The Mondonico family
might be the oldest Italian framebuilding dynasty.
Starting in 1929 with Giuseppe Mondonico and his
brother Angelo, the Mondonicos have been personally
building steel, lugged frames with their own hands.
That tradition has continued right up to today, with
third generation builder Mauro Mondonico working
side by side with his father, Antonio. The family's
involvement with cycling and racing is deeper now
The Mondonicos believe that their family has always
lived in Concorezzo, a small village just outside
Milan, very near the famous Monza Motor Speedway.
Giuseppe Mondonico, the founder of the Mondonico
shop, and his brother Angelo had been industrial
mechanics. No one knows anymore exactly what that
work entailed. But the family knows that they were
always mad about bicycles, cycling and cycle racing.
The pictures of Binda and Girardengo in the opening
credits of OLN's Giro d'Italia are from Giuseppe
Mondonico's collection of racers and racing from
that great age of cycling.
On opening the shop
in 1929, Giuseppe immediately started building
frames and supplying the local racers. No one knows
where Giuseppe acquired this skill. Mauro supposes
that other framebuilders had taught him. While
Giuseppe built frames, Angelo did the repairs. At
that time in Italy, this was a big and important
business because bicycles were the primary form of
transport, especially in a small village like
In those pre-war years, Giuseppe built frames using
both Columbus and Falck tubing. The special
characteristic of Mondonico frame building, the use
of pins to secure the joints instead of a tack
braze, had not yet been adopted. That came later.
With the coming of the great worldwide depression in
1932, Mauro says, the majority of the work done in
the shop was in repairs. It was a hard job because
in those days, no one had much money to pay for
their work. Giuseppe and Angelo had to work long
hours for very small sums of money.
MASTER VISITS SMART CYCLES!
Antonio Mondonico, Carly
Stroich, Mauro Mondonico,
and Alex Stanek, Owner of Smart Cycles
at our store on Sept. 20, 2003!
Giuseppe and Angelo worked in the shop together
through the war. As the economy had strengthened
some in the ensuing years, life was a bit kinder to
the Mondonico family. They opened a coffee shop
(called a "bar" in Italy) next to the bike
At the end of the war, the economy and conditions in
general in Italy were terrible. The famous movie The
Bicycle Thief shows the poverty of that time, in
which there could be no more valuable possession
than a bicycle and the mobility it could give. After
the war, Angelo left the shop to return to
industrial work. He passed away in 1971.
Meanwhile, Giuseppe continued to work in the shop,
building frames and repairing bikes. As Antonio grew
up, he worked in the shop. As a young man, Antonio
was given the job of working on the racing bikes.
The frames Antonio built then used Columbus SL and
SP tubing. In those days, the lugs were long and
heavy, called "lastra", being pressed and
welded. The modern investment cast lugs didn't start
showing up until 1977-1978.
When Giuseppe died December 30, 1973, the shop was
closed. Antonio went to work in other framebuilding
shops that were looking for a skilled builder. He
worked in Gianni Motta's shop for two years, 1976
and 1977. He then moved on to the Colnago shop and
built frames there until 1979. Colnago, as a young
man, rode for a team that was headquartered in
Giuseppe's shop and would visit the Mondonico home.
In Italy, the cycling world is one big family.
Antonio Mondonico and Faliero Masi
worked at the Motta shop, he also worked as a team
mechanic. This work was completely unrelated to his
duties at Motta. This was purely an avocation born
of love of the sport. Antonio had a French friend
who was bringing strong riders into Italy, among
them, a young Sean Kelly. Antonio was this team's
mechanic. Antonio still remembers the your amateur
Kelly who came to sleep in the Mondonico home in
Concorezzo before riding and winning the Piccolo
Giro di Lombardia. Mondonico has said that when a
builder not only builds the bikes, but goes into the
field and assists the racer, he gains insights that
are impossible to gain any other way. Faliero Masi,
another of the great Milan builders, calls it the
only laboratory for a builder. In this modern age of
multi-million dollar teams, this laboratory is
almost impossible to re-create.
