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Old 01-28-08, 07:13 AM   #1
borromini
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How good is actually the Colnago Super

i've been wondering: How good craftmanship actually went into the production of Colnago Supers of the early eighties? I've been hearing all kinds of things - are these seriously sweet rides, or are they overrated? Bet there are alot of emotions on this one.. Thanks!
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Old 01-28-08, 08:26 AM   #2
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Basically, at Colnago, craftsmanship wasn't the central point really after about 1975 or so. But that doesn't necessarily mean the bikes don't ride nicely. Apples and oranges. It's no secret, or really a subject for much debate, that Colnago began increasing production dramatically in the mid-70's, and at least some production was done away from the Colnago facility. Quality overall was lower, and Colnago for a while lost the handle a bit. Craftsmanship itself became a "selling point" for a number of Italian builders in the 80's, so the whole issue of craftwork and marketing were conflated. Doesn't mean the Supers from that period were junk (though some were apparently pretty shoddy), but overall quality was not what it had been. Also doesn't mean the earlier Colnagos were all gems, either. The real attention to craftsmanship in a self-conscious way, especially regarding a high level of finish work, came in the 70's from U.S. builders like Eisentraut, Sachs, Baylis, Weigle, etc. That's where the standard was raised to a level few earlier bikes could match. "Overrated" or not depends on what you like and look for in a older steel bike. Certainly, there are much better examples of hand-built bicycles than the Supers from the late-70's-early-80's - even from Italy. But again, ride quality is a different kettle of fish.
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Old 01-28-08, 08:53 AM   #3
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mine was an 80 super. workmanship was just above average for an italian bike of the time but not what one would have expected, esp in comparison to my guerciotti and derosa.
it was markedly better constructed than my pinarello treviso and chesini but those bikes were the mid-line models and of much lower cost.
the colnago's paint was overly heavy and the lugwork lacked the crisp quality I associate with high quality brazework.
there were file marks and nicks visible on the fork crown, btm-bkt and dropouts.
the frame came straight and true but required fairly extensive reaming and thread chasing before assembly.the clearcoat showed moderate signs of orange peel.
the derosa on the other hand required absolutely no prep at all, not even to clean up paint overspray as hand carved wooden dowels had been inserted into every open tube, lug and fastener hole prior to painting .
anywhoo....the ride was quite nice and decidedly on the relaxed side of neutral with excellent stability,and predictable handling with progressive & linear response to steering input and weight shifts . it had very good road adhesion over rough & uneven surfaces and a supple,comfortable ride.
overall i was satisfied with the super but based on my own example, I never completely understood the fuss over these bikes. a good tool and fine ride but certainly not in line with the worship given them back then.
mine originally served as my race bike and later saw duties as a rain bike, daily commuter and even as a weekend tourer complete with fenders,lights, blackburn racks and lightweight panniers,front & rear. I have good memories of rides with the bike but never missed it after it was sold.
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Old 01-28-08, 05:04 PM   #4
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a good tool and fine ride but certainly not in line with the worship given them back then.
I have an 82/83 Super and I would agree with caterham on this point and emphasize the "tool" part. The finish is pedestrian but the mojo is included with the price. Mine is Saronni red with flat crown chrome fork and is built with Columbus SP tubing, it has SO MUCH patina and I am building it up with a mish mash of old and new parts. It rides nice but I wouldn't cry if I had to sell it.
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Old 01-28-08, 05:19 PM   #5
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I still have my '82 Super, built with Columbus SL tubing. The build worksmanship was OK but the original paint I think used to jump off the frame in anticipation of being hit by a rock, pebble, gnat, whatever. Sent it to CyclArt many years ago for repaint, cleanup the chrome, new decals and that has proved to be a durable finish.

It still rides beautifully and has that Italian looks-fast-even-while-standing-still appearance about it, even though the motor ain't what it used to be.
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Old 01-28-08, 05:31 PM   #6
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I have a 90s Master (Olympic) with some very noticeable file marks on the fork legs so the build quality issue isn't confined to 1980s Supers. Rides real nice though.


