The History of Legnano

Translated from the original ‘Storia della Legnano‘ posted by newsciclismo May 30, 2011

 

The story of Italian bicycles begins from the ‘L’ in Legnano. No other cycling brand can boast a similar number of victories in competition as Legnano, thanks to champions like Alfredo Binda, Learco Guerra, Gino Bartali, Fausto Coppi and Ercole Baldini.

Since 1902 the name Legnano has meant quality, reliability and style in the production of bicycles. The great tradition of Legnano was formed on the roads of the most important races such as the Tour de France, the Tour of Italy and many Classics.

E ‘1902 when the workshop of Vittorio Rossi started his bicycle manufacturing business. On steel frames of his bicycle marked “Lignon” appears. The mark proves immediately successful: shortly thereafter fact comes the first victory in a bicycle race, the “Val di Taro Cup”.

The name Legnano enter the world of every day in 1908, when Emilio Bozzi founded his company “Emilio Bozzi & C”.m based in Milan at Corso Genova 9. His intention is to produce complete bicycles, following what the British had already begun to do at that time. Bozzi had meanwhile acquired the Pearl and Frejus brands.

The first model is called Aurora. Following Emilio Bozzi gets in company with Franco Tosi, a businessman from Legnano business and was looking for new business opportunities in the bicycle manufacturing industry. The Tosi himself had already acquired a number of patents from a new British company, the Wolsit. The company, not yet specialized in manufacturing bicycles, produced the “Moped Wolsit”, manufactured between 1910 and 1914, which later sold the patent to the German N.S.U.

797391117.jpegLa turning point came in 1924, when fascism began to get interested in the world of the samples of cycle sport. The strict orders is that all Italian cyclists will run only on Italian bike. E ‘right now comes the first great insight Bozzi: to offer a lifetime contract to a young painter who moved to France with his family, already had distinguished himself in 38 different cycling races: thus the myth of Alfredo Binda.

Meanwhile, the company changes name and becomes Legnano. The symbol that represents it is to Alberto da Giussano, the leader who succeeded in defeating Frederick Barbarossa. It is said that it was the same Binda to draw his first sketches of Legnano brand. The Legnano bicycles increased from an initial blue color to olive green, before landing at the end of the ’30s to the characteristic color “lizard”. The Legnano frames have a feature that makes them immediately recognizable: the bolt stops the saddle is positioned in front of the vertical column.

Binda proves a real investment for Legnano, winning 5 editions of the Giro d’Italia in 1925, 1927, 1928, 1929 and 1933. It is reported that in 1930 the organization of the Giro paid Binda 22,500 pounds not to enter the race in the interests of reviving public interest in the event, his victory being a forgone conclusion if he raced. The Legnano brand became so famous worldwide. While the factory produces excellent bike, the sports sector is entrusted to Eberardo Pavesi said “the avucatt”.

With him at the helm the Legnano reached the pinnacle of world cycling: 6 won world titles (only Binda he wins 3) 15 editions of the Tour of Italy, the second Tour de France and won dozens of other classics.

The myth of Binda sets in 1930 because of a bad fall. At that time he began to be felt the rivalry with Bianchi. But Pavesi has another ace up his sleeve: his name is Gino Bartali, calling at Legnano in 1936 at age 22, after a season pass to the Frejus. Bartali thanked the trust in the same year by winning the Tour of Italy and two years later gave to Legnano his first success at the Tour de France. The yellow color that replaces the traditional green Tour Legnano wears well at home in Milan.

young_bartali

With Bartali starts a new season of successes for the brand of the warrior, which reaches its apex in 1939 when Pavesi alongside expert Bartali a young “skinny”, called Fausto Coppi.

Without knowing it, Pavesi had started the cycling challenge that would soon split Italy in two. Until 1942 Gino and Fausto run side by side in Legnano grinding successes against all their opponents. To divide them now is not their rivalry, but the second World War that will make them meet again only five years later, and from opponents. Before the forced break because of the military conflict Fausto gives the fans one last blaze Legnano: it is the record of who wins at Vigorelli in Milan under enemy bombardment.

