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.

I decided to create this guide when I was looking to buy a vintage Colnago frame. During my search, I found there was just bits and pieces of information scattered all over the internet, with no definitive pictorial guide to help decipher the many different models Colnago produced between the late 1960’s and 1980’s. Surpisingly, this reference guide was a lot more work than I initially expected as different models kept popping up, but after a lot of hours, it was finally created and is regularly updated. Hopefully it will help you in your search.

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.

Columbus 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

Frame Size Chart

I am hoping this article will help you determine the frame size and geometry of a vintage Colnago road bike.

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.

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.


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.

54 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.

    • Hi Donald,
      Yes I originally didn’t list this bike as it was not referenced in any of the Colnago literature of the era, however I have now added it to the site. Regards.

  • The master in question is not 99’s , it’s 86/88 , has rounded Colnago stamped stay caps , 90’s had rounded with ♣️Stamped stay caps

    • After reviewing both the 1988 & 1989 Colnago product catalogues, it is definitely likely be a late 1980’s frame. The Precisa straight leg fork first appears in their 1989 catalogue along with the seat tube bottle cage bosses. However, the Colnago lettering and rounded seat stay caps on this frame match the 1988 catalogue.

    • Hi Ben, nice looking single speed bike in Saronni red with 1980’s decals. Unfortunately, 2009 is outside the timeline of my research. Looking at your photos however, the frame tubing looks to be plain round (like a Super) which doesn’t match the seat tube decal which appears to say ‘Master’. All Colnago Master frames have distinctive 4 sided profile tubing, refer to my page How to identify a Colnago Master.

  • Hello,
    I am tracking a possible early, single downtube crimped Nuovo Mexico frame on the big auction site. There are no decals on the white frame, but I am trying to distinguish it from a Super Profil of the same vintage. Here is what I see in the photos:
    1. Likely single downtube crimp on each side (I think this was the early version of the Nuovo Mexico)
    2. Flat-faced seat stay ends stamped Colnago.
    3. Fully-chromed fork and rear triangle (up to the brake mount on the seat stays)
    4. Braze-on front derailleur hanger (distinguisher for a Nuovo Mexico?)
    5. No bridge across the chainstay (distinguisher for a Nuovo Mexio?)
    6. Cannot distinguish from the photos whether the inside of chainstays have a crimp or not.
    Thank you for your help!

  • Thank you for the reply and your thoughts. I had been thrown off by another website stating that Super Profil frames had a single downtube crimp whilst showing the pictures of Sarroni’s bike in the museum with the sign saying Super. I now think that this was the first version of the Nuovo Mexico. Whilst not completely an indicator probably, it also seems that the Super frames I’ve run across have chromed head tube lugs top and bottom, but the Nuovo Mexico frames do not.
    Thank you!

    • Hi Shawn, yeah almost 30 years later, it’s hard to know exactly, we just have to go with the best info we can find. Cheers.

  • I like your site, very informative.

    I have my dad’s old bike(he recently passed away). I read through your piece on how to identify Colnagos. My question is; the forks on this bike(please see pics), they don’t look like the same as the Arabesque you have pictured. Would they be original or possibly a replacement set? Any help would be great. Thank you.

    • Wow! A Colnago Arabesque. Sad circumstances with your Dad, but he made a good investment buying that bike. It’s a big personal favourite of mine (and looks like it might actually be my size)!
      The frame looks to be in very good original condition. It seems your father was a fan of classic Italian brands as it is quite unusual to see parts engraved ‘Pinarello’ on a Colnago as they are COMPETITORS.

      In answer to your question, I believe the forks on your bike are original. In the early to mid 1980’s it seems there were 2 different Colnago designs on the fork crown at that time. I believe the ‘club in the C’ was later revised to a club on it’s own with COLANGO written on the side. However, if that were my bike, I would make 2 very cheap and easy cosmetic changes;
      1. Get a new wrap of white bar tape.
      2. Change the white brake hoods to beige – they look great with beige tyres and white bar tape, but don’t throw out the original white hoods.

      If you really want to increase value, remove the Pinarello stuff and change all the components to the same group set, preferably Campagnolo Super Record which was the premium group set at the time. But if you just want to enjoy riding it, then that is fine too! I would be..