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Old 01-29-08, 08:29 AM   #7
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Ok, it seems these rides are abit below what i had figured, technically speaking, but hey! - they are red, italian and smell of sweat and chianti - vanitas vanitatum!
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Old 01-29-08, 07:49 PM   #8
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They also ride forever. I have a 83 Super that I bought new that now has 32,000 miles on it. Still running the original Super Record parts. The only new parts are NOS Super Champion rims and tires. brake hoods(unbelievably expensive), and cables. The Sedisport chain has 13,000 on it.
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Old 01-30-08, 09:25 AM   #9
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I bought a Super SL frame/fork (60cm) in the mid to late late eighties ('86 or '87...need to check my records) from R&A Cycles, NYC. It wasn't a particularly expensive frame for the time, certainly not in the same category as De Rosa. It was described to me by the folks at R&A as a pretty basic racing frame, nothing special, just a racing tool for the average European pro.

Workmanship was OK, the chromed fork was well done and has held up well. Lugs and dropouts are nothing special, pretty plain stuff. The areas where the paint met the chrome at the chain stay were a bit rough. The paint...a simple scheme of deep cobalt blue with white decals...was fragile and chipped quite easily. It felt straight and it built up pretty well, though it did require a good bit of thread chasing and facing. I put a full Campy SR group on it, Cinelli bar/stem/seat, with Mavic rims (04CD's)...probably more than it deserved. The bike does ride well...quick and responsive, but not twitchy or nervous...a great, do-it-all bike for long rides.

I did start to notice some rust inside the bottom bracket shell and seat tube areas after riding it in all types of conditions (north Florida weather...hot, humid and wet) for several years. Back then everyone said Italian frames rusted out pretty quick. I was advised by a lot of other riders and local bike shop experts at the time to "stay away from that Italian junk"; Colnagos then were not the hot ride they are now.

I still have it, though I don't ride it as much as I should. I know this might sound heretical, but an old Trek 560 I have (bought it around the same time and have it ridden it continuously since then) has held up much better and has proven to be a more satisfying ride over the years, and it cost me a third as much (in '80's dollars).
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Old 01-30-08, 09:35 AM   #10
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Having admired Colnagos in the early 1970s, I was disappointed to read about the subsequent decline in craftsmanship -- some of you make them sound like ca. 1980 Peugeots (been there ... done that -- a great-riding PKN-10 with painfully visible defects including brazing voids on the rear dropouts and seams on the fork blades). In contrast, the workmanship and finish on my humble 1981 Bianchi are extremely clean.
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Old 10-17-08, 12:52 AM   #11
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Dear Borromini,
Ride is dependent on several factors, not accounting the rider. Frame material, alignment, geometry, not in the least frame dip and headtube angle/fork offset, affect the ride. All bikes have a tendency to excell at some aspect of riding, like downhill, sprinting, etc. My first really good racing bike was a 1973 Colnago Super, dark blue, and and I raced my first race on on it, and my last! I had many different team issue bikes, but my go-to choice was always that Super. Why, you ask? Because the frame design was such that it lent itself very well to all the requirements called upon by hard racing, but mostly it was very stable, so it went downhill and sprinted extremely well. The design elements Colnago uses have been copied by many builders over the years. Just ask Brian Baylis about his Wizard frames. He recommended using Colnago "angles" for his custom builds. 'Nuff said.
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Old 10-17-08, 09:30 AM   #12
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Having admired Colnagos in the early 1970s, I was disappointed to read about the subsequent decline in craftsmanship -- some of you make them sound like ca. 1980 Peugeots (been there ... done that -- a great-riding PKN-10 with painfully visible defects including brazing voids on the rear dropouts and seams on the fork blades). In contrast, the workmanship and finish on my humble 1981 Bianchi are extremely clean.
I would hardly make that comparision, but by the late '70s, they had really gone out of fashion. I remember seeing one in the early '70s, and the bike was just stunning. I'm sure some of the loss in popularity was pricing related.
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Old 10-17-08, 09:49 AM   #13
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I would hardly make that comparision, but by the late '70s, they had really gone out of fashion. I remember seeing one in the early '70s, and the bike was just stunning. I'm sure some of the loss in popularity was pricing related.
This doesn't add up. Colnago was ramping production up to meet demand in the late 70's into the early 80's. That's what led to outsourcing to a degree that Colnago wasn't able to keep a handle on quality. They were widely sold in the US not just by traditional dealers but catalog vendors, i.e. Bikeology. Hardly an indication of waning popularity. There are definitely some poor bikes from that period (as well as good ones). The loss of some of the Colnago cache among elite riders was precisely because they were cranking out bikes, some of which did not match the builder's earlier reputation.

