Cycles Marinoni – Old World Meets New

Marinoni Bikes Logo

At a time when most bike frames roll out of a few huge factories in Asia, it’s refreshing to know that there are still skilled craftsmen building bikes the old fashioned way. Giuseppi Marinoni, who has been one of Canada’s best known bike builders for three decades, is one of those old world builders who still believes that steel bikes built by hand are the best.

From Racer to Builder

Giuseppi Marinoni was born in Bergamo, Italy in 1937. He learned to ride a bike in the foothills of the Alps during the 1950’s. Before long he was racing bikes across those same foothills, and around the famed Vigorelli Velodrome in Milan. In 1958, he was the champion of Lombardy. During the early 1960’s, Marinoni briefly apprenticed with the great Mario Rossin who was head frame builder at Colnago. After a month, Rossin told him that he had learned everything he needed to know – now it was time to use his hands, build frames, and learn the rest on his own. Once he had built his 1000th frame, Rossin told him, he would have the “touch.”

Italy’s loss, Canada’s Gain

In 1965, Marinoni came to Canada with the Italian national team to race the Cours de Saint Laurent and decided to stay. He continued to race until 1972, winning  Quebec-Montreal in 1966 and 1968, and pretty much every other event he entered. He also competed in six-day races on the track. He became trainer for the Quebec provincial cycling team, and for three years groomed riders for Canada’s Olympic team.

Bikes in the European Tradition, made in Canada

In 1974, he returned to frame building and established Cycles Marinoni in Terrebonne Quebec with established frame builder Marc Bouchard. His goal – reinventing the bicycle in Canada. At a time when there were very few frame builders in North America, without advertising, the company was an immediate success among cyclists who hungered for custom made bikes built in the European tradition. Some of Canada’s greatest cyclists including track riders Gord Singleton and Jocelyn Lovell, and Tour de France stage winner Steve Bauer all rode Marinonis.

Marinoni makes it in the US

A favourable exchange rate made Marinoni’s bikes very attractive to US buyers and by the 1990s, they were building 2000 bikes a year, 20% of them going to buyers in the US. Today, the company makes half that number, and along with their signature handmade steel frames, Marinoni also offers carbon fiber frames that are manufactured in Taiwan.

Photo credit: Flowizm / Foter.com / CC BY

Photo credit: Flowizm / Foter.com / CC BY

Custom Frames and Materials

While Cycles Marinoni has always been best known for their custom frames made in the shop in Quebec, they also offer stock steel  frames that are made by hand in Italy. Marinoni himself believes that only 10% of cyclists require a custom built bike. The frame tubing used depends on the purpose of a bike. Marinoni builds racing frames out of Columbus tubing for its rigidity. Racing frames are designed to be as small as possible for each rider, keeping the frame as stiff as possible. Touring and long distance riding were formerly made from Reynolds tubing for its flexibility but according to Marinoni’s website are now made from Columbus Zona. Long distance frames are also built larger than a racing frame made for the same rider.

Still Fast as Lightning Well into his 70’s

Giuseppi Marinoni no longer builds frames and day to day operation of  Cycles Marinoni has been taken over by his son Paolo, but Giuseppi is still a very active rider, averaging 300 km a week. In October 2012, he broke the hour record for the 74 to 79 year old age group by riding 35.728 km at Brescia, Italy.

Giuseppi after breaking hour record

You can buy a brand new Marinoni, but if you are patient, used bikes come up for sale quite regularly, especially in Canada. Since they’re not as well known as other builders like Colnago, Masi, or Bianchi, the prices tend to be much lower – sometimes ridiculously low for a hand built, steel frame. If you are looking for an excellent hand built frame made in the Italian tradition, a bike built by Cycles Marinoni might just fit the bill, and your budget.

As Clean a Vintage Marinoni as You’re Likely to See

Want a little more Marinoni eye candy? An old friend of mine who’s a museum conservator and a bike nut sent me recent photos of his vintage Marinoni that I thought I would share with you. He bought the bike new, and judging by the downtube shifters and brake levers, he’s had this bike since the late 80’s or early 90’s. Everything he owns looks like it has never been used. All photos by Richard Fuller.

