The Colnago Arabesque bicycle is a wonderful example of Italian craftsmanship. In the early 1980’s Colnago began experimenting with crimping main frame tubes to increase stiffness. Colnago referred to these crimps as ‘ribs’ in their early brochures. I would expect that like the Nuovo Mexico, the early crimped versions of the Arabesque were built from a mix of Columbus SL and Record tubes.
Before you start with the identification process, you should start here;
How to identify a Colnago vintage bike.
Special feature of a Colnago Arabesque.
The most instantly recognisable feature of the Colnago Arabesque are the special decorative frame lugs (2 on the head tube, 1 on the seat tube). These lugs were said to be crafted by an Italian bicycle manufacturer known as ‘Rauler’ and were also used in other Colnago models, namely the Colnago Regal and 2016 Colnago Master Arabesque. So you also need to look at the frame tubes to correctly identify the frame as a Colnago Arabesque.
This image is an extract of the 2018 Colnago catalog which offers a modern version of this classic steel frame built with the original lugs produced in the 1980’s.
Different versions of the Colnago Arabesque frame.
The original Colnago Arabesque was in production from around 1983 to 1985 and I have identified 3 different versions of the frame manufactured during this period. These versions are;
- Arabesque built using Super Profil crimp layout.
- Arabesque built using Nuovo Mexico crimp layout.
- Arabesque built using Gilco Master profile tubes (Master Arabesque).
First version of the Colnago Arabesque frame.
It seems the early Colnago Arabesque frames were crimped in a similar fashion to the second version of the Super Profil. This frame featured a single crimp on either side of the top tube and a single crimp on either side of the down tube.
You can see this crimp style in the following photos. Also note that there are no gold clovers in the seat stay caps as found on later models.
Second version of the Colnago Arabesque frame.
Later Colnago Arabesque frames were built using tubes from the Colnago Nuovo Mexico, which features a single crimp on either side the top tube and two offset crimps on each side the down tube (total of 4 crimps on down tube) as shown below. These models also seem to feature a gold club in the seat stay caps.
Third version of the Colnago Arabesque frame.
The Colnago Master had just been released in the mid 1980’s and was built using a brand new tube profile which is still used in Colnago’s modern steel framesets (2019). It is not surprising that in the mid 1980’s, Colnago decided to release a Colnago Arabesque using this new tubing also. Learn more about the Master Arabesque.
General features of the 1980’s Colnago Arabesque.
Here are a collection of images that show features typically found on the first two versions of the Colnago Arabesque frame. Images courtesy of raydobbins.com.
Different Fork Crown Markings
After recent feedback from a reader, it seems that some models of the Arabesque were supplied with different markings on the forks. Some fork crowns featured a club logo with COLNAGO lettering underneath, whilst others featured a club logo inside a C.
Colnago 30th anniversary Colnago Arabesque.
In 1984 Colnago celebrated their 30th anniversary (1954 to 1984). To mark this milestone, Campagnolo created a special Super Record groupset which featured gold clubs set into many of the components.
This 30th anniversary Campagnolo Super Record groupset was then fitted to a limited release of Colnago Arabesque bikes and sold to the public as a limited edition Colnago Arabesque as adverstised in the following Colnago brochure. These bikes are considered the most valuable of all the Colnago Arabesque’s.
Campagnolo 50th anniversary groupset.
Campagnolo celebrated their 50th anniversary (1933 to 1983) and to commemorate the occasion, they released a special 50th anniversary Super Record groupset. This should not be confused with the 30th anniversary Campagnolo Super Record groupset released around the same time which was to commemorate Colnago’s 30th anniversary (as mentioned above).
The following websites have a large selection scanned Colnago literature including reviews, catalogues and brochures.
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 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.
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.