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Old 10-17-08, 12:21 PM   #14
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I redid one, way back in 2005 (seems long ago...). Go here to view the thread. The pics, unfortunately, are long gone, and I can't start the computer that they are on, anymore. I remember, though, that the frame assembly work, on this one, was very good, with nice file work and thin shorelines on the lugs. The brazing that I could see was very consistent with no gaps. I think, for various reasons, that this one is about a 1980 model, and as noted above, there were many subcontractors building Supers by this time...I think that it reminds us that just as some were pretty sucky, some were pretty good. Pretty much dependent on who the subcontractor was, I guess.
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Old 10-17-08, 04:08 PM   #15
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I got all fired up and rode that bike for 30 miles today. It is one of the smoothest, most quiet and polite bikes that I own. Dang. I'm gonna ride it more often.
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Old 10-17-08, 04:45 PM   #16
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just curious- i've read only on the internet stories of colnago subcontracting out during this period and personally,i have never encountered a first account of such from a known reputable source.
colnago by the late 70's had a very large facility completely suitable to produce large volumes of bikes. I see no reason why subcontracting of frames would have been necessary for the firm.consider that colnago even served as a subcontractor and supplier to nishiki in the early 80's.
in my mind, the disparity in workmanship would be more easily and logically explained by the fact that the super was their bread-n-butter racing model and sold in huge numbers.
upper end models such as the mexico's,cx's, arabesques as well as the team & custom builds would naturally be constructed by their finest craftmen and allowed a little extra time per unit for fine finishing. the super , export and international, et al., on the other hand, would have been subject to higher numbers,tighter time constraints and built as batches and likely in an simple but multi stage assembly line. these framesets would have been built by technicians of good but decidely different skill levels and varying expertise.
the example i gave of my own bike woulf match this theory perfectly. it was as stated, slightly above average in craftsmanship for a high end, lombardy region frameset of the time. it had no outright flaws or gaps but lacked that last bit of fine finishwork and attention to detail that i would expect of a "master framebulder" ,and entirely consistant with a prestige item operation where the sheer volume of sales & time constraints did not encourage futzing over minor 'non-functional' aesthetic detailing , filing & finishwork.

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Old 10-17-08, 05:11 PM   #17
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For me, by 1975 Colnago was just another production Italian steed, the basis was that Bikeology ran a big advert, screaming as how they had 500 Colnago's on order and they were only $229. for frame and fork.
$20. more for a headset.

With that, 500 going to just ONE dealer... that lost all pretense of a small workshop/builder frame.

When compared to Masi Carlsbad, where probably the largest annual production was 700, maybe less... well the workmanship throughout, visible, paint detailing left no contest.

