Updated January 14, 2022
A fellow Legnano enthusiast in the Netherlands is in the process of restoring an early Tipo Roma cambio corso model and the online conversation turned to the period-correct rims for his project. And with that an interest on my part to update the site with some additional background on one of Legnano’s long-standing component suppliers, Fiamme.
I have yet to find a reference that dates the founding of S.A. Fiamme of Milano, a component maker that is best known for the production of aluminium rims but also produced high-quality stems and handlebars. What is available of Fiamme’s history takes shape in the early 1930’s when Mario Longhi patented the double eyelet, hollow aluminium rim on January 5th, 1934 just two hours prior to a similar patent being filed by Mavic of France (source: Hilary Stone; Mavic). Longhi licensed the patent to Fiamme until its expiration and also to Mavic until 1947 according to the Mavic website.
Below is a drawing of the original aluminium Fiamme sprint rim incorporating the Longhi patented construction as illustrated in their 1935 catalog (source: Hilary Stone) and following that an advertisement for the Fiamme sprint rims in the March 2, 1934 issue of Cycling magazine (source: Classic Lightweights UK).
The first image below is from the extensive 1950 Emilio Bozzi SpA parts catalog, offering the Fiamme tubular rim with and without eyelets. Note the Fiamme logo incorporates an image of Pegasus, the mythological winged horse, as opposed to the illustration of a helmet that we are most familiar with. Also the label is in the shape of a ‘marquis’ rather than an oval. I have yet to come across a tubular type rim with the Pegasus illustration on the label.
The second image below is the Fiamme rim with eyelets on the 1946 Legnano Tipo Roma in my collection. The ‘Brevetto Longhi’ license stamped above the ‘S.A. Fiamme’ branding can also be found in the identical format on my original 1958 Roma and my 1963 Roma. However, the Fiamme rims (with eyelets) on my original 1966 Roma are simply stamped ‘S.A. Fiamme’ with ‘Made in Italy’ below, suggesting that the Longhi patent had expired by that time. I should also mention that the valve hole on all of the above rims has a reinforcing eyelet.
The third image below is courtesy of a post on Bike Forums by ‘iab’ who references it to a 1948-1949 Viscontea Pista. What is notable is this early Fiamme red label rim is without the reinforcing spoke eyelets and is simply engraved ‘Fiamme Milano’, and without the words ‘Brevetto Longhi’ as the rim does not make use of the Longhi patent.
I am limiting this review to pre-1970 production however Fiamme went on to produce rims well into the 1980’s. Unfortunately like so many dominant Italian component manufacturers that got their start in the 1920s and 1930s, changing European trade laws along with the Japanese invasion of lucrative foreign markets may have proved too much for Fiamme and they went out of business. It is reported that Fiamme’s assets were purchased by FIR of Italy (Fabbrica Italiana Ruote).
Prior to 1970 I have come across Fiamme tubular rims with four different label types in three colours. The first image below is the red label Fiamme pista rims fitted to a 1952 Fiorelli track bike that is featured on on the Classic Cycle website. The red label rims were also produced in a road profile, widely used and highly rated from all accounts I have come across. The yellow label rims (oval shape label) were of a lighter weight (approx. 50-60g) and were also available in both road (second image below) and pista profiles for special events, time trials and/or lighter riders.
Although I have yet to verify this statement, online comments would suggest that the green label rim marked ‘Cerchio Elmo’ rather than ‘Cerchio Fiamme’ was a heavier or more robust rim than the red label rim. The green label rims are factory spec on many of the Legnano Roma and Gran Premio models in my collection dating back to 1958. As most of these same bikes in my collection are imports to North America, the more robust green label Fiamme rim may have been in response to the mixed road conditions in NA at that time. It is interesting that the word ‘elmo’ in Italian translates to ‘helmet’ in English, derived perhaps from the illustration of a helmet in the Fiamme logo.
Not to be missed, Fiamme also produced aluminium clincher rims that were designated with a yellow marquise-shaped label with the resurrected Pegasus logo as discussed earlier. The image below is of a 27 inch clincher rim (with Schrader valve holes) original to the 1961 Gran Premio on this site, a Legnano import to the United States with clincher tires and Schrader valves that could be ‘pumped up’ at any local gas station. Online reports suggest these Fiamme clincher rims were in production until approx. 1975.
The third image below is from the 11th Edition in 1974 of Gene Portuesi’s ‘Cyclopedia’ catalog (source). Given print production practices at the time, I suspect the Fiamme illustrations were produced much earlier than 1974 and carried over from one catalog to the next as bicycle components did not change up on a yearly basis as they do today.
Updated January 14, 2022
Wim Hermans of the Netherlands is a vintage bike enthusiast and he was kind enough to pass along a photo of a very early Fiamme rim (photo below) with a rarely seen rim decal and a production year that we estimate to be sometime between 1934 (when Longhi registered the patent) and 1940.
The engraving to the right of the rim decal is common to later Fiamme rims through to the early 1960s when the Longhi patent expired. However the engraving to the left of the decal is not. Breveté SGDG was a a form of French patent that ceased to exist in 1968. The name was a common abbreviation for “Breveté Sans Garantie Du Gouvernement“. (Wikipedia).
Coincidentally, Wim Hermans is a patent professional and he wrote of SGDG, “It seems it was some kind of untested patent. Quick and dirty or just a way of registration. The validation then had to be tested in a possible later dispute. We have the same system still here in the Netherlands.”
As mentioned earlier, Longhi only eclipsed Mavic by two hours in registering the patent for the double-eyelet, hollow cross-section design of his rim, so the SGDG engraving may have been a bit of a warning to the French cycling manufacturers that the design was also protected in France or in other words “hands off”. If a reader has any additional information or samples of this early Fiamme rim I would enjoy hearing from them.
And to conclude this post and as initially mentioned, Fiamme also produced a fine line of aluminium handlebars and stems. I am estimating the stem in the image below (courtesy of Speedplay) was produced in the late 50’s to early 60’s based on the exposed detailing of the binder bolt and overall design which is very similar to the stems from Ambrosio during those same years, another favoured supplier of stems and bars that were widely used by Legnano on the Roma and Gran Premio models. But we will keep Ambrosio for another post.
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