Celebrating Colnago as Italy’s master bike builder turns 90

Yellow is the color of distinction of the Tour de France. And Colnago’s bikes are proven winners in France. (Photo: Colnago)

  • For many cyclists, he is the epitome of Italian frame construction.
  • Ernesto Colnago spent his teenage years and his entire adult life perfecting the bike.
  • His career and accomplishments are unlikely to ever be matched.

If you want to know who the greatest cyclist of all time is, there’s hardly anyone better qualified to judge than Ernesto Colnago.

The Italian master frame turned 90 this week and he’s seen cycling evolve through all its eras. Testimony to the excellence of its brand, the current Tour de France ChampionTadej Pogacar, drives a Colnago.

It all started at age 13, when he started welding his own frames in rural Italy. Word of his mercurial talent spread quickly, and Colnago was attracting a diversity of customers. Mainly commuters, such as farmers and laborers.

classic steel bike

The Arabesque is a staple for most classic bike collectors. (Photo: Colnago)

Obtain all the speed of steel

As cycling became a more popular sport and pastime, Colnago became a master technician at the Giro d’Italia.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, his bikes set new standards for performance and aesthetics. His mastery of steel fabrication created a bike for Eddy Merckx’s 1972 hour world record, which weighed just 5.75kg. Without a gram of carbon fiber.

Italian steel bicycle

The Colnago Master was a huge advancement in steel tubing technology. (Photo: Colnago)

A master of steel – who embraced carbon

Although Colnago frames have always been synonymous with beautiful aesthetics of steelcommanding major awards in the collectors marketthe brand has remained at the forefront of technology.

After meeting Enzo Ferrari in 1986, Colnago recognized that carbon fiber frames would be the future. A few years later, in 1996, a carbon fiber Colnago won the Paris-Roubaix event, validating composite frames for the most demanding road races.

steel road bike

A true icon of Italian cycling. And creator of magnificent bicycles. (Photo: Colnago)

Never shy, new technology

Colnago was also an early proponent of disc brakes on road bikes, while most rivals dismissed hydraulic brakes as inappropriate mountain bike technology. The first Colnago road bike with disc brakes was built in 2012.

As he enters his 90th year, Ernesto Colnago may not be in the office very often. Or handle steel tubing in a welding jig. But his bikes remain the main contenders for the most prestigious cycling races. And cherished anchors, in the most meticulously curated bicycle collections.

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