with one of the nicest paint jobs ever to pass through the road.cc office.
Legend HT 7.5 £2,999 (frame only)
One of a small handful of bicycle manufacturers still manufacturing in Italy, Legend work in most frame materials but it’s their carbon fibre frames that are the highlight. They’re based in Bergamo and head framebuilder Marco Bertoletti has been building frames since the 80s, and started in carbon in 2003. The HT 7.5 is a custom built carbon beauty made using the tube-to-tube manufacturing process where mitred tubes are bonded together and the joints wrapped with carbon.
Cinelli Laser Mia £3,799.99 (frame only)
Fabled Italian brand Cinelli brought back an iconic bike from their past in the shape of the Laser which came out in the 1990s. With fillet-brazed steel tubes and curved lugs, it was a track back that looked futuristic and like it was made from carbon. The Laser Mia is that bike reimagined, in carbon fibre this time and with gears, and the same metallic blue finish. The original bike was built in response to the UCI's declaration that aerodynamic features must be an integral part of the frame and fork. Aero features that are still being talked of as revolutionary in 2014, Cinelli were doing 20 years ago.
Tommasini X-Fire €2,389 (frame only)
Tommasini is another Italian manufacturer that can trace its history back a long way, the brand having been founded by Iro Tommasini in 1948. Tommasini still build frames by hand in-house at their factory in Tuscany; it's a thoroughbred artisan framebuilder with skills passed down from generation to generation. They produce frames in steel, aluminum, titanium and carbon fibre. This is their stainless steel X-Fire using the Columbus XCr tubeset. The frame is available in stock sizes as well as custom.