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.
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.
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.
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.
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