What do Ferrari, Italian presidents and even the odd Pope or two have in common? They’re all fans of Colnago Bikes. Ernesto Colnago founded his business in 1954, and this immediately likeable patriarch has been at the helm ever since. Even now, aged 85, he shows no sign of slowing down.
“Times aren’t easy these days,” admit the company in their introductory speech, clearly a brand that aren’t afraid of opening up and revealing the truth. As a lot of the market shifts production to the Far East, places like Taiwan, where they’re investing in their manufacturing and logistics as well as producing in far larger quantities, the competition for Colnago has been gradually hotting up. Add in direct sales and lowering costs, and it isn’t surprising that certain rivals are in a position to sell complete bikes for aggressive prices.
Opposite the HQ stands Ernesto Colnago’s villa, which represents Colnago through and through. It isn’t merely for living; in the basement is where the production of their top-end C-60 takes place, carried out by skilled bike builders, many of whom have worked at Colnago for over three decades. Per day they can build 15 to 20 frames.
Colnago predominately sell framesets, which equates to 70% of their sales. Their biggest markets include North America, Japan and, of course, Italy.
Upstairs in the HQ visitors can admire the company’s long history, as the walls are adorned with countless iconic leaders jerseys, won at the world’s biggest races, hung alongside photos documenting the Colnago family with Italy’s elite business, political and religious figures–even numerous Popes who have been the odd custom-made papal bike. On close to every image there’s Ernesto Colnago, standing proud, the man who still has a fundamental role in the business’s daily goings-on.
So what defines Colnago? It has heritage that gives it a thriving heartbeat within cycling, having written its way into the history books. Saroni at Milan–San Remo, Taffi at Roubaix, Merckx’s hour record, the Mapei team’s dominance of the Classics, those childhood moments of gazing at the TV watching riders break away to victory.
Colnago, just like other iconic cycling brands, embodies more than just a product. They’re certainly not for spendthrifts or those who buy with their heads. You don’t buy raw materials formed into a ‘thing’; you’re buying the spirit and the history of cycling. After our visit to the HQ, we’re even bigger fans and can’t wait to see the Colnago C-60 Noventa. May the Pope bless it!
Mehr Informationen findet ihr unter colnago.com
Words & Photos: Robin Schmitt