COLUMBUS - The cult of experimentation
It's one of the most prestigious and innovative manufacturers of steel tubing used in bicycle frames, located in Settala, in the Province of Milan.
Founded in 1919 by Angelo Luigi Colombo, with the name A. L. Colombo (he changed it to Columbus in the '30s), the company immediately began producing high-quality tubing for companies that have made cycling history, from Bianchi to De Rosa, Pinarello and Colnago.
In the '30 he also expanded his production to include the successful production of pipes for motorcycles, including the famous Guzzi motorcycles, for cars and even aeroplanes.
In 1977 Columbus Spa was taken over by Colombo's youngest son, Antonio, who made it one of the leading manufacturers of bicycle tubes, and a leader in high-quality materials and innovations, such as the taper-gauge elliptical fork blades.
1919 – While Italy was emerging from the destruction of the Great War, Angelo Luigi (A.L) Colombo, 27 years old, founded a little company with a big dream: producing high-quality steel tubes. After six months, he was already able to manufacture precision tubes that were chosen by the great brands of the time for their bicycles, including Atala and Bianchi.
But the quality was not Colombo's only goal. He wanted a creative and innovative company that would experiment and diversify its products, from the tubular frames of seaplanes and road vehicles, as well as for furniture and ski-poles.
Colombo's love for experimentation and research of new materials led him to collaborate also with some great aeroplane manufacturers.
1927 – Columbus made aviation history. In the 20s Italy was at the forefront of aviation, with Giuseppe De Pinedo and Italo Balbo as two of the first pilots who made the transatlantic crossings. Colombo was happy to manufacture the tubing that formed the backbone of Caproni's famous aircraft that made those epic flights possible.
The same tubing was also used for the famous Moto Guzzi motorcycle chassis, that contributed to their worldwide success.
At the end of the 20s Colombo also started to produce tubes with differentiated thickness for bicycle frames, to increase the strength and reduce weight.
1930 – Colombo created the Columbus brand, which was initially only associated with tubular chromed-steel furniture. Colombo's inexhaustible creativity and versatility led to absolute innovations in the world of furniture, as it had been for bicycle tubes, and parts for motorcycles and aeroplanes.
In the latest 30s, the company produced the special Aelle, Tenax and Columbus, the first Chrome Molybdenum steel tubes, and the elliptical fork blades laying down standard characteristic that would later reproduce by the major companies.
The 40s and the 50s
1946-1950 – Another prestigious collaboration, this time with Maserati, Lancia e Ferrari. Colombo supplied tubes for racing car skeletons and his son, Gilberto, designed the chassis of the iconic cars.
Meanwhile, Colombo continued to experiment in the fields of metallurgy and mechanics. He also designed and built his company's butting machines to manufacture the tubes with tapering wall thickness, reinforcing the tubes at the joints where stresses are greatest.
The 70s and the 80s
1977 – Colombo's youngest son, Antonio, leaves his position as President of AL Colombo and takes over Columbus Spa, determined to make the new-born company the leading manufacturer of bicycle tubes. Thanks to the constant search for innovation and the experience gained from cycle, automobile and aircraft testing, the company intensifies its research highlighting the parts of the frame subjected to the highest stress, to improve stiffness and strength and increase resistance to deformation and breakage.
Among the most famous innovations: the conical helix tube butting, ‘Air’ – the first fully-aerodynamic tube set, the taper-gauge elliptical fork blades, and ‘Max’ – offering the advantages of differing oversize tube profiles to bicycle designers and riders.
The new Columbus manufactured 900 different types of tubes, all of certified quality, and through sophisticated tests carried out on the road and in the lab, also developed super-light tubes sets for some of the greatest cyclists of all time, such as Fausto Coppi, Bracke, Ritter, Moser and Merckx.
1978 – Antonio Colombo became the president of Cinelli, the prestigious bicycle manufacturing company based in Milan.
1979 – With Cinelli, Antonio presented the prototype of the Laser, track pursuit and time trial model which pioneered TIG welding in bicycle frames. An icon of design and technology made entirely of steel. This bike was the pinnacle of Italian frame building and has won more Olympic and track world championships gold medals than any other bike in the history of cycling.
Continue research, experimentation and technological progress have been the ingredients of Columbus' immense success for one hundred years and they still are to this day, with the production of new frames, new tubes, such as the Genius, Grammy fork, Pista Leggera Fork and many others.
But maybe the one thing that made the history of this company so incredible and successful is the belief that his founder, A.L. Colombo, always had: curiosity is the anteroom of knowledge.
(1) Our 80s Luxury Columbus Crono
(2) Our 80s Battaglin Crono with Columbus Cromor tubes
(3) Detail of our Battaglin Crono
(4) (2019) Antonio Colombo holding the iconic Cinelli Supercorsa
From the BG.LEGENDARY.BIKES Store: