Friday, March 18, 2011

Torelli - Steel is Real, uh Italian

Cruising eBay (yet again) for interesting bikes; came across this new, never built up Torelli 20th Anniversary Edition frameset. Momma mia. Yes please. This frame was released in 2001, how someone sits on a frame for 10 years without riding it, is beyond me. In any case, dude is asking $2700, which seems a bit steep. With no bids pending, apparently I'm not the only one with that opinion.

Marked 40 out of 100 frames for this special edition, mostly due to paint and graphics celebrating 20 years. Pretty cool though.

Lugged bottom bracket, Columbus tubing and "Made in Italy" sticker. Much bike culture history in this photo.

20th Anniversary logo stamped into the seat lug. Old school and the kind of detail not found on modern carbon bikes.

Polished lugs complete with "T" for Torelli. Nice paint work. For the kids out there, that's a pump peg protruding from the head tube. Back in the day, before mini-pumps and CO2 cartridges, full length pumps graced the top tube of most road bikes. They actually worked too. Go figure.

I've checked out Torelli bikes over the years, mostly via the website, and when I see one being ridden. Back in 2006 when I was looking for a new road bike, they were on my list. I almost bought a Mondonico, also distributed by Torelli. Mondonico, as in Antonio Mondonico and his son Mauro, constructed the frames in a small Italian shop by hand. They also constructed the Torelli frames, from what I've heard, or at least the higher end models. Antonio was to retire and was taking the last orders before doing so. I thought it would be cool to own and ride a piece of disappearing history. I drove down to a small bike shop in Tacoma to check one out and possibly place an order. The unassembled frames looked fantastic as I fondled 'em. No order placed however, as I was still undecided.

In a twist of fate, a Mondonico magically appeared in my bike room at work around that time. I left a note on the saddle for the owner to call me. He did and mentioned visiting the Mondonico shop in Italy and digging his bike. Still, when it came down to me plonking down the dough, I went with a modern carbon Ibis - that I don't regret.

Torelli was started in 1981 by "Chairman" Bill and Carol McGann, having frames manufactured in Italy and sold under the Torelli name. The frames were painted in the USA however, due to the higher quality. Over the years, I've seen frames painted in Italy offered as well. Known for their steel frames, they've also offered aluminum and carbon models; plus branded wheelsets, tires, bar tape and other components. I also thought it was a great business model - passionate about what they sell, no BS, small, sort of niche. The frames were sold through approved dealers, not direct. Their website also contained great stories about riding in Italy and other bicycle related writing.

Torelli was sold a few years ago, though Chairman Bill appears to remain somewhat involved. The frames are still, steel ones anyway, made in Italy - both the Torelli and Modonico models. I'm not sure exactly where and by whom, however. The steel frames, though now appearing retro, still receive glowing reviews for ride quality. For sure, I'd consider one if building up a new bike. Would be a sweet, out of the ordinary ride in a sea of carbon fiber. Visiting their website will get you the scoop on all the current models.

Chairman Bill continues to run his own website as well. Even with the early '90s look and formatting, some fun reading to be found, including the riding in Italy stories I mentioned earlier. There's also some interesting technical articles and a wealth of racing history. Bill has written books on the history of the Tour and Giro, as well contributing articles to Road magazine. Very knowledgeable and I'd bet an interesting guy to share a ride or meal with. Words by Bill, from an interview in 2001....

"I get up in the morning and I go out for a ride and to get on a handmade Italian bike made out of Columbus EL-OS and go on a nice rolling, country road ride. . .I don't think you can find a better way to spend your time. It's just a joy."

"You ride everything else and then you get a chance to ride a state-of-the-art steel bike built by a real artist—nothing else feels that good. If I speak in a hushed breath it's because I'm 50 years old and I've been a bike nut since I was a kid and the pleasure I get from riding a bike means the world to me."

From an eBay listing, this post has seemed to morph into a Torelli lesson. I hope you enjoyed the detour.


  1. You forget to mention the frames feature Anniversary 1981-2001 pantographing on the bottom bracket and fork crown. My 62CM, also never built, has matching painted fork with red and green fork tubes. Bill, former owner of Torrelli, introduced me to Mr. Antonio Mondonico at the 2001 Interbike Trade Show in Las Vegas while I was there as a shop managed. I paid the frame at the booth and Mr. Mondonico returned to Italy and it was built. There was a mistake in the order. The fame came to me with a threaded fork. Bill had Mr. Mondonico built a threadless fork, painted and shipped to me at no extra charge! My #10 of 100 has two forks. Mine is truly one of a kind in a series of only 100. Mine is the Columbus EL-OS version with the classic Red, Green and white paint scheme. A sidebar to this story of meeting Mr. Mondonico. When I left the booth after purchasing a piece of history and art I ran into Mr. Eddy Merckx, a true gentleman.
    That’s my story.
    A. S. Oliver (Grand Rapids, MI-USA)

  2. Nice - awesome story. That must be a very special Mondonico frame you have - very cool. Thanks for checking out my blog and the response.