There is a section of Legnano Component Suppliers in the main site index (to the right) that includes some information on the rim manufacturer ‘Cerchi Nisi’. I included this manufacturer because I have come across several Legnano road models fitted with Nisi rims.
Some Legnano bikes with Nisi rims are said to be unmodified examples although it may be impossible to be 100% certain. Even for a single owner bike, 50-60 years is very long time and speaking from experience memories do fade a little with time. Nisi rims have also been found on the other Bozzi brand Frejus, coming out of the same factory as Legnano from the late 1950’s.
The lack of information on Nisi has always seemed a little strange relative to the other prominent Italian brands that are quite well documented. What we do know about Nisi is that it was based in Moncalieri, a town and commune of approx. 60,000 people within the greater metropolitan city of Turin. What I don’t know is who founded the company and when it first opened its doors.
The earliest record that I have found for Nisi rims is the 1950 parts catalog of Emilio Bozzi Spa. So I am speculating that Nisi may have been part of the second wave of Italian manufacturers that surfaced after the end of the second world war (1945) as was the case with Cinelli (1947), Pinarello (1952) and Colnago (1954).
The 1950 Emilio Bozzi Parts Catalog (335 pages) contains hundreds of exacting pen and ink illustrations, a work of art in its own right. In the section of the catalog devoted to aluminum or ‘duralluminio’ rims there are three brands available: Nisi, Ambrosio and Fiamme. The four available Nisi rims, three tubular types and one clincher type, are shown in the illustrations below.
The Supercorsa Extraleggero (mod.1620) and Superpista Extraleggero (mod.1621) were the top models. The mod.1619 would appear to be the general use or base model from Nisi and the braking surfaces was etched according to the illustration below. All models came with spoke washers or ‘forato’ to reinforce the rim from deforming due to the spoke tension.
The Extraleggero models also featured two small recessed pockets between each spoke hole on the tire mounting surface. It is understood that the recessed pockets would provide better adhesion when glueing the tire to the rim, however it was not used by any other rim maker that I am aware of so it may be more speculation or marketing than substance.
The Nisi aluminium clincher rim (mod.1622) is not something I have run across in my part scrounging over the years. Aluminium clincher rims where also produced by Fiamme and Ambrosio and they can often be found on the better, lightweight Italian sport bikes such as the 1950 Frejus Superleggera on this site.
The only other published Nisi catalog listing that I have found thus far is from 1975 that can be found on the Velo-Pages website. It is not certain the Bozzi catalog is showing all of the Nisi models available in 1950 or if it was a selective offering. We do see in the Nisi catalog pages below that the model line was quite extensive as of 1975 with quite a number of clincher style rim models.
Identifying one Nisi model from the other is not so easy, especially if the original packaging is missing as the model designation is not engraved or labelled on the actual rim with the exception of the Toro model. So with the help of the weight specifications listed in the 1975 Nisi catalog above, along with searching the eBay listings, I am going to have a go at sorting out the puzzle for the more commonly found tubular road rims.
Nisi Corsa Toro (above photos)
This is one of the easiest Nisi rims to identify as the Toro model name is engraved on the face of the rim. This rim is 21mm wide and weighs approx. 350g at 700C. The number of spoke holes and production variances could vary the weight slightly. In the photo you can see that the sidewalls of the rims are vertically etched and I have not come across a smooth version.
Toro rims used steel nipple washers until the late 70’s when an eyelet version of this rim was introduced. I am not sure why Nisi waited so long to introduce eyelets on their rims as the Longhi patent expired in the mid-60’s and eyelets are much preferred to nipple washers in terms of strength and ease of mounting. Fiamme and Mavic paid the Longhi patent from day one which may explain why their rims where the top two choices for decades. It may also have been the case that Longhi chose to only license the patent to one manufacturer in Italy and one in France. I will have to look into that possibility a little further.
Nisi Campione del Mondo
Numerous online sources reference the origin of this model to Fausto Coppi’s 1953 World Championship victory using these rims and the subsequent production of a gold anodized version. The question that comes to mind is what was the rim was called before Coppi’s victory? According to the 1975 catalog these rims are 21mm in width and tip the scales at approx. 430g each. They were also available in 6 different sizes, the only tubular road model with such a range at the time.
The 1975 catalog states that the Campione del Mondo was available with both smooth sidewalls as well as the etched format that was claimed to improve braking. However the smooth sidewalls seem to be the more common of the two formats. These rims used steel nipple washers up until the late 70’s when an eyelet version came available. I am not seen this model with the milled glue ‘dimples’ that would seem to have been used only on the Corsa Stretto model.
So how do you go about identifying this rim when restoring a vintage. The first thing I would do it weigh the rim as only the Corsa Stretto had the same weight. Then I would measure the width as the Corsa Stretto was only 20mm wide according to the 1975 catalog and as previously stated the Campione model is 21mm in width.
in progress . . . more to come