Fausto Coppi’s 1952 bike

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A little bit of cycling history courtesy of Rouleur magazine.

From an article by Guy Andrews on rouleur.cc.

From an article by Guy Andrews on rouleur.cc.

This is Fausto Coppi’s 1952 World Championship winning Bianchi Specialissima complete with insulated bottle covers, Campagnolo derailleurs, Ambrosio forged aluminium stem and Universal brakes. The frame was a huge advance on the bikes of the time…

(Read the full article with more images.)

Whenever I look at black and white photographs of cycling heroes, at any time from the inaugural Tour de France in 1903 to Tom Simpson’s heyday in the 60s, I am awed by their achievements. I mean, just look at their legs, their faces, their brutal bikes.

Fausto Coppi’s full-steel bike must weigh about 30 pounds, as much as a hefty budget mountain bike today. Look at the un-ergonomic bars, the single chainring, the tiny cassette. Then imagine climbing big mountains on it, trying to get comfortable on the leather saddle, wrestling with the tyre wrapped in a figure-eight around your shoulders and back.

Coppi won the Tour twice, the Giro five times, and the Paris-Roubaix in 1953. Here is one of cycling’s true legends in action:

6 Responses to “Fausto Coppi’s 1952 bike”

  1. Legs, Feeling No Pressure » Raleigh Record August 11th, 2009 at 4:06 am

    […] this vintage Raleigh ad. I’m guessing it must date from the 50s or early 60s. Like the Coppi race bike I checked out a few months ago, it harks back to the days of full-steel frames with heavy lugs […]

  2. David Wehrle July 25th, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    Wow! Doesn’t look that different from my 1985 Nuovo Racing (Bianchi). It’s amazing how far cycling technology has come in my lifetime and how little it changed from Fausto until my high school days of biking.

  3. Bertin March 21st, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    They weren’t that heavy, and remember that Claudio Ciapucci’s winner circa 1992 weighed north of 24 lb. Sure steel components and Brooks or Ideal saddles weren’t light, but their wheels were probably quite a bit lighter than many today, with light aluminum tubular rims and handmade tubular tires. And not everyone even today thinks “ergonomic” bars are comfortable.

    As for leather saddles, many long distance (example: RAAM, Paris-Brest-Paris) riders swear by them as far more comfortable than any more modern design.

    Lastly, the number of gears is after a point more a matter of fine tuning than all out range; and, otoh, you can get used to high torque, low cadence climbing: I think it was Skye Yeager who pointed out that Coppi climbed the Alp d’Huez in a 46X19.

    Much of modern (last 10 years: 10, 11 cog cassettes, carbon fiber frames, etc,) is either just marketing for not much real rider (as opposed to sales and manufacturing) benefit (threadless stems– whose principal advantage is that they are easier to adjust) or add relatively little except *perhaps* at the most elite levels (shaving 2 lbv off a frame and fork).

  4. Al March 24th, 2011 at 10:33 am

    @Bertin – Good points. Coppi’s bike looks uncomfortable to me, but who knows with a polish and some fresh bar-tape?

    I’m pretty sure Cycling Plus (or some other mag) did an experiment once where the same pro rider did a timed loop on a modern carbon-framed bike, and repeated the loop on a old lugged steel frame to compare the speed. I’m sure the new bike won, but I forget the margin.

    I for one for love to see Coppi on a 46×19 vs Contador with a max 39×25.

  5. george blumfield August 2nd, 2012 at 1:24 am

    I bought a GEMINIANI Olympic racing bicycle (French) from Roys Cyclery on Pico Blvd. in LA in March 1961. It had nearly identical components on it except for Mafac center pull brakes and a Stronglite cottered crank. It had all Campagnolo Gran Sport gears, deraillers, shifters, Ambrosio bars, Reynolds 531 frame and forks. I think that Coppi’s bike had Colombus tubing. I also bought all extra parts for it which I still have including a brand new TA alloy crank set which I also bought in 1961, I rode the bike for 15 years and my son rode it for 2 years.

    I still have the bike and am putting it on the road again with new cables, etc.

    I can’t see much advantage with the new carbon bikes; as I understand it, carbon has a “shelf life”, and I think that my steel bike will last longer than any carbon bike. I know it will last longer than me because I am close to 80. My son is going to put me and the Geminiani in a dumpster when I die, unless he wants to ride it for another 15 years.

    Best wishes.

  6. Al October 7th, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    Thank you for your comment @George. I’m just writing a new post about how my Wilier carbon frame cracked after 5 years of use – so you could be dead on about ‘shelf life’.

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