  • Marinoni bike side view
  • Marinoni bike fork crown
  • Marinoni seat cluster
  • Marinoni head tube and fork crown

If you’d like more information about classic road bikes, check out Tom Jordan’s Vintage Racing Bicycles for great articles and photos of some beautiful bikes.

 

I'm a writer, social media marketer, and bike nut from Kelowna, BC, Canada. I got serious about cycling in about 1980 and have a special fondness for bikes made during that decade. I enjoy researching and writing about all bikes, but especially those made by small builders, many of whom only built bikes for a few years.

56 comments on “Cycles Marinoni – Old World Meets New
  1. Isaac says:

    Errr…. just a few things to note:
    * According to their website, even the touring bikes are made with Columbus tubing (Reynolds on an Italian bike? Really? 🙂
    * They only make 1 steel “racing” bike for many years now, stock or semi-custom or fully-custom, these are still made in Quebec. I know, I have one and the shop manager a.k.a. Mrs. Marinoni, told me exactly that all the steel bikes (which I assume includes the sportive, touring, track, fixies & cross) are still made in their factory dans La Belle Province.

    I have also heard Guiseppe gave up building frames and occasionally just paints them. However, I have no verification of this, but someone else on the online forums (Google it…) said he visited the factory near the end of 2012 and saw Mr. Marinoni himself still welding some frames.

    • Bruce Goett says:

      Thanks for the comment Isaac. It’s entirely possible that Marinoni doesn’t use Reynolds anymore but at one time they did. Maybe they figure the Columbus Zona is a suitable replacement. I was also under the impression that Giuseppi hadn’t built any frames for several years but maybe he missed it and still likes to braze up the odd frame. Good to hear that all of their steel frames are made in Quebec.

  2. Isaac says:

    To be honest, I don’t know anything about Reynolds frames from Marinoni. But perhaps it might have arisen from this little story:
    http://sheldonbrown.com/retroraleighs/racing-usa.html

    Yes, Olympic team bikes labelled as “Raleigh” with Reynolds tubing but actually built by Marinoni using Columbus (although he did intend to use Reynolds apparently).

    • Bruce Goett says:

      Interesting article about the Raleigh frames. So many frame builders actually built bikes labelled with another builder’s name that it can get really confusing to try to figure who actually built what frame. Did you happen to see my article about my Bottecchia Professional? One would think it would have been made with Columbus tubing but it has Reynolds stickers. Go figure.

      How do you like your Marinoni? I’m on the lookout for one. Back on the early 90’s I lived in Montreal for half a year. I had intended to go visit the shop and maybe buy a frame but somehow I got busy and never found the time to do it. I’ve always regretted that.

      • Knute Knudsen says:

        @ Bruce. Regret is a appalling waste of time. Go get yourself a bike.
        I love my Vintage Eddy Merckx!

        • Bruce Goett says:

          I did! I just picked up an old Le Croco. Not a well known bike brand but awesome nonetheless and I am really excited. There’s so much pleasure in tearing down and old bike and repacking all the bearings etc. Vintage Eddy Merckx – now that is an awesome bike.

  3. Isaac says:

    Hopefully my comments are helpful. Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions.

    I got a “semi-custom” order for Marinoni Piuma. Really I was only expecting paint colour as there was no size/colour in the shop that suited me. I probably ended up with a stock frame is my guess, but the shop did send off all my measurements including shoe size of all things. When it came it, it fit great, with just mm to spare before toe overlap.

    I’ve been riding a near-classic “Italian” steel bike for many years (Columbus SL) and have also a Giant TCR aluminum in my stable. The old steel is a confident long distance mount and comes in at 9.9 kg, the Giant is a bit lighter at 9.2 kg and noticeably stiffer and move lively than the old ride. Lively enough that I have to pay attention. The old steel, I feel like I could descend a mountain at over 70km/hr hands off, eating a snack. (Which I have done 🙂

    I will caution I don’t have enough mileage on the Marinoni (I think I need many thousand km) to really do it justice. It is in between the two, much less twitchy than the Giant, but not the super-stable cruiser as the old steel. It is much lighter, at 8.5 kg fully loaded and ready to go. One thing the Marinoni does better than any other machine I’ve tried, hands down is cornering. It’s easy to lean over and it sticks like glue, super confident. It’s not the tires or wheels and I actually swapped different wheels on it to see.

