How to identify a Colnago Master

Colnago Master circa 1984
Colnago Master Bicycle (circa 1984).
Image courtesy of www.steel-vintage.com

In the early 1980’s Colnago began experimenting with crimping main frame tubes to increase stiffness. In the mid 1980’s, Colnago and Gilberto Columbus developed the Gilco Master tube profile which was a round tube that featured four distinct symmetrical flutes through the central section of the tube and resembled a 4-sided star. This tubing was used to build a new bicycle simply called the Colnago Master.

The Gilco Master tube profile outlasted all other Colnago tube designs and can you can still order a modern Master steel frameset in 2019.

Special features of a Colnago Master.

As mentioned previously, Gilco Master tubing is the special feature of this frame and it’s unique shape is easy to identify. These specially profiled tubes were used in all 3 tubes of the front triangle ie. top tube, seat tube and down tube.

Gilco Master tube profile
Gilco Master tube profile.

This tube shape was so successful it was a patented design by Colnago and evolutions of if were used in many of Colnago’s more modern carbon fibre lugged high performance frames.

Some of the original Colnago Arabesque models are built using Gilco Master tubing (just like the modern Arabesque). The difference being the Arabesque is built with ornate lugs.

Here are some pictures showing the profile of the tubes. Images courtesy of www.steel-vintage.com

General features of a Colnago Master.

These images demonstrate the features typically found on a Colnago Master frame. Images courtesy of www.steel-vintage.com

Colnago Master catalogue page (circa 1985)
Colnago Master catalogue page (circa 1985)

What is a Colnago Master Più.

A Piu version of the frame featured the rear brake cable routed inside the top tube instead of on top of the top tube. Several other models were released in this style or could be custom ordered with this feature ie. Colnago Super Più etc. Here are some images of a Colnago Master Più. Images courtesy of www.raydobbins.com.

Colnago Master Piu catalogue page (circa 1988)
Colnago Master Piu catalogue page (circa 1988)

Later Versions of the Master

Models released around 1988 featured the straight Precisa front fork rather than the traditional curved forks you see in the catalog image above. A set of biddon cage bosses were also added to the seat tube for mounting a second water bottle.

Colnago 3 spoke lower head tube lugModels released from the early 1990’s featured different lugs like the one shown here.

Colnago Master Equilateral

Colnago Master Equilateral
1986 Colnago Master Equilateral
Image courtesy of Road Bike Action Magazine

The Colnago Master Equilateral frame is quite rare as it was only in production for a year. I couldn’t find it listed in any of the Colnago catalogues I have on file. Further research online suggests that possibly only 85 frames were ever manufactured. Road Bike Action magazine wrote an interesting article about this bike along with close-up photos.

Modern vs Retro Bicycle Review

Interested to see how a 1984 Colnago Master compares with a 2014 Cervelo R5? I have written an in depth article on how these 2 bikes compare.

Colnago Literature.

The following websites have a large selection scanned Colnago literature including reviews, catalogues and brochures.

bulgier.net
2velo.com

Article References.

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

www.steel-vintage.com
www.raydobbins.com

Disclaimer!

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.

About Me.

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.

Comments.

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.

15 thoughts on “How to identify a Colnago Master

  • Thanks for this information.
    Now I can be ‘sure’ that my Colnago seems to be a later version with the typical tubes.
    In the rear right drop out there is marked C37 054. Would you know if that has something to do
    with the year of production or with the type?

    Many greetings,

    Jan

    • Hi Jan, glad to hear this article was of help. In regards to your frame number, it’s an interesting question, but I don’t know. On the older frames, I suspect it is just a serial number. If any records still exist, they’re probably lying forgotten in some dusty archive.

    • Hi im zacky
      Ive purchase my Colnago MASTER B-STAY with chrome straight fork.i wish to show you the picture.
      What across my mind is all Colnago got SPADE @ wording stamped on BB shell..wright me if a am wrong.
      Could you drop me your mail address

      • Hi Zacki, the Colnago Master B-STAY first appears in the Colnago 2005 catalog which is well beyond the timeline covered by this guide (up to late 1980’s). The stamping to the BB shell varies with models and different years of manufacture. To post images refer to How to share images on Cycling Obsession

  • Hi, I own a master in a colour scheme (green pearl white and grey) I haven’t seen yet but it’s definitely a master, with cables internal.

    But there’s no typing on the top tube saying master piu or other, just Colnago.

    It has a straight fork and is fitted with a record 8v titanium group (with RECORD on the levers), so it’s the second version), so it should be around 1995-1996).

    But which type the frame is ? I haven’t seen a frame of these years without so matbe you can help ?

  • Trying to identify my frame, a couple options but none seem to marry 100%.
    If I got you some images could you take a look and give opinion please

    Ady

  • Hi, I have a master with two bottle cage mountings and the old bended fork. Do you know if that was build that time?
    Thanks

    • Hi Benji, looking through the Colnago catalog’s the first frames I can find with a bottle cage mount on the seat tube were in the 1989 catalogue. They also would usually be supplied with a Precisa straight leg fork. Possibly someone has fitted a curved fork or added a second water bottle boss to the frame. Maybe it was sold in a cross-over period or ordered as a custom frame? The best way to date the frame is to look at markings and features of the frame. Does it match the frames on this page? If not, the frame is most likely more modern (from late 1980’s onward). They still make steel Colnago Master frames, it was the pinnacle of their steel frame technology.

  • After days of looking for info, ran into this article… biggest help thus far. Would love to share my dads bike for further assistance. Can not find a picture same as unfortunately. Anybfurthe help is greatly appreciated. Thank you!

  • Hi!
    I recently found out that my grandfather (in-law) has an old Colnago in the garage. I asked for some pictures (https://imgur.com/a/pJC9drG). By using your article I think it’s a Master (Piu?) from the early 1990’s (because of the lug shape and the Precisa straight front fork).

    Do you have any other information that you can gleen from the pictures? I also find it hard to get an idea of the value of this bike in its current state… I would love to restore it.

    Many thanks!

    • Hi Marijn, yes definately a Colnago Master Piu from the 1990’s I’d say. Nice paint work on the frame which looks to be in good condition. There are several tricks that can be used to remove light rust from chrome which you can find online, but otherwise it can be polished and re-plated by a professional. Make sure whomever you use knows how to do bicycles as the tubing is much thinner than regular car parts etc. Don’t want them polishing a hole in the steel. Looks like the bike may be fitted with an early Shimano STI group. Hard to tell from the photos. Quite an unusual combined stem and bars, but could easily be replaced with a number of options at low cost if required. Anything else that is not working can be replaced by searching around on eBay usually. You can read all about the restoration I did on my Colnago Nuovo Mexico to get some ideas, the standards for the frame parts would likely be the same.

      • Thanks for the tips!
        I’ll add some better pictures once I visit him again. I think the group set (or at least the rear derailleur) is an early version of the Shimano dura-ace.

        Marijn

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