In the immediate post-war Italy needs heroes to attach. Them located in the cycling world: their names are Gino and Fausto, who for the joy of everyone returns to race though for separate teams. Coppi has just signed a contract with Bianchi. Bartali but does not intend to give him room and shows his character by winning the Tour de France in 1948. In 1949 Gino leaves Legnano, that is hard to find a replacement to its height. Abstinence from the podium lasts until 1956. At the Melbourne Olympics the young forlivese Ercole Baldini won the foot race on road and bears the CE Emilio Bozzi on the upper echelons of the world. Shortly Baldini will give another series of successes at Legnano on a lightweight bike at the time of Coppi beat the hour record, while in 1958 he won the World Championship.

The Legnano struggling to find champions within the reach of its history and begins a slow but inexorable decline, culminating with the assassination of Emilio Bozzi in the 70s at the hands of a terrorist group. After his disappearance, the family does not intend to take over the farm, which after a period of ups and downs in 1987 was sold to White, longtime rival.

Eventually both the Bianchi and Legnano brands were acquired by the multinational Cycleurope Group, who decided to maintain the tradition of the Bianchi brand at the expense of the Legnano brand that was relegated to low-level economic production.  Following a lengthy legal challenge in 2008, an Italian court awarded the rights to the Legnano brand to the heirs of Emilio Bozzi.

Legnano today in a photo taken at the 2010 Expo Bici held late September in Padua, Italy. The presentation of the ‘revived’ Legano brand included road bikes, mtb’s, sport models, a tandem and a Gran Sport ‘fixie’ model presented in a vintage orange paint scheme.  Let’s hope the Legnano name made famous by Binda, Bartali and Coppi will once again find the podium with a new generation of champions.

21.10.10-Bici-Legnano_booth

 

16 thoughts on “The History of Legnano

  1. I recently acquired a Roma Olimpiade EZ5868 which I think dates it to 1962. The number is horizontal across the seat tube. It was ridden daily but with early Dura Ace and other brands of components, however the frame and fork are original. The question now is what do I do with the bike? It is even possible to locate period parts?? The bike is painted black with chrome on forks and rear stay and I doubt original? The head badge logo is in good condition, but no other decals are on the bike. I know very little about bike restoration.

    Thanks,

    Jeff Lundberg, Ridgefield, CT

    • Some good questions and a few that I have had to consider in assembling this collection. Most people don’t realize that a restoration is a relatively expensive proposition if you are going to do it professionally. And quite truthfully, if it is not done professionally it really isn’t worth doing as it will make the bike worth less than it did when you started.

      Starting with the frame, the refinishing costs depending on the state of the chrome work will be in the range of $1500 – $2000. The banding on the seat tube, head tube masking, and box lining have much to do with this cost beyond stripping, masking and painting the frame. The geometry of the frame should also be checked for proper alignment and the bottom bracket/steering tube threading checked and ‘chased’ if necessary before painting.

      The other issue that I have addressed on this blog, to my knowledge only Noah Rosen at Velocolour has perfected the Legnano ‘lizard yellow’ paint match and anything less puts the quality of the restoration into question.

      Given that you only have the frame I could offer three approaches to achieving a completed bike depending on your objectives and your bank account.

      1. You could find used components that are from 60’s and perhaps early 70’s (as components were not changing up nearly as quickly as they are today), put the bike together and enjoy riding it!

      2. You could look for another used Legnano from the 60’s (maybe a Gran Premio model which were more plentiful in North America) and use these components, almost all of them were the same on the better Roma model.

      3. Dial in to eBay and eBay Italia and begin to source the correct parts one by one. The most expensive route for sure as it is today if you are going to build up a bike rather than take it off the rack at the local shop. It is one of the reasons that I provide a blueprint of each of the Legnano bikes on this blog in the event someone wants to know what is correct to the model and year.

