1977 Fiorelli Coppi Campionissimo

This will be the first of many posts about my Fiorelli Coppi bike, which I am building up as a Sunday bike for myself. It all started when I spotted a rusty bike at a flea market in May 2014 – I noticed it had Shimano 600 parts, Mavic rims, and was pretty light; all signs of a good build. The owner wanted €15, and I talked him down to €10 due to the poor quality finish on the frame. I walked away with my mystery frame and an ’80s Peugeot for €25!

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The paint and chrome on Coppis is notoriously poor – as you can see!

The frame was rusty and the decals had been almost entirely (deliberately) removed, save for a triangular ‘Fiorelli’ sticker. There was a distinctive C in the fork crown, and the corner of a Columbus decal peeling away. After a bit of googling, I found that I had a Fausto Coppi bike, built by the Fiorelli brothers company in the Campionissimo’s native Novi. I found another bike online with exactly the same spec, confirming the components were original equipment. The crankset was dated 1976, putting the bike probably a year or so later.

Knowing the frame would need a repaint, I decided to keep it for myself. Repainting a frame is a costly and/or time consuming process, and is rarely worth doing if reselling is your goal. The process both costs a lot (perhaps more than an equivalent frame in usable condition) and reduces the value of the bike as it is no longer ‘original’. Knowing it would take years for me to get round to painting and rebuilding the bike, I decided to strip and sell the valuable parts.


The remaining Coppi head tube and Fiorelli seat tube decals, along with the distinctive ‘C’ in the fork crown.

In the meantime I have been putting parts aside for my eventual build; a Campagnolo Record Groupset, Brooks saddle, Cinelli handlebar and stem. As of today then, my dream bike is in several boxes upstairs in my barn.

To be continued…


Columbus Tube Decal Timeline

Until relatively recently, all bike frames started life as a box of steel tubes. Like any components, there are expensive, sought after brands and cheaper, generic types. Three frame tube manufacturers stand out; Reynolds from England, Ateliers de la Rive/Vitus of France, and Columbus of Italy. Being Italian, Columbus was the obvious choice for builders like Colnago, Gios and Masi. Reynolds tubed bikes have won the most Tours de France; 27 for their ubiquitous 531 tubing! However many riders claim to prefer the smoother feel of Columbus (see this blind test conducted by Bicycle Magazine in 1987). I ride my Columbus tubed Look weekly, and am in the process of restoring a Columbus SL Coppi.

The goal of this timeline is to help with the dating of Columbus frames based on their decal, or to find the appropriate reproduction decal for a refinished frame (although unlike Reynolds, Columbus does not have an official distributor of repro decals). The date under each decal gives its year of introduction to the best of my knowledge. Until the late seventies all Columbus tubesets shared the same decal; I have not listed all tubesets. For simplicity, I have only listed Italian versions, although English and French versions exist. Original fork decals are very rare prior to 1980.


Columbus tube decal timeline for the ’50s, ’60s and early ’70s

The first decal appeared in 1953, red on gold foil. The basic design remained unchanged for two decades, however the colours were updated. The background became gold, there are subtle changes to the colour of the border around the red oval. The final incarnation with the gold dove also appears in oversize versions, about 1.5 times the usual size.


Columbus tube decals of the ’70s

The first major change happened in ’72 with the introduction of a simplified dove logo. The text ACCIAO SPECIALE is in bold on the ’73 version. In ’75 the dove became white for the first time. The 3 Tubi (main tubes only) decal from ’77 is the first time the tubeset was identified on the decal – full Columbus frames continued to use the gold one.


Columbus tube decals of the late ’70s and early ’80s

In 1977 Columbus tubing separated from its parent company and introduced a new single winged dove. Within a year or so a purple border was added to the decal. Columbus then diversified with new high end tubesets: SLX, Air, Record, which got their own decal. Entry level tubesets like Zeta, Aelle and Tretubi (3 tubes) got new decals too, with the mid range tubesets like SL and SP using the generic purple decal. 1984 brought along separate decals for all tubesets, with COLUMBUS now written at the top and a funky ‘80s metallic backround.

All graphics are proprietary. Reposting permitted for non-commercial purposes with credit & link.

For further information on Columbus tubes see the Columbus website for history and current tubesets or the Equus project for info on ’80s/’90s tubesets.

Peugeot J-8 Randonneur

Randonneurs are something of a French Classic.  As the name implies, they are for Randonées, a type of sports cycling also known as Brevet or Audax riding. The French term Randonée itself is rather general, literally meaning ramble or trek. The Randonnee style of riding evolved in early 20th century France, and consists of organised rides over long distances (200km or more).  Riders are expected to be self-sufficient and Randonnees may involve an element of orienteering, however there is no competitive element.


The Randonneur bicycle evolved around the requirement for a sports bike that could be ridden all day long, and carry everything a rider would need. As such they are generally relatively lightweight, with full mudguards, provision for lights and panniers. The resulting machine is something akin to a cross between a road bike and a touring bike, and as such they are very practical everyday bikes, leading to their recent resurgence in popularity.  They could be described as the ‘original hybrid’, and make a great commuting bike for those who prefer a retro aesthetic. Able to handle a variety of terrain and riding styles, they are a good choice for those looking for one bike that fits all.


Randonneurs had to be able to cope with anything old European roads could throw at them, with surfaces varying from dirt tracks to cobbles. They generally have 650B wheels, which are halfway between modern 26″ mountain bike and 700C road wheels. This allowed them to use fat tyres which would cope on anything from grass to gravel. Lauded by many as a happy medium, 650B is now making a comeback on mountain bikes.


I found this example at a charity sale, I was instantly drawn to it’s super ’70s orange paint job (reminiscent of Eddy Merckx hour record Colnago – to me at least). It’s actually a youth bike, with a 50cm frame and 650A wheels. 650A wheels are slightly larger than 650B, but take a skinnier tyre , meaning the overall size is very similar (around 650 mm – hence the name).  It was in excellent condition and only needed cleaning and servicing before moving on to its next adventure – even the tyres were still in good condition – which was good news for me as 650A tyres are a pain to find these days!