More history than an encyclopedia can hold, here's an exclusive tour of Ernesto's private collection

By Zap

As I was recently scrolling through the back pages of our web’s admin system, I came upon this report I wrote a decade ago following my first time visit inside the famous Colnago museum which sits in a huge second floor pavilion across from Mr. Colnago’s villa located in the outskirts of Milano in Cambiago.  From finally winning the Tour de France in 2020 to selling a chunk of the company to some YAE fund, much has changed with Colnago in the ten years since that visit…but here it is again… 

The hardest part about visiting the Colnago factory is that while your natural inclination is to walk slowly, shoot as many photos as possible and be on the look-out for any one of the million trick parts or cool frame designs, the Colnagos themselves, while patient and wholly hospitable, really just can’t wait for you to leave so they can get back to work. Take my word for it, this is a dedicated, hard working crew.

So, while the thought of lingering is ever present, so to is the shadow of Ernesto Colnago, probably the Italian frame man with the most storied history in cycling today.  The Colnago factory is a national treasure and could and should be open to the public. Alas, it is still an active business and for that we should all be even more grateful, because without it we wouldn’t have the bikes that continue to fill the imagination with visions of heroes past and pedaling miles to come.

In case you missed my earlier Colnago reports, here they are:

Building a C59 – Inside the Colnago Factory

First Look: Colnago’s CF8 Ferrari bike

Here are the outtakes from the Colnago factory tour that I thought most compelling – enjoy!

Never far from his mind, this is the view of the Colnago office and museum from the front porch of Mr. Colnago’s home.

This is the unimpeded view.


The lower floor houses the shipping department, bike shop and showroom which is home to this life-size bronze sculpture. As I’ve commented before, the difference in atmosphere between the richly decorated Colnago factory and that of the more spartan Campagnolo (a two hour drive east) couldn’t be more striking.


Mr. Colnago leads the way across the bridge which connects the older officina with the newer building which houses the upstairs museum. The feeling of anticipation as you near the museum door is palpable.


Wow! The massive museum room is crammed with a plethora of bikes that have each played a huge role in defining the history of the sport. For bike geeks, this is better than a day at Disneyland!!


One of Mr. Colnago’s most coveted bikes is the “gold bike” that was first given to Pope John Paul II in 1979. The bike was re-acquired by Colnago when the church sold it back to them.


As you might expect, there is no shortage of trophy cases found throughout the Colnago compound.


At first glance this bike would look like just another steel Colnago until you look closer…


In yet another example of Mr. Colnago’s forward thinking, he designed this 1980 track bike with front and rear brake placement that mimics positioning now being used on a plethora of modern aero road and TT bikes.


Possibly the one bike with the most storied past is the one Mr. Colnago built for Eddy Merckx to use to set the hour record in Mexico in 1972. The bike took 200 hours to build and was noted for it’s special lightweight Columbus tubing, 90 gram Clement tires, Cinelli plastic saddle and drilled handlebar, radially spoked front wheel, drilled out Regina chain and a custom titanium stem that was made in America. Eddy used a 52×14 gear to get the job done.


Eddy Merckx in action aboard the same bike.


The bike that Mr. Colnago built for Tony Rominger in 1994 was equally high tech for the day. The Oval CX that Rominger rode used an aero fork, ITM handlebars and  60×14 gear with special parts made by Tullio Campagnolo.


Tony Rominger in action aboard the same bike.


So much carbon, so many shapes, so much forward thinking.


Always in pursuit of improved performance, Colnago has played with every conceivable frame (and handlebar) design imaginable.


The swoopy C35 was another bike that shard design input with Ferrari.



Here are two privately owned samples found late one night while trolling on the computer.


The C35 frame seemed a natural for the custom look.


The all carbon C42.


Nicely shaped 3T aero bars from back in the day. Note the ovalized head tube similar to contemporary frame designs.


The Colnago “Light” was an early attempt to see where and how a bike could be lightened by drilling everything that could be drilled out.


Probably one of the rarest Colnagos (and certainly the bike with the most heart warming story behind it) is the “Forever” bike. Mr. Colmago had only 50 of these individually hand painted bikes made to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary to his wife Vincenzina (note his newlywed photo on the wall).

If ever you could have a city bike to call your own, this should be it.


The one Colnago that continues to drive bike aficionados crazy is the beautiful Columbus steel Master with the Colnago signature shaped tubes.


As you’d expect from a company with such a rich pedigree in racing, there is no shortage of well used and successful race bikes in the museum. This is the former bike of Alessandro Petacchi when he rode for Milram. As an example of the versatility in frame geometry afforded by the lug construction (versus monocoque), to suit Petacchi’s personal needs, Mr. Colnago said that the bike used the head tube of a 54cm frame with the top tube of a 58cm frame.


Although Colnago has yet to win the coveted yellow jersey in the Tour de France, at one time or another the brand has become synonymous with every jersey awarded. This is the KoM bike ridden by Anthony Charteau from the 2010 running.


Probably the coolest collection of bike in the museum is found over in the Paris-Roubaix corner where you’ll find the winning bikes of  Andrea Tafi ’99, Franco Ballerini ’98 and Johan Museeuw ’00 – each still covered with the dirt and mud from the day.


Keeping up with all the trends as always, we found this Colnago 29’er ready to roll.


This radical carbon/steel mountain bike actually has an articulating rear triangle tat pivots forward around the seat tube.


I first laid eyes on this radical carbon fiber Colnago mountain bike back in 1989 at the Long Beach Bike Show. Like so many other bikes in the museum, it was further evidence of just how far ahead of the technology curve that Colnago has been for years.


Yes,  you probably needn’t be surprised to find a future full of wood bikes from Colnago.


Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.

Comments are closed.