    • Hi Sam,
      Whilst the photos don’t show any close-up detail, my guess would be something like a 1990’s Super Piu – based on the 2 bottle holders and Precisa straight forks. I think the paintwork may be original. It looks like a Colnago paint job and from a distance the bike looks to be in very good condition. If it were my bike I would probably change a few things to make the frame the centre of attention ie. spend $100 to swap out the bar tape (to black), tyres (to plain black) and bottle cages (to silver, grey or black to match the frame). Or leave it as is and just enjoy riding it!

  • Hi, I was wondering what was the hierarchy of rareness / collectibility for the vintages Colnago’s.
    How would you order them from most rare to most common?

    • Hi Ascari,
      That is a very interesting question. As I am simply a researcher & presenter of information, I am not really qualified to answer, but I can say that these factors will greatly influence the value of any Colnago bike;

    • FAMOUS: Bikes ridden by a famous professional (preferably used to win in a historic race).
    • SCARCE: Prototypes or bikes manufactured in extremely small numbers or very old bikes in good original condition.
    • EXCLUSIVE: Limited release anniversary editions with special componentry like the Arabesque 30th Anniversary
    • POPULAR (BUT LIMITED): Bikes made famous by a special win but were only manufactured for a short period, like the Mexico & Nuovo Mexico
    • EARLY ICONS: Early edition of a bike that went on to become icon, like the Colnago Master
    • ORIGINAL CONDITION: Any of the above bikes in original condition are even more valuable
    • I am happy to list my top 5 collectible frames, however it is only my opinion (and biased).
      Additionally, all of these models can be purchased online, although you will have to have big pockets and time to buy some of them.

      1. Colnago Arabesque or Regal – my all time favourite Colnago frames – would love to own one – expensive & rare.
      2. Colnago Mexico – quite limited and was released in celebration of Merckx’s world hour win.
      3. Colnago Master (1st edition) – This was the start of Colnago’s most illustrious steel frame (plus I own one).
      4. Colnago Nuovo Mexico – Shares the same clover shaped down tube with the Arabesque (plus I own one).
      5. Colnago Esa Mexico – Interesting frame crimping, relatively short production period & same frame tubing as Colnago Regal.

      So what about the Colnago Super? Whilst it was a very successful bike with many race wins, but for me it was produced in too many numbers over the years.

  • Hello,
    Wondering if you have some thoughts on my road bike? This was gifted to me and I would like to get some information on what Colnago frame/bike this might be. It was painted all one color it seems; I looked through your identification description, but am not sure what frame/ year. If ok, I will send you pictures for you to review. Thank you!

  • Heya!

    Just looking for some info on a Saronni I have, I’m trying to identify it as it looks to be a respray as it’s black with no decals. It’s a bit of an odd duck as it has the full chrome chain stays and chrome Saronni stamped fork, but no Colnago or Saronni stamp anywhere on the frame, although it shares the same heart shaped lugs the Colnago Saronni does and is equipped with Campagnolo derailleur and shifters, but Miche cranks. Am I looking at a partscaster or did Saronni make different (budget) models under their name over the years?
    Thanks for any info you have!

    • Hi Davide,
      Unfortunately I do not know the answer. I doubt Colnago made a budget version, as this bike was a special model to celebrate Saronni. The forks definitely sound like Saronni, but I would have expected also to see the Saronni lettering on the seat stays. I just did a Google on heart shaped lugs and it appears they were used by many brands from 70’s onward so frame might not be Saronni.

  • Hello!

    I’m searching for information about a Saronni Sprint made by Colnago. I don’t know if this thing is original by means it left the factory like this, but the valued components alone must have been top-notch back then. It’s not a Colnago Saronni nor a Saronni with cheaper components offered in the 80s. It seems to be manufactured BEFORE.

    I got this bike after the father of my best friend died, so again, sad circumstances. So this alone makes the bike very valuable to me.