      Have fun and happy building,
      Mark

      • I also have a Raleigh Professional with all campy record parts in VG condition, but the frame is “fair” at best. I could easily move the campy parts over and sell the frame. I assume from a collector viewpoint, if the bike is not period correct, then why buy it. The bike is being shipped and I will see it next week. Besides the lizard color, we’re the Roma models painted other colors? I ride all my bikes although my collection is limited to a Schwinn Paramount, a Bates BAR and the Raleigh. My daily rider is a Scott SL, but it is just a 16 pound hunk of plastic. Your collection is just beautiful! Jeff

        Sent from my iPad

        >

      • Swapping the parts over from the Raleigh Pro to the Legnano frame may not be a true restoration however it should make for a very nice build and a great ride. I have not seen or come across an original ‘Roma Olimpiade’ in any color other than the ‘lizard yellow’ paint scheme that defined Legnano in competition. However it is a color that did not have mass appeal to some customers in North America and so you often find the Gran Premio model (one down from the Roma) in metallic blue, metallic red, metallic green and black on this side of the Atlantic. Through the ‘pop era’ of the mid-70s, Legnano joined the fashion trend of many bike manufacturers, painting Gran Premio models in shades of metallic turquoise and metallic tangerine not unlike and very complimentary to the ‘lizard yellow’ color.

      • I wish to send you pictures of the front fork once the bike arrives to determine if it is original to the bike. Should the fork have a logo or brand inscribed in it? Thanks, Jeff

      • I might have hit a jackpot! I was wandering around CL and came across and ad for a Legnano that was just posted. The ad states:”disassembled but complete. Campagnolo bar end shifters, grand sport derailleurs, magistroni cranks, Legnano branded Record hubs on rims, Legnano branded Ambrosio bars, Ambrosio stem, headbadge included”. size 57cm. It is a dark blue color. For $300, plus shipping. I assume this is a Grand Premio. I have asked for the serial #. Are bar end shifters common or was this a later change? now comes the question – do I part this one out for the ’62 Roma as I am in need of an original fork on that bike, plus the Legnano branded parts hubs would be a nice addition.
        Your thoughts? Thanks, Jeff

      • Both sound like great opportunities to get the period correct parts you require, particularly the Legnano branded Campagnolo Record hubs that can be a little challenging to find at times. And yes, bar end shifters were standard on some Gran Premio and Roma models. Where you successful in getting either of the bikes?

      • I now have three Legnano’s coming my way. The first is the 1962 Roma in black and need of much work as only the frame is Legnano. the second is the one mentioned above a Premio of unknown year other than having a head badge versus a decal. The third I just confirmed will be sold to me is a lizard yellow Premio that has been hanging in a garage wall for the past 34 years! The owner raced it in the 70’s then moved on to other brands and was the second owner. The Premio serial number is 30 which is on the side of the seat tube. 30??? The bike has a Nervar crank which seems odd too but maybe original. Once on the garage wall, the bike was never touched again, so it is a highly original.

        As of now, my thoughts are to bring the Roma up to operating condition using branded parts from bike #2 and Campy parts from my Raleigh. Should I sell bike #2 frame and fork? I am thinking of adding a Campy Rally rear derailleur with a big gear freewheel (14 -28) to bike #1 so I can ride the hills around here. I see no reason to restore bike #3 as it is a true “survivor” bike.

        Does all this make sense to you? I really appreciate your insight and your website has been a great source of information.

        thanks, Jeff

      • Well Jeff, sounds like you are well on your way and lots of options. The best way for me to comment on your strategy would be to send me a few pics of each bike when they arrive. Don’t give up on the ’62 Roma as Legnano forks can be found (with time) and it could prove to be the most valuable of the 3 frames. The Gran Premio (SN.30) sounds to be a completely original bike, which could make it the most suitable for a true restoration, if that is something you want to get into. Again, send me a few pics when they arrive and I will pass along a few more thoughts.

        Best regards, Mark

      • The unknown Premio is #ER6617, which makes it older than the Roma by a year or two (1960?). But I do agree with your point of focusing on the Roma and build it up. The #30 Premio has a French Nervar crank. I thought the Italians went out of their way to use locally sourced parts? Is this a case where the selected crank was not available from the vendor? I confirmed with the owner the crank came with the bike. This bike will stay just like it is and at some point I in the future will sell it (hopefully for a profit). It won’t be my parts bike as it is too valuable as it sits. I will wait until I have all three bikes to take pictures. I am in no hurry to move these projects along. I want to do this right and that I end up with a historically significant bike to ride. Is there a L’Eroica like ride in the US? Thanks, Jeff

      • Yes, you are generally correct that Italian bike brands were loyal to their Italian component manufacturers. And Legnano bikes up to the 70’s were usually fitted with components from Campagnolo (derailleurs and shifters), Ambrosio (handlebars & stembs), Magistroni (headsets & bottom brackets), Universal (brakes), Regina (freewheels and chains), Way-Assauto (Pedals), Fiamme and of course Pirelli (tires & tubes).

