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Can someone explain "Italian bike boom" period? Thanks...(15 posts)

Can someone explain "Italian bike boom" period? Thanks...peter1
Apr 4, 2003 9:14 PM

I just lurk on this board, owning no bike that even remotely qualifies as retro or classic. (Altho my father has a chrome Schwinn Voyageur 11.8).

However, I'd like to know about the mass produced Italian bikes that flooded the U.S. market in the 70s and early 80s. Why? Who bought them? Who made them? How many were sold? What were the key brands? Was there anything good about them?

Also, how to tell a high-end frame from a cheapie?

Thanks in advance,

don't think so much Italian....desmo
Apr 5, 2003 9:22 AM
the flood (as I remember it) was low end Peugeot, Motobecone, Gitane, and Raliegh (hope I spelled one of those right). then a wave of Japanese replicas of the same.

cheap frames will usually have: stamped dropouts without a derailleur hanger, thick sloppy lugs or cast one piece headtube lugs, flimsy stamped brake and chainstay bridges, heavy straight-guage (gaspipe tubing). also, will usually have 27" wheels, long wheelbase, and fender eyelets (although high quality touring models will have these features as well)

I'm sure others can add more to this.
I agree. It was more of a French boom.Dave Hickey
Apr 5, 2003 9:46 AM
Tons of low end Peugeots, Gitanes and Motobecanes.
Apr 5, 2003 4:20 PM
Thanks for the info...still curious, from a historical perspective, why it happened. Probably just one of those occasional, inexplicable manias that grip American consumers from time to time...

I guess that's why I still think of Motobecane as low-end, even though they supply a few teams like Cofidis.
Apr 5, 2003 6:43 PM
don't think that Motobecane and the others made all crap. they made very nice high end bikes. but this is what allowed them to put their name on crap and sell it when road bike fever hit the States. all those low end bikes served their purpose though. Mr. blow-dried, tennis shorts, and tube socks, with sweater tied around his shoulders didn't want to shell out near a grand for a road bike when it would soon be left out in the cold for roller-disco.
I have the 11.8!!!Lone Gunman
Apr 5, 2003 4:56 PM
Turned it into a fixed gear this past summer. Goofy stem is tough to find a replacement, 21mm as opposed to a 22mm like every one else was using. I was very fortunate to find a 110mm/21mm and did not need to switch out the fork and HS so the bike was useable. Love the full chrome!!!

I think what happened also was there was really only one higher end bike mfger in the US at the time of "the flood" and that was Schwinn with the Paramount. The time period you are looking at 70's-80's in Italian frames that are highly desirable these days are Masi, Colnago, Torelli, Gios just to throw out a few. Spirito can weigh in on this subject and name more. Features; 531 steel frameset, chrome fork and rear stays, details in the mfg process like cutouts in the bb, pantographed names in the top of the seat stays, brake bridge is "shaped and not just a piece of tubing welded across, deraileur brazeons?.

Take a look at the classicrendevouz site to see some of the details of the different frames I speak of. If you really get sucked up into this classic stuff there is a fanatical usergroup of CR people that argue about rubber gum hoods with Campagnolo world logos with or without seams from the mfg process and whether they are authentic or imposters. Some of those guys have entirely tooooo much time on their hands.
re: Can someone explain "Italian bike boom" period? Thanks...Walter
Apr 6, 2003 6:46 AM
By the later 1970s, if not earlier, Motobecane had a full range of bikes and even their lower line models like Nomade and Mirage were decent bikes. Their top end was very nice. Moto was a very large company and had a large position in the moped market as well. Moto went bankrupt and the current name was resurrected in Asia. MBK is the French successor company.

Why the boom? A large # of things and some fad elements too. OPEC got itself together in the early 70s and gas prices began their upward spiral. The ecology movement made a (brief it seems) splash as well. Schwinn had been selling 10 speeds for more than a decade but my 29# Moto Noamde was a true lightweight when compared to a 40#+ Varsity. Euro companies got the first crack since they were already making lightweights for their home markets all they had to do was import. Japanese companies came a few years later and, probably with a boost from the perceived quality of Jap. cars, dominated the market driving out the lower line Euro bikes. Higher line Euro bikes retained their cachet and continued to set the standard. My take anyways. boy
Apr 7, 2003 1:29 PM
A few Italian names I remember from the period.
Some Italian names I remembermapei boy
Apr 7, 2003 1:38 PM
Sorry about the screw-up with my message above. Here are some Italian names I remember from the period.

The production ones.

Bianchi. (Sorry Doug, but the lower end Bianchis of the period had a horrible reputation with bike mechanics.)

A few more upscale ones.


And just for the heck of it, here are some non-Italian names I remember from the period, names which have never seemed to have come up on this message board.

Ron Cooper. English. Gorgeous. Conservatively styled. So stiff, my friend (who occasionally still rides his) correctly likens it to a pogo stick.
Mondia. Swiss. Ornate. Famous for being noodly.
Frejus. A good quality French production make.
Oscar Egg. Swiss? French? I can't remember.
Rickert. German. Supposedly ultra-rigid.
What about Atala? nmdzrider
Apr 8, 2003 8:26 AM
Some Italian names I rememberbicyclerepairman
Apr 8, 2003 11:58 AM
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that Frejus bicycles were made in Spain. The nicest French bicycle I've ever seen was not a Motobecane, not a Gitane, not a Mercier, nor a Peugot. It was a burgundy (how appropriate!) Louison Bobet.
Some Italian names I remembermapei boy
Apr 8, 2003 2:41 PM
Every see a Lejeune? Lovely.
Some Italian names I rememberbicyclerepairman
Apr 8, 2003 3:57 PM
I remember the brand...probably nice for their day, which has passed. The one's I've seen all had cottered steel cranksets and primitive Simplex deraileurs. There may well have been some better models out there....
Some Italian names I remembermapei boy
Apr 9, 2003 11:09 AM
Your remark about cottered cranks brings up an interesting point. How can this board properly call itself retro when its idea of retro is six speed clusters and Shimano 600 gruppos? Let's hear it for Mafac center-pulls and Weinmann side-pulls! Let's hear it for Ideale saddles and Gnutti quick-releases! Let's hear it for $10 Clement Campionato del Mondos! In silk! Let's hear it for welded bottom brackets! Tressostar (and Tressorex) bar tape! Water bottles that made water taste like medicine! Bah Humbug!
Some Italian names I rememberbicyclerepairman
Apr 10, 2003 3:11 PM
While musing about your post on a ride last evening, I lost my concentration and almost fell off my velocipede.