    I’d like to know when the bike was built. The 4-hole Campagnolo derailleur should have been produced in 1978, only, right? The Frame and fork look like a Colnago Super but the Super you are showing on this page had Colnago lettering on seat stay tubes, mine has nothing but features a club symbol brakeout in the bottom bracket.
    The decals show a “strange” font, very simple compared to other Saronni or Colnago bikes from that area, they could be aftermarket or original, i don’t know. Only the front decal looks realy “original” to me as it’s more complicated ;). Sadly, the decals are peeling off. 🙁
    On the lower tubes, “Saronni Sprint” is written, so this is how i should call it. 🙂

    What’s very unique is the Saronni-engraved headset. Colnago Saronni bikes use stock Campagnolo, on this one, no manufacturer is visible. What’s really sad is that the top part has a lot of scratches because wrong tools were used once in the past.

    The 6-arm crank is also very special, I found some information online, that this was produced by Ambrosio and was available as an addon from the factory.

    So my conclusion is that this must be one of the first bikes sold as a Saronni. They must have taken the good parts in Colnagos factory and sold it to rise money for the later champion?

    If you need more pictures, let me know.

    I’m now trying to find the right bar, brake levers and stem for this bike. Saw a black Colnago-panto stem on ebay, but I think it’s for a younger bike and I should go with the aluminium ones. The ones with the tricolore-panto on top are expensive but should fit perfectly, but are they period correct?

    Best, Andreas from Berlin

    • Hi Andreas, the bike certainly sounds unique. My knowledge only extends as far back as the information I could find online. The markings and decals definitely don’t match the Saronni model as depicted in Colnago’s catalogue. A quick search of the internet however has found several mentions of a ‘Saronni Tipo Sprint’ (Saronni Sprint type translated to English) which matches the model name of your bike, but the decals were different. Regardless the frame is from the 1970’s looking at the basic features. In terms of matching period correct parts for the 1970’s, any parts of Campagnolo Nuovo Record (or early Super Record) group sets would be perfect as they were prominent in that period. If it were my bike I would definitely replace the brake levers, install new black brake cables and change the bar tape to a gold colour to match the decals. If the stem is the correct size, you could polish it with metal polish, otherwise I would replace with a silver stem instead of black. Please post links to a few more pictures, it will be helpful for others. Hope this helps.

      • THANK YOU SO MUCH for your hint. I didn’t include tipo or type in my search and bam, I found something! I had a feeling that the bike is from 1979 and thats correct, same year as my BMW classic car!
        And the Decals are Original. So this must be one of the first Saronni-branded bikes, the Graphics department at Colnago must have been lazy first compared to the complex decals later on. 🙂
        Have a look:

        These decals are identical, just another color.
        I’m so happy, this is just like a treasure hunt. 😉
        Now on to the next chapter. Finding the missing parts. I think I NEED to go with panto brake levers and stem. It’s just very obvious because of the crankset. The bad thing is that even this bike on the Ad features a Saronni panto stem. Finding one is very hard I guess. 🙁

        Will post more pictures soon. 🙂
        Btw.: I’m very pleased that the chain on the pictures is a golden one. So I can continue my color theme and I even checked availability of golden Regina chains before. 😉 Oh boy, it’s getting expensive now I think.

        • Hi Andreas, nice find with that catalogue page that matches your bike. I have updated my Colnago Saronni page with information relating to your model. It would be good if you could provide a picture of the Saronni Sprint markings on the frame?

          Also, if you are not able to find original Saronni panto parts, there are companies out there that will engrave regular bike parts for you, you just need to provide a sample image of the design you want. It may not be identical to the original part, but a lot easier and cheaper.

  • Dear Rouleur,

    Love you site! Very informative.
    Never knew I was riding something special.

    I’ve put my Colnago Nuovo Mexico on sale because it is a little bit too small for me. I will try and find another vintage bike with the right frame size for myself. This one was a present from my mother to my father back in the day’s.
    In my research to ask the right price I found your site and start wondering about the colour scheme on my bike. I did not find anything with this colours on the net. Do you might know if this colouring was original or was the bike repainted? Maybe you have some more detailed info on my specific bike you like to share? Or is it just a standard one? See below the link with some pictures.
    Thanks in advance for helping out.

    Kind regards, Sietse

    • Hi Sieste. Thanks for your kind words. Unfortunately that link you provided requires a logon. If the colour scheme doesn’t match anything you can find on the web, there is a likelihood it was repainted or just rare. Do the decals look original, that sometimes helps to determine originality. If you can post the images on a different site I would be interested to have a look at it. Thanks.

  • Hello,
    I do not fond the Tecnos in Your list.
    Is there a reason for not putting it info it?
    Is it comparable to ESAMexico?