In 1979, Antonio Mondonico reopened his own shop,
and the Mondonico name was again available to
discerning riders. There had never been a time when
Antonio didn't build frames in his adult life. But
for several years, it was always for others and it
was those others who sold his work with their name.
Throughout the late 1970's and early 1980's, Paolo
Guerciotti experienced a boom in demand for his
bikes and frames. He needed a guiding hand to make
sure that the frames were of high quality. Up until
then, Guerciotti had several different builders
building his frames. In 1984, Paolo Guerciotti and
Antonio Mondonico went into partnership to produce
both Guerciotti and Mondonico frames. They were
wildly successful, with Antonio supervising the
production of about 2,000 frames a year.
But, as they worked together, it became apparent
that their goals were not really identical.
Realizing this, they ended the partnership in 1989.
Antonio returned to his real love; building a few,
special frames, with his own hands. Instead of the
big, tilt-up concrete factory under Guerciotti-Mondonico
Cycles, the Mondonico shop is in the back of their
house. There, as Antonio and now the third
generation builder Mauro work, there is a constant
stream of cycling and racing aficionados, coming to
visit and talk bikes and racing.
Mondonico has built frames that have won Classics
and graced the podium of both the Tour de France and
the Giro d'Italia. Sadly, as in years past, others
got to take the credit for Mondonico's work. The
frames he built for Claudio Chiappucci, as with
Singer for Poulidor and Masi for Merckx, received
the decals of other factories. (See photo
below...draw your own conclusions!)
Racer, Legendary Builder
Claudio Chiapucci and Antonio
Today, Antonio and
Mauro work side by side in their small shop, using
many of the very same tools that grandfather
Giuseppe used. There has been no change in the
importance of handwork. Care and time reign supreme.
Mauro prepares the materials. He cuts and miters the
tubes and files and readies the lugs. Mauro also
brazes in the fork tips, brazes on the
“braze-ons” and assembles the main triangle in
the jig. Antonio brazes up the main triangles,
assembles the whole frame together, making sure it
is all straight and correct. Mauro then does the
final sandblasting and filing.
While the Mondonico specialty is lugged frames, they
also build silver fillet brazed frames. With the
advent of multi-shaped mega tubes, lugs cannot
always be used to join the tubes. Of course, the
Mondonicos have not only adopted modern, super-thinwall
steel tubes in the different sizes and shapes, they
also use carbon for the rear triangle. Yet, their
heart is in steel. While every other builder has run
from steel, the Mondonicos embrace it, loving its
beautiful feel, long life and grace appearance.
With luck, that tradition will continue long into
the future as riders looking for that beautiful,
perfect ride rather than the material or trend of
the day, seek out the Mondonicos and one of their
beautiful hand-made frames.
There are many intangible reasons why a demanding
rider would want a Mondonico bicycle: their beauty,
their handling, among others. We'll discuss those,
but there are some specific, quantifiable reasons
why a Mondonico frame is the best of Italian bikes.
Nearly all builders
assemble the tubes of a frame on a large steel flat
plate called a jig. Each joint is heated to brazing
temperature and a bit of brass is applied. This is
known as "tack brazing". The frame is then
put on an alignment table and made straight. The
frame is then put in a stand much like bike shops
use to repair bikes and the lugs are completely
While this is the technique of nearly all builders,
it is not the technique of Mondonico. Tack brazing
requires that the tubes be heated twice, robbing the
special, exotic cycle tubes of some of their special
qualities. When the tubes are assembled on the jig,
Mondonico drills each lug and inserts a tapered
steel pin. Then the frame is aligned and brazed up.
The joint is heated only once, preserving the
resilience of the Columbus tubing that Mondonico
uses. The pins are then filed flush with the lugs.
Obviously, this is a vastly more time-consuming
method. Feel the inside of the tubes of a Mondonico
frame at the bottom bracket. You can feel the pins,
your guarantee that at least one craftsman is
dedicated to making the best, not the most.
