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One of the most iconic Italian bike brands, Colnago has supplied bikes to some of the best riders in the world, including Eddy Merckx and Tadej Pogačar.
The company was founded in 1952 by Ernesto Colnago, an apprentice bike mechanic from the age of 13. Ernesto came from a family of farmers but decided to work with, and subsequently race, bikes instead. After suffering a nasty crash which ended his racing career, Ernesto launched his own shop and built his first frame between 1952 and 1954. His frame-building talent later earned him mechanic roles with pro teams Nivea and Molteni.
Colnago didn’t mess around when it came to establishing itself in the bike industry. Gastone Nencini won the 1957 edition of the Giro d’Italia with a Colnago frame and kickstarted an illustrious palmarès that has continued to grow.
During the 1960s, Colnago began working with Molteni and their legendary rider Eddy Merckx, revolutionising its frames time and time again to help the Belgian reach new heights. From unique forks and faster wheels to a lightweight 5.75kg steel bike fit for a UCI Hour Record that would stand for 12 years.
Such was its successes within racing, Colnago forayed into the production bikes market during the 1970s - the Colnago Super was instantly popular, as was the Mexico.
Innovation and creativity were Colnago’s key principles during the 1980s and 1990s as it continued to improve its range of production and race bikes. Experimentation with different frame designs and materials saw several popular models launched. A collaboration with Ferrari also planted the first seeds regarding a carbon fibre bike frame. In 1995, Mapei won Paris-Roubaix on the C40, a carbon fibre road bike that would go on to win four of the next five editions.
In May 2020, UAE-based company Chimera Investments LLC acquired a majority of shares from Ernesto Colnago, however, the headquarters remained in Italy. Later that year, whilst Merckx won five Tour de France maillot jaunes on a Colnago-built bike, Tadej Pogačar’s Tour victory saw him become the first-ever rider to do so on a Colnago-branded bike.
1972 - Colnago enters the pro peloton
After personally building wheels and frames for select riders, firstly the young Gianni Motta and later the great Eddy Merckx - who rode an iconic 5.75kg steel frame to the Hour Record in 1973 - Colnago properly entered the pro peloton with sponsorship of the Scic team. The rest is history.
1986 - Colnago partners with Ferrari
Ernesto Colnago's friendship with Enzo Ferrari would have a big influence on the company, with the pair sharing design notes and Ernesto drawing upon the R&D of the motor racing world. He credits the partnership with being at the forefront of the introduction of carbon fibre frames in the 1980s.
2012 - Colnago launches the first production disc brake bike
Arguably one of the biggest changes in cycling during the 21st century has been the introduction of disc brakes and Colnago was at the forefront of this revolution. The Colnago C59 Disc was one of the first bikes to have hydraulic disc brakes.
"In life, people are born to be painters, writers, doctors... I was born to make bicycles. It’s the only thing I know. It’s my life."
C-Series - The C-series is the iconic line of Colnago frames, dating back to the company’s introduction of carbon fibre with the C35 back in 1989. It has gone through several iterations, winning numerous races along the way, and resulting in the latest top-end C68 model. The C68 is also available in an ‘Allroad’ version with more relaxed geometry.
V-series - Colnago bucks the trend, having two separate lines of top-end road frames. The V-series has replaced the C in the world’s biggest races, with Tadej Pogačar winning two editions of the Tour de France on the V3RS. He and the rest of the team are now on the updated V4RS model, while the range also includes the entry-level V3.
Retro steel - Colnago’s frames are considered timeless and it still produces a couple of its steel frames, the Master and the Arabesque with its iconic ornamental chrome lugs.
Time trial - The TT1 is Colnago’s flagship time trial machine, updated from the previous K.One model.
Gravel - Colnago launched its first dedicated gravel bike in 2019, the G3-X, described by the company as “the fastest gravel bike ever designed”.
Colnago recently produced what's surely the most expensive bike ever made. The Gioiello Numero 1, which celebrates the relationship with the Giro d'Italia, is wrapped in gold leaf and features a 2.03-carat diamond in the top cap, itself made of 18-carat gold.
© Sprint Cycling Agency
Ernesto Colnago with some of his most famous bikes
Current sponsorships: UAE Team Emirates, UAE Team ADQ
Notable wins: It would take too long to list all of them, but Colnago claims it has been ridden to more than 3000 victories. Here are a few highlights.
Aboard two quintessentially Italian bikes, GCN’s Hank and Ollie take on the Dolomites in search of the ultimate bike ride.
Colnago’s gold-leaf wrapped masterpiece comes with a 2.03-carat diamond in the top cap
Pogačar's team continues to bring in more talent and victories, even if Tour victory was out of reach for a second straight season
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