    • Hi Stefan,
      The list is currently only up to late 1980’s.
      Tecnos was released in the 1990’s, however I plan to add it some time in the future.

  • Colnago email

    Thanks and congratulation for your intersting Colnago web site. Big job done.
    I have could learn more on my Colnago with his crimps each side of the top tube. Same frame that the blue one on your web site.

    I introdused to you my Colnago:
    It’s nacre-white frame. The fork too. Without stikers. Just the one on front tube. Handlebar tube and saddle tube are engraved with Colnago Signature.
    It’s a brand new bike. All seams original. Full Campagnolo. Rear gear shift is dated in 1978 (Engrave inside)
    His owner told me it used it two times after bought it early in 1980 and before stored it during 40 years in his cave. He gave me it two years ago.
    This man, no handyman, who was banker, told me, he never tinted it.
    The bike wa whole and nothing was missing. After removed and clean all parts it regains his new bike shine.
    I thought it was a Mexico but following your informations it would be a “Super Profile”.

    In my frame, the rear brake cable pass through the top tube. Not outside.
    Following my researchs this model (with cable in the top tube) appeared around 1987.
    May be would you be interesting by this information. And may be, have you more information on this frame.
    After some researchs on website, I never found the same frame.

    • Hi Fredy, thanks for your kind words, it’s appreciated! It was indeed a big job and I learnt a lot in the process.
      If your frame is a Super Profile, it is quite possible the bike was either custom ordered (or simply built) with holes in the top tube for the rear brake cable to travel inside the frame.
      I looked through all the old Colnago catalogues I have on file and in the 1983/84 Colnago catalogue, the Oval CX was designed with this feature and was in production around the same time as the Super Profil.
      Frame’s designed with this internal rear brake cable routing were commonly referred to as a ‘Piu’ in following years; like the Master Piu, Super Piu etc. Be great if you can post a link to some photos so we can all see the bike.

        • Hi Fredy, you will need to upload your pics to another website like Flickr, Google Photos or Dropbox and set them for public viewing. Then you can post a link to those pictures in the comments section like. Thanks.

  • I have a steel Colnago which has “Sprint” stamped onto the frame by the left pedal. Its a size 58 that I bought used in the mid 1990s. Not sure if this is enough information to identify year and model. If more information is required, please let me know. I appreciate any help. Thanks.

    • Hi Brian, glad to hear you are enjoying the content on the site. That is a nice looking and well kept frame in what I’m going to call Tour de France yellow!
      No expert, but I would most probably say it’s a mid-90’s Colnago Master based on the 3 point lugs, small club logo at rear drop-outs, Precisa straight leg forks and dual drink cage bosses. Whilst paint, decals etc. can be replaced it looks like original paintwork to me, the styling is definitely something Colnago would do. Looking at the catalogues there were often many different colour-ways available to order throughout the years. I’m thinking a nice white bar tape would really look good with that frame.

  • Hey,

    I recently bought a colnago master. Somewhere from early 90’s. It was stored like this in a cellar from 1998 the seller told me.
    It is fully equiped with dura ace 7400 which i find a great group set to ride with.
    1) The color is quite unuasal for a colnago I guess. Could this be a custom order? It still has the dealer sticker on the seatpost tube.
    2)Coul you exactly nail down what year it is?
    3) On the left side of the rear chainstays there is a master colnago sticker. I find it strange that this is a sticker. Would this have come from the factory like this with a sticker?
    4) Also the chrome ending on the seatstays is different on anything I’ve already seen on a Colnago bike.

    Planning to do rehousing of white brake and gear gables. New white bartape and the limited edition Selle Italia Coppi saddle is being restored at the moment.

    • Hi Sam,
      Your frame has the Precisa straight leg fork first and second drink bottle mount which first appears in their 1989 catalogue. The 3 pronged lugs first appeared in the early 1990’s so the model would be from that period on. I didn’t see any similar paint scheme or detail on the stays where the chrome meets the paint in any of the catalogs I have. The decals however match the placement and style of my 1984 Master. Looks like the bike has been well preserved. Just read about Dura-Ace 7400 and it was apparently the first SIS system produced by Shimano, so some history there. Saddle restoration sounds perfect.

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