If a Mondonico frame
is so great, then why don't we see Tour de France
teams riding these bikes? To equip a major pro team
requires millions of dollars. A builder must pay
100's of thousands of dollars to equip even a
mid-level team. There is no way that an artisan
building a few frames can sponsor a team. It is an
interesting paradox that the bikes that are often
the most highly thought of by some enthusiasts
because of their racing promotion are those that are
the products of near mass production:
"industrial frames", we call them. Yet,
Mondonico frames have seen racing success at the
highest levels. Mondonico is what is known as a
"framebuilder of trust". This is a builder
that builds for top pros, yet supplies their frames
unpainted. The rider then has the frame painted in
the team colors. This is an old tradition, because
top riders often want that edge that the finest
builders can give them. Singer of Paris built for
Polidor, Masi built for Merckx and Coppi. Among
others, Mondonico has built for Chiappucci.
It is time to discuss why an Italian frame and
specifically a Mondonico frame should be the choice
of a serious rider.
We really think it would be hard to find a store and
staff that has more experience with REAL ITALIAN
Stage Bikes than Smart Cycles. Along with this
experience comes un-compromised passion, knowledge,
understanding of fit, un-equaled ability to
design and build the PERFECT bike for our client,
and so much more that is priceless in value for the
Below: 11 PURELY CUSTOM Mondonico masterpieces
arrive at Smart Cycles!
Why should you buy
There is only one
place in the world where there is a happy meeting of
a resident professional racing class, frame
builders, raw material suppliers and component
manufacturers. That place is northern Italy. The
builder hears from the finest riders in the world,
and can then communicate immediately to the tubing
makers and other suppliers exactly what these
demanding and skilled riders have to say. It's like
a nuclear reactor with the carbon rods removed.
There is nothing to slow down the communication. The
proximity and the pride of these master Italian
builders also fuels a competitive spirit that drives
them to seek perfection. The closeness to the racing
competition also makes them practical builders.
There is a slow evolution of design grounded in the
need to produce a bike that wins, not innovation for
its own sake.
The great builders rarely enter the trade without a
long apprenticeship. Many are former racers. Others,
like Mondonico, grew up surrounded by bikes and
framebuilding. To quote Will Durant in The Life of
Greece, "...a long lineage of masters and
pupils carrying on the skills of their art, checking
the extravagances of independent individualities,
...disciplining them with a sturdy grounding in the
technology and achievements of the past, and forming
them, through this interplay of talent and law, into
a greater art than often comes to genius isolated
and unruled. Great artists are more frequently the
culmination of a tradition than its
overthrow...." So it is with bikes, and so it
is with Mondonico.
Fashions in frame geometry change almost yearly. One
year, seat tubes have to be ninety degrees. The next
year, they have to be laid back. Mondonico spurns
this sort of pop trendiness. There are a few
unyielding rules of ergonometrics that generate the
specific way a Mondonico frame is laid out. Only
over the longest time will these measurements
change, and only when the change is proven to
improve the bike. Each size of a Mondonico has its
own geometry. A 6'4'' man is not a scaled up version
of a 5'5'' man. The proportionally longer arms and
legs of the larger rider require specific solutions.
This specificity is time consuming. Factories like
to use the same jig settings, even the same length
tubes in different size frames if possible. This
does not happen with a Mondonico. The Mondonico of a
given size is the result of many, many years of
design evolution aimed at creating the ultimate
A Mondonico bike rides with a nimble, quick feel,
well suited to the tastes of American riders. Yet,
with this quickness, there is no loss of that most
essential quality any good racing bicycle must have:
stability. The rider must descend with confidence.
He must know that a corner will be taken
predictably. These important qualities are there in
abundance in a Mondonico. Because Mondonico builds
in steel, there is none of that harshness that comes
with oversize, non-ferrous bikes.
There is the last question of value. Because
Mondonico shuns a fancy factory, team sponsorship,
and other expenses, a Mondonico is a stunning value.
You will find it costs the same as most
"industrial" racing frames. The discerning
buyer will not be swayed by needless hype and will
seek performance and beauty. This will come to him
at the best possible price in the form of a
All Mondonico frames
are built with Columbus tubing.
Mondonico retired from framebuilding in 2006.
He now enjoys retirement spending time riding his
bicycle and visiting the coastal regions of Italy.
Mauro continues his involvement in the world of
bicycles. He recently completed a run as the
international sales mgr at Columbus and remains the
technical director for Cicli IL Massimo.