How to identify a Colnago vintage bike

Colnago Logo

Colnago have been manufacturing high performance bicycles since the release of the ‘Super’ back in 1968. In the years that followed, Colnago experimented with different types of steel tubing and profiles to create a range of models, some of which are still manufactured in 2019. For the purposes of this article, I will focus this article on steel frames manufactured between 1968 and the late 1980s, arguably the Golden Age of vintage Colnago steel frames.

When trying to identify a Colnago frame, it is not recommended to rely on decals and paint schemes. Unlike modern bikes, decals were simply applied on top of the painted frame, making them easy to remove and change. There are plenty of reproduction decals for sale on websites like e-Bay. Frames can also be repainted and re-chromed to match the style of another model. Plus, there are probably more than a few steel bikes out there that have Colnago decals, but are not Colnago frames. Therefore, it is better to identify the brand and model of the frame using the structural design elements of the frame.

Colnago Super 1975
Colnago Super 1975
Image courtesy of

Models like the Super were manufactured over a 30+ year period. During those years the frame received regular updates to it’s design and styling. If you compare a 1970’s Super frame with a 1980’s model, there are many features that will be different. To add to the complexity, variants of the the Super were released like the Superissimo and Super Sprint. This makes it a bit more complicated to determine an exact model.

Let’s Begin..

First you will need to ensure that the frame of the bicycle is completely made from steel. If you don’t know how to do that, you can read this quick guide on how to identify a steel bicycle frame.

To help you identify the different models, I have divided the frames into 4 distinct categories based on the profiles of the tubes used in the frame ie. top tube, down tube and seat tube. The chain stay profile also varies between some models and will be discussed for those specific models as required.

Categorising the different styles of frames.

To help with the identification process, I have divided the different tube styles of the frame into these 4 categories.

1. Frames with ALL plain round tubes.
2. Frames with Oval tubes.
3. Frames with ONE or MORE crimped tubes.
4. Frames with Gilco Master tubes.

Colnago tube profiles
Left image: Gilco Master tube.
Right image: Columbus crimped top tube.

1. Frames with all plain round tubes.

Please click on a model name to learn more.

2. Frames with oval tubes.

Please click on a model name to learn more.

3. Frames with one or more crimped tubes.

Please click on a model name to learn more.

4. Frames with Gilco Master tubes.

Please click on a model name to learn more.

There were other models of the Master released beyond 1989, but they are outside the date range of this article. Some of these models are;

  • Master Olympic (1994)
  • Master Light
  • Master X-Light

Article References.

I hope you found this article interesting. I have listed the following website pages as general references.


Please remember that this information is only to be used as a guide.
I consider myself an enthusiast, not an expert. The information I have presented in this article is based on my many hours of online research.

In addition, there will always be frames that don’t quite match the characteristics of a particular model as they could have been a custom build, prototype etc. Note: forks can also be swapped between different frames.


I welcome reader feedback in the comments section. Should you wish to suggest an amendment, please include a note advising the source of your information so that myself and other readers can ascertain the accuracy of your information. Note: Trolling or argumentative comments will be removed as they are counter-productive.

10 thoughts on “How to identify a Colnago vintage bike

  • Hello,

    I bought a colnago bike with gilco tubing a few weeks ago.

    It does not seem to be a master or arabesque. The seller told me it would be a colnago super from the late 70ties or early 80ties but I am in doubt because of the gilco tubing and the rear brake cable in the upper tube. (On a first glane it looks like a super because of the classical saronni red and the decals.)

    I put photos on

    Thanks for any help to identify the model name or production year.


    • Good photos. It is a Master Piu. Those star shaped tubes make it easy to identify and the Columbus Profilo S4 sticker is correct. Please read how-to-indentify-a-colnago-master. With a straight fork, rounded seat stay caps and a set of bottle cage bosses on the seat tube, definitely a later model, maybe 90’s? Not a Super, they have round tubes. The Master frame is stiffer and probably lighter. Looks like a Saronni red re-spray with reproduction decals. Groupset is Campagnolo Super Record 1980’s. Nice!

      • Thank you very much. That helps a lot. I had already thought in that direction but could not imagine that someone would spray the chromed parts of a master just to get a super-look-alike.

        The seller told me the bike had never been used so I believed it would be in an out-of-production state. So maybe I paid a bit too much to honor this. On the other hand I wanted to ride the bike anyway and the stiffer and probably lighter frame ist not too bad.

        • You are welcome. If the frame is resprayed, it is a hard to know what was chrome on the original frame (unless you strip off the paint). Usually the RHS chain stay is chromed to avoid paint damage from chain slap. My guess is possibly the chrome was not in good condition, so they decided it was easier (and cheaper) to spray the whole frame instead of getting the frame polished and re-chromed. Polishing bicycle frames for chrome plating requires special care as the tubes are thin. Whilst it may not be original paint, it is still a Colnago Master! In an iconic colour and with a Campagnolo Super Record group set. The most important thing is you get out there and enjoy riding it for years to come.

  • Thank you very much for your encouraging words! The last days I felt so bad about this confusing bike (having been cheated once more?) but this morning I came to the same conclusion on my own as a result of reading your articles and your answer. According to your articles the gilco tubing is 3 or 4 bike generations ahead in time compared to the tubes of the Super (with all those crimps in the meantime on the Mexicans) and probably one of the best Colnago steel frames ever been built and the groupset also is even better than I expected. The photo of Saronni’s bike on your website with the same colour and that you are intending to write an article about the mid 80ties Campagnolo’s Super Record grouset also helped me a lot. So now I am looking forward to your article on the Super Record groupset!

    • Hi Juan,

      That is a very nice bike. Paint looks to be original and in very good condition. From looking at your photos, it looks like the 3 main tubes are all round, so I would say it is some variety of Colnago Super. Based on the rounded seat stay caps, it appears to be a mid-late 1980’s frame which would match the Superissimo SLX timeline. If the Columbus SLX sticker is original, I would say it is a Superissimo. It would be great if you could take out the cranks and bottom bracket bearings to look inside the frame and check for the helicoidal reinforcement of the bottom bracket tubes. If you can do that, please share a photo, I haven’t seen inside an SLX frame. In regards to your concerns about locations of the Colnago stampings, they vary a bit between the years of production.

      • Thanks a lot for your answer, Rouleur,
        I spoke with the owner of the store where the bike was sold. He said that the color and columbus SLX sticker is original, he remembered the bike because it was a very rare and expensive model when he sold it.
        I have searched a similar bike with gray bands and colnago logo, but I don´t find anything. Maybe it can be a limited edition…
        Nowadays I don´t consider dismounting the bike, but if I do it, I´ll send you the tube’s picture, for sure.
        kind regards

  • Hello – any ideas on how to verify if a bike purchased in 1980 was truly made by Ernesto Colnago himself? It is hand written on the receipt my father still maintains, and he hopes I can assist on any verification or further information but this is beyond my area of knowledge. I have a few photos, but doesn’t seem I can attach/upload them (and they aren’t on a site to link). Any insight or contact information? Thank you!

    • Hi Courtney,
      Well if the bike was built by Ernesto Colnago himself, that would be very special. At a guess, I’m not sure how much frame building Ernesto was doing in the late 1970’s as I expect he may have been very busy running a large and successful company. Maybe the frame was built some time before 1980 or built for a special event or rider to use? Was the bike purchased new or used? Do you know what model the frame is? I’m not sure I will be able to help validate that claim, but I would definitely be interested to see the receipt and any pictures you have of the bike. I will send you an email directly. Be sure to check in your Junk mail folder if you do not receive it.

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