I have not come across any definitive reference, however it is generally thought that the term ‘condorino’ (meaning ‘little condor’ in English) was in reference to the bird like shape of the straight and narrow handlebars. The ‘bici condorino’ was produced by Atala, Bianchi, Bottecchia, Doniselli, Legnano, Torpado and most Italian makers of the time. However I have yet to come across a ‘condorino’ from a maker outside of Italy and to my knowledge they were not imported to North America or many other parts of the world unless it was a personal effort. The ‘bici condorino’ is truly one of the quintessential ‘typeforms’ of the bicycle that remains timeless to this day. That it was Italian should probably not come as a surprise.
Production of the ‘condorino’ would appear to have begun in the mid to late 50’s with the commercialization and acceptance of the cable activated derailleur for changing gears. Most ‘bici condorino’ produced during the 50’s and 60’s were fitted with either a 3 speed or 4 speed Regina freewheel and the Campagnolo Sport derailleur (introduced in 1953 with a single jockey wheel). In the early 70’s, Legnano were fitting ‘condorino’ models with Campagnolo Valentino derailleurs front and rear to provide 5 and 10 speed gearing. However by the mid 80’s the classic ‘bici condorino’ began to slip out of production as the ‘baby boomers’ grew out of their bike riding years and the industry as a whole experienced a decline in sales.
The frame geometry of the ‘condorino’ was much more upright than a typical city bike and very similar to the race bikes of the day with perhaps and inch or more of extra wheelbase to accommodate the larger profile clincher tires and fenders. The result was a swift and responsive ride that could also tackle changes in elevation beyond the city thanks to its gearing. However the most visibly defining feature of the ‘bici condorino’ are the unique handlebars or ‘manubrio’ as they are called in Italian. There is an elegance to the metalworking of the ‘condorino’ handlebars that truly speaks of an earlier time when hands not machines defined form and finish.