On my last trip to Tuscanny, driving from Germany over the Alpes to Italy, the sun was slowly dropping from the sky, casting a golden light over the country side as we drove into Tuscanny. The shadows of the poplar trees and farmhouses were growing longer as we searched for a place to stay. As it tends to happen in Italy, we received vague instructions that would lead us to a farmhouse. Sure enough, not far past Greve we spotted the driveway and were welcomed in the farmhouse as the only guests.
We were offered the olive oils and wines of the house and the accommodation was amazing. The atmosphere was warm, authentic and reeking of tradition. We used this base in Chianti to discover Italy and get to know its distinct feel – whether it is an extravagant masterpiece or a restaurant with crass white fluorescent lighting and football running on tv to accompany an fantastic meal worthy of the finest restaurant. Particularly on the weekends, the cyclists decorated the country-side, from young, edgy bunches to the lone and very senior cyclists on steel bikes of old.
This distinct feeling of Italy seems to wrap itself like an aura around an Italian bicycle. Whether it’s a steel bike from the 70s’ or a hi-tech carbon fibre masterpiece, if it’s Italian, then it inherits an allure. A century of craftmanship, sporting achievement and design excellence stands behind Italian bicycles and equiptment.
My same enthusiam for Italy is reflected by the author Guido P. Rubino in his introduction and approach in presenting each brand in Italian Racing Bicycles. The large format (275 x 245mm) book is complete with numerous photos that makes it enjoyable to browse. Anecdotes and key moments in history are presented for each brand in an easy to read style that provides an insight while avoiding tedious elaboration.
While I had the book for review, it had the ability to capture the immediate interest of any other cyclist who spotted it. The name alone, Italian Racing Bicycles, invites you to peak inside and then it engages you. While not a fault, this book does limit the presentation of each brand to between two and twelve pages, so for a truely indepth insight, you will have to look elsewhere. It does however pick out important milestones in the brand development to give you a hints as to why a frame builder like Dario Pegoretti prefers stainless steel over titanium for example and how Eddy Merckx is connected to Masi.
Many of the brands covered have legendary status and if you are new to the world of cycling, a bit of time with this book will give you an appreciation of Italian bikes and equipment. And if you already appreciate the Italian style, this is a timeless book for light reading. It gets my thumbs up.
The 40 brands covered in this book are:
3TTT, Alan, Ambrosio, Atala, Bianchi, Bottecchia, Campagnolo, Casati, Cinelli, Colnago, Columbus, Daccordi, Dedacciai – Deda Elementi, De Rosa, Ganna, Gios, Gipiemme, Guerciotti, Legnano, Masi, Miche, Milani, Modolo, Moser, Olmo, Olympia, Passoni, Pegoretti, Pinarello, Rossin, Scapin, Selle Italia, Selle Royal – Fi’zi:k, Selle San Marco, Somec, Tommasini, Torpado, Universal, Viner, Wilier Triestina.
In Australia you can get Italian Racing Bicycles online from Woodslane – Travel and Outdoor Book Centre for $41.53. They usually dispatch within 24 hours and have a good selection of cycling and sporting books.