Brief History of Colnago Carbon Fibre Frames
Colnago are well known for their revolutionary carbon fibre road bike, the C40 (released in the mid 1990’s). However, the C40 was not Colnago’s first carbon fibre bike. This article discusses some of the early road bike predecessors that led to the design and creation of the Colnago C40.
Colnago Carbon Olympic TT Road Bike (1984)
This Olympic TT road bike was a carbon fibre monocoque frame and is likely one of Colnago’s earliest carbon fibre frames. An Italian quartet of Bartalini, Giovannetti, Poli and Vandelli won an Olympic Gold medal for the 100km road time trial riding these bikes which featured track/TT bike geometry along with road bike gearing (including front and rear derailleurs). This bike was around 2 years before the release of the Colnago Concept which is considered to be Colnago’s first carbon road bike design.
Colnago Concept (1986)
Ernesto Colnago in collaboration with Enzo Ferrari in 1986, developed their first carbon road bike, known as the Concept, but it was never released for sale as the frame was too heavy (13kg) and too flexible for professional racing. The world’s first bike with a carbon frame, carbon forks and carbon wheels. The frame has a lug structure, only the lug part is made of aluminum, a hydraulic caliper brake, a 16-speed transmission mechanism is built in the crank.
Interestingly, in the same year Colnago released the Concept (1986), Greg Lemond won the Tour de France on a Look KG86 bicycle which was built using carbon/kevlar tubes with alloy lugs. By this time, carbon had already proven itself to be a lightweight and versatile component in road bike frame design.
Colnago Volo (1988)
In 1988, Colnago released the Volo which was a carbon/kevlar monocoque frame design which featured Master profile tubing. The Volo was only on sale for a year.
Colnago C35 (1989)
The C35 was released only one year after the Volo. You can see looking at both images there appears to be very little difference between the 2 models. The C35 was released on Colnago’s 35th anniversary year and as such was the very first ‘C’ series Colnago bike. This model was still listed in Colnago catalogs well after the released of the C40 in 1994, notably the C35 Corsa and C35 Corsa Strada. At the time, these monocoque carbon fibre frames were at the leading edge of road bike design, however I’m not aware of these frames being ridden to victory in professional races?
Colnago Carbitubo (1989)
Colnago hedged their bets by releasing the Carbitubo in 1989, the same year as the all new C35. The Carbitubo featured a unique double down tube design and was also designed in collaboration with Ferrari. The double oblique down tube was designed to increase cross rigidity and the lugs were made of aluminium alloy. In 1993, Maurizio Fondriest won Milan San Remo riding a Colnago Carbitubo.
Colnago C40 (1995)
Carbon fibre tubes bonded into carbon fibre lugs. Originally supplied with steel Precisa forks, but later upgraded many times over it’s 10 year production period. Read more in my Ultimate Guide to the Colnago C40.
I hope you found this article interesting. I have listed the following website pages as general references.
- Colnago Concept
- Colnago Concept (Colnago Japan website)
- Colnago Concept First Look
- Colnago C35
- Look KG86 Bicycle
- Early history of Carbon Fibre Bicycles
- Durability of carbon fibre forks and frames
- Ernesto Colnago discusses the 1984 Olympic TT Road bike
I have been riding and working on my own bikes for many years now. I wanted to share my experiences, knowledge and research with others. My aim is to inspire people to get involved in all aspects of this amazing sport. Cheers.
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