Saturday, February 7, 2009

Bikes I love: Fausto Coppi Lugano 53 c1995

The Fausto Coppi, awaiting a better future than commuting and life as a loaner

This beautiful Columbus Genius steel frame came to me while working at R+R in Wellington in 2006 - at 58cm just slightly too small for me, and somewhat oversize for Dave in this new world of compact frames, where like most people he had downsized from 58-59 in his youth to riding 55-56's. With a 140mm stem it would work fine for me. Sort of a compact for a clydesdale.

The Fausto Coppi name was never directly associated with a genuine Fausto-led bike-making endeavour, in the same vein as Eddy Merckx, Ernesto Colnago, Eduardo Bianchi et al. After his death, his family eventually sold the rights to the name to Maschiaghi, an Italian industrial conglomerate who made bikes among other things.

So the story goes, Maschiagi sought out a great Italian frame-maker to help build the first range of bikes. An elderly engineer who had been crafting Ciocc's frames from the 1970s was contacted, and he agreed to come over to Maschiaghi to build something worthy of the name Coppi.

Being a steel-craftsman, the first frames were inevitably lugged steel. However, on this frame only the bottom bracket has a lug (and it's a beauty) - the rest of the bike is welded and hand-filed back to seamless joins.

The Lugano 53 model name refers to his win in the world champs in 1953, held that year in Lugano, Switzerland (see my signed postcard here).

The bikes, or a model remarkably similar to this one were used by the Italian race team Polti in the first half of the 1990s - seen in this photo.


It wasn't long before the bikes that the Coppi bikes took a huge leap forward - creating what is probably the most famous range in the history of the brand. The bright yellow, fat-tubed aluminium racers piloted by Polti from about 1997 were a brute of a bike in terms of power and stiffness, and became tremendous objects of rider desire - steel was largely forgotten.

For everything Polti, check out this amazing website.

The frame sat in the office for some months as the debate raged as to how to fit it out. There were higher priority restorations under way, so a quick-fix with parts from the cupboard and a modern Campagnolo 9-speed Mirage group set for all of $160 from Ribble got things under way.

The first few tests of the new bike left me white-faced and white-knuckled - descending Mount Victoria with a flexy ITM 140mm chrome quill (state of the art for 1994!) and the tyre rubbing on the downtube under brakes. Bring me my brown bib-shorts!

Solving these problems unleashed aesthetic hell upon the Coppi as can be seen in its current photo. Donated, but at least 1990s vintage carbon forks solved the flex (gorgeous but useless triangular profile steel forks filed for future reference), however a short-cut steerer meant a flipped over Ritchey aheadset stem. Ugh!

It remains in the collection for wet commutes, the visiting cyclist, and as a small tribute to the second greatest cyclist who ever lived. In its finest outing to date around the mountains of Dandenong, I secretly suspect Dave started to wonder if a move back to a 58cm frame might possibly be in order again one day.

3 comments:

david lumsden said...

Apart from the World Road Cycling Championships that year, Coppi also won the Gran Premio di Lugano three times. Did anyone else match this? Felice Gimondi twice. I saw the Giro d'Italia ride into Lugano when I was living there in 1998. The hills round there, they're really something!

gnarlygnu said...

I also have a Coppi Lugano 53 frame 58cm and love it, how do you know what year yours is? I bought mine in 2007, it had been setting in a warehouse and I don't know the year. Thanks gnarlygnu@gmail.com

MRC said...

Hey, I'm currently doing up a Coppi that a neighbour found at a council chuck out. Not sure what model it is but check it out here www.crispweb.net/home/blogger.html

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