    I actually test rode a bunch of carbons in the same price range before getting this. Cervelo RS, Pinarello FP2, Focus Cayo. The Focus was close, but with the Marinoni, I instantly felt “at one” with the bike. The Marinoni is not as stiff as the other carbons, when sprinting, there’s a slight lag, it feels like I’m loading up a spring before blasting forward. It’s significantly faster at getting up to speed compared to the other two bikes, the only downside so far is that it also goes the other way, it doesn’t like holding speed very well…the 11sp Campy was also overkill, 10sp is okay for me.

    Perfect bike? No. Very good? Yes. Would I buy again? I’ll let you know when I can get a test ride on a Colnago Master to compare… but do keep in mind that, in my books at least, it easily spanked a Cervelo and a Pinarello.

    • marc says:

      Although I don’t have a lot of riding experience with carbon frames I concur with the comment about Marinonis being wonderfully stable and nice to corner with. I’ve fitted 28mm Contis to my custom Sportivo (Columbus Spirit/Zona) and it is a wonderful ride. Steel has great energy return and does not feel too stiff or dead. And Campy has the smoothest chain, like you are riding a belt drive. The Marinoni family are a pleasure to do business with and are people of great integrity.

      • Bruce Goett says:

        That’s one of the great things about Marinoni – if you are in the area, you can stop in and talk to them, or order a custom bike on site. Even if you aren’t out east, you can call them up on the phone and talk to them. Don’t know if you can really do that with one of the mega brands.

  4. Bruce Goett says:

    Wow, great comment Isaac. Enjoy your bike!

  5. Pistol Pete Pouliot says:

    Over the last 20 years, I’ve bought 5 Marinoni bikes. In 2013, I bought two Marinoni carbon framed bikes (one for my wife and one for me) all mounted on Campagnolo Super Record. They are great bikes worthy of world class competition. I still ride the other bikes as they each ride differently. These bikes are the best kept secret and they are manufactured in Quebec, Montreal, Canada.

    • Bruce Goett says:

      I lived in Montreal for seven months during the early 90’s and intended to go to the shop and order a custom frame. Never ended up happening and I’ve always regretted it. Of all of the articles I’ve posted on this blog, none get anywhere near the number of visitors as the Marinoni article. Obviously a lot of people are really interested in the bikes, for good reason. I keep my eyes open for a used one in my size and I’m sure that one of these days I’ll find one.

    • titocoleman says:

      The Carbon Marinonis are made in Taiwan…possibly a unique design but certainly not carrying the special handcrafted mystique of the frames from la belle province…

      • Bruce Goett says:

        For sure. If you want a high quality hand made steel frame that’s very reasonably priced, you buy a Marinoni. If you want carbon fiber, you can choose from any one of dozens of makers who use frames made in Asia.

    • luc sigouin says:

      hi Pistol Pete ,,, i have a 1983 Marinoni with Renolds tubing and after reading comments i still do not know the diferance betiewn Culumbus and Renolds frame can you inlight me please

  6. Flow says:

    Good article, ..and nice picture (blue bike shot is mine). The bike he rode for the record is hanging in the Marinoni showroom.
    I was lucky enough to get to see Mr. Marinoni working on one of his ’40th Anniversary’ frames in Feb 2014; http://instagram.com/p/kIU7cCFPY3/

    • Bruce Goett says:

      Very nice photo and beautiful bike. I didn’t know that Marinoni senior was still making frames. Amazing to think that they’ve been building frames for 40 years.

  7. Frank Rooney says:

    I had my Marinoni custom fitted in 1988. Last year I took it back to the shop to get a new paint job and have a modern, indexed gruppo installed. I couldn’t be happier. It’s been a great bike and it continues to be one.