        Roma models were often fitted with Brooks B17 saddles (English) and the 1952 catalog offers a model of the Roma with Simplex (French) derailleurs and hubs and also a Gran Premio model with the same Simplex components. The 1961 Gran Premio in my collection also came fitted with Simplex hubs. This was probably a cost saving effort in lieu of the more expensive Legnano-branded, Campagnolo Record hubs.

        However you also have to remember that come the early 70’s the industry was changing rapidly. Also, Campagnolo had a full ‘gruppo’ by the 70’s creating challenges for Magistroni and Universal in particular. And it was also about this time that Shimano released their first Dura-Ace road group and never looked back as they say.

        The Frejus and Woolsit brands were produced in the same factory as Legnano up to the death of Emilio Bozzi in 1974, and the factory closed not long after and the subsequent sale or license of the Legnano brand name to Bianchi (purchased by the Piaggio Group in 1980) in the late 70’s or very early 80’s. However in 2010 an Italian court overturned the original licensing agreement to Bianchi and the Legnano brand name was returned to the Bozzi family.

        Gran Premio and Roma frames were constructed from Falck tubing (Italian) but it is worth noting that some collectors seek out the Legnano frames built during the 70’s from Reynolds 531 tubing. Bozzi may have had the Reynolds distribution for Italy according to some accounts for this short period of time.

        And lastly it is worth noting that Legnano produced dozens of different models including city bikes, touring bikes and road bikes for adults and children. Only the Gran Premio and Roma Olimpiade models were imported to North America so we need to keep this in mind when looking back at this great maker.

      • Thank you for all the details. The ’62 Roma on its way to me has a Simplex front derailieur, perhaps original to the bike but how would I know? Is there a date or design cue from the early period? If I were to restore the early (’59 or ’60) Premio but not in lizard yellow, what other colors were being produced at that time? For example, I saw yours in a medium blue. I will soon have a ’73 Premio in lizard yellow and don’t really want another one, thus the desire for a different color.

        This brings me back to the ’62 Roma. I am going to keep this one “as is” for awhile as it is the only one I can ride in hilly CT. It has Dura Ace 52/39 front chain rings and a 13/32 eight speed cassette on 700c clincher rims. I know it sure sounds ugly, but will get the job done and I still get to ride a historically significant bike. At some point I will do the right thing or put it up for sale and let someone else enjoy the hunt for parts and paint decisions.

        As I mentioned before, the ’73 Premio has been on a garage wall for 34 years, so it was only ridden about 7 years. The bike is 100% unmolested and is as delivered from the bike shop down to the original handlebar wrap, bar end inserts, cables, Wrights saddle, etc. From my point of view, this is a “survivor” bike of the first order and should be left alone. It seems to me it is more valuable in this state than being a candidate for a restoration and destroying the patina, etc. There is nothing I have to do, but stare at the beauty of this bike.

        Jeff

  2. Hi,
    I recently purchased a Legnano off Ebay Italy, serial No CL1597 and from the position of the serial no and the lugs I consider it is a Roma model however it has interesting features such as internal routing for the rear brake cable and also the shifter cable from the down tube to the rear stay. Another interesting feature is the shifter mount on the down tube is brazed on. This brazed on feature is also on a similar Model on ebay Italy Serial No CL 9599? under Legnano listed 3 April 2017. I would like to send some photos so if you could let me know where to send then I will. I have a small collection of Legnano bikes, having raced on them in the 1960s, the earliest being 1941.
    regards,
    John

    • Hello John and thanks for posting. Yes, you can send images along to info@condorino.com The serial number of your recent purchase would suggest a 1949-1950 build date . . . about the same time that Campagnolo was introducing the Gran Sport rear derailleur . . . although it could also have been for a Simplex setup. Looking forward to seeing the photos. I seemed to have missed the eBay Italia listing for your bike and also the other from April 3rd that you mention.
      Best regards,
      Mark

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