Legnano - The Lizard Yellow Legend

 

LEGNANO

Legnano is synonym with success. Known for the quality e reliability of its bikes, the company also had a team, the Legnano Cycling Team (1906-1966), ranked as the 6th most successful in history. The team won seven world cycling championships, 15 Italian national road race championships, 16 Giro d'Italia, 133 Giro d'Italia stages, 10 Giro del Piemonte, 10 Milan-Sanremo, 14 Giri di Lombardia, 2 Tour de France, and 2 Hour records.
Many champions won several races on Legnano bikes, including Alfredo Binda, Fausto Coppi, Ercole Baldini, and Gino Bartali.
Legnano is also known for the iconic yellow-green (aka "lizard yellow") of its bikes.

The history

1902
The businessman Emilio Bozzi acquired Vittorio Rossi's Lignon brand and founded "Emilio Bozzi & C" in Milan. Bozzi already was in the bicycles' components manufacturing business, but his new goal was to start the production of high-quality complete bikes.

1906
Bozzi established the Legnano Cycling Team, which was active until 1966 and it's ranked as the 6th most successful cycling team in history.

 

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1907
Bozzi entered a business partnership with Franco Tosi, a businessman from Legnano who had acquired many patents from the British company Wolseley to build its bikes in Italy. The joint venture was known as Wolsit, a contraction of the words Wolseley and Italia. Wolsit bicycles production was famous for advanced construction techniques.

1920
Emilio Bozzi adopted the statuesque figure of the Warrior of Legnano as the company's brand. The image of the warrior inside a marquise or double-pointed oval border was used on bicycles as a waterslide decal first, then as a brass stamping riveted to the head tube.

1921-1922
The legend of the Legnano Team began. Giovanni Brunero won the Giro d'Italia for two consecutive years, and in 1922 four Legnano riders dominated the race.

1924
Emilio Bozzi extended a lifetime contract to the young Alfredo Binda who would win 5 Giro d'Italia for Legnano (1925, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1933), a record that has only been equalled by Fausto Coppi and Eddy Merckx.

1927
Franco Tosi left Wolsit and Emilio Bozzi renamed the company after his hometown Legnano.

Between the 1930s and the 1950s
The top road bike was the Tipo Roma. Legnano changed the name to Roma Olimpiade to commemorate Ercole Baldini's gold medal in the road race at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne. Baldini also won the World Hour Record in Milan in 1956 on a Legnano bike, beating the record set by Fausto Coppi in 1942. The Tipo Roma and later the Roma Olimpiade was equipped mostly with full Campagnolo trim.

 

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1939
Legnano changed the colour of the bikes from olive green to the iconic 'lizard yellow'. The frames had a feature that made them immediately recognizable: the saddle's bolt was in front of the vertical column.

1950
Emilio Bozzi SpA parts distribution business was extensive. It included nearly every bicycle component manufactured in Italy, like Pirelli, Cinelli, Campagnolo, Aprilia, Rosa and many others.

1956
Ercole Baldini won the gold medal at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, and the Tipo Roma is renamed Roma Olimpiade to commemorate that victory.

1958 – 1959
Legnano introduced the Gran Premio road bike, positioned 'just' below the Roma Olimpiade but ahead of the Mod.54 Corsa and Mod.53. Mezza Corsa.

1961
Universal 61 centre pull brake set was fitted to the Roma Olimpiade and Gran Premio bikes.
A threaded boss is brazed on the rear of the seat lug to fix the cable stop for the new Universal 61's callipers.

In the '60s, the annual production amounted to 150,000 bicycles (distributed in 80 models) and 20,000 motorcycles. Legnano's products sold in 62 countries.

 

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1966
Legnano introduced the Roma Olimpiade in Reynolds 531 and Columbus frame builds as a special order option to the standard Falck tubing construction.
That was last year of activity for the legendary Legnano Team.

1968 – 1969
Legnano replaced the traditional brass head badge of the Warrior of Legnano with a waterslide decal on most models and eliminated it entirely from production by the early '70s.

1970
Introduction of the Olimpiade Record Specialissima, the new top road bike for Legnano, which replaced the Roma Olimpiade.

In the '70s the sale crisis of the bicycles market affected the company, which slowly started to decline. It also interrupted the production of motorbicycles, and in 1987 the longtime rival Bianchi acquired the brand. Then, in 1997, the multinational Cycleurope Group acquired both Bianchi and Legnano, maintaining the tradition of Bianchi's brand. Legnano's instead was relegated to low-level economic production.

But in 2008, following a lengthy legal challenge in 2008, an Italian court awarded the rights to the Legnano brand to the heirs of Emilio Bozzi. The brand relaunched shortly thereafter, with a new offering of city bikes, mountain bikes, and road bikes.

 

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(1) Emilio Bozzi
(2) Legnano Roma Olimpiade
(3) Legnano Cycling Team (1963)
(4) Detail of the Warrior of Legnano


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1 comment

  • Rachel Pousson

    This “Lizard Green” happens to be a favorite color of mine. If I had much wealth to collect bikes, I would love to have a Legnano! I hope the 2008 legal case results in the resurrection of the brand, not just the lower-level offerings, but the true professional quality art bikes.

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