    Paolo told me that his dad built some of the 40th anniversary bikes (which are old-style, without the sloped top tube), and that those were the last bikes he would be building.

    • Bruce Goett says:

      Isn’t it great to hang onto a bike for that long? I wish I had kept the first racing bike I ever owned. Ahhh, the memories. Now would be a great time to grab one of the 40th Anniversary bikes built by Giuseppe.

  8. Karel says:

    They do ride smoothly! Have a 58cm frame with Columbus SL tubes. Last set up was a flat bar commuter, going back to a drop bar set up for long distance. Just one of those bikes that is a pleasure to ride.

  9. Bob Asconi says:

    I have owned a Marinoni since 1978. Virtually original and still in great shape. Unfortunately I don’t ride it now as my body has started to get shorter. That cross bar is getting to close to the plumbing for my liking. I am thinking of selling it to someone who would appreciate a fine mount. Yes, the cornering is incredible. Thank you señor Guiseppe, you have provided me a lifetime of pleasure with this fabulous machine.

    • Bruce Goett says:

      Wow, that’s quite the provenance. 35 years with the same owner. Must be lots of great memories. Where do you live Bob?

  10. Flow says:

    Hey there, just to follow up, here’s the 40th anniversary frame that I am now the proud owner of; http://instagram.com/p/mxeKxulPax/

  11. James Trites says:

    I have come across a 90’s Marinoni steel with Shimano 600 drive train. It seems to be in OK shape, but has not been ridden or properly looked after in over a decade. Its been through a few moves and needs some work to be rideable. Does anyone have a recommendation on where to take such a bike in either Calgary or Vancouver for a full reiteration including paint, decals as well as the functional components? I would like to use it occasionally for a sunday ride as well as a cool display piece for my basement during the winter. Thx.

    • Bruce Goett says:

      Hey James,
      Unless someone in Calgary or Vancouver knows someone who does bike restorations you could strip the bike down to the frame and take it to an auto paint place to have it sandblasted and painted. If you order decals in advance they could probably put them on for you. You could also send it back to Marinoni and have it painted and decals applied by them. As far as cleaning the bearings or cleaning up the components goes, it’s easy to do yourself or you could have it done at any bike shop.

  12. Greg says:

    We have a vintage 1976, 53cm in superb but not entirely original condition. Please have look at our Facebook page if anyone is interested in a piece of history…and thanks for the great article and the supporting comments. I have learned a lot!

  13. Ron says:

    Yes G. Marinoni continues to buid steel frame bikes. In fact he only builds the 40th Anniversary models (steel frame). I purchased one earlier this year to find out the delivery was scheduled around his trip to Europe. It was worth the wait. The bike fits like a glove after some 3 hours of fitting and rides comfortable all day long say a 170K ride. I’m a fan of the Marinoni 40th after riding a Giant aluminum TCR 2 for 10 years.
    My 40th has classic frame geometry equiped with Campi Athena components compared to the compact Giant, is smooth riding, tight stable cornering at speed while the TCR is more pedal down responsive up hill as you would expect with a compact aluminum.
    It was worth the time and effort to go direct. Marinoni Bikes has great, friendly and bike savy staff with Mr. And Mrs. there to add charm and keen expertise to the high value, high end custom bike experience. After doing my research as a 50 to 80K per outing rider I lucked out in choosing a Marinoni 40th.

    • Bruce Goett says:

      Thanks Ron. This is the most popular article on my blog and I’m sure that lots of people will be interested to know that they can still buy a Marinoni made by the master himself. How about posting a photo – I’d love to see your new bike.

  14. Michel Ferland says:

    I was very fortunate and had my first real race bike measured and built by Giuseppi Marinoni in 1989 a Marinoni Special as they were called then. Complete Shimano Dura Ace and chrome rear triangle as well as chrome fork. All riding on great Vitoria tubulars.

    In the next 2 years my wife and I purchased 3 more Marinoni bikes another race bike for her and their first production rigid mountain bikes with Shimano XTR components for off road for both of us.