I like the pre 1972 bikes, and must admit by 1984 Colnago was on their way to producing a better product, they were much better that the "dark years" of the middle late 70's and early 80's.
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Old 10-17-08, 05:32 PM   #18
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just curious- i've read only on the internet stories of colnago subcontracting out during this period and personally,i have never encountered a first account of such from a known reputable source.
colnago by the late 70's had a very large facility completely suitable to produce large volumes of bikes. I see no reason why subcontracting of frames would have been necessary for the firm.consider that colnago even served as a subcontractor and supplier to nishiki in the early 80's.
in my mind, the disparity in workmanship would be more easily and logically explained by the fact that the super was their bread-n-butter racing model and sold in huge numbers.
upper end models such as the mexico's,cx's, arabesques as well as the team & custom builds would naturally be constructed by their finest craftmen and allowed a little extra time per unit for fine finishing. the super , export and international, et al., on the other hand, would have been subject to higher numbers,tighter time constraints and built as batches and likely in an simple but multi stage assembly line. these framesets would have been built by technicians of good but decidely different skill levels and varying expertise.
the example i gave of my own bike woulf match this theory perfectly. it was as stated, slightly above average in craftsmanship for a high end, lombardy region frameset of the time. it had no outright flaws or gaps but lacked that last bit of fine finishwork and attention to detail that i would expect of a "master framebulder" ,and entirely consistant with a prestige item operation where the sheer volume of sales & time constraints did not encourage futzing over minor 'non-functional' aesthetic detailing , filing & finishwork.
Well, I've heard it second hand from someone who heard it firsthand - as in, a respected collector who purchased a Colnago frame (or frames) from a former subcontractor who ended the relationship due to a dispute, leaving the subcontractor with unsold bona fide Colnago frames. The Super in the late 70's into the early 80's wasn't "bread-and-butter," but rather "flagship." (The Mexico of course was a notch higher, but the Super certainly carried Colnagos reputation for building top-class racing bikes at least equally at that point.) The fact that Colnago let the reputation of its flagship model deteriorate I think says a lot. Certainly, that reputation started its slide well before the "upper end models" you mention appeared (the Mexico excepted - and at times during the relevant period, the differences between the Super and Mexico were negligable). Your mention of the "upper end" Arabesque is pertinent - the Arabesque was likely produced not in-house by Colnago, but by Rauler (a joint venture that itself included Ernesto as the "Er" in the name - Rauler also produced frame parts and pantographed components for Colnago). Rauler itself produced bikes with very similar lugs to those of the Arabesque. There's enough evidence at this point that Colnago subcontracted some - and at times much - of its production that it's more logical to believe that there's some fire to the smoke than to believe that subcontracting didn't happen.
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Old 10-17-08, 05:33 PM   #19
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For me, by 1975 Colnago was just another production Italian steed, the basis was that Bikeology ran a big advert, screaming as how they had 500 Colnago's on order and they were only $229. for frame and fork.
$20. more for a headset.

With that, 500 going to just ONE dealer... that lost all pretense of a small workshop/builder frame.

When compared to Masi Carlsbad, where probably the largest annual production was 700, maybe less... well the workmanship throughout, visible, paint detailing left no contest.

I like the pre 1972 bikes, and must admit by 1984 Colnago was on their way to producing a better product, they were much better that the "dark years" of the middle late 70's and early 80's.
Well said (of course, as the owner of a '71, I'm likely to concur).
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Old 10-17-08, 05:40 PM   #20
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If you want fantastic craftsmanship in an eighties bike...you buy a Miyata.
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Old 10-17-08, 05:55 PM   #21
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For me, by 1975 Colnago was just another production Italian steed
agreed- it seemed that everybody and his dog either had one,or fawned over them back then.
i got mine simply because i needed a functional race bike that i wouldn't have to fret over.
my particular frameset had been an interbike show sample purchased at a good discount hanging around in the shop where i worked and, most importantly, it was in my size.
at the time, i sorta took a bit of self-indulgent pleasure in chucking it about pretty cavalierly and i also recall being a bit surprised after first building it up that it rode as pleasantly as it did.

k

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Old 10-17-08, 07:02 PM   #22
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I own two '75-'77 Supers and the workmanship on both is pretty damn nice, with crisp lugs and no major WTF's, except the mounting hole on the rear brake bridge on one of them is pretty tacky looking being only brazed on one side.

But with that said the beauty of these is how they ride. Like the Gios Super Record (my other favorite 70's period frame) they are pretty much the perfect all around race frame, and steer beautifully.

I've heard about a lot of really shoddy work on ones from this period. Both my frames were originally sold in Europe, so maybe the home market ones were a little better?

But with that said I buy Colnago's for the angles not the handwork.
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Old 10-17-08, 07:56 PM   #23
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if you want fantastic craftsmanship in an eighties bike...you buy a miyata.
+1
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Old 10-17-08, 09:25 PM   #24
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If you want fantastic craftsmanship in an eighties bike...you buy a Miyata.
How can a Miyata have any craftmanship at all? They were made all robot brazed, with no craftsman intervention whatsoever.
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Old 10-18-08, 03:16 AM   #25
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How can a Miyata have any craftmanship at all? They were made all robot brazed, with no craftsman intervention whatsoever.
A pretty fantastic craftsmen built those robots.
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