UPDATE OF FEBRUARY 2016: Sometimes you believe what you want to believe!
Now that’s I know this bike is from 1973, I am not sure what led me to believe that it was from the early 60’s (see original post that follows). The serial number should have tipped me off but it was not until I came across the RSC Registry that it became clear that this was the 2235th frame built by DEI in 1973 as indicated by the first two digits of the serial number 73D2235.
Perhaps it was the components, more typical of the 60’s than the early 70’s, that put me on the wrong foot. However the Universal 51 brakeset was still in catalogs through to the mid 70’s according to data on the Classic Lightweights UK website. And 1973 was the last year for the Campagnolo Record rear derailleur so that bit squeaks in under the wire. The Roto pedals, although being almost identical to the pedals from Way-Assauto, did not come into production until the early 70’s.
So am I feeling a little embarrassed by all of this? Well yes, particularly given how obvious the serial number now appears. Based on the aforementioned RSC Registry it would appear that the Umberto Dei serial numbers were reset in the early 60’s to include the year and the letter D before the frame number. Up until that time the serial numbers were a 4 or 5 digit numeric. One thing is for sure, should I decide to pass on this Umberto Dei at some point in time I will do so clearly describing it as a 1973 model!
Here’s a blueprint of the bike:
Serial No: 73D2235 (right side vertically below seat lug)
Frame Size: 57cm ctc
Crankset: Cicli F.B. (Fratelli Brivio) for Umberto Dei
Chainrings: Simplex of Italy (47/50)
Bottom Bracket: uncertain
Toe Clips: Christophe (NOS)
Toe Straps: Christophe (NOS)
Rear Derailleur: Campagnolo Record 1020
Front Derailleur: Campagnolo Gran Sport
Downtube Shifters: Campagnolo Gran Sport
Freewheel: Reginal Extra (14/17/20/23/26)
Chain: Regina Extra
Hubs: Low Flange 36h. Cicli F.B. for Umberto Dei
Rims: Ambrosio 36h x 700c (nos)
Tires: Continental Giro tubeless (new)
Handlebars: 3TTT 38cm
Stem: 3TTT 100mm
Brakeset: Universal Mod. 51 Brev. 453949
Seat: Brooks Professional
Seatpost: Campagnolo Record 26.2mm
Fenders: Velo Orange (new)
REVIEW AS FIRST WRITTEN: It’s good to acknowledge when you are wrong.
I am not sure if you set out to collect bicycles or if they just manage to collect you. I also told myself that sticking to a single brand (Legnano) would help keep the size of my collection within reason. Then I stumbled across this Umberto Dei road bike, bit my lip and knew my collecting rules where about to be compromised. And so in short order it arrived from Italy with special thanks to its previous owner, Luca de Ponti of Assago (Milan), Italy.
Umberto Dei was an Italian track sprinter and opened his workshop in the heart of Milan in 1896 making bicycles for his friends. The Umberto Dei brand continues to this day and is best known through the years for their Imperiale model, the benchmark for the classic Italian city bike and definitely one of the most expensive. The Imperiale model below is from 1951, available in both a men’s and women’s model they were almost always finished in black with white Pirelli tires.
One small peculiarity of the Dei brand, there is only a single decal on the drive or right side of the down tube rather than the conventional practice of putting one on each side. When I first acquired the bike I thought that the left side decal had worn over time and been lost but on investigation I discovered this small but interesting detail.
These beautiful 3-piece hubs have been engraved by the maker with the Umberto Dei logo, a good sign that the wheels are original to the bike and weren’t swapped out (or parted out) over the years. The hubs are not Campagnolo Gran Sport but the ‘extralusso’ model from the precision workshops of Cicli F.B. (Fratelli Brivio S.A.) at no.9 Viale Italia, Brescia. The second image below shows the listing for these hubs in an early Emilio Bozzi catalog. The quick release mechanisms are Campagnolo Record. Patented by Tullio Campagnolo in 1933 there are accounts that these first quick release mechanisms were completed with the help of the prestigious Brivio Brothers. Here is a link to several excellent photos of the first Campagnolo skewers branded for F.B.
This brings us to the year of this bike that I am putting at 1965. It could be as early as 1963 based on the components however I often see bikes presented with ‘optimistic’ dates (to put it in a nice way) and so I would prefer to err on the outside in dating this bike. And 1965 was pretty much the last year that Italian bikes were fitted with the Record rear derailleur and Gran Sport front derailleur.
This Umberto Dei model was probably not their top of the line model but rather their second offering, similar to the Gran Premio from Legnano. Like the Legnano Roma, the flagship model from Dei would probably have been fitted with Campagnolo hubs, perhaps the Gran Sport headset and perhaps the frame finished with chrome plated lugs and fork/stay ends. However references on the Umberto Dei road bikes are hard to come by and I have only seen partial photos of one or two.