    The race bikes have been re-sprayed by Marinoni and updated by Cycles Bertrand in Gatineau Quebec. Upgraded for our aging bodies with STI shifting, carbon forks, carbon seatposts and a more upright seating position.

    Twenty six years later the Columbus tubing is still in great shape and the bikes all look new. Great craftsmanship really does last a lifetime.

    • Bruce Goett says:

      It’s awesome that you hung onto those bikes. There are so many people who ride a bike for a few years and then get rid of it to get the latest whatever. Then they end of regretting that they didn’t just hang onto something that might have been really special. That’s one of the great things about a steel frame – if you take care of it, it can outlast you. I think handmade frames made by people like Marinoni are going to become very highly sought after and will appreciate in value rapidly in years to come.

  15. Grant says:

    Bruce, good write-up. I thought I’d mention that there is a documentary about Marinoni and his attempt at the one hour that made the film festival circuit last year. Also I have a 2010 Turismo that is made with Columbus Zona tubing not Reynolds.

    • Bruce Goett says:

      Hey Grant, I still haven’t seen the documentary about Marinoni. I have to try to track it down on Youtube. Thanks for the info about the Zona tubing. I updated the article.

      • Michel Ferland says:

        As far as I know the Marinoni documentary is still showing in theaters. It will be showing in Ottawa at the end of April. The director and M.Marinoni will be there for the first showing.

  16. Tyler says:

    Hi Bruce,

    Quick question for you. I have been looking into bicycles more seriously lately and came across a Marinoni on Kijiji. It’s from the 1980s in good condition. They’re asking $525.

    This will be my first major road bike purchase and wanted to make sure it would be a good place to start.

    The listing says it comes with:

    Campagnolo Super Record headset
    Black Cinelli 1A stem
    1970’s logo Cinelli Giro D’Italia handlebar
    Campagnolo Nuovo / Super Record brake calipers
    Campagnolo Super Record crankset & BB
    Campagnolo Nuovo Record front derailleur
    Campagnolo Nuovo / Super Record shifters
    Shimano Dura Ace 7400 rear derailleur
    American Classic seatpost
    Campagnolo Nuovo / Super Record hubs
    Campagnolo Omega rims

    What I’m wondering is whether Marinoni is the way to go, and whether older “vintage” is the way to go.

    Thanks!

    • Bruce Goett says:

      Hi Tyler, if the frame is in good condition and it’s your size, I would snap it up. Interesting mix of components but they’re all really good quality. That’s the makings of a really nice bike.

    • Michel Ferland says:

      If it’s the right size it sounds like a steal. I’ve spent well over $2,000 for something similar when new.

      • Bruce Goett says:

        Yeah, if a Marinoni in my size came up for sale in my area for $525 I’d buy it in a heartbeat.

        • Michel Ferland says:

          Closer to Montreal they are selling in the $750 to $1,000 range for 80’s vintage with premium components and Columbus tubesets.

  17. Denis Boucher says:

    Just discovered about Mr Marinoni and his history this past week on French CBC where he gave an interesting interview about his life accomplishments. I will try to see his documentary which I believe is being released this weekend.
    I’m an avid cyclist and never heard about a Marinoni bike. Suddenly I find myself very interested in one just reading the comments of current owners.

    • Bruce Goett says:

      Hey Denis, do you live in Quebec? If you do it would be awesome to go to the Marinoni shop in person and have your next bike custom built.

      • Denis Boucher says:

        No. I live in NB. Will be checking to find where the shop is exactly and do my due diligence. Will be on the lookout for the Marnoni name.
        Anything I can pick up on this space will help.

        • Bruce Goett says:

          I’m thinking that used Marinonis probably come up for sale quite regularly in your neck of the woods. Now that you know about them, you might be able to score some great deals.

  18. Peter says:

    I haven’t ridden a bike for any distance in 25 yrs.

    My wive went and bought a pashley and that got me thinking about getting back into biking again. I wanted a bike of similar durability yet rideable for longer distances and greater speeds.

