THE MASTER VISITS SMART CYCLES!
Antonio Mondonico, Carly Stroich, Mauro Mondonico,
and Alex Stanek, Owner of Smart Cycles
at our store on Sept. 20, 2003!
Mondonico's HistoryThe 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 than ever.
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 Concorezzo.
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 shop.
Italian Cycling ROYALTY
While Mondonico 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.
Legendary Racer, Legendary Builder
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.
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 brazed up.
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.
Why should you buy one?
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
All Mondonico frames are built with Columbus tubing.
September 20, 2005
Mayor Alex Knopp, Antonio Mondonico, Mauro Mondonico and Alex Stanek receive the official proclamation naming Saturday September 20, 2005 as Mondonico and Smart Cycles Day in the city of Norwalk! The Mondonicos were at Smart Cycles on Antonio's last-ever sizing tour of his legendary frame building career. We were honored with the Proclamation for our support of the Harvest Ride fundraiser for the Make A Wish Foundation. Antonio donated a frame and Smart Cycles donated a parts package for the event!
Click this link to see 70+ photos of the event, including the epic cutting of the retirement photo cake!
*Antonio 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.
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