A few days ago I wrote about counterfeit carbon that people buy off of eBay or from dodgy internet sites, and I remembered that counterfeit bikes are nothing new. I mean, it’s not like carbon fiber is some sort of new conduit for IP theft…like a flaw in a phone app that allows unscrupulous cads to steal delicious selfies off of Scarlett Johansson’s iPhone. Once upon a time, bikes were made of steel tubes and lugs that anyone could buy. Sure, there were differences in craftsmanship…in the way a lug was thinned or a dropout tang was filed, but it was often much more subtle than today’s counterfeit carbon frames. Further confusing things is the fact that a larger European frame maker would employ a staff of craftsmen; you’d have to be daft to think every Colnago frameset was individually caressed by the hands of Ernesto himself. And each of those workers may have worked for other brands or just as easily made their own frames on the side, using the same techniques and sometimes the same materials. And after that, a frame coated in a thick layer of chrome and the typically indifferent 1970s-era Italian paint jobs…how would you know?
Just because a bike has a Cinelli bottom bracket shell, that doesn’t mean it’s a Cinelli.
Well, it still takes a lot of effort and skill to make a mediocre steel frame, and unlike shite carbon frames, they usually give warning before they separate at the head tube. So maybe riding an off-brand steel bike back in the day wasn’t necessarily a perilous venture. However I have seen vintage bikes that were revealed to have failed at the seat stay/dropout junction….simply because some craftsman in a small shack in Europe 35 years ago had left the junction filled with mainly flux rather than brass. If that had been a more critical stress area…like a fork blade……
On my way out of Trader Joe’s one day, I saw a “De Rosi” bicycle; never heard the name before I saw it on that down tube. The internal cable routing, cable guides on either side of the head tube, and “decor” style paint suggest early to mid-90s Italy. Was there an actual framebuilder named De Rosi? Or was this a half-hearted attempt pass it off as a De Rosa? I doubt I’ll ever know.
I guess I could have waited for the owner to come out, like a creepy stalker, but I had a load of frozen Trader Joe’s taquitos in my messenger bag. I threw a leg over the chipped, red tubes of my 1983 Sannino road bike. Years after he made this particular frameset, Mauro Sannino stopped making bikes under his own name and began designing and building frames for the German brand Corratec. Today Corratec offers a signature model of custom carbon frames, handmade by Mauro.