De Rosa - "Leave nothing to chance"
"Leave nothing to chance" the motto of the company.
De Rosa brand is synonymous with quality and craftsmanship.
Founded in Milan in 1953 by Ugo De Rosa, the company became famous in the 60s and 70s for the production of road bikes for the best professional teams, and for the collaboration with the most successful cyclist of all time, Eddy Merckx.
De Rosa is also probably the only big company to use four materials for its frames: carbon, steel, titanium and aluminium.
When he was teenager De Rosa was a keen cyclist, but unlike other frame builders of his time, like Masi, Colnago and Pinarello, he didn't stop competing because of an injury but because building bikes has always been his dream since he was thirteen.
While studying engineering at the university, De Rosa also worked in the workshop of his uncle, Filippo Fasci, where he repaired and assembled hundreds of bikes.
De Rosa opened his workshop when he was only eighteen. Those were hard times for Italy, which was still recovering from World War II, and for many people, road bikes were too expensive.
But the love of racing was reborn in the country, and champions like Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali began to challenge each other again in a new golden age of cycling, opening up a world of possibilities for a skilled builder like De Rosa.
The great opportunity came up when De Rosa met the French champion Raphaël Géminiani. De Rosa bikes had become quite popular and the rider asked De Rosa to make him one for the Giro d'Italia. That year Géminiani finished eighth at the Giro and third at the Tour de France. De Rosa's talent started being noticed and he began to collaborate with some of the best teams of the time.
De Rosa began to produce bikes for Eddy Merckx, known as the "Cannibal" for his insatiable hunger for victory.
At the beginning of his career, Merckx collaborated with another famous Italian frame builder, Ernesto Colnago. But in 1972 Colnago got angry with the cyclist, because when he set a new hour record in Mexico City, Merckx rode a Colnago bike that was branded Windsor (a Mexican company). Rumours have it that Merckx only wanted to pay homage to the country where the race was held, but many suspect that he had been paid to sponsor that brand.
So De Rosa became the bike supplier to Merckx and continued to produce bikes for him until the end of the cyclist's career in 1978.
In addition to Merckx, other famous cyclists raced on De Rosa bikes, including Franco Pellizzotti, Francesco Moser and Moreno Argentin.
In the 1970s De Rosa's mastery and pursuit of perfection were evident down to the smallest details with which he improved the frames.
An example is the modifications he made to the bottom bracket shell. Being the part of the frame that supports the cranks, the BB shell had to bear the most stress and was made of a single piece of rigid and heavy steel. But De Rosa realized that it could be lightened by cutting out the metal a little and creating slots that would also prevent water stagnation in the rain.
One of the most incredible years in Merckx's career. He won the Giro d'Italia, the Tour de France, the Giro di Svizzera and the World Championship on De Rosa bikes. He was so demanding that De Rosa had to build 50 bikes for him that year, six in just one week for the Giro d'Italia. To finish the job, De Rosa said he even had to sleep in his workshop.
De Rosa and Merckx surely shared a strong bond. De Rosa helped Merckx when the cyclist opened his workshop, the "Eddy Merckx Cycles", despite it being a rival company. It also seems that the first bikes produced by Merckx had the unique qualities of the De Rosa brand, such as the six slots on the bottom bracket shell and the carved heart at the bottom of the down tube.
Between the 70s and 80s, De Rosa produced 3000 bikes, all made under Ugo's supervision.
American companies were beginning to look for materials other than steel: aluminium and titanium.
De Rosa chose titanium, a corrosion-resistant and lighter material than steel. He studied various alloys and production techniques for this difficult-to-weld material.
In 1991 he introduced the Titanio, the best titanium frame ever used in racing.
De Rosa produced excellent bicycles for the famous Gewiss Team, which achieved more than forty victories.
De Rosa continued to produce two titanium models and also introduced aluminium frames, the material that was most used by other companies. As always, De Rosa made the best use of it.
In 2003 he produced the Merak, the first aluminium frame modelled with the hydroforming process that allows infinite possibilities of experimentation with the shape and thickness of the frame walls.
For the new model, the King, De Rosa used carbon fiber. It weighed 400 grams, heavy by modern standards. So the company modified the frames, making them lighter and lighter until it produced the latest King RS model, only 950 grams.
While other companies specialize in using a single material, usually carbon fiber, De Rosa is perhaps the only company to produce frames in carbon, steel, aluminum and titanium, which have different characteristics and are suitable for different types of cyclists.
As it's typical of Italian bike manufacturers, De Rosa is a family-run business. De Rosa's sons, Doriano, Cristiano and Danilo also work for the company, and each has different skills. Doriano designs the bikes, Danilo welds the titanium frames and Cristiano promotes the company at the fairs.
And to this day, the company continues to make the bicycle evolve and to seek perfection, always following De Rosa's motto: "leave nothing to chance".
(1) Ugo De Rosa
(2) Ugo De Rosa and Eddy Merckx
(3) De Rosa Titanio
(4) De Rosa King RS Model
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