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Bike(s) at bedtime: Italian tradesmen's bikes - unsung heroes of cycling

Tonight we celebrate some legends of cycling and the bikes they rode around italy between the wars, we will never know their names, but we can still raise a night time cup of cocoa (or a morning cappuccino) in their honour

Tonight it’s 2009 and we’re back in Milan and it’s bikes at bedtime rather than just one bike - oh, and apologies for the crappy pictures I was strung out on espresso when I took them, but luckily not too strung out to forget to snap the explanatory notes.

Tradesman bikes - hot chestnut seller bike info

I can’t tell you how much I love these bikes but believe me I really do. Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to get up close with lots of bikes belonging to the heroes of cycling, and yes the anti-heroes too, but whenever I think of those bikes I always think of these bikes too because whoever the nameless guys who rode them were they are in my eyes cycling heroes too… especially whoever was pedalling the roasted chestnut bike, oh and the copper smith. And especially when they rode them downhill. 

Myself and Vecchiojo encountered the tradesmen’s bikes at the Milan Bike Show in 2009, they were grouped nest to a small exhibition of Fausto Coppi’s bikes in a corner of the exhibition – and I’d imagine that Il Campionissimo would have been happy to keep such company. They were plying their various trades in the decades between the wars when young Fausto was starting on his journey to become a legend of the sport - initially delivering meat for the local butcher.

Tradesman bikes - carpenter bike
Tradesman bikes carpenter bike info

Pictured we have a carpenter’s bike, an umbrella maker’s bike, a coppersmith’s bike, and my personal favourite the roasted chestnut seller’s bike - complete with wine bottle for steaming the chestnuts. Many bits of Italy are flat, but it is by no means a flat country and that certainly applies to the its cycling heartlands where you’ve got to assume these bikes and their riders ploughed their trades in the Twenties and Thirties. 

Tradesman bikes - coppersmith bike

I don’t suppose the coppersmith or the hot chestnut seller rode around with superheated metal or nuts on the go (but they might have) but even riding a bike back from wherever you’d been selling your wares with still hot braziers must’ve taken some effort, and let’s not forget the carpenter or the umbrella maker lugging their tools around either. 

Tradesman bikes - baker bike

So if anyone ever doubts what it’s possible to do on a bike just point them at this lot - testament to what need, ingenuity, and a strong pair of calves can achieve.

(Ooh! Plus bonus chairmender's bike)

Tradesman bikes - chair mender bike

Tony has been editing cycling magazines and websites since 1997 starting out as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning road.cc - which he continues to edit today. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes.

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