    I test drove a marinoni in Ottawa last year and to my untrained but, it felt perfect.
    I am going to buy a steel marinoni next year and I am dogmatically holding my “not made in China , Mexico and even Taiwan policy”.

    There is so much garbage produced from China etc in may what seem to be good products it’s hard to know what you are getting, I feel safe holding to this policy.

    I will be happy riding on steel cause I know it’s comfortable durable and well made

    • Bruce Goett says:

      Good for you – you should treat yourself to something special. That’s the great thing about bikes – you can buy something that’s amazing for less that the cost of a pretty crappy used car. I don’t think you’ll ever regret buying something like a Marinoni. Let me know what you end up getting!

      • Michel Ferland says:

        Just a quick update on the Fire in the Frame Marinoni documentary. Sold out cinema in Ottawa on April 22, 2015 Most audience members were cyclist with a good portion having owned a Marinoni cycle. A great opportunity to meet a legend and understand what drives such devotion to craftsmanship. A funny and tender look at an inspirational man.

        • Bruce Goett says:

          I wonder if Marinoni is shocked and surprised that all of this recognition is suddenly coming his way after building frames for what, close to 40 years.

  19. greg jones says:

    Just have to pipe in here . I have been riding my 40th for a few months now . After owning scores of high end carbon and even a stainless steel Pegoretti I can honestly say the Marinoni is the finest frame that I have ever owned. It oozes character ,it feel much lighter than its 19lbs ,it begs to be ridden hard . It fly,s downhill with such ferocity and confidence it,s a pure joy like nothing else i have ever ridden. I just can,t wait to ride it ,the bike has so much soul and character ,it just sings to me. Do I love my 40th you bet I do . So much so my Parlee and Pegoretti are gathering dust . Gifted are the riders who get to ride such a wonderful frame ,sorry for the folks thinking mass produced carbon is the way to go ,you are missing out riding a bike that will never sing!!!

  20. jim ruddy says:

    i have had my marinoni tourismo extreme for four years and have never had a bike so comfortable. no matter how far I go , the body feels great . also it’s bullet proof , and gets lot of looks with it’s british racing green colour. I will have this bike for life!

  21. Bruce says:

    I have owned my Marinoni Touring bike since I ordered it in 1995 or 1996. So, 20+ years and I still love it. It’s amazing how a custom fitted frame can make for such a comfortable riding bike.

    BTW; I just had it in the shop for a complete going over and it still gets lots of oohs and aahs from the mechanics. Surprisingly enough, the younger mechanics seem to really love it!

    I’m just starting to look into getting a new Marinoni Touring frame and building up a new bike with Campi components. I can hardly wait.

    • Bruce Goett says:

      Bikes are sort of like vinyl – sometimes the people who aren’t old enough to remember the heydays of records and lugged steel frames have greater appreciation for them than the people who lived through that era. After 20 years, you can sure justify treating yourself to new Marinoni. I’ve got to get me one.

  22. Paul Mailhiot says:

    Bonjour! Found your site searching for info on Marinoni bikes. I just ordered a Turismo Extreme with 105 group. I was comparing the offer of touring bikes. Did not want bar end speed shifter. And this would be my last bike (I’m 54…). Brodie Elan Vital fits the bill but for just a few hundred dollars, decided to encourage the local economy and get a better bike. Hope I made the right decision. This is way more money compare to when I bought a CCM Targa back in the 80s 🙂

    • Bruce Goett says:

      Hey Paul, congrats on your new bike – I doubt that you’ll ever regret it. Nothing like buying a new bike and I think the money is always well spent. I’m on the horns of a dilemma. I’m trying to decide if I should replace my 20 year old mountain bike with something new. Seems like a lot of money but then the way technology is evolving and how much you get in a bike these days, seems like a bargain. Anyhow, enjoy your bike.

1 Pings/Trackbacks for "Cycles Marinoni – Old World Meets New"
  1. […] I remember from my days in cycling. I also haven’t included sections about companies like Marinoni because I’ve written about them in their own posts. If someone reads this and notices a […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*