Bicycle, road/racing, Colnago C35, carbon fibre/metal/rubber, Colnago, Italy, 1989-1995
The Colnago C35 is one of the first road bikes made with a carbon fibre frame. The C35 was launched in 1989 to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the company founded in 1954 by Ernesto Colnago at Cambiago near Milan.
Hence this limited-edition bike features monograms and lettering highlighted in gold leaf and some gold-plated parts. However its sculpted frame is its most striking feature. Unlike metal frames, carbon fibre frames are generally formed in one piece, known as a monocoque. The C35 was produced in association with Ferrari, which began using carbon fibre in its Formula One cars during the 1980s. In 1986 Colnago began manufacturing carbon fibre road bikes. The Look cycle company of France and the Giant cycle company of Taiwan also produced carbon fibre road bikes at this time.
In 1989 the C35 was at the leading edge of road bike technology, which had been revolutionised only a decade earlier when the availability of TIG (tungsten inert gas) welding made aluminium frames possible. Carbon and aluminium frames are significantly lighter than the steel alloy frames in use until the 1980s; in addition carbon frames absorb some of the vibration and road shock produced by hard tyres and rigid frames. However the tube-mounted controls of the C35's Campanoglo gear set already look antique, as do the first-generation clipless pedals.
There's no doubt that the combination of simplicity and hi-tech is part of the appeal of road bikes. For a few thousand dollars one can own a vehicle with a Formula One heritage composed of similarly exotic materials - carbon fibre, Kevlar, titanium etc. With their harsh ride, high gearing and crouched riding position, road bikes are as uncompromisingly functional as a racing car.
Charles Pickett, Curator, Design & Built Environment.
Designed at Ernesto Colnago's company in association with Ferrari Engineering.
Ernesto Colnago (b.1932) became a racing cyclist during his teens until a broken leg suffered in 1952 aborted a promising career. Working first as a mechanic, Colnago began making custom racing frames in 1954, and quickly attracted the patronage of some of Italy's leading riders. Colnago was among the first to realise that a short wheelbase frame with a comparatively upright seat tube would be more responsive than existing frames.
In 1957 Gastone Nencini won the Giro d'Italia using a Colnago frame. This was the first of numerous successes achieved with leading cyclists, most notably Eddy Merckx. Colnago has sponsored and supplied numerous leading teams, most recently the Dutch team Rabobank, whose Denis Menchov took third place in the 2010 Tour de France. It is often claimed that more professional races have been won on Colnago bikes than those of any other manufacturer.
As well as frame and fork design, Colnago has also played a leading role in the development of frame materials including aluminium, titanium and the first carbon fibre frames produced during the 1980s. Despite this, Colnago continues to produce a range of steel alloy frames.
Colnago is still based at the village of Cambiago where Ernesto Colnago was born. However much of its frame production has since 2005 been out sourced to a Taiwan manufacturing consortium lead by Giant.
This bicycle was placed in a charity auction to benefit the Australian Opera by Clarence Street Cyclery. It was purchased by the donor for $11,000 with the intention of using it as a road bike. The donor considered the bicycle 'too good' to be used on the road and donated it to the museum in unused condition. He advised that he had not removed the bicycle from its box.